To me PBP is not synonomous with randonneuring. I realize it is, though, for some people. But, given my point of view, I have always struggled with the rando calendar, which seems geared all around doing 1200Ks. Most non-1200K riders (who I believe represent the majority of the participants in the sport) would probably rather see the calendar of spring randonees shifted by a solid 4 weeks or so, at least in colder climates.
I might want to do a 1200K some time, but right now I'm just looking to do my first SR series next year. I would love to see clubs do a fall short series (100-200-300K, maybe?), possibly with slightly easier terrain, as an intro. (I have a feeling that if I stick with the sport, this means I will just end up *running* them, which I'm OK with. At least the local club has a few later ones this year, running 200Ks alongside longer events later in the series.)
Also, there's a huge set of bad impressions that go along with assumign everyone is gunning for PBP. Lots of "you must be able to rebuild a bike from spit and bailing wire in a country where you don't speak the language" in FAQs about doing your first brevet. Uh, no. It's offputting and intimidating. If you can do a club century comfortably, you can go do a 200K brevet with the same gear, just have a plan for sagging yourself in if something goes wrong.
I have a really long rant about that that I should write up at some point to get off my chest, but that's the short version. Newbies to the sport shouldn't be asked to solve the problem of the percentage of Americans DNFing PBP on their first 200K.
"The ACP homologates American brevets held between January 1 and October 15. However, ACP delays until December the processing of results submitted after October 15, and homologates them with the next year’s rides. As a result, if you have ACP events in October, or wait to submit late season brevets results in October, there will be a significant lag before you receive your certificate numbers and some riders may not be able to apply for their Super Randonneur awards."
This doesn't prohibit clubs from running events, even ACP events, later in the year, but does encourage them to run them earlier rather than later.
FWIW, the URL for DC Randonneur's "Rando 101" is http://www.dcrand.org/dcr/randoinfo.php
There, we say: "Unsupported: While there might be some food at the ride start, you should think of what you are doing as going on your own bike ride. You should be prepared to handle any bike repairs that are needed. You should carry clothes to handle any weather conditions that might arise. And you should be prepared to have a friend or spouse come and pick you up if necessary. "
That's because while a 200km may only be 25 miles longer than a century, if century riders are used to riding on supported centuries that have mechanics and sag wagons, then we need to make sure that they have the correct expectations for what kind of support there is, and that they need to be self-reliant. It's not about PBP, it's about having accurate expectations.
That said, even though I am very self-reliant and can probably deal better than most with anything that comes up, I still get a little nervous if there is no one behind me. I try to make sure that there are riders behind me so that if I run into trouble, there might be someone who can help me out (or at least know that I was having problems). Even well-prepared riders can run into issues: On my last really long ride, down in North Carolina, my pedal broke (the cleat retention part). Fortunately, the RBA down there (who was riding with us) was able to come up with a fix, using zip ties. So I rode 300 miles with my new-fangled ZTRS (Zip-Tie Retention System). So spit and bailing wire might not have done it, but zip ties are always a good thing to have on hand.
As to riding 1200's ... I couldn't have imagined riding one when I started randonneuring. I couldn't even imagine riding a 600. The longest I had ever ridden was the Seagull Century, which seemed to me like a superhuman effort. But a friend asked me in 2005 if I'd be on his fleche team, and riding all night sounded fun to me because I always liked staying up all night in my college days. After the fleche, they said I was such a strong rider that I should really ride "the series". What's a "series" I asked? They told me, and so I decided that if I could ride a fleche then I could certainly ride a 200. I decided I would only continue to ride the series if I was having "fun". Little did I know that there was as much climbing on the 200 as on the whole of the fleche. But I did it, and then another 200, and then an insanely hard 300 that became known as the "Mother of all 300's". After that one I decided to quit randonneuring. But the RBA said that the 400 was "kinder and gentler" and indeed it wasn't too bad. And then there was just one more ride in the series, so I decided to give it a try. I just had no idea anything could be so hard but I eventually finished. The guy I had been riding with immediately started chatting with other finishers about riding the Gold Rush Randonnee. I thought he was nuts to even contemplate riding something longer. But by a year later after finishing my second series, I was making plans to ride the last Boston-Montreal-Boston. Which I also finished by the skin of my teeth.
Bottom line: I ride these rides because they are fun and challenging and often have good company (if I can keep up with them). Note that "fun" doesn't mean every moment is fun, there are numerous times when I've wanted to quit, and riding to the next cue seems almost impossible, let alone the next control or the final control (at times like that, hint to self: eat something!). But it's fun overall, so I keep doing it.
