It’s not a century, it’s just a bike ride

Traditionally, the cycling scene in the UK was populated by stoical types and purists. There were plenty of sports where a man could show off if he chose to, but cycling was all about an ability to withstand a bit of physical discomfort and a pride in self sufficiency and pure physical effort. If there is one item of cycling paraphernalia which signifies that times have changed, it’s the on board GPS computer.

For many of us it’s not enough anymore to go out for a big ride and a bit of an adventure, we need to know how far we rode, how much height we gained, and what our average speed was. Inherent in this grasping need to measure and record our rides is our desire to prove ourselves; to judge and be judged.

On-board Cycle Computer - Judge and be Judged (Photo: Mikkelz - Flickr)
On-board Cycle Computer – Judge and be Judged
(Photo: Mikkelz – Flickr)

The more popular cycling gets, the more you hear people talking about riding a century – the current most popular badge of honour. Whether it’s their big goal for the year, a particular Sportive they’ve got their eye on, or the usual Sunday morning club run, some people simply cannot keep the fact that they can ride 100 miles to themselves.

Admittedly, riding 100 miles is a pretty cool thing (I’m mildly impressed with myself at being able to do this, however slowly), but to insist on broadcasting the fact shows a lack of class, and an underlying need to be loved.*

(*and here I am, broadcasting this fact and sounding a bit pleased with myself – setting oneself up as the moral compass of recreational cycling is such a tricky business!)

If you choose to tell people about your rides, it’s enough to tell them you are going on a ‘big ride’ and leave the rest to their uncomprehending imagination. After all, part of the appeal of being a cyclist is membership to an exclusive little club, and the chance to use strange language and take pleasure in things that leave the non-cyclist in a state of bemusement. The look on their face is half the fun – they’re thinking ‘what does he mean by a big ride, 10 miles…15 miles…20 MILES?’

Don’t lose the high ground by showing off.

But worse than incessantly jibber-jabbering about your latest century is a new fad I’ve spotted…the metric century. This is 60 odd miles; impressive in it’s own way but it needs no embellishment. To call it a metric century is a transparent attempt to add gravitas and a bit of extra sheen to your achievement on the bike.

Remember – it’s not a century, it’s definitely not a metric century…it’s just a bike ride.

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18 comments

  1. Agreed. Although it’s probably the equivalent of all the ‘runners’ who jog, walk, stumble the London Marathon every year but never actually just run for the sake of it and mostly never run seriously again after completing that particular course. All these sportives only add to the noise – just ride your bike. On your own, with friends, whatever you want. Just don’t feel like every ride has to be building up towards an ‘epic’ century. Rant over 😀

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  2. I may ride like ‘Jessica Fletcher’ but it’s because i like to see the scenery.
    My rides aren’t about putting on the miles. It’s about the smiles 🙂

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    • And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that – for me the best thing about cycling is to see the changes from season to season, and i always like an encounter with a bit of wildlife too!

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  3. I first rode 100 miles aged 14 but there is still a certain satisfaction in the odometer clicking over to three digits, but you are right that the distance does not on it’s own make a ride but rather the weather, views, finding somewhere nice to stop for tea, good chit chat, getting up a big hill, not getting a flat tyre, a glimpse of a deer or other beastie, and all the other little joys which don’t occur on every ride and distance on it’s own does not make for an interesting anecdote, especially in the eyes of a non rider. Some people are driven by numbers and targets though and whatever gets people out on their bikes must be a good thing…

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    • That’s true – each to his own and all that. There is always a proper sense of achievement on passing 100 miles that’s for sure – doing it at 14 is some achievement, i suppose that sort of thing is a rite of passage for you tough Yorkshire lads eh?

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  4. Now now, for those of us already living the metric life, a century is a century. It’s those damn miles that are confusing! Lately though, I’ve seen more people aiming for a double century… sigh. 😀

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    • It gets very confusing here in the UK – we mix a metric life with an imperial life at the drop of a hat. You’re right though…metric is the language of cycling. Read about any of the historical races and it’s always kilometres – Milan San-Remo will always be a race of nearly 300km’s, that’s part of it’s gravitas

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