Sunday, April 15, 2012


There are realizations that come only with experience. No matter what the discipline, the knowledge gained by reading about something is always different than what one learns through actually participating.

Take, for example, my fascination with reading about randonneuring over the past few years. I love everything about the sport: the bikes, the adventure, the scenery. I used to read the rider's stories on the RUSA website and think that if I had been the author, I would have had a heck of an experience.

Yesterday's Ohio 300K Brevet gave me plenty of time to come to several realizations. These nuggets of wisdom are only hinted at in randonneur's stories, but I've not found them in print. So, if you are thinking you might like to try a brevet, read on.

Nugget #1 - The weather on a brevet is never ideal. Despite the forecast, the weather will never be what you hope. Usually it is much colder than predicted, and windier. If there is a 20% chance of rain, plan on it being an all-day down pour.

Nugget #2 - Regional Brevet Administrators (RBA's) always down play how hilly the route actually is. "It's really not that hilly - except for a few hills around Mohican State Park". If an RBA even mentions there may be a hill on the course, plan on panting for several hours as you watch your speedometer stick at 4.5 mph.

Nugget #3 - I may be optimistic here, but count on 10% of each route to be located on smooth roads. The other 90% of the route will shake bolts out of your bike. Be sure to use plenty of Lok-tite.

Nugget #4 - Make peace with the phrase, "What the Hell am I doing here?" You'll ask yourself that many times, like when you're climbing a big hill (especially the one near Mohican State Park), or when your turn a corner and feel how the cold, wind-swept rain stings your face. Unless you quit the ride, you'll just have to accept you'll be asking that often.

Nugget #5 - The other people you're riding with feel as miserable as you do, even though they don't show it. So don't ruin a good thing by complaining. By working together, you can buoy one another and make miserable circumstances seem much better.

Nugget #6 - As miserable as you might feel, the pain seems to go away when you see the final control. An overwhelming sense of satisfaction settles in, and very shortly you are looking ahead to your next long ride.

Well, that's what I've learned so far. I could say a bit about bike condition and working on your bike before a brevet (never, ever wait until just before a ride to try to fix something), but I'll save that for later.

Yesterday's ride was a game changer for me. I've done many brevets, but I think I became a randonneur last night when I finished the ride.

Happy riding!

PS Steve A, I'm going to use the Tricross for the 600K ride. My Treks are no match for the roads and hills of eastern Ohio.


limom said...

Gold Nuggets.
Me thinks.

jeff said...

Congratulations! I can't wrap my head around that distance, but I can relate to the shared suffering of wind, rain, hills. You've got to love it!

Pondero said...

Fascinating post, and one that leaves me hungry for more. I want to do some longer rides, so I'm soaking up those nuggets. Hopefully, we'll get some more details on the ride soon.

Well done, my friend.

Jon said...

I haven't ridden 300k this month! Way to go!

Just curious about the bikes, though. What abouut the TREKs isn't working for you? Tire volume...gearing...?

Looking forward to the ride description, as well.

Wilson said...

Never done a Brevet but I look forward to it someday (although your post scares me a bit).
From other circumstances though, I can agree that I am all over Nugget #4.
Thanks for the post.

Steve A said...

Tricross rule! Re Nugget #1 - that may be true in Indiana, but here in Texas, it is usually much HOTTER. Otherwise, the principles are exactly the same.

greg said...

Nice job. I agree wholeheartedly with your nuggets but would add one. For some unfathomable reason, it is highly addictive.

Big Oak said...

Thanks, guys, for the nice comments.

Pondero - I think there are still many nuggets out there yet to learn.

Jon - yes, the gearing. The larger rings on the TA crank are too close together and the chain often flops all the way off when I shift to the small ring. I think a chain keeper might help there. The small ring on the compact crank on the Grey Trek isn't quite small enough. I have thought about getting a different cassette - one with a larger cog.

Wilson - yes, Nugget #4 is universal.

Steve A - yes, I love my Tricross. The triple crank and cassette combo that came with the bike is all that on the big climbs. I'm glad I put 55mm fenders on,too, so I can ride some beefy tires.

Greg - thanks for stopping by! My in-laws used to live in so. Vermont, so I've had the chance to ride down there, and on the west side of your big lake. Haven't been up your way yet. Magnificent countryside you have there!

Tex69 said...


rlove2bike said...

I am just catching up on blogger, as I have been internet challenged as of late. Not a bad thing, but I do miss it. Congratulations on the 300K. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts...all of them. Although I have never ridden a Brevet, I can understand your nuggets. They make perfect sense.

Thanks for the great post!!