Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rando Bikes in Use: Boston Edition

NE Randonneurs 600K, Berthoud
When I post pictures of bicycles belonging to cyclists I know, I often receive surprised comments from readers in other parts of the country: How representative are these bikes of what the locals are really riding? The lugs, the refurbished vintage frames, the custom builders, the handlebar bags, the leather saddles... My posts imply that these are typical, yet they are far from the norm today. One sentiment in particular has been repeated and it stuck on my mind: "At real randonneuring events, everyone is riding carbon fiber." That may very well be true, I thought - having never been to a sanctioned randonneuring event.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Rivendell
However that has now changed, as I've just returned from working support at a New England Randonneurs 600K brevet. More on that after I get some sleep, but for now I present to you a tally of the bikes that were ridden in the event. Among the 11 machines at the start, there were: two Rivendells, a Rawland, a refurbished vintage Mercier, a Bianchi Volpe, a titanium Seven, a titanium Lynskey, a luggged carbon fiber Colonago, a carbon fiber Trek, and 2 carbon fiber Specialized. 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Bianchi
All of the bicycles present sported dynamo lighting, usually supplemented with additional battery lights. 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Rawland
About half of the bicycles were equipped with some sort of handlebar bag, including several of the classic randonneuring varitety, supported by front racks.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Zimbale
Full coverage fenders, classic saddlebags and leather saddles were also well represented.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Mercier
The aesthetic highlight for me was the elegant black bike with a "Jean-Pierre Danguillaume" decal - made in the 1970s by Mercier (a French manufacturer not to be confused with the English Mercian). 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Mercier
As I understand it, the bike belonged to the rider's father and sat dormant for decades until he - the son - refurbished it to use as a brevet bike. 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Mercier
It is now fitted with modern components, lightweight racks, dynamo lighting and a handlebar bag. The owner also managed to wrangle in wide fenders and tires - an admirable accomplishment, if you have a look at the clearances.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Rivendell
The double top tube Rivendell Homer Hilsen was probably the most unexpected bike there for me. While Rivendell did not invent the "2TT" concept (heavy-duty Dutch bikes and Roadsters are often built with double top tubes), it is surprising to see this construction on a roadbike. 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Rivendell
The second Rivendell present was an older Rambouillet model that happened to be exactly my size.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Rivendell
The more I examined this bike, the more I liked it: Great proportions, roadish geometry, 26" wheels. No toe overlap, even with wide tires and fenders, and fairly lightweight. I wish they hadn't discontinued this model.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Lynskey
I had not seen a Lynskey bicycle in person before, so that was interesting.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Lynskey
Though titanium, it looks distinctly different from the Sevens I am used to seeing around here. This bike sported a minimalist randonneur setup: small handlebar bag, saddle wedge, dynamo lights, no fenders. 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Colnago
The carbon fiber bikes employed a similar strategy.

NE Randonneurs 600K, Rawland
Other bicycles were decidedly less minimalist. The Rawland was the only one of the bunch I had seen before, and the owner typically has it equipped ready for anything. 

NE Randonneurs 600K, Seven
Overall, what I saw on the 600K brevet reflected the types of bicycles I generally encounter when out riding around Greater Boston. While minimalist carbon fiber is common, equally common around these parts are classic steel bicycles set up with traditional racks and bags. If I had to say what the randonneuring bikes had in common, it's that - regardless of their weight, accessories, and style of construction - they were all modified in some unusual way by their owners; they were all just a tad more eccentric than your typical roadbike. When I mentioned this to one of the randonneurs over the weekend, he nodded approvingly - expertly stuffing a turkey and Nutella sandwich into the pocket of his handlebar bag: "Riding with these crazies will do that to you!"

So, what is it like where you live? I am sure there are regional differences in what kind of bicycles dominate these types of events. You might also be interested in this 2007 survey of the bicycles ridden in Paris-Brest-Paris.

88 comments:

  1. Here in the Midwest, my Boulder Brevet, outfitted with lightweight racks, front rando bag, and fenders with wider tires is decidedly at odds with the vast majority of road bikes I pass on the road. Most riders seem to be on CF at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "The more I examined this bike, the more I liked it: Great proportions, roadish geometry, 26" wheels. No toe overlap, even with wide tires and fenders, and fairly lightweight."

    I don't get this. It's a classic level tt bike. Roadish geo -- you mean road bikes have roadish geo? Toe overlap -- of course not it has 26" wheels on a medium size.

    Maybe you mean it's a good road bike for someone smaller with the smaller wheels.

    "The lugs, the refurbished vintage frames, the custom builders, the handlebar bags, the leather saddles... My posts imply that these are typical, yet they are far from the norm today."

    Yes they have implied that and you've said much more, as if rando bikes are defined by certain qualities alone. And you continue to do so, particularly with your recent post on dynamo lighting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It's a classic level tt bike. Roadish geo -- you mean road bikes have roadish geo?... Maybe you mean it's a good road bike for someone smaller with the smaller wheels. "

      Yes. I mean that it's a classic road bike, of the kind Rivendell no longer makes - except for the Roadeo, which has TCO - that works for smaller riders. The TT is actually slightly sloped (2deg I think), but it isn't noticeable.

