There’s nothing like seeing your bike computer’s odometer roll into the triple digits when you tackle a century ride. It’s that thrill that keeps cyclists coming back to endurance challenges year after year, alongside new riders eager to test their athleticism.

But century rides don’t always see 100 percent completion rates, as issues like bonking and dehydration sometimes wreck the rides of even accomplished endurance cyclists. So if you’re preparing for a 100-mile epic, check out our list of ways to prepare for and ride your next century faster and smarter. Avoid the most common mistakes people make in their training so you can get to the finish line with 100 percent confidence.

Avoid These Century Ride Mistakes

1. Not training enough

The person who did that century last August is not the same person as the one pinning on a number come March. “Over just a few weeks of inactivity, you can go from a trained to an untrained state,” says Adam Mills, a coach at Source Endurance.

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It might seem like a slog, but training makes events much more enjoyable (and training itself is fun if you do it right). So even if it’s just a couple of midweek pre-work slow rolls to help build up your endurance, a little training will go along way when you’re out there chasing 100 miles.

2. Panic training

There’s nothing like a quickly approaching deadline to spur someone into action. But freaking out before a big event, like a century ride, and stocking up on long workouts close to the race date—rather than tapering—will leave you tired from the starting line.

Instead of cramming in long rides right up to event day, adopt a sensible approach and gradually increase training volume. Mills says, “If you're not fit a week out, you won't be getting any faster in those final seven days. It’s best to do a real taper in the last week.”

If you really want to crush your race, follow a training plan that tells you when to go hard. “I suggest that riders consult an experienced coach to help them approach the event,” Mills adds.

3. Only training at steady state

Most of us have jobs, kids, and/or a time-consuming internet habit, so high-volume training isn’t always an option. But if you don’t have much training time, most coaches will suggest your workouts go beyond a steady-pace ride.

Interval training gives you the best return on your limited training time, as research shows that it can improve your power output, as well as kick up your endurance in prep for your century ride finish.

The beauty of HIIT training, besides helping you get fitter in a shorter amount of time, is that there are so many ways to do intervals, from quick 30-second sprints to minutes-long pushes.

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4. Training on an ill-fitting bike

Riders are quick to spend their hard-earned money on entry fees and carbon wheels, but might want to first consider the efficiency they could gain by having a proper bike fit. Not only will a comfortable bike give you better power transfer on the day of the race, but it will also have you riding more in the weeks beforehand, with less pain and risk of injury.

As you discover after your first spin on a fitted bike, your neck or back does not have to ache after a 20-mile ride.

5. Not reviewing the ride route and profile

Plenty of century rides feature a sting in the tail: This sting hurts even more if you don’t know it’s coming. Knowing where the climbs and headwinds are allows you to position yourself well in the group, eat in advance of hard efforts, and save some matches to burn on those last steep pitches; preparing for forecast weather with sunscreen or a rain jacket will keep you comfortable.

6. Eating too much

century ride
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Louise Burke of the Australian Institute of Sport coined the phrase “garbo-loading” to describe athletes overeating high-fat foods under the pretense of “carb-loading” for an event. Instead of binging on ice cream and Alfredo sauce-covered pasta the night before a race, Sean Burke, exercise physiologist, suggests sticking to easily digestible, low-bulk carbohydrates. This includes choices like crackers or white rice.

The AIS suggests athletes aim for 10 to 12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass (or 4.5 to 5.5 grams per pound) in the 24 hours before an event.

7. Using new and unfamiliar gear

The pre-ride gear expos that accompany some century events are like Santa’s workshop—it’s hard not to pick up some new toys. But Burke says one of the most common mistakes is trying a new product, often a new energy bar or gel, during a big event.

“People spend months training, and then ruin it all because they saved five bucks by using free drink mix,” he says. That’s because your body might not be accustomed to (or might even be intolerant to) new training fuel, shoes that give you unanticipated blisters, or saddles that rub in all the wrong ways.

Burke suggests you stick to the acronym TEST IT (Try Everything Several Times in Training) before you use equipment in an event.

8. Starting too hard

Contrary to what Katy Perry has told us, you don’t want to be a firework that burns brightly, then explodes. A 2012 article in the Journal of Sports Medicine revealed what many of us today hold to be gospel: “[Endurance] performance times may be improved if athletes distribute their pace more evenly.” This is hardly a shocking concept, but sometimes it helps to hear it.

Ensure you hold back by starting at a speed that doesn’t force you to breathe through your mouth. You can always pick it up later when you feel you have enough gas left in the tank to make it across the finish line with strength.

9. Failing to draft

The one caveat to the previous point is this: Go hard to get in a pack, then go easy. “As long as the effort to get into the group isn’t too much to completely exhaust the rider, the energy savings of drafting within a group for several hours are massive,” says Chris Yu, former leader of innovation at Specialized and current vice president of future programs at Rivian.

According to Yu, a rider will see about a 40-percent reduction in power while riding within in a group, less while climbing. “Over a five-hour ride, that translates to between 1,000 to 2,000 kJ of energy saved versus riding alone—an entire meal’s worth” he adds.

10. Forgetting to eat early on in the ride

A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that there is a significant benefit to be had from carbohydrate supplementation in exercise lasting more than 90 minutes. But many of us forget to take advantage of the benefits of that added energy and glucose. You’re so excited and nervous about the century ride that you forget to eat until the pack thins out 20 miles in. So here’s your reminder: Grab about 20 grams of carbohydrate every 30 minutes—set an alarm if you need it. This allows the food to digest and hit the blood stream when you need it.

Phil Tinstman, a former winner of RAAM and the tandem and solo categories at El Tour de Tucson, says, “I always make it a point to eat something every hour whether its a homemade PB and honey or a bar that I am familiar with and know that my stomach appreciates. There is nothing worse than getting four hours in and getting that starving, bonking feeling.”

Just remember to stick to tried-and-tested snacks during your century ride.