Looking for Century Bicycle Rides
March 9, 2006 12:31 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to do a century (bicycle) ride (not race) in late July. What have you done? What did you think? I live in Pittsburgh, PA and would be willing to travel 250-300 miles. I'd be willing to consider later in the summer into early fall too.
posted by nnk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can push yourself just a little more, there's RAIN.
posted by eriko at 12:53 PM on March 9, 2006

I'm noty sure I'm understanding your question, but here goes: unless you've serious physical problems, getting in shape to ride a century is not that difficult, even if you're starting from a '0' base.
It simply requires time in the saddle, riding almost daily on longer and longer rides thru the spring and summer to build cardio, leg and butt endurance (the latter is as important as the first two.) Remember that late July is typically pretty damn hot, so you'll need extra stamina and hot-weather training.

Call the local 'pro-oriented' bike shops and find out about and join the Pittsburgh area touring (not racing) cycling club(s.) You'll find out the good bike routes from them. It wouldn't surprise me if they hold a club century, tho it'll probably be in the fall not late July.

Also: go to the local library and read the spring issues of recent years' Bicycling Magazine. They always used to publish a feature on "Training for Your First Century" just about every year. Follow their advice.
posted by mojohand at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2006

I am not sure what you are asking. I have done Century's. Are you more interested in the training, the experience, location of races, personal reflections etc. Off the top of my head:
1) Do train and train under the conditions in which you will be riding--particularly if it is going to be hot.
2) You can almost always triple the distance of the rides you do for training--in other words--if you can ride 35 miles comfortably on a regular basis you probably can do 100 miles.
3) If I were you I would want to get a couple of 60-75 mile rides in as part of your training.
4) Make sure your bike fits--Not knowing how serious of biker you are this statement may be superfulous.
5) It is a ride and not a race--remember that. Be very careful with whom you ride--this is your ride not theirs.
6) Hydrate, hyfrate,hydrate
7) Have fun, enjoy it and the training--Good Luck

PS: Can not help on possible sites--I am sure this can be googled. I would encourage you to find a course with hills (though modest) and one where you will not be riding into the wind all the time. Do not pick a staight out and back unless you are sure the wind will be with you on the last fifty miles. Try and find a loop. If you have an option always ride into the wind on the way out and come back with the wind. Personally, I find wind much more problematic than hills/grades. At least they come and go--wind can be psychologically devastating as it is unremittting.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2006

You know what, nnk? You just gave me a great idea. Back in the day, some 20-odd years ago, I used to ride centuries, one year even two back-to-back. Now I'm terribly overweight and out of shape, and I'd probably struggle to do 30 miles. So I'm going to take my own damned advice, rejoin the PPTC, and train up to ride a century myself this fall. My EMA is in my profile, if you send me yours I can pass along resources I find.
posted by mojohand at 1:14 PM on March 9, 2006

The Great Allegheny Passage
posted by mookieproof at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2006

If you want a list, there are a few different ones. For a first time century rider, I'd say pick a smaller ride. Better support if you need it, and less crowds and other hassles to contend with. Just in general, centuries are traditionally held in the fall after a 'season' of riding when folks are in great shape and the weather cools off a bit. This one sounds nice. Have fun.
posted by fixedgear at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2006

I moved away from Pittsburgh a few years ago, but I did a lot of charity rides when I lived there. I never did a century, but I did a few metric centuries (62.5 miles = 100 km). I liked the charity rides, because they were usually set up with a 5-10 mile course, a 15-20 mile course, a 30-40 and a longer one. The courses usually shared the same basic route, and had rest areas with drinks and fruit and power bars and such.

I'd usually sign up for the long one, and if the day was lousy, or I didn't feel up to it, I'd bail somewhere along the way at a decision point, and take a shorter route (I only bailed once in about five years). My favorite one was Pedal Pittsburgh, which was a charity for non-profit housing group (May 21st this year). After a few of these rides, a regular century would be a bit easier (especially if they went up and over Mt. Washington). You got a nice t-shirt out the deal, as well.

