One of the things I first learned about randonneuring is it's really not about the bike. Maybe more accurately, a fancy bike isn't needed and probably won't make you any more successful. In fact, I learned that fancy bikes that racers ride can even be a detriment. Maybe they don't fit well, are really uncomfortable for long distances or are made of lightweight stuff that can break easily and result in a long walk.
As a newcomer to this sport, I did what most beginners do: I rode what I had, and as the rides got longer, I learned what did and didn't work, and modified the bike accordingly. Starting with my go-fast road bike, the saddle got changed, the stem got shorter and higher, the lightweight wheels gained a few spokes and the gearing got a bit wider. But the basic bike and frame stayed the same, so when I wasn't doing randonneuring, I'd switch back to the go-fast parts. Here in Kentucky, we have lots of hills, so I like a bike that's reasonably light, climbs well and can handle the twisty descents on back roads. Maybe it's because of when I came of age cycling wise, but I also like lightweight steel bikes. I like the way they feel and I like the way they look, so not surprisingly my bike was a lugged steel frame, built to be as light as possible for my weight, while still having the responsiveness that makes it fun to ride, and a look that makes me happy when I see it.
For PBP 2007, also my first 1200K, I decided to make another bike. Since I'm a framebuilder, I can make whatever I want. First and foremost it had to look good. This was PBP, after all! I thought about S&S couplings, extra brake reach for fenders, downtube shifters, extra bottle mounts, built-in lighting bosses, integral racks and all sorts of other cool rando-specific stuff. But in the end, I couldn't bring myself to sacrifice anything for the look, ride and responsiveness of a super-light steel racing frame. So the geometry is nothing unusual, and the components are right off my previous bike. What's different is the detail in the lugs. I started with coarse stainless steel castings, and spent hours cutting, drilling, filing, sanding and polishing the lugs until they shone like chrome. The tubing is mostly Columbus, with some True Temper in the mix. The double-tapered seatstays are a look I really like, svelte and classic. Light seatstays, chainstays and fork blades give it a wonderfully smooth ride, even with stiff rims and Conti 4000's at 100 psi.
I was grateful for the ride over sections of the road—remember the pavement between Mortagne au Perche and Villaines? Handling was flawless on the wet roads, and the look turned a few tired heads and even elicited a couple of smiles. Mission accomplished.
For those interested in the details, in randonneuring trim it carries a Brooks B17, 32 spoke Velocity wheels, and a nickel-plated stem of my own making. When it comes time for racing and fast club rides, the wheels get swapped for some spiffy lightweight racing hoops, the saddle becomes a Brooks Swift, and the stem becomes longer and lower. And the shiny lugs still turn heads.