Monday, August 31, 2009


If you have done a century or a double century and are looking for the 'next' challenge, this may be it. You need not be fast to be successful; in fact, the best randonneurs are steady and consistent and know how to budget their energy. It doesn't hurt if you're a bit obsessive about riding and perhaps a wee bit eccentric.

Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. This style of riding is characterized by various rules and traditions that date to the end of the 19th century in France. When one participates in brevet events, one is part of an ancient cycling tradition with a worldwide following and over 110 years of legend, history, myth, and lore. It is not racing and being first is never the paramount goal of brevets. Finishing is the most important goal and especially for those who do so self-sufficiently and without outside support.

~ Sammamish Valley Cycling Web site
Been thinking about randonneuring lately as a pursuit. In the two years since I started cycling again, I've been sort of wandering around the territory, wondering which discipline is going to fit me best. I definitely need more focused seasonal goals. Having ill-defined or inappropriate goals has contributed mightly to my tendency to injure myself or overtrain in my first seasons.

I wonder if distance riding is the ticket. I deeply enjoy the whole "ride deliberately/budget your energy" aspect of the long rides I do every week. And, as Velophoriacs know, I am in love with the mythopoetic Euro-roots underpinning the history of cycling. That figures largely in randonneuring (note the French word, natch), so that would be a match. I guess another part of that same trad-Euro aesthetic is that randos get to ride some unbelievably well-crafted bikes.

The distance people I've met tend to be a bit older and more intellectual, mellow and social than the majority of their racer cousins. I like the "Ride your own ride, but be part of our group anyway" ethos, the general de-emphasis of speed, power and finishing order (they say results are usually posted alphabetically, not by time. Fancy that!) To be honest, I'm pretty prone to the ravenous obsession racers have about speed and competition; the problem is, my body develops problems if I push that side too much. Overall, it seems to thrive best in a sort of "steady effort" state, neither hammering nor dawdling. (Though I do love both hammering and dawdling).

I'm really enjoying learning ever more about bike repair, too, an essential part of long-distance riding because there is no "neutral support." You on yo' own, baby. Break a spoke, mash up your derailleur in a crash? If you don't know how to fix it, you're likely going to DNF.

Sounds good so far. Wait -- what about being "obsessive" and "eccentric"?

Uh, yeah. I think I got those covered.

The more I think about it, the more the description appeals, and applies, to me. Well, except the little thing about riding a century. Working on that. Done two metrics with a fair amount of climbing, so I figure I'm pretty close. When I do my first imperial century, it'll tell me a lot more about whether I want to undertake true "long distance" events. Y'know -- the stuff behind all the pretty bikes and alluring lore. The suffering, the flats, the headwinds, the bonks, the rain, the 2:00 am depressions.

Hey -- that which does not kill me, makes me stranger, right?

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