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Under what circumstances would it be advisable to ride a century without stopping?

If a person had: 100% daylight; no mechanical failures; and, no stop signs or lights to deal with, it would seem possible that she/he could ride 100 or more miles on a bicycle without ever putting a single foot back on the ground.

Given the above assumptions, I'm wondering what other conditions make it favorable for a rider to forgo all stops. Apart from the above mentioned perils, it would seem to me that nutrition, hydration, waste disposal and arm fatigue would be the greatest challenges.

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    Don't the pros do this pretty regularly? – kmm Dec 8 '16 at 2:14
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    When your army has just defeated the overwhelmingly powerful Persian army and you have to get news to Athens? No, wait, that was running, not cycling. – andy256 Dec 8 '16 at 2:47
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    The main problem I can see with this is the limits of you bladder. 100 km is doable, but 100 miles (160 km) is probably pushing it, unless you can relieve yourself while riding! – Will Vousden Dec 8 '16 at 10:43
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    "Under what circumstances would it be advisable to ride a century without stopping?" The only sensible answer to that is 'when racing' – Andy P Dec 8 '16 at 13:59
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    @altomnr That's a good point – why didn't I think of time trials? 100 mile TTs are well established here in the UK... I've even done one myself! – Will Vousden Dec 13 '16 at 21:29
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You've essentially just described the 100 mile time trial, which is fairly popular event in the British time trial scene (and perhaps elsewhere, too).

The idea in a time trial is simply to complete the given course as quickly as possible. They're ridden on specialised TT bikes and are usually held on roads that have as few junctions as possible, so as to minimise traffic interactions. Most people manage to complete the course without ever coming to a stop.

The 100 mile TT is probably the longest milestone in TT distances where it's practical to keep riding without any stops (the next one up in the British TT scene is the 12-hour TT, although the cycling part of an Ironman is 112 miles). Many competitors have helpers stationed along the way to pass up drinks as they pass.

While this sort of event will take a decent amount of training (it's probably similar in effort to running a marathon), it's certainly doable! The record for this distance, set in 2015, stands at 3 hours, 18 minutes, and 54 seconds – although most people will take over 4 hours.

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    "The 100 mile TT is probably the longest event where it's practical to keep riding without any stops" There are plenty of Grand Tour stages that are more than 100 miles; Paris-Roubaix is a little over 160 miles. So the pros routinely ride more than 100 miles non-stop though, of course, they have much more support so they don't need to stop for water and so on. – David Richerby Dec 14 '16 at 1:40
  • @DavidRicherby True, but like I said earlier, riding in a bunch is completely different from riding individually. The OP was asking whether it's possible for mortals (not pros) to ride 100 miles non-stop, to which the answer is yes – 100 mile TTs are perfectly accessible, even if they do need a little training :-) – Will Vousden Dec 14 '16 at 8:42
  • I completely agree. But nothing in the question says the ride has to be solo. – David Richerby Dec 14 '16 at 9:17
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I've almost done this, and its not "easy" but it should be possible.

However a non-stop 100 km is much harder than simply doing 100 km. Try working up do it. I don't know what your current distance is for a "big ride" but start with 25 km non-stop, then work up to 50, 75, and then 100 km.

Leave early in the morning on your big rides - it seems to help the distance go by easier. Having twilight close in is a bad feeling.

Also, its cooler in the morning and you can stretch your water further. Pre-hydrate, carry food, eat the food (!), and pace yourself over the distance.

Weather, specifically winds could be a big difference between a fun ride and a torture. Consider reading your local meteorological service predictions that morning, and try to pick a route that should have a tailwind out, and a tailwind back. This

If you can go with a group, that will help your speed, but increases the chance of someone having a reason to stop. You could lay a challenge, something like *"Ride from Zeros to Little River and back to Zeros without putting a foot on the ground and I'll buy coffee for everyone who does it."

Climbs will cause you problems, and a route that is significantly more downhill will feel like cheating. An Out-And-Back will make rises equal descents.

I'd also draw a distinction between stopping because you need to and stopping because you have to. Red traffic lights means you have to stop, You might be able to drift up to the stop line at minimum speed and stay in the saddle till the light goes green, but that's chancy and duplicated for each set of lights you pass. If there's an accident, you stop and help and forget the challenge.


Personal stories - I've done a 100 km ride called Le Race.
https://www.strava.com/activities/520613679/analysis It has over 2km of climbs too, and while the first half was great, the last half turned into an endurance ride instead of a race. I had one stop at a red light before leaving town (despite roads being "closed") and one long stop with a puncture. After halfway I stopped at every water station because I went through 12 full bottles of water, but was only carrying 2.

Separately, I did a road ride by myself for 146 km that was a "great loop" around Christchurch, Rangiora, Oxford, and back via the Waimakarerei Gorge. https://www.strava.com/activities/694129685/analysis I had one big stop in the middle of that at my Nana's house at about 75 km.

The takeaway is, can you sit on your bike for 5-6 hours solid ?

