How to prepare and complete 200 Km Brevet (My first brevet ride)
I just completed my 200 km brevet ride last Sunday i.e. 4th November 2018. In this article, I would take you through my journey on preparing and completing my 200 km brevet ride. First, let’s get familiar with few terminologies which will come handy in understanding the concept of brevets. This article is an extension to my previous article about long-distance cycling.
Few Important Terms
What is Audax? Audax is a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is not a competitive sport. So all that matters is to complete the distance in a set amount of time.
What are BRM/Brevets? BRM stands for “Brevet des Randonneurs Mondiaux” which is obviously French. If you translate this in google translator it means “Patent of the world hikers”. In simple terms within Audax, there are cycling events called BRM. Randonneuring is long-distance Endurance Cycling with rides of 200, 300, 400, 600 and 1000 km called Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRMs).
What is Randonneuring? Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometres.
Who becomes Super Randonneur? This title is earned by any rider who completes a series of brevets ( 200, 300, 400, and 600 KM) in the same year. A medal is also available for those holding this title. Riders should provide supporting documentation to their brevet organizer, as well as payment.
How did I prepare for 200 Km Brevet?
Nobody just gets of their couch to ride 200+ kilometers. You need to train riding long distances, train for power and train your core. Assuming you can ride a maximum distance of 100 kilometers, preparing for your first long distance ride should take at least 8-12 weeks.
Brevet is not all about cycling and fitness. It requires riders to be mentally strong. An average rider can complete 200 Km Brevet easily. You do not require a great deal of fitness level. All the ride demand is you to be mentally tough. Although I cycle regularly and once you start cycling regularly brevet becomes easy. However, doing a 20 to 30 KM haul and attempting 200 Km Brevet is another. I started with a few 50 km rides and slowly and gradually build my stamina for a couple of 100 km rides. This boosted my confidence and I knew that I was ready to do this brevet. People will tell you to follow strict regimes and diet plan, however this, not a mammoth task as you might imagine. Again stressing that an average fitness person can do this very easily.
I am jotting down 4 tips for preparing for 200 Km Brevet.
Prepare Slowly, It takes time
An average fitness enthusiast can easily do this challenge. However, you can’t just jump from the bed one fine day and start a 200 km brevet if you are a beginner. Give yourself time, I prepared myself for one complete month before taking up this brevet challenge. For beginners, I would suggest getting into long-haul cycling routine at least two months before the brevet. This would help your body to cope up with the physical stress.
2. Plan a Strategy and carefully examine the route
Usually, the authorized representative from Audax in your city will have the planning done before even Audax opens the registration. For e.g. I knew the route already before I registered. We were supposed to go till Kishangarh and then head back to Jaipur. A route which was effectively planned by the Audax marshalls. They planned it through “ridewithgps“. The route was well planned and had a clear explanation and marking of control points throughout the route.
Now, if you are a regular cyclist and if you are doing 200 Km Brevet with a group, you might have to keep a check on your speed. I was averaging 30 km/hour before I had few flats. Assume an average speed of 22 km/hour (14mph) for a group of riders, and calculate the total time of riding the planned route. Plan a rest stop approximately for every 1.5 hours of riding, with minimum 10 minutes of rest time per stop. Add one large rest stop of 20 minutes for lunch and recovery in the middle of the ride. Add up the total time of riding the route, rests and lunch. Then add 1.5 hours of spare time for mechanicals, longer rests and unforeseen problems. The total time is the most probable time of completing your long ride.
3. Prepare your mind
I realised that more than physical preparation, you need to prepare yourself mentally for this gruesome challenge. In my 200 km brevet, my body was in auto mode pedalling continuously. The challenge was to fight the boredom. An idle mind can be a deterrent to your success since it’s very easy to start thinking about how much more you have to ride, how tired you are, how boring this stretch of road is.
To keep my mind occupied I did below mentioned things (Few of them are hilarious)
- Keep talking to other participants in the brevets.
