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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Tips for riding a Century

    If you have ridden a century (100 miles) or longer ride, do you have some tips to share for those who are training for a century or longer ride next year, next week, or anything in between?

    -- Links to Century Training Plans
    -- Century nutrition tips
    -- Tips for clothing and equipment

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I'll start with this one ...

    Nutrition
    -- Aim to consume approx. 200-300 calories per hour during your century or longer ride. The calories could come from liquid nutrition or from solid food.
    -- Aim to drink approx. one 750 ml bottle of water, sports drink, coke, or whatever, every 1 to 1.5 hours during your ride.
    -- Don't forget to consume electrolytes in food, sports drinks, or supplements.

    These amounts may vary a bit, especially once you've done several centuries and have become comfortable with what works for you. But these are decent guidelines to follow at first.

  3. #3
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Sip constantly at your rest breaks, too, and don't chug slam the whole bottle at your rest stop.....especially if it's reallly hot on your ride. Slamming the bottle may well cause massive cramps or worse. Don't get behind on your hydration. That'll kill your Century effort.....guaranteed! A dehydration bonk isn't any fun at all (aka heat exhaustion/heatstroke).

    Keep your rest breaks short, so your muscles don't get stiff and cold.

    Thanks, Machka, I have this stuck.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


    . “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”- Fredrick Nietzsche

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  4. #4
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Great idea for a thread! For those that might skip it because it has the word "fixed" in the title, I think The Octopus's sticky on training for your first fixed-gear century has a lot of applicable wisdom.

    Especially this:

    Quote Originally Posted by The Octopus
    For your first century, you have only one goal, and that's to finish it. Forget about how fast you're going, what your average is, how fast your friend did her first century... that's all b.s. Ask yourself, can I put out this effort all day?
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  5. #5
    TortoiseNotHare BridgeNotTunnel's Avatar
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    I came into this section of the forum seeking this very same topic as I am signed up for the 100 mile route on the Ride to Montauk, in June.

    I'm a bit intimidated by the distance.

    My longest single ride to date is 46 miles, a trip on the famous 9W route to the Palisades/Tallman Mountain.

    My first year of riding I was commuting primarily, and riding 20 mile recreational rides on the weekends.

    This year, I'm riding longer distances, and I'm surprised at how much this changes the gear alone.

    If all goes well enough to Montauk, I will sign-up for the North Fork ride as well.

    Come September, you all might be helping me plan my first tour.

    New York City to Albany, New York. (my mom recently moved near Albany in the winter)

    Looks to be about 160 miles, with Poughkeepsie right in the middle.

    Can I do 80 miles, 2 days in a row?

    These are the types of questions a budding cyclist might ask himself.

  6. #6
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Tip1. Don't be intimidated by the distance. Further is much easier than faster, a century is easy if you ride at your own pace.

    Tip 2. Start slow, finish fast. If you go out too fast, the last twenty miles will be very hard. If you're feeling good at 60-70 miles you can always speed up.

    Tip 3. Hydration is much more important than food. I can ride a century on virtually no food, and often ride upwards of 70 miles on water alone. But until you know your own body, and how it reacts to distance, it's wise to eat a little, and often.

    Tip 4. Don't change your set-up, or wear new clothing, use a new saddle etc. for a century. Being comfortable is the most important thing.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    To expand on a couple tips which have already been provided ...

    Ride your own ride.

    Especially on organised centuries, it can be very tempting to attempt to keep up with the faster riders. Everyone seems to start fast, no one wants to be left behind, and there's a rush in keeping up with some of the front runners. But this early expenditure of energy can lead to problems later on when you run out of energy.

    Instead, start at the pace you usually start your longer rides, and maintain that pace all the way through. Then, if you have a burst of energy toward the end ... go with it.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Regarding training ... ride regularly, and build your distance slowly and steadily.

    For example, you might do longer rides on weekends, plus evenings rides or commuting 3-4 days a week.

    -- Keep your weekday rides for recovery rides (relaxed rides to the park in the evening, slow rides to and from work), for speed/strength work (intervals, hill climbing repeats, etc.), and for general fitness rides.

    -- On the weekends, gradually increase your distance.

    A recommendation is to increase your distance 10% per week. That might work for you, or it might be a little bit slow.

    If you're comfortable with 20 km, increasing your distance to 22 km next week might be too easy ... you might go to 25 km or 30 km instead. Then see how you feel the following week. If you went for 30 km and struggled with it a little bit, maybe aim for 33 km or 35 km. If you struggled with it a lot, try it again. But if 30 km felt really good, you might try 40 km.

    Listen to your body, pay attention to your fueling, and don't push the distance too much too fast ... but do push a little bit.


    In the example of BNT above, his longest ride so far is 46 miles. If he has done that distance relatively recently, he could go out and do a 50 or 55 mile ride next weekend. If that goes well, he could go out and ride 60 miles or maybe a little bit more the following weekend. If he gradually increases his distance like that, he could be up to 80 or 90 miles by June, and the 100 mile ride won't be intimidating at all.

