Whether you’re learning the ins-and-outs for your first century or you’re an experienced century rider who just wants to make sure everything is packed, here’s a helpful guide to make sure you have everything you need for event day:
Cycling bibs or shorts with an endurance chamois are a must for your century. Your chamois – just like your saddle – can mean the difference between an unforgettable outing on the bike and a day your aches and pains and saddle-sores won’t let you forget! Never wear a new pair of shorts or bibs on event day, instead make sure they’re a pair you’ve tested on long rides.
- A cycling jersey gives you deep pockets for your century-ride essentials – like your cell phone. Your jersey should be appropriate to the season. During the summer, a ventilated jersey is especially nice. Some are now available that offer “cooling” fabrics and even sun protection. During cooler months, a long-sleeved or insulated jersey might be more appropriate.
- Cycling socks are made out of wicking fabrics, like wool or polyester. These fabrics allow your skin to breathe while pulling moisture away from your body.
- Arm warmers are a great option when conditions might change during the ride – from early morning to mid-day, for example. Arm warmers can easily be pulled up or scrunched down to the wrist, allowing for quick changes in exposure while riding.
On days when rain is in the forecast, a light rain jacket is ideal. Cycling apparel companies make rain jackets that provide just enough coverage but are also lightweight enough to be balled up and stashed in the pocket of a cycling jersey. For convenient changes in coverage, a convertible jacket – like Sugoi’s Versa Jacket, going from jacket to vest and back – is a great option for event day.
- Gloves or no gloves? Cyclists seem to be on one side of this debate or the other. For a long ride, like a century, gloves will provide more comfort at your palms, a place where road noise gets directly transferred from your bike to you. More importantly, on a day when a large group of people are riding on the same path at various speeds, accidents happen. (If you don’t believe us, check out Chad Smith‘s testimony, keeping in mind he’s a very experienced century participant.) While most crashes are minor, you’ll be a lot happier as you ride the rest of the day WITHOUT the little bits of gravel that embed in your palm when you catch your fall.
- A helmet is a must. But what’s in a helmet? All helmets meet rigorous safety inspections. However, they offer varying degrees of comfort, shape, weight, ventilation and aerodynamics. (Not to mention, style. See our Nutcase helmets if you’re looking to make a statement!) The most important aspect of your helmet is that it fits your head. Not sure? Bring it in to Higher Gear and we’ll check it for you. Keep in mind that helmets are to be replaced every three to five years, so don’t keep old helmets lying around and never ride a hand-me-down helmet.
Cycling glasses don’t just protect your eyes from sunlight. Glasses also keep matter from the road and air from getting in your eyes. They can be life-changing in the event of a crash, where shatter-proof lenses can keep your eyes safe. So, glasses aren’t just for sunny conditions. For cycling in any conditions, Higher Gear favors transition lenses – lenses that change in sunlight. We carry Rudy Project and Tifosi cycling glasses, both of which offer lenses that go from colorless to varying degrees of darkness.
- Cycling shoes, paired with pedals, allow for efficient pedaling and are safer than using tennis shoes with traditional clips. The stiff soles of cycling shoes mean that power is transferred directly from you to your bike, not lost in flexible materials. This added efficiency means that you can last longer with less effort. Cycling shoes should fit well. The heel of the shoe should cup your heel, keeping your foot in place inside the shoe. The toe box should be roomy enough to accommodate the swelling in your feet that will happen over the miles. Most cycling shoes come with Velcro straps or a Boa lacing system. These systems make it easier to make quick adjustments to your shoe mid-ride. Since most people’s feet swell within the first 25 miles, we recommend you keep your shoes loose until then and then tighten the Velcro or Boa system at your first or second rest stop, avoiding foot pain early on in your ride.
- Road ID® – it’s not just a piece of gear; it’s peace of mind. In case of an emergency, your Road ID® gives emergency personnel and fellow cyclists a link to your contacts and your medical information. It’s an item you wear for peace of mind for your loved ones. Stop in to Higher Gear to pick up your coupons for free shipping on your online Road ID® purchase.
