10 Tips for Cycling a Century (100 miles) in One Day

Tip #10 – Pre-Ride Bike Checklist

Clean Not only does a clean bike look good and operate smoothly, but cleaning your bike also helps you spot potential problems in advance and eliminate problems before your BIG ride.  

Brakes.  Often, I ride on unfamiliar roads, surrounded by riders that can be unpredictable.  The only thing I need to know for certain is that my brakes are functioning properly and predictably and that I can depend on my them when needed.

DrivetrainThe chain, pedals, derailleur, cassette, chainring, etc… that make up the drivetrain should be checked for wear, lubricated, adjusted and working properly.

Shifters.  Check shifters and cables. I once had a shifter cable frayed inside the shifter on a big ride.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t assume that if everything is working before the ride it will be OK during the ride.

Wheels.  Inspect wheels, tires and spokes.  Ensure wheels are true, that there are no loose spokes, and that tires are fully inflated and in good condition with no embed debris that can cause a puncture during the ride.

Charged.  Fully charge all electronics devices including lights, cycle computer and mobile phone.

Tip #9 – Start the day well rested, fueled and hydrated.

You will need to spend several hours in the saddle on a century (100 mile) ride. In my case, it takes me about 7 hours to complete a century. So it stands to reason that my body needs more fuel than most days.

I eat a good dinner and get plenty of rest the night before. In the morning, I start drinking water when I wakeup. My goal is to drink at least a full water bottle or more before the start. I also eat a solid breakfast with both faster burning carbohydrates and slower burning proteins and fats before I start riding a century.

Only with a well rested, fueled and hydrated body am I ready for the challenge ahead.

Tip #8 – Stay Comfortable.

The biggest complaint I hear on centuries is from riders with sore butts. The first step in eliminating a sore butt and maintaining your comfort on a century is to get a bike that is properly fitted to you.

While I know cyclists that take their favorite painkillers before, during and or after a century, I never do. Painkillers don’t address the root cause of the problem. I find that there are many steps that you can take to eliminate the cause of a sore butt and I’ve discussed them in detail in my blog Sore Butt.

However, perhaps the best recommendation to eliminate a sore butt on a century  is to change your riding  position often.  By doing so, you are are reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt over the six or seven hours in the saddle.

Tip #7 – Monitor physical exertion to avoid fatigue.

I use a heart rate monitor to keep my heart rate from creeping up and ultimately overexerting myself. If I see my heart rate is getting too high, I take steps to lower it before I fatigue.

I’ve talked about this in detail in a post How I Eliminated Leg Cramps.

Tip #6 – Shift gears often.

Luckily our bicycles are equipped with a lot of gear options to help us keep spinning comfortably. However, sometimes on a long ride, like a century, it is easy to forget about the mechanical advantage that our equipment can provide.

On gradual or short climbs I sometimes forget to shift and start muscling up the ascent with a slow grind. While I can do this on shorter rides, it increases the possibility of muscle fatigue on a century.

So when my cadence slows, I shift into an easier gear, shifting in the front chain ring for big resistance change and shifting on the rear cluster for fine-tuning my cadence.

Tip #5 – Keep your body fueled.

While most century rides offer some type of refreshments at rest stops, there is no guarantee that the rest stop will have what you need when you need it. For this reason, I carry enough Energy Gels to ensure I can stay fueled. I also set an alarm on my bicycle computer to remind me to consume some carbohydrates to fuel my legs. Normally I prefer whole foods like apples, oranges and bananas if they are offered at rest stops. However, I do use processed carbohydrates on centuries ride if I need them.

Tip #4 – Stay hydrated.

I drink a water bottle of water before the start of a big ride, so I know I start hydrated.  I generally drink plain water on shorter rides. However, when I’m riding a century I switch to a sports drink like Gatorade with added electrolytes. 

As a rule of thumb, I try to drink a water bottle every hour. To help ensure I meet this goal I set a reminder on my bicycle computer that sounds at the completion of every mile to remind me to take a sip of my sports drink. This technique keeps me drinking and makes my intake of water just the right portion that my body can process easily.

Tip #3 – Stay Positive.

When I start a century there is never any doubt in my mind that I will finish. I find if I doubt myself, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Instead, I visualize finishing the ride with the cheerleaders cheering for me at the end. Then I see myself relaxing after the finish, eating my pie and ice cream.

If I am hurting towards the end of the ride, I try to remember what I love about cycling. I focus on the natural environment around me and the feel of accomplishment, knowing I have traveled a great distance under my own power. I find seeing the positive aspects of the ride helps me put any temporary discomforts out of my mind.

Tip #2 – Set a Sustainable Pace.

It is easy to get caught up in the moment, especially with stronger riders passing you by. But remember, most centuries are tours and not races. Ride at a pace you can maintain over the long haul.

The only century I didn’t finish was one where I started out at a faster pace than I normal ride. At the time I remember thinking, “Wow I’m really riding strong today.” However, in the long run, I couldn’t maintain the pace and I burnt out before the end.

Riding a century is a significant accomplishment that few people will achieve. Maintain a sustainable pace and enjoy yourself and the bragging rights you’ll earn after completing the ride.

Tip #1 – Have a riding buddy.

The most important tip I can offer is not to go it alone. My first century, I went out of state and cycled unfamiliar roads without any support . Within the first few miles it became clear to me, that was not a good idea.

Although it can be hard to find someone to cycle a century with you, the benefits of finding a riding buddy make it worthwhile. The most important benefit is that it is safer to have a riding buddy if something unexpected happens. Barring any unforeseen problems, a riding buddy can offer valuable encouragement to help keep you going.

Finally, the shared memories of conquering what initially may have appeared to be an impossible goal of cycling 100 miles in one day, can strengthen your friendship. And, it’s nice to have someone to celebrate with that understands your achievement.