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Randonneuring: Ride Far With Friends

What if I told you that there is a long-distance bicycling sport that encourages participants to stay together and socialize during rides? It’s true!

Episode summary

00:00 | Intro
04:55 | What is randonneuring?
26:20 | Kate Ankofski
42:13 | Justin Tan
57:28 | Outro


Kate on a brevet.
Justin with his fixed-gear bike.

Connect with us


Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was hosted by Ian R Buck, and edited by Ian and Tim Marino. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.


Kate: [00:00:00] I went on my first 200k with Kit and that was a winter pancake and I was hooked. I was hooked, you know, I mean, I think I’m used to riding alone quite a bit. So it was a little bit nervous going into this thinking, you know, these are people I don’t know, I’m going to be stuck riding with them for 9 to 10 hours. You know, what is this going to be like? And it really just blew my mind how interesting and welcoming and non-intimidating it was to to ride with these people. And now there’s some of my best friends.

Ian: [00:00:37] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Frogtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. I’m your host, Ian R Buck. Today I want to share with you some stories about Randonneuring, a long distance bicycling format. So if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have a very utilitarian relationship with cycling. I bike commute, I go to get groceries, I bike to where I’m going. And for most of my life, I haven’t been very interested in like cycling as a sport. I’ve never been interested in like training for a specific event and competing. But as an expression of utilitarian cycling, one thing that I have been interested in is getting longer and longer distances behind me. Right? Thinking about, okay, I need to visit family in whatever town that’s far away, you know, can I make it there by bicycle? And so naturally, over the course of that journey, I have been pursuing longer and longer distances. Each time that I that I, you know, travel to places. And a few years ago, I remember I was going out to Eau Claire and I decided to take kind of the longer scenic route down to Hastings from the Twin Cities and then cutting a diagonal up from from Prescott, Wisconsin, up to Eau Claire to take advantage of a few prominent trails along that route. And when I got to my destination and posted my recording of the Ride to Strava, one of my co-workers, Tom Cook, who has always, you know, ridden much, much longer distances than I, he he commented on that ride saying, “Hey, you’re going to be a randonneur someday. And I was like, What does that mean, Tom Like you’re just making up words now.

Ian: [00:02:46] But I went and searched it up online and did a little research and I, you know, was reading that randonneuring It’s a long distance bicycling format. 200km is about is like the default route distance. And I almost kind of checked out right then and there. But the article I was reading was talking about that these events are meant to be ridden together as a group and everybody who finishes a ride gets equal credit. It doesn’t matter what order people finish in, it doesn’t matter how fast you go. And that really piqued my interest. The like, it seemed like a really cool way to meet other people who like to ride long distances. And so I looked into it. And here in Minnesota, we have a group, the Minnesota Randonneurs, which is, you know, a local club that’s affiliated with a national and international level organizations for for Randonneuring. And I’ve participated in a few randonneur rides over the last couple of years, and they are just starting up their their spring season right now. They’re having a spring conference to prepare people for the upcoming season to get new riders introduced to the concept. And it is on April 8th at Southdale library. And I wanted to share some some stories with you listeners about Randonneuring. So during the first half of this episode, we’re going to be hearing from a few board members of the Minnesota Randonneurs who are going to talk about the sport itself, the format kind of high level stuff. And then in the second half, we are going to get to chat with a couple of individual randonneurs and talk to them about some of their favorite stories. What are their favorite things about participating in Randonneuring? All right, let’s hop in.

Keith: [00:04:55] Hi, I’m Keith Morical and I’m glad to be here. I joined the Randonneurs in 2019 and I’ve been pretty avid ever since. I actually joined as an excuse to train with other people that wanted to ride long distances and found out that it was so much fun that it was just good to participate anyway.

Ian: [00:05:14] All right, Chris.

Chris: [00:05:15] So my name is Chris Carlson. I’m older than John, but a younger member. I started during the pandemic, riding with friends long distances. And I’m a former bike commuter. Back when we used to go to buildings to work and I am currently the president of the Minnesota Randonneurs.

Ian: [00:05:37] And Rob [Welsh].

