Newsletter - 2002 Archive

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Raising the Bar: Part 1

Roger Street


An open letter to the club:

Is Change Good? Has the Club changed because we want it to, or has it changed by evolution, inertia or plan?

Have the activities of the Randonneurs Club been changing to more closely resemble that of a regular bicycle club? The regular bicycle club with which I often ride does 50 km rides each week and 75 km to 100 km rides on the weekends. A few times a year, it organizes centuries and holds a couple of social events. The Vancouver Bicycle Club has regular rides over 100 km that it refers to as medium rides. We, as Randonneurs, do all of the above as well as throw in a series of four rides referred to as brevets (rides of 200 km or more is the general description of an official brevet). We claim not to be racers, but the level of effort put into attaining a good time or personal best belies the words.

We are a club with four geographic affiliates - are these really local clubs?

Is being an all-round bicycle club our goal? Is being a Randonneur club our goal? Is being a provincial club our goal? If so, a provincial all-round or a provincial Randonneur club?

What about membership? A person must become a member to ride in our brevets and short rides, but not in our Populaires. Should we track Populaire information in case a rider becomes a member? Why do we track short ride information for members who are not brevet riders? Are the members of the Randonneur club proud to be members because of its avowed specialty of marathon cycling? Do all members deserve the reflected glory, if any?

What about volunteers? Is it fair to ask volunteer effort from our usually hard-core members for the benefit of those wishing to dabble in the world of Randonneurs?

What about distances? At what stage does a brevet training ride, or less, qualify for a recognizable club accomplishment. Is a Randonneur short ride different than a medium ride of a regular bicycle club? Is size important?

Is the size of our Club important? Most clubs are formed for the enjoyment of members with a common interest. It is probably fair to say that the social aspects of any club membership are generic and not part of the common bond. Do we want a large social club? What are the alternatives in size and common interests?

We continue to adhere to the Randonneur principles of time penalties for lights and fenders, with exceptions for short rides and populaires. With some pressure from those most affected by the rules, we have also made exceptions for brevet series later in the year and the Rocky Mountain 1200. Internationally, exceptions are increasing because of current bicycle design and the difficulties of fitting fenders. Should all fender penalties be waived and, if yes or if not, why are there penalties? Are they reasonable and are they reasonable for a 200 km brevet as well as a 600 km brevet? Why are there light penalties? Is it really possible to ride on Highway 7,9,99 or the Sumas Prairie without lights after dark? Does possible death count as an alternative penalty? Are light penalties reasonable, or should there be a no lights, no brevet rule if safety is the reason for the rule?

I initially joined the Randonneurs for the sole purpose of riding in the 1995 PBP. I continue to be a member because of the brevet series. Over the years, I have attempted and enjoyed almost the full range of the Randonneur program, with its physical and mental challenges, its pains and euphoria, and its pride of accomplishment.

It is that pride of accomplishment that prompts this questioning. The bar of accomplishment was historically set as being brevets of 200/300/400/600 km and PBP. The bar seems to have been lowered over the years, somewhat in keeping with the trends in society. I'm not sure that it is a good thing. What do you think?