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scruffy nerf herder
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So there I was minding my own business. Asleep in an ethereal wonderland, only to be jolted awake by the sound of my cell phone. “Crap” was the first word out of my mouth as I came to and realized my peaceful slumber had just become a nightmare. It was the morn of my first brevet of 200k. I wasn’t too worried about the distance as much as I was the fact that my longest training ride to date was 56 miles, and here I was about to drive 30 minutes and PAY to do my longest training ride of the season… 2.25 times. Ugh… I let the phone ring until my wife hit me… I knew it was one of my riding buddies, also wildly unprepared, who had agreed to do this with me.

To preface this, I largely see brevets as this peculiar type of torture. To me, I equate it to people VOLUNTEERING to join in on a Nazi death march. I am actually being quite serious. I’m more of a ride like crazy for a while until your lungs bleed, and go home and have the car washed and lawn mowed by 3pm kind of guy. You know? Nonetheless, if two of my friends hadn’t indicated they were riding this thing and the notorious RBR lurker Dale Brigham hadn’t emailed me this pleading letter “beseeching” me to join him, I would NOT have chosen to ride such a thing. Not that there is anything wrong with brevets, or … what is the word… randoneeurers…I just kind of associate them with bikes with reflectors and lights and panniers, and backpacks and people with long beards, etc etc. Not my style. Nonetheless, showing up at the Liberty, Missouri Perkins pancakes in the wee hours of the morning pretty much cemented my mental image. Old steel touring bikes with panniers and lights, and guys with zz top beards, and mismatched clothes and all the things you don’t typically see at the weekly worlds or at the starting line on the weekend. (However, there WERE other perfectly beautiful chi-chi bikes… Including a Cielo and this beautiful Ti Seven with bazillion dollar wheels…anyway)

To give you some background on this event, I’m not sure I am qualified in the least to explain it. However, I guess the point of this whole brevet thing is to ride a series of timed rides …. Starting with the 200K, and followed up with a 300K, a 400K and a 600K, and I think an ‘optional’ 1000K… (I’m sure someone will correct me). These have to be completed within a certain hour time limit for each distance, and also one has to complete the series within a date range in order to qualify for this PBP, a Paris-Brest-Paris ride that occurs every couple of years or so in France. So… this was the 200K.

Part of the challenge is to follow the route and hit certain checkpoints along the way to get signatures to prove you “were there” in the right order, etc. These turns are indicated by mileage, and right off the bat we took a wrong turn, so everyone’s mileage was off, so I just tossed my card. I just figured I’d just follow someone who had one of these map holder things mounted on their handlebars. I kept being reminded of this throughout the day when I'd look at the rider next to me and say... "do you know where the hell we are or where to turn" and him shaking his head no.

So…. We actually made pretty decent time. During the day I got a chance to talk with Dale, and talk we did. Everyone should take a look at his profile, he’s been a member here forever and has like 50 posts… ridiculous. Anyway, a cool guy, and definitely the kind of guy you want to take along on your brevet, one that will make your head spin with whimsical stories and the miles just disappear. Our topics of conversation included RBR, the “Lubbock Lights”, bikes, training, Sonic Youth, and all sorts of useless stories and tidbits. Plus, if you are ever looking for one of those “special” costume ideas for those costume or theme parties that no one in the world will ever guess who you are unless you tell them… just ask Dale. He is full of them. Plus, the dude has a photographic memory. He remembers turns by nondescript landmarks and feel… in po-dunk Missouri there seems to be a shortage of road signs, and Mr. Brigham navigated and towed our select group of brevet first-timers around like a mother goose does her goslings. Plus, he has a wicked cool blue Steelman to boot.

So, despite the seemingly incessant rollers in the second half, I began to understand and appreciate what these whackos were doing. Honestly, its not the mileage, it’s more a mental challenge, and from what I see, the personal battle with discomfort and fatigue and just getting it done. It is actually quite amazing. There were dudes out there on bikes that HAD to weigh 30 lbs… and some of them were running FIXED gear or SINGLESPEEDS… one guy on this brown albatross of a bike was running a SS in the realm of 46x15. Holy crap. Mad props to you people, you got some kind of brain issue that I do not understand… but I truly appreciate your tenacity.

That’s the thing, for the most part, I’ve always looked at people like Fixed, MB, Dale, and JS and their events like the 508, or brevets, or just long distance riding as kind of kooky, but honestly it takes a good rider both mentally and physically to even fathom doing these events, much less finish them. It is an interesting community of truly good people, that many racers would often look down their noses at such a group that is largely composed of what some may consider ‘Freds’. But, I tell you what, for as much grit, determination, acceptance, support, and perseverance that these people display, I can say in some ways they are far better advocates of cycling than 2/3 of the competitive riders I ride with on a day to day basis.

