Let’s all get to the Velodrome

Spin the District race #3 is Saturday, September 18th at the Dick Lane Velodrome.

You can always drive to the velodrome, most people do, but on a big race night, parking can be a little limited and honestly, we’ll have great craft beer. So… what other options do you have so can fully partake in the festivities?

Car Share, of course!
Just give them this address:
Dick Lane Velodrome
1889 Lexington Ave
East Point, GA 30344

Google Directions

By MARTA! ’cause it’s smart-a
The Dick Lane Velodrome is in beautiful Sumner Park, which is only a mile from the East Point Marta stop.

How to do it:
Get off on in East Point on the Main St or Western side of the tracks. Head west on Thompson Ave for 0.4mi. Turn Right on Semmes St. and travel 0.3mi. Turn Left on Neely Ave, then take the 2nd right onto Lexington Ave and the velodrome will be on your right. Easy Peasy.

Ride your bike:
The most direct and fastest way to the velodrome coming from downtown is to come straight down Main Street, but for many riders, the traffic on Main Street can be a little much, so here are a few alternatives that our marketing team uses to get a tasty beverage at their second favorite brewery – Best End – after working at the velodrome. Note: See additional directions below to our favorite local drinking holes.

Best End to the Velodrome via Murphy Street. (Uses a pedestrian bridge over Langford Pky)

Or if we’re feeling really mellow we take Brewer Street. (Uses a different ped bridge over Langford Pkwy)


Here’s a handy-dandy map going from Arches/BeerGirl(ish) in Hapeville and heads past Chairs Upstairs in East Point to the velodrome. We highly recommend this bike ride!

Note: you can use the Brewer route to get to Arches and BeerGirl from downtown. Continue down Springdale Rd SW after you walk over the Ped Bridge and take it until it dead-ends (Walk around the barrier) turn left on Cofield Drive and then right on Dogwood… Voilà you’re in Hapeville.

Now if you have to drive. Here all you need to know.


From I-75/85 and I-20 (the easy way)
Head south and stay on I-85 at the split. Exit at Cleveland Ave and turn right. Go one mile to Norman Berry Dr. Turn Right. When you see the velodrome on left (one mile), take the next left and keep turning left.

From I-75/85 and I-20 the quickest way (save a minute)
Head south on I-75/85. Exit at Langford Pkwy (GA166). Bear right going west. Exit Fort McPhearson/N. Main St (route 29) Bear right onto N. Main St.(route 29) heading south. Travel approximately 1.2 miles staying in the far right lane, travel straight onto church St, just past the Amoco Station (N. Main St will bear left) Turn right onto Neely St. Continue past Semmes St and bear left at fork and turn right at the stop sign (Lexington Ave.) The Velodrome is on the right.


From I-75 and I-285
Head north on I-75. Exit at Cleveland Ave and turn left. When you cross over I-85, go one mile to Norman Berry Dr. Turn Right. When you see the velodrome on left (one mile), take the next left and keep turning left.


From I-285 West and I-20
Head south on I-285. Exit east on Langford Parkway (hwy 166). Exit at Delowe Drive and turn right. Go to Norman Berry/Headland Drive. Turn left. When you see the Velodrome (on right), take the next right and keep turning right.

Check Out These Top Merch Results

With only a few short days until Spin the District 2021 kicks off at the Hapeville and College Park Crits, Spin HQ has officially received all of this year’s merch and swag deliveries. We were going to surprise you, but that was before we saw this stuff in person. Turns out it’s too good to keep a lid on! Here’s what we’ve got, what you’ll get, and how to get your hands on the rest.

For purchase on race days: 2021 Event T-shirts and Hats

This year’s limited edition “I Want to Ride My 🚲” Spin the District t-shirt design is like the chic B-side to our 2018 smash hit “Get on Your Bike and Ride” shirt—but it’s the kind of B-side that ultimately upstages the original single. That shirt brought us fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, but this is one will rock you.

The hats? Truly a rhapsody. We highly recommend picking one up at your earliest convenience, because we can’t imagine they will stay in stock for long.

These items can be purchased at all Spin events, as well as during rider packet pickups and the HandleBar crawl. RIDER BONUS: One free t-shirt is included with every rider registration.

Free on race days: Cowbells and Stickers

Then there’s the stuff we all get just for showing up on Spin days (while supplies last)! This year we’ve got two awesome oversized sticker designs—our classic logo sticker and our new Friendship Circle design—plus a nice, loud red cowbell for your collection. Come on out, watch a race, snag some goodies, and ring that bell.

Free for all volunteers: Volunteer T-shirts

On race days, look for volunteers in these fun light blue shirts. This design is an exclusive gift just for volunteers. If you’re feeling covetous, it’s not too late to sign up for a Spinster shift at one of our upcoming events.

