How to Train for a Century Ride

Get in Shape to Ride 100 miles

a pair of cyclists rounding a turn
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A century bike ride—one that covers 100 long miles—is a major accomplishment for any cyclist. Many cycling clubs offer these, sometimes for the camaraderie and sheer enjoyment of the challenge, but also as fundraising efforts. Take a bow if you've ever completed one. If you haven't but are thinking about it, here's a week-by-week training plan that will help you reach that goal of riding your bike 100 miles in one day.

Century Ride Rules and Formats

Of course, the exact rules for a ride can vary by club, but some common ones apply. Rides that are sanctioned by a cycling organization must typically offer rest stops, usually at 25-mile intervals. You can stop pedaling for a spell, grab something to eat or drink, or use a bathroom facility.

There may be a support vehicle available to provide help if your bike is malfunctioning, although cyclists are typically expected to pack along the necessary tools and supplies to fix minor problems themselves. Someone is usually available to give you a ride back to the starting line if you decide to abort the mission and try again another. There's no shame in that—a 100-mile ride can be grueling if you haven't properly prepared. Century ride routes typically cover regular roadways and cyclists are expected to honor all local traffic laws. 

Training Concepts

The main principle of training for a century ride is to increase your mileage gradually over a number of weeks until you reach your goal. This will help you avoid injury, burnout, and over-fatigue. Plus, you'll be able to detect any issues with your body or your bike that you'll definitely want to deal with in advance of the big day.

Set your training plan in motion by pinpointing the known date for your century ride, then count backward from there to determine your starting date. This is a 10-week training plan and it assumes that you're in shape at the start so you can comfortably ride at least 20 miles.

That's a two-hour ride at a very easy 10 to 12 mile per hour pace. If you're not up for this just yet, you'll want to start training sooner than 10 weeks before the race to bring yourself up to this point. As you prepare, aim for the targets as laid out in the table below. It shows the distance of your longest ride each week, plus a cumulative mileage total for the week that you should reach with other additional riding.

Century Training Plan

Century Training Plan
Week Length of Long Ride Total Miles/Week
1 25 55
2 30 65
3 35 73
4 40 81
5 45 90
6 50 99
7 57 110
8 65 122
9 50 75
10 Century Ride Yeah!

Other Tips

The best way to learn training, hydration and eating tips is to ride with people who have done it before, but you can certainly do it on your own. It's not all about speed—at least not your first time out. Settle on a comfortable pace and try to maintain it. 

Make use of those rest stops and eat something, or nosh a little while you're cycling if you've brought along protein bars or the like. All this exercise requires calories. You'll also want to take care to keep from becoming hydrated.