TWENTY YEARS OF RANDONNEURS MONDIAUX by Robert Lepertel – Part 2 Addendum

[translation:Gerry Pareja, Vancouver]

The broad outlines of the structure of les Randonneurs Mondiaux appear in the constitution; of course, it is about the brevets validated by Audax Club Parisien (200, 300, 400, 600 and 100km). The general assembly of les Randonneurs Mondiaux is scheduled every 4 years following Paris-Brest-Paris. There are elections for president, vice-president and renewal of the trasurer’s mandate. To be validated , events must appear in the ACP calendar (published every year at the end of December). As noted above, the first President is Robert Lepertel (then ACP president), John Nicholas is Vice President and Jacques Delava is Treasurer. 

The name les Randonneurs Mondiaux was adopted bt 7 votes to one for International Randonneurs. 

In 1987 because of dissention in England, we had two Audax United Kingdom representatives at the GA with John Nicholas (not Noel Simpson) holding the vote. This did not change the result, as J.C. Muzellec, who stood for election to prevent a split, was elected unanimously on the first ballot.Francesc Porta was chosen Vice President and Robert Lepertel replaced Jacques Delava as Treasurer. 

Several important developments took place between 1983 and 1987. J.C.Muzellec was instrumental in adding Denmark, Norway and Finland to the ranks of brevet organizers, being the official representative for the first two, with Paavo Nurminen of Finland, who had just completed PBP, joining the table but without a vote yet. 

Gerry Pareja asked us to allow the various Canadian provinces to correspond directly with ACP . We acceded to this request, but we quickly realized that we could not generalize it because it created a lot of additional work that we were not in a position to take on, e.g. verifying itineraries, (even given local road maps, is very complicated) and more mail. This is why we have not agreed to expand this further. 

First Ontario, the Prairie Randonneurs of Saskatchewan, Rocky Mountains of Alberta and Club Vélo Randonneurs of Montreal, Quebec joined over the years. This bought us new and long-lasting friendships, but as with anything else, it is good to know when to stop. 

The British Columbia Randonneurs Cycling Club, which started out with four members (G.Pareja, J.Hathaway, D.McGuire and Wayne Phillips, who was later disabled for life in a tragic crash with a vehicle), grew and quickly climbed up the ranks asone of the most active members. 

The United States, led by J.Konski, also grew strongly and quickly thanks to his efforts, later to be criticized mainly because he wanted to to everything alone. However at the start, he had a fair number of members of IR (International Randonneurs) and above all some twenty states that backed him. For us James was a long-time friend (’75 PBP), and he is the one that turned the USA on to the open-speed formula. 

Later, we witnessed the birth of RUSA;(Randonneurs USA) but more about this below. James Konski’s seminal work was to bear fruit, to be expected when the land is well plowed and seed well planted. 

John Nicholas bitterly resigned his post to a new AUK Committee which included Noel Simpson. AUK has grown steadily to reach the current level of about 3000 members. The leaders keep busy with event planning (with several offshoots of ACP events:e.g. fléches, hill climb brevets, and later an Arrow to York, modelled on the Fléche Vélocio with the same rules, following the example of various national Fléches (Australia, Canada, Nordiques, USA etc.). 

During his 4-year mandate, J.C.Muzellec got the Germans interested and encouraged the Belgians to get the Dutch to join up. Several years later, Germany sponsored Austria. 

To wrap up J.C.Muzellec’s term, Ireland joined the RM family. An important protocol was signedby J.C. Muzellec and ACP’s President J.C.Massé. ** 

In 1991, the General Assembly elected Francesc Porta (Catalonia/Spain) President, with Gerry Pareja (Canada) as Vice President. R.Lepertel stayed on as Treasurer. 

Francesc was not very active, in part due to his job, as a professor at the University of Barcelona, where the discovery of a mammoth was to keep him busier than first thought and family problems did not help a bit. Therefore, we had few or no outside contacts. Gerry Pareja also had work constraints. There was neither fax nor e-mail at that time, and long gaps between letters. Having received orders, I produced more than a thousand pins for the tenth anniversary of the RM after sending Francesc and Gerry brief notes. This generated a bit of cash flow; happily there were practically no expenses. 