Rob: [00:05:37] I’ve been doing Randonneur events for 44 years, is about a 27 year gap in there. I’ve had some family and kids and stuff, but I did PBP in 1979 and I came back to Randonneuring after our kids kind of got through and were off to school. I’ve been doing it since 2007 and around 2008 or 9 I became the RBA, sort of the head of Minnesota Randonneurs. We moved the base for Minnesota Randonneurs, which has been going for about 25 years up to the Twin Cities from Rochester, and it’s just grown from there. And now we have somewhere around 120 members, including see here on this call. And we’ve gone from somewhere between 5 to 6 events a year to close to 50 events this year. Wow. Yeah. One of the things and Ian, you’ve been involved here in the last few years, I think hopefully to some manner we’ve been able to get your interest in what our what our focus I think this year is. And Keith, Chris and John and the rest of our board members are all in on this is to really reach out to the many other people in different clubs or individual rides on gravel bikes and just see how many of these people we can include in the randonneuring tent to this aim. We have a spring conference coming up here in the 8th of April that we’d really like to use this podcast to help get the word out to the broader masses, I guess, and see if we could encourage some of these people to come to this conference on April 8th and see what Randonneuring is all about and we develop an interest in coming out and riding.

Ian: [00:06:58] Yeah, it feels kind of silly to be recording an episode about long distance cycling when we’ve got one of the biggest snowstorms of the year going on right outside.

Rob: [00:07:07] Hey, it’s 90 degrees here. I don’t want to hear it. I bet it’s close to that in Tahiti too.

Ian: [00:07:13] Yeah, we’ve got a couple of people on this call who are not currently in Minnesota, but they’ll be back. They’ll be back before the season starts. Okay. So randonneuring itself. So let’s let’s talk about like the history of it a little bit. Clearly, it’s a very French origin.

Rob: [00:07:30] Randonneuring is French for a ride in the country, a walk in the country. Initially there was this sort of a professional interest. There were bike racing was just getting going then and some of the organizers of these events thought there might be a really good way to drive interest in the sport and try to get more people involved. That might be it might be a good avenue to explore. Henri Desgrange decided that the ultimate event would be to ride from Paris out to the West Coast, Brest and back, which is about 1200 kilometers, and he felt that would bring out the best of the best in the pros and derive a lot of interest from his subscribers. And he was right. He sponsored PBP. He had about 500 people show up. About 400 of them actually started out of that. About 10 or 12 of them were real racers back then. Racing was a different thing. The top 5 or 6 riders took off and rode. They didn’t ride on their own. Every time they got to a small town, there’d be another team of riders sitting there waiting to pace them to the next town. So the top 5 or 6 riders, they got all the bennies. They just sat in there. They got their food handed to them. They got half a dozen strong guys who would haul them to the next checkpoint and then off they’d go behind. That, though, was 2 or 300 riders who weren’t sponsored, weren’t getting anything out of it, just riding for free.

Rob: [00:08:47] And they were called Allure Libra riders that were riding along just for the experience of that. About the early 1920s, pros decided that it was just too much. There’s too many other shorter races where the riders can make more money on. They just decided that they were going to stop doing this 1200k monster ride every ten years. At that time, the Allure Libra Riders got together and formed ACP, who has been the driving force for Randonneuring since then. There were different events put on shorter events. They developed the idea of a 200K, a 300K, a 400K and a 600K as being a qualifier for PBP, so riders were ready to do the actual ride. And finally in 1979 there was an organized effort from the US that put together a program that ACP would accept that that allowed riders to train in the US and come to Paris in 1979 and ride the event. Then there was 32 riders that came over. I was one of those 32 and it was wow, it was an amazing event. It was 1700 riders and they all started in one wave back then and. Now, out of the 32 riders, I think 31 of us didn’t have the vaguest idea of what we were getting into. It was an incredible event for me. It was a transformational event to see how far we could actually go. None of us had ridden more than 600K at a time, but most of the Americans got through that from there.

