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Advice for planning a solo century

Old 05-09-17, 08:43 PM
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Advice for planning a solo century

So I have been stuck with some bad weather this week but wanted to do a solo century. I have some questions about route planning as I am right on the edge of the rural-urban divide. Should I just use strava's route tool to build it? I can have some friends/family set up food/water stops around with no problem. I have done a century before but that was while I was touring, anything I should expect to be different this time?
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Old 05-09-17, 09:54 PM
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Most of us use RideWithGPS for route planning. Very easy, very nice outputs. I'd keep it under 50'/mile climbing. Plan your route to go by a couple of water sources, like gas stations, and you won't need any support.
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Old 05-10-17, 01:44 AM
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I use mapometer.com for route planning.
Find a route where you can grab some food and drink around about halfway.
Have fun.
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Old 05-10-17, 03:43 AM
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Strava's routing tool works fine for me if you already have an account with them...I used it to plot my whole cross country route along with studying Google maps satellite view to see where exactly stores were so I could route directly to or past them. Depending on your speed and the temps that day you could get by with just two bottles and a few gels/bars but do plan the route so it goes past a few gas stations/convenience stores especially in the last third just in case you run low on water or just want a coke to give you a little boost towards the end.

Alternatively, you could plan the route to some sort of interesting destination so that it becomes more than just a numbers goal...
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Old 05-10-17, 04:18 AM
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I use Ride with GPS ... but Strava could work too.

Not so long ago, I'd use a combination of Google Maps and paper maps. That works too.

And as for supplies along the way ... as long as you've got some granola bars and a couple decent-sized bottles of water on board, you probably only need a couple towns with convenience stores or little grocery stores or take-aways to stock up a bit.
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Old 05-10-17, 04:20 AM
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I usually stop by parks and campgrounds for water and restroom breaks. I usually carry some food, but my last double century, I just bought food along the way.

I use Strava route planning because it gives me real-time tracking on the phone while RWGPS makes that an extra cost feature.

Unfortunately, Strava inevitably chooses roads and routes that I would typically avoid, so I go through it pretty carefully choosing the roads that seem appropriate.

I.E. around here, I try to avoid the freeway, as well as HWY 99, HWY 58, and HWY 126, so I force Strava to choose secondary roads that bypass those whenever possible, but it requires some manual entry into Strava to force it to follow my choice of routes.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I'd keep it under 50'/mile climbing. Plan your route to go by a couple of water sources, like gas stations, and you won't need any support.
Probably a good idea. There are a couple of half century rides up in Portland that work out to an average of a little over 140 feet a mile, and they are pretty brutal rides.

Any day of more than a mile of climbing (5280 feet) is a hard day.

Many of my longer rides are about 1000 feet climbing every 50 miles. But, it varies. Sometimes mountains are in the way of where I wish to go. Or, I'll choose to add a mountain to make the ride more interesting.
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Old 05-10-17, 05:05 AM
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I normally use ridewithgps locally. For rides in other areas, strava is useful.

I've found the Strava Route Builder to be pretty good at staying off busy roads. It uses a year of uploaded GPS ride data to pick the most popular biking roads. See my comments in this post.

Click the Map Settings button on the left and turn on Global Heatmap. Then you can see the popular roads colored in red. You can drag a route to a different road as needed, too.

Note: The Heat Map also includes mountain bike rides. So you could get routed onto gravel roads or singletrack.

Food or water

Locally, in rural Indiana, in many areas, there's few stores or other obvious sources of water. Zooming way in on the Strava Heat Map can help to locate places where riders stop -- there will be a little stub off the road where they turn in to a store, a park, or a church.

For example, Dillsboro Indiana has convenience stores (yellow) and a city park shelter (green) :
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Old 05-10-17, 10:25 AM
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I like the suggestions so far, I do live right by the Erie canal which has been partially converted to a bike trail, what do you think of using that to try to stay off most roads?
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Old 05-10-17, 10:34 AM
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If you've already done a century when touring (unsupported?), then you know how it's done. Get on the bicycle and turn the pedals.

I suspect that you're overthinking this. Why do you think this solo ride will be different or harder than the one you've already done?
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Old 05-10-17, 04:05 PM
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RidewithGPS, Google Maps (bike function), etc.

Use the online maps to pick a route that is bike friendly. If unsure, go drive it one weekend and take note of any roads that are super narrow with no bike lane, and re-work your route.

Be aware of gas stations and other places to refill water, in a rural area this could be an issue. As avg is one bottle per hour, you just need to encounter a gas station once every two hours or so, e.g. every 20-35 miles depending on how fast you ride.

