A week or so ago, I embarked on a journey to see how my body would cope with consecutive centuries. The plan? Out on a Saturday from Bristol to Trerulefoot (on the west side of Plymouth) and back on the Sunday.
The geographers among you may, however, notice one problem with my consecutive centuries; Plymouth is a lot further from Bristol than 100 miles. In fact, the first leg ended up being a meaty 157 miles and the second a knee-busting 142. Quickly, my weekend became about surviving a 300-mile round trip.
5 Things I learnt About Back to Back Centuries
1. Don’t break your long distance bike before the ride.
Spending 300 miles on an aggressive aero bike isn’t always pleasant. Your arse, for instance, will feel like someone’s taken a cheese grater to it around 50 miles into the second day. As a result, you’ll have to spend the remaining 100 miles constantly shifting about to avoid causing permanent damage.
To be fair, you’ll probably appreciate the carbon and the lack of effort required to propel yourself forward at a decent pace. But rides like this are all about comfort. You don’t want a plank of wood to sit on. You don’t want to spend two days with your head at the same level as your knees. You don’t want to put your bike on the roof of a small ferry (more on that in a bit).
2. Don’t pack too light.
I hate saddle bags, but in this case using one may have been a good idea. Relying solely on pockets means you’re going to run out of food after 80-100 miles. Putting your faith in a jersey means you won’t have any chamois cream for the return leg. Who’d have thought a jersey could make you tired and sore?
If you have a frame bag, use it. That is, unless you do what I did and take my aero bike. There’s no chance I’m scratching that frame with velcro straps, assuming the bag would have fit the frame in the first place. I haven’t tried. I’m not going to.
3. Avoid taking small, rusty ferries at Exmouth. Or anywhere.
This one’s easy. They balance your somewhat expensive carbon pride and joy on top of the boat. It isn’t tied down. It weighs around 7kg. It’s windy. You might feel uncomfortable and rely on a kind tourist to keep her eye on its movements.
Instead, stick to dry land. Your bike can’t be turned into the most expensive, least effective anchor in the maritime world. I’ve heard salty water isn’t the most effective lubricant on the market.
4. Don’t include Dartmoor. Or Devon. Or anything over 20%.
Hitting Dartmoor after 110 miles is a mistake. It isn’t, as I thought, a long climb up followed by a fast, flat plateau and a descent. Dartmoor is punctuated, all too frequently, by steep-sided valleys featuring inclines in excess of 20%. This is especially problematic if you run an 11-25 cassette.
Unfortunately, though I strayed north of Dartmoor on the return leg, it turns out Devon is a damn hilly place. Even if you head around the famously bleak moorland you’re going to encounter an uncomfortably rolling landscape. By the time I reached Tiverton I was begging for the tender embrace of the Somerset levels.
5. Depending on your strategy, and knees, you might want a few rest days.
This sort of ride is likely to wipe you out for a bit. I, for one, took 4 days off cycling following my arrival back in Bristol. To be honest, this was a result of a partially broken commuter bike and a wincingly-painful knee. But still, fatigue had set in.
My speed for the 300 miles averaged out at around 16.6mph, so I wasn’t taking things too easy (and it was windy). A more sensible pace may have resulted in less time off the bike. Either way, it’s important not to burn out. Make sure to rest adequately; don’t jeopardise the remainder of your year, or set yourself back a few weeks.