Bicycle riding is a fantastic endeavour for many.
But, if you are into road riding, covering serious distance and done nearly 60 miles then it is time for more.
However, there are few things that you need to comprehend, check and comply before you begin with the ride.
WHAT IS CENTURY RIDE?
Accomplishing a 100 mile or further ride on the bicycle within 12 hours is known as Century Ride.
Covering 100-mile or 160.93km stretch is the primary objective of Century ride. Mostly the riders who have conveniently covered 50 – 60 miles on their bicycles, tend to attempt this mean feat. But even then also most fall short of their targeted distance because they are either not trained well or they have not prepared enough.
The one, who have done both to the optimum, could do Century ride on a Sunday without much effort, while some may find it most challenging on both physical and mental levels. This ride tests the discipline and strength, but it also delivers the pleasure of achieving something extraordinary to boast of.
Now you must be wondering, the miles are long but how is it that you can find out the difference between a successful completion and an exhausted search for a ride back home?
Well, the answer is exposed in the training and preparation, while avoiding the usual mistakes that everyone makes.
HOW TO DO IT RIGHT?
Preparation is the key element here, but knowing what and how to do it well; will make the difference.
- Mind It
Before the other essentials it is necessary that you tame your mind because in a Century Ride, your mind can be either your friendly ally or destructive foe. If your mind is trained to disassociate itself from the usual feeling of discomfort of such a long ride, it will become a handy skill, when you will need it. Most of the riders use music to keep them distracted and motivated against the uneasy parts of the voyage, which is a proven practice by many. Moreover, many have admitted that visualising the beautiful terrain ahead and the finish is what kept them moving forward. You might as well try that yourself in the long practice sessions.
- Bike Fitness
The most vital instrument of your Century Ride. Know that in this ride, your bike is a part of you and it has to be dependable. Its fitness is of utmost importance, while you may want to upgrade or perhaps get a better performing bike. If the latter is not prefered then adding performance parts to the bike is highly recommended. You must remove every worn out part that you find in your training sessions and also have it serviced from an expert. This will reduce the probability of breakdown when you will be on the real ride. Furthermore, do pay attention to the fact that both you and the bike must fit each other in terms of usability, riding comfort, weight, flexibility and pedalling efficiency.
The posture that your bike will support and your level of comfort is in direct proportion to your performance, which you can’t ignore. Also, consulting your physiotherapist will be a good thing if you ever had any issue while cycling. This will keep you safe from any kind of sports injury.
Your body will be working at its maximum capacity or more than that which will mean that you will need the right nutrition to load up with the necessary calories. A wrong approach to nutrition can make massive impact on your overall health as well as the riding plans for future. Although, you will need to increase your calorie intake days before the ride, but the days before, during and after; would be crucial.
- Prior: Same as for any athlete, the day prior to the Century Ride demands special attention for everything; including nutrition. The day before the ride is where the real things begins. ‘Carb Loading’ is true for most of the athletes, but it is highly recommended that no special diet be taken this day. That could create more trouble than aid in the feat. Instead, consuming a balanced and healthy meal that includes fresh green vegetables as well as carbs with lower glycaemic index.You may also want to avoid alcohol, but hydrate yourself with ample water.
- During: You can do well without plethora of energy gels for every couple of miles, but keep a few. These will help you with your last mile, when you have burned most of your calories and need instant source of energy. A caffeinated sweet drink which is not carbonated, could be kept for the time when you are feeling fatigued. Carrying couple of bananas and average sized bars of cereal that weigh nearly 30 grams, could be a good source of carbohydrate that you may use to refuel yourself.
Drinking while riding can be a bit tricky, but not if you tilt your bottle up and to its side so you don’t have to tilt your head; which will help you avoid the possibility of missing the road. Do know that you may need to have nearly 500ml water each hour or more, if it gets pretty hot and you happen to sweat a lot too. Your second bottle must have electrolytes additive in it with water. Otherwise you may also go for the hydration powders that are meant specifically for it and not energy. You must not try someone new that you have not used already in your training sessions or you are comfortable with.
- After: Once you are done with your ride, your muscles will crave glycogen. Going for a recovery shake made for this purpose or fruit juice will do the needful. However, ensure that your body get those sugars quick as in within the first 20 minutes of your arrival at the finishing point. At such a time, the carbonated sweet drinks will also do; but in moderation. Do keep yourself hydrated and settle down for a good meal that contains protein.
