Category Archives: DC Randonneurs

John and Lynne

When I began riding bikes with the D.C. Randonneurs, I didn’t imagine the significant role this activity, as well as the people involved in it, would have on my life. But the randonneuring community is small and the rides are long. Preparation for events leads to pick-up rides through the countryside with other randonneurs.

Brevets require riders to maintain an overall pace, but randonneuring rewards successful completion rather than speed, and I think these elements contribute to the evolution of a rather unique sporting club.

There aren’t many people who “get it” when it comes to randonneuring. Most people think we’re crazy and tell us so in various ways. But we know the appeal of long days on the open road, and even if we don’t share much in common beyond that, we have a way of sticking together.

In a sense, it’s like living in a small town. Our little community grows stronger through mutual acceptance as we tolerate–  even appreciate– each other’s quirks and our individual approaches to long-distance riding. Nobody else understands where we come from or why we choose to ride long year-round, through rain and chill, on sunny as well as less inviting days, but we do. We get it, and among each other we relax, knowing we need never explain that part of ourselves.

You start randonneuring, and unfamiliar faces gradually become cycling buddies. Over time, you develop the ability to recognize fellow D.C. Randonneurs from afar. Some combination of their bike setup, the way they sit or pedal, their clothing choices, or the bags they use to carry their gear reveals their identities before you glimpse their faces. Every rider has a unique profile.

John and Lynne
John and Lynne outside Frederick on August 29, 2015

This was the case with local riders and long-time D.C. Randonneurs John and Lynne, who I’ve known since my early days of randonneuring in 2005. John and Lynne regularly rode tandem and used conspicuous helmet mirrors to see behind them. Their loaded-up Ortlieb panniers made them easy to discern. They almost always appeared to have packed for a long tour, rather than a brevet or day ride. Even on warm days, they layered up for unpredicted changes in temperature.

Outside of randonneuring and weekend rides, I had no knowledge of their lives, but we shared an affinity for tandeming and riding that led us to encounter each other fairly regularly. Felkerino and I saw them a few times this summer. We’d be pedaling along a country road thinking we were the only cyclists around for miles, and suddenly we’d spot John and Lynne on their tandem. We’d all smile, and exchange hellos and waves.

John and Lynne

Avid riders, John and Lynne loved being out together. When it came to brevets, they were extremely dogged. Not the fastest randonneurs, John and Lynne seemed to enjoy testing their endurance through randonneuring events. They never expected anyone to bail them out or pick them up if they missed a time cutoff, and always finished under their own power. I admired that tenacity and self-sufficiency.

John was a skilled router, and after decades of riding he and Lynne knew the roads around our area intimately. They sewed rides together from all the nearby quiet rural roads.

This weekend John and Lynne were out on what I imagine was one of their regular weekend rides, and a drunk driver hit them from behind. The drunk driver killed them, and I really don’t want to accept that these two gentle souls died so violently during what I have come to find is a glorious pastime– a weekend tandem ride with one’s partner.

Our community has experienced a great loss, and I’m so angry and sad. Angry that our country has such a problem with drunk and dangerous drivers on our roads. Angry with myself for reading the comments in response to the Washington Post article about John and Lynne’s horrifying deaths at the hands of an intoxicated driver, where some suggest that cyclists who ride on roads are just waiting for an “accident” to happen to them, and that the only place for cylists is on trails. Angry that so many leave cyclists to fend for their own safety in the face of racing giant boxes of metal.

Mostly, though, I am overwhelmed with sadness that John and Lynne are gone– that I’ll never see John and Lynne on another ride, or be able to look forward to a chance encounter with them on their tandem and those overpacked Ortliebs.

From Randonneur Rookie to PBP 2015: An Interview with Eric Williams

This brevet season Felkerino and I had the great pleasure of getting to know Eric Williams, member of #BikeDC and the D.C. Randonneurs.

In Eric’s first year of randonneuring, he completed a Super Randonneur series, a 1000K brevet, and Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). And he just keeps on riding. He has the rando fever!

Eric’s enthusiasm for riding is infectious, and I’m so glad he’s part of our rando scene. We recently talked about how he became interested in randonneuring, his first year of riding brevets, and his recent PBP experience.

Eric PBP

You were riding a lot of miles before you started randonneuring, but what was the longest ride you had done until you began riding  brevets, and what made you want to give randonneuring a try?

Until the summer of 2014, I hadn’t been riding a lot. I mainly commuted to work a few times a week– three miles each way– and went on an occasional shop ride with Proteus. That summer my daughter went to Alabama to stay with her mother, and I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands.

