Go Ride Your Bike: 10 Tips for Your Journey to a Century

Fun Police Biking
Fun Police Biking

My Top Insights on How to Prepare for Long Rides

Long rides are sort of an initiation into the biking community. While bikers are generally friendly people, you get to a new level of cool when you can boast of your painful hours in the saddle, riding 50, 75 or 100 miles (or more for the real crazies). Working your way up to these long rides is challenging and intimidating, but can also be very rewarding. If you want to hear my story, you can read about my first century in my post, "My Love Affair With Bikes: The Beginning".

Whether you want to ride 25 or 105 miles, you need to be prepared to sit on the saddle and pedal for awhile. Here are a few things you should consider to make your journey a positive experience:

1. Plan your work…

  • Mark the ride you want to complete on your calendar and then do your research. Create a training calendar and do short rides after work and one long ride a weekend. Try to build each long ride by 5-10 miles depending on how well the previous week went.

2. ...and work your plan

  • I used to hate when my first manager told me to ‘plan my work and work my plan’, but it’s a great tip for reaching your goals. Training is no joke. You can’t ride 100 miles without riding 25, 50 and 75 first (that’s a lie – you totally can, but it hurts. Bad.). Get out and ride your bike even when the couch is calling your name.

3. Bite the bullet and buy spandex shorts

  • My BFF and I about died the first time we put on those tight spandex pants with the diaper bottom, but after our first ride we got over it pretty quickly. You will too if you spend any time on a bike. And while we're on attire... all shirts should have pockets on the back: cycling jerseys are the best!

4. Come prepared with fuel

  • When you ride for much longer than an hour you need sustenance to keep going. Don’t try to tough it out, your body does a good job of telling you what you need and needing more calories does not feel good physically or mentally. Bring a snack (I’m a fan of bananas, Clif Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger Waffles and Sport Beans) or some money and put a convenience store on your route.

5. Pay attention to Mother Nature

  • Check the weather before you ride: look at the temperature, the wind (for heaven’s sake, the wind) and any chance of precipitation and prepare accordingly.
  • Some of my favorite insider tips: keep your head dry by placing a shower cap over your helmet when it rains, protect your phone with a plastic bag during inclement weather, ease your way into the day with hand warmers on chilly mornings and make your life easier by planning your route out into the headwind while you're feeling good and looping back into the tailwind on the way home when you're tired.

6. Find a group to ride with

  • While you can get away with riding by yourself, long rides are better achieved (and enjoyed) with friends. Find a local group and join them for weekly rides. See my list of biking resources here for more info.

7. Over-communicate with other riders

  • When I first started riding, I thought my family was crazy for yelling out the random items in their path… “Car up!” “Branch!” “Hole!” until I learned (it can take a few tough lessons) that over-communication is the key to group riding. If the person in front of you doesn’t call out the obvious, you are more likely to make contact with that dreaded hole or branch.

8. When you’re the leader – be a leader

  • In tandem with #7, if you’re in the front of a pack – even a pack of 2 – make decisions and make smart decisions. Things like indicate when you're turning, being smart when to crossing a busy street and knowing when to waive a car in front of you can mean the difference between a fun, safe ride and a dangerous trek.

9. Take advantage of what others have done before you

10. Enjoy the ride

  • The farther you push yourself the more likely you are going to have some rough miles and that’s OK. When you start feeling exhausted and overwhelmed focus on the moment: pushing one pedal down at a time, the way the earth meets the sky and the feeling of your breath.

For more information and great tips, check out the League of American Bicyclists website. If you don't have a bike and this post is over your head, check out my post, "For the Novice: The Basics of Buying a Bike" to get smart.