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!

Rando Q&A with Velocia, San Francisco Randonneurs

The Rando Q&A returns this week, and today we’re going back to San Francisco to talk with Vélocia, a randonneuse who not only rides, but takes gorgeous photos during her journeys. I got to know Vélocia through her photostream, and knew she would be a great addition to the Rando Q&A participants. Thanks, Vélocia, for sharing your randonneuring perspectives with us. It was great to meet you in person during this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris, and I hope we meet again on another ride someday.

1. When did you start randonneuring?

The records show I became a RUSA member and completed my first ACP sanctioned brevet––a 300K randonnée––in 2006. The first control of that ride was a secret control and the organizers were sizing up the newcomer, gauging my chances for success.

Later in 2006 I did the Raid Pyrénéen, a 710K ride that traverses the length of the Pyrenées over 18 cols between the Atlantic and the Mediteranean. The Raid is sponsored by Cyclo-Club Béarnais and has a time limit of 100 hours; they provide a brevet card and validate the results. So I’ve always had an interest in cyclotouring.

In secondary school I organized multi-day bike camping tours in the countryside with my friends. I did century and double century rides for many years before joining RUSA.

Vélocia's Terraferma Corsa 650B (c) Vélocia

2. Why did you start?

Paris-Brest-Paris! In the 90’s a coworker noticed my interest in bicycling and suggested I should try PBP. He rode the rainy 1987 PBP. At the time the idea of a 1200K ride sounded too extreme so I dismissed it.

Then in 2003 I met a new coworker who was training for PBP. She tried to convince me to join RUSA and do the qualifying rides. She was a real inspiration. By August 2003 I regretted not having followed her advice. It became my goal to complete PBP in 2007.

3. What is your home club?

San Francisco Randonneurs

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

I tend to enjoy the 200 and 300K distances the most. Somehow it seems like they’re more social and fun. The longer rides tend to be more serious with fewer new riders.

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

The 400K always seems like it’s the most challenging. For some reason I tend to suffer more form the sleep deprivation on that one.

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

I’ve done one of each. It’s a thrill to explore unfamiliar territory and meet riders from other clubs.

Editor’s note: This was written prior to Vélocia‘s completion of the 2011 edition of PBP, so that makes two 1200Ks!

Photos from the Central Coast 1000K (c) Vélocia

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

I like the camaraderie and the physical challenge. Sometimes there’s a spiritual aspect, too. For example, riding alone on a quiet country road under a starry sky in the middle of nowhere. And of course, the endorphins.

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

A “good ride” follows a beautiful course. Very often a “good ride” will have some element of adversity, which can be satisfying to overcome; for example, persevering through unpleasant weather or solving a mechanical problem.

It can be fun to ride fast, but it’s not necessary to set a personal best in order to have a good ride.

On a recent 300K I was riding with friends, sharing stories. At one point I was laughing so hard I was nearly choking on my sandwich. That was a good ride!

Rando Q&A with Joe Brown, D.C. and PA Randonneurs

This week brings another installment of the Rando Q&A. Today we head to Pennsylvania to talk with Joe Brown, who rides frequently with the D.C. Randonneurs as well as the randonneurs in Pennsylvania. Joe is a blast to ride with, a randonneur who always has a good (and often quite funny) story to tell. Thanks for being part of our Rando Q&A, Joe!

Joe at PBP 2011

1. When did you start randonneuring?

I started randonneuring in 2006. It was the first year gas prices spiked way up and to save a few dollars I started commuting to work 35 miles a day. At the end of the season found myself very fit and did a century or two.

Still wanting more long rides in that season and not finding any more centuries I found an Eastern PA 200K brevet. The control at 112 miles was at a bar, when the door opened 4 randonneurs were drinking beer. I knew then this sport was for me.

2. Why did you start?

Brevets are a great way to get out of your own back yard and travel a bit and see some new scenery. Brevets have shown me great new routes in Pennsylvania, routes within 60 miles of my house that I wouldn’t have found for myself. It’s also shown me Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and a bit of NY state.

