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A century ride is a bicycle ride of 100 miles (160.9 km) or more within 12 hours, usually as a cycling club-sponsored event. Many cycling clubs sponsor an annual century ride as both a social event for cyclists and as a fund-raiser for the club’s other activities. A sanctioned century ride is organized and conducted under the rules and liability protection of a sanctioning organization, such as the League of American Bicyclists. Sanctioned rides typically have rest stops every 25 miles or so, where water, food and toilets are available for cyclists. On a supported century ride, the route is patrolled by a sag wagon to assist riders with bicycle maintenance, or provide transportation back to the starting line for those unable to ride the entire course. Sanctioned rides are almost always supported.
Club-sponsored century rides typically offer several options for cyclists of varying abilities, such as…
- Quarter century, 25 miles (40 km) in 3 hours
- Half century, 50 miles (80 km) in 6 hours
- Metric century, 100 km (62 mi)
- Double metric century, 200 km (120 mi)
- Double century, 200 miles (320 km) in 24 hours.
Double century rides are usually scheduled near the summer solstice to take advantage of the longer daylight hours, and begin at or before dawn.
The larger, more unusual and better known annual century rides in the United States and Canada include:
- Apple Cider Century in southwestern Michigan in late September, 5000 riders.
- Hotter'N Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, TX, with some 14,000 cyclists in 2009.
- Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day (RAMROD), hosted by the Redmond Bicycle Club in Enumclaw, WA.
- Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP), hosted by the Cascade Bicycle Club, with as many as 10,000 riders every July.
- Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) in Columbus, OH, organized by Columbus Outdoor Pursuits, which drew about 3000 cyclists in May 2011 for the two-day, 210-mile round-trip to Portsmouth.
- Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (RLCT), Ottawa to Kingston and back, 2000 to 2500 riders.
Many multiple-day group rides include a century ride in one or more segments of the course. For example, the AIDS Vaccine 200 (AV 200) in Georgia is a two-day 200-mile charity ride in which cyclists complete the first century on Day 1 and the second on Day 2. Ride the Rockies in Colorado often includes at least one century-optional day, as a detour from the shorter main route, as does the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia.
The origins of the century ride are obscure, but Dora Rinehart did century rides in Denver, CO, in the 1890s. The TOSRV began in 1962 with two riders. The Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour started in 1972 with eighty riders. The Apple Cider Century dates back to 1974.