Frequently Asked Questions

Scroll down to find answers to these common questions:

 

On the Bike

What food should I carry?

Will we stop anywhere for food?

How often should I eat?

What kind of bike should I ride?

What tires should I use?

Do riders stick together as a group?

How fast do I have to ride?

Will there be other cyclists who ride at my pace?

What does "open and close times" mean?

What do controls look like?

Do I need special equipment on the bike for randonneur cycling?

Do randonneurs sleep on the overnight rides?

If the ride goes overnight, should I pack a tent?

Are the routes paved the entire way?

Do you share roadways with motorists?

Are the rides totally self-supported?

 

Off the Bike

What makes randonneur cycling special?

Who rides with the Manitoba Randonneurs? 

How do you pronounce "brevet" and "randonneur?"

What is the “brevet series” and who are “Super Randonneurs?”

Can I buy my membership at the start line?

Do I need a membership for a breakfast ride?

How can I get in touch with other riders before the rides?

Are rides cancelled or rescheduled if there is a bad weather forecast?

What sort of training should I do for these rides? 

What should I do to recover after the ride? 

 

On the Bike

What food should I carry?

You'll quickly find that eating only at control stops will waste your time, and won’t be enough to keep energy levels up. Carrying food and eating it while on the move is necessary.  What food to carry is up to you, but you'll want something portable that can survive being outdoors all day.

 

Packaged energy bars or granola bars are a popular choice, as well as bananas, or home-made recipes (read Feed Zone Portables by Thomas & Lim for great ideas). Not all foods work for everyone, so it will be trial-and-error to find what's best for you and your stomach.

 

Electrolytes will before your new favourite buzz word. Ask any veteran randonneur, and they’ll excitedly tell you about their favourite electrolyte tablets or mixes. Common sports drinks are usually high in electrolytes, but endurance riders have found more specialized products, like Endurolytes®, to help keep fluids in balance over full-day efforts.

 

Energy gels are good for bursts of energy when you're feeling low, but won't sustain you over an entire day without real food to go with it. Make sure your stomach can handle the potency before you find out when it counts.

 

Will we stop anywhere for food?

You'll have the chance to stop at convenience stores, restaurants, or grocery stores along the way. Most riders will stop for a sit-down meal at regular meal times, besides eating while on the bike. Others choose only to eat on the move. 

 

How often should I eat?

More than you think. You are constantly burning fuel, so steady refuelling is important. Sticking to an eating schedule, like eating something every  hour, is one way to keep the calories steadily coming in regardless of whether or not you "feel like" eating at the time.

 

If you’ve ever researched the origins of randonneur cycling, you’ve probably seen the advice to eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty in Paul de Vivie’s (aka, Vélocio) seven commandments for the cyclist. His century-old wisdom still applies today.

 

What kind of bike should I ride?

In step with the theme of this page, this is completely up to you. In general, you may ride anything human powered. If you choose a common upright bike, you'll have to find the balance between speed and comfort that is right for you and the distance. A triathlon bike may be fast, but few can tolerate the ride for brevet distances. In contrast, a hybrid or touring bike may be comfortable, but constantly fighting the closing times may be more stress than its worth.

 

Most riders will choose the most comfortable carbon road bike they can find to get the best of both worlds. Carbon is generally lightweight and aerodynamic, but may be hit-or-miss in the comfort department. Steel is reliable and comfortable, but loses out in weight and aerodynamics. It's up to you.

 

Some have hacked this system and choose to ride a recumbent. They are known for being both fast and comfortable. Ask a recumbent rider, and they’ll present a convincing case.

 

What tires should I use?

Similar to what bike you pick, your tire choice will be based on your preferred balance between speed, comfort, and puncture resistance. Race tires may ultimately slow you down after your fourth puncture, but you probably knew that already. The other end of the puncture-resistance spectrum would be the Continental Gatorskins. Available at most bike shops in 23 or 28 mm, you’ll see this tire on half the bikes in Manitoban brevets. It's not the most comfortable tire, nor the quickest, but the peace-of-mind you'll get from the extreme unlikelihood of punctures is worth it. That doesn't mean you should leave your patch kit at home. Anything can happen when you're 300 km from home, and you don't want a simple pinch flat to scrub your ride.

