March 10, 2020 7 min read 4 Comments

In a cold, dark corner of the cycling web, there exists a small group of UK cyclists intent on completing a challenge that frankly, seems almost incomprehensible. A challenge that at first glimpse, seems achievable, until you do the maths. It’s a challenge that doesn’t quite push the body to ride an extreme distance in a short period, but rather, tests the body and legs across an entire 365 day period. 

That challenge is to ride one hundred individual one hundred mile rides (centuries), in a calendar year. That’s 100 x 160.9km rides, for those using metrics, and only outdoor rides count in their world. 

John Bowman, Operations Manager at Band of Climbers sits down with Dean to talk about this challenge.

This is Dean Madden. An Operations Manager in Financial Services by day, and one of the riders to be taking on this 100 x 100 challenge again in 2020. 

In the early days of Strava I had started to follow some local riders from my area who I would see on the roads and who occupied many top 10’s on segment leaderboards for local climbs. I was fairly new to competitive road cycling at the time and I started following Dean closely as the rides he was doing blew my mind.

I remember seeing him ride a 200 mile epic, where he took the Strava KOM on Hartside Pass in the North Pennines in the 2nd half of the ride! I was in awe of this local legend. Over time we got to know each other and started riding together often, usually entailing an early alarm and a day long ride to Scotland, the North York Moors or the Lakes. I was inspired by his sense of adventure and his willingness and determination to complete ever more bonkers routes that most people would think were insane.

Well known and well liked on the North East of England cycling club and race scene, in 2018 Dean took on a different approach to his calendar and focused more on endurance rides rather than Time Trials and attempted to complete this 100 x 100 mile challenge. 

What made you decide to take on this challenge?

"Like most of the things in my life it’s no one event that leads to a goal and more an accumulation of similar interests and thoughts. I’ve always loved endurance riding in remote locations and I’ve been aware of the significance of certain distances with 100 miles being a particular marker at which I would complete regularly since around 2007. 

My participation in road racing and time trials was a consequence of the fitness gained as a result of exploring Northumberland, the Scotish Borders, Durham, North Yorkshire and Cumberland (sometimes in one day!). 

The combination of events led me to the current challenge. The first related to another local rider (Derek Billham) who set about riding 100 miles for every week of the year around 4 years ago. Unconnected to this, I found out about the YCC (Yearly Century Challenge) Strava and facebook group. It is run as competition. A point is awarded for every 100 mile ride with the winner being the rider with the most points. 

The first year I took part was in 2018. I finished 6th overall out of 210 riders with 64 points and quite some way behind the winner, Sean Herbert who amassed a staggering 115 points. (That’s 115 x 100 mile rides in a year) 

Once the 100 x 100’s had been achieved it soon became the overall target and in the past two years only 4 people have completed this with Lee Killestien achieving this two years running.

Prior to starting this journey I was riding around 35 x 100 mile rides a year"

Are there many riders out there doing this?

"The group pulled together a number of riders with similar interests with a number being regulars on Audax rides. There are usually around 50 to 60 riders undertaking the challenge with over 20 x 100 mile rides per year. 

In 2019 I reached 78 x 100 miles rides, which gave me another 6th place finish in the tables. The number of riders reaching 50 x 100 mile riders has increased over the past two years. 2020 I imagine will be even busier. Already there were 12 riders on 6 or more 100's completed by the end of a very stormy January and February."

What sort of impact does this have on your lifestyle?

"Having a family and riding at least 2 x 100’s most weeks, requires a lot of unsocial hours and planning. Often leaving the house at 5 or 6 am in the winter months and 4am in the Summer or Autumn in order to be back home for a decent time to get on with a family day out."

"Riding the Winter months in the North of England can be a challenge. This sometimes requires a lot of rehashing of plans and routes to avoid fast moving weather fronts to avoid the 5 and 7 hours on the bike becoming a chore. Fueling and maintaining fitness for shorter races can also be difficult with over fuelling or fatigue causing difficulties for races.

Working full time in financial services, I mainly only have the weekends to get my rides in. So no matter the weather, I have to be out there each weekend."

What motivates you to go out each week, especially in the darker, colder months?

"Every ride has a high point, whether it’s the scenery, which changes throughout the year, the people you bump into on the road or the solitude of being the only thing on a deserted country road and not seeing a car for 20 or 30 miles. North Northumberland and the Pennines to the south are particularly spectacular with sparsely populated areas, small country roads with incredible views and challenging climbs.

