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.
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.
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.