BREVET FUNDAMENTALS – A GUIDE TO RANDONNEURING IN INDIA

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You’ve probably come across the terms “Brevet” and “Randonneuring” through your friends. Passionate endurance cyclists will know these terms for sure. The constant need to push limits and break boundaries has lead to the birth and popularity of the endurance sport of Randonneuring.

WHAT IS RANDONNEURING?

Randonneuring is a long-distance (greater than 200km) cycling event where riders aim to complete the given course in a stipulated amount of time. A randonneuring event is called a Randonnée or Brevet.

During these rides, riders are supposed to be completely self-supported and are not allowed to receive any external aid or support. The course consists of checkpoints or control points where the riders must pass through within given time limits. These are organized worldwide under the organization of Audax Club Parisien (ACP) and the participant riders are recognized by them.

WHERE DO I START?

To get into the world of Randonneuring, one must first register to the respective organizing authority in their country, which in India is “Audax India“. You will be required to pay a registration fee in order to be eligible to participate in the Audax India events.

Once you’ve registered, you can enroll in events all over the country and you can start by registering to the nearest club-events on the calendar. Say, you stay in Bangalore, go for the events done by Bangalore Randonneurs as they will start and end in Bangalore. Bear in mind there might be a registration fee for each event as well, depending on the organizing local club.

DISTANCE IS JUST A NUMBER!

Big numbers can often be intimidating for a beginner cyclist but it’s just a matter of practice and experience. Remember that progression is key here and a little bit of hard work and determination can go a long way. If you love munching those miles on your bike, then give it a shot, you may fall in love with it too.

For all the first timers out there, just follow the half-distance rule. If you are able to comfortably complete half of the stipulated distance well within half the amount of the prescribed time, you can try the whole distance. That’s the theory of progressive overloading.

Apart from that, there are a few other things you need to be mentally prepared for as well, as you’ll be out spending a whole day or sometimes even more on the ride. You might have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, and once you do you can truly enjoy the ride.

ACCESSORIZE

This might be your first time taking part in a Brevet or even doing “that” distance. You may be nervous, and that’s okay. Be physically and mentally prepared for the big ride. To make sure that you are self-sufficient and prepared, we’ve made a list of things that you can once over before your ride:

You are going to need a few basic things sorted before you head out on your epic adventure filled with miles of open roads. They are listed in the order of their importance:

  • Bike: Duh!
  • Helmet: No helmet, no ride!
  • High Visibility Jacket: This is a must and, you’ll not be allowed to ride without this in the dark. Keep this on at all times. Be visible and be safe.
  • Lights: Carry a good set of front and rear lights, and at least one spare set in case these run out.
  • Water bottles: Carry at least 2 bottles and/or a hydration pack to limit the number of your stops. Stay hydrated!
  • Solid food: This can include energy bars, chocolates, chikkis, cakes, sandwiches, fruits, gels, whatever works for you, and gives you a good amount of energy and is easy to consume on the bike!
  • Salts: For long rides, it’s always a good idea to carry some extra salts in the form of hydration tabs or sachets like ORS. You tend to lose a lot of salts while sweating so make sure to keep yourself topped up!
  • Phone: This may be your lifesaver, and will also help you navigate your route. Keep it charged and with you at all times.
  • Spares: Carry a pump, a spare tube, tire-levers and multitool at least. It’s never a good time to have a flat but it’s better to be prepared.
  • Power Bank: Sometimes your phone and lights are your only lifesavers, so it’s essential to have them running at all times, so carry a backup battery to keep them topped up.
  • Clothing: Invest in some good cycling shorts, they will ensure that your ride is comfortable and you don’t get saddle sores. A cycling jersey will also help but shorts are a must. Also carry an extra layer if (and only if) it’s going to be very cold.

It is a good idea to invest in a bike bag, like a saddle bag or a top-tube bag to keep all these essentials in. It’s okay to carry a backpack as well but try keep the items on your person to a minimum and distribute the weight on the bike instead.

Finally, remember to pack light, do not pack anything that you don’t absolutely need during the ride. Do not carry too much food as well, find stops to eat on the route.

THE GAME PLAN

You need to come up with a strategy on how you are planning to ride. Below are the things you need to keep in mind while making your ride plan.

