By Dawn Piech
Are you looking for a new cycling goal or adventure? Have you ever finished a 100 mile ride and wondered how much further you could have gone? If you are fit, able to complete a century in a reasonable amount of time, and/or looking for a new fitness goal, randonneuring could be right for you.
MYTH #1: You must have a significant amount of time to do randonneuring.
There are many distance options starting with a populaire, a ride with a distance of 100 to 150 km, through brevets which include a 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km and 1,000km option. A brevet (also known as randonnees) is defined as a certificate or diploma in French. Each brevet is certified and registered in France, where randonneuring began over 100 years ago. It is a self-supported, long distance cycling event where a cyclist navigates from checkpoint to checkpoint (also known as controls) with the goal to finish in a designated allocated time frame. The distance between each control can vary between 30-50 miles, depending on the brevet.
Some cyclists choose to ride a few 200km a year, while others do many more depending on their motivation and goals. You select the ride based on your goals and comfort level. The sky is the limit!
MYTH #2: You must be a fast cyclist. You have to be Superwoman or Superman.
Each cyclist selects their own pace based on their comfort and ability level. The goal of each brevet is to complete it within the allocated time limit for each respective distance. For example, you have 13.5 hours to complete a 200km brevet (124 miles). The time limit includes both riding time as well as off of the bike time. There is a minimum average of 15kmp (9.5 mph) to 30kmp (18 mph) for each brevet. Completing a brevet in the allocated time limit relies on the individual being strategic and smart with their stops as well as their pre-ride planning. There are no allowances for inclement weather, mechanicals or misfortunes along the way. As a result, being a hardy and resourceful cyclist are basic requirements in randonneuring.
No matter what speed you ride, everybody does the same route.
MYTH #3: It’s very expensive to do randonneuring.
There is an entrance fee to do brevets with a price range of $5 to $60. Individuals may also need to purchase food along the way, depending on their on-the-bike food supplies. For each brevet, you are required to stop at controls along the route. The number of controls is dependent on the route and distance.
A control is defined as a checkpoint where randonneurs’ passport-like route cards much be signed and stamped by event workers to demonstrate riders’ passage. Riders must make all controls in the allocated time frame with each control having an open and close time. The controls are located at gas stations and/or convenience stores. It’s analogous to a cycling scavenger hunt!
Upon arrival to the brevet before the ride starts, you check in and receive a cue sheet and brevet card. You may use the cue sheet or, download directions using a GPS device such as a Garmin or other navigational device. Once you complete the brevet, you turn the brevet card in.
MYTH #4: You have to ride a significant amount of miles.
Participation in randonneuring can be aligned with your cycling goals. Some individuals ride a few brevets a year while others complete a full randonneur series (200km, 300km, 400km and 600km). Others may ride a 200km event every month of the year. There are many awards within Randonneurs USA (the governing body of randonneuring in the USA). No matter what your goals are, the opportunities to ride within and outside of the United States are endless. Randonneurs USA and other foreign body randonneuring regulatory bodies such as Les Randonneurs Mondiaux and Audax Club Parisien are your passport into the “rando” cycling world.
MYTH #5: You need a special randonneur bike.
Any bike can be used for randonneuring, recognizing that comfort is a key on the bike that you use. Racing bikes, touring rigs, steel bikes, fixed gear, recumbent, tandem, mountain bike, gravel, bikepacking or hybrids, they all work well. The brevet time allowances are fairly generous. It’s the rider than matters more than the machine.
Randonneuring is a diverse melting pot of cycling. Riders of all ability levels, cycling backgrounds and ages come together with a common goal -- To answer the question “How much further can I go?” Randonneuring is not “one size fits all” cycling. You can tailor it to best fit you, your goals and the pace of your long distance cycling. Myths dispelled are you don’t need a significant amount of time, superhuman strength, a lot of money, ride millions of miles or, own a special bike.
Randonneuring is a very rewarding form of cycling for anyone in search of adventure, exploring new roads and meeting new friends. If you love riding bikes and have a desire to ride further, come and give randonneuring a try. The opportunities are absolutely endless!
As they say in France, “Bonne route”.
And, as always, remember to PEDAL, SMILE, REPEAT…
Check The Chainlink calendar for upcoming events:
For more information about Randonneuring in the Midwest:
Great Lakes Randonneurs: http://www.greatlakesrando.org/
Minnesota Randonneurs: https://www.minnesotarandonneurs.org/
Iowa Randonneurs: http://iowarandonneurs.net/
Michigan Randonneurs: http://detroitrandonneurs.org/
For more information about Randonneuring USA: https://rusa.org/
For more information about International Randonneuring:
Les Randonneurs Mondiaux: http://www.randonneursmondiaux.org/
Audax Club Parisien: http://www.audax-club-parisien.com/EN/