cycling · fitness

Your first metric century: Some suggestions about your first 100 km ride

Americans say that a century ride is a bicycle ride of 100 miles. Americans call what we ride, 100 km, a metric century. But given that the rest of the world uses kilometers and that cycling in particular is a Europe based support, I say 100 km is a real century and what they ride is an “imperial century.” See Rule 24. Whatever. Ours is easier. It’s often a new rider’s first big distance and that’s what I’m talking about today.

There are quite a few people associated with the blog doing the 1 day version of the bike rally (you can sign up, there’s still time!). Hi Catherine! Hi Sarah! Hi also to readers Serife and Judy! Since the one day version is Toronto to Port Hope (108 km) a post on riding 100 km for the first time seemed apt.

Want to come with us? See Ride with the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers! Consider the 1 day

It’s been a slow start to cycling this spring and I know some people are feeling nervous about the distance.

100 km is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s totally doable if you regularly ride your bike.


Suppose you’re just starting training now. We leave in 9 weeks and 3 days. Where to begin?

Most training plans recommend riding 3+ times a week. They also recommend a longer ride on the weekend.

How much do I ride when I’m actively training? I usually commute by bike (just 10-15 km a day) and then do longer, faster rides (40 km) Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the weekend I do a longer ride at a more relaxed pace. That’s a pretty normal sort of schedule for cyclists.

But what I do doesn’t matter really. You’re just starting out. This is your first 100 km ride.

The pattern remains the same though, regular weekday riding and a longer ride once a week. Each week the longer ride gets longer.

Right now with 9 weeks to go you might want to start out with a 25 km long ride on week 1, a 30 km ride on week 2, a 35 km ride in week 3, a 45 km ride in week 4, a 55 km ride in week 5, a 65 km ride in week 6, a 75 km ride in week 7, an 85 km ride in week 8, and a 100 km ride in week 9. Most people to their long rides on Saturday and Sunday and if you’re in Toronto you’re welcome to join in on the bike rally’s official training rides. See details here and here.

Some notes:

  • Now you don’t actually have to ridden the full distance before the actual date. Lots of people train for marathons and don’t ever run the full distance before the race. Riding a century is the same. Before I  rode 100 km the most is ridden was about 60 km. But it turned out that stopping for lunch and resting made it easy to get back on the bike.
  • When you’re riding each week trying to increase your mileage you need to find routes. A good resource is Ride with GPS. Local bike clubs often share their maps too. Print out a route map and/or load it on your bike computer.  Vary your route to avoid boredom and to get used to riding on a variety of terrain.
  • Once your rides start to get longer, don’t go it alone. Ride with friends, ride with a training group, ride with a local cycling club. You’ll need someone to talk to and it’s more fun and safer not to be out there alone.
  • If you’re riding in the city you might get downhearted thinking it takes forever to ride 20 km. You’re right. It does take forever to ride 20 km in the city. But without traffic once you hit country roads you’ll find the kilometers go by a lot faster. It’s hard work stopping and starting on a bike.
  • Speaking of stopping, there are rest stops on an organized century rides. The bike rally has rest stops and a lunch break. You can stop at the rest stops. Eat! Drink! It feels good to get off your bike and stretch. Don’t sit still for too long though. It can be hard to get back on the bike.
  •  One of the things that makes a long ride easier is maintaining a steady pace. There’s no need to speed up and slow down. Pick a pace you can maintain and maintain it. Later, when you’re sure you’re good to ride 100 km you can speed up, zoom zoom!, but for now take it easy and be consistent.
  • Pack snacks and eat and drink a lot on the ride. Enjoy.


How To Prepare for Riding 100K

Training & Preperation for Your First 100km Ride

Preparing for your first ‘Big One’

How To Train For a 100km Bike Ride

Also here’s a cute short film about training for a century. Read about it here.

“Based on a true story, a father and son set a goal to complete a 100 mile bike ride (a century ride) together. Months of rigorous training lead up to the final ride in Lake Tahoe. As the ride progresses, the viewer is immersed in the beautiful scenery of the lake, and we see how the father and son are brought closer together by the shared experience.”

Have you ridden 100 km in a day before? What advice would you give to people trying it for the first time?

5 thoughts on “Your first metric century: Some suggestions about your first 100 km ride

  1. Absolutely agree to cycle often and increasing distance especially on weekends and after work each week.

    Cycling in prairie countryside is very boring for me…hot and NO tree cover until one gets into town (if you are lucky)…so I wouldn’t be recommending doing 100 km. outside of town in a prairie area. You’ll get some training endurance on wind. That’s for sure. Break route between safe routes in city and country. I like routes that take one through different views with a 1-3 hills. It doesn’t have to be big.

    I would include rides several times a wk. that includes some hills to build up cardio. And ride even if there’s some wind/drizzly rain. Summer rain is not horrible as long it’s not falling in sheets.

    For both Toronto and Vancouver, I have each done several 100 km. on my own by stringing together protected bike path routes for 80% of each route. It is possible for these cities and as well as for Calgary because of extensive park pathway systems and some bike path connections.

    Of course, my partner is cycling advocate and knows the routes well so I learn by following along and memorizing.

    I cannot stress enough the importance of cycling 5-7 times per wk. to build up muscle memory and endurance. You don’t need to time yourself for every ride. 100 km. ride because you need to enjoy yourself also.

  2. Definitely work up to it by adding a little bit to the long ride each week. If your friends think you are capable of 100 but you’ve never ridden more than 50K before, don’t do it!

  3. I’d add that it’s useful, as part of your training, to learn how to draft properly! Folks who have never drafted before find it scary: why would you follow so close to another rider?! But once you learn how to key your pacing to the others in your group you’ll find that running into the person you’re drafting is not really likely at all, especially if you draft just off to the left or the right (it’s safer and easier).

    In the draft, your heart rate is likely to be 10-20bpm LOWER than when you are working alone, outside the draft, or at the front of the pace line. That means active recovery, and equals feeling really good for the majority of the ride. It also means everyone in the group can help push the pace – going harder for 2 minutes when you are on the front, and then recovering for 6-8 minutes (assuming a group of 4-5 working together), means having a great ride, with some interval work, and probably moving 2-3kph faster than on your own. It lifts the spirit – trust me!

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