Finding Your Randonneur Superpower

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.

Heading out for Day 2 of the 600K. Photo by Shab
Heading out for Day 2 of the 600K. Photo by Shab

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.

Time to ride this bike, MG.
Time to ride this bike, MG.

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.

17 thoughts on “Finding Your Randonneur Superpower

  1. You mentioned that you stopped drinking Gator Ade. I’m new to randonneuring (this is my second season) and tend to drink Gator Ade (though I’m not a big fan of the drink). So I’m curious, is there a reason for this? What do you drink instead?

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    1. We both found it to be too sugary, and I also felt that Gator Ade didn’t really quench my thirst. We switched to drinking tea instead, when we wanted something besides water. Also, Ed started using Skratch products, which are less sweet and still hydrating. If I am bonking, I will on occasion grab a Coke (the red ambulance, as our friend Jerry calls it). Generally, though, I try to limit my soda consumption on rides.

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  2. This is a darling photo of the two of you! Congrats on your success in randonneuring and thanks for sharing your fun times with us. Jim Duncan

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  3. You know mine. Move slow and dont stop. You even called me a Camel 🙂 I stopped 10 minutes in the first 100 miles just for controls to get a signature. I can carry 150 oz of water, plenty of food. That takes me a long way. Is all about not pushing hard for me and conserving energy. I want to feel good after mile 200, not after mile 20

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  4. Did we see you at the Air Force Cycling classic today, 6/14? We were the team in black and red on the red and black Calfee.
    Second vote for Skratch in lieu of Gatorade.

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    1. No, not us… How was it? ALSO, how timely you wrote because didn’t you recommend a winter/February gravel event near the Richmond area? Was trying to remember it…

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      1. Fast and hot! It felt like we were in an Escher print with the bikes on the ramps coming and going. Monster Cross is the race that is held at Pocohontas State Park in Chesterfield. Pete Beers put a couple of crazy fast riders on his tandem this year on a super muddy course. One day our paths will cross!

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  5. Re hydration: Interesting on tea selection. Green tea or what? Added sugar or? What about tea as a diuretic-is that good on a brevet? FWIW, lately, I’ve been using Jan Heine’s idea of 1/3 apple juice to 2/3 water for electrolyte replacement. So far, so good. YMMV:)! Jim Duncan

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    1. During brevets I tend to stick with black tea, preferably unsweetened if I can find it. However, at convenience stores you’re sometimes limited to what is available and you know Virginia loves its sweet tea! I haven’t found a convenience store green tea that is to my liking, although I regularly drink green tea throughout the work week. I’m picky about green teas, though, because some of them don’t sit well with me. That’s less of an issue with black tea.

      I also use apple juice pretty frequently. Ed is a big fan of it, especially in the a.m.

      I drank a bottle of Snapple apple juice 20 miles before our overnight (mile 244) on our 600K and it hit the spot. I was actually considering doing a post about what we eat and drink during brevets and may still do so.

      Hope the answer wasn’t too long-winded here…

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      1. I’d personally be curious as to what you eat on your brevets. I think this is one area that really keeps me from pursuing this type of riding because the thought of food when I’m riding is just horrible. I feel as though I’ve tried all sorts of things, but I know there are probably options I haven’t considered. I know it’s important to eat, but when it makes me sick, it becomes challenging. So, just throwing in my vote for a post on this topic. 🙂

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      2. I have gone to using iced high caffeine teas with juice as sweeter. Way better than gatorade and you can customize the fruits to your nutritional needs. I like banana puree because the potassium is super nutritious. It sounds a little thick but you’ll feel it when your muscles don’t ache. I ride slower and slower, but find it really helps me go so much longer in a day and a double century doesn’t sound so bad. I am so inspired by you guys to find a tandem partner. My girlfriend is just getting into cycling and claims she’ll never love it the way I do. I hope that changes so we can do Brevets together in the future. Riding a tandem long distance seems like the perfect way to spend time with some one. Keep on writing and riding and I’ll keep reading. Cheers!

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  6. i put about 6 oz mango passion juice into a 20 oz water bottle, rest is ice. when my captain makes it, fresh brewed mint ginger iced tea [he grows mint]. gatorade only if it is VERY dilute. i don’t eat a lot when riding, makes me feel gross. i’ll have toast w cheese for breakfast if i’m doing a century or more, maybe have some fig newtons at the 50 or 60 mile point, i’ll have a roasted vegetable sandwich or three at the end of a century plus ride. i used to LOVE nilla cookies with peanut butter [endless summer watermelon tour introduced me to them] but i developed a severe peanut allergy so that was that. i can’t stand energy gels, those protein bars or any of that ‘this is good for you’ stuff. it all makes me gag.

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  7. >What about your randonneur superpower? You know you’ve got >one… everybody does.

    I find errors/ambiguities in cue sheets. All of them…eventually.

    I used to ride with fast but flat-prone tires, and I got to the point that I could reliably repair a clincher flat in under three minutes, including reinflation with a frame pump, assuming I could find the cause of the puncture.

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