  • Study the route: Know which roads you have to take and load the route in your phone/GPS unit. The route may also have hills and or high amounts of elevation gain so account for all the elevation gain in the ride as well. It may be going through bad patches of road so do some research on that.
  • Know your timings and checkpoints: Each checkpoint will have a cut off timing which will be announced before the ride. Know all your checkpoints and the times and plan your ride accordingly.
  • Pace yourself: Divide the ride into smaller segments, checkpoints are a good way to break it down and come up with the desired pace for each segment based on the elevation profile as well as the road conditions. Try to stay above this pace when you ride.
  • Plan your stops: Plan at least 3 big stops for 24hrs of riding. These should include your meals, and some rest time.
  • Sleep: This is a major factor in the ultra-long-distance events which require you to ride for days. Plan your sleep stops and try to get at least 5hrs of rest/nap/sleep throughout 24hrs of ride time. And while we are on this subject, get a good 8hrs of sleep the night before the event to make sure you are well-rested and prepared for this.

THE RIDE

Get yourself early to the start point, have your presence marked and collect your Brevet Card. Each rider is given one, and this is going to be your proof of timing, so guard this with your life, otherwise, your ride will count as a DNF (Did Not Finish). 

As for riding, everyone has a different riding style and pace so try to stick to whatever works the best for you. It is important to ride at a pace that you can sustain comfortably, and just remember that your only enemy here is the clock. Try not to get ahead of yourself and race others. Here are some riding tips that might help you:

  • Find your pack, make friends. In large events, there will be a good number of riders so it will be easy to find someone at your pace. So, ride along, make friends and support your fellow cyclists as well. And if you are shy to talk, carry some extra food, that’s always a great icebreaker.
  • Ride in a group in the night, even if the pace may not exactly match yours. This is much safer and also makes you more visible in the dark.
  • Keep buffer time, try to stay above your set pace and make some buffer time, this will help you recover in case you have a mechanical issue or need to slow down for some reason.
  • Stay hydrated, keep sipping water every 15-20mins or so. More so in the day-time.
  • Make your pit-stops short and efficient. This can include filling water, getting a quick bite, pee-break, etc.
  • Take power naps, 20-40min naps, they are an excellent way to reboot and recharge yourself and cost you less time than a full nap.
  • Make bigger stops only for meals or power naps or both.
  • Always refill your bottles anytime you have access to drinking water. The same goes for your food stash. Keep it topped up, buy on the go if you have to.
  • Have at least 2 meals in 24hrs. Food is a personal thing, so eat whatever works for you but eat healthy meals that are easy on your gut and limit the quantity so you are able to ride after eating as well. 
  • Do not ride hard after eating a meal, keep your pace slow and let your meal digest and slowly you can raise your pace.
  • Consume liquid foods as well, they are easier to have on the bike and faster to digest like milkshakes, juices etc.
  • Keep sugary stuff at hand. It’s never good to get “the bonk” and sugars and salts can bring your dying body back to life. So, keep a bar of your favourite sugary treat in your pocket.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. As cyclists we love coffee, and it is also good to keep you awake but it is a laxative and can cause digestive issues. Too much coffee can cause a caffeine high followed by a caffeine crash. When in doubt avoid.
  • The mantra of the ride is conservation. Conserve your energy, water and food and ride as efficiently as you can. Keep the fastest speed that you can sustain for the whole ride and eat and drink only as much as you need, not more, not less.
  • Ride hard when it’s cold and ride easy when it’s hot. Idea here is to keep your body temperature optimum, and prevent you from over-sweating or feeling too cold.
  • Avoid riding in noon if it’s very hot, instead plan a break at such times. If favourable, ride through the night, temperatures and winds will be less during the night.
  • If it’s too cold, put on extra layers and try not to stop, keep a tempo and keep eating on the bike.
  • Stretch at your long stops for 5 mins, this will prevent your muscles from becoming stiff and cramping so take the time to stretch.
  • Lastly, stay on the move, minimize your time off the bike, drink on the bike, eat on the bike, do not sleep on the bike though!

It seems like a lot of things to keep in mind but once you start riding long distances all this just becomes second nature to you. So, have fun and make some new friends and some new memories!

FINISH STRONG

Yay! Pat yourself on the back, you have finished your big ride. If this is your first brevet, and you completed it successfully, then you have earned the title of a “Randonneur”. If you have completed all of the 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k in this season you are a “Super Randonneur”, these titles are a mark of pride for a Randonneur.

If you were not able to complete it for some reason, do not be disheartened, you gave your best effort and you would have learned a great deal from this ride. Try again next time and you’ll be much stronger, remember the theory of progressive overloading that we mentioned earlier.

Now that you have completed such a challenging ride, get yourself some good rest and sleep. If you still feel stiffness and muscle aches take hot showers and massages. Ride easy through the week but stay active. And finally eat healthy, lots of fruits and vegetables and foods high on protein.

Then, start preparing for your next big adventure!

We hope this guide can help some of you folks get started and jump into the world of endurance cycling. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Happy Randonneuring!

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