A brevet is a bit different from the century or club rides that you may be used to. The following will give you an overview of what to expect, along with some tips that will hopefully make this an enjoyable and successful experience! Be sure to also read the Randonneurs Handbook that you receive with your RUSA membership.
Before the Brevet
- Your responsibility as a participant includes:
o Arriving in reasonable physical condition for the event
o Bringing a reliable, well maintained bike
o Complying with all traffic laws along the course
o Respecting the rights of all other users of the route (including pedestrians)
o Envisioning the possibility that you can’t finish the ride
- Membership in SIR is required in order to ride a brevet. SIR members also must be members of an ACP affiliate, like RUSA, (Randonneurs USA) or BC Randonneurs. SIR membership information .
Preparing for the Brevet
- Navigation - One big difference between brevets and other organized rides is that the course is not marked with dan henrys (arrows). You will be given a cue-sheet to follow. You should have some sort of cue-sheet holder for your bike -- I find that a binder clip strapped with nylon ties and black tape to the stem works very well. You should download a preview of the cue sheet from the website and checkout your system ahead of time. You may want to reformat the cue sheet to improve the readability. On a longer brevet you should plan how to read the cue sheet under low light conditions.
- Since navigation is a big part of brevet riding, it's a good idea to review the cue sheet ahead of time. There is a map on the website to give you a general idea of the route. You can look at some detailed maps (e.g. MapQuest) and trace the route. Pay particular attention to the distance between controls and towns.
- Weather - The weather can be very variable, we ride anyway. Check the weather forecast before hand. If there's a chance of rain, fenders are recommended. It's also a good idea to laminate your cue-sheet. Otherwise, the cue sheet will become a soggy mess and eventually disintegrate. You can buy inexpensive peel-on lamination sheets at any office supply store. The lamination also helps stiffen the cue sheet and prevents it from flapping in the breeze while you're riding. Before laminating your sheet, check the web-site for any updates … there might be some last minute changes due to road construction.
- Equipment - Make sure you have all the equipment you need and it's in good working order. Helmets are mandatory. Lights, reflective vests and ankle bands are also required on longer brevets. Check out the Randonneuring Tip Sheet.
Day of the Event
- Wake-up early - Give yourself time to eat a good breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive at the start without feeling rushed. Plan to arrive at the start about an hour before the scheduled ride start. Remember, you have to sign in with the brevet organizer and do any last minute preparations. The ride starts exactly on time.
- Check in - If you pre-register then check in will be much faster. There will be a waiver for you to sign. If you will then receive your brevet card. You must keep your brevet card with you for the entire ride. Do any last minute preparations (assemble bike, pump tires, fill water bottles, etc.) and review your checklist.
- Ride Start - About 5 to 10 minutes before the scheduled ride start the brevet organizer will let you know any last minute instructions or route changes at the pre-ride briefing about 5 minutes before the start. After the meeting, the brevet organizer will officially start the brevet and riders depart as a group.
During the Event
- Pace - You may ride at your own pace alone, or with a group of like-minded cyclists. While brevet events are not races, there are some riders who will like to finish quickly in order to improve a personal best time. Other riders may choose to take a more leisurely pace and enjoy the great scenery on the route. Some riders prefer to ride alone while others enjoy the camaraderie of riding in a group. You are free to choose the style of riding that suits you best. A list of pre-registered riders is posted on the web site before the event so you can make any group arrangements ahead of time.
- Controls - On the route, there will be a number of 'controls' or checkpoints. Each control has an opening and closing time. You must reach each control before the control’s closing time (listed on your brevet card) in order to officially be recognized as a finisher. While the minimum average speed to reach the controls is rather modest (about 10 MPH), the clock is always ticking even while you are stopped. It's best to keep your scheduled stops as short as possible. Newcomers are often amazed at how efficiently experienced randonneurs are at getting through a control. Remember, the clock is always ticking.
SIR manned controls
An SIR volunteer will be there to sign your control card. Food and water are usually available.
Stores – non SIR manned controls
Controls are often at a convenience store or supermarket. Buy something at the check-out counter and present your brevet card to the clerk. Ask the clerk to initial or stamp the card in the appropriate box and fill in the time using 24-hour notation (e.g. 13:30 for 1:30PM).
It is vital that we maintain good relations with the clerks/owners of the stores we use as controls. Be courteous and considerate, clean up after yourself; this is not a race. If your rude behavior ruins it for the rest of us, your fellow riders will not be happy with you.
There may also be 'information' controls and/or 'postcard' controls. An information control is usually located at some out of the way area (like the top of a long climb). At the designated area, you stop and fill in your own card with the time and record the answer to a question about something in the general area listed in your card. A typical question might be: "What is the percent grade listed on the downhill truck warning sign?"
There may also be an unannounced 'secret control' along the way, staffed by a volunteer. It's important to stay on course. If you get lost, you must work your way back to the point where you got off course and avoid the temptation to take any shortcuts. Otherwise, you risk missing a secret control which at minimum will result in a time penalty and may result in a disqualification.
• Randonneuring is all about self-sufficiency: you are not allowed to get any support from a following car between controls. You may however, have a support car meet you at a control. You may also stop along the way to get anything you need, you may get help from your fellow randonneur, or you may get assistance from event volunteers.
• In case of an emergency, call 911 if you need medical aid. Be sure that you have personal ID with you that has contact and medical insurance information in case you're knocked unconscious.
• The cue sheet has phone numbers (cell phone and controls) to contact the brevet organizer if you run into difficulties or plan to withdraw from the ride.
• If you feel like quitting, it may be an indication that you're not eating enough. You may encounter a particularly tough stretch and feel overwhelmed if you think about the whole ride remaining ahead of you. Instead, think about just getting to the next control or store, take a break and eat something -- before you know it, you'll be making that last turn back to the finish!
• If you feel like quitting, think about how you are going to get back; do not expect the brevet organizer to come get you. Participants are responsible for making arrangements for alternate transportation if they cannot finish the ride under their own power..
• If you do quit, or if you are still out riding past the cut-off time, please try to contact the brevet organizer on their cell phone.
• Sign your brevet card on the back and present it to the volunteer at the finish for the final stamp. The cards will be validated by RUSA and then mailed back to you at the end of the year.
• There will usually be food available at the finish (chips, soda, pizza, etc.). This is a great opportunity to meet some of the other riders and share your experiences and goals.
• If you are very tired, it may be a good idea to take a nap before a long drive home.
- The organizers of longer brevets may offer overnight accommodations and the transportation of drop bags.
- Rooms will be assigned based on your arrival / desired departure times.
- Volunteers will let you know where to store your bike.
- You may want to consider bringing along:
o Ipod and/or ear plugs and eye mask
This article was adapted from a very useful article on the PA Randonneurs site http://www.parandonneurs.com .