What to Bring on a Century Ride


Century rides (named for the 100 mile distances covered in a single day) happen all over the place throughout the summer and into the fall. Most of them are done as fundraisers for various charitable causes—like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and MS research, just to name a few—and some are done just for fun, like our company century ride in the fall.

The Tour de Cure is a great century ride fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.

The Tour de Cure is a great century ride fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.

No matter what the cause of the ride may be, there are a few things you’re going to want to make sure you bring with you on ride day besides your bike. And since most century rides have a pretty early start time, I find it’s easiest to get all of these things together the night before so you don’t have to worry about it in your half-asleep morning stupor…

Most century rides don't end at EXACTLY 100 miles. Be mentally and physically prepared to go a little longer.

Most century rides don’t end at EXACTLY 100 miles. Be mentally and physically prepared to go a little longer.

On your body:
  • Helmet—obviously. I’m pretty sure most organized rides won’t let you participate without wearing one, so definitely don’t forget it at home.
  • Cycling shorts—if you don’t own already own cycling shorts, stop reading and go buy some immediately! I can’t imagine riding any distance without the glorious padding of bike shorts…if you can manage to ride 100 miles in regular shorts, you deserve some sort of award.
  • Cycling jersey—not only are bike jerseys made from materials that help keep you cool, dry, and comfortable, they also feature ridiculously convenient pockets on the back to keep your phone or food easily accessible.
  • Sunglasses—you know how bug guts end up all over your windshield when you’re driving and it’s really gross? It’s even grosser when it happens to your eyeballs. Oh, and sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun, which I suppose is also a good thing.
  • Gloves—even with my bike gloves, my hands are sore after a 100-mile ride. I don’t even want to think about how awful they would feel if I didn’t have gloves.
  • Socks & Shoes—it would be pretty difficult to ride 100 miles without your bike shoes, and it would be really uncomfortable to have to do it without socks, so don’t forget either of these at home on the morning of your century ride.
  • Lube & Sunscreen—being on a bike for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours presents a lot of opportunity for chafing. Make Body Glide your new best friend, and lube up any area covered by clothing. Apply sunscreen everywhere else.
  • Water—bring two water bottles or, if you prefer, a hydration pack. Two bottles may not sound like enough, but you’ll be able to refill them at the pit stops throughout the ride.
  • Food—the pit stops will likely have things like bananas, cookies, pop tarts, and maybe even sandwiches but better safe than sorry. (Charity rides want you to keep coming back, so they feed you really well!) But you should also pack some energy gels/chews/blocks/bars/beans too…just in case the pit stops are farther apart than your body would like.

Century rides typically have really great rider support, both at the pit stops (where local bike shops are usually recruited to provide quick fixes) and with SAG (Support and Gear) vehicles that patrol the course. However, carrying a few small repair items with you is a smart idea. Make sure your seat pack is big enough to carry the following (or toss them in your hydration pack if you’ve decided to bring one):

  • Spare tube
  • Tire levers
  • Pump and CO2 cartridge
  • Bike multitool
  • Phone/GPS/Bike computer—if you’re like me and obsessively analyze the crap out of the numbers after every workout, having a bike computer, GPS, or phone (with your favorite fitness app) to record your ride data is essential. Riding with your phone also provides other benefits, too…especially in case of an emergency.
  • ID—whether it’s a copy of your license, a RoadID (or similar product), or even just a piece of paper with your name, age, and an emergency phone number or two scrawled on it, make sure you have something with you that can be used to identify you if needed. (Then ride carefully to help avoid it being needed!)
  • Earphones—some rides won’t allow you to wear earphones. If you can wear them, listening to music can definitely help the miles go quickly. Be safe about wearing them though, and only use one ear so that you can still pay attention to traffic and other things going on around you.
  • Dry clothes—by the time you get to the finish line, you’re going to be sick of your cycling clothes. You definitely won’t want to be stuck in them for the post-ride party, so bring something comfortable to change into afterward.
  • Beer—assuming you’re 21 or older, a post-ride beer is quite possibly the best part of a century ride. A lot of post-ride parties will offer beer along with the BBQ, but having one in the car, waiting to greet you and keep you company while you change into your dry clothes and pack your bike away before heading to the festivities is simply magical. (At my most recent ride, I did not have a beer waiting for me in my car…but the guy parked next to me had a cooler full of them, and was kind enough to share. I couldn’t have been any happier in that moment.)
Jim Darroch