      Delete
    2. Hilsen in the smaller sizes would be a great riv for a rando bike. The roadeo just doesn't go down small enough. Of course, Grant will design a custom bike, in the riv style, for a smaller rider if the rider is intent on using 26" wheels. I would much rather have 650b then 26" for a road bike though.

      Delete
    3. Isn't the AHH just a Rambouillet with an extra centimeter of brake reach?

      Delete
    4. My AHH* gets almost catastrophic shimmy with a moderate front load at handlebar height.

      So not great for a 'rando' bike. Or drinking from a screwtop bottle downhill...

      *63cm

      Delete
    5. Rando bike doesn't equal handlebar bag bike, that is just one take on it. If my bike had shimmy with a moderate front load I would use a saddlebag, framebag, or some other way of carrying stuff.

      I'm surprised to hear of your shimmy with an AHH like that. I use a handlebar bag on my 56cm Hilsen and don't get issues, especially catastrophic ones. What tires are you using on your AHH?

      Delete
  3. Tell me about the bag in the first photo, please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a Berthoud handlebar bag, size small.

      Delete
  4. At my local club you rarely see carbon. Classic French-style randonneurs aren't the majority by any means, but they are gaining popularity, particularly among younger riders (meaning anyone under 40). Titanium and steel are the most common materials. The most common ways to carry baggage are rack-top bags on rear racks and handlebar bags, although there are minimalists who use nothing but a seat wedge or eccentrics who use frame bags.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm sure I've seen a rando bike because a friend in CA has done BMB and PBP several times. Don't recall if it is carbon or not. His "beater bike" (a shaggy-dog-story gift -- and I think regarded as rando-capable) is a Ti Spectrum, with brifters. Don't recall that it has fenders.

    Another friend who does randos uses some non-standard-looking Bike Friday, an "Air Friday". E.g., http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=bike%20friday%20air

    One question; I notice the lights in your pictures are sometimes mounted directly over the front wheel. Lovely and symmetrical, but doesn't that risk a certain amount of road schmutz getting on the lens?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't have a light mounted this way to test, but the wheel's turning the wrong way for this to happen (at least while th bike's moving forwards, where the part of the wheel nearest the light is moving forwards and down...)

      It should be even less of a problem when the bike has fenders.

      Delete
  6. Your ratio of 4 vintage/homage bicycles versus 7 modern ones looks like a realistic picture to me. I am more surprised by the absence of the mid-range aluminum type of bike - the Specialized Roubaix comes to mind here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the bikes was a carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix.

      Delete
  7. I spent part of my Saturday at the JAM Gran Fundo in Southampton instead of doing the 600 (training's been slack, and a desired for civilized bed times won out); then returned to Boston and spent my evening at a dance party on the river near Cambridge/Watertown for some burner/raver types. At 1am, I went home and, passing through Harvard Square, I crossed paths with a guy on a blue-silver steel bike, generator light, Carradice saddlebag. I was on the '73 Raleigh with the dual E6s, Swift Industries saddlebag and leather grips. We dinged our bells at each other. Just two Boston cyclists crossing paths in the middle of thenight.

    ReplyDelete
  8. and -- as an aside -- having met and known some of these bikes when running last month's 400, I had to smile a bit when I saw them mentioned in this entry. The Volpe, for example, I believe belongs to a young rider for whom this is his first year. I remember him boldly posting on a forum somewhere that he had pre-registered for the entire series and a couple of others heckled his intentions, saying that they didn't expect him to make it past the 300.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes folks take to things like a duck to water. I suppose many of those folks who scoffed are either watching him with interest and maybe a little envy. I bet more than a few are trying to help him along now that they see he's got real grit.

      I tried a 2011 Volpe a month or so back. I liked it quite a bit more than several more expensive cf framed and aluminum/carbon fork bikes.

      Delete
    2. I've met people who have done the entire brevet series straight through in their first year of attempting it, even ending with PBP. It takes a certain base level of fitness and a great deal of dedication, but it can be done.

      Delete
    3. I marvel at anyone who is willing to spend that much time alone on a bike. One rando or so a year can be interesting, but a whole series?

      Delete
  9. In the Berlin-Brandenburg brevets, which includes some or all of Poland, there are about 50 riders per brevet in a PBP year. I would say 5 bikes are designed to take fenders (and at a stretch could be classified as randonneur bikes), one is usually a recumbent, & once we had a funny Trek Y-foil time trial bike with a skin-suited rider to match, but the vast majority are road bikes - carbon, aluminum, steel, in that order - with 'long distance' accoutrements attached. So a less than elegant field, with a similar low percentage of wool & a high percentage of Lycra. I would say this is typical of German brevets. About 35% have dynamo lighting, maybe 40% have mudguards. All in all, a young market waiting to be discovered! Jan should have never left Germany . . . :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. The results should prove interesting.

    The antipathy classic style randonneur bicycles engender in some is odd.

    I own a 700C classic Italian style bike, a 650B rando style and have ridden my nephew's Madone a few times. While the former two are my preference, if someone wants to ride the latter, go for it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Did you notice any relationship between finish times and the type of bikes ridden?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. The person who finished first was on a lightweight modern bike, but so were a couple of those who abandoned.

      Delete
    2. Wait, could this be an example of It's the Rider not the Bike"?

      Delete
  12. turkey and nutella sandwich?!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Riding with these crazies will do that to you!"

      'nuff said!