Nutrition is its own topic, so be prepared.

Have front and rear lights if riding when dark or sunrise/sunset. If temperature swings, bring appropriate apparel. Flat kit. Charge your cell phone night before. Bring spare change if gas stations don't take credit card. Check weather report. Bring small bike lock in case you need to take a dump and leave bike unattended for 5 minutes.

Lotta this stuff is second nature for those of us who ride centuries as training rides every weekend or every other weekend , but I can see that there are actually a lot of details for someone who hasn't done it before.
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Old 05-10-17, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by cb750
I like the suggestions so far, I do live right by the Erie canal which has been partially converted to a bike trail, what do you think of using that to try to stay off most roads?
Sure ... whatever you like. That's the beauty of doing solo centuries and creating your own routes. You can go wherever you want to go!
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Old 05-10-17, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Flounce
Lotta this stuff is second nature for those of us who ride centuries as training rides every weekend or every other weekend , but I can see that there are actually a lot of details for someone who hasn't done it before.
Hahahahaha. OP is looking for expert advice to help him with his *first* unsupported century and you hit him with this? Seriously?

I suppose a bona fide hardman would take comfort knowing he's doing something that has been done many times before. Only one problem. The best way to speak from experience is *having* experience. So maybe try to get your beginner's mind? Try to remember your first...

I think Carbonfiberboy gave some sound advice up top. I also think Flounce has some solid information, in spite of my ribbing. I'll try to also add something positive. Here are 5 skills to see you through. You don't have to be a master, just be aware of them and work on them. Eventually you'll be the one ripping off centuries before lunch on Saturday like it's no big thing and giving advice to people contemplating their first unsupported century.

* Break it down. Sure, you're riding a century. But more likely you're riding four 25 mile segments, or maybe five 20 mile segments. Treat each one as it's own ride instead of thinking about some enormous and daunting goal. If you do that, and if you keep the pedals turning, you'll see it through. (Way back when I would even reset my computer for each segment because I knew I could ride 25 miles without any worries.)

* Do what you know. You know your body. You know your bike. Even if you don't know the roads, you've ridden enough to know how to navigate. You may not know exactly what to carry or what to wear or what to eat. That's ok. Unless the weather is horrific you'll get through it by riding a manageable pace. Remember Vecchio's advice: drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry, add/subtract clothes before you're cold/hot.

* Believe. This can not be overstated. The longer the distance the more your mind comes into play. Have the attitude that you *will* finish. It's easy to exercise your bailout plan if you have one. Lon Haledman used to say, when he started to hurt, that if the pain was likely to be gone in a few days he would keep riding; if the pain was likely to persist for a few weeks he'd get off the bike. Learn which is which, and embrace the normal suffering that comes with riding long distances.

* Keep moving. Relentless forward progress needs to be your mantra. And when your inevitable low points hit, stop and eat something. This violates the RFP principle but you're playing a bigger game. And a negative attitude is often due to lack of food or hydration. So feed your body, on or off the bike, and keep moving. (Learning how to eat and recover on the bike is definitely a goal worth pursuing.)

* Be prepared. A little like the Boy Scouts, but take it one step further. Prepare your bike, your body and your mind. More importantly, have your Plan A -- but also have your Plan B. But most of all, develop the skills and resources to improvise when they both fail (maybe they won't both fail on a century, but they most definitely will on a Grand Randonee.)

There's a bunch more stuff that you could focus on, but if you can manage these 5 skills then you'll finish. Probably with a smile and definitely with a sense of accomplishment.

Bonne chance!
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Old 05-11-17, 12:49 AM
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Originally Posted by cb750
I like the suggestions so far, I do live right by the Erie canal which has been partially converted to a bike trail, what do you think of using that to try to stay off most roads?
Is that paved or gravel?

There are good and bad things about both.

I find gravel paths slow me down considerably and increase the effort for riding, which could be a big pain for a long ride. A bit like riding into a strong headwind.

