Randonneurmas Day Nine: Ruthworks Brevet Bag

Cyclists really love their bags. It’s become a Randonneurmas tradition to feature at least one of the bags that have served us well over the year — and that we think other randonneurs would like. This edition of the 12 Days of Randonneurmas is no exception.

This year, we feature the Ruthworks “brevet bag,” and not just because it has the word brevet in its name. This front bag affixes to the handlebars via two leather straps, on either side of the stem.

Ruthworks brevet bag

Ruthworks is a one-person custom bag maker out of San Francisco, California, and is also a randonneur.

In describing the brevet bag, founder Ely Rodriguez writes:

The goal was to make something small enough to not interfere with your hand positions, but have enough room for snacks maybe gloves, sunglasses, etc. and a small clear area for a cue sheet. There is a third strap that attaches to whatever is down there, cable housing, etcetera, to stablize it a little. It rarely needs it, as the bag is not designed for heavy loads.

I use this bag for my daily commutes as well as shorter weekend rides of 50 miles or so, with great success. Larger than it first appears, the bag is still narrow enough not to take up much space on the bars. I like that it’s deep enough to stash a variety of things. I’ve easily carried gloves, a wool cap, a camera, a phone, and my keys in the front bag.

Ruthworks brevet bag-- easily stashes a pint of ice cream.

Ruthworks brevet bag– easily stashes a pint of ice cream.

The top flap opens and closes easily via a velcro closure, from front to back, which makes all items in the bag easy to access. Mine also has a strip of leather across the front for extra style points.

I have seen this bag made in hi-viz material and a version that features a reflective strip on the front, if you want additional visibility in nocturnal hours.

Over the two months I have been using it, the bag has stood up well to the elements, but if I am going on a ride that predicts rain, I wrap all my stuff in baggies for extra insurance.

Another view of the front of the brevet bag, and the cue sheet holder

Ruthworks bags are handmade and beautiful. When you buy the brevet bag, you know that your purchase is not only going toward a well-made and useful bag hand-crafted just for the cyclist in your life. Your investment also supports a small business owned by a person who loves to ride bikes.

As you might expect, Ely has developed a following and he’s closed orders for the time being. Best to keep an eye on his availability page and get one as a gift in the coming months to stash for next year.

Tomorrow: a gift that delights the cyclist coffee-lover every day. 


Randonneurmas Day Five: Vintage Bicycling Books

Even the most avid randonneurs can’t spend all day every day on the bike. Hard to believe, I know! There has to be some off-the-bike time, too.

Why not give your randonneur some bike-centric reading for those sans-pedaling times? For Day Five of the 12 Days of Randonneurmas, we suggest some unexpected treasure that will be sure to delight and inform.


Old Bike Book = Randonneur Treasure

Old Bike Book = Randonneur Treasure

Many cyclists take great pleasure in examining the bicycles and bicycling-culture of days long past. It can provide an understanding of bicycling’s history and a basis for comparison. We may find things that haven’t changed much over time — and some that have — like tube socks!


Tube socks-- a cycling staple of the 80s.

Tube socks– a cycling staple of the 80s.

This gift is a good quest to pursue throughout the year. Otherwise, it’s like shopping for the perfect outfit the day before the big event. You will be hard-pressed to find it.


Some things don't change much.

80s touring bags. Some things don’t change much.

However, if you keep your eyes open while you are out and about on other errands (or bike rides), you are sure to find a used book that will give your randonneur plenty of rich reading material. I suggest well-stocked used bookstores, Goodwill, garage sales, and anywhere else you can imagine a used bicycling book might be discovered.

We found these in the lending library at our apartment complex. All free!


Rain cape rider (looking surprisingly unclad). Sorry, no splats.

Rain cape rider (looking surprisingly unclad). Sorry, no splats.

Your randonneur is sure to like such a thoughtful present, and you will be the one to have relished the thrill of the hunt.

Tomorrow: Mystery!

The Second Day of Randonneurmas: Buttons

Not every Randonneurmas gift can be as pricey as a camera, but all the gifts you select for the randonneur in your life can be special. On Day Two of The 12 Days of Randonneurmas, we suggest a little something that will dress up your randonneur’s wardrobe and bag collection– buttons.

Urban Adventure League buttons

Buttons are a thoughtful stocking stuffer that won’t break the bank. One of the places that I’ve (editors note: MG wrote this post!) been patronizing in my quest to dress up my bike bags is Urban Adventure League of Portland, Ore.

Urban Adventure League is a one-man button, poster and zine company that has created appealing buttons for the touring or around-town cyclist.

Small, yet pleasing to the eye, buttons are a way to communicate your cycling identity to others. For example, see this top button? It says “I hope to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on my ride. Or maybe just warm pizza.”

Urban Adventure League buttons

If you’re looking for something more rando-specific, the RUSA store stocks little lapel pins imprinted with the RUSA logo.