3. What is your home club?

Technically its Berks County Bicycle Club in Pennsylvania but the people with whom I ride the most are a group veteran racers who meet at a local super market every Saturday and Sunday 3 miles from my house. I live on top of a ridge, the ride starts in a valley so it’s only about 10 minutes by bicycle. I started attending about 10 years ago.

They ride “nice and easy”. That’s what they always tell new riders. And it is nice and easy until they come to a hill. The average speed barely drops on an incline. More than once they’ve ridden me to my door after 60 miles leaving me more exhausted than a 200K effort.

Joe on the DC Randonneurs Urbana 200K

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

The 600K is the most interesting because a lot of it ridden at night. Nothing is better than a dog chasing you in the black of night. Talk about fear.

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

I dread the 400K. Most people probably agree. It’s 260 miles and its usually ridden without sleep. So the question is “Should I ride it hard to get it over with, or should I prolong the agony over time.

The best 400K on the planet is the DCR 400K. Smooth roads and a reasonable profile give the opportunity to complete it in daylight.

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

1000K’s and 1200K’s are the best because they take the element of trying to ride for a best time out the equation (for me). I treat them as a tour. However much time I gain on the road, I take back as sleep at night in a motel with pillows and a shower.

My favorite is the 1000K. It’s only three days. It’s “epic,” but at the same time it is lot easier to recover compared to a 1200K and it doesn’t take as much vacation time.

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

That’s simple to answer. It’s the people, the camaraderie.

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

They’re all good. What makes a ride memorable is extremes: bad weather, hard terrain, or ridiculous situations like fixing a flat at 3:00 in the morning in a pouring rain. Dogs chasing you in the middle of the night that you can’t see.

A remember a time with Rick C. on a 600K. We’re in truck stop in the middle of the night on top of a mountain. I’m exhausted but Rick wants to push on. It’s an eight mile descent and my brakes aren’t working right. They shudder and nearly push me over the handlebars. Rick has good lights, mine stink. I’m scared to go down the hill.

I make an excuse that I’m too tired. He says he’s tired too, but looks down at the coffee creamers we’re using. They say “2X caffeine.” So he peels back the foil and drinks two of them like shots of whiskey. I look at him and say “Your’re %$#%crazy.” He went down the mountain and I went to sleep.

I’ll always regret not following. He probably descended singing country western songs that he made up as he went along. He’s good for things like that. Memories make a good ride.

Joe and Rick (c) Rick C.

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

I guess stubborn and compulsive would be qualities we all have but they sound too harsh. What we all share is a great love for cycling. Every time we get on the bike and press down on the pedals we enjoy it. That’s what pushes us. It’s fun. It’s just that simple.

10. How do you define successful?

My first and foremost objective on all rides be it commuting, training, or brevet is to do it without injury. Finishing a ride and damaging your knee is not a success.

Twenty-five years ago I finished a century with knee pain and then didn’t ride for two years. Two years ago I didn’t finish a 400K because of a knee problem but was back on the bike in a few months. (Thank you Ray for the ride)

Thanks again, Joe. Felkerino and I count ourselves lucky have been able to share some miles with you, and you are so right. Memories make a good ride.

Rando Q&A with Rob Hawks, San Francisco Randonneurs

Hey, remember this series? We’ve got a few excellent Randonneur Q&As in the TDR pipeline, and tonight we’re heading back out west to feature Rob Hawks of the San Francisco Randonneurs. Felkerino and I had the pleasure of riding quite a few miles with Rob a couple of months ago during that famous bike ride known as PBP. It was great! Congratulations, Rob, on your successful PBP completion and thank you for being part of our Rando Q&A.

1. When did you start randonneuring?

I started in 2004 when I was able to join a friend’s Fleche team. In 2005 I started doing the brevets and completed my first Super Randonneur series that year.

Rob Hawks on PBP

2. Why did you start?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s I had begun to ride Double Centuries here in California. There is a very strong Double Century circuit here, and the California Triple Crown series sort of ties all of those together. Riding Doubles was the next step up from the local century and club ride level.