I was happy to see the finish, and my group of four rolled in good spirits. Having the last mile eaten up by a screaming downhill was beautiful. Thanks to Dale for pulling us around and providing us with these mental images of Pike Peak-esque imagery of the final few miles, which never ever appeared. It was a beautiful day. Despite the positive experience, I hate to say, I don’t think the brevet lifestyle or desire really ‘took’ with me. Maybe someday when I have more time, but for right now… its not for me, but you guys (and gals) have my utmost support and admiration. Good luck on your events to come.

I will leave it up to Dale or others to post what few pics he has. Thanks for reading.
 

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2,745 Posts
cool recap thanks!

so what is the big advantage of doing an orginized tour like that?
i've done a few centuries solo (miles no kilo)
a few buddies with me 200k unsupported isn't a total undertaking.
is there just the cool factor of a bunch of people at the end? or what?

Thinking about someday showing at a brevette, think it would make good training
 

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scruffy nerf herder
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
as I mentioned the 200K really isn't that big of a deal in and of itself, but to consider in two weeks, many of these people on this ride with far heavier bikes than mine and ... of varying degrees of physical fitness will do a 300K, and later a 400 and 600K, the efforts, Im assuming would tend to be quite demanding. I only did this as I was asked to join, and likely would have otherwise got up and done my 40-50 mile hammerfest and gone back home.

Why these people do it, would need to come from them. Some of the participants in this had completed RAAM, and several of the P-B-P events which just seem ridiculous. Im not sure what gets them to do these things. Don't get me wrong, its not the 200K distance... I believe to any adequate rider that kind of mileage is no big deal. However, the knowledge that these riders, some overweight, some older, on heavy bikes or fixed or single speeds riding 600K or 1000K within a given time limit, through weather/darkness, etc... just shows a good bit of character. Let true brevet people respond to this. I don't think I've paid enough dues to respond properly
 

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Back from the dead
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Very cool writeup. The longest I ever rode was 137 miles, and unless I am being chased on a ride by crazed assassins on bikes, that is always going to be my longest. The guys who do 300K, 400K, the 508, PBP, RAAM, etc., amaze me. I will never be that hardcore.
 

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Lizzie will ride free
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3,156 Posts
Hey, fantastic summary. Those wool-wearing, dynohub-driving, steel-riding guys are a cool lot. I like the way they take self-support seriously too. Too hard core for me, but my hat's off to 'em.
 

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Actually, Funk did all of the pulling!

Funk, his friend "Lucky," a rando newcomer named Kent, and I made a pretty good quartet, riding most of the 200 km together, including all of the second half to the finish. I've done that Liberty (MO) 200 km route maybe four times previously, and this was perhaps the most pleasant of all of them. Funk is a really good rider and a great guy to ride with. He and his LOOK are a formidable combo. He had to slow up wait for me at many hilltops. Fortunately, I knew the way, so he had to wait for me!

As to why we ride these crazy distances, it seems that there are as many reasons as there are randonneurs. For me, an old washed-up, former racer, I like the challenge of the rides (basically, they are time-limited tours) combined with the comraderie of the participants. Conversing during the ride, sharing woes at the checkpoints, and having a hearty "well-done" handshake at the finish are for me the best parts of the events.

Well, that and PBP (requiring the 200/300/400/600 km brevet series to qualify), which is simply the most difficult, magical, and life-affirming event I've ever done in my over 35 years of organized cycling. Everybody on this board should try to do PBP at once before they die, in my opinion. There is nothing else like it on the planet.

Funk is absolutely correct that doing these brevets is more about what is between your ears than what is in your legs. I have seen cyclists who could not ride 20 mph for one mile on flat ground to save their lives complete full brevet series and finish PBP. And I have seen hot-shot racing cyclists abandon on their first brevet. Perservence is key. That said, it does help to have more horsepower, and Funk certainly has that in spades.

It's been my distinct pleasure and privilege to ride brevets with two of RBR's finest, Funknuggets and J's (formerly of J's Haiku Shop). I hope to be able to ride with more of my RBR pals in the future.

Dale ("Who needs a cue sheet when you have a photographic memory?")
 

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Windrider (Stubborn)
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22,021 Posts
Great writup......

thanks.

Len
 

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here comes trouble
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That was a great write up by both of y'all. Thanks for the story and the insight. :)
 

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Non non normal
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Way to capture a different type of riding that many know little about.

One my personal favorite guys in our bike club is a 63 yo rider who finished Boston Montreal Boston on his third try. Before I did my 177 and 200 mile one day events I went to him for advice. Everything he told me I took as Gospel and I saw riders make some of the mistakes he warned about and they didn't finish the rides.

You are so right about mental grit. The only way to finish a really long event is to decide you are going to finish before you start.
 

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I can attest to the horsepower of Funk. Although I haven't ridden with him recently, I had the pleasure (actually, the painfull gasping for air) of riding with him in college. Back when he actually had time to "train" and could rip your legs off without breaking a sweat.
 
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