For the first time, beginning this summer, there will be a randonneuring club in Indiana. This new club, Indiana Randonneurs, is a part of Central Indiana Bicycle Association (CIBA), and will offer rides leaving from Indianapolis on May 31 and July 26.
What, you may ask, is randonneuring, and how do you pronounce it? Let me explain.
Randonneuring is a non-competitive, long-distance cycling sport. The shortest possible randonneuring ride is 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, in length. Most rides, however, are between 200 kilometers (124 miles) and 1200 kilometers (746 miles). You have to finish these rides within a certain period of time, but they are not races. For example, if you do a 200 kilometer ride, the fastest you can finish it is six hours and 45 minutes, and the slowest is 13 hours, 30 minutes. The successful finishers of a randonneuring event are listed alphabetically; there are no winners and no losers.
The sport of randonneuring has its origins in late 19th century France, and it grew out of interest in touring the countryside by bicycle. The most important randonneuring event is Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200-kilometer ride which has a history going back to 1891. Paris-Brest-Paris, or PBP as it is commonly known among randonneurs, is held every four years. The next iteration will be in August of 2015.
Because randonneuring has its origins in France, and because it is still administered from that country, some of the vocabulary for the sport is in French. For this reason, we measure the distance of our events in kilometers rather than miles. Randonneuring comes from a French word for hiking, and is pronounced something like this: "ron-duh-nuhr-ing." Randonneurs carry a brevet ("breh-vay") card which they have stamped along the route to prove that they have completed the ride. (My advice for pronouncing French words, including those that apply to randonneuring, is to say them as if you know what you are talking about, until you hear someone you trust say them differently, and then make adjustments.)
There have long been randonneurs in Indiana, but, until this year, they have had to travel to neighboring states-to Ohio, Kentucky or Illinois-to take part in the sport. Now, however, it is possible to do some of those rides in-state. Indiana Randonneurs, which is a part of the CIBA, is sanctioned by Randonneurs USA (RUSA), which is the national body governing the sport. I, Bill Watts, am the Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), which means that I plan and administer the rides.
In its first year, Indiana Randonneurs will offer two rides. The first is a 200K, Indianapolis-Story-Indianapolis, which will begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 31. The second is a 300K, Indianapolis-Seymour-Indianapolis, which will begin at 6 a.m. on July 26. Both rides will begin at the Major Taylor Velodrome.
If all goes well, we will offer a full series of brevets in 2015: the 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K. These four rides are known as a Super Randonneur Series, and if you finish all four rides in a year, you are a Super Randonneur. To qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris, you must complete a Super Randonneur series. It is my hope that Indiana Randonneurs will be able to qualify for PBP by doing our club rides, and that we will send a contingent of riders to Paris in 2015.
Randonnneuring rides are self-supported. This means that you have to carry or buy along the way everything you need to complete the ride. There are no sag vehicles following riders, and no stations that distribute food and water to riders. Along the way, you will stop at controls to have your brevet card stamped, and these controls will usually be at gas stations, restaurants or convenience stores, giving you a chance to take on food and water. You are also free to stop at any stores or restaurants along the way for replenishment. You are much more on your own on a randonneuring event than you are on other organized rides.
Reliability is more important than speed when you choose equipment for a brevet. Plenty of randonneurs ride sleek carbon road bikes, but those who do the longer rides regularly tend to gravitate toward steel-framed touring bikes. You need to carry with you the equipment necessary for routine repairs along the way-certainly extra inner tubes and the means to change flat tires, and, for longer rides, a spoke wrench, a chain tool, a spare tire and plenty of zip ties. For brevets of 300K and longer, you must have good, reliable front and rear lights, as well as a high-visibility safety vest and ankle bands.
The way to prepare for randonneuring events is to do progressively longer rides. If you can do a century, you can probably do a 200K, which is just 24 miles longer. If you can do RAIN (Ride Across Indiana), you can probably do a 300K, which is less than 30 miles longer. And, as the randonneuring season plays out, the 200K prepares you for the 300K, which prepares you for the 400K, and so on, until you are ready for the longest rides of 1200K or more.
In the near future, there will be an Indiana Randonneurs page on the CIBA website (cibaride.org), and you will be able to register for our events there. In the meantime, there is an Indiana Randonneurs page on FaceBook, and you can direct questions about the club to Bill Watts (firstname.lastname@example.org).