      Delete
    2. Nutella alone is too sweet for me to eat while riding, so combining it with turkey (and pickles?) actually makes good sense : )

      Delete
    3. I like the ham & tart jam approach, myself.

      Maybe a little soft ripe cheese for the fat content.

      Delete
  13. I have been to a few 200Ks over the years and have never, ever seen an old style bike with canvas bags like in your photos. Are the routes in New England hilly?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Based on what I have seen in my travels to NE, it would be hard to ride 200k without encountering hills.

      Light weight lugged steel bikes with proper gearing and tires do not hinder climbing any more than a plastic, Ti or aluminium bike.

      Delete
    2. Patrice - Depends on how you define hilly of course. Are the Green Mountains of VT hilly?.. The 600K went through some.

      Matthew - In theory, you could design a New England 200K without serious sustained climbing ...but the NE Randonneurs don't opt for that approach : )

      Delete
  14. The Rambouillet wins the prize. Full length pump firmly attached. My Silca has probably done five inflations for other people to each inflation for my own flats. Zefals are less than aesthetic bliss but they work. And work some more.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I understand that carbon and fender-less rigs are not uncommon, even at PBP, as this 2007 survey from BQ suggests.

    http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/BQEquipsurvey.pdf

    Mike A

    ReplyDelete
  16. Here's my theory: the ratio of modern CF bikes to classic French constructeur bikes is inversely proportional to the proximity to Jan Heine.

    Here in Seattle, lugged steel bikes with French style handlebar bags and aluminum fenders make up the majority on most brevets. Oregon and BC brevets seem to be similar. But if you get as far away as San Francisco, the mix starts to change.

    Or maybe the weather has something to do with it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. C'est Vrai. In Santa Fe, almost none of the serious road riders have any notion of a classic French rando bike. Even Brooks saddles are uncommon enough to be a novelty among the riding community.

      Delete
    2. It's the weather. Having ridden brevets with fenders and without (I pulled the fenders from my midlifecrisismobile when I needed to repair a broken front rack, and haven't gotten around to replacing them because the fork doesn't get along well with fenders) I can assure that on a PNW rainy day fenders make the difference between just being wet and drowned rat wet.

      Delete
    3. I did the full spring series of SIR brevets this year and would say that the historical reenactment crowd made up at most a third of the riders, and with the exception of Jan they were generally at the back.

      I myself did the 200k and 600k on a Rawland rSogn, and the 300k and 400k on an older carbon Time, both with cordura handlebar bags.

      Delete
  17. With only 11 starters, it sounds like I wasn't the only one with a schedule conflict! :P
    It's really too bad there wasn't better turnout, even just so that you could have had a larger "selection"!

    When I was in Germany, almost all of the brevet riders were on more or less standard off-the-shelf road or cyclocross bikes made of carbon or aluminum or occasionally Ti. Fenders were fairly rare. I even had a couple of riders ask me if the roads back home were so bad that one needed a steel frame and wide tires like mine (all of 25mm)... Of course some New England brevet riders ride standard modern road bikes, but I didn't really know what else to say except yes. But regardless, I thought it was interesting why so many German riders asked why I rode a classic steel frame for brevets, since no one has ever asked me that on an American brevet.
    The German riders generally used a lot more seatpost-mounted racks, heavy clamp-on handlebar bags, frame bags, etc, rather than the profusion of more or less rando-specific gear you see around New England. As has become the case here, dynamo lighting was very common, although not ubiquitous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonder how much plain old availability has to do with what the German's ride?

      While things are changing slowly, the U.S. currently has a lot more talented individual and small shop bicycle makers per capita than Europe.

      Europeans in the market for light weight bicycles either have to go far a field (something that appears to be happening with more frequency per some of the reports on sites popular with builders) for light weight steel or buy the more commonly available cf, Ti or Alu options.

      Delete
    2. Definitely availability... and the fact that not as many of them read BQ. (and honestly, their roads really are in better condition than ours...) I think demand comes along with supply, to some extent. You don't know that you need a lugged steel 650B bike for brevets until your friends start buying them.
      Actually, I also found that the brevets there attracted a more typical cross section of riders you'd see on organized centuries, and they just happen to be riding longer rides, and they do what they have to do to make their normal road bike get the job done. I think that in general, American brevet riders are a smaller, geekier crowd who like to geek out on rando-specific equipment. But we certainly have more "enablers" over here.

      Delete
  18. "The more I examined this bike, the more I liked it: Great proportions, roadish geometry, 26" wheels. No toe overlap, even with wide tires and fenders, and fairly lightweight. I wish they hadn't discontinued this model."

    Aside from being 650b instead of 26" thats pretty much what a smaller (even sized) AHH is.

    ReplyDelete
  19. If I were inclined to do brevets on a stock broker's budget I'd buy a Trek Domane in Leopard colors, fit some good fenders, build up a low drag dynamo onto some carbon hoops and use a frame bag.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 25mm tires, or would you try wider?

      Delete
    2. The Domane has suspension with no efficiency losses vs. a race bike (it is a race bike). It's being raced in the Tour as we speak, yet word on the street is it's eerily smooth.

      For me no need to go wider than 23mm. They'd go on wide carbon clincher rims, of course.

      You start going 25+ you experience efficiency losses on a standard 19mm rim.

