Speaking to many people over the years about cycling, I have realized that what passes as a long ride can vary quite dramatically. For some, anything longer than say 35 miles requires equal parts insanity and determination. For others, the century is the apex of their distance riding ambition. Then there is the randonneur. This lot will ride 400, 600 and 1200k brevets! Just to make sure the point is made, that’s 248.5, 372.8 and 745.6 miles respectively. 200k (124.3 miles) is introduction and consequentially, the shortest distance for a brevet. I believe it’s safe to assume that for the majority of the general cycling population, a 200k is “long” and covering 400k or more on a bike in the allotted time absolutely requires some insanity as a pre-requisite.
Having completed my first populaire this last weekend, the 100k Bread & Water ride, I have given much thought to the long ride and the spirit of randonneuring. Populaire, by the way, is reserved for randonneur rides under 200k and serve as a super intro to randonneuring. I used to be steeped in the competitive world of cycling where I regularly covered 75 to 100 miles as my weekly “long” ride in a six-day-a-week ride schedule that added up to what a 400k brevet covers in one ride. Well, that was seven years ago. I have long since had a “ride schedule”. In the last calendar year, I have been on my bike only a handful of times with my longest ride being just shy of 13 miles. Inspired by a friend who decided to do a 200k brevet on the Denali Highway cold turkey, i.e. no prior experience of long rides and no regular training schedule on the bike, and successfully finish, I decided to test the legs and my will. Just to make the jump that much more committing, I decided to ride to the ride. I live only five miles from where the ride start was. As if to prove that I knew I was in way over my head, I left the lycra cycling kit at home and instead wore jeans, a hoodie and Converse.
It was interesting showing up to a ride looking like a commuter. I rode in a tight knit group of four. Though each of us is very active in other ways (running, hiking, etc.), we were untrained for a longish bike ride. We just wanted to ride!