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  1. #1
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    Starting again, how long to build to a century?

    The body sure doesn't recover as fast as it used to at 64, so I am curious what's a reasonable length of time to plan to train for riding distance. I rode a lot when I was a kid, although not racing, and I rode for a while around age 40. 100 miles isn't a particularly magical number to me, but it seems it figures quite prominently in local group events. I joined Bike Forums because it seemed this might be a good place to ask a question like this.

    I imagine the fundamentals of building up mileage with one long ride every week work like it did for running (I ran several marathons). Is there a good book or on-line info source (I am not expecting this specifically tailored to old folks) that you'd recommend?

    I will probably replace my 35-year-old Lotus with a modern (2005-2010) bike that has 105 gear (or better) and carbon forks (or better). I rode a 2010 Specialized Roubaix (carbon w/ 105 double) and a 2010 Specialized Specter (aluminum w/ 105 triple & carbon fork) today. I took each out for about 5 miles of mild rolling hills (I love New England). Very nice, but I will probably buy used to save money. The aluminum was great! But the carbon was better.

    HISTORY
    I am impulsive and I like to jump into things. I was a runner til about 5 years ago (tapering down since 55). My weight is 235 at 6/2". 33% body fat. I'm pretty healthy except my knees and the fat. I joined a gym about 5 weeks ago, did some muscle work on the circuit machines, and have done cardio using the stationary bikes and the elliptical striders. I also did an hour spinning class - it was very tiring. I pant and I get my heart rate into the 130's, but I recover quickly enough that I've b been able to go every other day.

  2. #2
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    Don't rule out a pre-owned Steel bike. My '89 Trek 400 is still my best ride. Picked up for $200 + new gears and cranks. Can't beat the ride for $350. Since it is a standard double, it is only used in Jersey.

    As for training, you can try MS150. They publish 8 week programs that target 80 miles.

  3. #3
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Thomamueller is right - don't rule out steel, although a really good used steel frame is hard to find. My century bike is steel - my climber in CF.
    Now to your question:
    1) Buy Joe Freil's book - "cycling past 50" it will help. It is tedious in spots but there is some good material in there.
    2) Ride at least 4 days per week - it takes that much to get better
    3) Rest at least 2 days per week - you won't get better if you wear yourself out.
    4) Ride distance at least once/week
    5) Get comfortable with a metric - you don't need to train for a century by doing a century, just be able to easily to 65.
    6) Learn what works for you as far as nutrition & hydration. These are very important on a century - learn to drink more than you think you need and eat at least 300 cal/hr.
    7) For your first century don't be focused on speed - learn survival skills.
    8) Learn to pace your self, if you are compulsive you may want to start out too fast.
    9) Learn to draft other riders. On an organized century there are a lot of other riders, eat from their plate first and save your reserves for later.
    10) Most importantly: learn to ride your own ride and not get pressured by others.

    If you are riding about 20 miles at a stretch now you should be able to get prepared by September.

    This is the best I can offer up. Others I am sure can give you more.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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  4. #4
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    I started riding at about 28, now I'm almost twice that. In my reading back then I found that a young person in good health could train up to a century in 3-4 months. I did it that way for my first century. In years since then I've sometimes been faithful at riding all year, other years I've slacked off a lot during the winter then had to come back almost from scratch in the spring. For the past few years I've dreamed about being serious with my training and riding a century in the fall, but things get in the way and I've had to settle for metric centuries.

    I think different people gain mileage at different rates. It is worthwhile to train with a century in mind. Halfway from now to the anticipated event you will have a better idea of how you are making it. A century is certainly a noble goal, but I've done plenty of those in the past. I enjoy the metric century just fine.

    I've read a little bit about the physiology of running a marathon, and how people wish that Greek soldier had died at something less than 26 miles. I think the same thing about the century- a metric century is a good event, past that it oftentimes for me starts to become painful and not quite as much fun.

  5. #5
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Started at age 65 years. Took me 4 months before I rode the first century.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
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  6. #6
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Depends on the Century. Nice flat one with just a few slopes and the problem would be Butt Ache. Distance would be just plug away on your milage till you can comfortably do about 60 miles and can remain seated in the saddle for 4 hours at a time to get the Saddle and Butt aclimatised.

    Hilly rides are a bit different. Still need the milage and butt time but you have to get the bike with the right gearing for you and the hills and you have to train on the hills. Pointless Getting a standard double crank if there are plenty of long 8% slopes on the ride with a few 15%ers in it aswell. Unless you are a strong rider- but if you are you would not be asking this question.

    I ride hills and centuries but a few years ago I went to the Alpes. Ventoux is 13 miles long with an average of 7%. That would have hurt without some hill training so for 4 months or so my weekend rides included repeats up a 12-15% 1 mile long hill. That got boring so I just went for 30 mile rides with 3,000ft of climbing in it.

