Four years ago, I interviewed 12 randonneurs from different parts of the country about randonneuring. One of the questions I asked them was, “What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?”
With this year’s Super Randonneur series in full swing, I’ve been pondering this question again in my own mind and took a new look at their responses.
As I read through them, I think about how my brevet distance preferences have shifted over time and wonder what they would say today if I asked them what brevet distance is their favorite.
George S., Hudson Valley Randonneurs: My favorite distance within the SR series is the 600K. This event seems like a real, unalloyed adventure to me. I love the other distances too, but on a 600K, it feels like anything can happen. The challenge of how much or how little sleep one will need and riding at night are also thrilling components of a 600K.
Dan D., Great Lakes Randonneurs and Minnesota Randonneurs: First off, I have to say that any brevet is a good way to spend a day. However, my favorite distance in the Super Randonneur series is the 400K, directly contrary to conventional randonneuring wisdom.
I like the 400K because it packs almost every aspect of randonneuring into a one day package. A 400K invevitably includes several hours of night riding, numerous controls and the need to manage your food and liquids. Additionally, the time limits are generous enough that there is plenty of time for conversations and longish meal breaks with other riders.
Two of my wackier randonneuring memories come from 400Ks. On my first ever 400K in 2008, we ran into epic rains and flooding that caused numerous roads on or near the route to be washed away. A group of eight of us ended up spending the night in a Red Cross Shelter set up in church eating pizza and sleeping on the floor.
On another 400K, the group I was in noticed that a farmer on the route had set up a zip line in his front yard. By sheer luck the farmer was outside and invited us to give it a try. MG has referred to “necessary stops” in prior posts. At the time, a zip line adventure seemed like a necessary stop.
Barry B., D.C. Randonneurs: I like the 400K. The distance is challenging, and I can complete it without sleep.
Lynne, Oregon Randonneurs: I’d have to say the 200. More folks to ride with, and often at (for them) a more social pace.
I am not a fast rider, but I can ride a 200k with very little preparation and have a great time.
That said, the two 600s I’ve done have felt downright epic, and that is pretty cool, too.
Andrea, D.C. Randonneurs: Favorite distance of the series? Why, that’s like asking which is your favorite child!
Vélocia, San Francisco Randonneurs: I tend to enjoy the 200 and 300K distances the most. Somehow it seems like they’re more social and fun. The longer rides tend to be more serious with fewer new riders.
Joe B., D.C. and Pennsylvania Randonneurs: The 600K is the most interesting because a lot of it ridden at night. Nothing is better than a dog chasing you in the black of night. Talk about fear.
Katie, New Jersey Randonneurs: 200K’s, preferably flat ones with my stokerific friend “Jet-Pack Jon B Levitt (JPJBL)” on the back of Team Tandemator. Our goal is to complete rides under the “3 B” auspice; Biking, Brevets and BEER (stress on the last part).
My other favorite distance is the Fléche, if for no other reasons that I’m usually waaaayyyy out of shape and the weather is ridiculous to the point of being just absurd. Fléche experiences seem to make the best stories.
Rob H., San Francisco Randonneurs: I absolutely don’t have a favorite distance. Of course I’ve done more 200km rides than any other. SFR over the last two years has hosted 200km brevets nearly all through the calendar year and this complements the RUSA R12 award which a lot of riders shoot for, and it also appeals to all the newer riders that have been coming to SFR events in the last two years.
One of my favorite events though is the Fleche. I’ve ridden one of those in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. I really love the team aspect of that ride, and the relaxed way we can complete the event. This year it rained on us for about 10 or 11 hours, but even that didn’t ruin the fun we had.
Chris N., New Jersey and Pennsylvania Randonneurs: I think my favorite distance is the one I have just successfully completed!
Actually, it would have to be the 200K. I have ridden so many of them now that I feel really comfortable and confident. I can usually sleep pretty well the night before the start. Most of them start at a reasonable hour, not at the god-awful hour of 4:00 am. In the summer months, a 200K can be completed in daylight. The distance is short enough that I can have fun and be quite relaxed but long enough to still present a challenge.
Joe P., Seattle Randonneurs: They are all good. A couple of my friends told me that it was good preparation for longer rides to be able to make 300s routine; it seems like good advice.
Bill B., D.C. Randonneurs: Hmm. That’s a hard question. I enjoy the 200K the most because it doesn’t require sleep deprivation or renting a hotel room and I can usually ride hard without bonking.