In 1991 there was a double anniversary: 100 years of PBP and 70 years of ACP open-speed brevets.Both events yielded great results, with PBP surpassing 3,000 entries and we registered well over 25,000 brevets over the traditional distances, with 300 brevets of 100km (3rd best performance of all time). 

The Russians expressed an interest in joining the RM, with Valery Komotchkov of Velo Club Orion (Volgograd) becoming the contact person for Russia. They were to face enormous challenges in view of the country’s economic sutuation, but Valery’s guts and iron will carried them through the difficult phases. 

In 1995 the General Assembly was held at France Miniature near St Quentin en Yvelines. 

Three candidates ran fro the Presidency: Réal Prefontaine from Canada, James Konski from International Randonneurs USA and Jennifer Wise, representing the RM sanctioned Boston-Montreal-Boston. On the second ballot, Jennifer Wise received the majority of votes. Réal Prefontaine well versed on the issues, became Vice President, replacing Gerry Pareja who had chosen not to run. 

It was natural for the presidency to move to one of the nine founding countries. R.Lepertel kept the treasury, mainly for reasons of cost for the members, who receive just one invoice at year’s end for ACP brevets, medals, RM dues and charges which can be paid with a single cheque, thus resulting in lower costs for all concerned. 

This new team transformed the RM. Given the President’s energy, very frequent contact with the Vice President and the Treasurer, and taking the time to document points which might have remained obscure, benefitting those who may come later without knowing where it all started. We even held one three-way telephone conference for important issues. 

A special Randonneurs Mondiaux medal for 1200km brevets was created with Jennifer and Réal’s acquiescence. I took charge of dealing with the maker and got very good terms, including delivery to the USA 

We saw more development of brevets of 1200km and longer. Several new countries joined us (South Africa,Ukraine, Bulgaria and Costa Rica). In sum, a superb four-year term, bringing forward its momentum to 1999, when Réal Préfontaine took the position of President 

At the General Assembly of 1999, in addition to the President, Don Briggs of Australia was elected, also unanimously, to the position of Vice President, R. Lepertel remained Treasurer, as ever, for the same reasons given above. Unanimous approval was given to a motion to include the price of the RM medal in the entry fees for brevets of 1200 km or longer, but keeping the 10FF fee to cover verification and validation of each brevet, and relevant shipping costs. 

The General Assembly adopted relaxed time limits, by comparison with the 90 hours allowed for 1200 km brevets, for brevets of 1400 and 2000 km; this is natural. In fact, the overall average was lowered (12 km/h for 1400 and 2000 km events). 

Réal Préfontaine oversaw the birth of the 2000-km brevets to welcome the year 2000. While there were only three such events, their very existence is worth recalling; 44 randonneurs earned the brevet, including 2 women: Birgit Henriksen and Ulrike Frost. 

E-mail has shortened distances; nowadays more than 90% of RM’s contacts use e-mail. Collaboration amongst the President, Vice President and Treasurer is very close. On Don Briggs’ initiative, an RM jersey is in process. With the arrival of Japan, Brazil, New Zealand (reporting to Australia),Switzerland, Greece, and the expected but unsuccessful entry by Senegal, we now have all 6 continents at the table, and have passed the milestone of 25 member countries. 

The workload of Thierry Rivet responsible and for the ACP brevets organized by French clubs, and of Yannis Varouchas, responsible for the foreign clubs, will increase sharply in 2003, year of PBP (Editor’s note: Yannis passed away in January 2003 and Suzanne Lepertel took over his duties for 2003). 

In France the numbers of brevets organized in the years between PBP’s drops due to the number and range of events organized by the French clubs. In 2003 some 20,000 foreign brevets will be validated all of which will add up to a reasonable prediction of a total of some 35,000 brevets. 

To everyone at all levels who have given of themselves to further the cause of randonneur cycling, we give our very sincere thanks. 

If someone had told me, 20 years ago, that in 20 years we would be at this level, I would have given him a bemused and suspicious look. ACP’s international fame, the acceptance of its events and rules by randonneurs, now spread across more than 25 countries, fill us with happiness at the work we have done, and proud that we have been able to win others over to our cause. 

The work everyone has accomplished is worthy of our respect and our most sincere encouragement to continue on the path agreed upon and forged by all. 

