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Century Bike Rides for Beginners

Whether you're an expert or beginner cyclist, it's part of the fun and challenge to take your participation in your sport to the next level.  So how about signing up for your first century ride? 

And because there are century rides held throughout the year all over the country for all different levels, there is the perfect ride for you!  You just need to find it and sign up.

Choosing Your Ride

Unless you're confident that you can take on the 100 mile challenge with ease, choose a first ride with moderate altitude gain.  A 2,000 feet gain in altitude is considered quite moderate, but you'll notice some rides can require up to 10,000 feet of climbing.  While you may see yourself as a king of the mountain type of rider, my advice would be to stick with a ride with less than 5,000 feet of climbing (even if you are an ambitious cyclist).

Also when researching different race options, choose a ride that has a good number of aid stations throughout the course.  It is common for larger events to have 4-7 fully stocked stations.  Water, sports drinks, fruit, cookies, Powerbars, gels, sports drinks, pretzels, trail mix, peanut butter and jam sandwiches and bagel pieces are typical foods supplied.

Weather can be very unpredictable. Check the average temperatures and ride conditions beforehand.  Some people like to ride in the cold.  I prefer to take on an 85 degree day over those 45 degree mornings when I can't feel my toes.

First Timer Race Day Tips

  • Relax & Enjoy:  First timers should treat the 100 mile ride as an adventure, not a race.  Forget your competitive edge, and let yourself enjoy and learn.  While road bikes and helmets are required, you'll find the atmosphere can be quite laid back. Your goal for this inaugural ride is to finish.
  • Aid Stations:  One thing that makes the century ride attainable for many first timers are the aid stations along the way.    But ALWAYS carry your own water and a few snacks to hold you over in between stations.
  • The Start:  For rides that have thousands of participants, the start will likely be staggered.  Exercise caution at the start if this is your first mass bike ride.  Try and ignore your pumping adrenaline and race mentality and remain in control. Accidents often happen when 500 plus riders clip into their pedals at once and begin to navigate the beginning of the course, which often includes tight turns, especially if the ride begins in an urban area.
  • Be Aware:   Keep in mind that roads will be open to vehicles and that you must obey all traffic signals.  The course will (in nearly all races) be partially manned by volunteers and/or highway patrol officers who will direct you through any major intersections and turns.  However, "major" is open to interpretation, so always acquaint yourself with the route.  You don't want your first century to become a lost double century!
  • Dress the Part:  Wear proper attire.  This in itself can be challenging since the weather at 7am will not be the same at 10am, 12pm or even 4pm.  Bike jerseys offer large pockets, which are perfect for stashing extra layers as you warm up.   My motto is more is better.
  • Equipment:  Although there are many aid stations along the way offering technical support, don't forget your puncture repair kit.  Of course if you get a flat, you can almost guarantee that riders will check in to make sure you're okay.  But don't rely on their resources to fix your flat.
  • Drafting is allowed and you'll notice many large groups of riders form over the course of the 100 miles.  The group energy will get you going and keep you going throughout, especially in rides with 1,000 plus cyclists.

As daunting as your first 100 miles might seem, the mind set is to finish. Many riders have a goal time; some participate in a fund-raising mission; others are testing their triathlon or endurance training.  Whatever your goal, remember to play it safe and enjoy the ride.

Training Tips We recently added a post on training tips for beginners.  Check it out here.

My First Century Ride Having run 7 marathons, competed in myriad triathlons (including a half Ironman), and participated in a number of cycling races, I was ready for a new challenge. So I signed myself up for my first century ride --The Grand Fondo--which took place in San Diego on March 1st 2009. The mercury hit 90 degrees that afternoon and I questioned my "more is better" mentality for apparel during the 2,000 feet midday climb. (The ride requires 5,000 feet of climbing altogether.) I was definitely challenged and struggled with the mental peaks and troughs on the unseasonably hot day. I was not sure what to expect, but I made it to the finish, albeit taking much longer than I would have expected! But hey, that's the beauty of an organized ride-no pressure-

List of Century Rides Below I have assembled a list of Century Rides in Southern California.  For a more complete list of events throughout the country check out or this Fondo Finder

Editor's Note: Kirsty Miller Hopkins is a favorite Athletic-Minded Traveler's yoga instructor & finance whiz.  She is also an all-around great athlete!

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