To dredge up a slightly old thread, I'll simply say that I agree with the majority of the comments above regarding shortsightedness in looking at age numbers only vs. actual participation. However, as a "young" (31 years old) guy looking at getting into the sport, I thought I could offer the younger demographic "outsider" perspective.
I work at a pretty bustling bike shop in Dallas, Bicycles Plus, and we see ALL kinds of business. Family bikes, hybrids, racers, wannabe racers, MTB guys, charity ride folks, $16K Colnagos and $700 Trek alloy road bikes, etc. Everyone on staff (except for one guy nobody likes) is an avid rider. Most of them do the local crits, as well as the winter cross series and one heavy offroad endurance guy and another track racer. In my roughly 1.5 years there, I have seen exactly one full-on proper touring bike. About half of the staff have steel bikes, but I'm the only one whose main bike is a steel roadie. I recently purchased a cross bike, intended to be a do-it-all commuter/adventure type bike. When I put real metal fenders on it, everybody freaked out. Talking about dynamo lights invited some light ribbing.
What I'm getting at is that in the whole of the "mainstream" cycling scene, randonneuring is a thing that lots of people haven't even heard of. Or if they have, it's an old guy thing. I only started looking into it seriously because I am not into crit racing, but do like long rides. Not that I have time for them at the moment, but if I did, it would be my preferred organized activity vs. road racing. When I say that people say it is an "old guy thing," that doesn't mean they'll never do it, but it does mean they have little to no interest in it at the moment.
Another thing is the equipment and ettiquitte vs. roadie group rides.
On the equipment side: yes, you can do a rando on anything, but there are lots of bikes that are pretty ill-suited for the purpose. Such as, you know, the majority of bikes we sell. Even an entry level road bike is so oriented towards road racing that it makes for a poor distance bike. And the bikes that are engineered towards being distance bikes still don't bother with fender and rack provisions, something you tend to see as a minimum requirement for most people doing rando rides. And the majority of lights folks are using, especially as things trend towards USB rechargeable lights, are pretty much worthless if you need to get through a full night of riding. So anything past a 200K ride, and you are looking at some significant to serious equipment changes, which can add up fast. Notice I haven't even started talking about entry fees, time off work, and hotel rooms.
On the etiquette side: I was pretty mystified when reading up on rando stuff regarding lighting. For roadies, it's a front and a rear blinky, in low-light situations only. Maybe a nicer headlight if you want to do some night riding. But when I first started looking at ride rules online, I found out that blinkies were a no go and reflective vests/sashes plus some sort of reflective ankle bands were required. I don't even go that far when commuting. I'm not complaining, it's totally a "when in rome" type of thing. I'm just trying to illustrate the big differences in what most folks are doing and what rando folks are doing. So beyond an age/time/"money" gap, it's a really foreign concept to the majority of serious riders in the U.S.
But on the whole, I would again point to the previous comments of others and say that the overall trend in cycling is growing and as the current "young guns" tend to age and drift away from crit racing, I'm sure a portion of them will find themselves looking at randonneuring in the future.
Doing a rando distance on a racing bike really is no problem, especially if you are fast. It's us slower guys that need to carry more stuff. In the U.S. at least, you are required to have a steady light, not that you can't use a blinky. I used to have one PBSF on steady, and one on blinking. Now I have a dyno light on steady, and a Radbot on blinking. Reflective gear is pretty important to visibility. A blinky really doesn't give much warning, especially if it has been on for too long. A decent set of lights doesn't have to cost more than $100. Of course, it's easy to spend quite a bit more than that. Getting a dyno setup is the best thing that happened to my riding. I don't have to worry about how far away from home I am when it gets dark.
I have ridden quite a few brevets, and never used a rack. I use fenders now, but I didn't use to. Most of the time I don't mind getting wet.
The lights thing comes from a bit of in insular perspective, to be quite honest. I have a PBSF somewhere around here, but for commuting I use these USB rechargeable lights that are way brighter than any similarly sized battery lights. The problem is that on steady, they only last about 3 hours. Perfect for commutes. In the summer when all I needed was flashing (not much full dark riding) they would be fine for 50 miles a day for a few days. Just looking at the general trend of the lights we carry, lots of them are going this way because folks just don't need lights for that long, and they are much brighter for roughly the same price.
