Welcome to Seattle International Randonneurs!
You like riding your bike. You have done a few centuries, maybe STP and/or Ramrod. Where do you go from here? Racing is too hectic and competitive, RAAM is too far and too extreme.
Meet the randonneurs: riders who enjoy riding so much they don't want to stop. Randonneurs ride long distances, on beautiful courses, with nice people. The rides are unsupported, so you carry what you need or buy it along the way. (But usually, somebody in a car is on the course and makes sure everybody is OK.) Our events usually draw a few dozen people, and we are a friendly bunch, so you'll make friends in no time.
The most common type of event is a brevet (pronounced breh-VAY), referring to the certificate (brevet) the participant receives signifying completion of a particular distance. Randonneur events are 200 km (125mi), 300 km (190mi), 400 km (250mi), 600 km (375mi), 1000 km (625mi), and 1200 km (750mi). The longer events are held over multiple days. Along the course, you check in at various places to show that you completed the entire course. During longer events, sleep breaks are planned at intermediate points. In the end, you get a medal if you complete the course within the generous time limit. If you like going fast, there usually is a group who try to see how quickly they can complete the course. But the results are listed alphabetically, and everybody gets the same medal, so it is not a race. Our long rides are challenging for anybody, but every finisher is a winner.
One of the most famous of these longer events is the 1200 km Paris-Brest-Paris, first held in 1891 and now held every four years. The next PBP will be in August 2007 and members of SIR will participate alongside over 4,000 riders from dozens of countries.
SIR courses range from relatively easy to extremely challenging - our "Mountain 100 km Brevet" has more climbs than any road race in the state, but even flatter courses have challenges in the form of weather, conditioning and determination. Unlike a race, nobody wins and nobody "gets dropped," so you see smiling faces all around at the finish. We also present two complete series each year including a 1000km and 1200km randonnée.
The 100 km Populaire rides are intended as introductions to randonneuring: You don't need to be a member to participate, and there is no fee and you can sign up at the start of the event. Other rides have a small fee to cover the costs.
And why do we call ourselves "Randonneurs?"
It's a French word (*randonner translates literally: to walk, ride, ramble). Cycling as we practice it has a long tradition in France, and the biggest event is the famous Paris-Brest-Paris, held every 4 years. Many of us have gone to France to participate, and we wouldn't want to miss the experience for anything in the world! The "International" indicates that we welcome everybody, and that many of us travel to participate in rides all over the globe.
Velocio - real name Paul de Vivié - was one of the first long distance riders. Around 1900, he started to ride all across France non-stop. He started a magazine that popularized the sport. To this day, the French consider him the "patron saint" of cyclotouring and randonneuring. Every year, cyclotourists from all over France congregate at his memorial monument (near his hometown of Saint-Etienne) for a timed hillclimb. Also, the Fleche Velocio is named after him. You can find out more here.
Is Randonneuring for Me?
If you have done a century or a double century and are looking for the 'next' challenge, this may be it. You need not be fast to be successful; in fact, the best randonneurs are steady and consistent and know how to budget their energy. It doesn't hurt if you're a bit obsessive about riding and perhaps a wee bit eccentric. Having a spouse/family/significant other that is supportive of your training goals is also very useful. It is well within the grasp of many cyclists and worth a try.
This brief overview of randonneuring barely scratches the surface of the sport of randonneur cycling. For more information, read through our site and check out Randonneurs USA. You can join the SIR email list to share info, ride schedules, event notices and training with other SIR members. Another fine discussion group, randon is available by visiting http://groups.google.com/group/randon and signing up.
Updated 12.31.04. Article is an aggregate of input from John Wagner, Jan Heine, Jim Kuehn and Chris Kostman.