10 Tips for Those New To Century Rides

by Matt Palmgren

bicycle chain

  1. Century ride organizers do not round up.  In fact, all century rides subscribe to the “Baker’s Dozen” method of counting.  When you get the cue sheet, you will notice that there are undoubtedly “bonus” miles thrown in for your enjoyment.  Also, be aware that the actual ride is usually at least two miles more than the cue sheet indicates.  The ride organizers don’t want you to feel cheated.  (You won’t.)  This does, however, make it difficult to explain to your non-biking friends that you did a century, averaged 20mph, and your time was 5:15.

  2. The name for the Mt. Mitchell ride  -- “Assault on Mt. Mitchell” -- is a cruel joke on those riders who are participating in this event for the first time.  Clearly, it should be called “The Assault BY Mt. Mitchell.”  Once you have completed this ride, there is no doubt who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.

  3. At mile 80 or so, many riders experience the “Spaghetti Phenomenon”.  This phenomenon, never caught on video, but reported by many cyclists, involves the cyclist asking him/herself “Where are my legs, and why are these two pieces of spaghetti hanging from my hips?” Do not be alarmed if you too experience this.  This condition is usually only temporary, but relapses are common.

  4. Close to 99% of century rides are touted as not being races.  However, strangely enough, 99% of century rides are races.   This is evidenced by the official clock, the official results, and the course record.   The purse for all of these races is usually the same – one year of chest thumping and trash talking.  Nothing more, nothing less.

  5. Buying a new seat (or other component) that is 20g lighter will allow you to show more improvement than training hard and losing 5 lbs.  This is a quirk of physics that most likely was not taught in your high school/college courses.  However, it is a theory that is generally accepted by many cyclists.

  6. It is mandatory for you to start out at a pace that is at least 20% faster than that which you could maintain.  That increases to 35% if you haven’t been riding much.  This will make the ride more painful for you, but it makes your post-ride report much more interesting.  Consider your alternatives – (1) “I did the first 25 miles in one hour, then I thought the pack was a little squirrelly, so I let them go and took it easy the rest of the way.” Or (2) “I let the pack go and rode by myself for 100 miles because I’m not in shape.”  You be the judge…

  7. Rest/Aid stations are a modern day incarnation of the Sirens.  Recall that the Sirens lured sailors to crash their ships upon the rocks.  That is what you will be doing to your race, er, I mean ride time if you stop at the aid stations.  Besides, it is much more fun to pound yourself into oblivion rather than stop at an aid station for a few minutes and socialize.

  8. Century rides have strange effects on your favorite energy gel product.  In its natural state, gel does not taste anything like a substance you would want to ingest into your digestive tract.  However, it has been proven that after about 60 miles, a strange chemical reaction takes place within the gel packet.  For reasons unknown to scientists, the gel is transformed into a derivative of ambrosia – the food of the gods.  It will taste better than anything you have ever eaten before in your life.  Scientists are currently investigating this chemical reaction.

  9. Don’t be discouraged by the Bridge to Bridge ride slogan – “100 miles of pure hill”.  This is a misnomer.  There is about a half mile of flat around mile 30.  (and, of course, the ride is 103.8 miles long – see #1)

  10.  There are many components that will allow you to complete a century ride faster  -- aero bars, aero wheels, camelbaks, etc.  None of them will help you as much as bladder enlargement surgery.  It is a law of nature that between you and anyone else you ride with, you will have the smallest bladder.  This allows you to test your vision to see how long you can keep the pack in sight while you empty your bladder.  Generally, it is not very long.

  11. If your training program for the century ride consists of the first fifty miles of the century ride, you may be in trouble.

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