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  1. #1
    Senior Member claire's Avatar
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    Randonneuring - making it through the night!

    Hi,
    This spring I'm going to go for some brevets (the general idea is PBP next year...), but I've never done more than 260 km in one go. I've done my 200 km brevet last month (actually turned out to be more like 250 because I rode to the start and back home) and I was feeling great even at the end, so I think I'm ready for longer distances. I'm not too afraid by the 300 km Brevet in a couple of weeks, however the 400km starts freaking me out, mostly because I've never done a whole night on my bike (never really rode on unlit roads as well!).
    First, on the lighting side, I'm thinking about going with one of the new superbright cateye lights, like the EL500, plus a headlight for map reading. Would that be enough? I want to get a hub dynamo for next year, when I'll be doing more night cycling but I can't really afford it right now.
    And second, how do you make it through the night without falling alseep? Is it better not to stop, or to have a short sleep? When do you eat and what?

  2. #2
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    Hi, Claire: Probably the single best resource here for randonneuring and long rides in general is a member named Machka, who is quite well-known and greatly respected for her long-distance riding. You'll likely find answers to many of your questions on her web site: http://www.machka.net/. Enjoy your rides. Regards, Roy Zipris

  3. #3
    Tweaker-Tinkerer Lotum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by claire
    First, on the lighting side, I'm thinking about going with one of the new superbright cateye lights, like the EL500, plus a headlight for map reading. Would that be enough? I want to get a hub dynamo for next year, when I'll be doing more night cycling but I can't really afford it right now.
    It probably is enough. The important thing on an unsupported night ride is to have backup lighting in case of accidents and/or breakdowns (and don't forget to take backup also for the rear light). My usual outfit is a hub dynamo-powered light plus a pair of Cateye HL-EL120 Sport Opticubes. The Cateyes, in addition to serving as backup, also serve as my parking lights. They are small (two AA/LR6 cells each), but the two of them, even though less powerful than the hub generator light, still provide enough light for riding in total darkness. And I can use all three together if I need to maximize the amount of light. A headlamp is good for map reading, and also (especially!) for working on the bike (fixing a flat, etc.).

    Quote Originally Posted by claire
    And second, how do you make it through the night without falling alseep? Is it better not to stop, or to have a short sleep?
    The best strategy is not to start a ride with a backlog of sleep. I don't think it's necessary to sleep during a 400-km brevet. Especially in the beginning, night-time riding is exciting enough to keep one from falling asleep--you really *must* stay alert! You're likely to feel more drowsy in the early daylight hours of the following morning, when you can relax as cycling becomes 'easy' again in that you can see well. The strangest thing about night riding (in total darkness, that is) is that you cannot really see the hills, which tends to make shifting less efficient than in daylight.

    Quote Originally Posted by claire
    When do you eat and what?
    I try to eat something at least every 2 hours. I eat much the same stuff as during the daytime: raisins, peanuts, bananas, and sandwiches. I usually drink only water.

    See you on the PBP in 2007...!
    "There is nothing, nothing, nothing wrong with spending money on a bike."--Richard Ballantine

  4. #4
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    I have a pair of HL-EL500s mounted on Minoura addon posts attached to my forks. One EL500 is OK on dark rural roads, but a second is useful for fast descents and satisfies the spare requirement. Mounting the lights low on the forks is especially helpful because it generates better shadows that highlight debris and poor road surface.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Paul L.'s Avatar
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    I would use dual el-500's if I were you (and I have used this setup before with success, Now I am going with an HID and a EL-500 as a failover light in case the HID has a problem). It is possible to scrape by on one EL-500 but you won't want to go very fast with that amount of light. I feel comfortable at 16-17 mph with two. I use the HID mostly for going faster than that and descents riding a recumbent I make up for the slower hill climbing on the hills and flats and the HID lets me keep that advantage at night.

    The last 400k we had turned into an epic ride with most people finishing at 23 and 24 hours so for all intents and purposes it was an overnight ride. I did not feel too sleepy as I had had a good sleep week beforehand, now after I got into the car and warmed up that was another story, then I got very sleepy! I think the first night is not to hard to do but the second and third nights are the trick, but I wouldn't know as I have not had the opportunity to do anything longer yet (will be doing the 600k the day after tomorrow).
    Sunrise saturday,
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    lost in the moment.

