Lazer LifeBeam Helmet$220 1 of 11
Heart rate monitors are a great way to keep an eye on your pace during a long, hard day on the bike. The problem, though, is those awfully uncomfortable heart rate straps. Lifebeam has partnered with Lazer to solve this problem by combining an ANT+/BLE* heart rate monitor into the Genius helmet, eliminating the need to wear a strap. While it does increase the weight of the helmet an extra 150 grams, it wasn't noticeable on the bike.
You'll also need to charge the helmet every week or so since the battery only lasts about 15 hours. We found the extra work to be well worth the effort, as the heart rate sensor in the forehead of the LifeBeam is not only accurate, but just as comfortable as wearing a normal helmet. And because of the ANT+/BLE capabilities, it works with just about any sports Bluetooth device on the market and allows you to upload your data straight to MapMyRide, Strava or Garmin Connect as you workout.
*ANT+/BLE is the technology that allows wireless devices to communicate with each other.
Sugoi RSE KitJersey $200/Bibshorts $230 2 of 11
The right jersey and shorts can make a big difference to your overall comfort and speed over the course of 100 miles. The RSE from Sugoi is a good choice for century rides, especially as the weather starts to warm up. The fit is tight through the torso and arms for increased aerodynamics, which will help you shave seconds for every mile you pedal. The construction is high quality, featuring flatlock seams that reduce irritation, Revoflex mesh on the shoulders and underarms, and paneling along the back to keep you cool.
The FXE chamois is excellent at wicking away moisture on hot days, and the lack of inseam and bulk made this model comfortable during hard efforts. The silicone panels in the legs of the bibs replaces more traditional elastic that's often used in cycling shorts, which we felt improved comfort during the pedaling motion.
Assos Chamois Cream$20 3 of 11
This one is an old trick from the pros. To avoid saddle sores, a good chamois cream is a must. This one from Assos reduces friction and keeps your skin cool beneath all that hot Lycra. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that keep your chamois clean and comfortable while you sweat.
Oakley JawBreaker Mark Cavendish Edition$240 4 of 11
The new JawBreaker from Oakley was designed with input from pro cyclist Mark Cavendish—someone who should know a thing or two about cycling long distances. While the JawBreaker might appear to be a throwback to the '80s style Oakley Eyeshade, it's not just a fashion statement. The six air vents help to prevent fogging on hot days, and the oversized lens provides more coverage and protection than any other cycling sunglass we've tested. What you'll notice with most cycling glasses is the limited visibility when you're bent over in the drops, which is why the Jawbreaker is so tall—the frame never comes into your field of vision. They're also really light, and the Road Prizm lens provide about as good of clarity as you'll find in any pair of shades.
Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 Bar Tape$44 5 of 11
While this bar tape is one of the more expensive options, it's worth every penny. Not only does it last twice as long as other bar tapes we've tried, it's also considerably more comfortable over rough roads due to its 3.2 mm thickness. And since most of the roads you'll ride on during a century are anything but perfectly smooth, your hands and arms will appreciate how much road vibration the DSP manages to soak up.
American Classic Sprint 350 Tubeless Wheels$899.99 6 of 11
Deep section carbon wheels look cool, but sometimes they aren't the best option for a century ride. Handling issues in cross winds and poor braking performance in bad weather are just a few of the negatives you might have to deal with. This tubeless alloy wheelset from American Classic offers a competitive weight (1,396 grams for the set) compared to more expensive carbon wheels, which make them a good choice for cyclists looking for a climbing or racing wheel on a budget. The 22 mm rim depth and CNC machined (Computer Numerical Control) brake track perform well in dry and wet weather so you can feel confident no matter what happens on race day. The 28-(front) and 32- (rear) spoke count gives these wheels a sturdy and stable feel, and they perform well during high-speed descents.
The tubeless option should also be attractive to most century riders, as the benefits include a more comfortable ride and a greater resistance to pinch flats. And if you do have a flat on the road, tubeless wheels can be used with a tube in an emergency. Overall, this is a wheel that's built well, rolls fast, and offers great value for the price.
Schwalbe One Clincher Tire$60 7 of 11
The balance between performance and durability can be a fine line for century riders. On the one hand, you don't want a heavy training tire that doesn't handle well in tight corners or accelerates poorly on steep climbs. On the other, you don't want an all-out racing tire that sacrifices durability and increases your chance of a flat in favor of weight savings. The Schwalbe One is a tire that blends the two sides seamlessly, combining a high performance tire with just enough protection to keep you rolling for all 100 miles.
Specialized Audax$299 8 of 11
When it comes to comfort, the details of a shoe can make a big difference. Most Boa dials close the shoe with even pressure in the forefoot, mid and upper. The Audax uses the Boa only on the strap of the upper, which lets you fine-tune adjustment over each part of the foot. With the Audax, you can loosen the shoe the same way you tighten it by turning the dial in the opposite direction—something you'll appreciate when you attempt to adjust the fit while on the bike.
The ergonomics of the footbed prevent foot numbness and make a big difference on rides longer than 60 miles. The pad inserted into the heel and the material in the upper prevents that uncomfortable digging into the foot that's common after a few hours on the bike or when the shoe is tight. If you're looking for a high-performance shoe that provides plenty of comfort for century rides, you won't be disappointed with the Audax.
Polar Insulated 24-Ounce Bottle$11.99 9 of 11
No one likes the taste of a warm sports drink after a few hours on the bike. This water bottle from Polar uses insulating layers between two walls of plastic, which helps to keep your beverage cool for about twice as long as a regular bottle. For particularly hot days, we've tried freezing it over-night. The result was cold water for an entire 4-hour ride.
Skratch Labs Endurance Mix$19.50 10 of 11
Sports drinks like Gatorade are often too sweet even for the hottest days on the bike, and the extra sugar can upset your gastrointestinal tract if you have a sensitive stomach. The endurance mix from Skratch labs is an all-natural option created by former pro cycling nutritionist Allen Lim. Flavored with real fruit, this is not only one of the best tasting sports drinks we've tried, it's also the easiest on the stomach during hard efforts.