RUSA pin and zombie

Buttons are extremely versatile. They can adorn a sweater or a Carradice. They can be shown off with ease and style — whether you are a zombie or not!

Thanks ZombiesDC for all the help with this post.

Tomorrow: they’ll love this gift from Kentucky… 


Rando Q&A with Dan D., Great Lakes Randonneurs and Minnesota Randonneurs

This week the Rando Q&A is off to the Midwest to talk with Dan D. A randonneur out of Wisconsin, Dan has traveled to various places to ride brevets and grand randonnees. I had the pleasure of meeting him during the 2011 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris.

Dan has written a fair amount about his cycling on his blog, Dan’s Rando Adventures. It contains many good ride reports so when you’re done reading this post, go check it out!

Dan on the ’09 Granite Anvil 1200K (c) Maile Neel

1. When did you start randonneuring?

I started randonneuring in 2007 by riding a late season 300K.

2. Why did you start?

In my younger years, I did lots of cycling including a 1300 mile tour when I was 15 and some racing in high school and college. Over time I migrated to running and developed an interest in doing some ultrarunning events.

After some recurring injuries, I decided to go back to cycling. But by that time the long-distance bug had bitten me, so I wanted to find a long-distance event.

Originallly, I just wanted to do a double century. However, there really weren’t a lot of options for a 200 mile event reasonably close to home. I defaulted to a 300K brevet in Delavan, Wisconsin with the Great Lakes Randonneurs. Once I got started things just sort of took off. Once I did a 300K, it seemed unavoidable that I would have to try a 400K.

3. What is your home club?

I live about 2 ½ hours from two different clubs, so picking a “home club” was a process. From 2007 through 2010, I rode almost exclusively with the Great Lakes Randonneurs.

In 2011 and 2012, I have done most of my rides with the Minnesota Randonneurs. I have really enjoyed riding with both groups.

Dan at the 2011 edition of PBP

4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?

First off, I have to say that any brevet is a good way to spend a day. However, my favorite distance in the Super Randonneur series is the 400K, directly contrary to conventional randonneuring wisdom.

I like the 400K because it packs almost every aspect of randonneuring into a one day package. A 400K invevitably includes several hours of night riding, numerous controls and the need to manage your food and liquids. Additionally, the time limits are generous enough that there is plenty of time for conversations and longish meal breaks with other riders.

Two of my wackier randonneuring memories come from 400Ks. On my first ever 400K in 2008, we ran into epic rains and flooding that caused numerous roads on or near the route to be washed away. A group of eight of us ended up spending the night in a Red Cross Shelter set up in church eating pizza and sleeping on the floor.

On another 400K, the group I was in noticed that a farmer on the route had set up a zip line in his front yard. By sheer luck the farmer was outside and invited us to give it a try. MG has referred to “necessary stops” in prior posts. At the time, a zip line adventure seemed like a necessary stop.

We interrupt this brevet for some zip lining. No kidding!

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?

I have always had my toughest days on the 600K rides. For some reason, which I have never understood, I am invariably more sore and uncomfortable on Day 2 of a 600K than on any day of a 1200K. I think I tend to start thinking about being done as soon as I start the last 200K.

6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?

When I started randonneuring in 2007, I thought that 1200Ks were way out of my league and a lot on the crazy side. However, after my first Super Randonneur series, trying a 1200K seemed like a challenging adventure.

Since then, I have completed four 1200Ks and have enjoyed every mile. I completed Granite Anvil in 2009, Last Chance in 2010, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) in 2011, and Shenandoah in 2012.

I like the 1200Ks more than any other distance. I really like the rhythm that develops over the four days of a 1200K. I think that most of us spend too much time trying to balance too many things in our daily lives. On a Grand Randonnee, life simplifies down to eating, sleeping, and pedaling (and lately, sending tweets or blog updates).

The other great thing about 1200Ks is that you generally get to ride in new parts of the country, or world, and follow routes that locals have carefully picked to showcase their areas. I have also been lucky to meet and ride with some really great and diverse people on the 1200Ks that I have done.

It seems that the pool of riders doing 1200Ks is pretty small so check-in day at a 1200K takes on the air of a family reunion. I’m not sure I’m part of the family yet, but I’m working on it.

7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?

I really enjoy the challenge and sense of adventure that comes with setting off on a long bike ride. It still seems absurd to me to try and ride a bicycle the distances that we ride. Most randonneurs are fun to ride with and I really enjoy the relationships that I have developed over time. Additionally, you just never know what you’re going to see or what’s going to happen on a brevet.

Dan on the 2010 Last Chance 1200K

8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?

The short answer is that almost any ride is a good ride. Obviously, some rides are better than others. For me, those rides tend to be rides that have lots of scenery and fun people to ride with. I rarely ride pacelines or worry about drafting on brevets. It’s lots more fun to ride side by side with others and share stories and wisecracks about whatever happens during the day.

9. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?

Most randonneurs don’t fit the mold of super athletes. In my opinion, the most important quality in a randonneur is a “never say die” attitude. Successful randonneurs have a mindset that they are going to find a way to finish the ride no matter what happens.

I think it also helps to have the ability to delude yourself about what you doing. I think the best way to fail at a 600K or a 1200K ride is to spend too much time thinking about riding 600K or 1200K. In other words, it helps to be able to convince yourself that you’re really only riding the 30 miles to the next control.

10. How do you define successful?

At the most basic level, I consider any ride that I complete to be a success.

At times, I will set time goals for myself on certain brevets or permanents. However, I tend to not get too worked up about it and will usually forget my plans if I run into someone fun to ride with or if something interesting develops during the ride.

Zip lining on a brevet? Now that doesn’t happen every day. Thank you, Dan, for being a guest contributor to the Rando Q&A series. You’ve had some awesome rando experiences and I’m so glad you shared them here!

Rando Q&A with Andrea M., D.C. Randonneurs

The Randonneur Q&A returns again this week to feature a guest post from my friend Andrea M. It’s because of Andrea that I began randonneuring and I’m happy to say that we’re both still at it.

How did Andrea become a randonneur (or randonneuse, given that she is a woman) and what keeps bringing her back to the sport? Read on and find out!

1. When did you start randonneuring?

Well, I’ve been rambling all of my life but did my first 200k brevet spur of the moment in 2004 with my life partner, Bones. My first Super Randonneur series was the following year in 2005.

2. Why did you start?

Bones talked about these crazy-sounding (to me) cyclists and he wanted join them. Not wanting to miss an adventure I joined him for my first brevet those 8 years ago.

But really, I owe my start in randonnuering to Lynn Kristianson. She asked me to join her 2005 Randonnettes Fleche Team. Icing on the cake, I convinced my new friend Mary G. into joining us too! Mary and I met at RAGBRAI the summer before and she seemed like a good addition. Boy, was I right!

Now in shape from April’s Fleche, it was time to try out the 200k again and more. And so I took each brevet as it came without the goal of completing the series. I did do the series that year. It was a thrill to finish the 600k with the new tandem partners, Mary and Ed. Now I was a Super Randonneur [insert Superman’s theme song here] and hooked on this style of riding.

Andrea, looking good on the D.C. Randonneurs 600K

3. What is your home club?

My homies are the D.C. Randonneurs and I’m currently an at-large board member. We’re a great group of friendly and supportive riders with awesome routes in the D.C. metropolitan area. Come join us if you’re in the area! Our website is www.dcrrand.org. Oh, and did I mention that I’m the publicity coordinator for our club?

4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?

Favorite distance of the series? Why, that’s like asking which is your favorite child!

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?

The 400 and 600k are close picks as most challenging for me. The 600k wins because of logistics of having a drop bag (I like to sleep!) and getting up at o’dark thirty two “days” in a row.

6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?

I really like the 1000k distance and recall Crista Borras saying something similar when we did the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains 1000K in 2008. Those three days were fun all the way through!

I’ve successfully completed two 1200Ks. The last 200 of my 1200Ks had uncomfortable moments due to knee pain, but I’m looking to do many more because of the adventure that comes with those distances!

7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?

I love randonneuring for the adventure, extremes, self-learning, self-reliance, mental pushing, lessons learned for life, feeling my strong body, friends, camaraderie, scenery, and goal accomplishments.

I also love the reactions from non-randonneurs and feeling like I’m on the dark side. As a publicity coordinator, I’m tempted to tell people to join us by saying, “Come to the dark side, we have pizza!” or “Join us and temporarily run from your demons!” Can you tell I love pizza and the temporary lack of every day responsibility?

8. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?

Fortitudine Vincimus, or “by endurance we conquer.” I recently found this motto in the Washington Post article Fantastic Voyage about Matt Rutherford’s circumnavigation of the Americas on a sailboat. I am struck by this borrowed motto from the Shackleton family.

In my book, to endure is the number one quality to be a successful randonneur. Sometimes I call it being plain ol’ stubborn!

9. How do you define successful?

Success defined? Yikes, that is a scary question for me! I guess it depends on my pre-conceived (often unconscious) goals and if I’ve met them.

During the 2007 Paris Brest Paris, I didn’t officially complete the ride due to pneumonia and food poisoning. But during that randonnee, I did successfully achieve 99% of what I love about randonneuring (see question #7). Is that success?

10. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?

A good ride means lots of smiles and laughter. Yes, even when I ride by myself. Really, everything else is secondary to me. This is a good point for a “shout out” to my riding partner, Greg Conderacci who always makes it a good ride!

