The new cycling season is in full bloom and many randonneuring brevets are happening across the continent. This is the time of year when we get our biggest influx of new members. Randonneurs USA extends a warm welcome to all our new riders; we hope you enjoy your brevets no matter where they may be.
From time to time Headquarters gets a question about what to expect on one's first brevet. It is a reasonable query since we're a little outside what most riders have experienced on a century ride, race, or tour. As it turns out, there is no one answer that works since our rides vary a good bit—and this is one of the best things about American randonneuring.
Even if the length of the brevet and date might be the same, each locale has unique characteristics. Of course geography is key; the differences between a flat region and a mountainous one are obvious. Some events have a dozen participants while another may see over 200 in a busy PBP year. Some routes have arrows to show the way but most don't. Some checkpoints are manned when you sign in but others use store receipts imprinted with the town and time. There might be food tables loaded with food for hungry riders but many events use markets and cafés instead. Larger series may have officials patrolling the course in case of emergencies but on most others the randonneurs and randonneuses are truly on their own and must be self-sufficient. Some events allow same-day registration, while others are "pre-reg" only. The start time even plays a role: your experience on a 200k that uses the normal dawn start will be very different from one that begins at sundown. And with night riding, the amount of moonlight is a big part of enjoying the ride. So, there is no one way to go randonneuring, nor is there any one "best" way. In fact, by traveling to different brevet series, you might find quite a lot different from what you're accustomed to at home and this can be a great way to explore our vast country. We have over 30 different brevet series in the US and there are just about that many variations.
But no matter the size or style or location of the brevet, all our riders can be assured that the local Regional Brevet Administrator is putting on a proper event. Each American brevet is ridden under strict regulations that define our sport worldwide. A successful brevet of the Randonneurs Mondiaux is a rigorous athletic accomplishment and it shows the rider is made of the Right Stuff. Some may ride their brevets for time to earn a Personal Best, others do it just to see if they can finish, but quite a few ride brevets year after year to experience the fine camaraderie found among their fellow randonneurs. In any of these situations, all are in search of a rewarding day on the bike in their own fashion. No approach is better or worse than another, they simply reflect the beauty of the randonneuring formula of long-distance cycling. Yes, these timed rides are hard, but that is exactly what makes finishing one so satisfying. That the participants are a great group of people makes it especially good.
Best of luck to all our RUSA members on their brevets this season. I hope all veteran riders will offer the hand of friendship to our new riders and help them learn the ropes. Bonne Route!