There are few strategies that work wonders if used with perfect precision. These are to be planned well and then executed accordingly without lethargy or fail.
- Your Location: Although, each Century Ride is well-marked, which makes it extremely difficult for the rider to be lost in the race, but a backup plan always helps. Majority of the rides have cue sheets or else, you may always carry your own map with details marked on it. It would be great help to you mentally, if you know your exact location in the race as well as how far are you from your targeted destination on the ride. Thus, a GPS device is highly recommended.
- Don’t Stress: Putting extra stress on oneself and the muscles could be dangerous. The fundamental here is to keep oneself relaxed and bit loose during this long ride. Many stressed so much that they suffer long-term injuries that keeps haunting them even after so many years. All the cycling veterans suggest the novice riders to keep their body loose and never lock it in one position. It keeping the back and neck from seizing up in the long durations of the feat.
- Tools & Flats: You must have the essential and minimal set of tool-kit as well as CO2 cartridge to fill the extra tube, in case your bike has a flat. The tools will come handy in tightening the handle bars or loose bolts or screws. Also, having a hand-on-knowledge is more required than the latest and light tools. If you don’t know how to put them to good use, your tools will be of no help. Thus learning to use the is not enough, but practicing how to use them efficiently and quickly would be an excellent feat to master before you start pedalling on that long road to finish your Century Ride.
- Breakup of Distance: Since it is a Century Ride, it would be excellent if you break up your ride in convenient ‘Distance-Goals.’ In such a manner, one doesn’t have to consider the complete distance as ‘one’ stretch, but you can always stick to your schedule by doing one designated stretch at a time. It will help you take less stress and cover a substantial distance in less time, without burning more energy than it is necessary. Do this carefully, along with the elevation in mind, and you may have to face less difficulty in comparison to those who never took this into account.
The most essential of all, but it should be done in moderation and never ‘overdone’ in the hope that more is better. A schedule for training should be followed without fail, which will make you physically and mentally ready for everything that is expected as well as unexpected. The details on this particular aspect will be carried out in the later part of this piece.
HOW TO TRAIN FOR CENTURY RIDE?
Following a well-planned schedule with a target date for the Century Run would help a lot.
Now we are at the most crucial part of this entire piece. Everything else mentioned above will stand nowhere if your training is not at par with the demands of 100-mile. Now if you have a day job, but you still wish to train; you do know that your ride training time will be absolutely limited. Most of the riders stick to an eight-week plan and do three rides a week. These have one speedy, one steady and one long ride that you must do. On your rest days also, you should do something active to keep your body in motion.
- Speed Ride: It is common among the endurance riders to leave the essential speed work since they think that volume is what they need, not intensity; for riding. However, riding at a high speed tend to improve the endurance by increasing the lactate threshold, where muscles shout “slow down & stop!” Once this ceiling is crossed, the rides can become faster and longer before the body will want to stop. Thus, you must attempt to do nearly 6 – 8 spins with maximum efforts that range anywhere from 30 seconds to more than 2 minutes. These should be done on a good road, maybe uphill or into a headwind; to increase resistance.
- Steady Rides: These are meant to increase your MHR to 80% – 85%, so to prepare you to ride in a brisk manner, while still maintaining a good comfort level. This will give you the necessary stamina to finish your 100-miles at a good pace without getting exhausted.
- Long Rides: These long rides will build up the necessary muscle memory to fight against the fatigue that you might face towards the end of the Century Ride. These are supposedly done on the weekends where 1.5 hours to 3 hours of pedaling and topping off nearly 85-miles would be good to build up the stamina. However, these rides are to be done at moderate and steady pace, where MHR increase to 70% – 75% only. If you have time, you can do these long rides on weekdays as well.
THE 8-WEEK TRAINING PLAN
Most of the cyclists prepare themselves with a training plan that is spread across eight weeks of practice.
The 8-week training plan is highly recommended by many riders, but it works best for the riders who regularly cover a good distance every week. So you may take it as a suggestion and plan the weeks as per your own convenience and schedule your rest-day accordingly. The idea is to have an essential workout between the three different rides in a week, so your body keeps moving. It would be great, if you can also incorporate a diet chart along with this schedule and stick with that. This would give you the much needed nutrition support, with excellent recovery to keep the training sessions going on, while ensuring that you do not have a burnout.