Around about 2003 I noticed a lot of my riding friends sort of disappear in the early part of the year from the Doubles circuit. I found out that they were riding brevets and many of them were preparing for PBP. California has always sent a large contingent of riders to PBP so there would be a lot of people ‘missing’ from the Doubles. Later in 2003 and in 2004 I would hear all number of PBP stories so of course I was intrigued.

3. What is your home club?

I am the RBA for the San Francisco Randonneurs (SFR), and I’m also a member of the Berkeley based Grizzly Peak Cyclists. The neat thing about those two clubs is that back in the 1980s and early 90s Grizzly Peak was the organizing force behind the PBP qualifiers. This predates RUSA of course. Some of the routes used for those brevets later became somewhat regular club rides for GPC, and then in 2008 I took the 200km route and submitted it to RUSA and we rode it on the RUSA 10th anniversary weekend that August.

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

I absolutely don’t have a favorite distance. Of course I’ve done more 200km rides than any other. SFR over the last two years has hosted 200km brevets nearly all through the calendar year and this complements the RUSA R12 award which a lot of riders shoot for, and it also appeals to all the newer riders that have been coming to SFR events in the last two years.

One of my favorite events though is the Fleche. I’ve ridden one of those in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. I really love the team aspect of that ride, and the relaxed way we can complete the event. This year it rained on us for about 10 or 11 hours, but even that didn’t ruin the fun we had.

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

I’ve had the most trouble with the 600km distance. My first 600km was 50% fantastic, 30% a nightmare, and then the last 20% was fantastic again. That 30% was a learning experience though with the chief lesson that there will always be high spots later on in the ride. It doesn’t always stay bad.

My 2nd 600km was a struggle as I had serious stomach troubles for 36 hours. My 3rd, 4th and 5th 600kms each were better than the last though and all three of those were great rides.

I’ve had bad luck with rides over 600km, getting ill timed colds on most of those. All that turned around last year when I had the best brevet of my life on the Santa Cruz Central Coast 1000km. That was the most fantastic ride. Beautiful scenery, challenging course, great, great company.

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

The 200km distance can really separate riders across a spectrum. The longer brevets can often negate that separation. I’ve seen riders that finish mid pack and at the back on 200kms often finish together on 1000 or 1200kms. The California 1000 or 1200 kms I’ve attempted have been set in really wonderful locations. The Davis Bike Club’s Gold Rush Randonnee is in the Sierra and every bit as scenic as the Big Sur Coastline where the Santa Cruz 1000km goes through.

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

What hooked me at first and continues to be the strongest pull is the company I have ridden with on brevets. There are so many stories to hear and to tell. What is better than being on bikes, talking about bikes and bike rides with other bike riders for 8-40 hours?

Rob's stunning Litton Randonneur

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

I feed on the enthusiasm I see in riders at the finish of rides, particularly when they are new to randonneuring. It was there for me when I first started so I know exactly what they are feeling, and I still get that same feeling when I near the finish of an epic ride. I’m not fond of riding in the rain, but that is where most of the epic ride stories come from.

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

I think any randonneur that can connect into that community feeling I see so much of on brevets is a rider I know I’ll see back for the next brevet.

10. How do you define successful?

This is going to be so different for each brevet I ride. An example of that would be the recent over night 200km that SFR held. I hooked up with a friend just before the 1st control and we then rode the next 200km (the route is 230km) together. Toward the end he began to fade a little. Extra hours at work had kept him from doing much riding before hand. When we finished, it wasn’t very close at all to my best time for that route, but I felt it was every bit as fun and enjoyable as any other time I rode that route, completely because of the company. That ride was a success for me.

On another ride a number of years back, I had been training really well before hand and managed to shock quite a number of other people by finishing so early. That ride was a success because I could put into play all the fitness and training I had been able to do before hand.

In one more example, I started a 300km in the rain and it pretty much rained for 12+ hours. I found I had managed my equipment just right and while I was of course quite wet, I was also warm too and therefore quite happy. I considered that ride a success because I never thought of quitting just because of miserable weather, and I got out and saw things that few others were seeing that day because they chose to stay home.

