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Brevets & Randonneuring(18 posts)

Brevets & RandonneuringPdxMark
Nov 6, 2003 10:39 AM
I've been looking into brevets & randonneuring and am thinking I may do a brevet series this Spring. Brevets are not races, but rather time-limited "tours." The rides are usually 200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km, and self-supported, self-navigated, and you have checkpoints along the route.

As examples, time limits are a manageable 13 hours for 200k, 20 hrs for 300k, 27 hrs for 400k, 40 hrs for 600k. But the possibility of cool/wet weather, riding in the dark, route finding, and self-sufficiency make the time limits a bit more sprting.

These rides stem from the Paris-Brest-Paris ride that occurs once every four years. PBP is 1200 km and has a time limit of 80/84/90 hours (your choice). There are also some 1200 km rides in the US & Canada. Apparently, PBP pre-dates & was the inspiration for the Tour de France.

Anyway, has anyone done any of these? What do you think? Do you like them? Any great tips? I'm thinking that this year I'll ride them with a multi-gear bike, with the idea that next year I'd ride the series single-speed or fixed gear. The next PBP is in 2007 - which would be fun to ride fixed gear.
I've done one, so I'm no expertScot_Gore
Nov 6, 2003 11:19 AM
Search the archives for posts from Lon Norder and Dale Brigham (I might be spelling that wrong, I'm sure Dale will be along shortly to directly respond to your post).

I did a 200K this year. At the time, it was my longest ride ever. It was enough to teach me that my "race bike" speced ride would not be the machine to run a whole brevet series with. But I'd would diffently like to do more brevets inthe future.

PBP on single speed I would consider a loftly goal for myself, YMMV.

I did a ride report on my 200K. Search for the word "Wykoff" in the archives. It's likely a very unique word and you should find my post.

Have Fun

Thanks for references to Dale & Lon...PdxMark
Nov 6, 2003 1:51 PM
I must have slept through all those posts... or actually skipped them without realizing what they were. There's some great brevet information already here. Now that I'm tuned in, it'll be fun to watch what everyone is up to. Thanks.
I've enjoyed them a lot.dzrider
Nov 6, 2003 11:24 AM
I started in 2002 doing a 200k, 300k, 600k and in 2003 did a 200k and 300k. The riders back where I was were pretty low key and weren't hurrying or concerned much about speed. It's a small enough group to make it easy to get to know people who ride at your pace. None of the snobbery or cliquishness that sometimes shows up among racers.

There was little drafting - nobody seemed to object to being drafted but nobody stayed on anybody's wheel for very long either. The rides from Massachusetts don't look very attractive for fixed gear riding. Lon Haldeman, former RAAM winner, rode a single speed on the quad century ride that happens alongside part of the BMB 1200k, but I wouldn't try it.

If you're in the northeast, I highly recommend the 300k out of Westfield, MA. The route is incredibly pretty and the climbs, while long and difficult by New England standards, are concentrated in 3 sections so much of the riding is easy rolling.

I hope to do a full series in 2004, including BMB. It can be hard to schedule all the rides around family and work, but it would be great to get it done.
Thinking of doing the shorter ones next Spring ...Humma Hah
Nov 6, 2003 11:29 AM
A 200k looks just possibly do-able on the cruiser, although it would be 1000 ft more climbing than I've ever done in a day. The pace of brevets is easily within my long-distance speed capability on the cruiser, if I don't stop much.

I bought the Paramount specifically to bring a 300k brevet into the realm of possibility.
The DC brevet series is hard-very hard.MB1
Nov 6, 2003 5:27 PM
Miss M and I concluded a long time ago that the Warrenton 200k course is actually harder than the Frederick 300k route. Neither is a likely route for a fixte or SS-the 200k for it's constant ups and downs (much steeper that our NSA/OCE century) and the 300k because of the length and steepness of the climbs and downhills.

Try one of them first with gears before you go out with your fixte. Remember there is no sag support so once you start you are on your own to get home.

