For cyclists who often ride alone, there’s a certain indefinable sense of satisfaction that comes with participating in a large group ride with other people attempting to accomplish the same goal of finishing. It’s also a lot of fun drafting off other cyclists or leading a pack, meeting new like-minded people, or riding with old friends in new places.
Then there’s the beauty of a predetermined route (often with road closures that limit vehicular traffic) sometimes aided by backup law enforcement so you don’t have to worry about impatient or aggressive automobile drivers. Though it depends on the individual event, organizers also typically provide SAG (service and gear) support so you don’t have to worry about carrying a lot of extra food and water, or have to deal with mechanical breakdowns. Think of it as a challenge ride without any details to worry about, and a bit of a party along the way and at the finish. And if you’ve already rode a few centuries, and are looking for new roads to ride and new sights to see, you’ll definitely also want to check out this list.
Darn Tough Ride
When: September 6, 2015
Where: Stowe, VT
Distance: 48, 60, 100 miles
After a winter of record snow and cold, this just might be the best year ever to head to Stowe and tackle their eponymous Century ride and/or the King or Queen of the Mountain Competition (two timed hill climbs over Smugglers Notch). The usual—but now severely weather-damaged—route has been updated with three new challenging, yet beautiful routes for the event, including a segment along one of the “nicest, safest and smoothest roads” in the area. It also means riders will face Smuggler’s Notch TWICE; once on the Stowe side, and once on the Jeffersonville (Smuggler’s Notch) side. They don’t call it the Darn Tough Ride for nothing (well, there’s also the sponsor that makes the amazing socks by the same name).
Edible Pedal 100®
When: September 20, 2015
Where: Washoe County’s Bowers Mansion Regional Park (Carson City and Reno, NV)
Distance: 10, 50, 93.2 miles
This event gets its name from its effort to source most of the food and drink offered on and after the ride from local ranchers, farmers, bakers, coffee roasters and brewers. The food is sorely needed as this “almost” a century takes on a lung-searing, thigh-burning, climb up Kingsbury Grade from Carson Valley to Lake Tahoe. But it also has fully equipped ride stops (water, refreshments, restrooms), SAG support, water bottles, swag bags, and post ride BBQ and brew fest.
Wine Country Howl-O-Wheel’n
When: October 5, 2015
Where: Windsor, CA
Distance: 15, 48 and metric century (64.4) miles.
This fun Halloween-themed Northern California wine country ride encompasses the scenic vineyard landscape of Sonoma County’s Dry Creek, Alexander, and Russian River Valleys. Riders are encouraged to wear costumes and can even trick or treat at fully stocked, spooky rest stops. Fully SAG supported routes include rolling hills and a few climbs. The post ride meal is made from locally and organic sourced ingredients.
Haunted Hundred Overnight Century Ride
When: October 24–25, 2015
Where: Schuylerville, NY
Distance: 109.8 miles
This notoriously fun night ride takes in a rolling loop through Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties as well as spooky places like Bloody Pond (“Site of a French and Indian War battle so fierce it turned the pond red from the blood that was spilled”) and Prospect Hill Cemetery, as well as past haunted houses, burial grounds, cemeteries, murder sites, zombie lands, battlefields, and war monuments. The ride is actually 109.8 miles, and unsupported on the road (though several stops have 24-hour services available), but features food at the start and finish, including performance gels, drinks and bars to stuff in your back pocket.
32nd Annual Spaghetti 100
When: November 7, 2015
Where: Tallahassee, FL.
Distance: Paved—35, 65, 100 miles
Dirt—40 and 65 miles (Clay roads with some short stretches of sand and some pavement. Rigid MTBs or Cyclocross Bikes recommended.)
This iconic ride starts at the Miccosukee Community Center and travels through historic Thomasville and Boston in Georgia and through Monticello in Florida. The 62-Mile Dirty Epic route is non-technical (and part of the Tallahassee World Championship Challenge), following beautiful canopied clay roads through the heart of classic Red Hills plantation country. All routes include a pre-ride breakfast, medical, mechanical and re-fueling SAG support, well stocked and supported rest stops, and a post ride Spaghetti feed.
Palm Desert Century
When: November 14, 2015
Where: Palm Desert, CA
Distance: 20, 32, 50, 60, 70, 100, 130 miles
This is an interesting out-and-back ride that steers clear of I‑10. The Palm Desert Century route offers an entirely unique Coachella Valley cycling experience. It heads southbound through Palm Desert, Indio, and La Quinta, before turning east into the low desert, past Orange and Date Tree groves, and America’s salad basket (produce fields) at the north end of the Salton Sea. It also takes in the quiet Box Canyon Road to the 50-mile turnaround, at Chiriaco Summit, and back to a festive finish with music, medals, and exhibitors at the grassy 2.5 acre University Park in Palm Desert. There’re five fully stocked and supported rest stops, a Subway lunch, and a post ride meal.
El Tour de Tucson
When: November 21, 2015
Where: Tucson, AZ
Distance: 40, 55, 75, 104 miles
One of the oldest and longest running cycling events in the USA. Held annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving, El Tour is a challenging and fun adventure ride that attracts more than 9,000 cyclists, including novice, intermediate, advanced, and professional cyclists from across the globe. The 104-mile route follows Tucson’s perimeter, skirting three mountain ranges while traversing the strikingly beautiful Sonoran Desert. Course profiles range from flat to rolling or moderately hilly. The start and finish is in downtown Tucson, with beer gardens, music, food vendors, event swag and award ceremonies.