Randonneur Crazy People

Felkerino and me, with Rob Hawks on PBP 2011 (c) Antoinette Galon
Felkerino and me, with Rob Hawks on PBP 2011 (c) Antoinette Galon

How many miles does one have to ride to meet the minimum crazy threshold? Has anyone figured it out?

As a randonneuring arts practitioner I will tell you I am still searching for the answer. In some cases, anything over 100 miles will label you as crazy and in others the limit may be set higher.

I’ve heard my share of “crazy” in reference to the bicycling I like to do, and the search term “randonneur crazy people” even led someone to this blog. I certainly hope I did not disappoint and that all posts revealed the crazy in me.

“You’re crazy for riding so far.”
“You-all are crazy. Don’t you know we have cars now?”
“You rode here from where? You’re crazy!”

Perhaps these kinds of comments could be internalized as back-handed compliments. I often choose to think of them this way. It’s certainly easier than accepting the statement and planning a visit to the local sanitarium when the ride ends.

Are we crazy? Felkerino, Jon, and me finish PBP 2011
Are we crazy? Felkerino, Jon, and me finish PBP 2011

In most cases, I don’t have (or don’t want to take) the time to fully discuss this whole crazy bicycling business, but part of me is often tempted to explore it.

The simple response is that it’s really not so crazy as you might think.

One of the many appeals of randonneuring is that it is not an activity that only physically gifted athletes can do. A lot of people experience success in randonneuring, and they are quite normal.  I mean, you know what I mean. They have no outstanding superhero physical attributes. See Exhibit A: me.

Despite being somewhat active as a kid, I did not grow up as an athlete type. After college, I spent several years living a mostly sedentary lifestyle, driving almost everywhere.

Only when I moved to Washington, D.C., did I begin to build my fitness by running and bicycling. I began to wonder how far I could go, which led me to running marathons and randonneuring.

Exhibit A
Exhibit A: Me

I’m not suggesting a person can hop on a bike and easily ride 150 miles if he or she has not been working up to it, but I am saying it is not the crazy that people think.

If one has good health, the necessary gear, the desire, and the time, he or she can be a randonneur. There is no secret or elusive trick to randonneuring. It’s the act of getting out there, putting the miles in, and doing it.

You see? Randonneuring is not so crazy after all. Or perhaps it still is, but not in the unattainable way first thought.

Our bodies are capable of doing more than we know. We can go so much further than we imagine if we only open ourselves to possibility.

18 thoughts on “Randonneur Crazy People”

  1. Distance is a funny thing. I have my favorite distance (60 miles) but I’m deterred from greater distances by the lack of training and time, as you suggest. Most of my relatives think 60 miles is crazy. Riding at night gets you into the crazy category, even if you don’t ride all that far.

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  2. A lot depends on the terrain too. I did a 200k yesterday (Indiana’s first brevet). That distance wasn’t crazy. It was the terrain combined with the distance that made it crazy for me. I have done rides much farther than that which were WAY easier. I love to hear people tell me how crazy I am. It opens up conversation about how attainable it really is.

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  3. Some years ago, on a very wet and cold century ride, the cashier at a convenience store in a tiny town asked how long we were riding and declared us crazy. And I really liked it.

    But the other reaction I often get (and I know many long distance riders get) is “I could never do that, I can’t even ride X miles” (for some small integer X). For which I think it is important to be ready with the reply: Maybe not today, but if you ride some today and a little more tomorrow, you may surprise yourself. Amazing others is fun, but amazing ourselves is the big reward.

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  4. I hope to join your craziness soon — I ride sporadically at night and frequently do 30 and 50 miles — working up to 100! Great story and blog post!

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  5. Then I must confess I’ve been crazy for a very long time – growing up in Europe – I did not own a car until I was 28 years old. Took my bike and the train everywhere, and my backpack, on an old steel bike – you just did it – I did not even have a puncture kit with me – that was crazy. Today’s bikes are light years better – and clothing – and so long as your goal is a steady pace, and you carry food and supplies – it is attainable with a little training and preparation. Just being out there makes it all worthwhile, soaking in the whole experience.

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  6. I like your observation that really anyone can do it. That’s what I always tell people about running ultras. For goodness sake, you can walk lots!

    I think the takeaway is that anything considered “abnormal” or “crazy” in our society today is a compliment and a badge of honor when the norm for so many involves spending a lot of time time sitting, keeping up with tv shows and generally being sedentary. Just my two cents.

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    1. Yes, I was thinking that as I wrote it… that our society’s “normal” is generally quite sedentary. So those who choose a somewhat different path are viewed through this sedentary lens (for lack of a better phrase).

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  7. I had someone tell me this weekend they thought when they saw my biceps that I must be strong: “She must exercise,” this person concluded. Ha! Those wacky people who exercise.

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    1. Wacky people with good biceps! :) Oh, by the way I saw the On the Wheel magazines you bound for John… at least, I think it was you? Beautiful!

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  8. I am not a randonneur in the usual sense of the word. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden more than 70 miles in a single day. But I do attempt a 10-mile-each-way commute as often as possible. In May, I racked up 330 miles, most of it just going back and forth around town, with a couple of 15-mile group rides. This, too, has me labeled as one of those crazy people who bikes all over.

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    1. I can see that as well. I don’t think you are crazy, but commutes 10+ miles one way do take a certain level of dedication. Also as Daniel said, riding at night = crazy category!

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