But I too would like to understand the point being made a bit more explicitly. Perhaps its a comment on a practice to include gratuitous amounts of climbing on randonee routes? (i.e. course routing to add more climbing just for the sake of adding more climbing) Just a guess.
It was a variety of things. One, the climbing thing -- our local site goes on and on about how much climbing there is. The rides are hilly, but now that I've ridden a few (or portions of them on other rides), most were made to sound worse than they are, IMHO.
Two -- not all basic FAQs are as encouraging, and a lot of beginner advice talks a lot about makeshift repairs and stories like that, and not about the fact that most people will have a great, no-problem, ride. Pretty much all of the ride reports are of the "epic" variety, not the "whee AWESOME" sort. And a lot of ride reports or conversations present calling for help as a "failure" to be avoided at all costs, rather than something that is possible when one is pushing one's limits.
Three, and this is going to be an artifact of how one searches and luck of the draw, but every time I looked for information on basic topics, I ended up finding forum/newsgroup discussions on how that particular topic related to whatever the really bad year for Americans at PBP was. Seriously. Looking for lights? PBP OH NO. Looking for exactly what the reflective gear rules are? PBP OH NO. Ride report or course information for a past run of a certain route? PBP OH NO. Advice on becoming a stronger climber/picking gearing for hilly routes? PBP OH NO. What some particular notation means on a cue sheet? Okay, maybe not that one, because navigating PBP is evidently easier. :)
Personally, I'd like to see our club schedule more rides during the rest of the year just because I like them and it's always sort of sad that they're over so soon. It would also be nice if I had more options schedule-wise. I haven't been able to fit in an SR series in the last two years due to scheduling, and my professional life (well, one of my professional lives... I somehow wound up with two) keeps me busy over the summer when most of the longer ones happen. Part of the reason I did the Appalachian 1000k for the last two years even though the first time I was the only one, and the second time there were only two riders, is because it fit in my schedule and there was no SR series qualification requirement (and I had schedule conflicts with most of our local series).
More rides and therefore more choices of dates would also help attract more new riders because I'm surely not the only person who can't be a slave to the brevet schedule.
But at the same time, I shouldn't complain too loudly because you don't see me out running more rides myself if I think they should happen. :P
As far as ride reports go, that's a bit tricky. Personally, I only bother writing them when the ride was somehow a particular challenge or in some way exceptional, or I miraculously managed to bring my camera and take lots of photos that are actually good (yeah right...). For rides that I enjoy but are basically typical or uneventful, I don't have much to say that would make a ride report worth reading. "We started out, and it got light, and we kept riding, and we got to the control and ate a sandwich and had coffee, then we kept riding, the scenery was pretty, I got a couple of mosquito bites and they itched, I took off my arm warmers, we kept riding, it got warm and sunny, we got to the next control, I drank some gatorade and ate a package of chips, we went up some hills, we went down some hills, we saw some goats, here's a photo of a roadside historical marker... it got dark, we kept riding, we stopped for coffee, we kept riding... we finished in about the same amount of time as usual."
So yeah, most of the ride reports you read sound more like war stories, but no one bothers writing the ones that are just, "I had a nice ride". ;)
my one ride report is from a 1200k -- where I had problems. But it wasn't PBP. The only problem I had on PBP was not knowing how to cope with starting at night. Still not sure about that.
The ACP is the organization behind randonneuring, and since the crown jewel of the ACP is PBP, there will always be some element of PBP-centrism in randonneuring. I also think that people tend to like challenging courses. PBP isn't really all that challenging in comparison to a lot of U.S. 1200k's. Shouldn't encourage them though.
The way randonneuring is structured, there are 100k and 200k rides to get used to the rules. The longer distance rides probably demand a little better preparation.
Read some of the Checkpoint articles on the Audax Australia website:
I don't think they are quite so war-like in their portrayal of the rides that are described in the articles. Admittedly, some of them are the epic rides, but there is a nice mix of the "ordinary" rides.
Perhaps the way Audax Australia approaches their rides and calendars is why at least the Victorian branch is, from my experience, is doing very well with participation rates across the board.
When there was a move to the "populaire" or "nouveau randonneur" rides -- over 50, 100 and 150-160km -- I wasn't sure that they would be effective in recruitment for longer rides, and I felt they would take away organiser resources from other longer events.
As it transpires, they are good feeder events. They give people experience without the pressure of non-negotiable long distances, they give people who have been injured or out of the sport for several years an avenue back in (vis a vis us), and they are a handy money-earner for an organisation that traditionally has offered far more value for money than is recognised with lower entry fees.