So yeah, I could spend 100 bucks on some decent lights (offhand, I don't even know what those would be), and they'll be relatively low powered compared to what I'm used to. Or I could go full hog and go for a dyno setup, including getting a hub and building up a front wheel. That's my own decision.
But if you're talking about folks getting into the sport seriously, vs. trying out a 200k, this usually involves equipping a bike in a completely different way from your standard weekend warrior roadie. And that could be the barrier between being slightly interested and actually contributing to some of those yearly participation figures.
I had roughly the same dialogue on a backpacking forum. I was trying to illustrate that serious backpacking vs. car camping was a huge equipment investment. Of course you can throw all your car camping crap into a cheap backpack, but you're not going to have as much fun and you'll be less likely to do it again. The same can be said for an average rider doing a couple of 200k rides on whatever equipment they happen to have on hand. I think people dismiss this far too often. Cycling can be done super cheap, but serious cycling is often a pretty pricey habit. Specializing can get even more expensive.
I started doing brevets when I was your age. I bought a $100 used Peugeot, a couple $18 cateye head lights and a $15 dollar taillight. That worked for me through my first 1200k. I had to carry extra batteries but the lights worked fine. There is no need for spending a boat load of money on things. Most of us who are thinking of getting into the sport already have a bike so really all you need are lights. All the reflective stuff is fairly recent, I'm not sure what the vests cost but the ankle reflectors are very inexpensive. I never bought a vest. I have a reflective triangle that I've used for PBP but that's it. The "it cost's too much" excuse is a myth.
Originally Posted by WalksOn2Wheels
Dyno hubs, racks, fenders, GPS, and all the other crap that people bring/buy is just fluff.
As Unterhausen pointed out, the only issue with using a "race" geometry bike on brevets is ease of storage capacity. I've been doing them for 20 years on racing geometry bikes with no problem. Nowadays I ride one of those expensive Colnago's like what you sell in your shop with a Schmidt dynohub and seatpost mounted rack. Works great.
you can go to Harbor Freight and buy a reflective vest for $5. The ones at the big box hardware stores probably cost a little more
I did my first Super Randonneur series and an R12 on the bike I raced from 1980. It was a real racing bike, very similar to the ones they sell now except for steel. I didn't take the lighting seriously enough until the rainy disaster of my first 400k. For the 600k, I put the dynohub wheel from my commuter on my long distance bike.
I used 2 Planet Bike Superflash rear lights until PBP, where I got a rear dyno light. You might have to change batteries on the PBSF if you keep it on solid and ride through the night.
Again, just like the backpacking thread, I never said you can't do things on the cheap, I'm just saying that the more serious one gets, the more things begin to cost. It could make the difference between trying a few brevets and becoming a lifelong rando club member.
But regardless of cost, it really is a very different discipline from your standard weekend group ride, as I previously discussed. And it could turn some people off. But on that same note, it isn't for everyone to begin with.
EDIT: In fact, let's just forget equipment. Let's say somebody just hands you a set of lights. You still have to find time to travel, possibly get a hotel room, entry fees, etc. Compare this to just doing a metric century with friends in your own neck of the woods.
With equipment, it's really you can make it as expensive or inexpensive as you want. We often make it more expensive than it needs to be because we always want the coolest stuff. That's just human nature. Your second point can be more of an issue. It really depends on your proximity to where the brevets are happening. When we did all of our brevets local to me it was very inexpensive. I would often ride to the start of the brevets then ride home afterward. When I had to go to Davis for brevets it was more expensive. and time consuming. Entry fees are very cheep compared to your average century. If you're in the Dallas area that shouldn't be a problem for you. There is a rather large long distance community in the Dallas area.
