Your first century ride is a huge deal. This is one of the things that test your mettle as a cyclist.
You do not get to ride 100 miles every day, so it is okay to feel a little scared. As the day draws near, you may be tempted to back out and convince yourself that you should wait for the next one. But you are a way better cyclist than you give yourself credit for.
All you need to do is prepare adequately, equip yourself with a few pro tips and read other riders’ first century ride stories— this article will help with all these three.
There are a lot of things that you need to do and get beforehand. This is an event that you will never forget; so you may as well make the memories beautiful and positive. No matter how experienced you are as a cyclist, you will always need to prepare. Do not let the information and advice overwhelm you. Use it to come up with a plan and create a checklist for everything you need.
A century ride is an awesome experience. It is one of the most thrilling challenges you will ever take on in your life as a cyclist; do not be surprised if you get hooked. However, this ride is brutal—there is no better way to put it. You cannot afford to go easy on your training.
a. Come Up with a Training Plan
First of all, do not wait until a few weeks to the ride to start training. Start as early as 4 months before. There are several training plans online that you can adapt or use to create a customized one for yourself. These two (8-week plan and 12-week plan) are good examples.
You will not always want to train every day. Finding the time to get on your bike might also be a challenge because you have to work and do other things. A plan will help you stay committed, whether you feel like it or not. Most of these plans also cover the important areas that you need to work on. They have been written by knowledgeable people and you never know how much they will help you.
b. Inform Friends and Family
If you are going to spend extra time training and then ride 100 miles in a single day, it is a good idea to tell your partner early in advance. Also, let your friends and the rest of the family know. One or more of them may decide to do this with you. Even if they do not, their support is very important. They can take some extra duties around the house to give you ample time to prepare. Other times they may offer to accompany you so you do not feel very lonely during the training sessions. Most importantly, they will keep you motivated and probably stop you from backing out.
c. Invest in the Right Gear
You probably have gear set for the day already. If you do not, be wise when buying and avoid skimping. You will be riding for hours and comfort should be a priority if you want to get to the finish line. This will be easier if you have already settled on a century ride. You can predict the weather and buy appropriate clothing. Whatever you buy, make sure it is made specifically for bike riding.
d. Know How to Fix Your Bike
It is possible to be a great cyclist and still be clueless when it comes to fixing your bike. You may not have to fix your own bike during the ride. Most century rides have people for that. However, it does not hurt to know how to do a few things on your own. You never know what kind of situation awaits you. Learn how to take care of any chain issues, fix a flat and other small tweaks.
e. Take Time to Understand Your Body
This has less to do with how your body looks than how it reacts. Do you have any preexisting conditions? Do you know how to manage them? As already stated, you will spend a good part of the day on your bike, on the road. During your training sessions, pay attention to your body. If any part aches after a long session (or you get blisters), find out why and look for a solution. Know the snacks and drinks that work best for you. The last thing you need during the century ride is your body sneaking up on you with a problem.
f. Pick a Century Ride
Thanks to the internet, with a quick Google search you can find a list of almost all rides. You can pick the best one depending on your preference. These sites also give all the necessary information including difficulty levels.
Once you have made a choice, arm yourself with knowledge about the weather in that particular location. Check the weather forecast regularly—once is not enough as things may change. Make sure not to overlook wind predictions. As a matter of fact, pay attention to all elements. You can never be too prepared but you can be underprepared.
Another thing, find a map of the course. Visit the organizer’s website to see if you can find it or look for it on bike training apps. It is good to know what the terrain is like so you can know what to expect. Moreover, it will help you train on similar terrains and increase your chances of success.
g. Use Your Bike Trainer
Century rides take place outside, of course. That does not eliminate the need for a bike trainer. The weather may decide to be unfriendly when you are bursting with energy to train. It will be even more disappointing when you have a training plan to follow. That is why a bike trainer is important.
Training apps are quite advanced nowadays and they can accurately simulate terrains. If you live in a flat area and the location of the century ride is hilly, a training app can simulate that road (or a similar one) and give you an idea of what it is like. You may, however, still need to look for a real-life hilly road to train.
h. Prepare Your Bike
A new bike may not be necessary but a comfortable bike is a must. When you go on a long cycling session, you will know whether or not yours is the right size for you. The wrong size may leave you with sore knees and/or shoulders. In this case, visit the local shop and see what they can do for you. While you are there, tell them to check and see to it that everything is in good condition. This may be the right time to pick a comfortable saddle too.
You may also want to ask them if your bike is good for a century ride or you need to find another one. As the D-day draws near, make sure all parts are working as they should; from the tires, to the brakes, to the pads to the smaller things like water bottle cages.
i. What You Should Carry
This may vary based on an individual and where the century ride will be. However, here are a few necessities that you may need to carry:
- Food and drinks: there will be food on the stops (hopefully) but you can carry a little something in case you need it. One thing you must carry is water. Dehydration is not a joke and it is a problem that many people face during these rides. Carry water bottles and keep refilling them.
- Sunscreen: you do not need someone to tell you to carry sunscreen but you need a reminder. Experts recommend sweat-proof sunscreen.
- Extra clothing: this depends on the location of the ride. If you expect it to get cold, pack additional clothing.
- Money: this is for buying food and whatever else you may need during the ride.
- Tools: it has been mentioned above that you should learn how to fix your bike in case the need arises. Do not forget the tools you may require for these repairs.
- Other things: first aid items, cue sheet, credit card, insurance card and an emergency
If you need an exhaustive list so you can choose for yourself what to carry, here is one.
Train smart, do not overdo it: a century ride requires you to train a lot but it is possible to over-train. Following plans drawn by experts can prevent this. There are times when you will need to let your body rest.
Avoid new gear and equipment: do not buy new things and save them for the day of the century ride. Test everything that you are going to wear/use. You have to be familiar with the gear and equipment for a better experience.
Be early for the century ride: organized rides are known to start early. Do not make the mistake of being late. If you live far from the location, travel the day before and get a motel room.
Enjoy yourself: your first century ride will not be an easy one but it can be a fantastic experience. If you want to know what it will really be like, read this story and be inspired.
Participating in a century ride can seem intimidating, especially because you will be riding along seasoned cyclists who have been doing it for a while. The most important thing is to prepare well in advance. If you can, talk to someone who has gone on one before. Train properly but do not overdo it. Have all your equipment and gear ready in time—avoid last minute preparations. Use the checklist to make sure you do not forget an item. Get to the location early enough. Try and talk to people, do not be shy. Make a few cycling buddies. Lastly, remember to relax and have fun. Make this one of your best memories.