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    Yes, liquids are important! But drink lots of water days before the century, especially if its going to be hot out. Your body's water content has a lot to do with how it will perform it warm weather, so drink tons of water for 2 or so days prior. I tend to stay away from water during the ride and choose sports drinks to replace sodium, potassium, etc. but that need varies from person to person.

  10. #10
    Senior Member EdgewaterDude's Avatar
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    I just attempted a solo century yesterday. Here are a few mistakes I made (which all the smart people above tell you to avoid)

    1.) Came out way,way too strong. By mile 50, I was getting really tired.
    2.) Nutrition, or..lack of it. I set out yesterday morning with just a bowl of cereal and a glass of tea in my stomach. I found that by mile 50, I was starting to bonk in the worst way. Luckily, I was able to stop for lunch and get some food/drink in me. It's amazing that the one guy above can do an entire century on no food at all.
    3.) Not enough water intake. I think that I only used two small water-bottles worth. Definitely not enough.

    I plan on learning from my mistakes; next time will go much more smoothly I hope.

  11. #11
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    I'll start with this one ...

    Nutrition
    -- Aim to consume approx. 200-300 calories per hour during your century or longer ride. The calories could come from liquid nutrition or from solid food.
    -- Aim to drink approx. one 750 ml bottle of water, sports drink, coke, or whatever, every 1 to 1.5 hours during your ride.
    -- Don't forget to consume electrolytes in food, sports drinks, or supplements.

    These amounts may vary a bit, especially once you've done several centuries and have become comfortable with what works for you. But these are decent guidelines to follow at first.
    This. I'll add that the first three hours are the most important. Start on your hydration and eating after the first 15 minutes. Don't wait. Eat small amounts frequently. Every 15 minutes is good. Get this hydration and feeding pattern established in the first hour and it will serve you well. How much to drink will, however vary. I believe it best to pee about every 2-3 hours. If you don't need to, you aren't drinking nearly enough for the conditions. If you have to pee every hour, you're drinking too much. Adjust your hydration to this standard as you go.

    If it's hot and your forearms get dry, i.e. stop sweating, you're in trouble. Greatly increase your fluid intake. You'll probably have to stop somewhere cool and drink water with electrolytes until you have to pee. Then you'll be OK again.

    If your stomach starts to feel bad, kind of sloshy, take one or two Endurolytes with water, and stop eating. Ingest plain water only, per your established schedule, until your stomach feels OK again.

  12. #12
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdgewaterDude View Post
    2.) Nutrition, or..lack of it. I set out yesterday morning with just a bowl of cereal and a glass of tea in my stomach. I found that by mile 50, I was starting to bonk in the worst way. Luckily, I was able to stop for lunch and get some food/drink in me. It's amazing that the one guy above can do an entire century on no food at all.
    Just to be clear, I recommend eating. And although I am OK for >70 miles without eating on the bike, I am pretty well fuelled before I start.

    Not enough water intake. I think that I only used two small water-bottles worth. Definitely not enough.
    Definitely, definitely not enough. Less than half of enough.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  13. #13
    Senior Member EdgewaterDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    Just to be clear, I recommend eating. And although I am OK for >70 miles without eating on the bike, I am pretty well fuelled before I start.



    Definitely, definitely not enough. Less than half of enough.

    I came to this scary conclusion after I got home and noticed that what appeared to be salt crystals was dried all over my face. Kind of weird. Well, sometimes you need to learn the hard way...I'm going to stay as hydrated as possible now.

  14. #14
    Senior Member joewein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    A recommendation is to increase your distance 10% per week. That might work for you, or it might be a little bit slow.

    If you're comfortable with 20 km, increasing your distance to 22 km next week might be too easy ... you might go to 25 km or 30 km instead. Then see how you feel the following week. If you went for 30 km and struggled with it a little bit, maybe aim for 33 km or 35 km. If you struggled with it a lot, try it again. But if 30 km felt really good, you might try 40 km.
    Paying attention to eating and drinking and a reasonable pace is much more important than the length of your previous ride I think. I've done two long rides a month (between 92 and 227 km) in each of the last five months except in January (I was away Christmas / New Year). I went from 92 to 227 km in three months, even though my longest rides where also my hilliest rides (I'm practising for a 300 km coming up in 6 weeks). Learning to eat and drink enough and not going out too fast early on were absolutely key. Once you can handle 50 km a day, you can increase the distance by 20, 30 or more km from weekend to weekend.

    Get a good saddle (I have a Brooks B17) and find a comfortable riding position that suits you. Being unable to sit or a neck or arms that hurt do not encourage you to ride further and further.

    Keep up your cadence. The further you go, the less you can afford to grind (it's also bad for your knees).

    When you do training runs, get into the habit of getting out early so you have many hours in the day. Then you can take it easier and keep going longer at a more sustainable pace. I love starting at sunrise.

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    Here is a video I made of a feed bag I use on centuries and double century rides. The bag can hold more than enough food to get me to the next rest stop. By eating all the while I ride, I can avoid the "Bonk".