      Delete
    3. Just find some old iron with Reynolds 1/2" to 5/16" tapered seatstays and you won't need an IsoCoupler or the marketing that comes with it. Any frame that has those stays will accommodate any tires you're likely to try.

      To V's question, yes, wider than 25. JH takes things to extremes but as you know wider is more comfortable. With good quality wider is trivially heavier. Just not sure about JHs claim that big & wide rolls faster but it sure rolls easier when the road is not perfectly smooth and there's no downside I've ever found until you're above 30mph. Also remember at 125# your flotation on a 29 is more than I get on a 32, what you get on the 26 Cerf is certainly what I get on a 29. So what you've got is very very good if you stand pat.

      Delete
    4. If have intimate experience with an old Reynolds bike; if I wanted to be more tired in addition to being slower I'd certainly take your suggestion.

      Delete
    5. Standard 20mm hookbead rims support tires up to 28mm without any problem. 32mm works well enough for most purposes on a 20 rim but if you push it hard there's squirm. The wider rims do support the tire better and performance improves. The notion that tires must always be perfectly matched to rims is marketing from the 2012 race season.

      Delete
    6. Not really. It came from some science Steve Hed did a few years ago, then sent his results off to Continental where they were surprised about decreased rolling resistance.

      You should do some fact checking before you dismiss scientific advances as pure marketing, but of course if it were advanced you'd market that as well.

      Delete
    7. When I was a boy, Jim, 22mm sewup rims were still oldschool ordinary. Most wood rims were wider than that. We knew perfectly well the Campionatos rolled faster on the wide rims. We also knew that a tire fully supported with a full shellac job rolled faster than a tire with a quick glue.

      For testing I can tell you that 28mm tires on 20mm rims go down twisty mountain roads at 50mph with no problem. Same tire on a 23mm rim feels nicer, speed is still determined by skill. Flat sprinting at 40mph you can tell the wheel is more precisely placed with the wide rim. Placing in the sprint is determined with legs and nerves. Anyone making lesser demands on their equipment can happily ride the rims they got. Lots of people switch tires for specific purposes, no one in their right mind is going to own wheels with multiple rim widths. And if they've got 32 tires on 20 rims they should not worry, just go a bit slower.

      If you want to play rando your next rims could be wider. Until yesterday good wider rims weren't even there. The biggest speed advantage for most will be that changing a flat is quicker and easier.

      Delete
    8. So you know. I'm aware of the existence of wider rims from days of yore; good to have your anecdotal feedback. Nothing you said I disagree with but...

      Going down a mountain a properly-designed 23mm rim supports the 23mm tire sidewall better. And I say this with no regard to marketing -- I have a set of these rims, ride them off road in challenging conditions, descend regularly at 50+ on road and do not feel the need to go bigger.

      For me it's the ideal combo of speed/security. I'm referring to personal preferences and what I'm used to as a former racer.

      Some people like a super big tire in all conditions; so be it. I have a set of fat tires on a bike that would dwarf any one elses!

      Delete
    9. For the record I'd rather stab myself in the eye than do a rando -- we're just playing internet hypotheticals.

      Delete
  20. Reply button not working.


    Anonymous July 16, 2012 6:02 PM
    "Isn't the AHH just a Rambouillet with an extra centimeter of brake reach?"

    Anonymous July 16, 2012 6:50 PM
    "Aside from being 650b instead of 26" thats pretty much what a smaller (even sized) AHH is."


    Not exactly. The AHH has different proportions. The AHH 52cm frame has a 54.5cm TT for instance, whereas the Ram's 52cm frame had a 53cm top tube, which works better for me. If I want a 53cm TT on the AHH, I'd have to get a tiny frame and then there will be issues with handlebar height. Also, I believe the AHH has toe overlap in my size even with the 650B wheels.

    Ryan M. July 16, 2012 5:09 PM
    "Hilsen in the smaller sizes would be a great riv for a rando bike. The roadeo just doesn't go down small enough. Of course, Grant will design a custom bike, in the riv style, for a smaller rider if the rider is intent on using 26" wheels. I would much rather have 650b then 26" for a road bike though."


    Riv custom frames cost $3,500. That's not outrageous considering what some others are charging, but nonetheless on the expensive side - at least by our local standards.

    It would be cool if Riv offered something like the Rambouillet in their Taiwan-made price range of $1000-ish for frame and fork. Their Soma collaboration could have been it, but again has the small size TCO issue which the Ram did not.

    26" wheels... If going custom, it would really come down to tire size. It is very possible to make a standard 52cm x 53cm road frame with 700C wheels and no TCO, if the rider is fine with skinny tires. It's when you want fat tires and fenders that going 650B or 26" becomes useful. For a small rider especially 26" could be a great solution.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Spamming the comments again: for small people on a budget with tco issues a mountain bike already has 26" wheels. On a rando you want stability, which this has in spades, and comfort, which this also has.

    Mrs. GR has ridden one, and is right now, for decades on long distance rides.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Being the year after PBP, attendance at local brevets is down, possibly skewing the numbers a bit. But as V noted, the variety of bikes found on a typical brevet is much wider than what you might see on a local club ride or century. The local century is likely to have lots of very expensive carbon fiber off the shelf bikes with very few customizations. Being not much longer than a century, the 200km attracts a mixture of the club century crowd and some more dedicated randonnuers. But as the distances grow to 300, 400, 600 and 1200km, you will start to see a bit more *interesting* adaptations. It is one of the cool things about doing the longer rides, seeing how others have coped with a particular challenge, whether it's lights, bags, gearing or wrestling fenders onto an unwilling frame! Thanks to V for sharing...

