Riding for hundreds of kilometres at a time
Randonneurs Nova Scotia ride for hundreds of kilometres at a time
“We start our 400-km at midnight. It’s really quite a magical experience, to ride through the night as a group. Out in the countryside where there is no traffic, everyone is asleep apart from us. You ride under the stars and maybe hit a coffee shop at 3 a.m. to refuel” says Mark Beaver, president of Randonneurs Nova Scotia. “Then you’re riding along and you see a red glow on the horizon. A while later, the first bird will sing. Then you’ll hear a rooster crow. The sun will rise, and then it’s morning.” When day does break, Nova Scotia presents the randonneurs with spectacular coastlines, tall pine forests and fertile farmland valleys, all during a single ride, albeit quite a long one.
Randonneuring, with its brevets that challenge riders to cover long distances within set time limits, can take cyclists on 200-km and even 1,400-km routes, or shorter recreational rides called populaires. Everyone i n the brevet must be self-supported.
A friend had introduced Beaver to randonneuring by inviting him to ride the 720-km Raid Pyrénéen with members of an Ontario club. Later, Beaver was persuaded to try to qualify for the 2003 Paris-brest-paris: the 1,200-km randonnée with a 90-hour time limit. To qualify, riders must complete a brevet series that includes a ride of 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, and 600 km. For Beaver to achieve his goals, he needed a club closer to home. In 2003, Randonneurs Nova Scotia was born. Beaver has completed all four Paris-brest-paris challenges since 2003.
The Randonneurs Nova Scotia’s annual schedule is built around its brevet series. In the spring, weekly brevets increase in distance incrementally, with the occasional populaire. From July 7 to 9, the club will run its longest brevet of the year, the Fundy Park 1000, a 1,000-km circuit from Halifax along the Bay of Fundy to Fundy Park and back via the Northumberland Strait.
Later in the summer, with the club’s big events finished for the season, members participate in rides roughly every two weeks. “It’s so people can reconnect with their spouses, and mow their lawns and such,” Beaver says. In fall, the season closes with a weekly schedule of shorter populaires.
The club has grown from eight to 30 members of varying backgrounds and abilities, with a core group who have been members for roughly 10 years. Participation in the rides fluctuates. The longer the ride, the fewer the people. Between 15 to 20 will show up for a 100-km populaire, with 10 to 12 riding longer brevets.
Several members complete the brevet series every year. In 2017, Micheline Mcwhirter completed the series and became the first Nova Scotian woman to ever complete a 1,000-km brevet. This year, Mcwhirter will join Beaver and club member David Ross in Minnesota for the Coulee Challenge, another 1,200-km randonnée. Ross, a member since 2004, has already completed eight 1,200-km events.
Beaver acknowledges that anything longer than 600-km is a massive undertaking, but insists that riding 1,000-km in fewer than 75 hours is achievable as long as you work your way through the series, stay in good shape, and have comfortable shoes as well as a comfortable bike, a good saddle and a good leathery butt. “The leathery butt comes from many miles in the saddle,” Beaver says, “so there is no substitute for riding. The best training for randonneuring is randonneuring. Get out there and ride your bike. A lot.”
“Riding 1,000 km in fewer than 75 hours is achievable.”