Everyone, whether they were founders of the ACP, who participated in its growth or who are witnessing its current frailty, who had the wherewithal to create and develop the long distance randonnée, and all those who carry on with our concepts and our formula are worthy recipients of our big Thank You. 

Robert Lepertel, Treasurer, les Randonneurs MondiauxNovember, 2002 

**The protocol of agreement between J.C. Massé,president of ACP and J. C. Muzellec, President of les Randonnuers Mondiaux, had the intention of transferring control of brevets of 1200km and longer to the President of RM (the ACP was to limit itself to brevets up to 1000km, plus PBP). The objective of this exception was to push the development of brevets of 1200km and longer,by giving lesRM and their President an additional motivation to respond to requests (which have grown in numbers) and raising the profile of the President’s position in general. 


[translation:Gerry Pareja, Vancouver] 

There are two parts to this. The first part outlines the foundation of Randonneurs Mondiaux in 1983. The second part, called the “Addendum”, traces the organisation from 1983-2002.This material first appeared on the original RM website in 2003 under the presidency of Réal Préfontaine’s presidency (1999-2003). Sometime later it disappeared. Special thanks to Gerry Pareja for retrieving both the English and French versions from his files and forwarding them to me. The blue photos are from the 1983 PBP “plaquette” [Eric Fergusson, January 2008] Our thanks to BC Randonnuers for allowing us to use this articles and photos. 

Of the “anciens” and founders of les Randonneurs Mondiax at the end of August 1983*,the only ones left are the Spainards Francesc Porta and José Luis Garcia-Rodriguez, contacts for Catalonia/Spain and the Basque Country respectively, and myself as Treasurer of RM. 

First of all, here is the summary of the agreement signed at the founding meeting of les Randonneurs Mondiaux: 

Other than the above founders, we recall: 

  • Russell Moore, representing Australia 
  • Marc Demaesmaker and Jacques Delava, Belgium 
  • John Nicholas, England 
  • James Konski, United States of America 
  • John Hathaway, Canada 
  • Jean-Claude Muzellec, Sweden 

Marc Dobise, President of the French Cyclotouring Federation (F.F.C.T.), attended this founding meeting. 

Photo soirée Randonneurs Mondiaux (photo Allaire)
1er rang:J.Konski, J.L.Garcia, J.Nicholas, M.Dobise, L.Hathaway, F.Porta
2e rang: R.C.Muzellec, Devos,Lepertel,Delava (caché), R.Moore (caché), Demaesmaker,
dessous 3 rangées de 3
(Caption from the 1983 PBP plaquette) 

The 9 founding countries voted unanimously (less one vote) for President: Robert Lepertel; Vice President: John Nicholas; and Treasurer: Jacques Delava. 

The main concepts outlining the guidelines for the future of the oganization were adopted, namely: 

  • The President is elected for a 4-year,non-renewable term 
  • Annual dues are 100FF 
  • Admission fee, after two years probation, is 200FF 
  • New countries must be sponsored by member countries, whose duty is to make sure that Audax Club Parisien rules for brevet organization are closely adhered to. 

Member countries agree that the Audax Club Parisien is the only body that recognizes and registers open-speed brevets organized under its rules. Audax Club Parisien route cards are mandatory for organized events (later amendments allowed countries to have their own route cards, as long as they were registered and approved by Audax Club Parisien). All the foregoing formed part of a protocol of agreement to be signed by each country. 

To our knowledge, this point causes no difficulties. From the beginning, the Audax Club Parisien has indicated that any interference with the internal affairs of a country was outside of its purview. When serious problems have arisen, we have acted as mediators, leaving it to the General Assemblies of each country to make their own best decisions by majority vote. 

To our knowledge, there is no more underlying issues. This is a source of joy to us, as we see our concept of open-speed randonneur cycling as a superb facet of the practice of cycletouring. 

We wish to extend our sincere thanks to those who helped at the birth of les Randonneurs Mondiaux. We hope they will continue to trust us, continue to help us out and reap their reward in the form of strong participation in our formula in their countries. 

Robert Lepertel
Treasurer, les Randonneurs Mondiaux 

*All of the directors of Audax Club Parisien attended this meeting. 