    I've said many times that "a brevet bike is one that is ridden on a brevet". Jan Heine has a different more rigid definition, and through the pages of Bicycle Quarterly, he has promoted a historical French take on what a randonneur bike should be. This is not a criticism, just noting that what many Americans now call a classic brevet bike, is based on the BQ definition.

    But IMNSHO, a bike that allows to rider to complete the brevet, comfortably, and with as little hassle as possible, is a brevet bike. Remember it isn't about finishing first, it's about finishing! And then wanting to come back for more :-)

    Now, if you want to see the opposite extreme, come to a hill-climb race, where you'll find also find some variety, including some 12 pound bikes, with a single tiny chainring, a single brake, and no water bottles or tools!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "[JH] has promoted a historical French take on what a randonneur bike should be. ...what many Americans now call a classic brevet bike, is based on the BQ definition."

      I've always taken the phrase "classic brevet bike" to refer to the type of bike originally used in brevets.

      The way I understand JH's message, it is this: The type of bike historically used in brevets evolved specifically for that activity. Therefore, it's worth revisiting the design with a contemporary eye. He sees the ideal brevet bike as basically a racing bike, only with wide tires, fenders, and a geometry optimised for a handlebar bag. That doesn't seem all that radical or even historicist to me. The aspect I find problematic, is how very specific JH is about the tubing and exact methods of construction: It is simply unrealistic for most of us to achieve the fully integrated and lightweight results he claims are possible.

      The idea of a fast bike with wide tires and a h-bar bag is appealing to me, and so are lugs - which makes BQ's ideology seductive. But ultimately a bike has to work for me. I have yet to try a low trail 650B randonneur in my size and determine whether it does, but I am curious.

      All that aside, it goes without saying that any bike ridden in brevets qualifies as a brevet bike. Whatever it takes, and vive la difference.

      Delete
    2. Ground Round JimJuly 17, 2012 at 1:33 AM

      Are you saying the extensive review of the Royal H. you did for BQ has faulty findings because its size was too big?

      Your findings were it was slower than the Seven. Period.

      How could it not work. It goes forward.

      BTW this is a purely academic discussion until you actually finish a rando, populaire or whatever.

      BTW again you didn't finish because you weren't trained and have a very long way to go before you will if you don't apply yourself. I think that alone disqualifies you from giving any sort of educated opinion about rando bikes.

      Delete
    3. The Royal H review was done in a limited context, all of the limitations clearly described. I don't think the findings were faulty, but I want to try one in my size and without worrying about being on someone else's brand new bike.

      On the ride to Maine, I was not the cause of the decision to do a shorter version of the route, though I did gladly agree to it. Could I have done 120 miles instead of 100 on that night? I will never know. Either way, it was not a sanctioned randonneuring event.

      I agree that I wasn't trained and have a long way to go. I am not sure that I will ever have the dedication and stamina to do these kinds of events. I am not sure whether it's for me.

      Obviously this disqualifies me from giving an educated opinion about rando bikes for those who are interested in randonneuring. My feedback is only relevant for the more casual rider who wants to know what a randonneuring bike feels like. A reasonably fast and lightweight bike with wide tires and a handlebar bag can be a good choice for all sorts of riding.

      Delete
    4. Unexpectedly good answer, particularly the last sentence.

      Here's my ideal take on what kind of language might be used to eliminate much of the noise that passes for comments: instead of "rando" use "all road". The immediate reaction many of your readers have with BQ when the word is trotted out is predictable.

      I remember when BQ was a struggling zine with a very small readership of professorial cyclists, purely quaint, as with BoBers and Riv nuts. We're at the point where the new generation, such as you, must have these guys as cultural touchstones til experience reveals the truths and myths of all cycling ideologies. Unfortunately any mention of these touchtones brings their acolytes out in droves. How boring.

      Your last sentence also reads like every advert ever published by a bike company looking to market to the sporty set in the last 100+ years. Nothing new under the sun.

      Delete
  23. Thanks, Fixie Pixie for a thoughtful, real world perspective on what makes a brevet bike. (Like the other commentator in an earlier post, I too think you're in the genius class and/or certainly at the head of the class! Did I mention classy, too? Just saying. ) Jim

    ReplyDelete
  24. As GRJ hinted at (in this and other posts)and Fixie Pixie has stated above, most sane ppl would classify a randonneur bike as one that has participated in a randonee. The cycling market in the USA has largely been inextricably linked to competition and fantasies about competition since before my birth, and I think the tendency to try and define a randonneur/ brevet-style bicycle has come from the need to better market practical roadbikes (with fenders, lights, a bit more rubber) to American cyclists who typically will NOT buy a bike until they know exactly what kind of competition it has been designed for. (An exception exists for cruisers and the folks who ride/buy those.)

