The Octopus is a new RUSA RBA (Central Florida, taking over for Tim Bol, who is retiring after years of dedicated service). I'm redesigning our website and one of the things I'd like to include on it is a resource on What to Expect on Your First Brevet. The intended audience is riders who are experienced cyclists. Perhaps they've done club rides and organized centuries, but their first forray into randonneuring is going to be one of my rides. I don't want to get into the rules in this document. I've got another piece that addresses the rules. The feel for this resource isn't "here's what the rules are," it's more along the lines of, "here's how some of the randonneuring rules will affect your riding experience, compared to what you're probably already used to."
Below is a first draft of a short article aimed at these new, soon-to-be randonneurs. I've seen (and, thank you, borrowed from similar pieces that are on the PA Randonneurs, Santa Cruz Randonneurs, and Alabama Randonneurs websites). I'd love your feedback and comments on this. Thanks! Paul
P.S. -- You'll glean from the piece how our rides are run here: riders will have access to the cue sheets in advance of the rides; we don't provide GPS files of the routes or maps; there is no day-of-ride registration; and there is no on-route SAG or support (I know other randonneuring clubs provide some or all of these things).
What to Expect on Your First Brevet
Brevets (or randonnées, as they’re sometimes known) are different from organized club rides or centuries. The following will help you understand what to expect on your first brevet and provide some tips to help make your ride safe, enjoyable, and successful.
Before the Brevet
Familiarize yourself with the rules for brevets. You can find the RUSA Rules for Riders here [link] and additional rules that apply to Central Florida Randonners on this website. Read them before registering for a brevet. If you have questions, contact the RBA.
Brevet routes are not marked with arrows. You will need to know how to read and follow a bicycle cue sheet. Time invested familiarizing yourself with the cue sheet is time well-spent. This is especially true if you are programming the route into a GPS. Many a randonneur has been led astray by autorouting or errors in inputting the route into a GPS.
You may want to reformat the cue sheet to suit your individual preferences. Some riders prefer a larger typeface, a different font, or highlight turns or controls to make them stand out. Some riders laminate the cue sheet to protect it from moisture.
There is an excellent article on what to carry on a brevet by Miles Stoneman in the February 2012 AMERICAN RANDONNEUR along with Bill Bryant’s recommended brevet “packing list” (both are found here [link]).
The best approach to most mechanical problems is to avoid them in the first place. Make sure your bicycle is in sound condition before you start. When was the last time you replaced your tires, changed your cables, or checked that your spokes are properly tensioned?
You should be in sound condition, too. You can find articles on training and nutrition for completing long rides on this website and elsewhere. Prepare yourself physically and mentally for the challenges of a long ride.
At the Start
Brevets start on time. An 0800 start means you will depart at exactly 0800. Arrive in plenty of time to check-in and get yourself and your bicycle organized. The ride will start on time without you if you are not ready. The starting control will remain open for one hour but none of the subsequent control closing times will be adjusted for those departing late.
At check-in, you will sign-in, sign the liability waiver, and receive your brevet card. Your bicycle may be inspected to ensure compliance with the RUSA Rules for Riders, especially the lighting and reflective clothing requirements for events longer than 200km.
Five minutes before the scheduled ride start, there will be a brief rider meeting. At the end of the meeting, the ride begins and riders depart as a group.
Riding the Brevet
On a brevet, you must prove your passage through controls, or checkpoints, along the route. Each control has an opening and closing time and the rider must present him- or herself at the control during the time that it is “open.” Failure to do so results in disqualification, so pace yourself and follow the route exactly to avoid time-consuming “bonus miles.” Remember, the clock is always ticking, even when you are stopped.
There are several kinds of controls you might encounter on a brevet. A control could be staffed by a volunteer, who will sign and stamp your brevet card. At others, you will obtain a receipt from a convenience store or other business. At information controls, you obtain a certain piece of information and note it on your brevet card. If there is a post card control, you will be given an addressed and stamped postcard and instructions for mailing it. Secret controls ensure that riders follow the route exactly and are not listed on your cue sheet or brevet card.
As randonneurs are self-sufficient, make sure you have or can obtain what you need to make it from one control to the next. Remember that there is no SAG on brevets and that non-neutral support outside the controls is forbidden.
If you abandon the ride, you must call the organizer, whose phone number is on the cue sheet. We want to know that you’re ok and you don’t want us to awaken your emergency contact needlessly in the middle of the night asking for your whereabouts.
You must arrange for your transportation back to the ride start, whether by bicycle or other means, if you abandon. Central Florida Randonneurs does not have the volunteer or financial resources to transport abandoned riders back to the start.
Brevets are not races. Finishers are listed alphabetically with no recognition of finishing order or time. Pace yourself. Better to finish slowly but within time than to go out fast and end up too exhausted to complete the ride.
After the Brevet
At the finish, obtain the final control stamp, sign the brevet card, and return the completed, signed card as directed in the pre-ride instructions. Your brevet card will be validated and mailed to you at the end of the year. Results will be posted on the Central Florida Randonneurs website and, for RUSA members, on the RUSA website.
If you are not already a member of RUSA, consider joining. As a RUSA member, you’ll receive the RUSA Handbook which contains a wealth of information on randonneuring and the quarterly AMERICAN RANDONNEUR magazine. RUSA membership entitles you to certain distance and other achievement awards. You’ll also be supporting your local and national randonneuring community.
Revised 25 April 2012 with thanks to Alabama Randonneurs, PA Randonneurs, and Santa Cruz Randonneurs