I joined a bicycle club. The club is called the DC Randonneurs. As you may have guessed, they enjoy randonneuring.
If you didn’t guess that this club enjoys randonneuring, that must be because you don’t know what randonneuring is. Randonneuring is a cycling discipline which combines elements of racing, touring, and ultra-long rides to form a unique cycling event. Randonneuring is a French word which means, “cyclist who doesn’t know when it’s time to stop riding,” – at least that’s what it should mean. These guys go on seriously long rides, some as far as 1,200 kms. The authors of four blogs listed on the right are already members of the club: Rev Rider, Porta-John, Iron Rider, and Chasing Mailboxes. They all cycle long distances.
Very long distances.
There are many similarities between randonneurs and traditional road cyclists, not the least of which being an affinity for the French language and the metric system. Official rides are known as “brevets” and in April the group will be competing in a unique form of race called a “fleche” in which teams start in different locations but converge on a common finish line. Riders often hail each other with perky French phrases such as, “Bon Route!” and “Allez!” The Paris-Brest-Paris race (which occurs in France, you will be interested to learn) is the grand randonneuring event that many serious riders aspire to participate in.
Annoyingly, all rides are measured in kilometers.
I have already discerned a few differences between randonneurs and traditional roadies. Probably the biggest shift is the randonneurs’ fondness for lighting and reflective material. Lights (front and back) and reflectors (both on the bike and on your ankles/torso) are required. Randonneuring events are so long that they almost always involve some riding at night and they take the safety issues attendant to that fact very seriously. Another difference is the practice of using bags on the front or back fender (oh yeah, they use fenders) to hold the items required to complete their journey. There are no support vehicles in randonneuring and riders are expected to be self-sufficient.
This Saturday, the DC Randonneurs are heading out to my neck of the woods for a ride which starts in Bristow, a mere 15 miles from my house. Since it is early in the year, they’ll be going on a “short” route of only 200 kms. This is one of the shortest rides the club will do and is the minimum distance one must complete to be considered a “randonneur.”
200 kms is 124 miles.
The location of the start point and its eventual destination of the Civil War battlefields of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Chancellorsville cinched it for me. I paid my $10 annual membership fee and the $5 ride registration fee and was ready to travel 18 miles further than I ever have before. I traded emails with the ride leader, who informed me the actual distance was 130 miles, so now I’ll be breaking my personal best distance by 24 miles. Yippee.
So I’m going to ride 130 miles this Saturday, Lord willing. I’m looking forward to meeting my new club mates who (despite the French and metric issues) seem to be a fantastic group of people. I suspect I will have something to say about this event and I shall regale you with the tale sometime after I recuperate. Wish me luck!