 

As for the other half of the pack, preferences will vary. If you like hard, skinny tires, or if you like supple, fat tires, the choice is up to you. The degree to which tire size actually plays into speed is an evolving topic nowadays, and I'll choose to stay out of it.  The average recommended size for our purposes would probably fall around the 25 mm mark as the optimal compromise between comfort and speed.  This is definitely a case where the "best" tire will vary by individual.

 

A small, but passionate crowd will proudly show you their tubeless tires. Their main advantage for long-distance cycling is their ability to handle lower tire pressures, thus providing a more comfortable ride. They also self-seal punctures because the goop inside them slowly clogs up the hole. Careful that you pick a good quality tire so you don’t end up seeing too many demonstrations of this self-sealing process on your rides. Tubeless tires may also delaminate in time, as the air inside bubbles out through the surface of the tire. There’s no easy answer. Do your research to find the best balance of pros to cons that fit you best.

 

Do riders stick together as a group?

Some do, some don't. Everyone is free to travel at their own pace. By no means are you obligated to stay with a group, nor must you ride solo. If you want someone to talk to and share the draft with, you'll most likely have other riders of similar speed to ride with. If you feel like changing the pace or want some alone time, you are always free to speed up, slow down, or take a break.

 

How fast do I have to ride?

You can probably guess the answer by now if you've read from the top: it's up to you. There's one caveat, however. You must hit each control within the open and close times. The minimum average speed is around 14-15 km/h (all stops included). As long as you keep the stops short, riding at a comfortable cruising speed over 20 km/h will get you to the finish in time.

 

Will there be other cyclists who ride at my pace?

There most likely will be. The larger the group size, the more likely there will be a few people who have the same cruising speed as you. Sometimes this means pushing a little harder than you normally would to keep up with your group, or relaxing your usual speed to stick with the group. Riders will usually accommodate each other to keep everyone comfortable, but feel free to split off from them if you need a change of pace. Remember to listen to your body and ride at an effort level that you can sustain for the entire duration of the ride. No sense burning out in the first 100 km due to perceived social pressure.

 

What does “open and close times” mean?

Each route has several control locations (checkpoints) spread out roughly every 30-100 km over the ride; usually near the major corners of the route. Each control has an earliest and latest time at which riders are permitted to arrive. These are called the open and close times, respectively.

 

These times are written on your control card, which you will need to have signed and time-stamped when you arrive at each control. If you are insanely fast, and you arrive before the control opens, you will need to wait until the open time before you may proceed along the route. This maximum speed limit is enforced to prevent these innocent rides from being turned into dreadful races. If you arrive at a control after the close time, your ride has been disqualified. Tears will be shed. 

 

Truth be told, if you are barely late at a control, your ride may still qualify if, and only if, you arrive on time at the next control. The ride organizers are not heartless, but they can only stretch the rules so far. When you arrive at the finish line, if you are past the close time by any margin…please don’t make me say it…more tears will be shed.

 

What do controls look like?

Picture riding into a small town that has a single gas station and hopefully a diner on the main strip. You've made it to the first control! Once inside the town, head to the gas station or another place of business and ask a person there to sign and note the time on your card.

 

In Manitoba, a designated control location within the control town, staffed by a volunteer, is extremely rare. If this were the case for a particular control, you would be well informed with written directions and signage leading you to the location. Don't worry about that for now. Someday, we may recruit a volunteer base to staff controls, but that's not a priority yet.

 

If all shops are closed, which sometimes happens on the overnight rides, take a "selfie" in front of a town sign or local landmark. This picture will be time-stamped in its metadata. Email that selfie to the ride organizer ASAP after the ride for validation.

 

The only control that has a specific designated location is the start/finish controls. This is usually a specific gas station or coffee shop that you must start and finish at. So don't get the wise idea that you can snap a photo of the "Winnipeg" sign closest to you to claim an earlier finish time. I’m on to you.