The Great Ontario Adventure of Karl Kron, October, 1883.

Karl Kron (1846-1911), American Bicycling Maven of the Nineteenth Century

If the sport had existed, Karl Kron probably would have been a pretty spectacular randonneur. His book, Ten-Thousand Miles on a Bicycle, reveals that he would have fit into our club very well: like us, he wanted to ride his bicycle far, and, like us, he enjoyed cycling in Ontario. Not that he rode all his 10,000 miles here. Over an approximately six-year period, he toured all over the eastern US, from Kentucky to Illinois, and from Maine to Virginia. He even took his bike to Bermuda. He got around. That he did it all on a penny-farthing bicycle makes it even more impressive. In 1883, he made two rides in Canada. The first, in August, took him through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The second, in October, took him across southern Ontario.

An entirely fictitious illustration of Karl Kron. (Copyright T. Ormond, 2021)

Kron self-published his Ten-Thousand Miles on a Bicycle in 1887, and it is an indispensable primary source for anyone interested in the early days of cycling in North America. In it he recounts all his travels around the United States and Canada. He also describes related matters, like the purchase of his bicycle, the emergence and growth of the first American cycling clubs, bicycle maintenance, and early riding methods, clothing and equipment. Throughout the entire book, Kron discusses the quality of roads in the era before cars (spoiler alert – they were very bad). At over 900 pages in length, Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle feels very authoritative. There is no question that Kron was an experienced and knowledgeable cyclist.

Karl Kron, Bicycling “Crank”

But another thing that emerges, very quickly, is that Kron is an eccentric. He is an unapologetic one, and often descends quite steeply into the ridiculous. First of all, his real name was Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg. He created the pseudonym Karl Kron out of “Col. Chron.,” an abbreviation of “College Chronicle,” the name of his column in World magazine (Norcliffe 158). Second, his entire book takes thoroughness to an absurd extreme. The preface is 107 pages long: it has a meticulously detailed table of contents, a general index, an index of places listing every geographical feature he could have conceivably seen from the road, an index of every single person he encountered, and four addenda. There are countless examples of extraordinary scrupulousness such as these. If there is a circle in Hell reserved for the excessively detailed and pedantic, Kron is most certainly there.

But that is not all: as his title hints, Kron took a keen interest in racking up the miles. Using his brass cyclometer, he recorded them to the nearest quarter mile: in 1879, he rode 742 miles over 47 days; in 1880, it was 1 474 ½ miles in 58 days; in 1882, 1 956 miles in 67 days… etc. But miles ridden are not enough for Kron. No, he also recounts all the miles he traveled with his bicycle in tow, be it on a train (he provides the number and route of each one), on a steamboat, on a canal narrowboat, or in a wagon. He even discusses all the travel he undertook associated with the bicycle’s production.

Lastly, perhaps the strongest example of Kron’s eccentricity is the chapter about his dog, Curl. There is absolutely no connection between his pet and his bicycle. In fact, Curl died ten years before Kron even owned his bicycle. He acknowledges the lack of connection and actually admits that he included the chapter about Curl because he couldn’t get it published anywhere else. The book opens with an illustration of the dog, and follows with this dedication:

Dedication to Curl, his bull-dorg?

I don’t mean to poke fun, but Kron just made me think of a reading dog, one whose heart is breaking as he learns all the details of his owner’s cycling addiction. But I digress.

So, yes, Kron’s Ten-Thousand Miles on a Bicycle is an important source of information about the early days of cycling, but it is one with numerous and sometimes glaring flaws. It is available for free as a pdf on Google Books, but before you download it, consider yourself forewarned. It might be the most unusual book about cycling ever written.

The Great Ontario Adventure of Karl Kron, October 1883

It would be a mistake, however, to completely dismiss Kron. Yes, he was too isolated: he did not know how to share what was universally appealing or interesting about his impressive cycling experiences. True, he was too focused on cataloging details – every single one of them: it never occurred to him that he should be telling a story (and doing it with considerably fewer words). But sometimes, despite himself, Kron does talk about his cycling experiences in an almost relatable way.

One of those occasions is when he describes his ride across southern Ontario. Starting in Windsor, he went eastward, meandering through Huron Chapter country, then straight across Toronto Chapter land, and ending in the domain of the Ottawa Chapter. Yes, he is still verbose and boastful, but it is interesting to read about what cycling in Ontario was like all those years ago.