    FWIW, I have no idea what most folks in my area bring to a brevet, as I tend to avoid such things. Most folks I've encountered who own/ have professed lust for bikes designed in a manner influenced by JH do not currently participate in brevets, generally speaking. I know a guy who completed some permanents on his lightly modded 'cross bike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "most sane ppl would classify a randonneur bike as one that has participated in a randonee"

      ...would they also classify a racing bike as one that has participated in a race, and a touring bike as one that has been on a tour, independent of their geometry and other features? according to that logic, it is useless to classify bikes at all as it all depends on how they are ridden by individual persons. my trek madone is a city bike because I've ridden it to the grocers and my brompton is a racing bike because I've raced it

      Delete
    2. "...would they also classify a racing bike as one that has participated in a race, and a touring bike as one that has been on a tour, independent of their geometry and other features? according to that logic, it is useless to classify bikes at all as it all depends on how they are ridden by individual persons. my trek madone is a city bike because I've ridden it to the grocers and my brompton is a racing bike because I've raced it"

      I think that the term "race bike" is pretty sketchy, as there are so many different forms of bicycle racing out there. A racer is looking to win, and different styles of bikes have been optimized to be better-suited to winning a particular race. So, your Brompton technically IS a racebike, but only b/c there are Brompton-only races out there. If you raced your Brompton Cat 3 or DH (or ANYthing other than a Brompton-specific event), it won't quite qualify, as you weren't racing seriously.

      But, randonees are different insofar as the finish time isn't necessarily optimized. You either finish, or you don't. Randonees area competition of sorts, in that te elegant set wants to show off their bikes and the roadie set wants to be first to each checkpoint, but any bike capable of carrying it's rider along the course will qualify. 650b fake-constructeur bikes, madones, tricycles...they all qualify. And, yes, your madone can pull city bike duty...it can even be adapted to tour use. The UCI governs neither touring nor grocery runs, and the user's expectations are to either go on a long ride or get a dozen eggs. A lot of ways to skin those cats. But to compete in a serious race, you need a competitive bike that meets any of the UCI's applicable requirements...hence, the sometimes narrow definitions of bikes for a very specific purpose.

      Delete
    3. "randonees are different insofar as the finish time isn't necessarily optimized. You either finish, or you don't. Randonees area competition of sorts, in that te elegant set wants to show off their bikes and the roadie set wants to be first to each checkpoint, but any bike capable of carrying it's rider along the course will qualify."

      come on, the roadie set wants to show off their bikes just as much as the next guy. expensive carbon fiber, new race wheels, are you kidding?

      jan heine and his buddies compete fiercely. have you seen the guy's finishing times? have you read the article where he complains that pbp has become about finishing rather than competing?

      in both camps you will find those who are there to finish and to look good, feel good doing it. and in both camps you will find those who are there to get the best finishing time they can.

      Delete
    4. "the elegant set wants to show off their bikes and the roadie set wants to be first to each checkpoint"

      Many roadies on modern bikes think their bikes are quite elegant, beautiful machines. The aesthetic preference for vintagey bikes with handlebar bags is not universal.

      And FWIW, that Rivendell Rambouillet in the pictures belongs to Melinda Lyon. I do not know whether she still holds the record for the fastest female PBP finisher, but she held it twice in the recent past.

      Delete
  25. Despite Jan Heine's tireless advocacy of fenders, generator hubs, front bags, and wide tires for randonneuring:

    Half of the 400+ riders answering his survey for the 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris ride used NO fenders at all.
    Half used batteries instead of generators.
    Only 5% of riders used Jan's preferred configuration of handlebar bag only.
    Only 5% of riders used tires wider than 28 mm.

    Although Jan has an interesting magazine that clearly conveys his own preferences in bikes, the overwhelming majority of practicing long distance brevet riders are clearly making very different equipment choices for their own long brevet rides.

    http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/BQEquipsurvey.pdf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like to think of the bikes Jan promotes as being sporting commuter bikes.

      Delete
    2. And many for years have advocated the need to exercise more and eat less, yet statistics show ever more people are obese.

      The majority is not always correct.

      Moreover, as I point out above, here in the U.S. competent manufacturers of bikes Jan promotes have waiting lists years long. For many reasons, some specific to cycling, but most not, Europe does not have anywhere near the number of competent high end bike manufacturers.

      If the market has minimal options to buy a bike that can accommodate fenders and tires wider than 32 mm or ride well with a front rack and bag it means nothing to say there are not a lot of people using them.

      In my neighborhood, many more people eat at McDonalds every day than at the quality restaurant that sources all of its food from small local farmers. I don't take from that that McDonalds is the sensible choice.

      Delete
    3. "http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/BQEquipsurvey.pdf"

      I forgot that this article is available online for free; I will add it to the text of the post.

      Looking over the results again, I actually think that 42% steel and 53% fenders are impressive statistics for 2007. I am also surprised to see that Ti was more popular than CF.

      The half/half use of generator vs battery lights makes me wonder whether this choice might be related to how much support riders had at control points. 3 nights' worth of batteries for lights sounds like a lot to carry, and I can hardly imagine there being enough time to charge rechargeable lights at controls.

      Given the rise in popularity of classic bikes, wide tires, bags, etc since 2007, I wonder what a 2011 survey would have looked like.

      Delete
    4. I read this thing; it's the most disciplined study Jan's done, imo, with appropriate language.

      Keep in mind Americans' participation in PBP 2007 was at a pretty high rate compared with previously.

      Delete
    5. The study results can not, however say anything about market preference for CF over light weight steel bikes.

