Tuesday, February 5

…. so, it’s randonneuring

Hydration and Navigation 

.... touching two aspects in randonneuring 


The bicycle saves my life every day. If you have ever experienced a moment of awe or freedom on a bicycle; 
if you’ve ever taken flight from sadness to the rhythm of two spinning wheels, or felt the resurgence of hope pedalling to the top of a hill with the dew of effort on your forehead; 
if you’ve ever wondered, swooping bird-like down a long hill on a bicycle, 
if the world was standing still; life you have ever, just once , sat on a bicycle with a singing heart and felt like an ordinary human touching the gods, 
then we share something fundamental. 
We know it’s all about the bike“  Robert Penn

THE French and the Italians always have distinct styles and distinct words in the world of cycling. Randonneuring  is one of them.  Randonneuring is a long-distance cycling event. In randonneuring, a randonneur attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined "controls" (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order.

Randonneuring :

·         Also known as ‘Brevet’
·         Also known as ‘Audax’
·         Riders can travel in groups or alone as they wish
·         Every rider has to be self sufficient.
·         No external help can be called in except for medical emergency.
·         Randonneuring is international governed by Audax club Parisien

WHAT defines randonneuring? Randonneuring is all about endurance. It is not the speed or a fashion that defines randonneuring. The riders are not even advised to wear team jerseys. Randonneuring is also about attitude ... it is about  the passion to paddle endless miles on empty roads. If that is so, what are the challenges in randonneuring?

“Cycling for me has become a vehicle of freedom ... a symbol of individuality.
It frees me from the mundane crowd that waits on others. 
Cycling  gives me liberty to keep pushing myself, literally wrenching my way with my life dreams”... Abby

"A  randonneur has to drink before he is thirsty and eat before he is hungry" 

Hydration Until I started to cycle, I never understood the importance of hydration on the performance of an athlete. Taking in the right quantity of water is of paramount importance in cycling. A cyclist must hydrate 2 hours before the start of a randonneuring. Too much or too little of water create difficulty and hamper the performance of any sportsmen, especially a cyclist. In any randonneuring, the randonneur is exclusively responsible for the quantity of water he has to carry and its usage. Therefore, a good understanding of water requirement is of outmost importance. A randonneur has to know how well his body works under constrained water intake and how much he can stretch his endurance in managing his water resources.  

In a dehydrated state, your muscles fatigue and may develop cramps. • Hydration keeps your heart rate lower, longer. • Both aerobic and endurance activities are affected, performance worsens in a hot environment and as dehydration increases. • Hydration keeps you from overheating. As you exercise, your muscles generate heat. The body dissipates this heat through sweat, and as the sweat evaporates, it cools the tissues beneath. Since sweat is made up of about 95% water, you need water in order to sweat normally. • Water acts as a lubricant for muscles and joints and it helps cushion joints to keep muscles working properly. • Approximately 70-75% of muscle is made up of water, so maintaining the right water balance is necessary for peak muscle performance. • Athlete studies show a 1% loss in body fluid will slow you down 2%.
ONE may think that a cyclist can pick water from any roadside shops. However, often, in ultra-long cycling marathons like brevetting, there can be long patches (of 60 to 100 km) of terrain with no water sources. If a cyclist lands up in such a stretch of road having exhausted his water, then he is in real trouble. Also, plain water alone is not sufficient to keep the performance of muscles in a brevet. Water should be fortified with salts and minerals which enhances the workings of the muscles. This is more significant when one pedals long hours at night at a stretch, like in a 600 Km brevetting.

Navigation :Navigation is a tricky skill in randonneuring and is often not much spoken about. A good randonneur has to be a good navigator. A randonneur not only need to processes a good road sense but also need to be aware of the route of the entire brevet. A wrong direction can drain any cyclist all his mental and physical resources.  When pedalling at night,  if one were to do it all alone, ensuring the right course is absolutely essential. In a physically exhausted state, a navigational error can be very costly to correct. Missing a control point will disqualify the rider. Backtracking a route and falling in line with the official route can be a very painful task. It will put the rider in a physiological pressure following which he will not be able to proceed. 

It is fancy to use a high-tech mobile phone these days for navigation. There are various maps offered on-line such as the one by Google. The practical point about this tool is that it is easy to read and lock oneself with the map’s navigator. Nevertheless, these systems are not 100% error free. In fact, I have had experiences where Google has navigated me to dead ends. However, mostly, they will help any rider to make a quick navigation to the goal point. 
The most impractical side of these tools is  that, for a long marathon cycle ride (300Km or more), the cell phones go dead as their batteries gets discharged.  Hence, for long brevets, cells phone based GSM navigational tools are redundant. Conventional printed maps are the best companions. Hence, map reading skills are to be honed if one were to be true brevet.