    And on the bike- Material is not important as they can all ride well. But for century rides you do want a more compliant frame that is not too harsh for your body. Don't get the ultra stiff frame with Radial spoking on the wheels and 23 tyres unless you can take the jarring it will give you.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    I agree with others about steel. Aluminium is light, but gives a harsher ride - and for the older rider being comfortable on the bike will be more important to your performance than will saving a few hundred grams on the frame. So I'd say go steel or carbon. And stepfam is right about gearing, too. Definitely get a triple chainset, it'll make a fantastic difference to your dodgy knees when you start cycling up hills.

    The trick to preparing for long rides is not speed but comfort. It takes time to get used to spending several hours at a time on the bike without getting aches and pains and demoralising yourself. So I'd say a similar regime to your running training would be sensible, gradually building your mileage (increase by say 10% per week) until you're able to put in at least one 60-70 mile ride each week without feeling too beaten up the next day. Throw in a few hills. If you cycle through undulating country you'll be doing intervals without knowing it.
    Last edited by chasm54; 05-30-10 at 02:43 AM.

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    10% on your long ride is a good choice.

    I have to do some exercises to be able to ride. Core exercises are important for us old farts (back, abs)

    http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,6...5644-1,00.html
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    +1 chasm54 on the comfort aspect. Can't say it any other way, you need saddle time. My son is very fit. Jogger and weights, but I smoke his butt on the charity rides because he doesn't get enough saddle time. He gets very sore about 2/3 into the ride.

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    IMHO - not sure why a century is an important mark - unless you are marking age.
    riding time is, being able to comfortably ride 6-8 hours could be a goal.
    bike fit is especially important to be comfortable- as our bodies mature even more important.
    others have suggested a steel frame - like a surly pacer or cross check & slightly wider than usual
    road bike tires help with comfort - 28-32 mm work well.
    another factor related to fit - the fit that feels ok now - probably will evolve during the first year or so of
    riding - might not be the most comfortable fit next year.
    ride long & prosper

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    IMHO - not sure why a century is an important mark - unless you are marking age.
    riding time is, being able to comfortably ride 6-8 hours could be a goal.
    bike fit is especially important to be comfortable- as our bodies mature even more important.
    others have suggested a steel frame - like a surly pacer or cross check & slightly wider than usual road bike tires help with comfort - 28-32 mm work well.
    another factor related to fit - the fit that feels ok now - probably will evolve during the first year or so of riding - might not be the most comfortable fit next year.
    ride long & prosper

  12. #12
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    After a night's sleep I planned to review my post to see if I could make it less dumb. Instead I found some great replies, some including spot-on info. Thank you all.

    FWIW, I have never done serious long bike rides but I was serious about running. I've run several marathons, all under 3 hours, my best 2:51, a 6:30 pace, so I know something about building up mileage and hydration. Obviously 6 hours requires more care than 3 hours, but the concept is the same. I was seeking a response indicating it was at least plausible ("yes") but I understand it would require serious effort, dedication, and a lot of good luck. So far my body is comfortable with biking, but I know that could change in the blink of an eye, so I will increase my riding gradually.

  13. #13
    Pat
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    Well, as to how long.... who knows?

    For aerobic fitness, riding only on weekends just does not cut it. The more days you do aerobic exercise the better. Doing aerobic exercise 6 days per week is way better than doing aerobic exercise 2 days per week. The more like cycling your aerobic exercise is the better. At the gym, putting in at least 30 minutes on a spin bike will be almost as good as road cycling. But really anything that uses your legs and gets you aerobic will be a benefit.

    As a rule of thumb, I used to think 10 weeks and anyone who wasn't really out of shape could get in shape to do a century, not a fast century just a century. But the 10 week figure means that the individual is willing to put in a bunch of time exercising and will do it on multiple days per week.

    The rule of thumb is that to do a century, you need to do at least one 70+ mile training ride.
    You also need to learn about what you can eat on a ride, how much water you need to drink to keep going and so on.

    For example, I can get by for 60 miles with no breakfast and no food. But I need a potload of water. I am a world class sweater. You need to know what your body needs and not what someone else's body needs. On a century, if you do not see to what your body needs, you will bonk (deplete your muscle glycogen or dehydrate (called heat exhaustion and pushed far sunstroke). So to learn that stuff, 40+ mile rides need to become pretty routine.

    Also learn how to fix a flat. Centuries tend to produce flats, if not on your bike, on your buddy's bike.

    The neat thing about it is that centuries seem like an impossible distance to most people. But a reasonably fit recreational cyclist can do a century with relatively little trouble. There was a time there that I could push out a century day after day. My record was 4 centuries in a row. The reason I never did more than that was lack of time (nonbicycle concerns intruded) not because I could not do more.

  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Read the post linked below and you can realise that Century rides are not necessary- unless you want to do them- And as a warning- they are not for every one.

    I now just go out and ride a bike. Don't care about what milage I do- or how fast but sometimes surprise myself on what I have achieved.


