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I have never ridden a century ride before. This June, a friend and I plan to ride our first: The Montauk Century Ride. But I'm wondering, why should we commit to paying $100+ to ride this route in relatively heavy bike traffic, from a starting point not chosen by us, on a day that could be rainy for all we know? Why not ride the route on a day chosen by us? It seems to me riding on our own might provide a more convenient experience and more meaningful challenge.

What am I missing here?

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There is nothing like riding with a large group of people, all out to accomplish the same goal - riding a century! I do a lot of riding alone. But riding with various and different groups of people, for a long distance, is just an experience that is hard to describe. Plus, most of these types of organized rides pamper you pretty good, and really don't cost that much. The $100 you mention seems rather high. I plan to do an organized century ride in September. –  Randy Minder Apr 10 '12 at 17:24
    
Yeah, I might pay $50, but $100 is a bit steep, unless it includes some extras. I only pay $190 for a full week. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 10 '12 at 17:42
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Don't be worried about the road being crowded, soon after the start it spreads out and you'll most probably settle around people riding at the same speed. This is the best time to start chatting and making new friends. –  heltonbiker Apr 10 '12 at 19:43
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@SamTheBrand - Just curious, but why haven't you accepted any answers to any of your questions? You've gotten good, highly voted answers. –  user313 Apr 10 '12 at 20:25
    
@wdypdx22 - Just marked a few correct. The others I'm not certain have a definitive answer. –  SamtheBrand Apr 10 '12 at 20:55

6 Answers 6

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Details depend on the ride, but usually organized rides provide things that you'd have to provide yourself. This one appears to provide a lot. This is covered by the catchall term "support", as in a supported ride.

The support that everyone enjoys is the food and drink along the way ("The Best Rest Stops") - scroll down on the page you linked, and you'll see that in this case it's a lot better than just a powerbar and a refill for your bottle. It looks like there's even food, beer, showers, and massages after the ride!

Support generally also includes some kind of assistance in case of breakdowns. Presumably you can fix flats, but say your tire is too damaged, or some component on your bike breaks. At the very least, you can get a ride in a support vehicle - and they might be able to help you get back on the road in some cases too. There's some about the S.A.G. (support and gear) service on their "ride day" page. They can also just give you a ride if a century turns out to be too much for you to handle.

Of course, another part of the appeal of rides like this is the "relatively heavy bike traffic". Some people like riding with plenty of cyclists on the road, and perhaps to hang around with after. And you don't have to worry about getting lost, or being visible to drivers.

So the supported ride will be a very different experience. Think of it as the challenge of riding a century without any details to worry about, and a bit of a party along the way and at the end. If you know you can handle the distance self-supported, don't care about riding with others, and it's more convenient to ride on your own, go for it. But if you go for the supported ride, your money isn't just disappearing into thin air.

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It's a pitty I cannot vote twice for this answer! –  heltonbiker Apr 10 '12 at 19:46
    
I would go further, for myself, even though I could (probably!) do this on my own, I think that a ride like this would be great fun! I have done similar on my motorbike, and in cars… it is always a festive time. –  Paul Wagland Apr 13 '12 at 20:57

Organized rides are great. You get a lot of support in terms of rest stops, mechanical help, and medical assistance. A subset of this is charity rides. These are particularly nice because there are often people along the route cheering for you at various points along the way.

On the other hand, riding solo is more challenging and you get the choose your route. It has a lot more challenges involved. The nice thing about a group ride is you can generally do them on a road bike, and don't need to burden yourself with tools, food, liquids, the bags that carry them, or anything else really. You may not even need a water bottle. If you enjoy the logistical challenge you may want to do more solo rides.

Another great experience is staffing a group ride.

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You've gotten some great answers which I agree with entirely.

One other item though. Many, and perhaps most, organized Centuries in the U.S. are philanthropic in nature. So that is another reason for participating.

The Montauk ride is at least partially philanthropic...

We Support Our Community It’s important to us to leave money behind where we ride. That’s why we donate to charities all along the route such as the Lynbrook Fire Department, Blue Point Boy Scouts, Southampton High School, and more. You do not need to raise money to pedal this ride -- just pay the basic ride fee and you’re ready to ride.

