The Courses

The St. Louis Randonneurs have been using basically the same routes for almost twenty years.  I hesitate to change anything that has worked so well, but sometimes minor adjustments are required.  For example, roads may be closed for some kind of repairs as happened this year.  And sometimes controls move as happened this year with our finishing control at the Edwardsville Police Station which moved down the street.  Because of this we have to reroute parts of the courses at times.  And print up new cue sheets.  And alter the courses in the Brevets App and on RideWithGPS.  And try to make sure that everything is absolutely correct.

Because of the road closure east of Millersburg, Illinois, I had to reroute the course this season.  I added a ten mile loop through the Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, campus onto the start of the ride to make up for the ten miles we lost by rerouting around the road closure later in the ride.  The advantage of this change is that you will pass within one-tenth of a mile of the starting point at the ten mile mark.  So if you forgot to turn off the interior lights in your car, or you forgot your extra tire tubes in your car, you can drop back by the start after ten miles and then immediately rejoin the course.

So as soon as I rerouted the course through campus, the City of Edwardsville started working on St. Louis Street.  So the street is a little rough between miles .5 and 1.5 and during the same stretch on the return back around mile 8.5 to mile 9.5.  Other than that the roads are in pretty good condition.  I rode part of the courses last Sunday, September 15, and then drove the parts I didn’t ride this past week.  Everything should be OK.  The sneaky dog that sometimes chases us at mile 45.25 hasn’t been around for the last couple of times I’ve ridden the course.  (Sneaky because he doesn’t bark at you until he is next to your rear wheel.)

All of the courses share the first 78 miles and the last 42 miles.  The 300k and the 400k share the first 113 miles and the last 60 or so miles.  So don’t just follow the cyclist ahead of you because he or she may be riding in a different event.

The weather forecast looks good for September 22, 2018, so I hope to see a lot you enjoying Southern Illinois this weekend.  I have updated the courses on RideWithGPS and have designated the 200k course as RUSA116-20180919 and the 300k course as RUSA117-20180919.  You can create GPX files from these this site.

I have tried to use GPX courses created from RideWithGPS but I keep getting errors on my Garmin 1000.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I will keep working on it and see what happens.

11925              10877

All of the courses that can be used by the Brevets App have been checked numerous times, and if you have an iPhone, I urge you to use the Brevets App as a supplement to the printed cue sheets navigation during the brevets.  Version 2.0 of the app will be available soon which adds audio directions.  If you show me that you have the Brevets App installed on your iPhone at the time of registration, you will receive a one-time $5.00 reduction in the cost of the ride.  The app costs $5.99 in the app store, so I think this is fair.  Here is a screenshot of the app.  The speed and miles are inaccurate but this gives you a sense of what the riding screen looks like.

IMG_0814

When in doubt, the printed cue sheets are to be considered the official route.

 

 

The Rules

All events presented by the St. Louis Randonneurs are governed by the rules of RUSA which can be found here.  It is important that these rules be followed because if they are not, you may be disqualified and/or barred from any other RUSA sanctioned event.  More importantly, most of the rules are common sense rules for your safety.

For example, you must wear a helmet while you are riding.  Anyone who has taken a tumble and broken their helmet would not question the wisdom of the helmet rule.

Other rules governing safety concern our interaction with motor vehicles.  For example, the night visibility requirements are very, very important.  I previously mentioned the bike lighting requirements in my post entitled The Bike.  The rider must also wear reflective items during the time between sunset and sunrise.  Each rider must wear a reflective strap on each ankle and a reflective vest or other item.  Recumbent riders do not have to wear a reflective vest, but they must have other reflective items on the rear of their bike.  I personally believe that the reflective vest or the reflective “Sam Brown” belt are the most effective piece of safety equipment a rider can possess at night.  The rules governing night visibility cannot be waived.

In Illinois, two riders are permitted to ride side by side.  However, if there is any traffic present you should ride single file.  This is more a rule of courtesy than an RUSA rule.  We enjoy a good relationship with the residents who use the roads with us.  Many of them will wave at us during the ride, and some will even stop and offer assistance if you stop and look needy.  It is difficult for an automobile to pass a lone cyclist on several of the roads that we use for our brevets.  If you insist on exercising your rights under Illinois law, you will prevent these cars from passing.  Please help us maintain our friendly relationship with the drivers in our area.

You must obey all local traffic laws.  Our old friend, Randy Johnson, was once stopped by a police officer in St. Jacob, Illinois, on a brevet because he did not come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

Time limitations are important.  You must complete the 200k event in 13 hours and 30 minutes, the 300k event in 20 hours, the 400k event in 27 hours and the 600k event in 40 hours.  Also you must reach each control within the time limits printed on the brevet card.  The first scheduled checkpoint on our brevets is in Breese, Illinois at mile 51.5.  You must have your brevet card signed by an employee of the Casey’s General Store at that location prior to 5 hours and 32 minutes after the start of the ride.  In other words, you cannot reach any control at a later time and make up for lost time later to finish within the required finishing times.

