When you begin to dabble in the randonneuring arts, you may have an inkling of what your cycling strengths are. You may develop additional skills for riding long-distance. However, it is only through doing brevets over time that your randonneur superpower will reveal itself to you.
I have never been a fast rider, but fortunately I have good endurance to compensate for a lack of speed. I also have Felkerino riding with me on the tandem, and he is a helpful engine for my legs. My stomach rarely turns on me during long rides because years of trial and error have led me to figure out the foods my stomach will readily digest.
Felkerino and I have dialed in our tandem partnership so that we are in unison about our approach to a ride. We know the ups and downs in each other’s energy flows and have learned to navigate them and help each other out as a ride goes on.
Yet none of these are randonneur superpowers. No, the superpower is something distinct. For a long time, I was certain I had no randonneur superpower. I didn’t ride fast. I couldn’t ride for hours non-stop, subsisting on two water bottles of liquid nutrition. I would not be able to finish a 600K brevet without stopping somewhere for a little sleep, like some can.
Recently, I discovered one of Felkerino’s superpowers. No matter where we are, Felkerino has an eagle eye for spotting porta-potties. It’s remarkable, and has come in handy on many a ride.
But this year I learned of a superpower we share. As I’ve mentioned several times, this year we were fit, but not to the level that we enjoyed in prior years. Because of that, we dedicated ourselves to riding efficiently, and being judicious with time off the bike.
Felkerino and I generally try to ride with the goal of taking one hour off the bike per century ridden. As a ride goes on, time off the bike may increase somewhat, but generally one hour per century is our goal.
Surprisingly, during the spring brevets we were able to achieve excellent efficiency with our time on and off the bike. We seldom dilly dallied at controls– one of my favorite things to do on a brevet. I often brought my own food on rides so I would not wander around convenience stores wondering what I should eat. Both of us stopped drinking Gatorade and switched to better hydration habits.
We were regularly able to stay on the bike for 50 miles or so at a time without a need for breaks in between segments. We still took short rests when necessary, but for some reason, we didn’t seem to require them as much as we had during other years.
This on-the-bike discipline surprised me. It could only mean one thing– our randonneur superpower had come to us. I spent so many years waiting for it to manifest and finally, in 2015, it did.
Despite not being in the best brevet shape, we were able to complete rides in times comparable to other years, and I attribute this to our increased efficient movement.
I’m not saying that Felkerino’s porta-potty superpower isn’t a good one. It sure is. But the ability to ride efficiently as a team far surpasses it, and made a big difference to our overall brevet experiences. It gave me a sense of forward progress, and motivated me to keep pedaling.
After the 400K, I was convinced this year meant my randonneuring farewell tour. But now that the 600K has come and gone, I’ve forgotten those feelings. My superpower reinvigorated my affinity for randonneuring. Who knows? If I keep riding, maybe I’ll discover another one.
What about your randonneur superpower? You know you’ve got one… everybody does.