Tips for completing a century ride

Earlier on this year I wrote a couple of blog posts on tips for people who had got into the RideLondon 100 ballot and were panicking about starting or stepping up their training.

With the RideLondon event now less than 6 weeks away (4th August 2019) and plenty of other long distance sportives looming during the summer season it seems a good time to offer some tips on heading out for your long distance rides and getting ready for those 100 mile (or longer in some cases) events.

1st Tip – Make sure you are comfortable, a bike that is comfortable for your commute to work may not necessarily be comfortable if you are riding for 5, 6, 7 hours or more as may well be the case on your 100 mile ride. I would absolutely recommend getting a bike fit. Speak to your local bike shop, but many do offer a bike fitting service. A bike fit can be the difference between being moderately comfortable, or feeling like the bike is an extension of your body. The smallest tweaks can make the biggest differences to your comfort, aerodynamics and power transfer when cycling. I am a big fan of the Retul bike fitting system and have had a fit done on both my road and TT bikes with great results. Simple things such as a tweak to the cleat position, or a slight adjustment to saddle angle can be the difference between knee or back pain, or a pain free 100 miles and beyond.

Choose your kit wisely… Expense doesn’t always mean comfort, make sure your clothing is comfortable and fits well. My favourite shorts at the moment are the Primal Ebony Women’s Evo 2.0 bib shorts and they are amazingly comfortable. Wear a comfortable jersey with good pockets for snacks. Depending on the forecast you may also need a gilet and/or arm warmers to pair with your essential shorts and jersey.

2nd Tip – Give your bike some TLC. A well maintained bike is a happy bike and will be easier to ride. Before any long event I would recommend getting your bike serviced at your local bike shop, there are many different levels of services available, but key points include a basic safety check, checking for any parts that have worn through or worked loose, and any necessary adjustment to brakes and gears, for a more comprehensive service the mechanic will check if you need your wheels trued, and/or hubs adjusted, higher level services may include a full strip down, clean, re-grease and rebuild of your bike. The level of service you go for will largely depend on the level of use and how much TLC your bike usually gets, but at the very least I would recommend a basic service and safety check.

3rd Tip – Plan your nutrition, this doesn’t necessarily only mean what you eat during the ride, the days in advance of your ride are equally as important. A good fueling and hydration strategy in the few days leading up to your event can be the difference between arriving at the start full of energy and maintaining that energy throughout the ride, or starting to lose energy mid way through the event. The day before a big ride I will constantly have a bottle of a hydration drink in hand and continually sipping it helps get me fully hydrated before I get to the start line. Personally if I eat well in the few days before an event I can make it round 100 miles on little – no nutrition and just good hydration, but what works for one person may not work for you. If your friend eats a bowl of porridge and 2 bananas and has bags of energy that doesn’t automatically mean it will work for you. If I do eat before a big ride (I’m useless at eating in the morning) I will likely just have a 2 egg omelette and a cup of peppermint tea – my fueling is done in advance rather than on the day, but this is a case of trial and error, practice your fueling with as much seriousness as you practice your cycling. Watch out for a blog post from fellow Primal Ambassador Rachael Davies where she will offer her tips for long ride nutrition.

4th Tip – Don’t let the distance psyche you out. 100 miles is just 4 x 25 miles looped together, can you comfortably ride 25 miles? If so, break it up into sections, allow yourself a short break per section, maybe get off the bike, loosen your shoulders up, have a snack, get back on start again. Or if you don’t need a full break it could be as simple as sitting up and changing your position for a few minutes every 20 miles or so, shaking out your arms and releasing any tension that may have built up. Many sportives have rest stops designed for riders to pause for a few minutes, refill water bottles and have a snack, you can absolutely make use of these if you need to. You don’t need to go hard and fast for a full 100 miles unless that is something you are absolutely comfortable with. If you are comfortable riding 100 miles without a break then resist the temptation to go out too fast, pace yourself, many riders make the mistake of starting out a bit too hard (especially in a big closed road sportive like Ride London) and can end up suffering later in the event, roll out at a pace you know you can maintain, allow your body to warm up well, and if you feel great later on you can always step up the intensity in the later miles. Its much better to get to the last 20 miles feeling like you still have energy and power than it is to feel like you can’t survive another mile.

5th Tip – Trust your training. You won’t have entered this commitment lightly. It is highly likely many hours of the weeks preceding your event will have consisted of cycling either outside, on the turbo, in spin classes etc. All cross training will also have helped. You have done the hard part by this point. Weeks of training condense into one day of effort. Don’t doubt your efforts, remember so much of a persons success in endurance sports is based on mind power. Believe you can do it, know you will give it your best shot, the body is capable of so much more than we realise, and when you think you are tired, likelihood is your body still has a lot more to give. That doesn’t mean push yourself to crazy levels, I just mean balance your mind, if you need to pause, give yourself a minute, then move on before doubt can set in. Keep your mind on the goal, the reason you are riding, the way you will feel at the end, the medal if that’s what motivates you, or the charity you are fundraising for. Focus, trust yourself and just keep spinning, each rotation counts.

Last Tip – Enjoy it! We spend many many months and multiple miles training for our big events. Absorb the atmosphere at the start, look up and notice the views en-route – if you are doing Ride London the view at the top of Box Hill is stunning when the weather is clear. Chat to other participants as you encounter them on the course, a quick ‘hi’ or ‘how you doing’ as you pass builds camaraderie and helps to lift the spirits of both of you.