Rob: [00:10:12] On the American side, about 25 years ago, that would be 1995 or so. The various independent groups around the US got together and formed RUSA, Randonneuring USA, which was sort of the collecting place for all the various randonneur groups in the US to manage their results, to manage their certifications and put an American spin on this sort of sport. Now RUSA is coming up on their 25th or 30th anniversary. There’s over 50 RBA or randonneuring groups around the country that are going to be sending somewhere around 500 riders coming up this year itself. Paris-brest-paris itself has grown from 1700 odd riders back in 1979 to 8000 riders from all over the world that are coming to this event later this summer. So Randonneuring has come a long way since 1891. RUSA as an organization has come a long way in the last 25 to 30 years. Minnesota Randonneurs started 25 years ago, just about the time RUSA was getting started, and as I was saying earlier, they were a small group in Rochester. We moved to the Twin Cities about 13, 14 years ago. We’re one of the larger groups within RUSA with 100 and some odd members who put on about 50 events a year. We’re continuing to grow and we’re really looking to try to find more people that might that would be interested in joining our sport.

Ian: [00:11:29] Talking about PBP as kind of the flagship, the big event that everybody thinks about every four years, was it? Yes, I can tell you that as a newly joining the Randonneur group here in Minnesota, 1200 kilometres is not what you’re going to be signing up for right off the bat. Yeah, it’s much more common. Are the 200K, 100K, 300K events. Let’s talk about that format a little bit. Within Randonneuring you do do those events kind of with an eye towards qualifying for things like PBP or there are awards that you can get for doing a certain number of rides, a certain distance over a course of time. But within each event there’s no timed, like it’s not about who finishes first. So yeah, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about like the distinction there and kind of what, like what flavor of riding that that gives us.

Chris: [00:12:20] Every Randonneuring ride has, I think, two main goals. One is to finish and that’s the primary goal. It’s a bunch of people who help each other out. And you know, somebody has a flat tire. People will help out as best they can. There’s no competition in the sense of a race, and that’s probably one of the biggest draws for me and for many people is that camaraderie and figuring it out like.

Chris: [00:12:45] Oh, we took a wrong turn. Wait, how do we get back? The second thing is, is that every ride is a part of something larger. There’s this qualification. If you finish a 200 oh, you might be set for a 300. And then you can you can get a series, which is all of them in one season, and that does focus participation and persistence. And so I think it’s a real neat part of the ethos of the club is to ride for riding and to really enjoy it. And that’s something that being in Minnesota, we have such a great bike community. I was a bike commuter for years and there’s a real culture around it of just like a blue collar, “Hey, let’s get it done.” And the randonneuring club has it and it attracts just an amazing group of people and I think it’s helped with that dual focus. It’s like, Oh, let’s finish this ride and then, oh, how does that help us for? Yeah.

Keith: [00:13:35] Ian you had said, you know, there’s a number of different rides in there. And Chris, you had talked about the series and I think there’s two parts to it. There’s the camaraderie, which you explained very well. And yet doing a 200K, which is 124 miles, is actually challenging in and of itself. So the ride itself can be challenging. And the core rides that the Minnesota Randonneurs provide are the 200 to 300, the 400 and the 600. Well, the first time you get on your bike, you aren’t going to go 378 And it might even seem kind of ridiculous to even think about that. But once you get that first 200 down, then obviously going to a 300 is is a logical next step. The nice thing that we have, though, as Randonneurs, especially the Minnesota Randonneurs that really have a variety of different types of rides available is that we have the rule series, which is shorter and it starts off at 100K and has 125K, 150, and works its way up to 200. So that could be a challenge for someone just starting off that’s going to be very fulfilling. And then clearly so there’s a distance challenge all the way along, no matter how strong of a rider or how if you’re just starting off or if you’re if you’ve been riding your whole life, I mean, there’s still a challenge ahead of you while you’re doing that with other people and having a lot of fun doing it.

Ian: [00:14:54] And I did just remember that like one of the nice things about a lot of these events is that there will be multiple distance options available at the start. Quite often we’ll be starting at one spot, you know, in like Apple Valley, for example, and there will be a 200K loop option, there will be a 300k loop option. I have in the past, like shown up, realize that nobody else was going to be doing the distance that I wanted to do and just decided I’ll up to the next level and see if I can do a 300K that’s my first 300K of my life. But like let’s see if I can do it. And it went, well.

Keith: [00:15:31] You got the right spirit there, Ian.

