Century ride – The route

So, you want to take a century ride? Nothing says fun like a nice long ride (with friends)! Before you go out and ride a random route, it is important (probably the most important) to scope out the roads and test the waters. What’s that mean to a cyclist? Glad you asked!

Picking a route

When you get down to it, unless you’re familiar with all the roads around you, you’re going to have to do some guess work when you first lay out your route. The most important thing to remember here – pick roads/paths that are built for your bike! The last thing you want to do is to ride on dirt paths built for cyclocross on a road bike. Municipalities and cities sometimes have links on their homepages for commonly used routes for cyclists of all kinds. This is probably the first step for those people who live in such a place. Clubs may also have some resources for locals to pick out routes. Just ask around and see what you find. They may not have maps, but most cyclists know quite a bit about the surrounding area. Failing all of this, Google Earth can be surprisingly helpful. Zoom on in on your road to see what it’s made of and go from there.

Things to consider

It is important to know that if you can ride 50 or so miles, you can most likely ride 100 miles. It just depends on how you pick your route in line with your skill level. Don’t pick a mountain ride if you cannot climb efficiently and for extended amounts of time. Then it all comes down to your execution (coming in a later post!).

It’s also a must to place your hills in your ride where you think you can handle them. Each rider is different here. So, here’s my example: I made most of the hills I’ll be riding a good chunk of distance after my warm-up distance, but before my midpoint. This is where I’ve found I can muster up the most power to get up those climbs without draining myself for the rest of the ride. Some people might want them early on when their energy is highest or much later when the adrenalin is really pumping.

We also have to keep in mind temperatures and winds. Right now, I have a difficult time riding in headwinds and 85ºF and above. For me, this requires massive amounts of water (due to my body fat levels) and it bogs me down further. While winds are unpredictable, you can attempt to leave in the early hours when the winds are more likely to be calm if not absent. You can also look at weather reports for the areas you’ll be riding in to see average wind speeds as well as their common direction (Floridians, we’re screwed – winds all over the chart, Easterly, Westerly, Northerly, Southerly – we’ve got it all!). However, the reason I’m riding my century in November is no accident. It is the month in Florida that has the most moderate temperatures without being too cold in the AM as well as the lowest wind speeds on average. Temperature I don’t think needs an explanation.

Go for a drive!

One of the first things I did after my route was set was drive it! It gives you a close look at the condition of the roads as well as gives you an idea of what traffic might be like at that time of day. I timed up my drive so that we’d arrive in the unknown territory right around the time I’d be arriving on my ride. Now if I could just keep to that when the time comes! See what the traffic looks like. Some people don’t like driving around 18-wheelers. However, if you’re like me, you might find them more trustworthy than your average texting driver.

Pay special attention to the mileage in conjunction with your habits. I tend to get close to a sugar drop right around 40-45 miles. Make sure you have a place to stop, rest and eat right around your dips! If you have someone coming with you, this might take some coordination. Always remember, some people can’t take the long breaks, as it might chill them down and make that wall come a lot quicker.

The biggest necessity here – note the shoulders of the road. How clean are they? How wide are they? Are they covered by canopy or wide open? Are there places to drop off in case of maintenance needs? What’s the most important thing about the road for you on your ride?

Test rides

It may behoove you to take segments of the route and ride them before the century. This is obviously the best way to experience the route in all its glory, or lack thereof. While some may think this may spoil the ride, you should not get sick of a route after 1 ride. However, the route itself may not be to your liking, so then again, you may get sick of it. But this is good! You can now go do some digging around about alternatives for your route and start over again. Tedious, I know. But it will make the century all the more enjoyable.

As the date approaches

Check for updates with the Department of Transportation for road closures and dates of construction along your route. Nothing would suck more than getting halfway thru your ride only to be turned away from your chosen route because they decided to resurface the road.

The day of, you should do the same. You never know if a 20-car pile-up happened the night before and the road’s closed now. Although, why this would happen on a road suitable for cyclists is beyond me…you never know what might happen the night before of the morning of your ride.

The route is by far the most important part of planning the ride – without it, there would be no ride! Hopefully this is a good starting point for anyone attempting their first century.

How do you plan your century routes?

One response to “Century ride – The route

  1. Usually mapmyride.com

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s