Gear and Scheduling: Road to the Century, Part II

Staff Writer
Tips from one rider's first time planning and riding a 100-mile route

When it comes to riding your first century, or 100 miles, there are a few things you need to know. Before I started training, I didn’t do much research and—for better or for worse—I am learning most of my lessons in real time.

While this has sometimes proved inconvenient or even painful, I’m certainly not repeating my mistakes. And with this series of articles, you can (hopefully) avoid these issues altogether.

As of this week, my boyfriend Jacob and I are six weeks out from our first 100-mile ride in Southern California. While he continues to train in Chicago, I’m logging miles in and around New York City. Here are a few more tips based on the experience.  

Buy Gloves
There are four good reasons to purchase gloves: To relieve pressure on the hands, protect your palms in case of a fall, to keep your skin safe from the elements and—though it may sound odd—to blow your nose.

As you start to put in more time on your bike, you’ll find your problem areas. While Jacob's neck and inner thighs gave him trouble, my hands were initially my biggest issue. After about 30 miles, parts of my fingers and palms would start to go numb and I’d have to change hand positions every few minutes to regain circulation. Gloves are an easy way to relieve pressure that can cause numbness. They also keep your hands safe from wind and sunburns and will make sure the delicate skin on your palms stays intact in case of a fall.

In cooler weather, you’re also likely to face a persistent runny nose. To deal with this issue, many cyclists blow their nose into their gloves and then wipe them off on their cycling shorts. It sounds gross, but when you're on the go, it saves a lot of time, trouble and Kleenex.

Scrap the End of Long-Ride Days
Before I started training, I thought long rides would simply be an invigorating start to my day. So the first time I planned a 60-mile ride, my schedule looked like this:

9am: Start ride
3pm: Arrive home and eat
5pm: Church
7:30pm: Chat with Jacob

When I arrived home that afternoon, however, I had a feeling my plans would need to change. As soon as I walked through the front door, I began my feed. I ate everything in sight—about 1,500 calories worth of fruit, dark chocolate and dinner leftovers—and then called Jacob to report on my ride.

“Babe, I think you might need a nap,” he said, after listening to my slightly slurred account and repeated proclamations about how I needed to lie down.

So nap I did. And while I did make it to church that night, I was extremely cranky and nearly fell asleep in the pew. Immediately after the service, I attacked the church refreshment table and, still not satisfied, went to the nearest café to consume an additional 1,500 calories of salad, gouda-and-spinach grilled cheese and blueberry pie. That night, before the best nine-hour slumber I’d had in months, I promised myself that I would never again make additional plans for my long-ride days.  

Click here for more stories from the Lessons Learned Series.