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Here are a couple easy and practical tips to get you started.

Five tips for riding your first century

With the warm weather now here, and the days filled with more light, you might be entertaining the idea of riding your first century. So, what’s a century exactly and how do you prep for it?

Here are a couple easy and practical tips to get you started.

Five tips for riding your first century

With the warm weather now here, and the days filled with more light, you might be entertaining the idea of riding your first century. So, what’s a century exactly and how do you prep for it?

BY: MARK COHEN • RIDE • 12.05.2022


Road cyclists love long rides almost as much as they like talking about them. But if you’re new to road cycling or just starting to push rides of two hours or more, you might be wondering how one rides 100 kms at once – the seminal line cyclists cross when they start riding more seriously.

What’s a century ride? Century rides are typically road rides consisting of 100 kilometers or more (160.9 km in imperial system countries). It’s seen as a milestone ride for most because it generally indicates an increase in fitness, strength, and expands your local loops quite a bit.


So, where to begin? How do you go from two-hour rides to four or more? Here are a couple easy and practical tips to get you started.

Get inspired

First thing’s first. If your rides are now hovering around 50 kms and you want to double them – which might seem a little long – perspective helps.


Consider Martijn Doolaard, author of Two Years on a Bike. Two years. He cycled from Vancouver, Canada, to Patagonia in South America – making many stops along the way. That’s a long time in the saddle. 


The reality is that most of the hurdle riding your first century exists in your mind, not in your legs and lungs. This is true in the build up to the ride and during it. To overcome that obstacle, look for inspiration from your immediate circle or the cycling community at large. When you see others cross continents or push double and triple centuries, even, in a single day, you’ll be more motivated to do the same.

Ask the Internet

Cycling training websites like Training Peaks are outstanding resources for researching, coaching, and finding answers to cycling-related performance questions. They have a very active forum, too, where people chime in with all kinds of questions and the cycling community and coaches answer them.


Their Ultimate Training Cycling Guide – available for free online – details what you’re getting into physically and mentally when riding longer distances, specifically centuries. Reading Training Peaks might help you craft a plan to train to your goals – be it how to get faster, fitter, how to build endurance, or just honing your climbing and descending skills. Everything you need to ride further for longer.


Worth a look. 

Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents.
Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents.
Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents.
Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents.
Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents.
Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents.

Cycling. There is no substitute.

Ahead of the Maratona dles Dolomites, I used the loosely held rule of 5,000 (kms) to prep, otherwise known as the accumulation of enough base miles to make longer rides fun. (By no means formal logic, but still a useful and applicable one).


If you’re chasing speed, train with intervals. But for longer road rides, it takes time for muscles to adapt to extended stints turning the pedals. In the end, mileage builds confidence, and this only comes from investing time in the bike and doing enough base miles before moving on to longer rides.

 

Similarly, the more time you spend on the bike, the better you’ll become at preparing for ride conditions. Changes in altitude require gilets, jackets, arm warmers and buffs to help regulate temperature on descents. Same with base layers, which are particularly critical for wicking sweat away from your skin on long rides. Only mileage will help you prep properly. 

Find your fit

Road bike fitting is an absolute essential for longer rides. This is done in a couple of ways.


The first is accomplished by dialing in your bike fit (with a reputable bike fitter, at your local bike shop, or by yourself if you have the skills). Saddle, stem length, and setback adjustments can also make a big difference to ride feel, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure they’re correct.


Next, think about the contact points between you and your bike. Some people like riding with gloves, others don’t. Some people like stiff road shoes, others find them uncomfortable. Find what works closer to home, where adjustments can be made, not on the day you decide to ride 100 kms or more at once.


A constant for all cyclists is the importance of a good chamois and proper fitting bib shorts. (Pro tip: always wash your bibs when they’re new to activate the chamois and make it more comfortable.) Bibs should be tight. Next to skin. The better the fit, the less you’ll notice you have them on and the more likely they are to act as a seamless connection between you and your bike, no matter what distance you’re riding.

Ride in a group

Kilometres come quickly during group rides. It’s just science. Your average speed tends to be faster, too. If you’ve not tried it – because it’s intimidating or because of the group ride skills required – try showing up to a local ride or shop and ask if there’s one you can join. Most typically offer something for all levels and are equally happy to share tips on how to group ride safely.


In a group or solo. However you do it. Keep it fun and you’ll be riding centuries routinely in no time. 

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