Reference: Railway Map of Province of Ontario, Shewing Lines Chartered since Confederation, 1875. The Route was plotted on the basis of the work of Glen Norcliffe (164) (Copyright T. Ormond, 2021)

Mechanical difficulties were completely different back then. There were no inner tubes to puncture. There weren’t even any cables or chains to snap. Troubles were much more catastrophic, like large chunks of your bike falling to pieces. This happened to Kron near Georgetown when his handlebars snapped in two. He had to walk into town and get a new set forged. Horses still dominated the countryside in 1883, so blacksmiths were easy to find.

Public electricity was not yet available. This meant the country roads at night were completely dark. Nor were there any viable forms of lighting fixtures for bicycles. Moonlight was essential. Riding in Ontario in the autumn, Kron often had the added benefit of frost, which made the road glimmer in the moonlight and helped him stay out of the ditches. Otherwise, night riding was slow and dangerous. It often meant walking.

Diet was more restricted. There were fewer places to stop for food. Kron often talks about taking quarts of milk, which I suppose means he stopped at farms. He also rode for long periods of time without taking in any food at all.

Kron rarely discusses the landscape. He is only interested in road conditions and the number of miles he can cover on them. His first description of the land only comes on the seventh day of his tour when he passes his first cedar grove in a place called Osprey, near Guelph. The only other comment he has about all the land features between Windsor and Guelph is that the countryside is “open” with “long hills in the teeth of the wind,” “affording fine views of the autumn foliage.” I would prefer to have more descriptions of what the landscape looked like back then, but I think that is asking too much of Kron. If it’s not a road, Kron doesn’t see it.

All his attention on the roads makes one thing very clear: they were bad, very bad. Kron often complains about them:

The 13 miles ending at Goderich at 4:30 P.M. were done in 2 hours, though level roadway (much of it in sight of Lake Huron) was nearly all muddy and difficult (313).

And elsewhere…

My cyclometer said it was 14 miles, I got over it at the rate of 3 miles per hour, with occasional bits of riding (312).

Glen Norcliffe, in his Ride to Modernity: The Bicycle in Canada, 1869-1900, gives a thorough description of Ontario roads in the late nineteenth century. They were not paved, none of them. Your best chance was to ride on macadam. These were dirt roads covered with compacted gravel that might be mixed with sand and finer gravel. If the road was not macadamized, you had to ride directly on dirt, and then the local topography dictated. Sand was a challenge, especially when it was dry. Clay — wet or dry — was a nightmare. After a rain, clay became slick. When dry, it hardened into ruts made by wagon wheels when the road had been wet. Road conditions also depended on the locality: available raw materials and local attentiveness often determined road surfaces as much as mother nature (Norcliffe 166-8).

So, dismounting and walking your bicycle was an integral part of any ride in the late nineteenth century. Sometimes the walking would carry on for great distances. Stretches of riding “without dismount” are noteworthy. Kron made a thorough preliminary research of road conditions throughout southern Ontario before his arrival. Yes, he includes all his research as a very long footnote (314-6). He wanted to have a sense of the walking to riding ratio before embarking on his tour.

His research revealed that Ontario roads were relatively good, and he came here with the intention of completing 100 miles in one day, an accomplishment that had proven elusive on other tours. It took him four days to get from Windsor to London, but on 11 October he set off at 5:45 am with the aim of completing an imperial century.

Things began inauspiciously with the bridge out at Arva. He spent 15 minutes walking through the sandy creek. Then things quickly improved. Within three hours he had already covered 20 miles. As a reward he stopped for breakfast in Clandeboye. After breakfast, there was a brief dismount “to avoid skittish horses,” but from there he carried on without difficulty to Exeter where he “imbibed two lemonades.” It was now 11:10 am and Kron had already covered 34 miles. Exiting Exeter, he chased a horse and buggy: the driver was trying to outrun Kron and “served very effectively as a pace-maker.” Between Exeter and Bayfield, our intrepid hero covered a distance of 22 miles in 2 hours and 22 minutes, “the swiftest of all my long straightaway stays in the saddle.” He would have been even faster had he not had to halt “as a precaution against frightening a pretty woman’s horse.” It was now 2pm and Kron had covered 56 miles. Road conditions on the approach to Goderich slowed him down considerably, but he persevered. By 5:45pm, he had completed 72 miles, “the longest distance ever done by me in twelve hours.”