 

Do I need special equipment on the bike for randonneur cycling?

Randonneurs ride in all weather and lighting conditions -- sometimes for days at a time -- so special equipment is necessary. First of all, scale up your regular kit for the longer distances by bringing more water capacity, more portable food, a more robust tool kit, a first aid kit, longer battery-life devices, more comfortable saddle and shorts, clothing for a wider temperature range, more robust rain gear, weather-proof cargo bags, etc. Fenders are optional, but are greatly appreciated by those following behind you when it rains.

 

Riding through the night is perhaps the most unique aspect of randonneur cycling. Whether or not you plan to ride through the night, the equipment necessary to do so is required for the ride (i.e., front and rear lights, and a reflective vest).

 

You will need a steady front light that delivers enough light to ride safely and enough battery life to last the night(s). A backup front light is recommended so you aren’t left in the dark if something goes wrong. Look into dynamo power to get the best light output and power source possible. Some urban riders are excited to blind and disorient motorists with their flashing strobe lights, but these flashing lights are very dangerous to other cyclists and motorists on the highways. Keep the beam steady.

 

Red rear lights are required to make sure approaching motorists see you long before they reach you. Two lights are strongly recommended so that when the batteries quietly die, one light is still shining behind you until you notice. Steady, rather than flashing, lights are easier to pinpoint a location on from a long distance and less disorienting to motorists. They are also easier on the eyes of other cyclists behind you. Thankfully, LED technology has provided us with high performing rear lights at very low cost.

 

Yes, you need a reflective vest. Somehow, people don't like to hear this. Think of it this way, even if your bike is lit up like a stadium, you're not always on top of it. If you're fixing a flat, stretching, or taking a ditch nap, make sure drivers can still see you. Plus, this only adds to a motorist's ability to see you from all angles, and from far away. That's a good thing. There are lots of great options for reflective vests nowadays, so don't whine about this one.

 

Our rules are currently a little behind on turning these "strong recommendations" into requirements, but we are moving in that direction. At events like Paris-Brest-Paris, steady front and rear lights, and reflective vests with specific reflective material surface area are mandatory. It just makes sense. Living riders have a better chance of enjoying their ride.

 

Do randonneurs sleep on overnight rides?

Most riders will plan to sleep one way or another; sometimes sleep happens without a plan. The two prevailing strategies are to sleep in a hotel for a few hours, or to plan short naps along the route at intervals or as needed.

 

The psychological and physical comfort of a hotel room (and shower), makes this the most popular option. Riders will often get together to share the cost of the room. The hardest part of the hotel stay is not over-staying. You'll have to work up a buffer against the closing times to afford the time to lay still, and manage how much of that buffer you are willing to give up at the hotel. If you are four hours ahead of the cut-off times, you'll have to carefully plan out how much time you spend checking in, eating, chatting, re-packing, showering, changing, sleeping, waking up, checking out, and getting back on the road. You'll quickly find that four hours isn't as much rest time as you thought.

 

Those lounging in the hotel often have a hard time understanding the cyclists who are sleeping in the ditch as part of their ride through the night. It usually takes a mix of confidence, curiosity, and craziness to keep pedalling through the dark night. The experience is unlike anything else you will find in life. Take some time to take in the starry sky if the night is clear. Picture how a sunrise would feel to you after riding through the seemingly-endless isolation of night. To get there, you will likely need to take a few naps along the way; where, when, and how is up to you. Some sort of bivvy sack or emergency blanket is often needed to stay warm as you lay still in the cold night. If bugs are bad, don't underestimate their power to ruin your sleep plans. It's a good idea to lay down off the shoulder for safety and so drivers don't stop to help you because they think you've crashed. Also, check ahead of time if there would be wildlife concerns that would prevent safe ditch naps. This will vary by season and location.

 

Some randonneurs can pull off a night without needing to sleep at all. That level of endurance takes prime physical and mental strength, built over years of experience. Most people's bodies are not going to play along, even if their minds are determined. If you find yourself dozing off while on the bike, please stop to take a quick nap. Sometimes, all your body needs is a fifteen minute nap to feel awake again. Fighting inevitable sleep is dangerous. Don't ride in denial.