  16. #16
    Senior Member EdgewaterDude's Avatar
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    chidonchea,

    that's an excellent idea. I also like how you set up your cue sheet. I've been wondering how I would do such a thing without a proper handlebar rack and bag to put the sheet on.

  17. #17
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chidonchea View Post
    Here is a video I made of a feed bag I use on centuries and double century rides. The bag can hold more than enough food to get me to the next rest stop. By eating all the while I ride, I can avoid the "Bonk".
    That's pretty cool.

  18. #18
    TortoiseNotHare BridgeNotTunnel's Avatar
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    ^^^^nice video chidonchea, I may try that out. Rubberbands are definitely a cyclists friend.

    Great tips in here, all. Thanks.

    And, keep 'em coming!

    I've come to the conclusion that I should likely buy a water bladder as I always ride with a backpack, and have a few reasons why I won't put bottle holders on my frame. I'm fairly certain I can find a way to use a bladder with my existing backpack.

    In the dense NYC areas, maintaining average speeds over 14mph for any length of time is difficult, and dangerous, mainly for traffic reasons. I would like to try to ride the escorted century out to Montauk, which averages 17mph.

    When I can ride the Brooklyn Queens Greenway paths I get some long stretches, and on a recent 40 mile ride GPS results show my Best (4500 yd): 15.62 mph, which included a couple of moderate climbs. Considering the century out to Montauk is supposed to be very flat, I feel that I may be able to keep up with the group.

    In New York City it's difficult to ride, and not HAVE to stop often. There are but a handful of places within 10 miles where I can do "unobstructed" (nothing is ever truly unobstructed here) mileage (Central Park, Brooklyn Queens Greenway, Kissena Park Velodrome). So I honestly don't feel I ever have an accurate gauge of what my abilities are.

    To date, I still have not rode further than 50 miles in a single day. I'm really not terribly worried though, I'm slowly wrapping my mind around the effort, preparing myself mentally as much as physically. I was highly sedentary for most of a decade before taking up a cycling as an adult, and I was 317lbs at my heaviest. 1 year and 6 months later, I plateaued at 260lbs due to laughable diet, but I am very proud of my progress/strength, and will never stop riding.
    Last edited by BridgeNotTunnel; 04-28-12 at 10:03 AM.

  19. #19
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    Great thread. Exactly the kind of advice I came to this forum looking for. I turn 50 in just over a year and plan on celebrating it with a century ride and hopefully it won't be the first one I do. Hoping to do one by the fall.

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    To complete a century, I remember 2 things. Just keep pedalling. Speed isn't my goal; finishing is.
    To ride a fast century actually requires training - at least for me. Fast is relative, but for me that would be averaging 16mph including off-bike time.

    That being said, I carry more liquid than most people I ride with. I drink more and likely eat more, snacking semi-constantly.

    I find the more stops I make, the slower my on-bike speed averages. There are obvious exceptions - like the rides when heat just gets to me. So, I remember somethnig I read here - even walking is faster than the speed at any stop - and try to keep moving. Learning to snack while riding has helped with this a lot. Now I've got my average number of stops down to 4 per 100 mile route.

    Pre-ride bike maintenance is a must. An ounce of prevention and all that. Post-ride maintenance, or at least making notes of things to take care of before the next ride, also helps ensure success.
    -----------------------------------------
    While others have labelled me antisocial at various times, it's actually not true. I just don't like people.

  21. #21
    TortoiseNotHare BridgeNotTunnel's Avatar
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    I've recently found someone to ride with for my first century.

    We are going to meet up for a long training ride tomorrow.

    I've also acquired a water bladder, finally.

  22. #22
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    chidonchea - Great idea and great video. One question...why the tape at the bottom of the bag? Is that to prevent a blow-out?

  23. #23
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    Yes! The tape helps keep the bottom of the bag from ripping at the seam.

  24. #24
    C3 H6 O3 ACID jasandalb's Avatar
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    I did mine in November....if its cold...prepare your cold weather attire accordingly. Take a look at the weekly forecast ahead of and past your century date. Be prepared to start riding and pull off layers if you get too hot. Make sure you can pack it away in your jersey....
    And...regardless of hot or cold, you can still cramp up without a proper hydration plan. If its the night before your century and you've decided to start drinking water...........your too late.
    www.marrow.org

    Save a life......register! Its free and easy.

  25. #25
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    My first century was a 12 plus hour and self supported. I had several attempts at 100 miles and rides in the 80 mile range. One attempt was a 16 hours supported ride that got me 93 miles. The person who supported me needed to use the restroom and i had a flat and it was an hour before i was back on the road. I took my time, didn't panic had a flat course. One thing i did learn is pre ride sections and look for hazards like stray dogs , drainage grates, berm conditions, intersections and figure out what time you will arrive on a certain section of the road.
    I like to ride north in the morning south in the afternoon. Shadows from trees will help cool the road and keep me in shade. If it is cool the opposite is true. West in the morning and east in the afternoon so the sun is on my back.

    In open country where ther is not protection from the wind ,heat or sun pacing is your best adaptation to extreems

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