- A seat bag is a great way to conveniently keep your flat kit handy. Higher Gear stocks bags by Specialized and Banjo Brothers. (We can order from other manufacturers if you’re looking for a specific bag.) Seat bags range in size from small ones, preferred by roadies, just big enough to squeeze in your essentials to larger ones that expand to also carry cell phones or to stash an emergency rain jacket.
A multi-tool allows for quick adjustments on the bike, like changing your seat height and fixing a rattling water bottle cage. More complex multi-tools are available for those who are capable of making more mechanical adjustments on their bike but most of us are content with having a range of Hex wrenches and screwdrivers that work for minor adjustments. A multi-tool for your flat kit should be compact, lightweight, sturdy and have a range of tools appropriate for your bike and your ability.
- A spare tube is necessary to bring on any long ride. Since tubes come in a variety of sizes, check your tire wall or bring your bike in to Higher Gear so we can make sure you have the right size tube for your bike.
- CO2 or a bike pump is needed to fill your spare tube. A CO2 cartridge combined with an inflator is a quick and easy way to fill a tube. Frame pumps, bicycle pumps designed to fit along your frame, are a more eco-friendly way to fill a tube yet they require more strength and a lot more energy on your part.
- (2) Tire levers help you remove your tire from your wheel.
- Patch kits are handy when you have more than one flat in a day.
- A valve adapter is not necessary if you have the right tools for your tube. Sometimes, though, it can make for an easier flat fix if you need to borrow a tube or if you have access to an air compressor.
- The know-how to fit your own flats comes with practice. Having a good teacher to guide you through the process helps too. Stop in our Highland Park store Sunday mornings before we open all summer to practice with Brian or have him walk you through your flat fix anywhere you have access to video. With so many people on a century ride, there’s usually someone who can help you through your flat fix. However, the more you ride your bike, the more you’ll appreciate the confidence that comes with being able to fix your own flat.
Higher Gear Recommendations
A bento box, a bag that secures to the top tube of your bike, is a great place to stash items you may want to access during your ride. A cell phone, camera or nutritionals can be secured within easy reach. For a ride where you may want to carry more gear – if you might need to carry layers of clothing with you or a change in clothing – Higher Gear has other bags that are more appropriate.
- A cycling computer is not a requirement for a century – though seeing that “1-0-0” on the screen sure is gratifying after a long day on the bike! For training, a basic cycling computer can help you keep track of your mileage and know your speeds. More advanced cycling computers, like the Garmin Edge 800, include GPS so you can get a little bolder with your training rides, knowing you’ll be able to find your way home.
- An insulated water bottle, like the CamelBak Podium Chill, is another “trick of the trade” that can make for a better day out on the bike. An insulated bottle keeps liquids cold. (Conversely, it will keeps liquids warm for cooler weather rides.) Organized centuries will allow you replenish water frequently. That said, it doesn’t take long for tasty ice water to warm up in a normal bottle. An insulated water bottle can bring you hours of refreshment.
- Wheels are not often considered until you’re ready for an upgrade and then they are one of the first changes that are made to a bike. A wheelset that is stiff and lightweight can make for a smoother, more efficient ride. For a ride as long as a century, that efficiency can make for a more enjoyable day. When you’re ready for an upgrade, our Higher Gear staff can guide you through the process of finding the right wheelset for your needs and your budget.
The above is a list of items you can purchase at Higher Gear to prepare for your century ride. What about the power behind the pedaling? That’s where YOU come in. A century is a ride that requires preparation. Again, Higher Gear is here to help. We’ve put together a training guide, complete with a training plan and helpful training hints, and have organized a few training rides to get you ready to ride the Wrigley Field Road Tour on August 19th. (The plan can be adapted for other centuries, of course.)
Whether you need a new bike for your century or you will be riding your current bike, make sure your bike fits and that it is working properly. A bike that fits you well and is operating smoothly will make your 100 mile ride easier and more comfortable. More comfort and more efficiency means more fun for you on the day of your century!