The only thing that differentiates randonneuring from just going for a long bike ride is that randonneurs have all agreed to follow a set of rules. You can read all of the details at https://rusa.org/pages/rulesForRiders but this page covers the basics. The RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) can assign a time penalty or disqualify a rider for any violation of the rules.
Membership & Registration
There is no membership requirement to ride any of the Ohio Randonneuring Brevets. There is a separate class of randonnneuring events, called Permanents, that requires a RUSA membership
Brevets are not races but there is a mass start and a time limit to complete the ride. A rider may start at any time up to one hour after the official start time but the clock starts running at the published time. Plan to arrive early enough to sign in, sign the liability release and hear any pre-ride announcements. Events longer than 200k usually require a bike inspection (to confirm that the rider has the required lights and reflective gear). Inspection can be taken care of the night before the ride or immediately before the start. If you are arriving the morning of the ride, please leave enough time for bike inspection, keeping in mind that the RBA has a lot of other things to do that morning.
Controls & Control Cards
You are required to stop at a number of locations called “Controls” to prove that you stayed on the approved route. Each Control has an open and close time and you must arrive between those times. You will get a card with all of the control information to record your arrival time and get a signature as proof of passage. Don’t lose your card. Controls will typically be located at convenience stores or other places where you can get food and water and get your card signed. Some Controls will be manned by an Ohio Randonneurs volunteer. Check in with the volunteer to get your card signed. Occasionally, the route will include an Information Control where you will be required to answer a question to prove you were at the control. The question will be printed on the card. In addition, any ride could include one or more Secret Controls which will not be indicated on the card ahead of time. They will be easy to identify.
At the finish of the ride, you will need to sign your control card and return it as instructed. Your Control Card in the only approved Proof of Passage so keep it safe and dry. If you lose your card, you will be disqualified. You must finish by the posted finish time to get credit for the ride.
You are expected to be self-sufficient on the ride. You may not receive help from anyone, other than another registered rider, except at a Control. SAG vehicles are not permitted on the route but area allowed to meet riders at the Controls. Be prepared to carry whatever gear you need, deal with any maintenance issues and successfully navigate the route on your own. You may ride and cooperate with any registered participant but expect to ride solo at some point, especially on longer Brevets.
Almost any bike will work for Brevet riding. However, comfort is often more important than speed so you’ll want a bike that you can ride for many hours and isn’t likely to have maintenance issues. A high-end, carbon fiber race bike with low spoke count wheels will work but it might not be what you want for a 40 hour, 600k Brevet. You’ll need to plan for carrying food, water, rain gear, cold weather gear, spare tubes/tire and at least a minimal set of tools. Remember, there is no SAG support and you are on your own to deal with mechanical issues.
At a very minimum, you’ll need a helmet and whatever you need to deal with any mechanical issues while on the route. The bike shorts that work well for a 1 hour, weekday group ride may not be the best choice for the longer brevets. Rain and cold weather is often a possibility and the weather may change multiple times on long rides. The gear list gets longer as the ride distances increase. You may want to consider larger bags, racks and fenders. Very few riders have DNF’d because they took too much with them but many have had to quit because they weren’t ready for rain or decreasing temperatures after dark.
Lights & Reflective Gear
Rides longer than 200k require lights and reflective gear at the start and any time you’re riding after dark. You must have front and rear lights that are attached to the bike. At least one of the rear lights must be in a steady mode (non-blinking). You may want to consider having backup lights for longer rides. Plan for battery replacement if necessary Each rider must have a reflective vest/sash as well as reflective ankle bands. You can read the official rules at https://rusa.org/pages/rulesForRiders (article 10) and see reflectivity guidelines at https://rusa.org/reflectivity
Cue Sheets, GPS
Each rider will have a Cue Sheet that lists all turns and Control locations & open/close times. The Cue Sheet is the only official indication of the route. When in doubt, follow the Cue Sheet. A RidewithGPS link will also be provided for anyone with a GPS but the Cue Sheet is still the only official version of the route. If you get off route for any reason, you are required to get back on the route where you left it. So, if you aren’t sure you’re on the route, stop and check. The roads will not be marked and you will not receive a paper map. The route will be available the Tuesday before the ride so you are welcome to make your own map.
Food/water will occasionally be provided at manned controls but don’t count on it. Controls, wherever possible, will be located at stores where you can buy food but you may want to carry some as well. You are welcome to stop anywhere to get food, even if it isn’t a Control. If you go off route to find food, you must get back on the route where you left it.
Randonneuring has been described as a cycling event where the participants make up for lack of skill with lack of sleep. You will be riding at night on longer events and the clock is running whether you are riding or not. So, sleep is, generally, something that happens in small doses, if at all, and typically only on 600k or longer Brevets. The Ohio Randonneurs 600k brevet is planned to bring you back to the starting hotel during the night portion of the ride to give riders the option of sleeping. It’s up to the rider to determine if they have time to sleep and still make it to the Controls and the finish within the time limit. Sometimes, you just need to grab a quick nap along the route somewhere but remember to only do that where it’s safe.