Rest Stops on Organized Rides

Saturday, Mrs. Noob and I are entering our first organized ride of the year. We’re going to do the LBJ 100 in Stonewall, Texas, on the ranch of former President Lyndon B. Johnson. Pat’s doing the 30-miler, I’m doing the 65. (There’s no 100-mile ride. It’s called the LBJ 100 because the inaugural event was in 2008, what would have been LBJ’s 100th year.)

Anyhow, I got to thinking about previous organized rides I’ve been on. One of the attractions has always been the rest stops. They’re usually spaced just far enough apart that about the time you’re ready for a break from pedaling, you come upon one. They’re a chance to stop, stretch your legs, maybe sit in the shade and rest, if need be, and replenish your stores from the selection of food the rest stop volunteers put out for you.

A busy rest stop about 30 miles into a ride.

I’ll almost always grab the chunks of banana, or maybe an orange wedge. Once in a while, I’ll take one of those little peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. There’s usually a nice selection of salty snacks, like goldfish, or pretzels, or potato chips — not all that good for you nutritionally, but they replace the salts you lose through perspiration.

However, a lot of riders I know skip most of the rest stops. On a 65-miler like I’m doing, they may stop at one, and that’s mainly to refill their water bottles. Then, they’re back on their bikes and down the road.

Oh, they replenish. They usually pack their own food in their jersey pockets. So they can grab an energy bar of some kind, maybe a banana of their own, or some pre-packed trail mix type stuff they brought from home.

Their concern is that they waste too much time at rest stops, and could just as well eat in the saddle, and eat stuff that they know will agree with them.

After several years’ experience with organized rides, I’m starting to come around to that way of thinking. I used to spend way too much time at rest stops, to the point of having cooled down and requiring some easy warmup pedaling once I got back on the bike. Rest stops usually pop up every 12-14 miles or so, and I’m used to going much farther than that without stopping, on my longer weekend rides. I suspect that this weekend, I’ll stop for only three out of the six stops on the route. I’ll keep my time to the bare minimum, refilling my bottles, grabbing some food, but not a lot, and getting going again.

What’s your take? Do you welcome the breaks in the ride? Do you partake of rest stop food, or do you bring your own? And if so, what?


  1. says

    I tend to carry my own stuff…I’m not a fan of bananas (and that’s all they have half the time) and I usually only use a water bottle per hour, so a rest stop for water every 2-3 hours is all I need…

  2. Lance Oldstrong says

    I just did the Solvang Century here in California a couple of weeks ago. I tackled it with my typical strategy. It was my 23rd Century in the last 3 years.

    1) Cliff Bar & ‘nana for breakfast while getting ready.
    2)1 hour into ride, begin having a GU every 1/2 hour.
    3) Skip First Rest Stop
    4) Stop at 2nd rest stop, eat fig newtons, pee, fill water get back out: 8 mins.
    5) Skip 3rd rest stop.
    6) Stop 4th rest stop eat fig newtons, pee, fill water get back out: 8 mins.
    7) Skip 5th rest stop
    8) Stop at 6th and final rest stop for nature break.
    10 mins.

    I can finish a Century in 6.5 hours this way. I don’t go super fast, 15 mph average speed, but I go as hard as I can usually. I treat it like a race for personal bests.

    I know some say rushing through a Century is like chugging a nice beer, kind of a waste. But I like to train for them and use the times I am hoping to post as incentive to train.

    As in all things though, to each their own. It is why ice cream stores have 31 flavors. Strawberry is just as “right” as chocolate. No wrong answer.

    • says

      I’ve only done two organised/supported rides, and while I’m grateful for the rest stops, and appreciate the efforts of the volunteers manning them, I have to admit at being a little under-whelmed at them.

      On my first organised ride, Amy’s Ride Albury, there were two rest stops. The first was at the end of a 7km climb and it was a sight for sore eyes. The fruitcake was delish, the lollies great, but the water was awful. There were two options – bottled water which was warm, or chilled unbottled (tap) water, which was metallic. Considering (and I’m guessing here) that water is the thing most people are after at a reviver station, they could have at least had water that didn’t taste awful.

      The second ride, Amy’s Ride Canberra had two rest stops as well. The banana’s were yum, the lollies great, but the water was awful. They had a big flask/urn filled with water into which they had dumped a tub of Gatorade powder. So now the water had an awful flavour as it was stuck between being one thing or the other. I recall that both Dan and I took a mouthful then chucked it.