Smiles and laughter. I’m totally with you. Congratulations, Andrea, on your recent 1000K completion and thank you for being a guest contributor to the Rando Q&A.

Questions or comments for Andrea? Don’t be shy. Comment!

Rando Q&A with Barry B., D.C. Randonneurs

Hope everybody had a great 4th of July. This week, I’m featuring a randonneur who started riding brevets with in 2012, and completed his first Super Randonneur series last month.

I wanted to get a perspective from someone who has just made the leap from touring cycling to randonneuring. Barry graciously agreed to guest post, and here is what he had to say about his first year of doing brevets.

Barry and Mike on the Great Allegheny Passage (c) Dave Sweeney

1. When did you start randonneuring?

March 2012.

2. Why did you start?

I love all types of cycling. I do mountain biking, fully loaded touring, club rides, tandeming, centuries and am a regular bicycle commuter.

Although centuries are fun, I grew tired of riding in pace lines where the only scenery was the wheel of the cyclist ahead of me. I stumbled onto the DC Rando site and thought it was something I might like to try.

3. What is your home club?

I have done rides with all of the area clubs, but mostly I ride solo or tandem with my wife.

4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?

I like the 400K. The distance is challenging, and I can complete it without sleep.

Barry’s Trek 520 on the DCR 400K

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?

Surprisingly the 300K. I wasn’t ready for the climbs, it was hot, and it was my first ride beyond an “extended century.”

I feel as if I should be able to ride the 300K faster than I did, whereas I knew my pace for the 200K and 400k. The 300K is sort of a “tweener” that I haven’t figured out.

6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?

Have not done either, but it’s on my list.

7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?

The challenge, the scenery, and the comeradery. The randonneuring community is a great bunch of cyclists who are all about seeing others succeed. Rather than a bunch of would-be competitors with the goal of dropping as many riders as possible, randonneurs seem eager to share knowledge and genuinely hope that everyone completes the ride.

I have received a lot of encouragement, expert advice and ideas. There are lively discussions on the various topics, but never any sniping or grandstanding. There are many amazingly strong riders in the D.C. Randonneurs, but they have never minimized my relatively smaller accomplishments. In fact, I received genuine warm praise and congratulations from a number of riders when I completed many “firsts” in my rookie season.

Barry, Mike, and Dave finish the DCR 600K and the SR series (c) Bill Beck

8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?

A safe and scenic ride where I meet some interesting people and have fun conversations. Oh, and there has to be at least one memorable story. Always.

9. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?

I think you have to want it and be willing to accept a little discomfort. You have to go into every ride believing you will finish and maintain that focus. A randonneur does not need to be superhuman or in tip-top shape, but attitude really plays an important role.

You also have to be flexible and willing to adapt, and a sense of humor sure helps.

10. How do you define successful?

I think success is mostly about getting out there and giving it a try with a willingness to learn something new. You have to enjoy this and have fun; otherwise why do it?

My goal is to one day finish a brevet while the pizza in the hotel lobby is still warm (I assume it is at some point).

Barry, thanks again for sharing some of your thoughts on randonneuring with The Daily Randonneur. Look forward to seeing you on the road again soon!

Rando Q&A with Lynne F., Oregon Randonneurs

This week, we head out west to talk with Lynne F., a randonneuse who calls Oregon home. She not only rides, but she is also a member of the rando-paparazzi and maintains a blog about her randonneuring rides that is well worth checking out. Many thanks to Lynne for guest-posting today. I hope you enjoy her reflections as much as I did.

Lynne F. and the Sweetpea at Cape Horn. Beaverton to Bridge of the Gods and Back Permanent. (c) Lynne F.

1. When did you start randonneuring?

November 2006. Susan Otcenas (also not a rando then) mentioned that the Wine Country Populaire would be coming up. I went out with my then-riding partner on his tandem, and we crashed on ice two miles out. That was that.

So I really started in Feb 2007. Pre-rode a populaire, then had a huge crash on a very rainy day a few weeks later, breaking the bike frame and some ribs. But I was mended enough to ride my first 200k ever (on my new Rivendell Bleriot) four weeks later, at the end of March. I’ve been at it ever since!

2. Why did you start?

I was really just going on a longish ride with friends and got hooked! I had ridden Seattle to Portland in a day twice (this a HUGE ride here, 10,000 riders, 20% or so do it in one day). I found myself riding an awful lot of centuries, rode Cycle Oregon several years in a row, and I guess I was
looking for the next challenge.

3. What is your home club?

Oregon Randonneurs

4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?

I’d have to say the 200. More folks to ride with, and often at (for them) a more social pace.

I am not a fast rider, but I can ride a 200k with very little preparation and have a great time.

That said, the two 600s I’ve done have felt downright epic, and that is pretty cool, too.

Lynne F. at the Anderson Viewpoint on the Oregon Randonneurs 300K (c) Lynne F.