- Analyze the road quality and look for optimal safe lines for your wheels. (White lines on the highways)
- Be extra cautious and pay attention to the traffic, this isn’t Europe where cyclists are given a priority on roads.
- Look at the little details like trees, bushes, insects. This is especially helpful on a long route. Think of something which fascinates you. (if you know what I mean :))
- Think and visualize your next stop point and keep at least a distance of 50 km between stops.
- Listen to music but at low volume and with one earbud only. (This is quite unsafe, so avoid it if possible) For more on listening to music while cycling read my previous article.
4. Prepare for unwanted stops and mechanical failures (Essentials to carry)
This is by far the most important part when it comes to ultra cycling. You need you to have your bike in top condition. You need to set up your bike, clothing, tools, food, spares etc. Let’s talk about these things one by one.
200 km brevet or for that matter any brevet can be done on any type of human powered bike. It can be a Road bike (Which is easiest), it can be a Hybrid bike (A little tough) and a mountain terrain bike. (Toughest) It all depends on the fitness state of the participants and the riders mental strength. I did this on a road bike equipped with hybrid bike tyres. (Polygon Stratos S2) It’s ideal to train on the same bike that you’ll be riding on the long ride. Your body will adjust to the bike, and you’ll have time to adjust everything to work as well as it should.
Check out a few brevet bikes on Amazon.
Your bike should be well fitted, and you shouldn’t have any pain during riding. Just make sure that whichever bike you ride, at the time of purchase make sure that the bike shop does a proper bike fit for you. If you don’t like to fiddle with the bike, every decent bike shop will be able to do a good bike fit for you.
Service the bike
I talked with a lot of riders, a day before the ride started. Most of them got their bike services a week before the ride. That way they can take care of any adjustments that they might identify during the test rides. Check that the wheels are true, tyres and tubes are in good condition (or replace them), check and service or replace cables and brake pads if worn, chain is in good condition etc. Most of the rides say a big “NO” for getting the bike services a day or two before the ride. Not recommended!
Ride in the same bib shorts and cycling jersey that you trained in, even if old, you are comfortable in them. Plan to carry a base layer and a foldable rain jacket in one of your pockets, so that you can layer if you get hit by cold or rain. Carry an extra pair of socks in a ziplock bag – after a rain, put on dry socks, then the plastic bag over the dry socks and the wet socks over the bag. This way your feet will be dry and you’ll be able to continue riding. Helmet and cycling eyewear go without saying, no need to describe them. Most important, please wear a reflector jacket or a reflector belt, always remember safety comes first.
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Food and liquids
You need to keep yourself hydrated. Carry two water bottles and a spare one in your backpack if you can keep one. I carried two water bottles. Plan to have a small sandwich/fruit every hour. You should carry enough stuff for the first 4 hours, then you can replenish at control points along the way. In 200 km brevet we control point at 50 km and then at 100 km, we got plenty of hydration support and refreshments. Audax marshalls are helpful at control points only as this is a self-supported ride.
Spares and tools
Carry two tubes and a portable pump. A portable toolkit with chain breaker is a must. Learn how to break and connect a chain with your chain breaker ahead, practice on any old and discarded chain. Have a front (white) and rear (red) light on your bike, with fresh batteries. Also, you need to have your rider number properly displayed at the front and back. I had two flats while coming back from 100 km control point. Luckily the riders on the way had pumps to fill the air and puncture kit. My biggest mistake was not to take these essentials things. In my next BRM of 300 KM, I will carry all these essentials things.
Other Important Stuff
Money and ID, several strips of adhesive bandages, 4-6 pain pills (ibuprofen or similar), glucose tablets. ORS and electoral packet are essentials too. Magnesium powder packets are good for preventing an onset of cramps. I carried my cell phone to record my ride on STRAVA. I will also recommend keeping a battery bank to charge your cell phone in case it runs out of juice. My GoPro was my companion along with other riders, which I charged with the battery bank that I carried.
So that was everything about the 200 Km Brevet that I attempted and completed recently. If you have any questions please leave in the comments. I will get back to you as soon as possible.