How to prepare for your first indoor cycling century ride

Indoor cycling with turbo trainers and spin bikes is a tremendous amount of fun, and it consistently challenges us again and again. Our goals progress more and more over time, and typically for many indoor cyclists, it becomes a habit that you end up on the bike a few times a week chasing the next level for your fitness. From training for indoor cycling races to doing mix of intensity and HIIT cycling workout, our cycling goals keep changing.

Many outdoor cyclists tend to want to hit a milestone of the century ride. A century ride is a 100km or even more crazy 100-mile ride. It’s an epic achievement that takes time to build up to but is worth it. The century bike ride is not to be overlooked, and you’re going to have to put in some serious indoor training rides to get up to the level. In this article, I will speak about how you’re going to prepare for that long indoor cycling ride and what to avoid when doing cycling workouts indoors.

What will I need for an indoor cycling century ride?

The first thing you will need is a bike, a turbo trainer, preferably a smart trainer if possible (or smart spin bikes), and then we recommend using an application such as Zwift not only to track the ride but also to distract you. Also, you can send the activity across to Strava for your mates to see.

Then you will need comfortable indoor cycling clothing. I would recommend two sets of cycling clothes as on the turbo trainer or spin bikes then tend to get sweaty very quickly, and too much sweat build-up can irritate the skin. Chamois cream will come in handy to help avoid this issue.

Finally, you are going to need some food and water to keep you going. On the food front, you will want to focus mainly on carbohydrates like these energy-gel alternatives and on the hydration front water with electrolytes if possible.

How long will the ride take?

Depending on how hilly the course will be and how powerful a rider you are, you could be looking roughly around 6-8 hours. This is a very long time in the saddle, and the key to doing a ride like this is not to have too long a break when you rest and train your body, not just for the workload but to sit in that position for such a long time.

Is it easier to cycle a century ride indoors or outdoors?

Riding indoors, in my opinion, is more challenging. There’s much less to distract you from the work, there’s no downhill to rest, typically you keep pedaling the whole time, and also it’s much harder to stay cool. There are many extra challenges indoors than outdoors, and also, typically indoors, you are cycling alone, which is very lonely.

The Training Plan

Have a fitness goal

So we’re going to need a training plan for this ride, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, I cannot give out a one size fits all plan as some of us have busier schedules than others and might not have as much time for training rides. Instead, I’m going to give you a rough plan that will suit many people, and you can adjust it as you wish.

When getting ready for such a long distance, we don’t have to spend as much time in the saddle as you might think. It comes down to a couple of different types of rides that were going to need to do to prepare ourselves.

High Intensity Rides

We will need to be doing some high intensity riding to get our bodies stronger and to improve our cycling ability. The higher we can get our strength, the less time we will need to spend in the saddle or lighter the work will be for us. An excellent example of this is an interval session like 4 minutes at high power (85% Heart Rate+) 6 minutes low power repeated 5 times over. Interval training is vital for getting stronger on your century training plan.

Endurance Rides

The ride is a long distance ride, so we’re going to need to practice some long distance to be ready for it. We will want to do a minimum of one long ride a week to start preparing the body for the entire duration of the ride. An excellent example of this is sitting at your endurance pace (70% heart rate) for the workout duration.

How much am I going to need to train?

best indoor cycling workouts

In my opinion, the least you will need to train is about 4 hours and the most is about 10. Let’s say in this plan, we are going to use an average of 7 hours of our week to prepare for this ride. The first thing id recommend doing is splitting your week down a little bit like this. Write the available times you have to train, even if you don’t want to use them all.

  • Monday – None
  • Tuesday – 1 Hour
  • Wednesday – 2 Hours
  • Thursday – 1 Hour
  • Friday – 2 Hour
  • Saturday – 6 Hours
  • Sunday – 6 Hours

With this, you can start filling up your diary, making sure you get in all the sessions you can, and a proper amount of recovery time to aid your training. Next, I will recommend the minimum amount of training and the ideal. Remember, everyone is different and reacts to training differently, so you might need to adjust the workload for yourself.

Minimum

  • 1 x 1 Hour High Intensity Ride
  • 1 x 2 Hour Endurance Ride
  • 1 x 2-5 Hour Ride at the weekend

This is the minimum amount I would recommend doing while getting ready for century rides. It doesn’t have to be every day you need to train, but you will need some training time to be prepared.

Ideal

  • 1 x 1 Hour Intensity Rides
  • 1 x 2 Hour Endurance Rides
  • 1 x 1 Hour Endurance Ride
  • 1 x 2-5 Hour Endurance Ride

With this format, you will have the best possible chance of completing your first century the first time you try. It is a lot of cycling and will be challenging to do, but that’s why we train hard to make the tough stuff easy.

2-5 Hour Ride

You’re probably wondering what I mean by the 2-6 hour ride. I personally put this in and ask the rider to progress an hour up when they feel ready. I could be each week. It could take you 6 weeks, it could take you 12, but you need this to be a progression over time. We need long training rides like these in our century training plan to make sure we progress.

Planning your diary

Create exercise plan

So we now know the times we have free and the rides we need to do. Write down in your diary the sessions you need to do and when to do them. Make sure you don’t do two high intensity days back to back as you need to be well-rested for them. Also, make sure you get plenty of time for recovery when you need it, don’t be scared to rearrange your plan for extra healing. Your week could look like this;

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – 1 Hour Endurance
  • Wednesday – 1 Hour High Intensity
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – 2 Endurance
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – 2-5 Hours Endurance (Building up over time)

When should I try to accomplish the Century Ride?

I think the best time to accomplish the entire century ride is when you can comfortably do 5 hours on the bike, and you’re ready to push to the next level. The duration of 5 hours is enough time for your body to understand what’s it’s like, and it will give you a good indication of how the ride will feel. You will know when you have done the proper training and will feel ready for event day.

Century Ride Mistakes

how indoor cycling can enhance your outdoor cycling performance

As you can imagine, the century ride doesn’t come easy, but nothing epic does in my opinion. Over the years, I have trained people ready for rides like these. Here are the most common mistakes I see.

Endurance Training is just Easy Rides

This is something I see quite a lot. People tend to see their endurance training as just an easy ride when you actually need to put in around 70% of your heart rate and give a reasonable effort.

Not Eating and Drinking Enough

Many cyclists find themselves just switching off and not eating or drinking enough, which is a one-way ticket to failure.

Doing no solo rides before event day

I believe if you are training for an indoor century ride, it is probably going to be solo, so make sure you’re used to riding solo at times when you’re preparing to be ready for that.

Bike and Turbo Trainer Issues

The last thing you want is any issues when you are training on your turbo and going for the big century. I would recommend making sure your bike is in as good a condition as you are. Your local bike shop will help you with that.

Conclusion

The best advice I can give you when getting ready for a century ride indoors or outdoors is to enjoy it and have fun. It is a challenging task, but if you love cycling, just enjoy the miles and don’t overthink it. We look forward to hearing your stories on this page.

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