John: [00:15:33] I just wanted to add the barrier to entry or the shortest distance is 100K 62 miles, which I think could be more palatable to, you know, a recreational cyclist. You’re like, okay, 62 might be kind of a long day, but if you can show up and you can handle 62, you know, that’s the starting point. And who knows where you’ll be from there. When I first started, I showed up for 100K and it about killed me. And I was like, okay, that’s I’ve hit my limit. But then, you know, once you do the 100, then you, you figure out your system a little bit better, your fitness and you come back. Okay, now I can do 150 or 200 and they’re nice springboard amounts that are standardized. So it’s an alluring program to have all these different distances.

Ian: [00:16:13] Just by showing up, doing those distances. And then also like meeting other people who are riding these long distances. I found that to be a very good way to hone my craft, learn from other people who are doing this on a consistent basis. And everybody loves swapping tips and tricks and, you know, talking about what kinds of equipment we like to use and how often do you take rest stops. Et cetera. Et cetera. Although rest stops are in terms of randonneuring, those are usually built into the rides, which is also a nice feature. All of that planning, not having to do that myself, finding the route and everything I happened to join during the pandemic, which was kind of a weird time because we were instead of encouraged to ride all together, which is kind of the traditional thing that you do in Randonneuring, we were like, okay, pick your like little group of like 1 or 2 other people and just stick with them for the day. Uh, but since then, you know, later on have had opportunities to hang out with a larger group of people. During Randonneuring events, we mentioned that we have 50 events, 50 plus events planned this year. What’s what’s coming down the pipeline? What do we got?

Chris: [00:17:17] 50 events is a lot. So there’s something hopefully for everyone. Uh, you know, we’ve got riders who are using Minnesota Randonneurs as their training for PBP. Paris-brest-paris Like we said, that 1200K is like the kind of the goal for these people. So they’ll build up to that riding incremental distances that get longer and longer. But I think the bread and butter is the 200K, We’ve got a ton of those. We have people who will ride a 200K at least once every month of the year. And of course there’s a RUSA award for that. If you can get 12 200K rides in a row and riding in the winter, that winter program, I mean, that’s tough stuff. But of course there are people out there who are interested in that. Like we mentioned, we’ve got the rule ruler, all the sprints, we got the ruler program that’s a little bit shorter, 100K 125K, 150K and a 200k ride. If you complete all of those, you know, you get an award for that. You got a variety of gravel rides. Obviously, gravel has a different appeal from road riding. So a different, you know, different people might show up for those rides a little bit. Hillier A little more scenic. I think we’ve got 100 and a 200K gravel.

Ian: [00:18:20] And I believe that that’s relatively unique in the Randonneuring world, right? Like not a whole lot of other clubs throughout the country are emphasizing gravel as much as Minnesota Randonneurs are well know.

Chris: [00:18:30] In the greater world, of course, Gravel is ascending and is popular here in the Midwest and in America, too. But Rob, our other our other clubs doing as much gravel as we are?

Rob: [00:18:40] There’s some I think we are blessed with with a lot of gravel opportunities out there. And as you all know, if you go out and look at the different gravel groups that are putting on events, you do a gravel event every month, every week of the year. Out here, we’re starting to get more and more events, adding more events to our calendar with the randonneuring spin. You know, you go out there, do the ride, ride with your friends. It’s not a race. You don’t have to be done in under four hours or whatever. Just get out and enjoy the ride. And the routes are routes that that we’ve checked over and are approved by our national body. So we do put an eye towards safety. And as John said, we try to find some scenic roads. I think gravel is something we’ve been dabbling in and growing a little more every year. This year we’ve we’ve added a number of gravel events and we’re hoping to entice more people to ride along with us.

Chris: [00:19:25] I know it was mentioned before, but I want to mention it again April 8th. We are having a huge in-person kickoff. I know that’s the wrong word to use, but I just can’t think of another word because it’s for football. Right? But we’re opening the season with a conference and we’re super excited to do this. Rob used to do it in the past and we’re going to get together and talk about safety and mechanical things and routes and contests. And so it should be a lot of fun and a great way to reconnect for existing members, but also new members.

Ian: [00:19:56] Yeah, let’s let’s hear all the details on that. Like when, when and where is it?

Rob: [00:20:01] April 8th. It’s at the Southdale library. They have one of the big conference rooms there. If you go to our website, which is [mnrando.org], you’ll see a click, a link to get to register. Registration is free. Were limited to about 50 people, which will fill up pretty quick. Lunch is provided as well as some snacks along the way. We’ll meet at nine in the morning. We’ll finish at noon and if the weather is half decent, we may go for a ride after.

Ian: [00:20:29] So bring your bike with you.

Rob: [00:20:30] Definitely assuming you get dug out after this. This week’s Snowmageddon.

Ian: [00:20:34] Did anybody have any other ideas, any other things that came to mind while we were chatting?

Chris: [00:20:38] One thing that I’ll add is the kind of interesting counterbalance to the everyday nature of biking that I think is at the heart of Randonneuring. Just get out and ride and anyone can do it. It’s amazing what you can do with a group of people, just like you said, like, oh, signed up for the 200. I guess I’m going to do 300. Wow. I did it. That’s really at the heart. At the same time, the more you ride, the more you get to meet interesting people. And there are some incredible people that have done incredible things biking across the country, setting world records, PBP. So it’s really something else. If you have a love of biking or even if you have a love of interesting people, I think it continues to really give back. Every time I go out for a ride and just wanted to pepper that in. We’re not racers and we’re not all these other little niches and so we are quite open, but we have some really high flyers that I think is kind of fun to let everyone know about as well. So come out and meet us all in April.

Ian: [00:21:40] Yeah, I think I joined the Minnesota Randonneurs and watched the North Star bike race right around the same time a couple of years ago and found out that Keith had recently set a world record for like biking through every state in the US in the shortest amount of time. And so I was a little starstruck seeing him at the start of the North Star bike race. But like, as it turns out, he’s just a guy. He’s a cool guy, he’s fun to hang out with. Like.

Chris: [00:22:03] Yeah, I mean, if you want to spend 15, 20, 30 hours with somebody, you go on a ride with them. You get to know them pretty well. He’s amazing and so is the rest of the group. But that’s the kind of little surprises and treasures that you come across. It’s something else.

Keith: [00:22:17] Well, that’s what I said at the beginning, too, is I started as a way to start training for some of those ultra distance races, and it took me my very first ride, which happened to be in November 200, to realize that the fun was with the riding with the other folks that were going along at the same time. So it’s definitely well worth it just to meet the people and talk with the other riders. And to your point, Chris, a moment ago, it’s really cool in that if you’re thinking of 200K is a bit of a stretch. Once you do one with a bunch of people that do them relatively frequently, you gain so much knowledge on how to ride even better, even just by osmosis, even if you aren’t even trying. So that’s kind of cool.

Ian: [00:22:58] And Keith, what’s the what’s that catchphrase that you came up with? I see it in your email signature, like every time that you chat with me.

Keith: [00:23:06] “Ride Far with friends.” Absolutely. I mean, that’s what Randonneuring is. It’s riding fire with friends. Yeah.

Ian: [00:23:11] By joining, it’s a yearly membership, but most of the events are free. Once you are a member, some of the longer distance ones that require an overnight with a hotel stay like that’s going to be some added cost. But one of the nice things that you get with a membership is a quarterly magazine. And I found that especially during the winter months when I wasn’t participating in the winter season, getting that magazine and just seeing stories from from people from across the country, kinds of adventures that they would get up to at Randonneuring events and just keeping that inspiration alive. When I’m stuck inside and keeping to things like cross-country skiing instead of instead of biking long distances.

Keith: [00:23:49] Very inspiring to see what all sorts of different people are doing on their bikes all over the world. It’s great.

Ian: [00:23:55] And I’ve started planning as I think about bike trips, visiting other parts of the country, you know, knowing that there are other randonneuring organizations throughout the country that I can check out and see what they’re up to, where I’m visiting. I think that’s a really positive aspect as well.

Rob: [00:24:11] There’s about 50 randonneuring groups around the US. You do become a randonneur. You have access to the schedules of each of those clubs, can go and join their rides anytime you want. There’s actually another 50 or 60 clubs around the world. If you’re a bit of a traveler, you could get out. I know Keith’s traveled to Australia and done some events or Europe or different parts of the world. It is a worldwide sport. Once you join in, you have access to what these other groups are doing and if you happen to be heading that way, there’s a good opportunity for you to get out and meet some other randonneurs in another country.

Chris: [00:24:41] I do quite a bit of traveling periodically for work and I’ve taken advantage of exactly what Rob is saying. But there’s also something that I think is worth mentioning are permanent program is a fantastic way for you to just go find a route and complete it on your own or with people and it “counts” towards any number of qualifications. And I’ve done permanents and rides in many other states and it’s a fantastic way to see the country. And in fact, it’s a fantastic way to see Minnesota. I’ve been seeing little towns that I’ve lived here my whole adult life and seen more of Minnesota on my bike than I’ve ever seen before.

Rob: [00:25:22] Just this week, one of the RUSA technology guys has just come out with a permanent finder where you can go in and pick where you are and it will tell you all the permanents that are within 25, 50, 100 miles of you or where you happen to be at that particular time and you can sign up and ride. Permanents are a little different than the brevets that the regularly scheduled events. In a permanent you can start wherever on the route that you want and ride the route. You’ve got to cover the miles and end up back at the same place. But it gives you a lot of flexibility. It’s nice knowing that this is a route that someone has scouted out. It’s safe. It’s been approved by RUSA. It as Chris says, it does give you credit for some award type program. But even better, if you’re in a new part of the country, you can say, okay, what’s going on in this part of the world? Here’s a route that’s just 20 miles away. I can go ride that.

Ian: [00:26:08] Yeah, that’s a really good point. Good tools to know about for finding stuff like that. Yeah.

Ian: [00:26:20] All right. Here we are talking to Kate Ankofski, who has been involved in the Randonneuring world for I don’t know how many years. Kate, introduce yourself.

Kate: [00:26:31] That’s a great question. I think it’s been maybe four years now. Let’s go with four. All right.

Ian: [00:26:40] And you let’s see. You were one of the board members for a while, right?

Kate: [00:26:43] I was, And I am. Okay. So the board has been we’ve been an official organization for three years now. And then we just had an elections. And so I’ll be on the board for another three.

Ian: [00:26:56] Very nice. Nice. So four years ago, thinking back, you know, to back then, like. Like what brought you to Randonneuring? Where were you at in, like, your, in your relationship with cycling and how did that go? Yeah.

Kate: [00:27:10] So I have I mean, I’d say it’s unique, but I feel like we all have very interesting and unique introductions to long distance cycling and randonneuring. Um, I got into the sport in general because I saw an Lael Wilcox REI video about the Trans Am and at that point I was commuting three miles to downtown and had not biked a lot as a child. So this was all very, very new. But something about that video kind of hooked me and I knew I wanted to do Trans Am.

Ian: [00:27:46] Because what’s the difference between three miles to work every day and like biking across the country?

Kate: [00:27:52] Right, Right.

Kate: [00:27:54] You know, but what’s crazy is how many people leave it locally here in Minneapolis, have done Trans Am have done other really long distance races or adventures. And so at the time, somebody connected me with Kit Oslin, who was part of the Randonneurs, and she was pointing out, you know how great this is for training. You know, it really makes 126 miles seem like manageable and fun and doable and, you know, was a great way to kind of say, okay, I think I can do this along with a ton of motivating people to learn from. And so I went on my first 200K with Kit, and that was a winter pancake ride, which was kind of our yeah, that was, you know, it was like the day before I was leaving for Michigan for Christmas. So it was however many years ago that was. And I was hooked. I was hooked, you know, I mean, I think I’m used to riding alone quite a bit. Um, just that’s my nature. And also, it can be hard to find people who want to ride for nine hours, you know, in a shot. But, um, so it was a little bit nervous going into this thinking, you know, these are people I don’t know, I’m going to be stuck riding with them for 9 to 10 hours, you know, what is this going to be like? And it really just blew my mind how interesting and welcoming and not intimidating it was to to ride with these people. And now they’re some of my best friends. So it’s it was really eye opening and, um, has kind of changed everything, you know, and made training for Trans Am much easier than it would have been to do alone.

Ian: [00:29:54] Yeah. You’ve done a lot of crazy things on bikes. Like we were just, we were just chatting about, you know, your weekend of, of winter camping on a fat bike and way up north you’ve done the Trans Am. We’ve done North Star Bike Race, Trans Minnesota together. Like, yeah, we’ve had randonneuring rides where like the ice wasn’t the snow wasn’t all melted and we had to like hike across a giant snow berm on, on a gravel road out in the middle of nowhere near Cannon Falls like that. What’s what’s your, like, favorite wild story?

Kate: [00:30:33] Well, you know, I don’t know how wild it is, but I think one of well, I’ll say I don’t have a traditional and again, who does maybe have a traditional randonneuring path? But, you know, I think traditionally there was kind of this more rigid. You know, you do a 200K, you do a 300K, you do a 400K type of situation. And your your goal is to do PARIS-BREST-PARIS, which is kind of the pinnacle randonneuring experience. But again, I kind of came into this just with Trans Am in mind. And so four years ago, as we were preparing for that year’s Paris-Brest-Paris, um, down in Iowa, there was a brevet week. Where you could get in your qualifying rides for Paris-Brest-Paris. It was exciting for me because my goal was to try to do six 300k’s. Again, just preparing for Trans Am, It was not to earn any kind of points or credentials. It was really just can I do day after day, big miles. It encapsulated a lot of my learning for for long distance cycling. And I had food poisoning the night before. And I was also trying to camp as part of it was it was it was not great.

Kate: [00:31:59] So I was at a dry campsite a mile down the road from the hotel where everybody else was and got really bad food poisoning from a chicken bacon ranch Subway and had to throw clothes away in the Dumpster. It was so bad. Um, but I did my first 300 k the next day and, um, and then storms came and, um, you know, the really interesting thing, I know some people just hate the idea of doing the same course period and same course day after day. But for me to do the same, I ended up doing that loop, I think 3 or 4 times. And then because of the storms, everybody else had left. So I ended up just going home. But just how the terrain changes, um, part of the route was on the Root River Trail and it flooded. Um, and um, that led to some logistical issues. Um, you know, I was like, I think I can get across the trail and I’m up to the up to my hips in water.

Kate: [00:33:08] But I came away just feeling so accomplished. And, and that was something that, you know, you could go and do it on your, you know, own or like organize on your own. Um, and I was riding alone for those last two days, but I would never have put that route together myself, you know, and, and to have somebody to call, you know, when things got bad, um, to know that there might be people behind you or ahead of you is hugely uplifting. Um, and yeah, and I’m just I it was a great experience and I think, um, I don’t know, in my mind the randonneuring kind of provides a structure, you know, it provides the courses, it provides the resources, and then you can kind of, um, make it your own adventure from there. There’s, there’s such a social aspect to it and there are breaks and like, I don’t know, to me it makes these really intimidating rides, more bite sized, more approachable, more accessible, because I think a lot of people would hear what you just said. You know, I showed up for 200K and ended up doing a 300K and it would blow their minds and it should blow their minds because that’s really impressive. But I think when you realize the tone with which these rides are done, you know, I mean, I think it’s so much about camaraderie, it’s so much about, um, like really enjoying the experience. You know, we’re not out there just pushing as hard as we can. Um, you know, it’s, it’s very social. It’s very fun. Um, and you feel really good at the end of the day.

Ian: [00:34:42] Yeah. And like, and it is a good structure, like, like you said, like it’s a good structure within which you can kind of incrementally push yourself farther and farther. You know, I feel like if you, if you’re not somebody who is interested in like, “oh, I’ve ridden, you know, X amount of, of kilometers at a time, like I wonder if I can do the next level.” Like, you know, if you don’t have that mindset then randonneuring probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to appeal to you in the first place. Um, but, but it is a, it’s, it’s a venue that really lends itself well to that because like many, many of the routes that we have are like, well, it’s one starting point. And you can either choose, you know, there’s a couple of loops that you can choose of varying different lengths. I think there are a lot of people who, like, you know, show up for like the 100K’s, the 125k’s, you know, and like and that’s what they’re interested in and that’s cool, you know, and yes.