I knew my cousin Jarred had gotten into cycling and I was really inspired when I heard he had completed a TransAmerica bike tour. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 10 years, so I decided to purchase a touring bike and take a quick trip up to Boston (via car).

Jarred and I then rode 100 miles with camping gear and all from Barnstable to Provincetown and back to Brewster, where we camped out for the night. That was my first century. I’d hardly say it was easy, but I knew right then that longer rides are for me.

I headed back to Maryland and decided to ride the GAP & C&O Canal from Pittsburgh to D.C. I really wanted to do this alone and fully self-supported.

A few friends drove me up, dropped me off, and said see you later. I completed the trip in four days, with lots of rain. Having never even camped alone before, this was very challenging for me.

I rode the Sea Gull Century, because why not? It sounded fun. Fun it was, but the feeling of accomplishment paled in comparison.

I had recently met Rod Smith (#BikeDC legend), and he mentioned that he had ridden 140 miles the day before. I remember thinking, “That’s impossible!”

I had always thought of the century as the end-all ride, the long one. This simple limit conversation really opened my eyes and probably changed my life forever.

Sometime after this I told my friend Ben Bassett from Proteus that I wanted to do more longer rides, but didn’t want to be as well-cared for or supported like organized centuries. He mentioned the D.C. Randonneurs and I signed up for the Flatbread 200K ride they put on every November.

In preparation for the Flatbread 200K, I met up with Rod at the BicycleSPACE Hills of Anacostia ride. We decided to keep riding. That day we road 140 miles together. I’ll never forget it.


How did the brevets inform your decision to ride PBP?

It wasn’t until sometime just before the Flatbread in November 2014 that I heard of PBP. I remember thinking how insane that sounded– ride 1200K in 90 hours or less.

I decided I would ride the Super Randonneur series and not worry about this PBP thing. I’d work up the 400K and see what happened. I just kept wanting more.

It was through talking to Carol Bell and Chris Mento during the Team Carnivore Flèche about PBP that I realized it was possible, and I could do it if I wanted.

As soon as I completed the D.C. Randonneurs 600K in June, I knew I could do it and I wanted to. I registered that night when I got home. I couldn’t wait for the chance to really test myself.


I know you rode a 1000K in the months leading up to PBP. Do you think that helped you prepare?

Ahhh, the 1000K. This would turn out the be a lot harder than PBP in a very biblical sense. I don’t think I needed the miles but I was concerned I didn’t have to sleeping experience needed for a 1200K having only ever ridden one 600K (one overnight ride).

The 1000K was a triple loop ride that started and ended at the same place each day. This would give me a great opportunity to learn how to sleep quickly and still manage to ride 200 miles the next day.

As it turned out, the second day was one of the wettest days on record. I can’t remember it ever raining that hard.

Forget that we would be summitting mountain passes on bicycles. I learned a lot on this ride from rando veteran Jerry Phelps and Dr. John from North Carolina. We had about 640 miles to discuss life and other valuable rando lessons.

Long story short, the 1000K completely trashed me and actually made me think I wouldn’t be recovered in time for PBP. Looking back, I think it was the right decision to ride the 1000K and I’m proud to be one of five people to complete that ride.


What had you heard about PBP prior to going, and how did your ride experience live up to what you’d heard?

I had always heard that PBP would include cheering locals, classic steel, hardcore racers, and every manner of cyclist known to man.

Simply put, I had heard that PBP is the greatest cycling event in the world. And yes, it lived up to that in every way and more.

A lot of times something can be exaggerated or talked up so much that when you get there it’s a complete letdown. This wasn’t the case with PBP, and I knew it the minute I got off the airplane.

Eric- PBP

What were some of the highlights of PBP?

On the first day sometime just before dusk, probably around 200+ miles into the ride, I stopped to give three local children D.C. Randonneurs pins. The children looked so happy– a pure joy kind of happiness. The father stood there looking at me like, “Did he really just stop? He needs to be riding.”

He and some other guy ran over to me, picked me up, placed me back on my saddle, and started running me up the hill. I couldn’t believe it. It was the most exciting moment of my life, them laughing hysterically as they pushed me.

Otherwise, riding with people for all over the world, meeting new friends, realizing just how widespread and close the randonneuring community is. Seeing my friends from DCR throughout the ride. These were all great moments.

And actually pulling with people who have completed RAAM. I didn’t know I was strong enough to ride with these cyclists. I pushed myself harder than ever before and enjoyed every second.

The third day was really a highlight, probably because I expected it to be a low point. Other than a lot of ankle pain, I felt great and was riding faster and stronger than ever before. It was amazing to finish a ride like this feeling strong.

