Preparing for your first century

There are two important things to consider: first, you need to make sure that you yourself are ready with the right clothes and nutrition, and second, you must ensure your bike is set up with all the equipment necessary to conquer 100 miles of tarmac.

Benjamin Franklin famously said that ‘by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’. You’d be hard pushed to find a more appropriate quote to describe the preparation required to ensure an enjoyable first century ride. There are two important things to consider: first, you need to make sure that you yourself are ready with the right clothes and nutrition, and second, you must ensure your bike is set up with all the equipment necessary to conquer 100 miles of tarmac.

Layer up

You can leapfrog nearly any hurdle which comes your way provided you’ve got the right clothing and nutrition. Century rides for most us will take anything from 5 to 7 hours, sometimes longer depending on the terrain, and therefore provide ample opportunity for the fickle British weather to turn against you. It is important to have spare layers that are versatile, easy to get on and off, and can be stowed away neatly in a jersey pocket. The perfect option for this is a gilet such as the Altura Etape with its lightweight windproof fabric. It will keep your core warm during those sometimes-chilly summer mornings or when the sky turns sour, and can be unzipped and folded away when the temperature rises.

Fed and watered

The next thing to consider is your nutrition and hydration which are vital for avoiding the dreaded ‘bonk’, when your body runs out of energy. You should estimate how much food and drink you’ll need before the event, and then take a little extra. You will also need to decide whether to take predominantly solid foods or gels, though it is not advised that you rely solely on the latter as gels have been known to cause stomach problems. Energy gels like those offered by Science in Sport are great for the energy boost to push you through those dark moments, but they shouldn’t be relied upon too much. It’s also worth taking along a larger than average water bottle so that you can stay well-hydrated between refills.

The tools for the job

Calamity can strike at any point from the first mile to the 99th and the sinking feeling of not being able to complete your century due to a mechanical is simply awful. With the right kit and equipment, a mechanical doesn’t have to end your ride. You’d be wise to carry a spare inner tube, puncture repair kit and mini pump in case of punctures. Finally, to keep your jersey pockets free of too much clobber, most of this kit can be easily stored in a saddle bag.


There are very few feelings that compare to that moment when your bike computer ticks over to triple digits. That warm feeling inside makes up for the inevitable fatigue, content in the knowledge that you have completed your first century. That alone makes the time spent preparing clothing, food, water and tools all the more worthwhile in defying those fateful words of Benjamin Franklin.


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