After training with the above three variants of ride practice and 8-weeks of thorough ride schedule, you should also keep in mind few other essential aspects that might impact your Century Ride.
- Sleep: Yes, it is natural to be nervous before the big ride and if it happens to be your first ride; then it is sure to give you sleepless nights. This is due to anxiety and this is where you need to tell yourself that this is as simple as your training rides. A plentiful of sleep each night, throughout your training session will ensure that your body is ready to take the beating. Sleeping 8 – 9 hours every night at one stretch will help your body recover from the strain that it had to go through while training.
- Weather: The weather conditions and temperature on the day of your ride, will make a profound impact on your overall level of performance. You don’t want to be drenched in rain when riding or have raingear on, when there a good sunshine around you. Packing rainwear without checking the weather could make you carry additional weight that you would never make use of.
- Packing: You must only pack what you may really need on the road. This may include the four essentials; extra clothings, tools, food and fluid. Anything else could be necessary but not at the cost of your time, comfort and overall performance.
ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS FOR THE CENTURY RIDE
Many aspects and elements must be paid adequate attention to; for successful completion.
The fundamental equipment is the bicycle which is to be used in this 100-mile adventure. Then comes the gear which includes your cycling jersey or suit. And finally the helmet, gloves, water bottles, tools, spares and other accessories. Let’s see how they all sum up.
- Bike or Bicycle: This has to be strong, sturdy and comfortable. A bike that is meant for such an endurance ride is manufactured with extra caution and care. These bikes have light frame with bigger tyres that have stronger spokes than the bikes meant for leisure rides.
There is a good scope for further upgrades and modifications as a rider may want, to customize the bike as per his or her requirements. So choose the one that suits your need and fits your budget, but will also take the strenuous pressure of the 100-mile.
- Gear: The helmet is considered the most important piece of safety gear other than anything else that a rider selects. The helmet shouldn’t be too tight or loose that it will make you uncomfortable. The passage for wind in the helmet should let descent amount of air flow through them that your head remains cool and still be protected against the harsh sun-rays.
The riding gloves should be comfortable first and then made of strong material to protect you from abrasion wounds. Shoes, should fit well, while their velcro straps should not slip out. If need be, do change the velcro straps or buy a new pair. The shoe’s sole should fit right into the groove of the pedal to deliver maximum efficiency with half the effort that all casual cyclists have to go through.
The body suit has to be breathable, yet it must protect your skin against sunburn and abrasion, in case you have a nasty fall. The water bottles should be of right size to fit onto the bottle mounts of the bike, while they must have the sipper so you can just sip the drink from them and do not have to stop to open them. Although, it is not recommended but most of the slow riders prefer carrying a camelback water pack on themselves. It has more carrying capacity, but initially it does feel a bit heavy.
- Saddle-Bags: Though, less means more on such a ride, but few recommend carrying the necessary in saddle-bags, but only till a set weight limit. But these saddle-bags should be light weight too, along with their frame on which they are to be mounted.
Century Ride will deliver ecstasy and a sense of achievement, if only it is done properly.
Now, if you have take all the above into account and prepared your own training schedule then you must not delay, but go ahead to train. But do remember that unless you don’t train with the best and the veteran 100-mile riders, this journey will definitely be much harder than it would be otherwise. However, also know that expensive bike accessories and parts are not a guarantee of their lasting for a long time. It is the quality and how you have them fitted onto your bike is what going to count in the endurance ride.
Even if you are overweight, don’t train to loose your weight first and then start the 100-mile training. The latter will make you fit first to ride the 100-mile, then push you to your edge to do the same to complete the Century Ride. All you have to have is a heart that is focused on doing the 100-mile and finishing it. Most of the first timers participate in a group event, which is a fine strategy because then you have the fellow riders to support you and people to cheer you up. It also means that in case of unforeseen scenarios, you can get immediate help.
Nonetheless, this is an adventurous voyage that you must undertake with your trusted bicycle. And also take an action camera to mount on your helmet so you may record the 100-mile and show it off to your near and dears ones.
Ride for AIDS Chicago, a back-to-back double-century benefiting the Test Positive Aware Network and HIV services in Chicago
Bike a Century, a directory of annual century rides.
Century Ride – Wikipedia