After doing well over 100-century rides in Mumbai, I have gained a lot of wisdom in long-distance riding in Mumbai weather. Mumbai weather being hot, very hot and humid for most days of the year, it requires very strong aptitude, stamina and the ability to push yourself – especially in the second half of the ride. So sharing my 10 top tips for all of you to hit the three-figure mark.
The 100 km ride
While Cycling is about feeling free, exercise, recreation and more doing a 100 kms ride is an awesome feeling and gives you a great sense of achievement. Your first-century ride would well be a stepping stone to many more and build your confidence to do tours, expeditions and longer ultra-endurance events spanning hundreds of kms. For all those who have a dream to do your first century ride, there is always a first time for everything, and it is for you to take the plunge.
So DO IT. Here are my 10 tips to help you to ride your first century ride.
1. Do not jump in to 100 kms from nowhere
If you are regularly used to riding 20-30 kms then doing a 100 kms ride straightaway is absolutely not advisable – specially in hot weather such as Mumbai. This would be a big test on your stamina and fitness. So, increase your ride distances to 50-70 kms and then attempt your first 100 kms ride. I have seen a lot of riders give up or have extreme fatigue and dehydration, while doing such long rides suddenly when they are not fully prepared. Remember that this can also be dangerous as you are riding on city roads and highways.
So, build your ride distance towards 100 kms gradually.
2. Pace Yourself to last the distance.
Your first century is not the time to see how fast you can ride 100 kms. Start the ride at a pace that’s easy to maintain. Gradually build up to a moderate pace – Probably a pace in which you can talk comfortably with your fellow riders. In my experience, most new riders or first-time century riders start feeling tired or low on energy after 50 kms and gradually their energy levels keep sapping quite low if they don’t follow correct nutrition and hydration during the ride. So ride to last the distance and make sure, you win the psychological battle with your body to complete the 100 kms.
3. Eat right
Eating right before, during and even after the ride is crucial for every century ride you do.
Before: Ideally a small snack BEFORE the ride is advised. (banana / oats or similar).
During: Eat about every hour. Don’t wait for half the ride to eat your meal as your body might already be on its reserves. Carry nuts / banana / energy bar or similar in your bike pouch or pockets as per your choice. As you keep doing longer rides, you will get an idea of how your body reacts to such long efforts and can set your own eating schedules for century rides. (I generally stick to familiar foods or normal foods that suit my body and don’t go overboard on gels, health bars etc. I prefer eating at the ride stops rather than eating packaged energy foods.)
After : After the ride, eat a healthy protein rich meal within about 30 minutes after finishing your ride.
4. Hydration is key
Most riders make a mistake here. Remember to sip water at regular intervals during the century ride. Do not wait till you are really thirsty as you risk going into dehydration mode. In Hot weather, Carry 2 bottles on your bike. One has water and the other may have electrolyte drink, Nimbu paani or salt replacement drink that suits you. Replenishing your body salt lost during long sustained efforts is key to good performance and success in your first and subsequent century rides as well.
5. Ride in a Group
It is always safe and recommended to do your first century ride with a group of riders. The group riding together means safety and chatting, pushing each other is a great way to get that much needed boost. Of course, follow safe riding guidelines such as wearing helmet, hand signals etc as always. Ensure that ALL riders know the route plan, exchange phone nos and ideally a emergency no for all riders.
6. In case of emergency
On a 100 kms, expect the unexpected. Flat tires, bike issues, cramps and more. So carry some nuts and adequate water at all times. Carry a spare tube, 1 mini pump in the group, tube and toolkit. Wear a rider ID. This could be a simple emergency card in your pocket or a rider ID band. Inform family about route. Ideally share location from your phone with family.
7. Think yourself to victory
During your first century rides, most riders find that the second half of the ride is quite tough when the body has already done 2-3 hours of effort and energy levels have dropped. Then you would find it difficult to ride and more importantly enjoy the ride. There is no doubt that a century ride lasting 4-6 hours takes a big toll on the body. Correct fuelling plus a calm mindset, patience to sit on the saddle for long and the mental strength to push you through the last 25 odd kms will take you to your finish line for sure.
8. The bike is king
Check your bike the day before going for a 100 kms ride. Roll your tires. Check brakes, tire pressure and shifting. Ensure that you are carrying spare tube, tool kit, lights etc.
Bike problems in the middle of nowhere often mean that your ride is cut short, big expense and effort to get back home in a cab with your bike. So don’t take chances. Check your bike. It takes just a few minutes.
9. Your yesterday defines your ride today
Riders in Mumbai prefer riding very early in the morning to beat the heat and traffic. Eating a late dinner or Sleeping late could well ruin your century ride next day or make it very tough. A 4-6 hour intense effort means that you sleep well the previous night and eat a good meal at least 2 hours before sleeping. Remember a good performance in any sport is all about pre-event preparation.
10. Dress to win
Sitting on the saddle for 4-6 hours would be quite painful normally. It is highly advised that you wear a cycling jersey and bib shorts. These are quick dry material. The shorts are padded and makes the ride so comfortable. Cycling jerseys generally have 3 back pockets to ensure you have enough space to keep your phone, munchies and more. I never ride without my cycling glasses. Plain glasses for nights/early mornings and dark for the day. Head scarf in extreme heat and/ or a face cover. Remember that rider comfort is paramount in century rides or longer events.