Mohan Subramanyam, a long-distance ultra-endurance cyclist talks about what it takes to conquer long rides.
So what is Randonneuring?
Randonneuring is basically long-distance endurance cycling with rides of 200K, 300K, 400K, 600K and 1000K called Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRMs).
In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200K or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. The main objective of the rider is to complete the course within a specified time limit. They may travel in groups or alone and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls. In randonneuring, the riders receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order.
The 1000K challenge
If your planning to ride your first 1000K brevet, it is recommended that you complete:
- The Super Randonneur (SR) series (any rider who completes the ACP approved 200K, 300K, 400K & 600Kof brevet rides in the same brevet season is called a Super Randonneur) and
- Multiple 600Ks in the 2-nights / 1-day format.
A 1000K brevet has a time limit of 75 hours and it requires a lot of planning, training and strategizing to be able to achieve it.
The Planning phase.
- Have your bike serviced a week before the event and log a few kms to ensure everything works after service.
- Study the terrain, elevation, weather conditions and prepare for the worst.
- Get to know your bike well so that you can fix basic mechanical issues, fixing a puncture, chain break, brake-pad replacement, etc.
- Don’t change anything new for the ride. Use the tried and tested equipment, gears, nutrition, apparels.
Carry On essentials
- Brevet card, Cue sheet, map.
- Credit / Debit card, ID card, AIR BIB number.
- Basic Medical kit, pain killers, spray, sunscreen & basic toiletries.
- Mobile Phone, chargers, power banks, batteries, navigation gadget
- Water Bottles, Enerzal, gels, energy bars, dry fruits, and light snacks.
- Rain gear, cold protection, full gloves, sunglasses, leg & arm warmers / UV protection (weather-dependent)
- Hand mini pump, Tubes, Patch kit, Tyre Patch kit, tire levers, Multitool, a chain tool, and wet or dry lube.
- Reflective vest & ankle bands, helmet, front headlight (minimum 200 luminous), rear lights and headlamps (optional).
- For Drop Bag (Jersey & BIB shorts, towel, spare tubes, batteries, snacks, & toiletries).
The Training phase.
A few months before the main event, start doing speed training of 50Ks every day on good rolling terrain. Additionally, get in one or two long rides at a steady pace over the weekends. The long rides are essential to developing base fitness and endurance. It’s important you ride the steadiest pace you think you can sustain for the duration of a long ride. Incorporate on building your core strength or cross train (Run/Swim) 2-3 days in a week.
It’s important and critical to study the route in advance to understand the terrain, road conditions, countryside roads, making notes of the towns/villages you pass through, food/hydration and resting options along the route. Any deviation can cost the rider time and energy in challenging terrain. You will end up being on the road for 3 Days and 3 Nights, so you need to be self-sufficient.
Which Bike to Choose:
Any bike such as MTB, Hybrid, Road, Tandem, etc is good as long as the bike is human powered and should have clocked a few 1000Ks. It’s important to feel comfortable riding long distances and handling any mechanical issues that might arise during the ride. Lightweight high-end specs road bikes are an advantage but it doesn’t make much of a difference as you cannot guarantee the ride can be completed successfully. The bike and rider constitute 30% of the ride but there are many other factors which decide the outcome of the ride.
Any ride can turn into a challenging one based on the weather conditions on that day. Riders should be prepared and plan for extreme heat, headwinds, extreme cold, rain, etc. It is paramount to carry necessary gear to protect yourself from harsh weather. During extreme heat, it is advised to rest during the peak afternoon when the heat is at its maximum and make use of the night, early morning and evening to pick up the pace.
Pre-Ride: What you eat and drink before your long-distance endurance ride really matters. Pay attention to your hydration 2 -3 days prior to the event and include carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains, fruit, sweet potato, and pasta during meals. Eat a high-carbohydrate meal one to two hours before the start of the ride as well.
During the Ride: Consume water and eat normal food at regular intervals on the route such as a carbohydrate meal which is easy to digest. Ensure you keep topping up your salt intake regularly even if you don’t sweat. For night rides, caffeine and coke will help keep you awake and provide the additional boost when your energy levels are low. Do not try anything new on the ride like consuming gels, energy bars or drinks since these react differently to each body. Use tried and tested methods always as what works for one doesn’t necessarily have to work for another. Another option is lemon juice with Himalayan rock salt and water – this is a great combination for refueling on the ride.
Post-Ride: Re-hydrating after a ride is very important and while water is a simple and convenient option, it is better to have a drink that also helps to start replenishing your glycogen stores. Fresh fruit juices, milkshakes, chicken, rice, eggs, etc. are other options.
The Strategy phase.
- It’s not a race, don’t rush and exhaust yourself at the start of the ride. You need to save up your energy to last you for 75 hours.
- The first 100K will be tough – hang in there and soon you will get into the rhythm.
- Divide and Conquer – attack each CP (control point) at a time, don’t target the end right away.
- It requires you to be awake for 3 days / 3 nights. If you have done a 2N/1D 600K brevet you will understand how your body reacts and help you prepare.
- For the first 600K, you will need to average 15Kmph (40 hrs) and the last 400Km you will need to average 12Kmph (35 hrs).
- For the first 600Km ensure you ride without sleep if it cannot be avoided plan for power naps of 30 mins to 1-hour maximum sleep break for each night depending on your riding pace.
- Stock your supplies for the night (light snacks & water)
- Plan to finish the first 600Km with few hours of buffer at hand. Once the 600Km target is achieved, rest for minimum 3-4 hours, freshen up and refuel.
- The last 400Km will be a fresh ride and you have 35hrs in hand with 12Kmph average speed requirement.
- Your 3rd night will be the real test due to sleep deprivation. Take power naps or long sleep breaks depending on time available on hand.
- To avoid saddle sores, ensure regular cleaning and apply necessary cream, Vaseline or coconut oil depending on what suits your body.
- Eating at regular intervals and hydrating is very crucial, so your body can generate the required energy from time to time.
- Tag along with riders as it will be helpful on long rides to have some company. if you like to ride alone, be prepared to handle any issues that arise.
- If you find you are exhausted and can’t continue to take a call to pull over as you know your body better than anyone else.
- Safety is very important, follow traffic rules, be alert and courteous with locals.
- Enjoy the ride, click pictures, and create memories to cherish for LIFE.
- After completing the ride successfully there will be a lot of learning for future rides and Life and you will be confident to take on the next BIG RIDE.