One of my favorite ways to measure how nice a place is to cycle is with the “cow ruler”. This is basically the number of miles you have to travel until you see farm animals. On the Tscheschter Kaundi 200K Brevet, I spotted my first cows around 30 miles. From there the hike just got better.
But let’s go back, what is a hike?
A hike (pronounced rahn-doe-nay) is simply a long bike ride, usually over 100 miles and sometimes much longer. In common cycling use, this usually refers to a non-competitive long-distance race that is timed for safety, with multiple checks (or stops) along the route to keep riders honest. Among hikers, this type of test is also called patent.
The results of a given patent are more precisely a list of graduates and are displayed in alphabetical order. So even though cyclists can ride as fast or as slowly as they want, the only goal is to finish on time while making all the required control stops. I have participated in all kinds of cycling events before and have found this approach pleasantly refreshing. Especially compared to all the events that I have run where the non-competitive and participatory character was codified in “the spirit” only.
I got somewhat interested in this cycling discipline through my coverage of the Philly Bike Expo 2021. There was a noticeable abundance of bikes that looked both classic and modern, with fenders, dynamo-powered lights and usually a handlebar bag. They seemed to mix a bit of touring, gravel, and road bikes into a machine that seemed specially designed to cover long distances quickly. While chatting with people in attendance at the show, I also found out that a 200 km patent organized by the PA Randonneurs group was taking place the same weekend, and another was scheduled for next month, starting just 800 meters from at my home in Manayunk, PA. So I decided to try a new cycling discipline for myself with the Tscheschter Kaundi 200K Brevet on December 4th.
The main takeaway from my first patent was that the vibrations were exceptionally good. From registering for the event to sending emails with the organizer to the presentation the same day, the people were really friendly and happy to welcome a new rider to the venue. Without being too pessimistic about road racing, this is not how I remember my first feeling of road racing.
Back in the days of cycling events costing several hundred dollars and sometimes requiring a lottery, I was also shocked at the low cost of the patent. The registration fee was only $ 20, and an annual Randonneurs USA (RUSA) membership was $ 30 more. The members came up with a book on hiking, which turned out to be fascinating since I knew so little about it. A typical road race in the Northeast costs around $ 50 these days, and you don’t get a pound or a hot ham and cheese sandwich at intermediate control for that money.
To me, the format of stopping at checkpoints and getting your road map signed or stopping to take a photo of your bike with a specific landmark was reminiscent of alley cat races or hunts. treasure. I felt like I was on an adventure with a group of people rather than participating in some sort of exercise competition.
For many, hiking means distance events that are much longer than the 200K I did. The pinnacle of sport is the Brevet de 1200 km Paris-Brest-Paris, which takes place every four years. I’m not sure I would ever be interested in going that kind of distance within the required 90 hours, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed my first patent. I’ve been on long hikes like this in the past, often for training, more recently for fun. I didn’t expect the patent format to significantly change my enjoyment of riding 123 miles, but I was surprised I was wrong. The format and rules of the race seemed to foster camaraderie, and while I had no plans to race more cards, I look forward to riding more in 2022.
If you are also curious about “hiking” my best advice is to contact your local Randonneurs USA chapter. You can find a list of them in the regions tab of the RUSA site. They are organized by state, with some larger states like California or Texas having several regional clubs. Many run patents up to once a month and (in my experience) have been enthusiastic and outgoing towards newcomers.