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by claire
    First, on the lighting side, I'm thinking about going with one of the new superbright cateye lights, like the EL500, plus a headlight for map reading. Would that be enough? I want to get a hub dynamo for next year, when I'll be doing more night cycling but I can't really afford it right now.
    No, one EL500 is NOT enough. Two might be all right, but I didn't find that one had enough brilliance for me. I still fall into potholes with it, and if you are descending at any kind of speed, it is almost useless. I used it in combination with a Planet Bike halogen with moderate success. But I've really got to rethink my whole lighting scheme for this year.


    Quote Originally Posted by claire
    And second, how do you make it through the night without falling alseep? Is it better not to stop, or to have a short sleep? When do you eat and what?
    A 400K is a 24 hour ride or less ... so you shouldn't need to sleep. Get several really good night's sleeps during the week before, and you should be able to stay awake for 24 hours without any difficulty. I'm in University and I do it all the time ... and I'm not young anymore!

    If you are struggling out there EAT! You should be consuming 250-300 calories per hour while you ride anyway, but during the night that can be challenging for a couple reasons: 1) You don't feel like eating at night; 2) It can be difficult to dig food out of your bags or pockets at night. For both those reasons I strongly recommend getting a Bento Bag, or something like it. Put a couple energy bars in there, and nibble them while you ride. That will keep you going for a couple hours. Then stop and reload your Bento Bag ... and you can keep going through the night like that.

    Why do I recommend eating when you get tired? One of the symptoms of low blood sugar is tiredness. So if you are tired already, and you haven't been eating much, you'll be VERY tired. But if you eat, then at least your blood sugar levels will be good, and you won't feel as tired.

    If you are still struggling after eating, consider caffeine. Now, for this to work, here's the trick .... stop drinking caffeinated beverages (or reduce the amount you drink significantly) in the month, or 6 weeks, or so before the ride. Then when you drink a cup of coffee or strong tea on the ride, it will have a much greater impact. I do not recommend caffeine pills. They can have a very nasty effect on your digestive system if you are not used to them ... and if you are used to them, you'll have developed an immunity, so they won't have as much of an effect as you had hoped.

    If you are still struggling after eating and drinking a cup of coffee or strong tea, try walking instead of riding. You are still moving forward, but you are doing something different with your muscles and that can feel very good. I will sometimes stop and do a stretching routine too. Riding a bicycle, especially at night, can be rather hypnotizing at times, as the road disappears under your wheel. Doing something different, even just for a few minutes, can wake you up a bit.

    And then there's the 10-minute nap. Those are WONDERFUL!! All I need to do on most longer randonnees, is to fall asleep ... really fall asleep, not just doze ... for a couple minutes, and I'm good to go again for at least a couple hours. However, it usually takes me about 5 minutes to reach the point of actual sleep, so that's why I allot 10 minutes for those naps.

    As I mentioned, you shouldn't need any sleep on a 400K, not even the 10-minute nap because it is such a short ride. It's actually my favorite distance - very comfortable.

    The 600K could go either way. I've done it with no sleep (awake for 36 hours), or as much as about 2 hours of sleep. I'm still not sure which felt better. That distance is a rough one for me, no matter how I approach it, for some reason.

    On the 1000K and 1200K though, I try to break up my ride into segments. I will try to ride for a full 24 hours on the first day, which is usually about 450 kms or so into the ride for me, with no sleep. Like the 400K, there's really no need for sleep that early on in the ride. Personally, I'm not tired enough to sleep until 24 hours have passed. Then I try to sleep for some multiple of 90 minutes at the 24 hour point. In other words, I will sleep for 1.5 hours or 3 hours, depending on how much time I have. Then I ride for another 24 hours, and sleep another multiple of 90 minutes. Then I ride for another 24 hours, and then sleep for either another multiple of 90 minutes, or just a 10-minute nap. And then I finish the ride.