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?

The 400k. I have real difficulty staying awake, and have taken more ditch naps in a single ride all over the Willamette Valley than I care to count.

Nutrition has been a real challenge past 300k, but I might have finally gotten a handle on that. Not that the 400 scares me any less.

6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?

You may be able to ask me that in late August.

7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?

One part is the challenge. I am pushing myself WAY past what I thought I would ever be able to do. In spring 2009, it became clear that I had a major health issue, and I had to check out from life for 7 months or so.

Coming back in 2010, and then completing my first Super Randonneur series in 2011 was a really, really epic accomplishment for me.

Every single big ride I complete is a TAKE THAT to where I was before. I never dreamed I’d be able to complete a full series.

Another is enjoying the scenery at a pace where I can see and experience what I’m riding though. You’ll never know what a wheat field smells like in a car.

And last, and best, are the friends I’ve made along the way!

Lynne F. and Susan O. at the Klickitat overlook. Bingen Bikenfest 200K (c) Lynne F.

8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?

A great ride with friends. Long conversations, from books we are reading to geekier topics. Ice cream. A ferry ride. Pre-ride snack swaps. I bring the homemade Amaretti-Nutella sandwich cookies. (Yes, I make both the Amaretti and the Nutella :-) )

9. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?

Persistence. Some might say stubbornness. Planning on success. Being comfortable with possibly riding alone for a very long time.

10. How do you define successful?

Finishing within the time limit. Not bonking. I set the bar pretty low.

As editor of this post, I beg to disagree with that final comment. You’ve set a high bar with your randonneuring, Lynne. Thank you so much for being part of our Rando Q&A!

Rando Q&A with Bill Beck, D.C. Randonneurs

The Randonneur Q&A is back, and our first feature in this round is with the D.C. Randonneurs Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), Bill Beck. Bill not only rides the D.C. Randonneurs brevets, but he also frequently organizes them, homologates our club’s results for RUSA, and often stays until the end of each event, photographing and greeting riders. We’re fortunate to have him as our RBA, and as a guest contributor for the Rando Q&A.

Bill on the 2012 Many Rivers 600K

1. When did you start randonneuring?

I started with the D.C. Randonneurs Hyattstown 200K (now the Urbana 200K) in March of 2006. Lynn Kristianson was the RBA and ran the ride from the parking lot of a church. It was my longest ever ride at that point.

2. Why did you start?

I had signed up for the UMCA Year-Rounder program in 2006, which required at least one century ride per month, and I was looking for a century ride for March. 125 miles didn’t seem too much farther than 100 miles, and Hyattstown is less than 30 minutes from my house, so I decided to give it a try.

3. What is your home club?

D.C. Randonneurs!

4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?

Hmm. That’s a hard question. I enjoy the 200K the most because it doesn’t require sleep deprivation or renting a hotel room and I can usually ride hard without bonking.

But I get the most satisfaction from the 600K because when I started randonneuring it seemed impossible to ride 375 miles in a weekend — and it still seems amazing.

Bill, David, and Roger. DCR 400K

Bill, David, and Roger. DCR 400K 2010

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?

The 400K and the first day of the 600K are almost always hard for me because it seems that I can ride faster than my digestion can keep up with, so I often bonk at those distances.

The 600K adds a second day of riding, so I’ll choose that as the most challenging.

6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?

I’ve done two 1200Ks (PBP in 2007 and Endless Mountains in 2009) and two 1000Ks (Endless Mountains in 2008 and Lap of Lake Ontario in 2010).

PBP is in a class by itself because it has thousands of riders, is in another country, and actually has people on the side of the roads cheering for the riders. I still remember riding into Loudeac on the return trip, climbing up a steep hill in the dark in the pouring rain at around midnight, and there were several people standing out in the rain under umbrellas clapping and shouting things in French that I took to be encouragement! It’s an experience that every randonneur should go for at least once.

The main thing that I like about the non-PBP long brevets is riding through beautiful scenery and the satisfaction of completing the rides. I’m looking forward to the clear air and high mountains on the Colorado High Country 1200 this July.

Bill Beck at PBP Sign-In

7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?

I think the main things are the amazingly nice group of people who show up, the satisfaction of completing something that is often very hard but also very simple (keep moving forward!), and feeling better physically and emotionally from all that exercise. Oh, and being able to eat lots of food.

8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?

There are different kinds of good rides. Setting a new personal record after going as hard as you can and sprinting to the finish can be great. Or riding with a group of other riders who have compatible speed and riding style and taking time for sit-down meals can also be great.

So maybe a good ride is one with at least some of these ingredients: beautiful scenery, nice riding partners, or something epic that you can be proud of later. Cool weather, low humidity, and shady roads are often part of a good ride.