Free for winners: Belts, Medals and Patches

These are the toughest items to snag, but boy, are they worth it!

Spin the District medals are awarded to first, second and third place finishers in all races with paid registration.

Spin the District ribbons are awarded to all riders in our kids’ races on both Crit days (Hapeville and College Park). They look great on a backpack.

The Fondo event in October will offer embroidered Spin the District century patches for all Toughskin Open and Polyester100 finishers.

That big, shiny wrestling belt? We’ve got two of those for the overall winners (Men and Women) for both combined days of the upcoming Crits; two more for the overall winners (Men and Women) at the Omni; and four for the fastest Time Segment riders (Men and Women) for the Toughskin Open and Polyester100 rides at the Fondo. What is that, eight? Eight belts? Eight belts, y’all. And it only takes one to be branded a champion for life.

Kids Races


Bring the kiddos out to be part of the action and start their racing career off right. Just before the pro-women head to the line, we’ll kick off the evening races with two show-stopping events for the next generation of racers: 1) those who have been riding a good bit and 2) those who are just starting out. It’s all for fun, but pride and participation ribbons could get the best of your youngins.

2:30 Sharp… Rider (parent) meeting to get things organized. Please meet at the registration table for both days. Ask for Wayne Whitesides. Please don’t be late. We will be on a tight schedule to get the pro-women off by 3:30.
3:00 Rider call ups (or children round up)
Race 1: 
• Hapeville One lap blast: Children who’ve been riding and feel confident to complete one lap of the approximately 1/2 mile course.
• College Park Hill Sprint: Up the hill and around the corner to the finish. Short, but challenging.
Race 2: Both days will be a Straightaway Sprint: Tykes with trikes, training wheels, and striders line up for a mad dash from one loving parent on the starting line to the other parent (or loved one) on the finish line.

The more the merrier and the faster they tend to go.  Don’t forget their helmet!

A special surprise is in the works for the kids on Sunday that you won’t want to miss.

Did we mention to not forget their helmet? Seriously, please remember their helmets.

2021 Speed Week

About Speed Week

Spin the District’s Hapeville and College Park Crits are more than exciting downtown race days. They’re also the climax of USA Crits Speed Week, the fastest series in the Southeast.

Eight days of wild criteriums take riders on a thrilling tour of Georgia and South Carolina, all with a handsome prize purse on the line. While each city’s event stands alone as a great day of crit racing for pros and amateurs at every level, pro individuals and teams also have the opportunity to sign up for the entire series and vie for the overall crown. We’ll see the culmination of Speed Week at the College Park finals on August 29, where the men’s and women’s series winners will be revealed.

Website | Facebook Page

Speed Week Event Dates

Friday, August 20, 2021

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Criterium

Website | Facebook Page | Register

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium

Website | Facebook Page | Register

Sun August 22, 2021

Grant Park Criterium

Website | Facebook Page | Register

Monday, August 23, 2021

Springfield Criterium

Website | Register

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Walterboro Criterium

Website | Facebook Page | Register

Friday, August 27, 2021

LaGrange Criterium


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Hapeville Criterium

Website | Facebook Page | Register

Saturday, August 28, 2021

College Park Criterium

Website | Facebook Page | Register

Outback Bikes’ Pete Wicker on bucking the bonk

Long time cycling sponsor (in all things cycling) Pete Wicker gets ready to teach the next generation a thing or two
at the 2019 Hapeville Criterium kids races. Thanks Pete, SPIN and everyone in the Atlanta cycling community thanks you!

By Pete Wicker
If you ride a bike, you may have experienced the dreaded BONK! Also known as hypoglycemia, bonking feels like hitting a wall. This does not make for a great time on your bike.

Eating before you’re hungry and drinking before you’re thirsty sounds like good advice. There are a few things to remember. If your ride is an hour or less, water will get you through. If your ride is longer, a banana, energy gel, or bar every 45 to 60 minutes works best for me. Additionally, if it’s a hot and humid day, I use an electrolyte drink, usually in an easy-to-carry tablet form. I recommend you try a few different brands of energy foods to see how they work before any race-type workout. Always drink enough water: one to two bottles an hour on a hot day, or just one per hour on cooler days.            

Recovery is probably the most overlooked part of cycling by novices. There is a 45- to 60- minute window to replenish muscle glycogen. Your body craves replenishment and will recover better with a mixture of carbohydrates and protein.

Personally, I love a variety of cycling activities. Velodrome Racing, Cyclocross, Gravel, Time Trials and Mountain Biking are a few of my favorites. Track Racing is the purest form of cycling that I enjoy most. With one gear and no brakes, it’s kind of like riding a rollercoaster—but your cycling nutrition shouldn’t be.