Brevet Card?  What’s that?  I’m glad you asked.  A blank brevet card will be given to you at the start of the brevet.  The brevet card for the 300k looks like this:

IMG_0821

Make sure you get the correct card for the event you are riding as there are different cards for each distance.  This card will be your proof that you completed the ride.  At each control, you must have your card signed by an employee of the store and the time must be written on the card.  Most of the time this has not been a problem, but we have had several times when an employee has refused to sign a brevet card.  If this happens, purchase something and include the receipt with your brevet card and let me know.  Also text me at the number on the brevet card immediately so I can address the situation.  When this has happened in the past, it has been because of a misunderstanding of some sort.  The employees of the convenience stores are not our employees and are signing our cards as a courtesy.  In return, we suggest that you always purchase something from the store in return and at checkout POLITELY request that the cashier sign your brevet card.

According to RUSA rules, “Missing checkpoint verification, missing checkpoint times, or loss of the brevet card are grounds for disqualification.”  So what do you do if you lose your brevet card?  Contact me at the number printed on the brevet card . . . oops, that won’t work will it?  Well maybe you should put that number in your phone before you begin.  Anyway, definitely contact me before you drop out of the ride.  Once I found a brevet card that Scott Thompson had accidentally dropped along the road during a brevet.  He kept riding and when he and his brevet card were reunited, he was considered a finisher.  So you never know what will happen.  Just keep riding.

We might also have an unannounced control.  This could be as early as five miles into the ride, or it could be near the finish of the ride.  You must stop at these controls and have your brevet card signed.

RUSA also states that “Each rider must be self sufficient.  No personal follow cars or support of any kind are permitted on the course.  Personal support is only allowed at checkpoints.  Any violation of this requirement will result in immediate disqualification.”  So if you cannot call someone to bring something to you that you need EXCEPT at controls.  This also means that you cannot have a car “leap frog” you during a ride.  It does not mean that you cannot have someone meet you at each control.  The support cars just are not permitted on the course.  Nothing in these rules forbids help from other riders or from local residents.

At the conclusion of the ride, you must complete ALL of the information on the back of your brevet card and place it in a plastic bin at the Edwardsville, Illinois, police station.  Make sure you put your finishing time on the card and make sure you sign your card.  After the results are processed by RUSA and ACP, your brevet card will be returned to you.  I usually mail the cards out at the end of the year after all of the brevets are completed.

The most important rule?  Have fun.  Consider how blessed we are to be able to ride these extraordinary distances.

Once you have successfully completed the brevet, you will automatically become a member of St. Louis Randonneurs and your name will be added to the members page of this site.

 

 

 

The Bike

Aspiring Randonneurs always want to know what kind of bike is required to ride brevets.  The simple answer is the bike you own.

Almost any bike can be configured to ride long distances.  Some Randonneurs might say that it is easier with certain types of bikes, but as long as you have a reliable, safe bike that complies with the rules, you are ready to ride.

To be a participant in a brevet sanctioned by RUSA, your bike must comply with basic rules concerning safety.  The most important rule is that you and your bike must be visible at night.  This means that your bike must have a working headlight and a working tail light at all times between sunset and sunrise.  The headlight must be firmly attached to the bike, so you cannot use a headlamp strapped to your helmet for you primary lighting system.  Of course, the more visible you are, the safer you are.  So you can use a Petzl headlamp as a backup lighting source, as long as you still use the attached lighting system on your bike.  Most randonneurs mount an extra headlight and tail light on their bikes for brevets in case the primary headlight or tail light fails.

There are basically three types of lighting systems.  Most beginners use lights powered by replaceable batteries.  This is the least expensive alternative that satisfies the rules.  If your batteries go out during the ride, you will probably be able to buy new ones and keep moving.  I would recommend that you carry extra batteries with you because you usually aren’t near a store when the lights go out.  And know how to change the batteries in the lights before you ride.  I once spent about ten minutes during a brevet trying to open the battery packaging.

A second type of lighting system uses rechargeable batteries.  These systems are usually a little more expensive.  They are usually brighter, but you have to make sure they are always fully charged before you need them.  If you use a lighting system with a rechargeable battery, you probably should also carry a charger with you.

The third type is the most expensive and also the most reliable and the brightest.  These lighting systems are powered by a generator inside the hub of the front wheel.  These lights are very bright and are always available, so long as your bike is moving.  On most models, when you stop, the light dims and will eventually go out.  One side benefit of this system is that you can also connect a USB charger to the generator so that you can recharge electrical devices while you ride.  Before you invest in one of these systems, you should be sure that you have the heart of a randonneur, because they represent a major investment.  They are also the absolute best system you can utilize to light the road at night.  Even though I now have a front hub generator, I still carry at least one rechargeable headlight that I can mount on my bike in case the main headlight goes out.

Some riders try and avoid the bike lighting requirements by only riding during the daylight hours.  While this might be possible during certain events, it is not advisable.  If conditions during the ride turn ugly with rain or other adverse weather conditions, RUSA  rules required that you must use your bike lighting system.