And, in addition to the feeling of finishing, seeing my daughter and my sister waiting for me at the finish line, was amazing. I was so proud that my daughter could be there to share that moment with me.

Eric PBP

Did you experience any lows or difficult times? 

There were two times I felt utterly horrible during the ride. During the first night I decided I would ride all the way to Carhaix-Plougers. That’s about 330 miles.

Sometime at about 3 a.m. I started catching up to the tail end of the 90-hour group. Suddenly I was riding through about 1,000 people zig-zagging all about the road.

People were sleeping any and everywhere, including on the road surface– not cool. The energy was gone. These people had been on the bike for about 36 hours.

It really affected me and it hit me. I was tired. It’s interesting how energy is contagious, or how the lack thereof can also be contagious.

Those ditches started looking really cozy! This would probably the most tired I’ve ever felt.

I knew if I just kept on it I would get through. I had a hotel with a bed and shower, I just had to get there.

The second low point was when I woke up the following morning. I had slept from 6 a.m to 9 a.m., and I woke up in a confused state. I didn’t stop for a second to think “What do I need?”

I just jumped on the bike and started riding again. About 20 miles down the road, I realized I could hardly even turn the pedals. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with me? What did I do?”

I realized I never ate breakfast. The calorie depletion from the day before struck hard and I was bonkers!

I managed to push through about 100K, to Brest, where I had a huge meal and sat down for a while. Everything was better then.

Eric PBP

You completed PBP in 68 hours, right, a fast time considering most people have 90 hours to complete the full distance. You took the 84-hour start, but in addition to that, how did you approach riding PBP (miles per day of riding, sleep stops, food, etc.) and did you have a time goal?

I didn’t have a specific time goal, other than I would aim for 74 hours. That left 10 in reserve, which would be important for mechanical or body failure!

I booked a hotel in Carhaix and Fougeres. I thought if I could make it 330 miles the first day, I would be in a great position. The second day would be a hard 250 miles, with lots of climbing back to Fougeres. This would set me up for an easy last day of 190 miles.

I already knew I could function fine on 3 hours of sleep a day as long as I was tired when I went to sleep (that wouldn’t be a problem!). I knew if I pushed through the first night that meant pushing through the second as well.

I set myself up for a late start the second and third day with a lot of night riding. I never thought I’d start a 400k at 10 a.m. but it worked out. I don’t mind riding at night, I rather enjoy it.

I ate three meals sitting down, and the rest of the food was all eaten on the bike. At each control I would pickup a few bananas, pain au chocolate, and a jambon sandwich.

Eating on the bike really saves a lot of time, not only because you are moving but because you never really get full. Using the energy as you replenish it seems to work better for my stomach than eating a large meal.

It wasn’t until the middle of the second day that I realized the faster I rode and the harder I climbed the more the locals would cheer for me. They fed me energy (and espresso!).

The more they got into it the harder I rode. I realized that my averages weren’t slowing down as I expected they would. At this rate I could do 68 hours comfortably. I wrapped up the second day at about 6 a.m. again and started out the third day by 10 a.m.

Eric - PBP

Some have said that the 84-hour group was somewhat lonely and lacked the fanfare of the 90- or 80-hour start. What were your thoughts about taking the 84-hour start at 5 a.m.– the morning after the 90- and 80-hour riders?

I think the 84-hour start was the right decision for me. Although I chose this to help out with the crowds at controls, I caught up to the 90-hour group very early in the ride and was met with probably even larger crowds. Being at the front of the 90-hour group would have probably allowed me to completely beat the crowds.

I was really nervous to be in the last starting group in a ride this long. In the back of my mind I thought, if I get dropped it’s going to be a long lonely ride.

The night before I started my ride, I decided to go to the 80-90 start and watch all the brave randonneurs depart. I rode back to my hotel with a German fellow I had just met. It turned out he had lived in Maryland for a few years.

On the way back to the hotel the streets were covered with spectators cheering for us. They thought we were riding in PBP!

This would be the most excitement I would see the entire ride, so yeah, I suppose the 84-hour start really does lack some fanfare. We laughed hysterically as we rode by waving to our fans. All the excitement left me unable to get a good night’s sleep.

The next morning St. Quentin looked like a scene from a zombie movie. The streets were empty, the lights were off, and there wasn’t a fan in site. In fact, I don’t think I saw a spectator until past noon that day.


Would you ride PBP again and why?

I would definitely ride PBP again. I never really understood why people ride it so many times until I was about halfway through the second day. I already wanted to ride it again and I hadn’t even finished yet.