Outback Bikes

Hapeville Criterium Kids Race
Pete pushing the up-and-coming to become Hapeville’s next Champion.
(or based on both of their faces, maybe Pete’s the one being pushed?)

On the Road

by Wayne Whitesides

I’m finally in the passenger seat, 4,247 miles into an epic Montana road trip, with nearly a third of the drive still ahead of me. It’s the conclusion of a family vacation born of a dad’s wish for one last father-daughter adventure before she heads off to the University of Georgia this fall.

These hours in the car have given me plenty of time to reflect on cycling, Spin the District, and this blog.

The Spin the District event series was created to highlight the greatness of the ATL Airport District through the lens of a cyclist. To be successful, we need to give every cyclist and cycling fan—from the seasoned to the newly initiated—a truly fantastic Spin experience. We can do a lot on the day, like providing flawless organization, great support, and an excellent neighborhood party, but for everyone to get the most out of the event, we also need to do a little preparation in advance: for cyclists, we can help keep you focused on training, discipline, and what to expect; for spectators, we need to provide a rudimentary education in the art of cycling and the rules of engagement. For new and aspiring riders, we can do a little of both.

So let’s not dilly-dally. Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er. 

Start at the beginning: get out and ride!

I love riding my bike, any bike; road, gravel, track, mountain, it doesn’t matter. I even have a bike just for beer runs, complete with a front rack to handily hold a case of my favorite frosty beverages from Beer Girl or Arches Brewing. Each outing is an adventure, and I love riding one mile just as much as I love riding hundreds.

I want you to experience that feeling, too. If you’re not sure how to make cycling part of your life or get back into it, your first step is to choose your bike (or dust off the one way back in the corner) and decide where to go. 

A young woman in a Union City Fondo jersey looks out over the expansive Montana landscape.

Set your sights

Everyone needs goals. Without them, it’s hard to stay motivated, and excuses are more likely to take over.

The trip that I’m currently on has provided my family with months of motivation. We’d already ridden across Iowa a couple of times, and my daughter rode her first century (100-mile ride) on the back of our tandem when she was 11. So I knew we needed something big to motivate us both.

It started in the middle of last winter with a question. “Would you like to do one last epic thing with your old man before he loses control of your life?”

“Dad, that’ll never happen! I’ll always have time for you,” she replied, as I heard Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” over and over in my head.

Choked up, tears in my eyes, the research began. With COVID still devastating the country and all 2020 events canceled, we knew we’d need some backup options, and that choosing a super popular event might not be a great idea. That took a few bucket-list events like Vermont Overland or the Belgian Waffle Race in San Diego out of the running. After scouring the interwebs, we decided on the Gold Rush 110-mile gravel race in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the long months of training began.

Long story short, she crushed it, and more importantly, she’s still talking to me!

So choose your adventure—any adventure. Think about what excites you. For us, it was riding in a part of the country we’ve never been to, with enough mileage and elevation gain to make us work for it. But you know you best, and your ideal ride may be completely different.

If you’re new or getting back into cycling, keep your goals simple and attainable but worth the effort, like Spin the District’s 30-mile road ride in October. Or think big, like our 100-mile mixed surface ToughSkin Open.

Of course, while we’d love for you to choose any of our events, the important thing is just to choose something and make it happen. If time and resources are limited, find something local. Whatever it is, put it on your calendar, tell your family, friends and co-workers, and get going. 

If you’re hell bent on going from the couch to a century ride, look for events at least six months out, if not more, to give yourself time to train. But we’d recommend keeping it real with a 10-mile ride first, or heading over to your local mountain bike course and finding the beginner loop. Then find a 30-miler or an intermediate trail and go for that. Keep leveling up until you’re unstoppable.

If you’re already in peak condition, raise your game. Go for a metric century (100 kilometers or 62 miles). Compete in your first (beginner) criterium race. If you’re lucky enough to have a velodrome in your area, take a beginner class and learn to ride a fixed gear. Or, better yet, plan your own road trip around an awesome event series, perhaps in the ATL Airport District.

This is just the start of a new series on this blog that will cover getting started, getting back into the saddle, training, nutrition, and day-of dos and don’ts. We’ll be back with some training tips next week, but for now, start scouring the web for the experience that gets you going. A great place to start is granfondoguide.com, which happens to be featuring our Union City Road and Gravel Fondo. Or register for a Spin event now and start training for your adventure. 


ATLANTA (April 23, 2021) – ATL Airport District is thrilled to welcome both cyclists and spectators alike to Spin the District – the community’s third annual cycling race series, providing an immersive experience for guests and transforming the area’s streets into a premier cycling destination. Following last year’s cancelation due to COVID-19, Spin the District is returning in full swing this year – offering food, entertainment and festivities for all to enjoy. The cycling events kick off with the Hapeville Crit on Saturday, August 28, followed by the College Park Crit on Sunday, August 29, and the East Point Omni on Saturday, September 18. The high-powered cycling action wraps up on Saturday, October 2, for the Union City Fondo and Gravel Grind, and as a bike-positive event, all Spin the District events will have a complimentary bicycle valet available to everyone arriving on two wheels.

