This weekend was our first attempt at a century ride with our road bikes. My boyfriend and I have been riding a few years now and we love going the distance. We have both gone as far as 50 miles on our bikes and hoped to achieve a century one day. So this past weekend, we decided to check this off of our bucket list!
So we loaded up early in the morning, picked up my boyfriend’s brother (who also rides), and the three of us set off to Anniston, AL to start our ride on the Chief Ladiga trail. This trail is about 33 miles long and will come to the AL/GA state line. It will then change into the Silver Comet trail, ending in Smyrna, GA, which is right outside of Atlanta. Totaling right around 100 miles.
So during our ride, there were many things we learned traveling this amount of distance. Here are 10 things you should know when preparing to do a century ride.
This is definitely something you need to train for. You have got to prepare your leg muscles and cardiovascular system. There are lots of questions to consider and you just won’t know the answer until you ride for a while.
How do you do on hills? Can your legs push you through? Can your knees hold out?
You also need to get a feel for what it is like to sit on a bike for long periods of time. The pedaling position is not like a comfort bike. It takes some time to build up the appropriate muscle to be able to sustain this position comfortably for hours on end. Our ride lasted from 8:30 AM to 7:00 PM (of course this allotted for breaks, lunch, and tire changes). This gives you an idea of how long you’ll be on that saddle.
Practicing on your bike also allows you to move through gears repetitively which will let you know if your bike needs any tune-up or maintenance.
Check the forecast! And even then, you will be moving a distance of 100 miles so the forecast may change. So it is best to have a plan for all types of weather.
During our ride it rained/sprinkled about 70-80% of the time. We definitely got filthy from each other’s spray flying up in the air which is something you just have to expect. But one thing about rain, is once you stop for a break, you lose your warmth if you stay stopped too long. We had shell jackets which helped cut the wind and prevent us from being too cold until we began pedaling again.
Also, if you are carrying a book bag or pack of any kind, make sure you have a pack cover for it. I forgot mine so some of the things inside that pack did get wet.
We really only stopped for quick stretch breaks and snacks about every 15-20 miles. And sometimes we ate while pedaling.
I would highly recommend eating something carbohydrate loaded every 15 miles. The snacks we packed were things like high protein granola bars, mini bagels to dip in pre-portioned cups of peanut butter, chocolate Belvita cookies, dried apricots/mangoes for the potassium content, and Gu packs.
While riding, I could definitely tell if I had gone too long without a snack because I would feel weak and sometimes a little dizzy. And sure enough I would check our current mileage and we would have passed the 15 mile mark since my last snack.
When it comes to water, it is very important to make sure you have two bottles and two cages on your bike. Check out your course map and make sure you have pit stops along the way for water refills every 20-30 miles.
CLOTHING AND SEAT
Bike clothing is extremely important when doing a distance ride. The bike shirts are great because of the pockets they have in the back. This is where we kept phones for photos and of course snacks. This way we could reach around and grab a granola bar without actually having to stop.
The bike shorts… THEY ARE A MUST! Definitely make sure you wear bike shorts because you need the padding under your tail bone. They also need to fit you properly by making sure the padding is protecting the right area. Not too far back and not too far forward. You can always go by your local bike shop to try shorts on and then sit on a seat to make sure they fit properly.
The seat will also be a big key. My boyfriend and I just swapped out our factory seats to Terry seats before this century. A 30 mile test ride confirmed that these seats were way better than our factory seats in regards to cushion.
One thing we did not realize regarding the seats until speaking with a bike shop employee was that the seat location can really affect your ride… Whether its too far forwards, backwards, or tilted. If you find yourself moving from your tail bone to soft tissue, you may need a seat adjustment. Local bike shops usually offer a fitting session if you have trouble finding a comfortable spot.
When it comes to clip in shoes, I can’t really say how important they are for a ride. I’ve never had them and I was still able to bike this amount of distance fine. It may be worth it to have them, but you definitely do need them to do it.
Gloves are extremely helpful if your handle bars are not very padded. I would highly recommend gloves for any distance ride to prevent any blisters from occurring.
I always get the question… doesn’t your butt hurt riding distances like that? And my answer is yes. You really want to make sure you have the appropriate shorts and a good seat to avoid this. But during a century ride, you are seated on this bike for 8-9 hours. So no matter how you sit or what you wear, you’re going to feel it. The best advice is going to be practice which we have discussed above. The more time in the saddle, the more used to it your body becomes. But there is also a product called Bordeaux’s Butt Paste. It is a product for babies that helps prevent rash and irritation. People who run or bike long distances usually keep this product around. Try experimenting with it to see what may work for you.
During a distance like this, you really want to make sure you have a small first aid kit in case of a crash and Ibuprofen for inflammation or pain.
Once we stopped around mile 45 for lunch, I noticed my knees were aching. Knowing how much further we had to go, I took some Ibuprofen to pull through.
Luckily none of us crashed, but we did have a few close calls. With consistent sprinkles throughout the ride, it sure did make things slick. In case anyone does go down, you want to have an appropriate stock of medical supplies in a saddle bag or backpack.
Prepare to have a flat tire. If you don’t experience this, you’re lucky! Between the three of us, we went through 4 tire tubes. Three being flats and 1 tube malfunction. No matter how careful you are, there may be things on the trail/road that you cannot avoid. You can never have too many tubes. For any long distance like this, I will always have about 2-3 tubes on me.
Even if your forecast is cloudy with a chance of rain, those clouds may part for an hour and you don’t want to burn. Like I previously mentioned above, weather is unpredictable especially over a 100 mile distance.
Eye protection can help protect from the sun, rain drops, or even bugs. We carried contact solution with us because we’ve had rides where we’ve gotten bugs or dirt in our eyes. Luckily during this ride we didn’t need it, but during previous rides, we have.
This can be a great idea, but also a horrible idea. It was a learning experience for us. Our thought process was to have a pack and carry first aid, snacks, and our shells (jackets) in it. Little did we realize, the extra weight would put more pressure on your tail bone and shoulders.
Luckily as we kept eating, the pack continued to get lighter which was great. But overall, I would’ve loved to use saddle bags hanging off the bike instead of the pack.
Between the three of us, we passed off the pack about every 30 miles. So rotating the extra weight really helped.
Always map out your ride and know where your food/water/rest stations are going to be. If you are hydrating well, you will still need to use the restroom. Look for a location about halfway through your ride to stop and eat lunch, and you will still want to make sure there are places to get off the bike and stretch.
The trail we rode from AL to GA was well marked with mile markers and had portable restrooms at each trail head. We also traveled through towns that allowed you to stop for a bite to eat.
I hope this post has been helpful if you are getting ready to experience your first century ride. We had such a blast challenging ourselves in a way we never have. Hopefully all the information discussed above will help your ride go smoothly so you can enjoy the scenery!