Originally Posted by WalksOn2Wheels
Let me point out a couple of things:
Originally Posted by WalksOn2Wheels
One, cycling gear is regional. If you associate randonneuring with fenders and big square handlebar bags, it's because that's what people in San Francisco or New York use, but not what we use here. A couple of years ago, I tried to photograph all the bikes on a 600k (I missed a couple of them), and those photos are here: http://s192.photobucket.com/user/ste...600kRandoBikes
Yesterday, we had two groups riding, four of us doing a 400k brevet out of Willow Park, and 4 doing a 200k permanent out of Alvarado. No fenders or handlebar bags in either group. Gary was on his Merlin, Sharon and I were on the CoMotion tandem, etc.
The most common taillights are the Planet Bike Superflash, but usually multiples of them. On the tandem, we had 3 on the bike, one other similar light, and Sharon had one on her helmet. They seem to be the most bang-for-the buck. On our ride, it got dark around 5:30 PM, we finished the ride at 5:08 AM, and all lights were still going strong. Normally, I'll put fresh batteries in everything before a night ride.
I used rechargeable headlights as backup on 200k's and for my first 300k. For a 400k, it looked like the 2-AA lights weren't bright enough, and the rechargeable ones didn't last long enough, and that's when I got a generator hub, and haven't regretted it. But, for comparison, my bike plus that hub/light are probably still less than 3/4 of the road bikes you'll see out there.
And just for an FYI, on the speed thing, on a 200k, we'll typically finish that in 9 to 10 hours. So it's not fast paceline riding. Usually, it's more fun to ride alongside and talk to people than to stare at their butts, so we maybe don't draft as much as you'd expect unless it's stiff headwind or something.
Possibly it's not popular because people don't know about it?
My wife and I like to ride long distances so we're thinking of riding a brevet so I asked around to fellow riders to see if any of them had ridden them and I was shocked at what riders know (or don't know) about long distance cycling events. I casually polled the people I ride with during the week and of the 20+ riders I spoke to only one had ever even heard of Randonneuring. And these are all active riders who all ride 1000 to 6000 miles per year. Most of these riders ride charity rides and at least several centuries per year but when I mentioned the distances involved in Randonneuring most were shocked. Most have no idea that there are events like this. I just think that at least in my area of Connecticut it isn't popluar but it may be to lack of exposure or awareness of the events.
If bike riders don't know about the existance of such events how can participation increase?
Stephen, thanks for the info, I hope to meet you someday soon as I plan on making at least one LSR ride in early 2014, but school is destroying me at the moment.
It's easier to forego fenders in this climate because it so rarely rains. And if it is, it's usually predictable enough to prep your bike accordingly. The main reason I'm building up my bike is for the purpose of all-weather commuting and touring. The fact that it will make a great rando bike is just a happy by-product. After one ride in the wet with full fenders, I don't see any reason to not include them on any long distance bike. I've used those half fenders on my Bianchi and they work about half as well.
As for the cost of the bike, judging by your photos, even if I paid full retail, I'd be surprised if my full build will cost half as much as some of the bikes there even after fenders and lights. But we're still talking roughly 2 grand. Again, I understand you could do this on a 100 dollar bike with 50 dollar lights, but who the hell would want to? If I'm putting in serious miles, I expect to put together a serious machine accordingly.
I had planned on a frame bag similar to what I saw in most of your photos. Definitely not a handlebar bag fan. Not like I'm fast enough for it to make a real difference.
Anyhow, getting back to the original content of the thread, I simply hoped to offer an outside perspective in the frame of the "mainstream" cycling community. Any discussion on equipment and cost aside, it's just too weird for your average serious cyclist. I think that's the main reason you see older folks getting into it as well. These people have gotten over themselves and don't mind fredding out. When you're young, it's all about the local crit and being faster than the next guy. But from what I can tell, randonneuring certainly isn't "dying" or anything like that. I think cycling as a whole has grown and will continue to. And returning to age, while cycling as a sport has grown in the U.S., the average rider age has also gone up. I've seen people refer to it as "the new golf." And on the young side, I repeatedly see articles referencing fewer teens getting driver's licenses. I imagine some of them are turning to bikes.
I think the demographic question is just too limited of a look.