“We’re really excited to bring Spin the District back to life this summer and fall,” said Cookie Smoak, president of ATL Airport District. “Having closed the chapter on a long year, we’re overjoyed to have the opportunity to bring the community together once again and showcase all that ATL Airport District has to offer – as a premier cycling destination and beyond.”

Union City Fondo Denim 60

Hapeville Crit | August 28

Kicking off at 11 a.m., Spin the District launches during USA Crits Speed Week with the Hapeville Crit – a fast-paced, 1.4-kilometer route in the heart of the city. Hapeville’s course will feature the first and fastest cycling adventure for participants – including a seven-corner course and 150-meter straight finish. The day will include racing for all ages and levels, finishing with the crowd favorite kid’s tricycle race and the best pro men and women racers from across the country. Friends, family and cycling enthusiasts can gather for a Saturday Block Party at Jess Lucas Y-Teen Park to commemorate the weekend with frothy drinks, food and festivities throughout the afternoon. Rider registration and details can be seen here.

College Park Crit | August 29

Wrapping up the initial Spin weekend and USA Crits Speed Week, the College Park Crit will last from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a block party scheduled from noon to close. The College Park course will feature a five-corner circuit, tight turns and an uphill finish, all located in the historic streets of downtown College Park. Spectators are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs, tents and sunscreen – and can indulge in local food trucks throughout the afternoon, alongside family-friendly games and kid’s races. Cyclist registration and details can be accessed here.

East Point Omni | September 18

Calling all cycling enthusiasts – East Point’s Omni is the biking event of the season! A party for both riders and spectators, the race is located at Dick Lane Velodrome – the only concrete cycling facility in Georgia – and is an all-out race on bikes going 40+ mph with no brakes, no coasting and only one gear. Guests can enjoy live entertainment from a DJ, food trucks, local craft beer, Velodrome concessions, games and

beyond – all while enjoying a view of cyclists and the city’s historic Sumner Park. Admission for the public is free of cost, and cyclists can find registration details here.

Union City Fondo | October 2

Spin the District comes to a close with its highly anticipated finale – the Union City Fondo and Gravel Grind. Known as one of the best values in the country, the gran fondo is a high-energy finish to Spin the District, offering a variety of mile options and range of routes through South Fulton, Coweta and Carroll Counties. Cyclists can choose between 30-, 60- and 100-mile gravel and road routes, with a range of classic routes like the Polyester100, Rayon60 and Velour30. This year’s course includes an option to partake in challenging gravel rides, including the ToughSkin Open, a hard-wearing gravel blend, and the Denim60, made for a resilient, smoother ride. Guests can celebrate the conclusion of Spin the District with music, drinks and bites in Union City following the races. More information on rider registration can be seen here.

More details are forthcoming. For more information on ATL Airport District and Spin the District, click here.

About ATL Airport District:

ATL Airport District is the official convention & visitors bureau for the cities of College ParkEast PointHapeville and Union City, Ga. ATL Airport District CVB’s mission is to generate economic development for the cities mentioned above by effectively presenting the community as a preferred tourism, convention and meeting destination. For more information, please visit https://www.atldistrict.com.

Fall Event Cancelation

It is with sorrow and disappointment that we must announce the cancelation of all Spin the District events scheduled for the weekend of September 18–20, 2020, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The Spin the District team has been hopeful that with carefully-enforced health safeguards in place, the events could proceed in some capacity in 2020. However, the latest uptick in positive tests and hospitalizations in Georgia has proven to be the final straw, as our insurer is now unable to provide the coverage that makes Spin possible. 

Planning and coordinating any event on this scale requires a lot of time, resources, volunteers, and constant communication with our city partners. While September is still a few months away and we hope that the pandemic will slow significantly by then, we can no longer justify the costs and resources needed to ensure the event can meet our own high standards. Instead, we’re turning our focus toward 2021. 

According to the rules of registration, there are no refunds—so we’re changing the rules. After all, no one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic. All currently registered riders now have the following options:

  1. Deferral. Paid and qualified riders can elect to defer their registration until the 2021 event (September 17–19, 2021).
  2. Donation. Paid riders will donate their original entry fee to MTB Atlanta to help build and maintain local trails.
  3. Refund. We are offering to refund paid entries in full, excluding processing fees.

Participants are asked to make their selections by September 1, 2020. Decisions not received by the deadline will default to the Deferral option.

For our part, we’re rolling forward what resources we can in order to come back better than ever in 2021. We plan to start strong with our Spring Criterium series in the spring, followed by our fall events next September. In the meantime, please stay safe out there, and ride on.