    Why do I go with multiples of 90 minutes? The adult human has a sleep cycle that lasts 90 minutes. If you sleep (really sleep, not doze) for a full 90 minutes, you will go through the whole sleep cycle, and can wake up feeling relatively refreshed. However, if you sleep for something like 60 minutes, you have a much greater chance of waking up feeling horrible ... sort of out of it, and in my case, often nauseated and dizzy ... and there's a greater chance you'll be sleepy sooner. If you do not have enough time to sleep 90 minutes, the recommendation is that you sleep less than 30 minutes (i.e. a 10-minute nap) so that you don't get fully into the sleep cycle.


    As for what you eat ... I always recommend going with anything you crave ..... as long as it is not something incredibly unusual or very spicy (nothing that has a fairly high chance of disturbing your digestive system). So ... if you crave chicken, eat chicken. If you crave donuts, eat donuts. If you crave potatoes, eat potatoes. I did the Last Chance 1200K on beef jerky and pure orange juice, which was what I was craving, and those two things went down so well! I always have a VARIETY of energy bars with me ... because I'm usually sick of a particular kind after I've finished one of them. But then I will stop at restaurants and convenience stores along the way and get whatever appeals to me. Your body will use it all.

    I hope some of this helps.

  7. #7
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    Hi Claire,

    As usuall Machka has excellent advice.

    A 400K can be brutal. I did a Boston series one as my first Brevet, without training (just commuting). Amazingly I finnished that one, and have since DNF'd one which I trained half heartedly for.

    -I have a Lumotec Oval Plus light which you could have. The plastic just bellow the switch is cracked/broken (where it bolts on), but if you are handy fixing things it shouldn't be too much bother I'd imagine.

    I'm flying into Paris on the 19th, and will be there for 3-4 days before I start my tour. Let me know if you'd like the light, else anyone onlist who is in the Boston area is welcome to have it.

    I also have a Peter White built Schmidt Son hubbed wheel you could have for less than 1/2 price-but I don't think I'll have room to take it with me. Any ideas (I think shipping it to Europe would be cost prohibitive).
    mmmm coffeee!

    email: jfoneg (_"a t symbol thing"_) yahoo (_"period or dot"_) com

  8. #8
    Senior Member Paul L.'s Avatar
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    All bow to the wisdom of Randonneuring Empress Matchka, whose experience is limitless and resolve unbreakable (after all randonneuring is 80% mental right?).

    (Well, maybe not limitless but she certainly has more than anyone I know)
    Last edited by Paul L.; 04-06-06 at 11:28 AM.
    Sunrise saturday,
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    lost in the moment.

  9. #9
    Senior Member claire's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the advice! Thanks Machka for your detailed answer, and thanks Camel for offering your light. I'm not getting a dynamo before next year, so I'll pass on your offer. Thanks anyway!
    Last year I bought a Planet Bike halogen but I was a bit disappointed because I found that the beam was a little narrow. But if I use it in combination with the Cateye it might actually work out. I'll let you know how it goes.

  10. #10
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    HI Claire,

    Your welcome, and do let me know if you change your mind about the light.

    You could have it for free, as you would have to fix it (some type of glue/filler would work a charm), then just set it aside untill you get a dynamo. The light would be no problem for me to toss in my luggage either.

    Cheers,
    Jon
    mmmm coffeee!

    email: jfoneg (_"a t symbol thing"_) yahoo (_"period or dot"_) com

  11. #11
    Senior Member
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    For pretty-cheap, pretty-bright, pretty-long-lasting, pretty-lightweight lighting, I like the Nite-Hawk Emitter (http://www.nite-hawk.com/bikeemitter.html), which sells for $70, and runs for about 10 hours on 4 AA batteries. It's one of the new-generation Luxeon-based LED lights. The Cateye DoubleShot uses the same LED but you can't just throw out the batteries and put in some new ones bought along the route. Much brighter than the older LED's. I use a helmet-mounted version for randonneuring, in combination with a Schmidt+E6. The Schmidt/E6 does a good job of lighting up the road where the handlebars are pointing, but it is incredibly useful to have the helmet lamp for corners, street signs, etc. For winter commuting, I use the helmet light along with a handlebar-mounted version of the Emitter, and the combination of those two is quite good, even on crazy-rutted snow/ice/sludge. (I'm on my ice bike in the winter, so that's why I don't use the Schmidt wheel.)

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