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    "I'd also draw a distinction between stopping because you need to and stopping because you have to." But, "need to stop" means exactly the same thing as "have to stop". It seems like you're trying to distinguish between cases where you can choose to keep going (e.g., you're tired) and cases where you must stop (road law, emergencies, etc.). – David Richerby Dec 8 '16 at 11:05
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    A century is 100 miles - 160 km. 100 km in one "sitting" is pretty straightforward, 160 km is a while different level. – andy256 Dec 8 '16 at 12:49
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    What if you have to get off to pee on your rear hub? – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '16 at 12:53
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it would seem to me that nutrition, hydration, waste disposal and arm fatigue would be the greatest challenges

  1. Nutrition: isn't that hard, although if you haven't already, you might want to spend some time figuring out what food works for you on the move.

    You want things that are fairly calorie-dense, probably not too much fibre (see point #3) and agree with your stomach while exercising - this is specific to you and your digestive system. If you're going for endurance, you don't need massive sugar spikes on a regular basis, so normal food is probably fine. Something sweet as a pick-me-up is a good idea (see bullet #1), but it doesn't need to be the bulk of your calories.

  2. Hydration: varies a lot with temperature, effort, and again your body and how much you sweat.

    Carrying 100 miles-or-kilometres-worth of liquid yourself is difficult, so this is where having support personnel to hand over replacement bottles is useful. I'm pretty sure I've never gone that far without stopping for a refill (again, see #3)

    • For reference, you can carry a couple of litres with slightly oversized bottles and the usual two cages, maybe 4-6 litres if you go all-out on the specialist extra bottle mounts (fork legs, stem, behind saddle) or find somewhere to stick a camelbak or other reservoir. It's just much easier and less equipment to stop for a refill.

    • On reflection, I've done 100k with two bottles and no refills, and would have been much happier if better hydrated, and that wasn't a hot day.

  3. Waste disposal: try to go before you start, and don't over-eat or over-drink. As Rider_X mentioned, you don't need to stop to offload liquids, although it's obviously your decision. Don't risk dehydration though.

  4. Arm fatigue: if this is a problem, sort out your riding position first. You should be able to avoid putting lots of weight on your arms, and you can make sure you have lots of usable hand positions to relieve tiredness.

Problems you haven't mentioned:

  • Tiredness, drowsiness, trances: be aware of your mental state. It's easy to get drowsy rather than hungry or thirsty, or to zone out
  • Posterior discomfort: this is harder to relieve than arm tiredness because you have fewer positions available, and staying out of the saddle is more work than riding no handed for a few minutes. Build up your fundamental tolerance incrementally, and make sure you have a clothing system and a saddle that work well for you personally.
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    Yeah, of all the things to worry about arm tiredness is not highest. If a rider is not used to being 5 to 8 hours in the saddle, general weariness is the main one, leading to slow reaction times and forgetting basic stuff like unclipping before stopping. Everyone is different; I find sitting up riding no handed is a great way to alleviate all discomforts, but getting out of the saddle doesn't have to mean extra work - just half a dozen pedal strokes every few km can be enough to keep the blood moving in the nether regions. – andy256 Dec 13 '16 at 23:57
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It would be advisable if:

  • You like cycling

  • You can stay in the saddle for 5 plus hours without crippling pain

  • You can hold all bodily functions for that amount of time

  • You can carry the required amount of calories and water

Even better if you have a group of riders or a car tailing you. I'd say go for it!

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    Your support group could easily hand over water/energy supplements even if they were on bikes – Chris H Dec 8 '16 at 6:56
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    You don't need to hold all body functions, it is possible to relieve oneself while maintaining forward momentum. – Rider_X Dec 8 '16 at 7:35
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I've done this a few times. On average it took me about 6 - 7 hours from Boulder, CO to Fort Collins and back (it's actually closer to a double kilometer century) with about 112 miles give or take a few.

The first two times I did this, I bonked near the end with 15 miles to go. Fortunately at this point the roads are (relatively) flat. The route I took would take me through some various terrain, lots of climbing and descending for the first 40 or so miles. Mostly flat with short climbs the last half.

Bonking is killer. Don't expect to do it non-stop if you have no support because you'll need to top up on fluids halfway through, especially if it's hot.

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  • Welcome to the site! You might like to take a look at the tour to see what features the site has. – David Richerby Dec 14 '16 at 10:19
  • By the way, I'm a bit confused about how an out-and-back ride can have lots of climbing and descending in the first 40 miles but be relatively flat in the last 15 miles. Doesn't pretty much any route back into Boulder involve either climbing or descending? – David Richerby Dec 14 '16 at 10:27
  • Hey there mate. The first 40 or so miles are a lot of up and downs. It's been three years, so bear with me, I'm going from memory here. Essentially the first 10 miles are fairly straightforward. After you get to a small town just north of Boulder, the climbing starts. There's a large lake north of Boulder and east of Fort Collins. Lots of up and downs (more ups than downs) until you get to Fort Collins. After that, it's fairly flat with slight up hill slopes here and there until you get back to Boulder. This is IF you follow the general path of the highway. Or, you could just turn around. – Nathan Dec 16 '16 at 3:51

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