Please email us at info@spinthedistrict.com for questions or to request a refund.

100 Free Entries. Because, why not?

by Wayne Whitesides – All things SPIN

Spin the District’s Union City Gravel Gran Fondo is offering free entry to its 100- or 150- mile gravel races! The first 100 men and 100 women who have placed in the top 5 of ANY +50-mile gravel race between September 22, 2019 and September 16, 2020 are invited to register free of cost. Are we crazy? What’s gotten into us? It’s simple. We want this year’s Gravel Gran Fondo to be the toughest yet. The more tough competitors, the tougher the race. It makes sense to us.

If you’re sold and ready to blaze a trail on our course, you can email us now if you’re a Top 5 rider to get your code, and we’ll see you in a few months. (Don’t forget to show us where we can find your results) If you still think we’re nuts, read on for a personal explanation from one of the founders Wayne Whitesides, pictured below (left). (right) Madeline Larsen Pearce – 2019 Toughskin150 winner

Spin the District Gravel Race Free Entry

It’s more than just a gimmick.

I think fellow promoters can agree: gravel riding has officially exploded in the U.S.! It’s happened to such a degree that cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, recently announced they have their “eye” on gravel. In other words, they want to standardize gravel riding events for their profit—and could inevitably ruin them in the process. Overregulation will make gravel events sterile and bland. Yet it is the lack of rules and the uniqueness of rides/events that has always attracted riders to gravel. People ride for the experience and plan their year around specific, story-worthy rides. Those seeking the “path less traveled” do not want cookie-cutter gravel rides that blend together.

The best of the best???

When your event sells out in minutes or becomes so popular that you have to pick random people out of a hat, you are bound to leave quality riders sitting on the sidelines. These riders are left to choose a new path. In doing so, you’re limiting the quality of your field and defining the experience people have. (unless you’re just wanting to ride to ride, we’re not here to judge how you ride the event) Not to mention, lotteries give riders anxiety. ‘Did I get in?’ ‘Did my buddies who were going to split travel costs with me get in?’ ‘Do I need to start scouring the web to buy someone’s golden ticket who can’t go after all?’ It’s a risky line in the sand that promoters are willing to make in order to sell out. Of course, we want to break registration records, but not at the expense of race quality.

Our free entry helps address this potential problem. We want you to know who else got in, and to know you will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the legends of this sport. This is all in an effort to launch your experience to the stars! You spent a lot of money and made a big commitment so it makes sense you want to ride with the best. Even if you are a “Fred” like me just hoping to finish before the time cut, riding with quality riders elevates the experience. Last year at DirtyKanza, lining up next to people I fanboy over and then reading about their epic race battle for days to come is something I will never forget. Just breathing the same rarefied air as female champ Lael Wilcox, or Stentina Howes, and eventual men’s winner Colin Strickland made my 19-hour journey through hell worth every second. Did we mention we already have Ashton Lambie qualified – duh – and signed up to race the Toughskin150? He’s coming with our 2019 Velodrome Champ, John Croom, who’s out to prove he’s got the brass to win our Big A$$ Belt.

Spin the District Gran Fondo Belt Polyester100
While Goliath believes he’s a giant and ruler of the office, he’s no match for the belt.

Long story short: It’s part of our trifecta experience

We’re offering free registration to a fourth of our fields for the best of the best to ensure that the quality of our Gravel Gran Fondo is nothing short of primo. Of course, it’s only a portion of your overall experience. Our courses are as tough as nails and guaranteed to challenge anyone, and our weekend experience is second to none. In an ever-crowding market, you have to stand out. We want to stand out with the best and make your Spin the District experience the trip of the year, or dare we say, lifetime!!! 

Are you a top 5 rider? Please email us with at least one top 5 placing from September 19, 2019 through September 20, 2020, and let’s get you on the list. 

Do you want to ride against the best? Let’s get you over to registration (opening February 28). 

Spin the District Husky100 Winners

Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest.

Training for a century ride

by Wayne Whitesides – A long-winded cycling nerd

I just returned from a ride across the great state of Iowa. It’s a week-long event called RAGBRAI, or Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It’s the original cross-state ride, going on its 47th year. I road my first RAGBRAI in 1983 and have been hooked on pedaling two wheels ever since. Today, most states have a cross-state ride and Georgia is no exception. BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) has been going strong for a long time now and is always worth doing. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to know you road your bike from one end of the state to the other. What almost all of the cross states rides have in common, minus the comradery is a 100-mile day, better known as a century ride. Another significant achievement to check off your bucket list.

Getting into town the day before RAGBRAI began, gave us a little time to relax and take in the sights. Just for the record, my wife is always sober, my daughter and I do love pie, and for our friends, the Tharp’s, this was their first cross-state ride.