It’s really hard to say why, exactly. Most of our brevets are very lonely at times. I’ve ridden well over 100 miles solo on a brevet that had 20-30 people riding it.

PBP didn’t feel like a brevet; it wasn’t the self supported challenge I had grown to love. It was something else entirely different filled with non-stop excitement. I don’t now if I’ll be there in 2019 but I will ride PBP again, and again, and again….

How would you summarize your first year of randonneuring and PBP?

My first year of randonneuring isn’t quite over yet but I think I got through the hardest parts. I’ve learned more about myself and grown as an individual more this year than the other 30 I’ve been around.

These long rides offer endless amounts of time to reflect on your decisions and to think about what you actually want out of life. I’ve met so many amazing people, seen so much amazing territory, and covered thousands of miles on my bike. This has been the greatest, most accomplished, year of my life.

To summarized PBP, “Christmas Eve”…

Eric- PBP

What’s next?!

Last weekend I rode a 440K ride out into the Shenandoah Mountains. I realized while riding that I didn’t really have a goal to work towards. As a result, the ride felt somewhat less meaningful.

I would really like to continue randonneuring and I don’t see myself ever stopping. I plan to ride all the international brevets I can– London-Edinburgh-London, and the Miglia Italia, to list a couple.

However, I now know there’s a whole other level of crazy. I would like to attempt something like the TransAmerica or Transcontinental Race– maybe even the Tour Divide. These are unsupported bike packing races across the United States and Europe.

After riding PBP I believe I could ride 240 miles a day for two weeks straight. In fact it sounds like it would be a lot of “fun.”

What question did I forget to ask you that I should have?

I think you pretty well covered it. You never asked WHY, but then again if you have to ask why, this probably ain’t for you!

Living On In Memories

This past weekend I had one of the best rides of my life on the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet, and that’s not the randonnesia talking. The course layout, weather, and randonneur fellowship combined to set up a practically perfect 375 miles. Continue reading Living On In Memories

Randonneuring Beneath the Stars

The sun flares orange and pink, drops behind the mountains, and leaves us. Felkerino and I pause to don night gear, assess our 600K progress, and estimate the hours of night riding ahead. Continue reading Randonneuring Beneath the Stars

Randonneuring: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

Randonneuring events allow ordinary people like me to participate in extraordinary bike rides. Brevets changed my definition of a long day ride, from a century to more than double that– distances I previously could not even conceptualize pedaling.

The randonneuring community helped me feel okay as a rider who does not move particularly fast, but has a body that has proven itself durable over time and distance.

Yes, you must be in some semblance of decent physical shape, own a road-worthy bicycle, and have the free time to take on a brevet. But as long as you maintain an overall speed of 10 miles per hour, an ordinary person will be a successful randonneur. Continue reading Randonneuring: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

Randonnesia Strikes on the Mother of All 300Ks

“We’re too blessed to be depressed,” a church sign at mile 70 read. Our riding group of three shared a chuckle. We had just climbed Wolf Gap, Mill Gap, and were en route to more gaps and roads with words like “church” and “mountain” in their names. The path ahead gave us pause. Continue reading Randonnesia Strikes on the Mother of All 300Ks

Experience: a Randonneur’s Frenemy

This weekend, Felkerino and I rode our first official brevet of 2015, the D.C. Randonneurs 300K out of Frederick, Maryland. I was feeling pretty lackluster about the whole thing, but the forecast indicated spectacular conditions, leaving us no excuses to skip out on a ride in the countryside with rando buddies. Continue reading Experience: a Randonneur’s Frenemy

The Overnight Ferris Wheel: Mile 418 on the Appalachian Adventure 1000K

Felkerino and I returned to the Appalachian Adventure (AA) 1000K course this past weekend to staff the second night of the actual event.

Front group AA1000K

Having ridden the pre-ride exactly the week before, I had a fairly vivid memory of my own shattered mile 418 arrival. The second day took more out of me than I bargained for, and it was only through redemption under the sweet crescent moon during our night ride that I mustered the desire to continue.

Continue reading The Overnight Ferris Wheel: Mile 418 on the Appalachian Adventure 1000K

We Interrupt This Brevet for …

Sometimes when riding my bike, I feel like I’m inside a video game that’s throwing all manner of obstacles my way, and I have to react and deal with them in order to move on to the next level.

Stopping to put on night gear. Photo by Felkerino
Stopping to put on night gear. Photo by Felkerino

Last weekend’s 600K had a fair number of these– enough that I began to take notice.

Continue reading We Interrupt This Brevet for …

Don’t Look Back, Keep Your Eyes on the Road: 2014 Super Randonneur Series

After a year away from the 400K and 600K brevets, 2014 has been a year of re-learning the brevet ropes. Unfortunately for me, this process has also had me on the ropes at various times throughout the spring rides.

