The century bike ride: 6 tips to prepare for your first hundred-miler
By Barbara Kunz, Ph.D., Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
Completing a century bike ride (100 miles) is a major milestone. After all, it takes real stamina for most cyclists to do this in a single day.
In most cases, a century bike ride is not an actual race. Its true purpose is to test your endurance and give you a sense of accomplishment. Along the way, you get to meet new people and take in the scenery.
But century riding is not for everyone. It requires a great deal of training. First things first, you need to have a serious discussion with your doctor to see if you’re up to it. Then, if your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you’ll need several months to prepare.
Here are 6 tips to get you started:
- Make sure your bike is comfortable. You’re going to be riding for eight to 12 hours in an extended sitting position. If the seat is too high or the handlebars too low, you’re not going to get very far. Before you do anything else, take your bike to a local dealer and have it professionally fitted.
- Join a biking club. The camaraderie of other cyclists takes the boredom out of long-distance riding. That’s why people frequently train together in biking clubs. You also learn how to keep pace with the pack. This helps to ensure you’re traveling at the right speed. Being part of a group is also safer. Others are there to help you should something go wrong.
- Learn basic repair skills. If you break down on the road, you need to know how to fix your own bike. Otherwise, you might not be able to finish your century. Before setting out on your first hundred-miler, be sure you can:
- Change a flat tire
- Repair a broken chain
- Adjust your seat and handlebars
- Tighten or loosen your brakes
If you need maintenance training, ask someone in your local biking club to show you. You can also find tutorials online or in popular cycling magazines.
- Learn how to rough it. You could run into rain or other adverse conditions on your ride. If so, you’ll have to know how to keep yourself safe – when to keep pedaling and when to find shelter. You’ll also need to learn how to handle the challenges of the road. This includes riding on different kinds of terrain. For that reason, make sure your training involves some uphill cycling.
- Pace yourself. No matter how fit you are, you can’t pedal 100 miles right out of the gate. You’ll need to put in plenty of practice miles before you can go the distance. Draw up a training schedule that gradually increases your distances over several months. Be sure you can ride 75 to 80 miles before you commit to a century. Try riding in shorter organized events first, such as a half- or even quarter-century.
- Pay attention to your diet and lifestyle. You need to be in good shape if you hope to finish a hundred-miler. While there’s no need to be perfectly chiseled, the healthier you are the easier and safer the ride will be. You may need to make some major lifestyle changes. This could mean:
- Cutting out tobacco
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol
- Reducing fats and sugars in your diet
- Increasing your fluid intake
- Starting a regular strength training program
Finally, remember to give your body a break. A few days before the ride starts, cut back on your cycling and workouts. This will give any damaged muscle tissue time to heal itself. That way, you’ll be rested and limber at the start of the big ride.
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- Streb M. Bicycling Magazine’s Century Training Program: 100 Days to 100 Miles. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2006.
- Doughty S. The Long-Distance Cyclist’s Handbook. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot; 2006.
- Andrews B, Doughty S. The Cyclist’s Training Manual: Fitness and Skills for Every Rider. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot; 2007.