But I get the most satisfaction from the 600K because when I started randonneuring it seemed impossible to ride 375 miles in a weekend — and it still seems amazing.
Thanks again to everyone who dedicated their time and experience to the Rando Q&A series. As for me, my favorite distance changes.
When I first began randonneuring, I liked the 600K distance best because I felt it did not have the same sort of time pressures as on a 400K event. I saw the 600K as a physically intense weekend getaway into the country– two complete days of steady pedaling.
I then developed a preference for the 300K. I could watch the sunrise, spend a full day out riding, and generally finish before sunset. Sleep deprivation was minimal and recovery generally took a couple of days.
Around 2011, Felkerino and I surprised ourselves by finally shining on the 400K. We figured out how to ride effeciently and our bodies stood up well to the distance. I overcame my instinctive urge to want to stop riding when the sunset. Instead, I enjoyed pedaling into the evening, developed an appreciation for a good night ride, and found that Felkerino and I often had a surge of energy during the nocturnal hours.
This year, I’m not sure what I’ll find. What about you? Have a favorite brevet distance?
Do you do brevets alone or always on the tandem with Felkerino?
Correct me if I am wrong, but I would think cycling long distances on a tandem is easier since you are sharing the workload.
Generally we ride on tandem. The question you ask probably merits its own post, but the short answer is yes and no. It’s easier going downhill and because both of you can share the navigation responsibilities. A brevet is more difficult on tandem if the course is hilly because the tandem is heavier and climbs slower than a single. At least, that’s the case w/ our tandem :).
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I meant to ask earlier. I believe you in back. I always thought that would be unpleasant without control of the steering and ability to see ahead. Do you ever pilot?
I would disagree a little with MG. I find any ride on a tandem to be easier/more enjoyable. Tandem’s have a rythmn of their own. Being in sinc with your teammate allows for smooth sailing. The conversations are automatic and the bike seems to create a magical energy. I have ridden with many different stokers over the years and have only good things to say about the experience. If your looking to try and you like riding 200k drop me a message email@example.com Joel
I love your answer, Joel! Well said, Tandem is (can be?) a beautiful way to travel.
My favourite distance is…
…200km because it’s the shortest distance that’s considered a “long” distance (by the ACP) and people are generally surprised *anyone* can ride that far and live.
…400km because that’s where rides actually go from “short” to “long”. You have to ride through the night.
…1,200km because that’s Paris-Brest-Paris. And that Means Something dammit!
…1,400km because that’s LEL and therefore much, much more impressive than PBP. And I’m a Brit.
…15,000,000,000km because that’s PBP too (Pluto Britain Pluto)
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I think my favorite distance is probably the distance I most recently (successfully) rode. That ride is done, the pre-ride jitters are over, whatever down moments I had are forgotten. No matter how tough it was, it no longer seems like a completely insane distance since I rode it. I still find the “next” ride (whatever it is) is usually pretty intimidating. For me, “next” is the Mother of All 300’s so that’s about as intimidating as it gets.
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For sure! Bring your climbing legs!
I am curious about something, and perhaps it is merely what I have observed and probably not correct at all, but is there a reason that so many randonneurs seem to be on the coasts (at least here in the states)? It seems more rare to see these type of rides/groups in the middle of the country. Even as I type that, I am aware that there is a group here in Colorado, but this seems to be something more common in coastal regions and I can ‘t help but wonder about it.
G.E., after I read your comment I looked up some information on the RUSA site about demographics. This would actually be an interesting article for someone to write, I think– where are the largest pockets of randos and why. It would seem that they would fall out in areas where you can ride all year. The states with the most Randonneurs USA members are California, Washington, Texas, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Maryland, and Colorado. So generally, there do seem to be more randonneurs along the coasts.
Interesting. Thank you for taking the time to look it up. I thought maybe it was just coincidental that the blogs I’ve read or bike forum posts were those on the coasts, but perhaps there is a reason. I think having “good” weather for a good chunk of the year would certainly play a role in the numbers too. Really appreciate this, so thanks again! 🙂
I can’t pick a favorite. I like 200s because they generally take no prep – I just grab some food and drink and ride. 300s are nice because they still have a decent size crowd, yet can reach out into interesting areas because the radius from “home” is typically farther than I would ride on my own, so there are many new roads to find. My best rides were 400s – for some reason on the two that I’ve done, I had no issues and rode with lively and speedy groups that made the day fun. My only 600 was the toughest ride for me, but the sense of accomplishment against all odds when I really wanted to quit was empowering.