Riding 100km: advice?
October 7, 2010 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Riding 100km: advice?

I have been a regular cyclist for years. Unfortunately, with a new job, I haven't been getting out much for the past month or two. Prior to that, I would do about 20km a day. That being said, I've never done a long ride before.

I would like to try to do 100km (actually 115km) this weekend, on a single day. Am I utterly foolish? Is it possible? What advice can you give? This is something I've wanted to do for a long, long time. With work and study commitments, this will be my last chance of the year. I should have been training, I know. Nevertheless, I'm in pretty good physical shape, and have been working out regularly for some time.

I have a mountain bike, so I'm going to get slicks instead of the relatively aggressive tread I have now.
posted by iftheaccidentwill to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is likely to be possible, but you will be in a lot of pain afterward. Ride slow, eat and hydrate often along the way. Stop every 20km or so and check in with yourself. A long ride like this, without training, probably ought to take you over 8hrs to do. If your mountain bike has shocks, that is bad. If you can lock them out so they can't bounce you will be happier. Wear bike shorts and apply some diaper rash cream before you head out.

Are you doing this as part of an organized ride - like with support, rest stops, and medical folks available? That would be good. If you're doing it on your own for some reason, I suggest shortening the ride.
posted by cubby at 1:48 PM on October 7, 2010

I just did a full century (100 miles) a week ago so I feel somewhat qualified to comment on this. I would not have done this without having done some decent miles beforehand, and that logic should apply for a metric century too. My cycling season rides usually start out in the 30 - 40 mile range and build up to longer rides. Injury is a pretty real possibility if you're not used to the distances, and if not injury, serious muscle pain the next few days. Also some serious seat, neck, and back pain.

Don't let this deter you from going a distance though. Maybe shoot for a 50km or 75km ride? Depending on how fast you ride (my average ranges between 14 and 16mph) these can be some pretty lengthy rides, especially on a mountain bike. Stretch ahead of time and afterwards. Ride with an sports drink (I like Gatorade personally) and a banana or Cliff bar or something along those lines. Drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry. Pace yourself (it's a ride not a race is usually my mantra). Stop for about 5 minutes every hour or two (on my century we had 4 SAG stops along the way, all of which were quite welcome) to give yourself a chance to stretch out. Move hand position frequently to keep from getting cramps. Slicks are a great idea. I hopped on my mountain bike yesterday for the first time in about a month and was shocked at how much more effort was required over my road bike. Padded shorts and gloves are also good plans.

Feel free to send me a mefi message and let me know how it goes, I'm always interested when new people get into something I love!
posted by moitz at 1:50 PM on October 7, 2010

You can do it. Your legs may be a bit shakey towards the end, but 100km should be entirely within your ability.

Slicks are a huge deal. I'd think twice about doing 100km without frankly.

My only other major concern would be having a single hand position for the 4-5 hours it will take. A set of bar ends can offer an essential second option. About $20 is all you need spend.

Wear padded shorts and a wicking jersey. Take a light jacket for rain or wind.

You'll need a fair bit of water, more than you think. Four or six L at least. Pick a couple of spots to stop to refill your bottles. You may want to take a piece of fruit or a granola bar.

Carry at least a spare tube, levers and a pump. Phone or a few bucks for a cab, just in case.

Have fun! Solo or with a group, any ride is a good ride!
posted by bonehead at 1:54 PM on October 7, 2010

Remember that above a certain very low speed, wind resistance is your single biggest obstacle. Further, as your speed increases linearly, your energy output increases by the cube. So, while you have to, say, double your output to increase your speed from 30 to 35 km/h (I'm making those numbers up, but you get the idea), you can also halve your output but reducing your speed by a similar tiny amount.

tl;dr: Take it easy. A little bit slower and you save a lot of energy.
posted by klanawa at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2010

Make sure to start early enough that your entire ride will be in daylight. It's getting late enough in the year that that's starting to be a concern. Since it's your first time going a long distance, I'd conservatively estimate your average speed at around 15 km/h, so you'll take around six hours to do the ride.