The DC area routes all try to include at least 5000' of climbing for every 100 miles. We have done lots of Brevets in California and here, California is easier.
Hey, I'll probably ride into DC this weekend ...Humma Hah
Nov 7, 2003 10:36 AM
... The Paramount has been dropping hints it wants a Brooks to replace that heinous overstuffed vinyl sofa that is presently on it, and I thought I might hop on the W&OD this weekend and ride in to that "Pro" shop in Georgetown and buy it a B-17. Any chance I'll meet you coming out that way?

I don't even own a geared roadbike. To take it easy, train on the cruiser, then I'd ride the 'Mount with one of my lower-geared SS freewheels. I have 'em in 18, 20, and 22T. I'm guessing I could get by with the wheel set up 18/20 flip-flop, SS both sides, with a spare chain and the 22T in the backpack.
re: low IQJS Haiku Shop
Nov 6, 2003 12:19 PM
contrary to what DZ posted, my experiences with brevets this year were more along the lines of those with competitive mindsets, at least the first part. i did the 200/300/400/600k rides out of edwardsville, IL, just across the river from st. louis, mo. with exception of a great 400k ride with Dale Brigham & Co, the others were fairly miserable rides, and the company was equally miserable.

the STL guys ride casually out of town, and once on farm roads, screw the speed up to something pretty good, then start launching guys off the front. i think in the 400k we did the first 50 miles at something well over 20 mph, and the first 100 miles in around 5 hours--not unreasonable for an organized century+, but substantial for the first 100 of a 250-mile ride, done self-supported with a heavy bike following an unfamiliar route, in poor weather, far from home and a universe away from telephoned rescue. but i digresss...

enjoyable nonetheless.

i'm sure your experience will be tempered by the locale and locals, as well as hugely by the terrain. another big factor in "brevet season" is weather, which can be a huge obstacle on an otherwise run-of-the-mill long ride. other challenges are following maps and cues, some of which might not be accurate or might assume or require local knowledge. trust me on this one. other factors are time limit--though they are quite generous, as the rides get longer, people have a tendency to spend more time off the bike, which destroys your time allowances. throw a mechanical in there and you're outside of the window in a hurry. another "fun" part of brevets is extended night riding, when combined with an all-day+ in the saddle, helps to "highlight" equipment and bio-mechanical issues. finally, self-supported means you don't have any help on the route, no food stops, no SAGs, nobody to sweep the course, you get the point--carry what you need and buy what you don't have. many times you'll find the route takes you miles from where anyone can hear you scream--and eons away from a proper bike shop, which might not be open at 10:30 PM on saturday night anyhow.

for a number of reasons, but primarily because i was unprepared, i failed to complete the 600k. in 2004 i will not return to IL to ride the entire series, but i do plan to have a 600k rematch in edwardsville. driving 4+ hours (one way) once a month for four months to go to boston, paris, or to get "super randonneur", is not worth the effort for me in 2004.

I so desperately wanted to hold a brevet series in memphis in '04, but decided to concentrate on hosting several series of races instead. plate is far too full this year for another wild goose chase.

perhaps this will help to shed some sobriety on lofty ideals of what brevets can or cannot be. had i to do the 2003 series again, i would without second thought. however, forewarned and all that...

good luck and be careful.


ps. i started riding >100 milers 2 years ago, with 2 supported 200k rides in late summer. last year, lots of miles, plus 2 supported double centuries. i felt this build-up was appropriate and needed for my personal "enjoyment" of the brevet series. training up to them through late fall and early winter is a "fun" regimen, and will iron out any equipment and eating issues you might have over a 250 mile + ride.
"enjoyable nonetheless"PdxMark
Nov 6, 2003 1:28 PM
I liked your summary... "enjoyable nonetheless"

I think that it's some of the adversity that is attracting me to these things. The time committment is significant. There is supposedly a series here in town (Portland, OR), but it looks like just one guy organizing it rather than an organization. The next closest series is in Seattle - 3 hrs away.

The escalating distances are intriguing too. 200k is fine, even 300k is within past experience. 400k would be a new max distance.

I hadn't heard about how difficult the route finding can be, though I had read about a 1200k ride in Canada where some riders drifted off course.