I love this series! Thanks for being so candid and thoughtful, Rob, and hope we get to pedal some miles with you again in the future.

Rando Q&A with Chris Newman, NJ and PA Randonneurs

We’re back on the East Coast for today’s Rando Q&A, talking with PBP-bound Chris Newman of New Jersey. Chris rides regularly with the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Randonneurs, and Felkerino and I had the pleasure of riding last year’s Endless Mountains 1000K with her. Here’s what she had to say on the Rando Q&A.

1. When did you start randonneuring?

I rode my first 200K Brevet in 2005. Prior to that my biggest cycling challenge was riding the same flat century every October since 1995.The idea of riding a hilly 125 miles was intimidating but I was up for something new.

That first 200K was the longest ride I had ever done. It was the middle section of a 300K which was being run concurrently. I thought those riders doing the 300K were crazy and I knew I could never attempt such a distance.

2. Why did you start?

I was in my local bike shop and I saw a post card advertising randonneuring. I took the card home and checked it out on the web. It appealed to me because it appeared that I could ride pretty slowly and still finish. I had tried racing once and dropped out before I could experience being lapped by the entire field. And for me cycling was a stress reliever so I was not interested in a lot of intense training (HAH! How blind I was!).

3. What is your home club?

I ride a lot in Pennsylvania and also in New Jersey so I feel as if both of these groups are my home club. I also belong to the D.C. Randonneurs, but I haven’t had the opportunity to get down that way too much.

Chris and the Bilenky

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

I think my favorite distance is the one I have just successfully completed!

Actually, it would have to be the 200K. I have ridden so many of them now that I feel really comfortable and confident. I can usually sleep pretty well the night before the start. Most of them start at a reasonable hour, not at the god-awful hour of 4:00 am. In the summer months, a 200K can be completed in daylight. The distance is short enough that I can have fun and be quite relaxed but long enough to still present a challenge.

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the SR series?

For me the most challenging distance is the 600K. I have trouble sleeping the night before a big ride so I always start quite sleep deprived. I am unable to sleep at the overnight controle because I am too wired and usually a bit sore so I just take a shower, grab some food and get back on the bike. This means I am usually starting up again around 2:00-3:00 am and those first few hours in the dark are really mentally challenging. Once the sun comes up I feel better but it is a long night.

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

I have only completed one 1000K so far. I rode the Endless Mountains 1000K in Pennsylvania last August as a test for PBP this year. I DNFed PBP in 2007 and I decided I needed to complete a domestic 1200K before going back to France. I figured if I could finish Tom’s 1000K I could handle PBP.

The most enjoyable and surprising aspect of the 1000K was seeing most of the other riders at the controles in the latter part of the ride. I am usually at the lantern rouge end of the group so I rarely see the speedy riders after the start. But the long distance levels the playing field somewhat and since I didn’t sleep at the first overnight controle I was out ahead of the lead group on day two. Of course everyone eventually caught and passed me but I saw them again the last day. I hadn’t expected that –I was pretty sure I would be out there alone so it was great to have company. And my finishing time was not far off from the leaders so I felt good about that as well.

Finishing such a challenging ride and feeling good at the end has given my self-confidence a tremendous boost. Although it might be wearing off a bit as the big day approaches!

Curbside dining on the Endless Mountains 1000K

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

I enjoy the challenge randonneuring presents on so many levels. There is the most obvious physical aspect of the sport, but I think the mental challenge is almost as great. In the middle of a long ride, in the middle of the night, it’s often my brain that causes me the most problems, not my legs.

I love a sport where a slow rider who can read a cue sheet can finish ahead of a speedy rider who can’t. I love traveling to new places by bike and I have really enjoyed meeting and riding with some great people. I love to conquer all the climbs Tom R. throws my way although I can often be heard complaining after a particularly gratuitous hill.

And, of course, who wouldn’t love a sport where so much cool gear is required?

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

A good ride is one in which I don’t get hurt, enjoy myself, finish within the time limit, and learn something new. These were my goals for my first ride and they continue to be my goals six years later.