 

If the ride goes overnight, should I pack a tent?

No. Definitely not. Well, you can if you absolutely feel you need to, but you won't. Here's why. If your bike is loaded with a tent, you will have a hard time riding fast enough to make the controls’ closing times. If you're strong enough to keep up the speed despite the weight and air resistance of a tent, then you'd probably speed up enough to afford a long stay in a hotel if you ditched the tent. A tent is not the answer.

 

Are the routes paved the entire way?

That's right. You can ride your road bike with your regular road tires. That said, some of the paved roads out there aren't in the best shape, so make sure your bike can handle the occasional rough road or patch of roadwork gravel. 

 

Okay, there's one exception. A route almost entirely on gravel roads, the infamous Gravel Parkway 200 was added to our calendar in 2014 as an extreme test for a special breed of cyclist. Maybe this wasn't what you had in mind when you asked the question.

 

Do you share the roadways with motorists?

Unfortunately, we do. We can thank the motor vehicles for Manitoba's paved roads in the first place. The goal when we design routes is to travel off the popular driving routes as much as possible to avoid most of the traffic. This also provides better scenery, too. The farther you get away from the cities, the less traffic you will see, and the more polite the drivers are. 

 

However, sometimes the routes hit a bottleneck where there's no quiet road option to reach a control. Through these sections, it's a good idea to ride together in single file to be more visible to motorists and make it easier for them to pass safely. If you ever feel a section of road is too unsafe to ride, let your ride organizer know. We are continually refining or replacing our routes to make them safer and more enjoyable. 

 

Are the rides totally self-supported?

Mostly, but not totally. You should bring most of the food and tools you'll need for the journey, but you are encouraged to buy food or supplies along the way. A support vehicle is allowed to meet you at the controls with whatever you desire, but you are never permitted to receive support outside of the controls from a support crew. Doing so is grounds for disqualification. We're getting into grey areas, here, but if spectators ever want to meet you at multiple points along a route, encourage them to meet you only at the controls to avoid suspicion.  

 

Off the Bike

What makes randonneur cycling special?

Randonneur cycling has a unique mix of variables that sets it apart from any other cycling discipline. Pretty cool, huh? You could say that about most things, though. You're a special snowflake, too. 

 

Here are the main aspects of randonneur cycling: it is not a race, and everyone is free to ride at their own pace

 

Let's expand on those a bit. Randonneur cycling's brevets (the fancy name for the 200+ km rides) are run on pre-set, time-limited routes. Each control/checkpoint along the way has open and close times that each rider must arrive between. The riders are not competing against each other, and they are free to work together or ride solo whenever they wish. Riders must remain unsupported en route, but a support crew is allowed to meet them at controls. 

 

This style of cycling originated from France, and is governed by the Audax Club Parisien and the Randonneurs Mondiaux in France. The flagship event, Paris-Brest-Paris, first run in 1891, gathers cyclists from all over the world every four years. 

 

Who rides with the Manitoba Randonneurs?

The Manitoban randonneurs come from a variety of cycling and athletic backgrounds, from bikepackers to triathletes.  You will meet more people like yourself, and meet lots of great people with new perspectives and experience. The atmosphere on the rides is always one of encouragement and excitement. Every ride is a challenge for every participant, whether it’s their first brevet or fiftieth. 

 

Over the last few years, the average age of our riders has been 48, ranging from 22 to 70 years old. Our male to female split has been three to one. There’s work to be done to even out that imbalance. 

 

How do you pronounce "brevet" and "randonneur?"

French pronunciation is hard for many people, but hopefully this beginner’s guide will help.

 

Brevet is pronounced like "breh-VAY." Think how you [hopefully] pronounce the adopted French words "buffet," "valet," or "ballet" with the same "ay" sound at the end of the word. 

 

Randonneur is pronounced kind of like "ran-doh-NER." Anyone who speaks French will cringe at the terrible accent you'll be left with, but it's a start. The most common mistake is to pronounce the last syllable as "neer." That is wrong. It sounds more like "ner" as in "nerd." So saying "rando nerd" would put you pretty close. 

