I guess I hadn’t put too much thought into it before, but RoadBikeReview user Grumparoo brought up an interesting question in this thread: What counts as a century?
If you don’t feel like clicking, he basically rode 100mi+ in a single day, but broke it up between three unrelated rides. Typically, a century consists of one ride of 100 miles, with the occasional short break thrown in wherever you think you need it. BUT, what counts as a break? Obviously, there are no set rules, which makes categorizing a century that much more difficult. So, let’s consider a few things:
Does a single ride mean you don’t return "home"? Home, being wherever you’re staying, be it your actual home, a hotel, a bike shop where you and your group began, your parked car, etc.
What constitutes a break? Is a 20-minute stop to pee and eat okay? If so, how about 3 hours? Maybe you have mechanical issues and have to wait for someone to bring you spare parts and/or tools, and it takes a couple hours before you’re back on your bike…
Does it all count so long as it happens on a single day/date? And if that’s the case, what if you were to start after dark and ride into the next morning?
What if you did stop by home, even took 5 minutes to take a shower, ate a quick snack, and were back on the road in under 15 minutes?
Can you nap on your break? If so, how long is too long? I mean, what if you were to stop, nap on a park bench for 10 minutes, then finish the ride?
Does it count so long as it’s done within a 24-hour period, nothing else taken into consideration? That seems fair, until you consider one could ride half the miles one afternoon, go home, eat, shower, sleep, then wake up the next day, go to the grocery store, stop by Home Depot, work on the deck/mow the lawn, and finish up before the exact hour they started the day before. At that point, you’re within 24 hours, but it’s clearly two different days.
Can you ride half on a road bike, then swap to a trail bike and do half off-road?
So, if we say it has to be done in one ride, what constitutes a single ride? How long can breaks be, and how many can you take?
If we say it counts so long as you don’t return "home", is that fair if you just stop home only to refill your water and grab a Clif Bar before you head out again?
Do we go by the "no sleeping" rule? In other words, so long as you accomplish all 100 miles between waking and going back to sleep, is that good enough? And if so, what if one were remain awake for 48 hours?
Or, do we go by the 24-hour rule, when that means you can break the ride up over two days? That doesn’t really seem fair.
So far, I’ve ridden two centuries. The first one, I left the house and didn’t return until I was finished. The second, I locked my car and didn’t return until I was finished. On both, I had minimal breaks, and I kept break times short, just long enough to eat a PowerBar or guzzle a sports drink. To me, those were both classic examples of centuries, but because of infinite situations for every rider, at what point do we call it two (or more) decent rides, but definitely not a century?
One thing is for sure: a "metric century" doesn’t count as anything but a cop-out.