      I’d rather pay a few dollars more for ride registration if I knew the water would be clean and cold or the gatorade/powerade was “authentic”.

  3. Black Pearl says

    If I spend more than 5 minutes in a rest stop it is because I am waiting for my wife who is in a port-a-potty line.

    I rarely stop at the first rest area they are usually too crowded, but I will hit all the Even Number ones till 80 miles then I hit them all.

  4. says

    I’ve done two centuries, and I brought some food with me to both just to be sure I had something I knew my body liked to have during a long ride. But I ended up doing fine with the rest stop food selection.

    As far as spending time at the stops, I might skip one or two, but I see them as part of the fun of the ride. I’ve seen rest stops at cool places like vinyards and parks and boring places like school lobbies. Either way, I’m usually ready for a few minutes of stretching my legs and shoulders, eating while I’m not breathing heavily and taking my time in the bathrooms.

  5. Michael says

    I’m in the ‘hop off and stretch out’ camp when it comes to rest stops. I’ve only done one century and the stops saved my bacon by giving me a chance to refill bottles and refuel. It was warmer than expected and I was working through a lot of water.

    The only supported rides I have been on (the MS150 and the CNC Spring Ride) had really pleasant folks and plenty of food/drink options so they might be the exception because they were so well handled.

  6. says

    Wow, the organized charity rides you guys are describing sound like picnics on two wheels…6 rest stops on a century ride? I guess that’s because the organized rides I’m accustomed to here in the Northeast are run by cycling clubs on lower budgets. Typical is 3 rest stops at 30, 50, and 75 miles…good selection of fruit and snacks…water…and port-a-potties. My goal is always to keep rest stop time to under 10 minutes…with only 3 they rarely get skipped!

  7. Ken says

    I’m of the other persuasion. My primary experience doing distances is RAGBRAI. Daily distances range from 60 or so, to 100 miles. The phenomenon of RAGBRAI is the myriads of people and bicycles. Half the fun of riding RAGBRAI is the stops where one can watch the river of humanity flow on past. There are lots of regular folks who ride it (most of us like to consider ourselves regular, I suppose) But from time to time one sees folks who really enjoy being outrageous. They’re great fun to watch and visit with. RAGBRAI also has its interesting rest stops. Generally about ten miles out, when bikers are ready for breakfast, there’s Mr. Pancake, who lets you eat all the flapjacks you want, if you can catch the second on your plate. He tosses ’em with the pancake turner, and it’s the catchers responsibility to make sure they don’t land on the ground. About halfway on the daily route (lunch time) is Mr. Pork Chop. He makes himself heard 3/4 mile away with his foghorn “POOOOORK CHOOOOOOP!”
    Also… last year, day one went really well. I stopped once. I got in to the overnight spot before noon. While I was hot and exhausted, I felt as if I’d really accomplished something. But I was parched. I hadn’t drunk enough water, and foolishly, drank four diet Mountain Dews, before I tried to take a nap. Stupidest thing I ever did (well, one of the stupidest things I ever did). I didn’t sleep well that night either, and pledged to myself the next day that I’d stop in every town along the route. The folks at RAGBRAI remind us repeatedly that it’s a bike ride, not a race. I enjoy the ride.

  8. oldguy says

    It all depends on what my goals for that ride are. If I’m just out to have fun and meet people, then I stop and spend some time at each rest stop. If I’m using the ride as a training session then I stop for a brief time at select rest stops (depending on time/distance) for quick refuel and more water.

    I’ve read several books on long distance training and they all recommend keeping your rest stops to less than 10 minutes, especially if you’re doing century or double century, or if you’re one of those brevet kooks. 😉

  9. Jeremy Mazur says

    I do both: bring some of my own rations and scavenge the rest stops. My typical ration kit for most distance rides includes Accelerade powder, some caffinated gels, along with some shot blocks. After 45 minutes I tend to take a gel or shot block ever 30 minutes or so. I also make it a rule to drink every 15 minutes. (Had a hard learning experience at the Outlaw 100 a few years ago where I cramped and bonked at mile 80. The unfortunate experience met the definition of “sucked”.)

    I also make use of the rest stops for water and bannanas. Sometimes I’ll grab some pretzels, or something else that isn’t too crazy. Although I don’t hog out at these stops, I really do appreciate their being there as they provide a relatively safe base to top off and rest while cycling the widerness of Texas’ highways.


  10. ha1ku says

    I’m doing my first organized ride in a few weeks and I’m totally doing the rest stops. I want to soak it all in and enjoy the experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *