Riding Populaires

Since Randonneuring involves extreme long-distances, it’s tempting to ask why the club would bother to schedule the shorter populaires. For example, the Toronto Chapter has a 23km populaire in its route archive, The New Year’s 23. This Sunday, the Toronto Chapter will be holding its Rouge Ramble, a 60km populaire. In a club with members aspiring towards completing rides of 200km and longer, why would anyone do a ride of only 23 or 60 km?

Well, I have some answers. Here are some good reasons for riding populaires.

  1. Building Endurance: It takes time to build up your endurance. Populaires tend to be scheduled at the beginning of the season, precisely in order to help members get conditioned for the longer rides. If you look at the populaires in the Toronto Chapter Schedule, for example, you’ll notice that each ride gets progressively longer. If you complete a series of populaires in March and early April, you will be well-prepared to take on The Gentle Start 200k, happening this year on 14 April.
  2. Testing equipment, nutrition, pacing: There is a lot of trial and error in long-distance sports. Randonneuring is no exception. The more experience you have, the better you will be at ensuring your comfort and enjoyment. For example, discovering you have no idea how to keep your toes warm and dry on a 60km ride is not nearly as horrible as learning that lesson on a 200km ride. Observing your nutrition needs as the distances gradually increase will help you better understand how much food to bring/consume. The list goes on. It’s fair to say that experimenting with equipment, pacing, hydration, and nutrition is an ongoing process for every randonneur. Populaires will enable you to conduct your experiments on shorter rides where errors will be less of a problem.
  3. Team-building: Riding populaires is a perfect way to meet other club members and to identify the ones whose goals and abilities match your own. This is another good reason for holding populaires early in the season. Having found “your people” early in the year can help reduce the chances of riding alone on the longer brevets. You’ll begin rides with your friends and acquaintances, not a group of lycra-clad strangers. And who knows? You might gel so well with people that you can put together a flèche team for May.

That’s all I have for now. Other contributions, suggestions and ideas are most welcome.