What is a Brevet?

An Introduction to Randonneuring

See this page for rules.

See this page for an introduction to Salt Lake Randonneurs.

See this page for a map of all randonneuring regions in the USA.

See this PDF doc for a 192-page handbook on randonneuring.

A Brevet is a timed, long distance road cycling event. Brevet (bruh vay) means certificate which refers to the card carried by randonneurs which gets stamped or signed at checkpoints along the way. The word brevet also refers to the event itself, that is, a certified ride (this sport originated in France, hence the odd names). At the beginning of the ride you get a passport type card called a “brevet card,” which becomes your “proof of passage” showing that you completed the entire course without shortcutting and that you finished it within the allotted time limit. A brevet is not a race, although riders seek to improve their personal best times. It is a “pass or fail” event—you either finish within the allocated time frame or you don’t. Results are listed alphabetically, not by your finish time.

For many, the goal is simply to finish and to go farther than they have before. This type of cycling is called randonneuring (rahn doe ner ing) and is a type of ultracycling. A person that rides a brevet is called a randonneur (rahn doe ner, male) or a randonneuse (rahn doe nuhz, female). Randonneuring, unlike bicycle racing, has minimal or no support during the event. Regular road bikes or recumbents are used and drafting is allowed. Longer brevets or more specially, a grand randonnée, which is a multi-day event, usually have a drop bag service. A randonneur is different than a “self-contained touring cyclist” as we travel lighter, without the heavy pannier bags needed for camping. Randonnée is a French word, which loosely translated, means a ramble or long journey.

For more rando glossary info, visit the RUSA site, or skip to the bottom of this page for more definitions. For a more general cycling glossary visit the Road Bike Rider site.

A full brevet “series” is made up of the four traditional distances. You can ride any length event in any order. They do not have to be done with incrementally longer distances, though some find it easier to “build up to” those longer distances, like a 400K or 600K:

200 km = 125 miles, 13.5 hour limit
300 km = 187 miles, 20 hour limit

400 km = 250 miles, 27 hour limit

600 km = 375 miles, 40 hour limit
(Miles are rounded off.)

A shorter brevet, between 100–199 km, is called a Populaire.

Additionally, there are longer brevets:

1,000 km = 620 miles, 75 hour limit (3 days & 3 hours)

And the granddaddy of them all, frequently called a Grand Randonnée:

1,200 km = 750 miles, 90 hour limit (3 days & 18 hours)

More Info on Calculation of Brevet Times

Differences Between a Commercial or “Charity” Century Ride and a Brevet

  • A commercial ride has water & nutrition stops every 20-30 miles. Many brevets have no regular support—instead you must stop at convenience stores & purchase your own supplies, which are sometimes spaced 40-45 miles apart.
  • A commercial ride usually has a sag vehicle. Some brevets have no support, and thus suggest you call a family member to come get you in the event of a mechanical or if you bonk.
  • A commercial ride frequently has hundreds of cyclists to draft with. Many randonneurs use aerobars as they know they may be “on their own” for long periods of time.
  • A commercial ride has arrows painted on the road, or signs posted where to turn, supplemented by a cue sheet. On a brevet you are only provided a cue sheet, supplemented by a link to an online map or a GPS guidance system.
  • Many commercial rides are over by dark. Some brevets run all night long, so one must pack lighting gear and night-time apparel for the cold.
  • A commercial race has a wheel van following your age-group with spare wheels. Many randonneurs use high-spoke count rims to lesson the probability of a having a broken wheel, when they are 40 miles from the nowhere.
  • On some races, if the weather really turns nasty (blowing wind & hail, lightening etc.), you can seek refuge inside the support vehicle. On a brevet, you seek refuge in a ditch on the side of the road (true story), or, if you are lucky, a convenience store, unless it is the middle of the night and they are closed.
  • Pro racers not only have a wheel van, but a support vehicle with complete bikes, extra clothing and nutrition. Randonneurs carry their rain gear and special foods & powdered drinks with them.

So why do a brevet then? Satisfaction in doing a self-sufficient ride. Lower cost. Many brevet series are offered in ultra-endurance distances not offered by most commercial rides (200-750 miles in length).

Summary of Other Rando Terms

  • A “populaire” is a shorter brevet-format event of 100-199km
  • A “brevet” is a randonnée event of 200-1999km
  • A “grand randonnée” is a randonnée event of 1200km or longer
  • A “permanent populaire” is a randonnée ride of 100-199km (not a pre-scheduled event, but a route that is permanently available to ride on ones own schedule)
  • A “permanent” is a randonnée ride of 200km or longer (not a pre-scheduled event, but a route that is “permanently” available to ride on ones own schedule). More Info on Permanents.

Gear List (from Richard)

  • Bicycle with two filled water bottles (sometimes a third one is mounted to my down tube near my bottom bracket)
  • GPS with route uploaded (external battery pack for 300K or longer to power the GPS)
  • Two spare tubes
  • Spare tire
  • Patch kit
  • Two CO2 cartridges & an inflator
  • Mini frame-pump
  • Helmet
  • Eyewear: prescription sunglasses & regular “indoor” glasses
  • Cash and/or credit card
  • Pen (for writing on control card)
  • Small repair kit with chain links, mini pliers, bicycle multi-tool
  • Apparel: varies according to the forecast, but may include arm warmers, leg warmers, waterproof breathable jacket, Rainlegs, short finger gloves, long-finger gloves, Buff, Halo Skull cap.
  • Nutrition: extra sports drink in powdered form, electrolytes, mixed nuts, granola bars, Cliff Shot Rox, Fig Newtons etc.
  • Medication: Ibprofen, SportLegs, anti-acid, Caffeine gum (for 600K or longer)
  • Lighting: front white blinky light & 150-lumen rear red blinky “daylight safety” light
  • Seat bag large enough to stow all the extra clothing which I am wearing in the cool morning hours.
  • For 300K or longer: reflective vest & reflective ankle bands

3 Replies to “What is a Brevet?”

  1. Yes Jim, our brevets are ACP sanctioned & certified, so they will count towards PBP qualification and ACP awards.

  2. Thanks Ken. Just wanted to be sure as we are working on our SR series for PBP. We have our pre-registration for the 90 hour tandem group on the Sunday late afternoon launch. Looking forward to riding again in Utah!

Comments are closed.