I have always ridden for the enjoyment of riding even if I’m three sets into one-kilometer efforts at 85% of my max or hill repeats (admittedly, I rarely do hill repeats any more), or in a torrential downpour, or a 107° day riding on gravel in Kansas for 200 miles and 19 hours straight. (See my earlier post.) I ride my bike because it makes me happy. It also keeps me remarkably fit, both physically and mentally. The physical aspect is obvious, but the mental? Riding my bike – any bike – is where I go to get my head on straight. Cycling to me is my church, it’s a state of mind I get in when I ride, where I turn off all distractions and can focus on my life or a particular topic.

Riding across the state for days and hours on end, I spent a good bit of my time, not eating pie as those who follow my InstaFace posts probably assume, but in pretty deep thought actually. I contemplate how best to run my business, get energized over the idea of new pottery projects, or honestly, politics?!?!. This isn’t the place for that so we’ll move along. Mostly during my time in the saddle, I was thinking about this article.

My accomplices for the journey included two 16-year-old’s, my daughter who is on her third RAGBRAI (her first solo ride not stuck on the back of a tandem with her smelly, grouchy dad), her good friend on her first cross-state ride, my lovely wife going on number three, and a good friend who thinks anything over a 30 second effort is 15 seconds too much. (He’s a track sprinter.) They all had to train leading up to the event so that they could ride 100 miles in a day, plus tack on another 400 miles over six more days. How? Well, that’s what I thought about for most of my time leading up to and what I spent most of my days on the ride thinking about in Iowa – that and, of course, fantastic church pie and delicious Iowa craft brews. (More on that some other day.)

The rewards for finishing are endless, regardless of the distance.

How to ride your first century

That’s the topic that probably brought you here and not my colorful, yet probably useless, lead-in. Riding 100-miles in a day is a giant milestone in the world of two-wheeled, pedaling excitement. It’s a big task that can seem daunting and can loom heavy over your head as you begin your training. The good news is that riding 100-miles doesn’t need to be that hard or complex if you plan for it. Heading out from couch to 100-miles is possible, but you’re not going to enjoy it. So let’s enjoy it by following a few pretty simple ideas.

Tip #1: Saddle time!

Sitting on a bike seat for 10 hours can be more painful than the actual effort to get you from point A to B. Finding the right saddle and fit is a task all to itself. There are thousands of articles written on both topics, and they are essential. Take the time to read up on the subject of seat choice and more importantly, bike fit. In my 37-year experience of saddle choice, I have seen trends, styles, and my own preferred seat manufacturers come and go.

I’d recommend against the banana seat. Talk with a trusted local bike shop to discuss what saddle would be best for you.
  1. DO NOT assume cushier is better. I hear it all the time and it’s the easy go-to for temporary relief, but believe me, it is temporary. I’m picturing you at a bike shop, you see that superwide, four-inch-thick, spring-loaded cush and think, “Wow that will be so comfy.” The reality is those seats are made for that Schwinn cruiser you had as a kid, where you’re sitting upright and going a few blocks down to the local soda shop – ok, most likely the mall, let’s not date this too much.

    Again, there are articles written over and over about this. Talk to a bike shop and get an experts advice. Most shops even have tools that can measure the width of your sit bones and make a calculated guess to what will work best. Also, don’t assume the most expensive or latest is necessarily the greatest. I use the same mid-level Specialized seat on all my bikes. It’s what works best for me.
  2. Ride what you researched! Really ride it, don’t do a ride or two and start looking for greener grass. As my wife says, ‘it’s just more grass.’ You’ll cuss and swear at your seat for a long time, most likely. Embrace the suck and try to think of other things. Practice getting out of the saddle and give yourself “butt breaks” throughout your ride, (more on this later) but really give the leather you invested in a chance. It will get better.
  3. DO NOT buy a seat pad for the seat you just invested in. The squishy gel or super-soft sheepskin cover can be so, so, so seductively tempting. Don’t give in. Again, it’s a short-term solution giving you temporary relief. It won’t last, and by mile 60 you’ll start to get what I’m saying.

Ultimately, don’t be quick to break up and look for the sexier model.

A good pair of shorts is as good as gold. Here’s a great article on the subject.

Tip #2 – Invest in the gear

You’re committed to riding 100-miles. Hopefully, you just spent the time to get a seat (or you’re devoted to the one you already had) and you made sure your bike fits right. Now you need a few more necessities. A properly fitting helmet should be obvious. Most century rides won’t let you do their event without one. A pair of cycling gloves will go a long way to keep you comfy, two water bottle cages and water bottles (or a hydration backpack if you’re used to using one for running or hiking), and don’t forget your sunglasses.