Headwind or cold rain are almost never part of a good ride. (Although the Endless Mountains 1240K was a good ride despite some cold rain because it earned lots of points for “epic” and “beautiful scenery.”)

Bill on the ’11 D.C. Randonneurs 400K

9. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?

The main things are probably tenacity and perseverance. It doesn’t take much athletic ability to keep riding at an average speed of 10 mph, but it can require some emotional resolve (or stubbornness) to keep going when you feel bad or the weather is less than ideal.

Successful randonneurs learn that in most cases things will improve. The weather will get better, you’ll feel better after you eat and much better after you sleep. But if things don’t improve, then try to keep going anyway. Unless going on would do lasting injury, the satisfaction of finishing will be worth it.

10. How do you define successful?

When I went to PBP in 2007 my goals in order of priority were: 1) Finish within the time limit, 2) Feel OK while doing #1, 3) Appreciate the scenery, towns, and people along the way and record them with pictures.

I was lucky enough to get all three of those at PBP and think that’s still my definition of successful for any ride. But I’d choose finishing while feeling miserable and having no time to look at anything over not finishing.

Thanks again for sharing your perspectives and being part of our Rando Q&A, Bill. We wish you the best on the upcoming Colorado High Country 1200K!

Randonneuring: When it’s Worth the Effort

Morning riding on the DC Randonneurs 600K

I completed my first brevet and Super Randonneur series in 2005. Since then, I’ve completed rides of at least 600K distances each year with the exception of 2007, which I spent in graduate school. Seven years of brevet riding.

Up until this year I’ve excitedly anticipated the arrival of the Super Randonneur series. Time to hit life a little harder, test my physical conditioning, enjoy long days on the bike with others, and find a way to balance cycling with competing life priorities.

This year, the attraction of brevets faded. The car rides, 4 a.m. starts and 2:30 a.m. wake-ups, reflective clothing and Camelbaks, convenience store food, pushing through while managing various physical discomforts, and post-ride grogginess and fatigue started to get to me. The effort randonneuring requires began to overtake the overall enjoyment I experienced in previous years.

Sometimes it’s good to hang it up and other times it’s worth it to hang in and see what the next ride brings. I chose the latter and I’m glad I did.

On some rides, you get something back for each thing you give up.

A car ride takes you to a ride start in new territory beyond your regular radius.

That middle-of-the-night wake-up rewards with sparkling stars and moonlight. Dawn offers up breathtaking morning light that makes you want to take a million photos, even though there’s no way they can truly communicate the morning’s beauty.

The burdensome Camelbak becomes a good friend that lets you not worry about water as you traverse segments that are lovely, but have no services.

Riding diligently takes you to places you never thought you could reach in one day on a bicycle, and it’s almost like living two days in one.

A hot day in the saddle yields to a gorgeous sunset and a cool and dreamy night ride where you see fireflies glow and hear the steady chorus of little frogs.

There is also that rare brevet moment that compensates in its unexpected perfection. After waiting and waiting, this weekend’s 600K gave me that gift.

Felkerino and I had ridden 177 miles and just eaten a warm meal. We grouped up with Bill Beck and David R. for the final miles of the first day. The late afternoon sun warmed my skin. A gentle breeze blew over me and sifted through my hair.

The bike meandered smoothly in and out of tree-lined shaded sections of a lightly traveled country road. We only had 65 miles to go for the day and I knew that a peaceful starry evening awaited us. I found myself completely in the present, thoroughly engaged in the ride.

Sunset over the mountains in Virginia on the DC Randonneurs 600K

Those elusive idyllic moments keep me coming back to brevets. They don’t happen on every ride, but if I just hang in there, they will happen.

It’s those moments that fill my heart and make all the effort, time, and discomforts of randonneuring absolutely worth it.

D.C. Randonneurs 400K: From One Sunrise to Another

Because Felkerino and I love getting up at 2 a.m. oh so much, we did it again this weekend. Just for fun. Well, it was for fun, but also so that we could actually execute the 400K ride that we’ve been talking about and organizing for the last couple of months.

Having done the checkout ride the week before, we felt confident that the course was ready for a 400K ramble. We had checked and double-checked each turn and control until we were sure that our updated cue sheet would steer riders right.

Our Regional Brevet Administrator, Bill Beck, made our lives easy by bringing various supplies to the ride start: randonneur treats like potato chips, pop, and peanuts; control cards; special brevet pencils; Ziploc bags (a randonneur’s best friend); and copies of cue sheets. All Felkerino and I had to do was unbox everything at the IHOP and prep people for the ride ahead.

The Starting Line. IHOP.

In a nod to the French provenance of randonneuring, we began the 400K at The International House Of Pancakes (IHOP). Despite the odd early morning mix of breakfasting drunks and reflective-vest-wearing randonneurs, the IHOP worked pretty ok for a ride start. The staff had no problem with us registering riders, and if riders arrived in time, they could grab a cup of coffee and a little breakfast.

