You don’t have to do them all at once, at least not in the beginning.
Everyone can cycle 100 miles in a day — that means you too.
Everyone has a 100-mile bike ride in them; getting it out is just like any other project that has a goal, a starting point, tasks or micro goals tied to a timeline, and a finish. At face value, cycling 100 miles may seem daunting but here’s a secret: you don’t have to do them all at once, at least not in the beginning. A 100-mile cycle training plan doesn’t mean throwing your leg over your bike and slogging through a ride that lasts 100 miles, that would be an exercise in suffering if you’re unprepared. Instead a more thoughtful way of approaching your goal to ride 100 miles is to break it down into smaller projects — call them experiments if you want, and test yourself (don’t forget to keep track of your results) to see what works.
You can start by committing to an event, like the popular Velo Birmingham 100-mile cycle sportive, which travels 100 miles on fully closed roads. Allow enough time, like at least 12 weeks, to gradually build your fitness and endurance to where you think you can sustain a 100-mile bike ride. British Cycling has conveniently published everything you need to know about riding 100 miles on its website, which is also your go-to resource for a vast range of training plans and event listings, like 100-mile sportives.
Not all miles are equal. Just ask the powerful sprinters who ride to victory in the flat stages of the Tour de France but struggle to beat the time cut in the mountain stages. Distance is relative to riding terrain and you will go a lot faster on flat or gently rolling roads with a tailwind than you will on climbs, or when you’re butting heads with a headwind.
If your 100-mile ride goal will take place in unknown territory, chances are that someone with a GPS device and a computer has ridden it (or at least part of it), and has published the ride online through an application like Strava. You can then go study the course profile, which includes useful details like distance, elevation, and grade steepness.
If you are already familiar with your 100-mile cycle challenge, then you’ll know what to expect and when, and you’ll be able to pinpoint your weaknesses early and work to eliminate them.
You’ve committed to doing a 100-mile ride; you’ve defined your goal, now all that’s left to do is ride your bike. If you haven’t yet visited British Cycling’s Insight Zone, what you’ll find there is practically everything you need to know about riding a bike. There is so much information however, that it’s easy to get lost. So, to help guide your process, you’ll want to start by building up an aerobic base.
Forget what you may have learned in indoor cycling classes at the gym, where a class only “counts” if you see stars during hard efforts. Building an aerobic base is all about pedalling for a period of time (as opposed to a distance in miles) at a high cadence in lower gears, which may seem easy — it’s supposed to because you are conditioning your aerobic capacity. At the same time, you are training your mind to recognize certain sensations on the bike, like pedalling force and fatigue, so tune in because this is valuable feedback.
Once you’ve built up a solid aerobic base, next up is to improve your muscular endurance by pedalling in higher gears and seeking out long climbs. Here’s where you can start setting mileage goals as well. You should still leave the grind behind because if you’re like most people who tend to start fast and hard, you’ll be one of the first riders to fade. If that happens early in a 100-mile ride, the remaining miles are more about managing suffering than enjoying the scenery. Aim to start slowly and gradually build to a pace that you can maintain for the entire ride.
Subscription-based applications, like TrainingPeaks, sell a la carte cycle training plans to cycle 100 miles, or can pair you with a coach who can design and manage a training plan that’s specific to your goal.
Once you get closer to your 100-mile ride and using what you’ve learned so far, start to visualise the preparation in the days leading up to your ride, as well as the day of the ride. Some good questions to ask yourself are: what’s the weather going to be like, how will you dress for a 5-8 hour bike ride? How do you plan to warm up? Nutrition should be central to your ride prep since proper food and drink are what will fuel your efforts. Tip: if you are doing the ride in a group, bring extra food and water since stops may be frequent and the longer your ride lasts, the more energy you will consume over time.
A well-prepared rider will have a much more enjoyable experience than someone who attacks a 100-mile ride with all the zeal of a pro rider (but without the training). Find what works for you in terms of how you feel on the bike and don’t be afraid to search for solutions when you feel like something isn’t working. A 100-mile ride is one way to try something new but more than that, a 100-mile ride rewards you with a sense of accomplishment. Plus, after you’ve successfully done a 100 miler, you’ll likely want to do another because now you know what to prepare for.