Longtime randonneur Steve Phillips was riding in a 1,200K brevet in Washington, a long ways away from his home in Alabama. And, well, Washington is a little wetter than Phillips was anticipating.
"I didn't carry as much winter clothing as I should have," Phillips admits. "I didn't expect to be subjected to cold and rainy conditions for a long period of time."
Randonneuring requires self-sustainment, so no aid stations or SAG vehicles at this brevet were going to help him through this. While shivering, he dashed inside a Subway to eat a sandwich. And that stop gave him an epiphany.
"Those Subway bags work really nicely on your feet," said Phillips, the founder of the Alabama Randonneurs. "When I got (to Subway) I took my normal socks off and put dry wool socks on, and then I put the plastic Subway bags over them and then put my shoes back on."
This is the type of creativity that randonneuring sometimes requires. With long distances ahead of you—randonneuring rides, or brevets, typically range from 200K to 1,200K--preparation is key, and if that fails, a brainstorming session is the only thing to keep you from being miserable.
To make sure you're ready for the long journey ahead, here are some tips for new randonneurs to keep in mind:
The Right Bike
Because brevets are a minimum of 200K (124 miles), making sure you have an appropriate bike is crucial. It's just too long of a ride to be "getting by" with a bike that's not built for a long haul.
"You want to have the correct equipment," Phillips said. "We do have a lot of people that do these rides on low spoke-count wheels--wheels that would be better suited for racing."
The book Distance Cycling: Your Complete Guide to Long-Distance Rides extensively covers preparations for brevets. It recommends a bike with a stronger frame that promotes upright positioning, and has lower gears and wider tires.