Google for "pittsburgh bike rides charity" for a list of other rides this summer, and have a good time.
posted by Read at 1:30 PM on March 9, 2006

I'm in the middle of training for a late April century in my metro area. I'm following Bicycling's 8-10 week training for it - you can view it here and the author's perspective on training and the event itself.

Some good answers above, but here are a few more to contemplate:

1. If you don't have a good pair of shorts, get a pair and test them. The expensive pair I just bought I might not use, because they are too constricting on my legs and I don't want that distraction 40 miles into the event.
2. Eat. 100 miles is a good way to burn, oh, two to three thousand calories if you go at a decent pace. Don't rely on the rest stops to have food that meets your taste or needs - some events I've done are better than others. Eating on a bike is a whole other Ask Me question. One MS 150 event I did had great stops with great food, drinks, etc. A month later, a metric century ride had some crackers. Guess what all the riders liked better.
3. Find a group of riders. That's great motivation, and good opportunity to take turns pulling one another.
4. At rest stops, don't dawdle...that's a good way to cramp up and end the event too early.
5. From personal experience, it's more mental than physical.
posted by fijiwriter at 2:00 PM on March 9, 2006

fijiwriter makes some good points, but let me caution you about number 3. Be extremely careful about joining pacelines with riders that you don't know. The Seagull Century (Salisbury, MD) is famous for its spectacular wrecks. 6,500 people, strong group of riders comes by, excited rider with very little group/pack experience joins paceline. Wheels touch, riders tumble.
posted by fixedgear at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2006

Riding a bike 100 miles (or 200) sounds a lot harder then it actually is. Id say the less stops you make during the ride the easier its going to be for you. once your muscles cool down its a lot tougher to get to speed again. mojohand is right that its not too tough getting yourself in shape for a century. Start riding your bike to work or the store instead of driving/public trans, and begin to take longer and longer rides on the weekends. You should soon find mashing up a hill or doing a daylong ride is no problem. get some good shorts, and make sure your bike is tuned up. Oh, and have fun.
posted by fidgets at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2006

You could try Pedal to the Point, leaving in the Cleveland area and going to Cedar Point. The good news is, you get free admission to the park. The bad news is, you're so ass-tired when you're done with the first half all you want to do is sleep.
posted by ferociouskitty at 3:09 PM on March 9, 2006

You could do Ragbrai. It's probably more distance than you're willing to ride, but the scenery is great, and the whole idea of dipping one wheel into the Missouri and then the other wheel into the Mississippi always appealed to me. I went on the ride myself when I was 18-20, each year.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:15 PM on March 9, 2006

Thanks for all of your input.

Let me clarify and add some background. Last summer I did a 2-day 162 mile charity ride (The Pan-Mass Challenge), I've done 3 MS150's, a Tour de Cure etc. (and I agree Read about Pedal Pittsburgh completely - sign up for the long one and wait to see what the weather is like). I am not sure if I want to do another MS150 this year, but I think I would like to do
a Century as a challenge.

I appreciate the training tips, because although I know I can train enough to do one, it's nice to have a bit of a plan and see what others do.

What I am really looking for are recommendations. What have you done that you liked? Was the ride well-organized? How was the route? How many people? Were there peanut butter and jelly sandwiches etc.

Thanks again
posted by nnk at 3:24 PM on March 9, 2006

Oh, if that is the case then travel to Philly on 9/10/06 and ride my club's century. City, and country roads. Soft pretzels, Tastykakes, coffee, juice and bagels at the start, homemade baked goods at the rest stops, pizza party at the finish. Some climbing, but not a tremendous amount. Incredibly well organized, we usually get 750 people.
posted by fixedgear at 3:41 PM on March 9, 2006

Ah too bad about your timing: the Montauk Century ride is in late May.
posted by moxyberry at 3:37 PM on March 10, 2006

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