"Randonneur cycling", sometimes called marathon cycling, can mean something a little different to every rider. For some it is like long distance touring at a moderate pace while enjoying scenic roadways. For others the sport offers a challenge to pursue faster times and greater distances. The rides are non-competitive in nature often characterized by cooperation and camaraderie between riders.
Randonnée, a French word for ramble or tour, describes a long-distance cycling event where the participants follow a prescribed route within certain time limits as checked at control points along the way. Riders, called randonneurs, cannot receive support, except at the designated control points, so each rider must be prepared for mechanical mishaps, changes in weather, and so on.
The rides (called both randonnées and brevets) are sanctioned by, and ridden according to the rules set out by the sport's governing body Audax Club Parisien (ACP) in France. Randonneur cycling in British Columbia is administered by the BC Randonneurs Cycling Club. A full schedule of events is organized in BC which includes all of the major types of internationally-recognized randonneur rides.
Is randonneur cycling for you? To help answer this question there are rides called 'populaires' which allow people to sample randonneur cycling over shorter distances (typically 100 km or less). The list of populaires in BC includes the Pacific Populaire (Vancouver), the Victoria Populaire, the Cowichan Populaire and the Canada Day Populaire (Fort Langley).
The various series of official brevets begin at 200 km and proceed to rides of 300, 400, and finally 600 km. First-time randonneurs are encouraged to complete a 200 before moving on to a 300, a 300 before moving on to a 400, and so on. Riders looking for bigger challenges can then, if they wish, move on to the "ultra-distance" brevets: 1000 and 1200 km.
In any given year there are six or seven series of brevets in BC operating under the umbrella of BC Randonneurs: a spring series and a summer series for Greater Vancouver, a couple of Vancouver Island series, a Southern Interior series and a Peace Region/Fort St. John series. There are also the various "Hell Week" series where brevets are run in short succession, including Vancouver Island "Hell Week" where riders do all four distances over seven days.
BC Randonneurs has hosted several well supported ultra-distance brevets including the Rocky Mountain 1200, which traverses some of BC and Alberta's most scenic road ways, and attracts riders from around the world. In 2006 there was a newcomer on ultra marathon calendar - the VanIsle 1200 - with a route based on the popular Island End to End 1000 km. In July 2020 another new ultra-distance brevet called the Coast Mountain 1200 was scheduled, but was cancelled due to Covid-19.
A different sort of Randonneur event is the Flèche Pacifique. Teams of three to five bikes compete against other teams to cover the most distance in 24 hours on routes designed by each team. Flèche routes must be at least 360 km.
In 2008 permanents were introduced to offer more riding flexability, and to encourage "off season" participation. A BC randonneurs permanent brevet can be ridden at any time anywhere on the planet. The rules are the same as for ACP recognized brevets but permanents do not count as ACP brevets. Routes must be at least 200 km.
And then, of course, there's PBP...
WHAT IS PBP? Paris-Brest-Paris is randonneuring's most prestigious ride. Every four years randonneurs from around the world converge on Paris for this remarkable event organized by randonneur cycling's central body, Audax Club Parisien (ACP). The 1200 km distance from Paris to Brest on the Brittany coast and back to Paris must be completed within 90 hours.
To qualify for PBP a rider must complete a 200 - 600 km series by early June of the PBP year. In 2015 there were 5800 riders - 36 riders from BC participated. The next PBP will be in August 2023.
Achievement in Randonneur Cycling is often measured by a rider's 'event distance' results. The Super Randonneur and Randonneur 5000 pins are international distinctions awarded by Audax Club Parisien. The John Hathaway Trophy is a made in BC distance achievement award, as are the 40,000, 100,000 and BC-12 awards.
SUPER RANDONNEUR A Super Randonneur is a rider who completes a brevet at each of the distances in a basic series (200, 300, 400, and 600 km) in one season.
BREVET DE RANDONNEUR 5000 To receive this pin a rider must complete 5000 km in official randonneur events within four years. This 5000 km must include one ride at each distance in a basic series (200, 300, 400, and 600 km), a 1000 km, a Flèche Pacifique (or equivalent, 360+ km), and a Paris - Brest - Paris (1200 km). You will notice that this adds up to 4060 km. Riders can choose any combination of brevets (200 to 1000 km) to bring the total up to 5000 km.
JOHN HATHAWAY MEMORIAL TROPHY More commonly referred to as the Iron Butt Award, this trophy is given to the BC resident who covers the most distance in successfully completed official distance (over 200 kms) ACP recognized brevets and flèches ridden anywhere in the world in a particular calendar year. (The award is open to non-residents who finish a Super Randonneur series, or four brevets of equal or greater distance within BC - example: 200, 400, 400, 1000.) The winning total is typically over 10,000 km. The award is named after the the former cross-Canada record holder and cycling ledgend John Hathaway, who was one of the original BC Randonneurs in 1979.
40,000 & 100,000 KM LIFE-TIME EVENT DISTANCE AWARDS Over 20 BC Randonneurs have ridden 40,000 km in ACP/RM sanctioned brevets and flèches, and been awarded the 40,000 km medal. Two riders have received the 100,000 km trophy.
BC12 A rider who completes at least one brevet or permanent brevet in every month for 12 monthes earns a BC12 pin.
RAMBLING RANDONNEUR This award is presented to a rider who completes a ACP/RM sanctioned brevet in four regions in BC. Note that neither a fleche, trace nor permanents are qualifying rides for this award. The rides can be in any year - there is no time limit.
To ride in a BC Randonneur event you must be club member. An exception to this rule is made for the rides called 'populaires', where membership is not required. Membership dues can be paid at the sign-up before any ride.
$ 10 BC Randonneurs annual membership
& BC Randonneurs Cycling Club
- revised annually -
(from PBP '99)