In my opinion, though, the most important and essential element to your first 100 is a quality pair of cycling shorts. If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of sporting spandex, there are companies now that have the cycling short sewn into shorts or skorts. What they all have in common is a chamois. The chamois a big deal, personally, more so than your seat, in my opinion. Get yourself one good pair, do some research and make the investment. One pair will do at first, wash them after each ride and let them dry out for the next ride.

Finally, cycling shoes are an eventual necessity. You can ride in tennis shoes comfortable enough, but the soles of tennis shoes are not meant for cycling – they’re called “tennis” shoes after all. Cycling shoes have a stiffer sole that allows the energy of your pedal stroke into the peddle, creating more power and making your ride more efficient and ultimately more comfortable. Eventually, check into adding clipless pedals to the mix. The combination of shoe and pedal will make your rides so much more enjoyable. I recommend SPD pedals and a good pair of mountain bike shoes to start. They’re easy to get used to clipping in and the shoes are more comfortable to walk in. With that said, if you had to prioritize your investment for your first 100:

  1. Helmet
  2. Quality Cycling Shorts
  3. Everything else eventually.

Tip #3 – Start slow but ride often

The best and easiest way to get used to riding, and quite frankly to doing your first century ride, is spending time in the saddle. The more time sitting on that now thoroughly cussed out seat the quicker you will come back to speaking terms, maybe even becoming friends, and the fitter you will develop in the process. Don’t push it and don’t worry about miles. If you get a saddle sore, rest it a couple of days, or if you continue to get saddle sores as you increase your training, then think about a different seat option or get a bike fit test done. (more than likely the reason for the sores)

Saddle time doesn’t need to be a 50-mile grind to get your time in. Try three 15-mile rides to start, or four 10-mile rides after work, or go to the gym and get 30 minutes on a fitness bike or take a spin class. Try, though, to get as many rides as you can on your own bike. The goal of this first part of your training is repetitive time in the saddle. Weekends should be a given, but try to go for a short ride Friday night or Monday. Three consecutive days of riding is better than one day of more miles. Days in succession will get you used to and comfortable with riding without stranding you beyond your ability and risking injury from a longer ride.

Most likely, the more miles you repeatedly do, the less likely you’ll get sore and the more fun it will be. I’m going to be 100% honest; the first month isn’t fun at all. Sorry, you can punch me at the start of the Union City Gran Fondo in September.

A bit about saddle sores before we continue

Riding sore at first is very common. There is, however, a difference between being just generally sore around your saddle region to having physical/open sores from riding. Being a little “raw” and sore is simply part of the game, your initiation into riding. My wife calls it the “fire down below.” Your first temptation is to stop riding and wait a few days or a week, but this only prolongs the inevitable. At some point, you have to fight through it. This is why shorter riders more often are better.

A saddle sore, on the other hand – blisters, cuts, or bad rash – is a different ball game. Stop riding and take care of it. Desitin works really well at night, and use it during a ride if you feel a sore coming on. It protects and heals. Many riders now swear by Chamois Creams or Butt Butter. There’s a lot of choices, and they work to varying degrees to prevent or curb saddle sores. Take lots of precaution to protect your nether region, but 9 out of 10 times, if you keep riding the pain will go away. Your bones and tissue around the saddle just need to get used to riding. Even the most harden rider will have to go through the break-in period again if they take extended time off the bike.

DON’T FORGET TO TAKE BUTT BREAKS. Get off the bike completely, or learn to get out of the saddle when riding. I like to ride for 10 or 15 minutes and then take a butt break by getting out of the saddle and coast with one leg pointing down and stretch, I then switch legs down and stretch again, all while coasting. My breaks are only for 10-15 seconds, but those seconds make a significant difference over time. Especially if you’re riding a rail trail with few hills where you’re naturally not getting out of the saddle to climb a hill or stop at a stop sign.

As you train, slowly increase your speed the last 15 – 30 minutes from the end of your rides to help push your abilities without stressing about bonking too far away from your stop point

Tip #4 – Time to turn it up a notch

The Spin the District Union City Gran Fondo is September 22, so how far out do you need to start training? It’s August 4th, as I write this, so honestly, two weeks ago or longer would have been the ideal time, but don’t worry, we can still make it happen. Getting used to your saddle should take two to three weeks. If you are riding three times a week, then you’re well on your way. By the end, you shouldn’t be worrying about your seat as much, and we can now start to increase your miles. Ideally, two weeks prior you should be ready and feeling strong enough to get out for a five to six-hour ride (65 – 75 miles depending on your pace).

So let’s lead up to that number and ultimately the big day.

Week Zero: Take your bike in for a tune-up if it hasn’t been ridden in a while.

Week One: 3 days at least one hour each day, don’t worry about pace or distance.

Week Two: 3 to 4 days at least one to one and a half hours each day.

Week Three: 3 to 4 days with one day being at least two+ hours.