Eating and other issues at 250 miles will be something to learn about, especially in colder or wetter weather. Part of the fun - at this point - is thinking through some of those details and having plans for how to address them.
Greats comments... for a bike I'm considering...PdxMark
Nov 6, 2003 1:18 PM
adapting a custom fixie I have being built. My original plan was for it to to accomodate fenders & all-season brakes (cantis, but would be nice to have discs on it) for year-round fixie or SS riding. My latest thought is to include a rear derailleur hanger on it, so I can ride this nice steel distance cruiser as a multi-gear bike for my first brevet series or so.

Then next year I'd pull-off the derailleurs, slip on a flip-flop wheel, and try it all SS (or fixed). The goal would be to try it fixed, but that is elevation dependent. I don't mind the ascents fixed, but the descents can wear on me.

I found a very nice criss-cross reflective shoulder sash (required for the dark hours). Does anyone have thoughts regarding a good, multi-hour headlight? I'm thinking of using my old Cateye 2.5W halogen with a D-cell battery pack wired into it.
Sounds like a good bike.Dale Brigham
Nov 6, 2003 2:01 PM
Good idea going for a der. hanger. You might turn out to be a weenie like me and use one of those newfangled gizmos (derailleur) every now and then. Like your new bike, I prefer steel, but have survived brevets and PBP on a recycled beer can (alu) frame. It sounds like you will have a very nice bike.

I've used all sorts of lights, but have ended up going back to two Cateye 2.5 watt Micro-halogens. Just add one fueled by 4-AAs onto your handlebar next to your D-cell powered one, and you'll have redundancy and versatility (fire 'em both up for descents into the void).

Regarding you local brevet series in Portland, I wouldn't be put off by the fact that it's being administered by one guy, rather than a club. Many, if not most, of the brevet series in the U.S. are likewise run by one local worthy. Ride the brevets close to home, if you can. Driving is not much fun after that 400 km brevet, as J and I can attest.

lightsJS Haiku Shop
Nov 7, 2003 6:38 AM
nothing beats a strong helmet-mounted light, 10 watts or better.

however, nothing sucks like wearing a strong helmet-mouted light, 10 watts or better, and lugging a battery for it around hours on end.

if tricky roads and descents are on the menu, a bright head-worn light is very helpful, almost a must. additionally, some form of helmet-mounted, vest-clipped, strung around the neck, or handheld light will be helpful reading a complicated cue sheet and road signs in pitch darkness.

as far as bar-mounted headlights, my experience with the cateye microhalogen 2.4-watt 4-aa kind was not good. i finished the 300k in the dark (wind, wind, wind) holding a 2-aa maglite between my teeth. next ride i'd bought 2 cateye EL300s from ebay at $18 each (new). these things cast a white/blue light using 5 LEDs each, and run for 20+ hours on 4-aa batteries each. the light is a little diffuse compared to halogen, and you might need 2 going at the same time, but they are (1) reliable, (2) long running on few batteries, and (3) seemingly immune to severely bad weather and very low temps.

carry spares, and spares for your spares, and some extra batteries, too. ya never know.

as far as reflective vests, sashes, or sam browne belts, i have the latter, but used it very little during brevets this year. with liberal application of 3m/jandd reflective tape, plus multiple lights, and reflective clothing, i was visible for miles across illinois farmland.

as for rear lights, two red blinkies (photon and cateye) worked well for me. one on the bike and one on the body.

don't forget clear glasses or a multi-lense system. get it tuned it before relying upon it.

THREE GOOD REFERENCES for brevet riding and distance stuff:


the randon listserv (subscribe here:

the ultracycling listserv (subscribe here:

on the randon list you can read messages about chicken soup nutritional values and endless discussions on lighting until you are either well informed or totally confused and sick. have fun.
Nov 7, 2003 11:15 AM
sign up here:

the links i gave you earlier were to unsubscribe ME. oops.

I use 2 cateye EL300s also...Lon Norder
Nov 7, 2003 12:56 PM
and also a helmet mounted NiteRider 5 watt for descents, map reading, looking for arrows, repairs, etc.
Welcome to the brethren (and sisteren)!Dale Brigham
Nov 6, 2003 1:39 PM

So pleased to have another convert to the sublime cycling subgenre of randonneuring. In answer to your questions....

