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Training for a Century Bike Ride

Tips for riding your bike 100 miles in a day

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Updated June 13, 2010

Ride a century

Ride a century

Photo (c)Ross Land / Getty Images
A milestone in the life of any cyclist is riding a century, or 100 miles, in one day. While riding 100 miles in a day may sound extreme to a non-cyclist, it is not unthinkable. Almost any casual cyclist can complete a century if they follow a comprehensive training routine.

There are several things to consider in order to have a trouble-free century. They include:

  • The right equipment
  • The right training
  • The right food
  • The right attitude

Equipment
The right equipment means comfort. Your bike should fit you well and should be familiar. If you aren’t sure, have your local bike professional provide a fit-assessment. Don’t plan to ride a new or a borrowed bike on your first century. Consider having a tune-up before the ride, and carry a spare tire and patch kit, tools, a pump and knowledge of how to use them. Other essential equipment includes:

  • A properly fit helmet
  • Water bottles and cages
  • Cycling clothing, including shoes, shorts, gloves and rain gear
  • Sunglasses

Training
The core of your training should be endurance training. If you start your training at least 12 weeks before the ride, you will have ample time to prepare for the century. If you already ride more than 7 hours a week, you will need far less time to prepare. While most of your rides will be at about 65% of your maximum heart rate (MHR), add two days of interval training, where you push hard for several minutes - up to 85% MHR. Hills are a great way to add interval training to your ride. And don’t forget to allow one day per week for recovery. A sample training schedule may look like this:

  • Saturday: 1-2 hour ride with 30 minutes of hard effort
  • Sunday: 1-2 hour ride at steady pace (65% MHR)
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 1-1.5 hour ride with hills
  • Wednesday: Rest or 1-hour easy recovery ride
  • Thursday: 1-1.5 hours with interval training
  • Friday: Rest or 30-minute easy recovery ride
More Training Tips
  • Maintain a cadence of 70 to 90 revolutions per minute
  • Gradually increase your mileage as you get closer to the century, increasing no more than 10% at a time.
  • Plan a 50- or 60-mile ride at least two weeks before the century
  • Taper your mileage a week before the century. During that week you may even reduce your riding to one or two days of an easy five to ten-mile spin. Also, try to get plenty of sleep.

Nutrition
As the ride day approaches, food becomes the critical component for a successful century. A few days prior to the ride you should start hydrating. Drink water frequently, cut back or eliminate caffeine and alcohol, and add carbohydrates to your diet.

On ride day, eat a light breakfast of high-carbohydrate foods and drink lots of water. On the ride drink before you're thirsty. Water or a sports drink should be your first choice. Eat easily digestible, carbohydrate rich-food such as energy bars, bagels, fruit or granola. Don’t try something new on the ride. You should eat things you know agree with you.

Attitude
Ease into the ride pace. This isn’t a race, and if it’s your first century, the goal is to finish comfortably. Here are some more tips for an enjoyable ride:

  • Change your position often. Move your hand position, get up off the saddle, stretch your arms, shoulders and neck, arch your back and stretch out. Avoid staying in one position too long.
  • Take short rest breaks off the bike. An organized century ride will offer regular water and food stops. Take advantage of this time to get off the bike and refill your water bottles, stretch, and use the restroom. Keep these stops to 10 minutes or less or you may risk getting stiff.
  • Find a companion or two. The ride will go faster and feel easier with a friend or two. Also, skilled riders can take advantage of drafting and save some energy in the wind.

Attitude is everything. If you have prepared yourself well, there isn’t much more to be done on ride day than sit back and enjoy the scenery (and maybe plan your next century).

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