      CF bikes practical for PBP are made in the thousands every year. Light weight steel bikes optimal for PBP are produced one at a time in a few small shops.

      Even if everyone at the PBP wanted a well sorted light weight steel bike, it would be impossible for them to get one as the manufacturing sources are not there in numbers necessary to meet the demand.

      Delete
  26. As some have mentioned, what riders use often comes down to role models. If the fastest riders in the club use racing bikes, then that is what many rider use.

    It doesn't need to be that way. The science is out there, and it's not that difficult to understand. The advantages of a classic randonneur bike are simple:

    - Handlebar bag: Ability to access food and clothing without dismounting, route sheet visible at all times. (Speed in randonneuring mostly depends on keeping stops short and not getting lost, rather than on-the-road speed.)

    - Wider tires: More comfort and safety, same (or slightly higher) speed.

    - Fenders: More comfort if it rains, same (or very slightly slower) speed.

    - Geometry for handlebar bag: Easier to ride in the straight line, easier to ride around corners.

    - Lights are required by the rules for longer brevets, so you cannot ride a racing bike with no lights. Many riders choose generator hubs because they don't want to worry about running out of batteries. Some also prefer to produce all the power on their bike themselves, to be "off the grid."

    Whether a randonneur bike is made from carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, bamboo or steel doesn't matter. The fact is that today, it's easiest to make a randonneur bike from steel, and there are no real disadvantages to the material, so that is what many of us choose. At BQ, we'd love to test a true randonneur bike made from titanium or carbon fiber, but so far, nobody has made one that didn't have to compromise in geometry or other areas because the available parts (forks, BB shells, etc.) are intended for racing bikes and cannot be modified as easily as steel parts. (Try raking a carbon fork blade to get more offset!)

    Of course, you can ride all sorts of bikes in brevets. Randonneuring mostly is a test of the rider, not the bike, as our survey (linked in a previous post) showed. That said, from my experience, having an optimized bike makes completing a brevet easier and more fun.

    Jan Heine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Try raking a carbon fork blade to get more offset"

      What about the method Seven uses, where the fork's dropouts are moved forward? I'll try to find close-ups of this.

      Delete
    2. You don't have to rake the entire blade; I haven't seen the Seven method but obviously one can saw off the bottom of an Enve or somesuch, send off to Calfee for bionic rebuilding et voila. Of course it isn't optimal.

      I'd also ring up Enve, Parlee or Calfee directly to see what's in the pipe.

      You'd have to design the bike from ground up for it to be optimal also; the front bag thing is good for a lot but does create less-than-optimal handling characteristics on the wrong bike.

      Hence my frame bag/Domane comment. It's more aero too.

      This is where Jan chimes in with, "we at BQ have done a study of aerodynamics and front bags..."

      Delete
    3. Aerodynamics and the impact weight in the front of a bike has on handling are two different things.

      Delete
    4. Carbon fiber rebuilds are possible. My LBS repairs CF. He learned the basics working on CF rowing sculls. Those things are too big an investment to discard when predictable damage occurs. Auto body shops are messing with CF and anyone working on race cars knows a few things about CF. Scares the daylights out of me but it's no longer that far out there.

      Agree with GRJ that a direct approach to a builder is the way to go and the named shops sound likely. Those shops are not prototyping and promoting 70mm rake CF forks because they're working as fast as they can turning out zero sales resistance racerboy toys and most prospective customers who gotta have that rake buy steel anyway.

      Speaking of steel many of the virtues of a CF fork can be had by using lighter and smaller diameter fork blades. Finding those tubes and finding the builder to work with them might be hard though. Most forks are (correctly I think) massively overbuilt.

      Delete
  27. "how very specific JH is about the tubing and exact methods of construction: It is simply unrealistic for most of us to achieve the fully integrated and lightweight results he claims are possible. "

    Yup. I, through 12 years of messengering on various frankenbikes, mountain bikes, road and track bikes and tire/gear combinations truly believe that I discoverd Jan's geometry/tire/etc theories and ideologies by accident. Specifically, one way was riding a track bike that I'd stuck a touring fork on to eliminate TCO - best snow bike of all time... handled better than any other bike I ever rode in all conditions (Montreal snow and Halifax, Nova Scotia wind, slush, probably the same as New England weather with a little longer season and maybe slightly greater extremes). It was more stable than any other bike when humping boxes of lawyer's files on the handlebars through busy traffic. It was a custom made-for-someone-else frame that had apparently won a world jnr track championship. I have no idea if it was low trail or long trail - had never concerned myself with trail at the time - but it definately had unique handling characteristics and allowed for 30mm tires, which made terrible Halifax roads less knarly. It had tight geomentry and originally a steep headtube angle. Was amazing for light offroad.

    Fast fwd 10 years when I become interested in long distance riding. I'm also a commuter/utility/grocery getter type rider the entire time who still loves t go fast, so I'm happiest on road bikes. Internet research and geekery leads me to become ever more fascinated with vintage bikes. I inevitably become interested in all the rando bike, allrounder, Riv vs BQ, etc etc discourse and eventually start using my welding trade to experiment with frame modifications. It all seems to qualify what I believe I stumbled upon earlier with that franken-track bike. Key words here are 'believe' and 'experiment'. I feel kind of trendy towing this line, but I've actually recreated that tracks bike's handling; the faux rando bike I've built can be rode with 12 beer on the front rack, heavier than a handlbar bag I'd guess... no shimmy and no hands at any speed I've tried... stable and predctable and fast. For the record I own 5 bikes with various geometries, some with steeper (A Moser) and more shallow angles (a vintage Crescent Pepita).

