Gear to Get You through Your Century Ride
A century ride can be one of the most rewarding accomplishments you partake in the saddle. Although it’s a long day on the bike, with appropriate training and attention to proper gear selection, every mile can be enjoyable.
A century ride can be one of the most rewarding accomplishments you partake in the saddle. Although it’s a long day on the bike, with appropriate training and attention to proper gear selection, every mile can be enjoyable. You’ve already spent the time working on the physical aspect of getting ready for your ride; now’s the time to get your gear organized for the big day. Pay attention to the following and you’ll have a comfortable and successful century.
Final bike preparation
Your body is ready for the ride; make sure your bike is as well. In the last few days before your century, bring your bike in to the local shop to have them look over the bike for any issues that might become problematic during your ride. They can check cables and housing, brake pads, and derailleur adjustments to make sure everything is working smoothly. When you get the bike back from the shop, make sure you go out and ride it to double-check everything is working; give yourself enough time so that if something is wrong, you can bring it back to the shop. The night before your ride, put some lube on your chain, check your tire pressure, and check to see that all bolts on the bike are tight.
Even under the best of circumstances, your century ride is likely going to last more than 5 hours, and weather can change quite a bit in that time period. Make sure you have appropriate clothing to manage varying weather conditions. Layering with quality clothes made from synthetic materials which wick moisture from the skin is the key to staying both warm and dry. Stay away from cotton - when it becomes wet either from rain or sweat, it loses it insulating properties and you’ll be miserable quickly. Roadcycling.com recommends Primal Wear cycling clothing.
On your upper body, start with a thin undershirt (you can skip this if it’s going to be very warm), and put your bike jersey on over that. Also carry with you a jacket or vest to protect against wind and rain. Ideally, find something that is relatively waterproof but also allows your skin to breathe; many jackets have armpit and side zippers to improve airflow. An inexpensive rain poncho will keep you dry in a pinch, although its lack of breathability can make you sweat pretty heavily, increasing the risk of dehydration and giving you a chill when the moisture has nowhere to go. Arm warmers are also a great option as you can push them down to your wrists and pull them back without having to stop.
One article of clothing that you absolutely do not want to skimp on are bike shorts. Invest in a trusted name brand with a quality chamois (such as Pearl Izumi Microsensor 3D Pro bib) and your lower region will thank you later in the ride. A quality cream (such as Brave Soldier Friction Zone or Bodyglide) applied to your skin, can keep the material supple and reduce friction, resulting in more comfortable saddle time.
Don’t underestimate the effect gloves can have on making a long ride much more comfortable. A quality pair of gloves (Such as the Pearl Izumi Gel Vent Pro glove) with a padded palm can dramatically reduce the vibration from the road resulting in less upper body fatigue and joint pain.
A stiff-soled cycling shoe with clip-in pedals will improve power transfer and help you ride faster and use less energy than you would with tennis shoes and platform pedals. It’s definitely worth some time in the days leading up to your ride to visit your local bike shop and find some comfortable, cycling-specific shoes (Roadcycling.com recommends Pearl Izumi and Nike cycling shoes). If you don’t have clip-in pedals already, though, don’t get them right before your century, as they take some practice to get used to. Many bike shoes will work with regular pedals, but be sure to check with the bike shop to ensure compatibility with your pedals.
Wear comfortable socks. Wool socks are great options, as they breathe well and will keep your feet warm even when they’re wet. You can get thin wool socks which work great in warm weather. There are also a wide variety of socks made from Coolmax and other high-tech fabrics, including models from DeFeet, that are very breathable and wick moisture away from your feet.
Of course you already have a helmet that fits snugly but comfortably. If you’ve crashed with that helmet or it’s experienced a significant impact, replace it. Even if it looks okay from the outside, the integrity of the helmet could be compromised. Giro helmets are the ones Lance, Carmichael Training Systems, and Roadcycling.com trust for protection and ventilation, and they have a huge selection to choose from. The Giro Eclipse, for instance, is a good option at about $90, while Lance Armstrong's choice, the Atmos, will cost you about $190.
If the weather is going to be cool, keep a headband or skull cap handy to keep your ears and head warm under the helmet. They’re small enough that you can tuck one into your jersey pocket in case you need it.
You don’t have to be an expert mechanic, but a small tool kit and knowledge of basic repairs can mean the difference between finishing your century and watching it from the sag vehicle. Essentials include, but aren’t limited to: allen wrenches, tire levers, a spare tube, a patch kit, and a pump. A bike-specific multitool is particularly handy because of its compact size and many uses. Don’t overlook the usefulness of non-traditional items for short term repairs; a little duct tape can keep a loose part attached until you get to an aid station, and an energy bar wrapper works as a great patch for a slice in your tire’s sidewall.
The decision to ride 100 miles is no small undertaking; however, with the proper preparation and attention to gear detail in the days and hours before the ride, you can cross the finish line with a smile on your face - just make sure you clean the bugs out of your teeth before you pose for pictures!
Matt Horton is an Expert Coach for Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS) and an experienced cyclist and triathlete. To find out what CTS can do for you, visit www.trainright.com.