Be prepared for flats. Have a frame pump, a patch kit, and a spare tube, or a cellphone and a friend who doesn't mind driving fifty kilometers to pick you up.
posted by pmdboi at 2:00 PM on October 7, 2010

I've done 60 miles with limited prep and few repercussions, primarily sunburn. But I did go very slowly and took all day to do it, there were frequent stops qne lots of water etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:11 PM on October 7, 2010

2 big bits of advice: use your gearing intelligently, and carry more food and/or water than you think you'll need.

Gearing because spinning at ~90rpm instead of mashing at ~60rpm protects your under-prepared knees from overuse injuries. Being realistic about your speed will help too, as klanawa points out. You're probably fine doing this at 30, but be aware that as you get older you'll start to need the training miles more, to prevent injury.

And food/water because a 70 mile outing is going to take you at least 4 (probably 5-6 depending on terrain and tires) hours of riding. You need fuel to ride that long, and running out of fuel ("bonking") sucks a lot. A little fruit will not do it; you need to eat something with an energy payload similar to a Clif Bar every hour or less. Pack a variety and bring more than you think you need. Similarly, digesting that food requires water - probably more than you can carry easily. Plan a water refill stop or two somewhere on the route.

Enjoy! I'm doing a similar ride this weekend myself, my first in a long time.
posted by richyoung at 2:33 PM on October 7, 2010

For 100km take spare tubes, tire leavers, pump and a chain repair tool. For longer distances, take a spare tire and a spare chain. Don't put it all in a backpack or your shoulders will be sore.

Listen to your body, if you feel something rubbing or hurting in a minor way. Adjust what you need to until you're problem free.

Ride in a low gear, don't force the pedals. Keep your heart rate around 130bpm and you should last forever.

If your but is sore, get a softer seat (but not too soft). If your anus is sore, reduce the friction by a well placed tissue or chamois cream.

FWIW: I rode from Toronto ON to Halifax NS, 2200km in 9 days, about a month ago. (roughly equivalent to NYC to Miami).
posted by ecco at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2010

I find for long rides that eating and drinking before you are hungry or thirsty really helps. Also, bring a few emergency sugary snacks and make sure you are taking enough salt over the course of the day (lack of salt can lead to cramping).

I think, if you've been doing 20 km per day for a few years 100km, will not be hard.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 2:44 PM on October 7, 2010

Before the ride you may be tempted to make all those seat and handlebar adjustments you've been putting off for months. DON'T. Ride on what your body already knows.
posted by a young man in spats at 2:48 PM on October 7, 2010

You can definitely do it! Here's my 2 cents:

Eat, drink, eat, drink, eat, drink, eat.

At low aerobic powers your body will go on for ages as long as you supplement it with fluids and fuel. You're looking to prevent what's known as "the bonk". If you like gadgets then this could be a great excuse to go buy yourself a heart rate monitor. If you do, try to keep your heart rate between 130 and 140 (depending on your age). You may feel you can go much faster than this, and you probably could over short distances, but every bit of energy you save goes towards increasing the length of time you can ride for.

Good luck, go do it.
posted by talkingmuffin at 3:11 PM on October 7, 2010

No question: slicks are going to help more than anything (the higher pressure the better). To keep from getting sore: Bike shorts and Chamois Butt'r. Also, cycling gloves, bar ends, and frequent change of hand position.

Pay attention to your body. Knee starts to hurt? Stop mashing and use a lower gear, or turn back/get picked up if possible. (Otherwise you'll hobble yourself like I did.)

What kind of pedals do you use? Platform, toe clips + straps, or clipless (SPD or similar)? Clipless is a godsend; clips and straps are a distant second (IMO). If you want to do distance riding regularly, I highly highly highly recommend it. If you can find a good sale, it's a US$100 upgrade worth its weight in gold.