Winter rides whilst harder can provide a glimpse of landscapes behind bare leafless trees that you don’t see during the summer. 

Over the past ten years Strava and Audax events act as smaller motivations and targets. Like a toilet training child who gets stickers for ‘doing the right thing’ the love of a virtual trophy on Strava is hardwired into some of us."

What is a typical 100 mile ride for you? 

"Rides during winter are usually dictated by weather and wind. Ride out into the headwind in order to enjoy the push back or stay on the lower costal routes when frost, ice and snow is forecast. Luckily the North East region offers variety for both options.

From late March to October the options open up with the classic Coast to Coast to Coast being a favorite over the past few years or similar rides to the Scotish Borders or North Yorkshire Moors.

I tend to never plan or plot a route and will often change direction mid ride. Years of experience and a decent sense of direction and location mean I can usually get back home within a mile or two of 100 miles. 

There are a few riders out there who seem to ride laps of the same 20 or 30 mile circuit in order to make up the century. That’s absolutely allowed in the competition, but it’s just not for me personally. I prefer to never cover the same road twice on a single ride."

How do you fuel your rides?

"100 mile rides can usually be covered with a good cereal breakfast (porridge or granola) and a couple of snack bars (oat, protein etc) whilst on the bike. Some rides can be completed without any snacks but usually a snack is a good morale booster. I rarely stop during a 100 mile ride.

Longer rides of 200 plus will often involve leaving with a couple of oat bars in the back pocket and picking up fuel at cafe stops or convenience stores (Co-op bakery being a favourite). Water and electrolytes are crucial during the summer."

What sort of clothing do you wear on these rides in different seasons?

"Clothing is probably the most important factor when planning a ride, too much and you will be uncomfortably hot but too little on a cold day can be agonising. The most important thing to me is bib shorts. Spending 5 - 7 hours in the saddle at least twice per week means you have to trust the shorts to deliver extreme comfort. I prefer a relatively slim but fitted pad personally, and after completing countless century rides in Band of Climbers’ Together we Climb bib shorts, they are my preferred option by far for long-distance rides.

Beyond the shorts, careful layering works best. A good baselayer, combined with protective arm and leg warmers, and a short sleeve jersey and windproof gilet is about the ideal mix for late spring and early summer. The ThermoAscent jersey has been amazing for me in the past few weeks through winter and spring. It’s light enough to not overheat but warm enough to be worn down to 3c. 

Beyond that, a rain or wind jacket or gilet is always essential just in case the weather turns. If it’s raining or very cold when I start the ride, a proven waterproof jacket like the Storm Shield is the preferred option."

What happens when you complete 100 century rides in the year? What's next?

"I am currently in joint 2nd place with Lee for 2020. I hope to make the 100 x 100s but a year is such a difficult period to manage a target and from week one I have been playing catching up. The summer months are crucial with 3 to 4 hundreds per week being crammed in on weekends.

The challenge also comes when it’s time for family holidays at home or abroad. Making time for 100’s is hard and to do that when on holiday is a test for all involved! Likewise I like to go away to the Alps or Pyrenees with the cycling club but I also need to make sure I’m completing 100’s each day, when the rest of the group might settle for 75 - 90 miles on a normal day. The extra elevation in the mountains also brings it’s own challenges. 

As for what’s next. Who knows. I’ve always liked the idea of doing an ultra event like the Trans-Continental Race, so maybe I’ll give something like that a go."

You can Follow Dean Madden on Instagram as @grimpeur or on STRAVA


4 Responses

Leo vazbee
Leo vazbee

March 14, 2020

Dean. Does the beard help with the aerodynamics?

Ian Bryan
Ian Bryan

March 13, 2020

#legend

Dean Madden
Dean Madden

March 11, 2020

Cheers Dave for the question. No real changes to saddle or set up for stem length etc. I do however switch to a wider 25 or very occasionally a 28 with a sticky tyre compound. It can make a huge difference for confidence on frosty mornings. The only other additions are race blade pro mudguards on the front and rear. Not only does it improve dryness it’s also polite😀

Dave Parsons
Dave Parsons

March 11, 2020

Tell us about the bike! Have you adapted it for comfort, and to help riding in the winter? I commute to work, but find it a struggle in the winter. Crashing and breaking bones plays on my mind…

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