Monday, March 23, 2009

Cyclos Montagnards

The Cyclos Montagnards promote unsupported long distance cycling inspired by the French pioneers of randonneuring. These early riders demonstrated accomplished cycling ability and self-sufficiency. They would dream up serious cycling challenges and then strive to achieve them.

The Cyclos Montagnards seek to emulate this spirit by providing a series of challenges worthy of these early randonneurs. Becoming a Cyclo Montagnard is a matter of completing these challenges.


Cycling used to be a challenging endeavor. Early bike races often left for the unknown, and riders confronted vast distances on mere paths. Similarly, randonneuring started as a self-sufficient sport without organized events, time limits or medals. Led by Vélocio, the editor of the magazine Le Cycliste, French cyclotourists of the late 19th century visited distant places by bicycle. On familiar roads, they rode at high speeds during so-called "transport stages." Once they reached their destination, they visited the sights at a leisurely pace, before returning home with another "transport stage."

From these transport stages originated the idea to see how far a randonneur could ride in 24 hours. Le Cycliste published the rider's tales, which inspired others to try and seek the limits of human performance. Some riders challenged themselves to ride from their hometown to a distant place, often the top of a mountain, and back, in less than 24 hours.

When the first randonneur events were organized, there was a strong emphasis on performance. The first riders in the "Diagonals" of France, connecting the corners of France by bike, all attempted to do an "honorable time." (To this day, randonneur events feature time limits that define what an "honorable time" is. You get a medal only if you complete the ride within the time limit.) In brevets, riders challenged themselves to improve their times from one year to the next. The fastest riders attempted to set records, which were published in the randonneuring newsletters.

This competitive spirit sometimes led to excesses, for example, when the front group of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris ride at times turned into a poorly disguised race, but for the most part, it provided an outlet for riders who wanted to challenge themselves in a more cordial and relaxed setting than the cut-throat world of bicycle racing. Many of the randonneur events included elements of teamwork and even whimsy absent from “real” racing. For example, “gentleman” races teamed up an old and a young randonneur and were scored with an age-based handicap.

These semi-competitive events came to an end through an internecine squabble between cycling organizations. Around 1970, the French Cycling Federation (FFC), the umbrella organization of all French bicycle racers, complained that the French Cyclotouring Federation (FFCT) was organizing poorly disguised races instead of focusing on cyclotouring. Trying to avoid a fight, the FFCT renounced competition, and randonneuring became strictly non-competitive, at least on paper.

The Charly Miller Society

The Société Charly Miller consists of those American randonneurs who have completed Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) in less time than the fastest American professional racer during the days when PBP was a professional race (56:40 hours). Every four years, a handful of American randonneurs is inducted into this society after having posted a strong ride in PBP. To date, there are 30 members. Their sole recognition is a list of names on the web site. Even without medals and other awards, a considerable number of randonneurs are working on their training and strategy with the goal of a fast ride in the next PBP.

The Cyclos Montagnards

Like the Charly Miller Society, the Cyclos Montagnards will induct new members based on their performance in various rides.

We invite randonneurs from all over North America to suggest rides for qualification to the Cyclos Montagnards. Similar to the Charly Miller Society, we envision goals that are out of the ordinary, but achievable for fit and well-trained cyclists. (In Paris-Brest-Paris, approximately 3% of the starters would qualify if the society were open to all nationalities.) A Cyclo Montagnard should be able to ride PBP at a pace that makes them a member of the Charly Miller Society.

How to Become a Cyclo Montagnard

Cyclos Montagnards rides are not races - we are looking for complete cyclists who not only ride hard, but also find their way and plan their provisions along the way.

To become a Cyclos Montagnard, you need to complete one of the following challenging rides within the time limits. Please contact us before you set out on your challenge, so we can provide you with the exact rules and assure verification of your ride.

Outside help is not permitted, neither from support cars nor from other riders. Riders in a group may work together, but they may not obtain drafts or other assistance from other riders who are not part of the group. (No using "rabbits" who tow you for a good part of the way before dropping back.)

Any vehicle may be used for our events, provided it is powered by human power alone. This includes bicycles, trikes, recumbents, tandems, HPVs, etc.

Remaining consistent with the historic origins of these events, we discourage global position systems (GPS) and encourage riders to rely on traditional navigation tools, such as route sheets and maps.

Battery powered headlights are considered "outside assistance." They are allowed but we add a penalty of 1.5% to the time of riders who use battery-powered headlights. This levels the playing field compared to the most efficient generator hub systems available today.

Washington State Challenge 1
Seattle - Windy Ridge (Mt. St. Helens) - Sunrise (Mt. Rainier) - Seattle

This challenge harks back to the early days of randonneuring: Link Seattle with Windy Ridge on Mt. St. Helens and Sunrise on Mt. Rainier in less than 24 hours! The route can be chosen freely, and up to five riders may team up for this ride. All riders of a team must complete the ride.

Depending on the course you choose, this ride is about 510-530 kilometers long. You will climb (and descend) three mountain passes, and enjoy some of the most spectacular roads of Washington State. If you plan to attempt this ride, please contact the Cyclos Montagnards for specific rules.

Washington State Challenge 2
Fall 2009 600 km Brevet under 28 hours

Riders who complete the mountainous 600 km Fall Brevet of the Seattle International Randonneurs in less than 28 hours automatically will be inducted to the Cyclos Montagnards.

More to Come!

To suggest a challenge suited for the Cyclos Montagnards near you, contact us.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Challenge for Randonneurs: R80, R70, and R60

We invite randonneurs to a set of unique challenges that build up to the Cyclos Montagnards and the Charly Miller Society. The R80 honor requires completion of a brevet series (200, 300, 400 and 600 km) with each brevet completed in 80% or less of the maximum allowed time limit. The R70 and R60 honors are for those who complete the brevets in 70% or 60% of the allowed time, respectively. For comparison, a rider who completes PBP in 60% of the allowed time just qualifies for the Charly Miller Society with a little time to spare.

How to Obtain an R80, R70 or R60 Honor

Starting in 2009, any North American randonneur can obtain these honors by riding in ACP-sanctioned brevets. Riders may use brevets from 2 consecutive years to qualify. To be recognized, simply send photocopies of your brevet cards with the time marked to

Cyclos Montagnards
c/o Bicycle Quarterly
140 Lakeside Ave. #C
Seattle WA 98122

The time limits are:

200 km: 10:48 hours
300 km: 16:00 hours
400 km: 21:36 hours
600 km: 32:00 hours

200 km: 9:27 hours
300 km: 14:00 hours
400 km: 18:54 hours
600 km: 28:00 hours

200 km: 8:06 hours
300 km: 12:00 hours
400 km: 16:12 hours
600 km: 24:00 hours

Enjoy the ride!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

R80, R70, R60 Honor Recipients

None! No one has yet completed events in the prescribed time starting in 2009.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cyclos Montagards Members

None! No challenges have yet been completed.