This past year I have also been lucky enough to ride with some great people (Katie, Joe, Paul, Joe, Shane, Nigel, Jon, Janice, Laurent, Al) instead of riding solo as I have done so often in the past. A good ride for me now includes sharing it with friends.

I had a great ride two days ago with Joe Kratovil. We promised to take it easy at the start but ended up really pushing the pace. I love the route we had chosen, the day was warm but otherwise perfect for a ride, and I learned I can push myself beyond my comfort zone and still have a great ride.

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

I think to be a successful rando you need to missing the part of your brain where common sense resides. It also helps to be stubborn, mentally tough, adventurous, and self-confident.

A good sense of humor is extremely helpful and the ability to walk around convenience stores in ridiculous biking gear without feeling self conscious is vital to success. Also, the fortitude to use any rest room available, no matter what the condition, is a key factor for brevet survival.

10. How do you define successful?

Success, for me, is to just ride my ride, keep my goals in mind, and not be influenced by the what other riders are doing. Sometimes the hardest part of a ride is reigning myself in at the start when everyone else is tearing away up the road and I find myself alone within the first few miles. I am seldom the last finisher but I am always the lantern rouge at the start.

Thanks for being part of our Rando Q&A, Chris, and I can’t wait to see you in France! (I love saying that, can you tell?)

Rando Q&A with Joe Platzner, Seattle Randonneurs

Today, The Daily Randonneur hits up the Pacific Northwest for some Rando Q&As. Joe Platzner, a Seattle Randonneurs member, PBP entrant, and TDR Rando Photo prize-winner, shares some of his thoughts on brevets and randonneuring with us.

1.      When did you start randonneuring?

I joined early in 2008.

Joe, perfecting the panda shot

2.      Why did you start?  

I read some ride reports online after PBP 2007. They all had titles like, “PBP was atrocious this year,” and I was inspired. I was happy to discover Seattle has a club.  That explained the wool jerseys.

3.      What is your home club?  

Seattle International Randonneurs.  SIR is an amazing club.  The club runs on volunteers, and everyone is always offering to help out.  One shows  up for the rides but stays for the people. Honestly, the club has some serious mojo.  Everyone should visit Seattle for a brevet or two.

On the other hand, having done rides with a few different clubs around the country now, I realize that we are just as much part of the RUSA club.  That should be pretty cool in Paris.

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

They are all good.  A couple of my friends told me that it was good preparation for longer rides to be able to make 300s routine; it seems like good advice.

Out on a ride in the Pacific Northwest. And look at that lug!

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

It’s all pretty bad.  And by “bad” I mean “good.”

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

I’ve only done two rides of that distance.  The first was Portland to Glacier, and the second was the Cascade 1200.  I loved the point-to-point nature of the Glacier ride; you could look at a globe and say, “we went from here to here.”  On Cascade, I “enjoyed” riding through a couple of near DNFs and popping out the other side. It’s also cool that people travel from all over the world to do the 1200s.

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

I like that it is not racing, yet you get to test yourself.  I like hanging out with like-minded individuals even if we fight like an old married couple (Greg.)

Seriously, the people are amazing.  We just finished a “heat camp” a few weeks ago, and we didn’t want it to end.  It was like going back to college and living in the dorm.

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

It completely depends on the day.  I’m often just out on social rides, but it is also fun to try to go hard on occasion.  The quality of coffee weighs mightily in the success of an event as well.

I approve this panda photo.

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

Being stubborn and self-sufficient go a long way.

10.     How do you define successful?  

Wow, there are so many different ways.  Part of it is signing up for rides that are beyond your comfort zone and having a go.  But more importantly, just throwing a leg over the bike is 90% of the battle.

A bunch of us have trained pretty hard for PBP.  After PBP, I’m probably going to lobby RUSA for an official “Coffee Shop Run” medal.  To earn it, you need to ride your bike slowly to a nearby coffee shop and enjoy a fine beverage.  I think this would be a big seller in September.

Thanks so much for being part of the Rando Q&A, Joe! See you at PBP, and please count Felkerino and me in on the September coffee rides.