Checklist for a successful century
by David Cole
Finishing a century ride can be a wonderful experience. It can also be a near hellish experience, and often times the difference lies in your preparation. Here’s a list of things I’ve discovered that can help you enjoy the ride…
- Pack your equipment the night before when you’re not in a hurry. In particular, make sure you include your shoes and helmet.
- Don’t ride on new equipment on a big ride! Make sure you’ve broken in any new clothes, and that any new hardware works properly.
- Be self-sufficient. Know how to make basic on-the-road repairs, such as changing a flat tire, and carry the necessary tools and equipment. Or at least, ride with people that do.
- Get to the start early, at least 30 minutes if you have to register. This gives you time to get ready, hit the bathroom once or twice, and be ready to start on time.
- Know the route. Study the map and cue sheet beforehand, if possible, but at least carry a copy with you and know how the route is marked. No one enjoys bonus miles due to getting lost. It also helps to know where the big hills and rest stops are.
- Find riding partners. Know about what speed you expect to go, and try to join folks going that same speed. Blowing yourself out trying to hang with faster riders can make for a long, lonely finish.
- Drink plenty. This is old advice, but drink before you're thirsty. I like to drink at least a quart of Gatorade the night before, and a quart shortly before the ride. If a camelback helps, use it.
- Eat, too! You’ll run out of fuel after 2-3 hours, no matter how much you ate beforehand. Don’t try something new (say, gels) on a big ride. Experiment with what works best for you. Bonking is no fun, believe me.
- Stretch to avoid back, neck, and hand pain. You can do this on the bike by rolling your neck and shoulders, changing hand positions, and stretching your fingers. Get off the bike to stretch if pain becomes debilitating. If this happens frequently, check your bike fit.
- Know how to deal with cramps. I found that a couple Tums and a bottle of Gatorade could do the trick for me. Mustard or pickle juice can work, too. Hydrate, stretch, and pedal as smoothly and evenly as you can.
- Pay attention to the weather forecast. Know whether you need to plan for rain or cold weather, especially if a front is coming through. Sometimes the high temperature for the day occurs early in the morning.
- Use sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy when you start the ride. Don’t underestimate just how long you may be in the sun on a long ride.
- Carry a cell phone. Add the ride's emergency phone number to your contacts so you'll have it handy. If you're riding the Raven Rock Ramble, install the ride's mobile app.
- Carry cash, at least enough to get something to eat and drink if you really need it.
- Carry ID. I recommend you include copy of driver’s license, copy of insurance card, emergency contacts, lists of medications and allergies, and anything else you’d want emergency room staff to know if you were brought in unconscious.
- Savor the ride afterwards. One of the best parts of a ride can be re-living it immediately afterwards as you rest and recover with your fellow road warriors and newfound friends.