So, if you feel civically and charitably minded, then that's a perfectly good reason.

Anyway, it's also nice to have the support on one's first century.

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I once went for a recognition ride on a race track for a competition just a day before the actual event. The track was exactly the same, it was already marked and it did not cross any fence or busy street (it was a pure mountain biking race). Of course, I went to the competition the next day.

The biggest difference was purely psychological, but big enough to make it for the inscription fee. Most the reasons have already been mentioned, but I want to stress out that the fact that you are sharing the way with a lot of other riders, you can learn a lot, watch different equipment setups, see how other people have advantage over you or vice-versa. You can also get the chance to "teach" or couch somebody else and hopefully you'll meet new friends/ride partners. It is amazing how much practical knowledge is shared among cyclists during these events.

There are a whole lot of other psychological aspects linked to the advantages already brought to the topic (logistics, mechanical aids, drafting, etc) like the possibility of impressing a few couch potato friends by showing you actually accomplished a huge challenge, or simply being cheered up by a lot of strangers near the end of the track. I can guarantee you'll get a rush of energy that will make you forget how tired you are and pedal with all your energy trough the end (even if it's not a competition!)

At the end of the course you'll get involved in all kinds of conversations that will make the event last longer and you'll remember for the rest of your life.

In my case, I usually ride a lot in paths later used for races or "mass cycling events", and I can surely opt in for the paid ride almost every chance I get, the experience simply has no match.

Another advantage (at least for me) is the chance of getting action pictures taken of you while you are completely focused in riding, that look a lot better than when you try to get them by yourself!

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Nothing - you're not missing anything; going out and riding 100 miles on your own is fine, but going out on an organised ride is a different experience.

Maybe it's about the camaraderie, following someone else's route, not having to think about the route - just follow the signs or the provided GPX, the provided rest stops, mechanical support, accurate timing, supporting a charity, getting the t-shirt at the end or just swapping stories after the event.

And sometimes it's about the peer pressure. If you're on your own and you wake up that morning and the weather's a little sub-optimal or you don't feel tip-top, you'll just turn over and go back to sleep. But you've paid 100 $CurrencyUnits, so you'll get up and do it. Or you're half way round and you feel like stopping or taking a short cut. Or suffering up that climb. Nothing like a cheery "come on, mate" from a colleague to get you sparking again and finishing something you might not have finished.

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I haven't done one of those big organized rides yet, but signed up for a local one in May (and a multi-day fundraising ride in September) and have volunteered helping out with some of that kind of ride before.

Most basically, those events usually make it easier and let you concentrate on riding.

  1. "Heavy bicycle traffic" is also probably a good chance to draft and go faster with less effort.
  2. "Heavy bicycle traffic" makes you much more visible and potentially a lot safer.
  3. "Heavy bicycle traffic" might some new friends that you meet on the ride.
  4. Typically the route has actually been tested out. No nasty surprises.
  5. Typically the route is marked. Harder to miss the turn when there's a color-coded arrow on the ground for you and you just saw 50 riders ahead of you take the same turn.
  6. Typically there's rest stops with food and beverages. You don't have to carry any of that with you or worry about the next place you can find water.
  7. Typically there's vehicles following along that can fix your flat, help with other mechanical issues, or even pick you and your bike up and drive you to the finish if you can't make it on your own.
  8. Often at the end of the ride there's secure valet bicycle parking.
  9. Typically there's food and beverages at the end of the event. Often you get a meal and a beer included in the ticket price.
  10. Sometimes they'll have arranged road closures so that you don't have to stop at a bunch of stop signs. Maybe only at the start, maybe for the whole ride.
  11. Many of these rides are raising money for some good cause or another. Probably most of the money goes to making the ride happen, but some percentage might go to a charity of some sort.

All those different forms of support make it so you can do a longer ride than you might otherwise be able to do. Absolutely you can just put together a route and go on a long ride with some buddies, but what do you do when 80 miles through your 100 mile ride you realize you just can't make it any further, if you have a problem with the bike you can't fix, you run out of food or water, etc? (yes there's absolutely answers but they require planning and possibly carrying more weight on your bike)

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