 

What is the “brevet series” and who are “Super Randonneurs?”

As you may have guessed from the question, those two terms are related. Completing the brevet series means that you have finished a 200, 300, 400, and 600 in the same year. Riding the series earns you the designation of Super Randonneur! Super Randonneurs also get a shiny bonus medal for each year they complete the series.   

 

If you missed a certain distance in the series, longer distance brevets can substitute for a missed brevet. For example, if you missed the 600, but finished the 1000, you can still qualify for Super Randonneur status. 

 

In addition, most 1200+ km rides around the world require the completion of the brevet series in the same or previous year in order to qualify for entry to the event. 

 

Can I buy my membership at the start line?

Oh, please don't do this. You will need to use your mobile phone to access the same registration pages that all the other riders did at home, so it is going to take you quite a while of entering information into your little device. No one has put this to the test, yet, but I doubt you would have enough time. The ride organizer will be busy helping the registered riders, so you may not receive too much help, either. This is a required step for liability and insurance reasons, so you can't start without your membership. Now that you know this, do it at home ahead of time. 

 

Do I need a membership for a breakfast ride?

Yes you do. Anyone who rides with the participants needs to be registered participants, themselves. If you expect that the breakfast ride will be your only ride with the club this, then paying up for membership may not be economical for you. Instead, use the breakfast ride as a stepping stone to a 200+ km brevet later in the season. You can do it. 

 

How can I get in touch with other riders before the rides?

The absolute best way is to join our Facebook group. There, we have a community of over 200 people who ask questions, share photos and stories, watch ride updates, arrange weekend rides together, share news and events, and more. If you are new to randonneur cycling, you can observe the friendly, authentic, and encouraging environment we share. 

 

Rather than developing several fragmented or redundant online communities on all the different platforms online, we have put effort into centralizing the community on Facebook. Unfortunately, if you aren't on Facebook, you won't be able to see the page. What many people have done is start up an account only for the purpose of engaging in the community. Yes, Facebook is terrible at many things, but this group has benefited greatly from its network, and the structure serves our club's needs best.

 

Are rides cancelled or rescheduled if there is a bad weather forecast?

The randonneur spirit is to keep riding regardless of what the weather throws at you. Randonneurs ride through the extremes of heat and cold, strong winds and heavy rain, all while making it look easy. This doesn't mean we're ignorant of real danger, though. If the forecast makes it clear that there was a serious threat to the safety of the riders, the organizers can cancel or reschedule the ride. While riding, stay aware of storm activity around you to build taking shelter into your plan if necessary. 

 

If a ride ever was cancelled or rescheduled, an email would be sent to all registered participants in the ride, and the notice would be posed on our Facebook group.

 

What sort of training should I do for these rides?

There's no denying that riding long distances requires a significant training foundation. What most cyclists will find, though, is that completing their first 200 is only a matter of time. To get there, you will probably need to slowly build up ride distances over a season or more. Be patient if it takes you longer than you hoped; the worst thing you could do is rush the buildup and hurt yourself. Overuse injuries are common, for obvious reasons. The more gradual your training, the more your joints and muscles will be used to the long hours on the bike. 

 

Once you get going on a brevet season, you'll find each distance builds your fitness for the next. It is not uncommon for a rider to complete the whole brevet series the season after their first 200.

 

Just like in all sports, you'll benefit from training in the gym and cross training with other sports. Leg exercises are beneficial, as well as strengthening your core.

 

On the bike, you'll find that your back or neck may give you more trouble than your legs. Regular stretching or yoga routines will also benefit your endurance, injury avoidance, and comfort out there. 

 

What should I do to recover after the ride?

As you can imagine, you'll probably be pretty tired both physically and mentally after the ride.  What you might not expect is that you might be grumpier than normal, too. Give yourself some grace, and take time to relax. Drink lots of water and eat lots of food. It helps to get outside for a comfortable walk to keep your legs loose. Massage is nice. Beer helps, too. 

 

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