Plotting Kron’s route on RWGPS revealed that his cyclometer was wrong. If he started at Tecumseh House in London, as he claims, then he only covered 96 miles by the time he reached Hicks House in Mitchell. Incidentally, Hicks House still stands.

Reference: Maps of Huron, Perth and Middlesex counties sketched from references at the Canadian County Atlas Digital Project. (Copyright T. Ormond, 2021)

The hills he encountered after Goderich took their toll on his morale. He stopped for two hours at a hotel in Holmesville where he bathed, changed his clothes, and had supper. He had now completed 76 miles. It was here that he learned about the hotel in Mitchell, a place called Hicks House. It was 24 miles away: if he reached it before sunrise he would accomplish his 100-mile goal. Anticipating good weather, and counting on a full moon, Kron set off into the late afternoon with the expectation of reaching Mitchell in the wee hours of the morning.

But things did not go according to plan: having reached Clinton by 9:15, the clouds moved in to cover the moon and the wind turned abruptly against him. Kron kicked back a ginger ale to steel himself against these contingencies. He continued on to Seaforth, covering 9 miles in two hours. Conditions did not improve: he bought two more ginger ales. By midnight his cyclometer stood at 91 miles: “the wind blew against me with increasing force, the mist thickened, and the darkness deepened, so that the track grew much more obscure.” He was riding without any sort of lighting to speak of. He found that there were giant rocks in the road and so he walked in order to avoid them. Reaching the hamlet of Dublin at 1am, and with only 6 miles remaining until Mitchell, Kron noticed the road suddenly smoothen beneath his feet. He started riding again. Without light to read his cyclometer, Kron counted wheel revolutions in order to calculate his distance traversed. (Leave it to Kron to bring pi onto a bike ride…) By the time he had counted four miles, he suddenly fell into a mud hole. The road, again, had become too dangerous for night riding. He walked the remaining distance to Mitchell, where he found Hicks House at 2 am. “I had to kick and hammer for a long while before I could arouse the proprietor. Meanwhile the rain began to fall.” Kron had covered his much sought after 100 miles in one day.

His tour across Ontario continued to Prescott, where he crossed the St. Lawrence River and returned to the US at Ogdensburg, NY. Along the way he stopped in Toronto and became acquainted with some of the cycling club luminaries around there. For those curious to read more, his Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle is available on Google Books for free. The relevant chapters about Canadian tours are “Nova Scotia and the Islands Beyond” (282-293), and “Thousand Islands to Natural Bridge” (334-352). I got my information for this article from the first chapter of his book and “A Fortnight in Ontario” (310-333). Glen Norcliffe’s The Ride to Modernity: The Bicycle in Canada, 1869-1900 was another important source for this article.

Conclusion. A Feast in the Time of the Plague? … or just a snack?

Karl Kron’s Ten-Thousand Miles lies far outside the norm. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it would be so much easier to tolerate if he were a good writer too. There have been plenty of very oddball authors whose idiosyncrasies have been softened by good craft and the regular employment of le mot juste. Not so in Kron’s case.

There is nevertheless something enjoyable about his book. When taken in small chunks and with several enormous grains of salt, I found it …not quite intolerable. I did genuinely get some vicarious pleasure imagining him with his 46-inch wheeled penny-farthing bicycle touring across southern Ontario with horses on macadam, sand and clay.

And yet, I fear that my diving into the world of Kron might have been a reflex and not a choice. Maybe it is just because of the unusual context I find myself in, it being COVID-19 and all. Under normal circumstances, I might not have downloaded and read this book, written an article about it, and made three illustrations. After all, this is a man that history almost forgot.

Meh. Perhaps it is unwise to dwell on normal circumstances …

There most certainly will be a future, but for now there is lockdown. And if we are in a lockdown then there is time for Karl Kron. The 900-plus pages of his Ten-Thousand Miles on a Bicycle will have to serve as my feast in the time of the plague.