Wikipedia only attempts to explain the origin of the riding distance event but not why the term was used and why it "stuck".

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    It's also used for 100 runs in cricket, which is a noteworthy achievement, like 100 miles on a bike.
    – Chris H
    Dec 22, 2016 at 17:58
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a misunderstanding about an English word and only tangentially about cycling
    – andy256
    Dec 22, 2016 at 21:23
  • In the antipodes we might refer to a "tun" or a "tonne" as 100 km/h, or $100. Neither is related to weight. Example "I was draughting a truck and did the ton down the Raumati Straights" or "round the final cost up to the tonne and I'll call it even" English makes no sense sometimes.
    – Criggie
    Dec 22, 2016 at 21:50
  • 4
    Used in Snooker, too (“century break” = at least 100 points in a single break).
    – chirlu
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:33
  • 1
    For some people, it's both a distance and the time taken for it!
    – Colin
    Dec 23, 2016 at 13:16

2 Answers 2


A distance of 100 miles (161 km) is often referred to as a century. Century is also a common designation for 100 years, but that is not its exclusive meaning. The English word derives directly from Latin centuria, a group of 100 [etymonline]. This is a form of centum (or CENTVM if you will) which simply means (one)hundred.

A ride of 100 miles is thus aptly named a century ride, without having to resort to metaphors or figurative meaning.

Chris H mentioned another instance where century is used to count something other than years: In the sport of cricket, a century is a score of 100 or more runs in a single innings by a batsman [wikipedia].

  • 3
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – jimchristie
    Dec 22, 2016 at 23:53

If I read Google correctly, it isn't that a century necessarily means 100-years and a bike event borrowed from that. Instead, they are peers of one another.

The Latin root, centum or centuria simply means 100. In a more generic sense, it can simply refer to any collection of 100 definition.

Thus, a century in time is a collection of a common unit of time (year) and a century in biking is a collection commonly used units of distance (miles) or (km) for a metric century. The are both likely derived from the same Latin, not the later from the former.

  • To add to this, a centimeter is 1/100th of a meter.
    – SGR
    Dec 23, 2016 at 11:21

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