    It's nice for me to read about other's experiences and curiosities... and that others are modifying bikes to suit a purpose as well. I'm the only one I know of in my entire province who rides bikes with front rando racks and the experiment continues on. (Oh, I did see oneother portuer style bike a month ago.) The serious cyclists here are either on racing bikes, touring bikes or light touring/club racer types.

    I really want to explore more but it's hard in a town with a young cycling culture... only 400 000 people here and the closest major cities, Montreal or Boston, would be a 13 hour drive.

    Mostly we have students on cheap, old, yard sale road and touring bikes, hipsters and art-folk on fixies or older roadsters as well as the usual mish mash of the commuter biikes, race bikes etc that they sell in local shops. No rando bikes... i gues becasue we're as far from Seattle/Portland as you can get and still be in North America.

    -- Rolly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are several good Rando bike builders in the North East.

      In fact, JP Weigle of Lyme CT. is widely believed to be the best and was building rando style bikes well before the craze.

      Delete
    2. I don't believe it. It's a reputation, not reality.

      Delete
  28. Also for the record, I've never done a brevet - work and raising an 8 month old make that impossible for this season, though I really want to give them a whirl. I do however go on spontaineous 60, 80, 140 and 200km rides with friends, some on CF racers and some on vintage steel. Usually we go fast enough to make it hurt because we're idiots with testosterone and steam to blow off and most of us come from messenger or racing backgrounds but are really just hacks who love riding... fast is also fun. I believe a 300 would be within my reach, a 400 probably would but would surprise me with painfulness... 600 I could probably do with the proper preparation/training... 1000+ who frggin' knows ;) but I'm keen to find out someday.

    My fave bike for short rides is the full on racer Moser but I do need to brake more than the CF riders on the steepest downhill we encounter (they don't get much faster than this chute). The fastest and most stable bike for dowhills is the faux rando bike... no BS... hmmmmm... interesting, wha?

    Thanks for all the insight, yuz'all, and for feeding my geekery. I have much to learn and cycling is becoming more and more interesting all the time with all this collective experimenting and chatter.

    -- Rolly

    ReplyDelete
  29. I didn't make it to the 600k, but you might be interested to learn that your old Trek 610 completed the NER 200k and 300k brevets this year, with the addition of a front rack and 32mm tires. It's the only brevet bike I've tried, but as far as I'm concerned it's a pretty good one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's fantastic! That bike was pretty fast. Did you change the shifters or stay with the downtube shifters? And what kind of front rack?

      Delete
    2. I kept the downtube shifters because I like them and I know how to fix them when something goes wrong. I only barely regretted that decision near the end of the hilly 300k. The rack is a Nitto "Mark's Rack" from Rivendell, with an Acorn boxy rando bag on it. The bike handles a load up front quite well, and if I am to believe what I read on the Internet that might be because it has a relatively low-trail geometry. For the brevets I swap the crankset for a compact double, and I use a generator hub on the front wheel. The bike is pretty fast (although I'm not) but I also find it very comfortable for long rides. This is my first season in randonneuring so who knows where experience will lead, but so far I think it's a great brevet bike.

      Delete
  30. From photos I have seen of rando events, most of the bikes seem to be steel or titanium. Look up flickr pages of various randonneur group and you will see what you described. Vintage, rivendells, mercians, boulder bicycles, or modern titanium bikes. Even the photos of Vancouver Island rides show a stunning array of beautiful traditional 'rando' bikes more often than not. I have no experience with carbon fibre, my husband tried one and said it was like riding cardboard.
    A randonneur I talked to said he rides titanium, and the geometry has to be stable.

    There are old stock bleriots out there. Dream cycles in Vancouver had quite a few. All to big for me, and my husband didn't decide he wanted one until they had sold his size. Check them out, last time I was there they had one or two. Supposedly wonderful bikes.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Also, again, for the record I don't really care what any person, mechanic, magazine, blog, whatever says - I ride and build/experiment with/read about bikes for enjoyment. My own enjoyment and experience is really all that matters to me. All this one side vs the other... low trail is the holy grail vs BQ is BS noise is, in essence, kind of like the old aluminum vs steel noise. At the end of the day everyone has an opinion based on personal taste, experience and preferences... the more experience the opinion weilds the greater the chance it will hold up when others test it, but they all deserve consideration.

    Bikes are like shoes... so many fits, purposes, styles etc. but you've gotta wear what is comfortable for yourself to be happy. Imagine if we were so aggro and dismissive toward each other about our shoe choices? Why... why, it'd be just like back in highschool ;)

    -- Rolly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL I do not doubt for a moment that there are forums where grown adults are just as aggro and dismissive toward each other about their shoe choices!

      Delete
  32. True. There's gotta be a runner's forum somewhere out there where it happens... looking for a pun... I got nothing. bah

    -- Rolly

    ReplyDelete
  33. Rolly -- the runner's equivalent would probably be traditional running shoes vs. Vibram Five Fingers vs. barefoot. I've heard that friendships have been shattered over such matters.

    ReplyDelete