1) Yep, I done a few. Started off in the deep-end with BAM (Bike Across Missouri, a 575 mile randonnee) in '98, qualified for (200-300-400-600 km brevet series) and completed PBP in '99, did a few brevets the following years, and then qualified for and completed PBP this year.

2) I likes 'em. You meet great people, and you get to team up with them spontaneously as you wish on the rides to get through the ordeal. (Of course, that's my commie side showing through.) Most folks ride brevets at a non-race pace, so gabbing among riders helps to pass the time and the miles. Very sociable, especially compared to racing. Best of all, PBP is cycling heaven (sprinkled with a touch or two of hell).

3) As you correctly stated above, the time limits on the brevets are very generous, UNLESS something goes wrong (injury, illness, mechanical problems, route problems, weather, etc.), which is not unusual. The 200 and 300 km brevets are longish day-rides; the 400 and 600 km brevets are much stiffer tests. The 1,200 km randonnees like PBP and BMB are the final exams for randos, requiring lots of preparation, logistics, determination, and luck to complete.

4) Tips? I hold strongly prejudiced opinions that you are free to ignore; a few follow:
- Avoid going too fast, especially at the start of the longer rides. Mete out your energy in a miserly fashion, and you will (nearly) always finish under the time limit.
- Ride a simple, comfortable, reliable bike. Leave the trick wheels at home (32 spokes or more is my motto), ride with lower gears than you think you'll need (and use 'em), raise your stem, lower your saddle a bit, use fat tires (25 mm or fatter), and put roomy shoes on your feet (1/2 to 1 Euro size larger than for racing).
- Buy and use good shorts. Use chamois cream or similar lube.
- Eat and drink more than you want to. Eat a "real meal" at every control (checkpoint), if you can. Always have something to eat with you on the bike.
- Bring Advil and Aleve along on the long ones; ingest as needed.
- Use redundant lighting systems if night riding is in the cards. Two headlights and two taillights, minimum.
- Carry a multi-tool, at least 2 spare tubes, patch kit, duct tape (little roll for booting tire casing), money, and a map (last resort if cue sheet baffles you).
- Convince your friends to do this with you. Always helps to have buddies along on the training rides and the brevets.

BTW, Lon Haldeman did the '99 PBp on a single speed (not sure if it was fixed), and I'm sure others have also done so. (Don't recall seeing any during '03 PBP, but I miss a lot.) That's a lofty goal, but if that's your thing, go for it. As for me, I'm planning going smaller in '07 than the 38/28 combo I ran as my low gear this year in France. I personally cannot fathom riding a fixed or single speed at PBP. Of course, I'm an avowed weenie.

Bonne Route!

ride reports from brevetsPeterRider
Nov 6, 2003 4:24 PM
I've done the series this year. And, after saying "never again" at the end of the 600, I think I'll do the series again in 2004 and hopefully try a 1200.

Some ride reports:
* 200 km Baldy - I lost my ride report...
* 200 km San Luis Obispo
* 300 km Solvang
* 400 km San Luis Obispo
* 600 km Davis
* 600 km Colorado

re: Brevets & RandonneuringKeeponTrekkin
Nov 7, 2003 8:24 AM
I'm doing them next year too. My intent is initally to assess the reasonableness of the goals given the constraints imposed by the rest of my life. I have little doubt about the shorter brevets; the longer ones... well I just don't know yet. I'm not afraid of a challenge, but I don't yet know how much training I'm going to need and if I have enough time to accomplish it (and still have a family that remembers me.)

Re: lights: check out the Schmidt dynamo hub generator. The product test report at this link says far more than I can, and with the authority of someone who used it in PBP.

I'll be riding my upgraded '89 French built, steel MBK touring bike (w triple crank, fenders and pannier racks) on any ride with chance of rain, longer than 300k or if I need to take more than a large under-seat bag can hold.

Hills, Hills, Hills; bring 'em on.

I saw several fixies at PBP...Lon Norder
Nov 7, 2003 12:41 PM
I saw a lot of things...