Bike lighting rules will be strictly enforced.  So if you drive 300 miles to enter a ride, and your bike is not properly equipped, you will not be allowed to enter the brevet.  This is for your safety.  Don’t attempt to circumvent this rule!

You should also bring a tire pump and extra tubes with you.  It is not uncommon to have a flat tire during a ride.  Remember randonneuring is all about self-sufficiency.  So you also know how to change a tire.  For many years I used Continental GatorSkin tires.  I thought they were tough and reliable.  However they did not prevent flats.  Recently I have started using tubeless tires.  They also do not prevent flats, but many times you can continue to ride with tubeless tires after they puncture because they automatically seal small holes in the tires with minimal loss of tire pressure.  Tannus America now sells solid rubber tires.  They come in many different colors and you don’t ever have to worry about flats.  I have not personally tried them, but I don’t think they give as soft a ride as traditional tires.  Anyway, it might be something to look into for the future.

IMG_0799

The next thing someone brings up is that they don’t need a pump because they have CO2 cartridges to inflate the tires.  This might work for you, but I had to drop out of 200k brevet once at the 110 mile mark because I got another flat tire and I had no way of inflating the repaired tube because I had used all of my CO2 cartridges.  I suggest bringing a tire pump and tire tools along with you.

The seat is a matter of personal preference.  I have been using a Selle Anatomica saddle for the past ten years and find them to be comfortable and reliable.  Some people have other preferences.  You are going to be spending a lot of time in the saddle, so you need to find one that will not cause anguish late in rides.

You also need some kind of bag to carry everything with you.  I ride a bike with a rack mounted saddle bag.  My bike does not look like something you would see in a professional bike race, but it is highly functional.  So let’s say you start at 4:00 a.m. and it’s a little cold outside so you wear a jacket.  When the sun comes up and it starts getting warmer, what are you going to do with that extra clothing.  You can’t just leave it somewhere to pick up later, because you may need that jacket when it starts getting dark and colder.  So your bike should have sufficent storage space for your jacket and extra tools that you may have.

This is the bike that I rode in the Last Chance 1200k in 2009.  It is a Specialized Roubaix.  Note the giant water reserve on the handle bars.  This bike was basically a road bike with as much storage area added to it as possible.  It has now been retired for my new bike, a Trek Checkpoint.

IMG_0822

This is what my current randonneuring bike looks like:

IMG_0448

Make sure you bring water with you.  My bike has two cages for water bottles.  If I think I will need more water because of the spacing of convenience stores, I use a camelbak.

This is a close-up of the front hub that powers the headlight and the charger.

IMG_0805

The important thing to remember is that your bike must be safe.  Safety should always be your primary concern.  And if drivers can see you, they can avoid you.  I use a Garmin Varia tail light on my bike.  This not only serves as a tail light, but when connected to a Garmin GPS, it will warn you of a car approaching from the rear and will flash to alert the driver of your presence.  I use these tail lights during daylight as well as night time.  Fully charged, the Varia tail lights usually last about six hours, so you may need more than one during a ride.  For me, one is usually being recharged while I am using the other one.  Unfortunately they seem to take more than six hours to recharge, so I actually use three of these tail lights during a brevet.  I believe that the Varia tail lights are the most significant advance in rider safety in the last ten years or more.

Of course a mirror could warn you of cars approaching you from the rear also.  I think it is difficult to keep an eye on the road behind you using the tiny mirrors that attach to your  bike or you helmet.  But if a mirror works for you, that’s great.  And much cheaper that the Garmin tail light system.

My next post will discuss the rules of randonneuring.

The Start

One of the things that concerns me when I visit another region to ride a brevet is the starting procedure.

In St. Louis, our procedure is pretty simple.  You simply show up at the starting point, pay your registration fee, and ride.  I once contacted a Regional Brevet Administrator about a ride and asked about the starting location.  He simply replied that we started behind a certain gas station.  I thought I needed a little more information.

So in answer to your first question, we meet on the parking lot located at 301 North Second Street, Edwardsville, Illinois.  This parking lot is at the corner of E. College Street and North Second Street and is the parking area for the Madison County Courthouse.  You will see my truck parked on the lot.  During daylight, the starting location looks like this:

IMG_0717

Just approach me and we will get you signed in and ready to ride.  I’ll be the guy sitting on the tailgate.  You must arrive at the start and sign in and least thirty minutes prior to the start of the ride.  I arrive at the starting location one hour prior to the ride.

There are no public restrooms available at the start location at 4:00 a.m.

What about a place to stay nearby?  Edwardsville has several newer hotels available at fairly reasonable prices.  I have reserved a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Edwardsville for the September 29, 2018, rides.  To reserve a room click here or you may call the hotel directly at (618)692-7255.  The block is called “Bike Brevets Randonneurs” and will be held until September 17, 2018.

Now that you know where you’re starting, you need to make sure that your bike is appropriately equipped to complete the brevet.  That will be the subject my next post.