    Warning on that 1st. distance ride.
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  15. #15
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
    After a night's sleep I planned to review my post to see if I could make it less dumb. Instead I found some great replies, some including spot-on info. Thank you all.

    FWIW, I have never done serious long bike rides but I was serious about running. I've run several marathons, all under 3 hours, my best 2:51, a 6:30 pace, so I know something about building up mileage and hydration. Obviously 6 hours requires more care than 3 hours, but the concept is the same. I was seeking a response indicating it was at least plausible ("yes") but I understand it would require serious effort, dedication, and a lot of good luck. So far my body is comfortable with biking, but I know that could change in the blink of an eye, so I will increase my riding gradually.
    We should be asking YOU for advice. As several have stated, your biggest issue will be comfort.

  16. #16
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
    After a night's sleep I planned to review my post to see if I could make it less dumb. Instead I found some great replies, some including spot-on info. Thank you all.

    FWIW, I have never done serious long bike rides but I was serious about running. I've run several marathons, all under 3 hours, my best 2:51, a 6:30 pace, so I know something about building up mileage and hydration. Obviously 6 hours requires more care than 3 hours, but the concept is the same. I was seeking a response indicating it was at least plausible ("yes") but I understand it would require serious effort, dedication, and a lot of good luck. So far my body is comfortable with biking, but I know that could change in the blink of an eye, so I will increase my riding gradually.
    Build up to riding 75-80 miles and then jump to a 100. If you can ride 3-4 times a week you should be able to ride a fairly flat 100 miler in 4-6 months (up to 4000 ft of climbing). A 60 miler should feel pretty "comfortable" (the tank is not empty) before you jump to the really longer distances. Comfort and bike fit are extremely important on 60+ milers. As you probably know how important shoe/sock/clothing fit was with running, the same is even more true with bike stuff for 6+ hour rides. Ill fitting stuff can cause both discomfort and potential joint and muscle issues for longer rides.
    Ride your Ride!!

  17. #17
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    a fairly flat 100 miler in 4-6 months (up to 4000 ft of climbing).
    A century with 4000' of climbing might be fairly flat in your neck-a-da-woods but for some that is a hilly century. But your point is well taken, I would not recommend a century with a lot of climbing or even very rolling for someones first. The OP did not state his location but assuming it is not in/near the mountains, a flat century might be just the ticket. My oldest brother and I did the Seagull a few years back - it was his first. Flat as a pancake - only two hills. I plan to do it again this year with the goal of under 5hr ride time. For that ride it is not unreasonable - you just tuck into a fast pace line and get whisked along. When I did it a few years back I remember getting in the back of some 20 riders doing 28mph and feeling like I was barely putting any effort in.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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  18. #18
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    A century with 4000' of climbing might be fairly flat in your neck-a-da-woods but for some that is a hilly century. But your point is well taken, I would not recommend a century with a lot of climbing or even very rolling for someones first. The OP did not state his location but assuming it is not in/near the mountains, a flat century might be just the ticket. My oldest brother and I did the Seagull a few years back - it was his first. Flat as a pancake - only two hills. I plan to do it again this year with the goal of under 5hr ride time. For that ride it is not unreasonable - you just tuck into a fast pace line and get whisked along. When I did it a few years back I remember getting in the back of some 20 riders doing 28mph and feeling like I was barely putting any effort in.
    Good points. We have one of our flatter 100 milers this coming weekend. It's 4000 ft of climbing and last year I did it in around 4hr 35 mins. You just have to ride behind the faster wheels! If you can hang with the lead group the first 15-20 miles the pace settles in and a nice group of 15-20 moves along at a really good clip.
    Ride your Ride!!

  19. #19
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    Good points. We have one of our flatter 100 milers this coming weekend. It's 4000 ft of climbing and last year I did it in around 4hr 35 mins. You just have to ride behind the faster wheels! If you can hang with the lead group the first 15-20 miles the pace settles in and a nice group of 15-20 moves along at a really good clip.
    4:35 is a great time for the Flyer. I'm not as inclined to ride in the fast pacelines (if I even could!) anymore so I give up some speed for security. Having gone over the bars at 22mph does that.

    As mentioned above, a century is more mental strength and one's ability to remain comfortable on the bike for the duration. Of course, while a 20yo might be able to complete one coming off the couch, it is wise for older guys to work progressively toward the goal. Before my first century the longest ride I had done was 74 miles. I jumped up to 108 miles on a mountain century and while tough, was able to finish ok. I think a ride in the 75 mile range is a good indication that one is ready to complete a full century.

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    In addition to all the good suggestions made. Once you feel ready look for a century ride that also has shorter rides included. Often the option of cutting the ride shorter is available. We were on one several weeks ago and could have shortened the ride to an 80 miler if we were not doing too well. Lots of steep hills and it still is early in the cycling season.

    Point being that you may feel ready but the body may say differently once you get into the ride.

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