Good luck!
posted by supercres at 3:11 PM on October 7, 2010

If you started at 8am you would have roughly 10 hours of daylight to work with. With that in mind here are my recommendations:

Go at your regular pace and take a snack/pee break every 10km. Take an hour or so off at your half-way point. Your century may take a bit longer this way but it should be relatively easy. Depending on how tired you want to feel at the end you can skip your last 1 or 2 breaks.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:13 PM on October 7, 2010

You can definitely do this, I did a Imperial Century (100 Miles) 2 weeks ago, I have Sarcoidosis and about 70% of my normal lung capacity and had a total hip replacement 6 months ago, I normally ride about 20 miles a week back and forth to work, and me and my friend decided to do the ride 21 days before the actual event, but we are stupid like that, It took me 11:30 hours but I had so much fun I am actually preparing for next year and I did it on a mountain bike
posted by kanemano at 3:23 PM on October 7, 2010

My boyfriend regularly rides 15-20 miles a day and occasionally goes on longer 50-ish mile rides on the weekends. When he does his long rides he takes a ziplock bag of cashews, walnuts, dried fruit, etc, to munch on (and when he gets back he eats everything in the house).

The most important thing, I think, is that he carefully plans his rides out in advance. He stays out of high-traffic areas but tries to stay close to transit lines in case he injures himself or gets a flat and needs to get back home easily. He also makes sure I know exactly where he's going (he'll track it out on a map), approximately how long he plans to take, and always carries his phone. And if I weren't there, he'd tell someone else. That way, if something should go wrong I'll know approximately where he is in case I have to call in the Coast Guard or something. And he'll text me when he gets to his midpoint.

If you're going to be riding alone, make sure you have a buddy back at home who knows where you are.
posted by phunniemee at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2010

I've been blessed by a body that lets me do bugger-all for months and then go out and think nothing of sixty miles. However, I've never done more than a hundred or so, and I've also stopped doing those organized charity rides because it's not that big a deal to stop at a bakery or convenience store every thirty or forty miles for my refueling and I just don't like being on the road with all those people.

So take my "yeah, you can definitely do it" with that caveat.

The thing that always kills me is getting behind in my nutrition. On a road bike at 20MPH (which, admittedly, is pretty fast), you're burning about a thousand calories an hour. I'm told you can absorb about 250/hour while your exercising, but my experience is that if that isn't there I'll bonk after four hours or so, and I'll feel like hell the next day.

I usually carry two water bottles, or a water bottle and a Camelbak. One of the water bottles has a fairly dense sugary drink. Gatorade will work in a pinch, Hammer Gel mixed in water is my preference. Keep sipping that. Bars also work for texture and variation, but I find it easier to keep riding and drinking if I'm not dealing with crumbs.

Which is basically a reiteration of what talkingmuffin said about "the bonk".

Don't do too much water (A few years ago riding up from Fresno to Shaver Lake I screwed myself by drinking too much water and popping too many electrolyte pills. Felt like crap 'til I stopped drinking for most of the Tollhouse Grade climb). Stay hydrated and sweaty, and pee clear, but it's possible and easy to overhydrate.

Break for 10 minutes or so every 3 hours or thereabouts.

And just keep crankin' out the miles.
posted by straw at 4:33 PM on October 7, 2010

It's very doable.

A cycle computer or a GPS is worth having to know how far you've been going.

As other people say, take food, some water, a repair kit and stop for breaks and you should be fine.

I ride 30km most days to work and have periodically done longer rides. For rides of a 100km I'd try to get out for a warm up or two, but if that's not possible it's still should be OK.
posted by sien at 4:58 PM on October 7, 2010

You are catching me in the middle of a long bike tour where, over the past 3 weeks, I've had only 3 days as short as 100k.

I would not want to ride that distance on a mountain bike with flat bars, but that's what you've got. You can manage, but bar-ends would be a good idea.

If you're a guy, you might want to get some Body Glide for the crotchular region. I guess the same goes of you're a chick.

