How to Train for a Century Bike Ride

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A "century" bike ride is a hundred mile trip-usually with great scenery and fun camaraderie. To fully enjoy it and not have burning thighs, aching shoulders and a sore butt the last 50 miles, here are training tips to get you into shape.

Things You'll Need

  • A bike with 12 to 21 gears
  • Helmet
  • Spare inner tubes, tire irons, patch kit
  • Portable pump and Co2 cartridges
  • Water bottles or Camelbak
  • Rear-view mirror
  • Rain jacket
  • Padded bike shorts
  • Sunscreen
  • Bike computer for measuring the miles and mph
  • The obvious: have a decent bike, one with at least 12 gears-and 21 is even better. You'll want those low gears in the event of high wind, rain and steep hills.

  • Go to a bike store and have yourself "fitted" to the bike. The employees will make sure the seat is at the proper height for correct leg extension and the handlebars are at the right distance. You will be doing so much training that you don't want any knee, shoulder or back problems to crop up.

  • Join a bike group or get some buddies together who want to train. The miles can be really lonely if you do this by yourself. Check local bike shops-they'll know of people who are training.

  • Build a base of being able to comfortably ride 25 miles at a time, however many weeks it takes you to get to that point. That will give you saddle time so your butt isn't sore and you'll know if you really and truly want to go for a century. From that base, begin your official training:

  • For the next three months, ride 10 to 15 miles during the week. You can do it before work, after work-or even TO work! Alternate fast miles with slow miles. Find some hills to ride. Go for a mountain bike ride, which can be much steeper and harder than road riding-great aerobic training!
    On the weekends, do your longer ride. Here's a breakdown:
    Weeks 1 & 2: 25 miles
    Weeks 3 & 4: 35 miles
    Week 4: 45 miles
    Week 5: 50 miles
    Week 6: 50 to 55 miles
    Week 7: 55 to 60 miles
    Week 8: 65 miles
    Week 9: 70 miles
    Week 10: 75 miles
    Week 11: 80 to 85 miles
    Week 12: The Century, 100 miles!

  • Pay attention to what your comfortable pace is (it's called "spinning)," pedaling in a steady rhythm without straining. See what your computer / speedometer says your average speed it-you'll need this knowledge to go faster to train AND to know how to pace yourself on the day of the big ride.

  • Ride in the wind and rain-for you might be riding in those conditions on the day of the century. Training in terrible weather is a great psychological boost, even if you're miserable at the time.

  • Practice changing a flat tire and putting a chain back on that slipped off.

Tips & Warnings

  • The night before the Big Ride, get a good night's sleep. Consider getting a motel room near the start of the ride so you can sleep in rather than drive several hours before the crack of dawn to get there.
  • Eat a good dinner the night before and breakfast the morning of the ride. Some swear by carbo loading. Better than that: know what works FOR YOU. This is not the time to try out exotic foods or a whole new eating regimen.
  • At the start, PACE YOURSELF. It's so tempting to ride as fast as everyone else, but if you do that for very long, your thighs will be burning in no time. Steady-as-she goes at your usual pace will get you across the finish line.
  • Stop at all of the rest areas and stretch, eat, use the restroom. Try not to spend longer than ten minutes at each stop-your muscles will get cold and stiff.
  • Bring some of your own food if you know you won't like what the rest stops typically hand out (muffins, peanut butter and jelly, bananas are popular eats at the stops).
  • Put on sunscreen-you're going to be exposed for many hours out there.
  • Enjoy the scenery, your fellow riders and your sense of accomplishment-that's what it's all about.
  • Obey the traffic rules, in training rides and on the real deal. During century rides some towns have cops out to hold traffic for you-other towns hand out tickets if you run stop signs! And out in the countryside, the car drivers may not know a century is underway, so ride with extra awareness.

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