For cyclists who care to ride unsupported long-distances, randonneuring is a style of riding that is non-competitive in nature, with self-sufficiency a must and endurance cycling is paramount. When riders participate in a event of this nature they are part of a long tradition that goes back to the beginning of the sport of bicycling in France and Italy. Friendly camaraderie, not competition, is the hallmark of randonneuring.
Today there is no direct English translation of the French term “randonnée”, which loosely means to go on a long trip, tour, outing, or ramble, usually on foot or on a bicycle, along a defined route. A person who goes on a “randonnée” is called a “randonneur”. (The correct French term for a female participant is “randonneuse”, but such distinctions are often lost in America, where we tend to lump everyone together).In cycling, it means a hard-riding enthusiast who is trying to complete a long randonnée inside a certain time allotment. Note that a randonnée is not a race. Overall, about the only thing being first earns is some bragging rights.
It is not uncommon for the last finishers to get as much applause as anyone else. Indeed, there is much camaraderie in randonneuring. One does it to test oneself against the clock, the weather, and a challenging route – but not to beat the other riders.
In comparison to other forms of competitive long-distance cycling, such as at the Race Across America (RAAM), where there are following cars with crews supporting the riders every inch of the way, randonneuring stresses self-sufficiency.
Help can only be given at the checkpoints along the route, so support crews (if there are any) must leapfrog the rider. Any rider caught receiving assistance from a support crew in-between checkpoints (or, “contrôles” as they are commonly called) will be subject to a time penalty, or even disqualification.
Randonneurs are free to buy food, supplies, or bike repairs at any stores they encounter along the route. Once riders have successfully completed a 200-kilometer “brevet”, they are entitled to be called a “randonneur” or “randonneuse”.
Like all other sports, “randonneuring” has a vocabulary of special terms and phrases not readily found in a dictionary. Many of the terms are French words or adaptations of them, owing to the origins of “randonneuring” there over 100 years ago. Today, these terms are commonly used by randonneurs around the world. Informal definitions of these terms are provided to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the sport, are listed here.
Becoming an official Randonneur
In Minnesota, Randonneur’s are dedicated to promoting the development and enjoyment of randonneuring in the state of Minnesota. Many of the members here are members of Twin City Bicycling Club. For other state chapters go to RUSA(Randonneurs (USA), the national randonneuring organization.