Ken Bonner is something of a legend in randonneuring circles. For the past three years, he has won the British Columbia Randonneurs' "Iron Butt" Award for the most brevets ridden by a club member. This year he added to that reputation. He and two other riders, Kevin Main of California and Dan Clinkinbeard of Missouri, completed all four 1200ks offered in the U.S.—the Cascade 1200, the Gold Rush Randonnée, Boston-Montreal-Boston and the Colorado Last Chance. American Randonneur caught up with Bonner by e-mail to find out more about his methods and motivations.
Q: What attracted you to the sport of randonneuring, and how long have you been riding brevets? A: After completing my 25th running marathon in Vancouver, B.C., nineteen years ago, I saw a brochure put out by the B.C. Randonneurs Cycling Club, entitled marathon cycling. Looked interesting. Phoned the Vancouver Island Randonneur brevet organizer (Stephen Hinde) for more info. Sounded like a strange sport, but thought I would try the full range of rides the following year (200 - 1000k) all completed on Vancouver Island. The rest is history; 18 years and over 100,000 brevet Kms later, I still enjoy the rides and the people I meet riding and along the way.
Q: Before this year, how many 1200Ks had you done? A: Nineteen.
Q: Tell us your motivation behind doing four 1200Ks. A: Because they existed — it appeared that there would not likely be an opportunity to ride four 1200's in one year (in the U.S.), for another four years. I like riding 1200's, as they attract riders from distant places. To me, a 1200k is the equivalent of running a marathon—it's a challenge, you need to use good strategy and one meets interesting people (also, one can complete the event fast or slow, depending upon one's desire).
Q: Did you start the year knowing you would attempt all four events? A: Yes
Q: What did your family members and friends say when they learned what you were attempting? A: More of the "same old, same old"! I've ridden 3 1200k's in one year several times. I rode over 14,000 Kms of brevets last year to receive the British Columbia Randonneurs' "John Hathaway (aka Iron Butt)" Award for the most brevets ridden in one year. This was the third year in a row that I have received this award. So, riding four 1200's in one year is not viewed as a significant achievement in my neck of the woods.
Q: Did you do any special training in preparation for the event? A: No. However, I am participating in the UMCA's Mileage & Century Challenge, so I've put in a lot of miles on the bike.
Q: Which event was the most difficult? Why? A: Each 1200k has it's own personality and challenges. I've ridden London- Edinburgh-London; PBP (4 times); Rocky Mountain (3 times); Last Chance (3 times); Gold Rush (2 times); Cascades; BMB (9 finishes; 1 DNF). BMB is definitely the toughest — lots of ups and downs totaling about 38,000 feet of climbing on lots of rough cracked roads, with stretches of wind, heavy rain and heat. (Note — currently the roads are vastly improved over the 1st time I rode BMB in 1993 — Jennifer and Pierce have done a great job of paving the nastiest of the roads! :-)
Q: Which event was the most satisfying? Why? A: BMB — It's always satisfying to ride BMB and finish. It's a tough course, but it also travels through some very scenic villages on our way to Canada. Also, this year, I enjoyed the company of Ted Lapinski for much of the ride, including being pulled for the last 20 miles by Ted as he hammered into the finish! And of course, not to take it for granted, the well-organized support of Jennifer Wise's event team — and Pierce Gafgen's mechanical wizardry applied to my poorly performing bike.
Q: Do you have any physical problems or injuries during the rides? A: Just the usual saddle sores, hot foot and sore hands. (What kind of sport is this, where we take this for granted!) Q: Are there any riding partners or mentors you'd like to single out as helpful to you in completing all four events? A: Ted Lapinski, as noted above. Also, every 1200k ride director and their dedicated support teams. They are all very organized, supportive and positive. And last, but not least, Dan Wallace from Florida. Perseverance pays off ... Dan DNF'd in his last THREE 1200's — undaunted, Dan signed up for the 2005 Colorado Last Chance 1200 ... and finished feeling strong! I think of Dan when I go through the "rough" spots in the 1200's.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who might attempt a similar feat? A: Ride a 1000k before you try riding a 1200. If you are successful, then a 1200 is easy, it is only 200 more k.
Q: Do you see any 1200Ks in your future?
A: Of course I will — every 1200k holds out the promise of: a) the perfect ride (tailwind going the full distance; smooth pavement; little or no traffic; gourmet food; nice riding weather); b) meeting interesting people (usually in the dark); c) overcoming "obstacles" to a successful finish.