On the other hand, being away from traffic can be nice. Plus, I would assume the canal paths are very flat which can be nice, if that is your goal.
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Old 05-11-17, 02:57 AM
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Originally Posted by cb750
I like the suggestions so far, I do live right by the Erie canal which has been partially converted to a bike trail, what do you think of using that to try to stay off most roads?
I'd utilize it for a section or two of the ride, a nice mental break from the whiz of cars passing on roads. If it is paved, I'd try to knock out some big miles on it but doing the whole century as an out and back on a canal path would probably get boring (at least for me). If it's good hard-packed gravel or dirt, I'd incorporate it in separated sections just as a break from pavement without losing much efficiency. If it's loose gravel and you aren't used to the efforts involved in riding loose gravel, then I'd stay away.
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Old 05-11-17, 07:06 AM
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Another Strava user here. Another possible feature for you to consider since you are going solo, Strava can send what it calls a beacon text to a contact of your choice. The text contains a link so they can follow you on a map. I use it to keep my wife informed as I almost always ride alone.
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Old 05-11-17, 07:23 AM
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I like using camelbak on a long ride. I don't like the really big ones because of weight. Plus the smaller ones make it easier to get to the pockets in your jerseys. Right now I'm using the rogue that has a 70 ounce bladder; that's a fair amount of water. Plus you can stash a windbreaker if you need one. If you don't have jersey pockets, this will also hold wallet, keys, and power bars. Plus you can bring put some gatoraid powder in your water bottle (I won't use it in a bladder).
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Old 05-11-17, 02:26 PM
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OP didn't say how much he's been riding of late. Was the "done a century before when I was touring" last year or 30 years ago?

If you have been riding ~200 miles/week, then a century is no big deal at all.
If you have been riding ~100 miles/week, then a century will be challenging, but you have the conditioning to do it.
If you ride <50 miles/week, you are going to find it very tough.
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Old 05-16-17, 07:09 PM
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Food/water stops? Just get a Camel Racebak, some bottles, and pack your jersey pockets with paninis. That's all you need.
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Old 05-16-17, 08:14 PM
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My advice for anyone who has never ridden 100 miles solo in one stint before: stay close to home. Plot out a lap around your neighborhood, your town, your local whatever. Make that lap 15-30 miles in length. Keep going around it until you've hit 100 miles. This gives you the opportunity to stop at home as many times as you need-- to refill water, to use the facilities, to just rest for a few minutes without having to keep one eye trained on your bike the whole time. I've also found it much easier to maintain a set pace over a succession of laps vs. an out-and-back or a big loop route.

That is, unless you're one of those quitter types that is liable to finish a 30 mile lap and say, "Maybe I'll go for 100 next time." In which case, just ride 50 miles in one direction, turn around, and ride home.
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Old 05-17-17, 02:40 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope
My advice for anyone who has never ridden 100 miles solo in one stint before: stay close to home. Plot out a lap around your neighborhood, your town, your local whatever. Make that lap 15-30 miles in length. Keep going around it until you've hit 100 miles. This gives you the opportunity to stop at home as many times as you need-- to refill water, to use the facilities, to just rest for a few minutes without having to keep one eye trained on your bike the whole time. I've also found it much easier to maintain a set pace over a succession of laps vs. an out-and-back or a big loop route.

That is, unless you're one of those quitter types that is liable to finish a 30 mile lap and say, "Maybe I'll go for 100 next time." In which case, just ride 50 miles in one direction, turn around, and ride home.
That's what I did for my first century.
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Old 05-17-17, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope
That is, unless you're one of those quitter types that is liable to finish a 30 mile lap and say, "Maybe I'll go for 100 next time." In which case, just ride 50 miles in one direction, turn around, and ride home.
I have a batch of 200km rides that go fairly close to my house at 75-90 miles. There have been times where it was really hard to avoid stopping. I'm working on a route now that does that, but it hits a really nice restaurant/bar at 105 miles, so that's good incentive.
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Old 05-17-17, 11:39 AM
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Hopefully you (OP) have nutrition figured out, i.e. what works for you and what doesn't. If not, my guess is that you haven't trained enough for this century.
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Old 05-17-17, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope
My advice for anyone who has never ridden 100 miles solo in one stint before: stay close to home. Plot out a lap around your neighborhood, your town, your local whatever. Make that lap 15-30 miles in length. Keep going around it until you've hit 100 miles. This gives you the opportunity to stop at home as many times as you need-- to refill water, to use the facilities, to just rest for a few minutes without having to keep one eye trained on your bike the whole time. I've also found it much easier to maintain a set pace over a succession of laps vs. an out-and-back or a big loop route.

That is, unless you're one of those quitter types that is liable to finish a 30 mile lap and say, "Maybe I'll go for 100 next time." In which case, just ride 50 miles in one direction, turn around, and ride home.
Also what I did for my first. In fact that was my standard training method: ride away from home until I was tired, then ride back. Endurance training means you have to endure or nothing much happens.
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