Jose registers with Felkerino

Starting at the IHOP

Tom Reeder and Leslie Tierstien worked bike inspection (thanks, guys!) while Felkerino and I managed registration. A couple of minutes before four, Felkerino gathered the riders, gave some ride announcements, and sent the 24 riders off into the morning (or night, if you prefer).

After exiting the IHOP, riders immediately pedaled onto quiet roads and out into the Maryland countryside. The temperatures for the day were predicted to escalate into the upper 80s and already the day felt humid. We had just had a lively discussion on the DCRand listserv about ways to adequately hydrate and stay cool during hot rides, but even so, the first hot ride of the season is always tough. I think it takes a couple of rides for the body to acclimate to the warm days of summer.

Felkerino and I waited the requisite hour for any stragglers (there were none), gathered up our registration stuff, and headed back to the hotel for a nap.

We then hopped in the car to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I was a bit bummed that our weekend was so car-centric, but without the car there was little to no way we could have organized and participated in the ride the way we wanted.

Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. Mile 68.

Man, I love visiting Shepherdstown. It’s such a cute place with beautiful old brick buildings, and it always seems like it’s sunny every time we visit. As we parked the car we saw the front riders, Henrik and Alex, departing the Sweet Shop. It would have been nice to snap a couple of shots of them, but I was not giving back one minute of my nap. Fortunately, we saw almost all of the other riders pass through, and we took photos of as many as we could.

Shepherdstown Sweet Shop (and Kelly’s Soma)

People arrived in Shepherdstown in good spirits. The day was heating up, but it was not the uncomfortable heat that midday would bring. Many riders took advantage of the break to apply sunscreen for the upcoming sunny miles. People stopped, grabbed their food, did their randonneur things, and rode away.

Randonneurs doing randonneur stuff

It was nice not to have the pressure to keep going. We just hung out in Shepherdstown taking pictures of people and bikes and chatting until almost all of the riders passed through.

Mike and Bill

Hancock, Maryland. Mile 110.

After Shepherdstown, we pointed the car toward Hancock, Maryland. As we exited the car, I felt the heat of the day rush over me. Phew! It was a hot one. Felkerino and I found a good shady spot and soon riders began to appear. Overall, we saw about five riders here (Dan O., Kelly, Rick R., Jose, and Bill B.). The riders seemed in good shape, although a few commented on the heat.

Rick and Jose arrive in Hancock

Snatching some shade in Hancock, Maryland

It felt a little weird to not be riding. On the one hand, I was glad our pre-ride had offered up milder temperatures and lower humidity, but on the other I wondered how Felkerino and I would fare in this heat. It would have been a good endurance test. Such funny thoughts. I put them aside. Ultimately, riders have to pedal with whatever the weather serves up, and manage it accordingly. Some days you get lucky, and your brevet falls on a perfect day. Other days, the weather presents extra challenges.

Grocery store.

To make sure that we had enough munchies and drink for the end of the ride, we made a grocery store stop after returning to Frederick. Kettle cooked potato chips, pretzels, pop, GatorAde, and cookies. We ended up purchasing more than we needed, but I would rather have that than run out of sustenance.

Note to self: When organizing a ride, and not riding it, don’t eat the randonneur food. Or at least, don’t eat very much of it. I’m pretty sure I gained weight from all the junk food and pizza I consumed waiting for everyone to finish.

The Finish Line. Hilton Garden Inn.

After we arrived back at our weekend home, the Hilton Garden Inn, we received a phone call that two riders were abandoning due to the heat. They were ok, and I was relieved they had stopped as opposed to press on into a more difficult situation.

As a ride organizer, I was concerned about the riders, praying that everybody was ok and would make it back without incident. That’s a feeling I don’t have to the same degree when I’m riding the brevet. Sure, I hope we all fare ok, but my primary concern is how Felkerino and I are doing. Is that selfish? Maybe, but I think we all have to focus our energy to get through a brevet. 250 miles is a long day (and, for most of us, night) in the saddle.

A few hours later, we saw a tweet from Bill Beck saying that the sky had clouded over. He added that he departed Shippensburg to the sound of thunder. First, extreme heat. Now thunder? Great.

A while later, Ed received a call that a third rider was not continuing.

Mike B., who had abandoned earlier in the ride, joined us at the finish. We sat around talking bikes and bike rides and testing the pizza. Around 7:30, Henrik Olsen rolled in. “That was a steamy one!” I liked watching Henrik arrive. It was the first time I’d ever seen him finish a brevet, as he is always so much faster than Felkerino and I are. I learned that Henrik did not any eat real food on the brevet, mostly Perpetuum, and “one Clif bar.” I munched away on potato chips mulling that over. Impressive, I thought. I could not imagine riding 250 miles on that kind of diet.

