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BC Randonneurs Cycling Club


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Rewarding randonneur requires rigorous regime
by Todd Litman & Suzanne Kort
Times-Colonist, July 15, 2000, B.2

Victoria, B.C. -- Most bicyclists consider a 25- to 50-kilometre ride a good day's adventure, but that is just a warm-up for randonneur cyclists. If you enjoy riding really long distances, randonneuring might tickle your fancy. Randonneur (French for "iron butt") is a type of cycling that involves progressively longer rides (known as brevets, French for "suffering"). The series begins with "easy" distances of just 200, 300 and 400 kilometres, and progresses up to events of 600, 1,000 and 1,200 kilometres, culminating in the quadrennial 1,200 kilometre Paris-Brest-Paris ride, next held in 2003, where a bunch of Iron Butts sample good French wine while suffering over cobblestone roads.

Randonneur rides are not exactly races: there is a minimum as well as a maximum time allowed on most courses. The goal of randonneur riding is to complete progressively longer rides and collect annual points. Participants who successfully complete a randonneur ride earn lapel pins, a small reminder of a big achievement. Randonneur rides take place on public roads shared with motor vehicle traffic. Participants are required to be self-sufficient, which means carrying food and drink, and being prepared to repair their own bikes if necessary. If this type of cycling intrigues you, consider participating in the upcoming Victoria Populaire, a relatively easy randonneur event on Sunday, July 23, beginning at Oak Bay high school. Riders leave at 9 a.m. sharp. Arrive at least a half-hour early so you'll have time to prepare. Participants choose from 50-, 100- and 150-km courses. Today's map shows the 100-km route. Registration is $20 on the day of the ride, $15 if you pre- register by July 21, and $10 for those under 19 years of age (younger riders must have parental approval). Additional information and registration forms are available at mbkp/victoria-populaire, and in brochures at many bikeshops and recreation centres in the region. Each participant carries a control card on which their time is recorded at stations along the way. Participants must follow these rules:

   - Obey all traffic laws.
   - Wear an approved helmet.
   - Bicycles must be in safe working order. Fenders and lights are required on rides of      200 km or longer.
   - Riders must follow the course.

Although beginners may be intimidated by the extreme distances of some randonneur events, the key is to work up to these challenges. Even without any special training most cyclists can handle 50 km in one day by maintaining a steady pace and conserving energy (don't sprint and walk up any really steep hills). Once you've done 50, you can start preparing for a 100-km ride. Ride at least an hour a day, several times a week, and extra long rides on the weekend. In a few weeks you'll be able to ride longer and faster, and have more confidence. You'll also accumulate the equipment needed for long-distance riding, particularly an appropriate bike and cycling clothes. The longer-distance rides will no longer seem so daunting.

You never know where it can lead. Victoria is home of several randonneur enthusiasts, including Ken Bonner, an international star among long-distance cyclists. He holds the world record for a 1,000 km (earned on a particularly challenging route from Victoria to Port Hardy and back). He also holds the Vancouver-Calgary record, and was the first Canadian finisher at the last Paris-Brest-Paris ride held in 1999. Ken's achievements are particularly remarkable because they were made when he was over 50 years old (he is now in his late 50s and still competing), a terrific inspiration to those of us approaching middle-age. For more information visit the B.C. Randonneurs Cycling Club Web site at or, or call rider organizer Mike Poplawski at 250-882-1239.