Ensure you'll have adequate access to water. I'm pretty stingy with hydration, and I'll run through about 3 liters in 100k. Food is less of an issue, but it would still be a good idea to pack several energy bars.

Ensure that you can deal with basic mechanical problems. When you feel like you need a break, take one. Give yourself enough time: if you ride at 20 km/h average (a pretty easy pace), it'll take you five hours plus stopped time to complete.

Most importantly, pace yourself.
posted by adamrice at 4:59 PM on October 7, 2010

I hope people will continue posting, but I wanted to pop in and say thanks!

If the wind isn't especially brutal, I'm going to do the ride on Saturday. Once complete, I"ll be sure to report back here and favorite those tips that were especially helpful.

One note: the distance is set, because I'm biking from my city to the small town my parents moved to. The big plus is they just got a hot tub!
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2010

You'll definitely be all right.

I didn't train too much for my tour but on the second day I already did about 80 miles of rollers with pretty bad headwinds. Ended up going less than 10 mph avg that day with a heavy trailer.

I assume this isn't a racing situation so you'll be able to take nice breaks in between. Maybe set yourself up for a 30-45 minute lunch break in the middle unless you're feeling good enough to go the straight 115 km. It'll give you the time to enjoy a small town in between.

Take lots of breaks to enjoy the sights. Plan on climbing into that hot tub by dark.

Make sure your bike seat height is adjusted properly. Sheldon Brown's Guide. You'll want to make sure you get the extension you need so you don't burn out. Definitely pump up those tires to whatever the maximum allowance is on the sidewall. Bring a map (GPS is overkill IMO).

In general, do a gentle warm-up when you start. Pick up the pace as you go instead of possibly burning out before the finish. Also make sure to pack for the weather. Nothing makes me want to quit faster than cold body-parts.
posted by just.good.enough at 6:26 PM on October 7, 2010

It may not matter much for a 100k ride, but I find that I need to wear bandaids over the upper-chestal nipple areas. TMI perhaps, but friction burns there aren't fun.
posted by bonehead at 6:35 PM on October 7, 2010

If you've been a regular cyclist for years, I bet you've built up a bit of overall fitness, enough that you could do 115 km without keeling over. Eat at regular intervals; refill your bottles whenever possible; and have fun!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2010

Totally possible, 60 miles/100km isn't so far for a full day. As long as you're not towing lots of weight and there's no insane climbs, you should be fine. Definitely get slick tires.
posted by beerbajay at 9:45 PM on October 7, 2010

You can do it. You will be tired and sore, but you can do it.

For a stretch ride like this you should generally ride one gear lower (meaning, easier to spin) than what you normally push. This will help preserve your strength in the last 25% of the ride.
posted by dgran at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2010


I did it! I tried to take a lot of the advice here. I bought padded shorts (great suggestion) and got slicks (even better suggestion). I drank a lot of water / Gatorade, and brought granola-type bars, Fig Newtons, bananas, and beef jerky (great for the salt and chew). I eschewed the jersey; I don't sweat much and thought it not worth the cash. For some people, it might be important. Bar ends also were very nice.

A couple of other things: my iPod (for riding on service roads) was key. It helped me keep pace and sane (it's a long ride, and can be boring). Unfortunately, the terrain varied from great to horrible, including roads, paved shoulders, unpaved shoulders, derelict service roads, and dirt roads. I didn't bring my camera (batteries died as I was getting ready) and I think this was a plus... I would have stopped a lot more and might have been really wearing on the patience at the end. I also brought Tylenol which helped with a bit of the aches. My stops were generally 2-10 minutes, and I stretched every time.

Final distance was 127.9km. I left at 8:20 and pulled in at about 3:50. Definitely wasn't trying to go too quickly. Thanks MF - I've been wanting to do this for a long time!
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 8:54 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Glad to hear it! I was wondering how it went.
posted by richyoung at 12:26 AM on October 11, 2010

Gald to see you had fun!
posted by bonehead at 9:26 AM on October 12, 2010

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