I’m happy to say it’s all done and behind me. Felkerino and I got out there, did the work, and rode the brevets we needed to once again complete a Super Randonneur series (200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K) with the D.C. Randonneurs. Continue reading Don’t Look Back, Keep Your Eyes on the Road: 2014 Super Randonneur Series

The Last Ride of My First Super Randonneur Series: A Hilly and Hot 600K Brevet

In an effort to put all my old ride reports either on this blog or The Daily Randonneur, you’ll notice that I’m sharing a few “vintage” pieces. This one is the story of my first 600K experience from 2005, and is also the first story I ever wrote about randonneuring.

I never intended to become a randonneur. I did not even know what a brevet was, let alone think I would be completing a Super Randonneur in the same year I was introduced to randonneuring. I anticipated completing the fleche and thought maybe I would occasionally participate in a century-plus distance every now and then.

Nine years later I’m still riding with Felkerino and randonneuring with the D.C. Randonneurs. We’ve completed three 1200Ks, including Paris-Brest-Paris and a 1000K together. Life continues to unfold in ways I did not imagine.

Continue reading The Last Ride of My First Super Randonneur Series: A Hilly and Hot 600K Brevet

Figuring Out the 400K Brevet

DC Randonneurs 400K-Matt

After rolling into the finish of the D.C. Randonneurs Northern Exposure 400K, I heard myself enthusiastically discuss our ride and revel in the adventure shared by Felkerino, Matt, and me over the last 20 hours and change of riding.

Incredible valley vistas and invigorating climbs! The cutest dog chasing us! A sublime night ride! Clouds clearing and a glowing crescent moon guiding us home! Roads so quiet you could hear peepers sing to you and creek waters whisper encouragement! A giant shooting star! The best mocha I ever had… at mile 230… from McDonald’s!

This fluffy dog wanted to join us.
This fluffy dog wanted to join us.

Who was this person, another part of my brain wondered. What’s with all the exclamations about this great ride? Doesn’t she know that much of her day was spent with an undercurrent of worry and an almost obsessive urge to press forward?

Continue reading Figuring Out the 400K Brevet

The D.C. Randonneurs 400K Brevet: A Long Ride to a Pizza Party

Riders at the 400K Brevet Start (Photo by Felkerino)
Riders at the 400K Brevet Start (Photo by Felkerino)

This past weekend Felkerino and I organized the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet. Of all the spring brevets the 400K is the one that, as a rider, I find most daunting. It starts at 4 a.m., and is the first of the brevets that requires hours of night riding. Riders roll out in the dark, and arrive in darkness, too.

I overhead the staff at the hotel where we staged our ride called our 400K a pizza party. That made me laugh. If the 400K could be considered a pizza party,  it’s likely the most hard-earned pizza you’ll ever eat.

Continue reading The D.C. Randonneurs 400K Brevet: A Long Ride to a Pizza Party

Second Chances: The D.C. Randonneurs 300K Brevet

D.C. Randonneurs 300K, Photo by Bill Beck
D.C. Randonneurs 300K, Photo by Bill Beck

This past Saturday, the D.C. Randonneurs ran their 300K brevet out of Warrenton, Virginia. It was my third time on this particular 300K route (although I did ride it one additional time as a no-credit “fun ride”), and I was determined to make this year a different experience than 2012.

Last year I experienced a new and awful feeling while riding– the urge to stop and go home. Upon reflection, I think a number of things contributed to this, some of which I postulated in last year’s ride report: fatigue; a rainy forecast; and an unexpected been-there-done-that sentiment toward brevets.

Regardless of the cause, though, the result was I was not mentally prepared to pedal 188 miles and it took a lot of effort to get myself back into the flow of the ride.

Memories of the negative thoughts that arose during last year’s 300K were strong in my mind as I began to ready myself for Saturday’s ride. Continue reading Second Chances: The D.C. Randonneurs 300K Brevet

Team Definite Maybe: a Quick D.C. Randonneurs Fleche Summary

So much happens on a group ride like the fleche. Teams cover over 225 miles in an intense 24-hour period. It can be overwhelming in retrospect. For me, it’s often easier to focus on the memories that emerge after the event ends and some time has passed. Recollections of a ride can be so distinct to what you experience during it or even in the immediate aftermath.


Felkerino has a full ride report planned, but in the meantime I wanted to put pen to paper about a bit of my experience.

Continue reading Team Definite Maybe: a Quick D.C. Randonneurs Fleche Summary