Week Four: 4 days with two days at a minimum of two to three hours.

Week Five: 2-3 days – take a mini-break. Try for an hour each ride, or a little less if you’re pretty sore. Do not not ride. You’ll regret it.

Week Six: 3-4 days with one day at least four hours. Go out the next day for at least an hour. Don’t forget to bring snacks or stop mid-way at a convenience store to refuel.

Week Seven: 3-4 days with one day going for a five to six-hour ride. Find a comfortable place to do it. Rail Trails, like the Silver Comet Trail, or a relatively flat bike path. Six hours would be preferred, but we all have a busy life. Again, ride the next day regardless, to smooth your legs out. You’ll need to stop for more water and to refuel at least twice.

Week Eight: The big week. Ride mid-week and again the night before easy if you’re able, just to flush your legs out. Get plenty of sleep and prepare yourself for a long day in the saddle, maybe 10hrs or more. Prepare your gear two days in advance and by the Monday before make sure your bike is in good working order. (Give yourself time to take it into a bike shop for a tune-up if need be).

If you have more than two months, replicate week three and/or four depending on how much time you have. Always try to take the fourth week easy and give yourself two weeks between your six-hour ride and your century day.

Tip #5 – The big day

First, don’t stress out. You have all day to do the ride. Enjoy it. Chances are you are doing an organized century or gran fondo event like ours, put on by a club or promoter and chances are they will have AID stations along the route. Find out where those AID stations are and try to plan to stop every 2 hours. On the average, you want to drink one large bottle of fluid an hour, preferably with some sort of electrolyte mixture in it. (Nuun, Gu or even Gatorade.) If it’s hot, plan to drink more. The key is to stay hydrated. If you feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long. The AID stations, sometimes referred to as SAG stops, will have water and most likely some sort of energy drink and simple snacks. Take some time to finish off any bottles you have or drink some more while you’re there. Refill your bottles, grab a bite and head out. If the AID Station doesn’t have snacks, be prepared to bring some energy bars with you, maybe even some bananas. (Peanut butter sandwiches are the poor man’s energy bar.) If there is no support stop, try to find a gas station on the route every two hours. Try to think about how you felt on the six-hour ride prior and gauge your effort off of it.

The ride will most likely have a time cut-off around 12 hours; that’s a little over an 8 mph average. Plan your stops accordingly to make sure you have time. Plan on taking a bit more time at your mid-day AID stop. I recommend stopping for ten minutes every two hours and twenty minutes at the mid-day stop. That’s roughly an hour and twenty minutes of stopped time, giving you ten and a half hours of maximum ride time or 9.5 mph average to get home.

Ride at your own pace. It can be tempting to try to jump in with a group that’s going a little faster. For your first 100, chat all you want with other riders, but if they start going faster, slow things back down. If they want to ride with you they can go at your pace. Don’t be afraid to send them on their way if they keep upping things on you while you’re talking.

That’s really all there is to it. Once finished you’ll already be thinking of your next big ride!

Don’t forget to get off the bike and take a few breaks. Just not too long. Nappy nap time can come the day after.

#6 If this wasn’t long enough already

A few additional ideas to make the training more enjoyable.

  1. Finding a place to ride when starting out can be a challenge if you’re not entirely comfortable. In Atlanta, the Silver Comet is an ideal location. It’s flat, not overly crowded and well maintained. If you don’t have a Rails to Trails path close by, try to find other bike-only Paths or bike lanes. If nothing like that is available where you live, you have to find something. In the city or suburban neighborhoods, that might mean just finding a few less-traveled blocks to create a circuit or a sub-division loop that you can repeatedly do until you are more comfortable venturing out. Look at websites like Ride with GPS or Map My Ride or even google has a bike route feature to gain knowledge of safe routes.
  2. Find a club to join. In Atlanta, we have a lot. The Metro Atlanta Cycling Club (MACC) or Sorella Cycling for women are two excellent choices. Both have group rides and MACC does a superb job of helping new riders learn to ride in a group with others.
  3. If you’re a little more experienced and comfortable riding in a group, find some area group ride that fit your time constraints and ability. It really helps the time go by.
  4. Once you’re satisfied with your results, try to up your pace when you go out next. Spending the last thirty minutes of your ride pushing yourself is a great way to increase your endurance without putting a lot of risk on your journey.

Finally, the Spin the District Union City Gran Fondo – September 22 – has a lot of ride distances to choose from. Don’t fret if training isn’t going as well as planned. Maybe try our 10, 30, or 60-mile options this year. You’ll gain experience without undue pressure and you can come back next year more prepared. Oh, and if you’re feeling really sassy, we have a 60, 100 and 150-mile gravel options too, but that’s for another discussion.

You just road your first century ride. Enjoy the pie (or insert your own delicious reward. You earned it).