It's not a question of can I cycle 100 miles, it's when will I cycle 100 miles? Prepare for a long bike ride with this guide, and it'll be sooner than you think.
Most bike rides take place over short distances. We commute to work and back again, from Monday through to Friday, and perhaps saddle up for a leisurely ride at the weekends. Some of us, however, would like to take things a little further.
The bikes available through Cyclescheme cover just about every cyclist – from the casual commuter to the dedicated endurance rider - but what about those of us who really want to test our limits when it comes to cycling?
For many more ambitious riders, a ‘century’ of 100 consecutive miles is a reasonable target. To push yourself this far will take discipline, physical conditioning and mental stamina, but with the right training and planning, many riders will be able to reach this milestone (and potentially beyond).
Even if you’re only just starting to cycle, 100 miles is still an achievable goal. This is how you can reach it.
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How Long Does it Take to Cycle 100 Miles?
Before we get started, it’s probably worth getting to grips with the size of the task at hand.
For most cyclists, a hundred miles probably sounds like an enormous distance to cover in a single session. It’s nearly four marathons back-to-back! Do cyclists travel four times the distance as runners for the same energy? Isn’t finding the target time just a matter of figuring out how many miles the average rider covers in an hour and then extrapolating outwards?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
The longer the distance, the bigger the role terrain will play.
Needless to say, cycling a hundred miles through a mountain range is considerably more taxing than cycling across flat terrain. Factors like the weather will also make a huge difference to how easy, or hard, your century ride will be.
This means your total ride time could fall between anywhere from 4 hours to 10, or even more.
For these reasons (and more), it’s not worth coming up with an arbitrary target. In most cases, it’s even counterproductive.
What’s important is to aim for a time based on your capabilities, not someone else’s. Once you’ve completed your first century ride, you can set a goal of completing the second ride in a shorter time.
Can I Really Complete a 100 Mile Bike Ride? Training and Preparation
If you can ride a bike, and you’re willing to put your mind to it, you should be capable of completing a 100 mile bike ride.
It just comes down to steadily building your endurance and mental focus with each training session.
The question, therefore, should not be “can I cycle 100 miles?” but “when will I cycle 100 miles?’.
So let’s look at how to prepare for a 100 mile bike ride, and what your training sessions should aim to achieve.
How to Prepare for a Long Bike Ride
Training should place varied stresses on your body. Don’t just aim to keep completing longer bike rides; incorporate speed and interval work as well. This is where your muscles will push at their lactate threshold. Getting this threshold up is what will allow you to ride faster and further.
Lactic acid is a by-product of our body’s metabolism. When too much of it builds up in the bloodstream, you’ll start to feel sick and get an urge to immediately stop and lie down.
The ‘lactate threshold’ is the point at which your body is creating lactic acid faster than it can be removed from the bloodstream. Your threshold will be determined in part by genetics – but that doesn’t mean you can’t raise it through training. By operating near this threshold, you’ll help your body become more efficient at clearing and buffering lactic acid, and your endurance will improve as a result.
That said, if you’re constantly in ‘long distance’ mode, it’ll take several hours to reach this limit. Intensive training allows us to more easily push against this limit in the sort of hour-long sessions you’re going to be scheduling.
Cycling to work each day is a great way to improve your endurance over time – even if it isn’t long distance. In addition, you could try interval training on a stationary exercise bike. You’ll be able to monitor your heartrate throughout, and more easily keep within the specified range. After a warm-up, do around ten minutes of sustained effort, just under your LT heart-rate (which you can roughly determine in a single session at maximum effort).
Nutrition for Long Bike Rides
What you eat when cycling is vital – especially if you’re in training for a long ride.
You’ll need a varied diet of complex carbs, proteins, fats and micronutrients in order for your body to repair itself between sessions. However, your diet will also provide your body and mind with the energy it needs to get through each session (and this applies especially to the day itself).
On the day of the ride, you’re going to be in the saddle for a very long time. This makes stocking up on complex carbohydrates before you get going essential. This is called ‘carb loading’. The sugars will slowly release into your bloodstream over the course of the race. Pasta dishes are a favourite. Aim to eat around 500 calories of lasagne or spaghetti approximately three hours before the ride (if the start time is early, this might involve getting up at the crack of dawn to get carb-loaded).
In 100 miles, riders can burn through 6000 calories or more. They’ll therefore want to take on board energy and fluids at hourly intervals. Choose something that can be easily eaten while in the saddle. Energy packs are a logical choice and come in a range of flavours; from fruity flavours to things like coffee and mojito.
Pick one that you like and take it with you. The same goes for energy drinks.
You might want to incorporate occasional rest stops, so you can go to the toilet and refill your water bottles. Keep breaks brief, however, as stopping for longer than ten minutes or so will see your legs cool down, which will make it difficult to get moving again.
You should also be sure to conserve enough energy for digestion during the earliest part of the race. If you’ve prepared properly, you may well feel fantastic, but if your pace is too strong to begin with, you’ll be unable to maintain it. The blood will rush to feed your leg muscles, leaving none available for your digestive system - a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
As such, be sure to get started slower than your instincts suggest. For much the same reason, you should avoid eating an enormous meal before you get started - it’s pointless having all of that extra energy available if your body can’t digest it quickly enough!
100 Mile Cycle Training Plan
Getting your body into shape is often a matter of setting a target and planning out the steps you’ll need to take along the way. Pledging that you’re going to do a 100-mile cycle is therefore, a great first step.
If the day of the ride is three months away, you’ll need to establish weekly checkpoints to ensure that you’re on track. You’ll want three intensive workouts each week; any more and you risk overtraining.
It’s on the rest days, while your muscles are recovering, that your performance will actually improve. Of course, ‘rest day’ needn’t mean vegetating on the sofa – you can still keep active from Monday to Saturday (and there’s nothing wrong in keeping your Sunday free for actually doing nothing).
Your three ‘on’ days should concentrate on one of three things: speed, pace and distance.
Go from one to the other throughout the week.
The ‘distance’ workout should consist of a progressively longer bike ride, building from your baseline right up to the 100 miles at the end. Given that these rides are so long, you might want to plan so that they land at the weekend – with Saturday being an obvious choice.
Divide the ‘pace’ workout into fifteen-minute chunks of effort and recovery. Aim to get up to more than 80 percent of your maximum heart rate – just a little faster than you’re comfortable with, but not quite so fast that you’re going to crash and burn. Experienced riders can tell when they’re in this zone – your job is to learn to recognise the sensation and maintain it at will.
The ‘speed’ workout consists of the intervals we’ve talked about. This is where your lactate threshold is going to go up. It’s a component that many amateur distance riders neglect, supposing, understandably, that they aren’t going to be riding very fast on the day itself.
As intuitive as this might seem, and as agonising as a speed workout might be, you don’t want to avoid speed workouts. Find a local route over hilly terrain, or into a headwind.
100 miles is a long time to be stuck in one position, which means it’s important to regularly flex in order to keep everything loose and avoid tension-build ups. Get into this habit in your training. Move your hands every so often, and ensure that your grip is relaxed. Stretch occasionally and stand up on your pedals. Your body will thank you!
A hundred-mile bike ride is a considerable challenge, but with the help of the right training programme, it’s far from impossible. Set yourself targets along the way and ensure that your approach is varied, and you’ll be able to conquer the course!
Of course, there are many reasons to start bike riding that don’t involve endurance rides or racing. Find out how our cycle to work scheme can help you spread the cost of acquiring the equipment you need to commute to work by bike.