I think you need to look at calendar structures like that. The groups in Seattle and British Columbia do something similar (we the leaders in fact), and if I am not mistaken, they have a pretty good membership and participation list.
Yes, along with Randonneurs Mondiaux. They are the world auspicing bodies. PBP is actually the moneyspinner that keeps ACP in business every four years, and keeps your entry fees for run-of-the-mill events to a minimum.
I also don't think cards are sent to France anymore...
Frankly, I have absolutely no problem with the ACP.
RUSA does their own thing sometimes, no doubt about that. But the old guard in the U.S. that started randonneuring with an eye towards PBP still has a lot of control. OTOH, my experience is that most U.S. randonneurs seem to have gotten used to the schedule that is based around PBP qualification. Once people have completed their series, summer and fall brevets longer than 200k are not that well attended. When ACP agreed to allow other 1200k's in a PBP year, a lot of things changed. One data point, Mr. Bill "7x1200k this year" Olsen says he's not that interested in going back to PBP -- been there, got the t-shirt, too expensive
We did a 200k on the tandem a while back. We had a new guy out riding. There was a STIFF headwind coming back in. For us, it was just a slow slog, but nothing we hadn't done before- just pedal at 12 mph until you're done. For the newbie, that was the Epic Ride. So that's sort of in your perspective.
I understand that at one time, all the routes were supposed to have as much climbing as PBP, so that affected route selection. On the charity rides, a lot of people looks specifically for flatter routes, so if a route is hillier, they need to know about it.
I suspect it was an effort to make themselves appear more elite than they actually are. One of the neat ideas about randonneuring as it stands now is that everyone who finishes is a winner. There can be discussion about who finish fastest, and that became a significant issue with PBP because of the cheating it engendered.
There is a framework in place as far as event structure is concerned, and it has worked very well for decades, and I hope it will continue to work very well into the future. It really is down to the promotion of randonneuring as a sport that will attract participants. Look to how the challenge of Iron Man events has created burgeoning participation at all levels, and that has relied very much on one single event -- the Hawaiian one.
As far as recruiting more people to it, I think it's going to be a nitch sport no matter what. Most people aren't interested in riding like that. Personally, I'm good with that. There is nothing that will mess up a good thing like getting more people involved. Just look at RUSA now compared to what it was 10 years ago...
When I lived in Germany and rode brevets there, there'd be 80+ people on most of the rides, even the 600's. I did a couple of smaller ones that still had maybe 20-25 people, which would still be a good crowd for a 600k back home. With so many people I'd end up riding with larger groups later in the ride, I'd be more likely to run into other riders later if I was riding alone for awhile, etc. I don't mind riding alone by any means, or in small groups - I've happily done a 1000k where I was the only participant. But it really was fun to roll up to a control at 3AM and find ten other people there. It was fun to hang out at the finish with a couple dozen people sitting around, coming in and out etc. It would be fun to get more people here, too.
My own experience, which may or may not be representative:
Rode my first double (STP) at age 16, and did several more into my twenties. Moved to southern CA for grad school in my mid-twenties (1995), discovered the CTC, and completed 15 CTC doubles by the year I turned 30. But that's when "life" began catching up: I'd gotten married, now had two young kids, and lots of responsibilities at work while finishing my degree. Training time dwindled, and it became much much harder to justify being away from the family for basically a whole weekend for a CTC double. A favorite event like Death Valley or Davis would require taking off Friday afternoon, and not returning until Sunday afternoon. Not to mention the cost of gas, two hotel nights, and the entry fees - with a young family, those kinds of expenses can be hard to justify, especially when the wife doesn't share one's interest in the sport. Even a "local" event like the Grand Tour or Heartbreak required an entire Saturday away from my young family; for the wife and kids, that got real old real fast. I hung my bike up at the end of 1999, and wasn't sure I'd ever ride another double.
Fast Forward several years. The kids are getting older. I'm settling into a career, and have more control over my schedule. Money isn't as tight. I discover I can take the kids riding on the back of a tandem, and they love it. Begin logging more miles, on the tandem and my single bike. And now, since turning forty, I've gotten out and ridden six doubles --- and don't plan to ever stop again. Last year, I even managed to do three doubles in the same year (not CTC, but still three doubles).
If there's a bottom line to my story, it's that "life happens," and it can take awhile to figure out how to fit a time-intensive sport like ultramarathon cycling into the rest of that life.
Also, I completely agree with what others have said about the mental stamina being crucial for ultramarathon cycling; I've often told people that a double is as much (if not more) mental as physical, and having the will power to persevere. That's something that can come especially with age and experience, and learning to persevere through other life challenges.