Steve Phillips certainly doesn't ease into things—at least not on his bike.
He started road cycling in 2007 and immediately strived to see how many century rides he could do in a year.
Later, while hibernating in a cold Alabama winter, Phillips itched to get back on the bike. So he went to Florida and entered a 24-hour event, completing 385 miles.
Looking for a new challenge, an employee at his favorite bike shop asked him: Have you heard of randonneuring?
"I said, 'Rando-what?'" Phillips laughs.
A few years later, Phillips founded the Alabama Randonneurs and participates often in the "self-sustaining" side of endurance cycling.
Randonneuring is distance cycling with a tough twist. Unlike century rides and other popular organized events, randonneuring stresses self-sufficiency. Randonneuring events, called brevets (rhymes with "days"), do not have any SAG vehicles or organized rest stops. You are pretty much on your own, with whatever you carry on your bike or purchase on the route.
"I would say it's kind of a cross between organized centuries and touring," Phillips said.
Here's a look at what makes randonneuring unique:
The rides are typically 200K, 300K, 400K, 600K, 1,000K or 1,200K in distance. Each distance has a universal time limit in place in which a rider must complete the route to be considered finishers. Everyone who finishes is designated a "winner" so whether you finish a 200K in 8 hours or 13 hours makes no difference. As long as you're under the 13 1/2 hour time limit designated for the 200K distance.
The time limit for a 300K (186 miles) is 20 hours, and it works its way up to the 1,200K brevets (750 miles), which has a time limit of 90 hours.
"You don't have to be fast to do randonneuring. You just have to be willing," Phillips said. "On a 200K, you have 13 1/2 hours to complete it. That's not very fast. It mostly becomes a matter of if you're willing.
"Most people can do it. Most people that do organized century rides should have no trouble (with a 200K brevet)." Every ride has checkpoints along the route, and every cyclist has a card that must get stamped at each checkpoint to prove you did the entire course.