If you’ve got four to six hours and a half-dozen to a dozen-plus friends to ride with (and nothing else to do for the rest of the day after), an Imperial century is what the tough kids ride. The 100-mile century is the equivalent of the marathon in running. That’s the distance that really challenges a weekend warrior’s resolve. Especially that last fifteen miles, when your body is depleted of electrolytes and just wants you to pull over so it can cramp up in a ball under a shade tree. I have friends who absolutely refuse to take part in an Imperial Century over that last 15 miles. They are brutal.
Now, I can see you scratching your head in my mind’s eye… “Is this an advertisement for the 100-mile century disguised as a plug for a 100k?” It isn’t. The hundred miler (161 km) has one glaringly huge freaking massive flaw. 100 miles takes all day. Oh, the ride itself, if you’re fast and have some help, isn’t so bad. The miles can be done in four to six hours’ ride time. Add an hour (total) for stops every 20-30 miles and you can figure you’ll have five to seven hours in the saddle, maybe eight if you want to stretch the enjoyment out. Then you’re back! You pack your stuff up, head home for a shower… and a really big lunch/dinner… then you’re smoked for the rest of the day. Oh, you’ll have high aspirations to install new siding on the house or something, but once you sit on the couch after that big lunch, you’re done. One minute you’ll be like, “Yeah, I’m a bad@$$.” And the next… zzzzzzzz.
And that’s exactly why the humble 100k, 62.4 miles, is the perfect distance for an endurance enthusiast’s bike ride. It’s just long enough to let you know you did something hard, but short enough you recover after a shower, lunch, and a quick nap. If that’s not enough, and it is, your crew won’t have to be all that big to complete the distance, either. Two friends is enough, though solo is fine as well.
Much will be made in protecting the integrity of the Imperial Century because completing one really is a feat of “want to” (both photos above are from 100-mile rides this year), but I’ll be straight, after completing eight to twelve a year for the past several years, I vastly prefer the 100k to the 100-miler because I actually get to do something, other than sleep, after the century.
There are too many benefits to the 100k when all is said and done, especially for those newer into cycling. 62-1/2 miles may seem like a lot, but if you’ve got a decent group to ride with, the time goes quickly. The key is building up the fitness to be able to last three or four hours in the saddle.
Finally, to put a bow on this post, don’t make the mistake of thinking, “If I want to ride 60 miles with a group in three hours, I have to be able to ride that far at that speed, or close to it, by myself.” That is not true at all. If you can ride 60 miles at an 18-mph average, you can hold 20-mph with four other cyclists. It’s not all about being able to ride faster in a draft, either, though that’s a part of it. The best part of riding with a handful of friends is that you only have to take a mile or two up front at a time. When you’re the third, fourth, or fifth bike back, you’re resting. The work starts when you’re second bike or, obviously, up front.