Henrik finishes the Frederick 400K

Alex, a visiting randonneur from Ohio, was the second rider to finish. He rolled up on his Surly Long Haul Trucker. Alex’s final miles coincided with the end of some sporting event, which meant he had to contend with some additional car traffic near the finish. That was unfortunate, but he successfully navigated the situation and made it to the hotel without incident.

Just before 10 p.m., Chip and Bryan of Severna Park finished. Highlights from their ride included the hot section from Hancock to Cove Gap. I was not surprised as so much of the riding in this section is not shaded. They also commented that the day mercifully clouded over later in the afternoon, and that temperatures dropped with the cloud cover.

Chip and Bryan, happy to be done

Ed received a call that two other riders were abandoning. The abandon numbers were now at five.

Around midnight, Kelly and Dan O. showed up, looking good and happy to be done.

Dangerous Dan finishes

In between randonneur finishers, two wedding parties arrived at our hotel after a night of tying the knot and, so it seemed, drinking. It was pretty hilarious watching well-dressed boozey wedding guests talk loudly and weave past our humble pizza and pretzel setup while we waited for randonneurs in sweaty cycling clothes, reflective gear, helmets, and headlamps.

I thought we seemed pretty inconspicuous until someone in a suit punched his fist into the air and shouted, “Pizza!”

“Protect the pizza!” I said to myself. Fortunately, his exclamation was merely that, and not a demand for actual pizza.

Phew! For the remainder of the night, none of the other wedding guests took any notice of us, probably because they had their own issues to deal with, such as a bride who could not seem to stand up on her own two feet. If you ever have the chance to organize a 400K, I highly recommend combining it with a hotel that is hosting wedding parties. It’s an almost-surreal convergence that I won’t soon forget.

Some time passed (the exact amount started to get fuzzy) and Bill Beck finished, having ridden the last 140 miles by himself. That takes some perseverance.

Bill and Kelly went off to nap, and Felkerino and I stayed downstairs to continue our late-night rider vigil. Another call came in, letting us know that two more riders were done. Seven total abandons for the ride.

By now, it was past 2 a.m. Jose, Bill Smith, and Rick R. arrived, followed a while later by George M., George W., Christian, and David Judkins. Lots of rider napping ensued. Bill S., a Frederick resident, hopped on his bike for a five-mile ride home.

I was taking lots of catnaps in the hotel lobby, waiting for the final three riders on the course. Even though a ride like the 400K really spreads out the riders, I still found myself looking anxiously down the street for the gleam of bike headlights. Are they there now? How about now? And now?

Around 4, I started to hear birds chirping, beginning their wakeup for the day. I conked out a little more, and just before six a.m., I groggily awoke to the sight of Mike W., Barry B., and Nick Bull parking their bikes outside the hotel. They all arrived with smiles on their faces, even after riding for nearly 26 hours. Mike said something about how they had 27 hours to finish the ride, they were going to take advantage of them.

Ultimately, 17 riders finished the ride, with the first rider arriving at 7:35 p.m. and the final finisher coming in at 5:50 a.m. That’s a span of more than ten hours. No wonder I felt a little tired.

We cleaned up the lobby, packed the remaining food and beverages that would keep for the next brevet, handed off the control cards and results to Bill, and went upstairs to nap for a couple of hours.

The Wrap-Up

Felkerino and I had done it. We’d organized our ride and 17 people had finished it. And in some tough conditions, I might add. Heat, sun, rain, and even a thunderstorm or two. Good job, riders.

It was anticlimactic to celebrate by falling asleep, but I had a good feeling. While there are always things to improve upon with these rides, I believe everything, from our perspective, went well.

We found new starting and end points for the ride, changed the route to accommodate the new start and finish, routed around some construction, and altered the course so that riders could stop for dinner in Shippensburg. We made Shippensburg an open control, which gave riders multiple food/stop choices. The open control seemed to work well, and all riders showed up with a receipt verifying their passage.

The staff at the IHOP and the Hilton Garden Inn had no issues with us setting up in their space, and I even got to take some rather nice, albeit brief, snoozes on the hotel lobby couch.

All of the riders managed the brevet well. The finishing times show that riders respected the heat of the day and slowed their pace accordingly. Those who experienced overheating or other concerns about stopped and made it back safely. Exhausted riders took naps in the club’s hotel room before heading back home.

Thanks to everybody who came out for the ride, and to the volunteers. And special thanks to Mike B. for helping us out at the finish after not continuing the ride. It made the setup at the end much easier.

More Photos!

Want to see more of the adventure?

  • My photos here.
  • Felkerino’s shots here.
  • Click here for Bill’s pics.
  • And here for Christian’s set.

Felkerino and I enjoyed organizing the brevet, and we hope the riders had a good time doing it. Also, if you have any suggestions for improvements in the future, we’d like to hear them.