How Long is a Century Ride?

Century rides are considered a recreational cyclist's ultimate endurance test. But with all the differences between the metric system and the American system (whatever that is), it can be tough for a new cyclist to catch on as to just exactly how far a century ride is.

The answer? A century ride is 100 miles, hence the "century" name. A 100-kilometer bike ride is called a "metric century" and converts to roughly 62 miles.

More: How to Successfully Complete a Century

A 100-mile century ride is not something any Joe Schmo can hop on the bike and crank out. It takes training, it takes sound nutritional preparation (before and during the ride) and it takes some physical and mental toughness.

If you want to put the century-ride distance in perspective, consider:

  • 100 miles is roughly the distance between Philadelphia and New York City.
  • It's also the distance between Hartford and Boston, which could send you through three states depending on your route.
  • Chicago and Milwaukee are just about 100 miles apart, too.
  • It's like biking around a high school track 400 times.
  • Several countries, including Portugal and Italy, are about 100 miles wide, meaning you could bike from one edge of an entire nation to another within a century ride.

More: 12 Common Century Ride Mistakes

Typically, an average cyclist can finish a century ride in 7-8 hours, though that always varies on your skill level and how much time you spend off the bike during the course of the day.

More: 4 Nutrition Secrets for Your First Century

There are no official records for century ride times, but let's have a little fun with numbers anyway:

  • The hour record on the bicycle is a test to see how far a cyclist can travel in an hour. The elite, like the great Eddy Merckx, have achieved about 30 miles in an hour. If he could keep that pace up (ha!) he could finish a century ride in a little over three hours.
  • The Ironman 140.6 triathlons include a 112-mile bike ride. Normann Stadler of Germany has the world championship course record, finishing in 4:18 (26 miles per hour). And he had to swim 2.4 miles before that ride, go 12 miles further than a century and then run 26.2 miles immediately afterward!
  • The 2008 Olympics women's road race was a 78-mile race through Beijing. The winner, Nicole Cooke of Great Britain, finished in 3:32. That paces out to about a 4:30 century ride.

To sum it up: A century ride is hard. It's a great accomplishment for cyclists, and with a little perspective as to how far 100 miles is, you start to realize that completing a century means covering an awful lot of ground.

More: Video: 3 Ways to Prepare for a Century

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