Kate: [00:35:41] And we and we’re trying to that’s kind of a big push is trying to expand those because I think um you know I get asked a lot um you know even just within the board of how can we get more women to, to join. And part of that question is always just like, I don’t want to be the like, I’m not the speaker of all of all the women of endurance cycling. But at the same time, you know, it’s like, oh, because a lot of people my age are raising kids or are, you know, have obligations where they can’t spend an entire weekend day or entire weekend regularly once a month devoted to a hobby. And so I think having these shorter rides just makes so much sense. It makes so much sense. We’re trying to do more gravel. We’re trying to, you know, just really expand it because I think, um, you know, another huge benefit of, of the club is just seeing more of the state, seeing more of the region. And, um, I know myself, you know, I live two blocks off of the Greenway and, and when after training for Trans Am, it’s like I never want to be on the Greenway. I’m just, I’m so sick of the same exact routes. And, and so for me, that’s a huge draw is just getting to see different parts of the state. And um, and yes if you can, if you can go out for an afternoon and or a morning and do 100K and see new things and meet new people, um, I foresee that that’s going to end up being a more popular aspect of our sport than trying to think up new 1200K routes that are going to get fewer people.

Ian: [00:37:24] Right, Right. Yeah. I, I was astounded when I went to the, um, the city slickers like 100K that like started in it and ended like right there at um Angry Catfish and like, oh my gosh, there were so many people there.

Kate: [00:37:41] Well, you know, even though I have a car, I don’t like driving to rides necessarily. And so I think trying to have more routes that people can ride to is also a big priority.

Ian: [00:37:54] Yeah. Yeah. And there’s, you know, there are still really great opportunities for that. You know, when you’re, when you’re riding 200K like you can get out really far and you know, and come back and you know like the, the Leaks and Laves. Nope. Lakes and Leaves. [laughter] Um, you know that’s, that’s a really good route that like starts and ends right at the chain of lakes. Yes. And then does all of the Minnetonka area in like a cool cloverleaf pattern. Yeah. I really enjoyed that ride a lot.

Kate: [00:38:31] Feel like you go through Orono or see the Orono sign like 20 times.

Ian: [00:38:37] Right?

Kate: [00:38:38] No, but it’s, it’s gorgeous. And, um, you know, I think, yeah, you get to see different parts of the state. You’re, you’re further out. Um. And and the stakes are so much lower, right? I mean, I think if something happens to you, if something happens to your bike, you’re going to have a lot of people around to help you. And at the same time, you know, you you’re definitely encouraged to to show up, to know how to take care of yourself and your bike. But I think it’s a it’s a great way to to do it with low stakes, knowing that you’re not no one’s going to be stuck out there. If any aspect of randonneuring, um, sounds interesting to someone and you’re intimidated by it, you know, let’s talk because I think this is this isn’t a club where, you know, you’re expected to show up every week or you’re expected to show up at all. I mean, it’s it’s really what you have time for, what you have the desire for. Um, but there’s so much resources in terms of the routes and the experience and the gear recommendations. And that to me, it’s like even if you just come out for a couple rides a year, it’s it’s worth it just to be part of this community.

Ian: [00:39:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I, I think that’s a really important thing to emphasize is like there’s so many different little things that you can focus on in randonneuring and you do not have to do the ones that you are not interested in. Absolutely.

Kate: [00:40:08] You’ll, you’ll join a ride and feel like you found your people. I think that’s what that’s what I found at least. And it’s it’s been a great experience.

Ian: [00:40:18] Yeah.

Ian: [00:40:19] And I recently found out about that. There’s somebody who’s like putting together an online tool for just like. Like finding, uh, like permanents. Okay. Throughout, like, throughout the country. And that’s got me very interested in like, oh, like while I’m traveling, I can just, like, look up like, what kinds of routes have been put together in different areas.

Kate: [00:40:43] And, and that’s true. Yeah. I mean I think yeah, I was just the last half hour I’ve just been focusing on our state that’s 100% true. I mean, there are clubs around the world and, um, you know, Keith Morical, who also trained for Trans Am, he did part of his training in Australia with a bunch of clubs or at least one club down there. And um, yeah, it’s this kind of built in network throughout the world where, you know, meet your people and, and get training in and see new places and yeah, it’s, yeah.

Ian: [00:41:17] It’s a wonderful thing. It’s, it.

Kate: [00:41:19] Is, it is like.

Ian: [00:41:23] Yeah, yeah. It’s like it’s a window into this world that’s like, yeah. Now you’ve got people everywhere that you can just like you can meet and you, you know that you’re going to have something in common with them. You know you’re going to have something to talk about, Right?

Kate: [00:41:36] Right. And I think if, if long distance is your thing, like we were saying, it can be really tough to find people to train with or to spend that time with just because the obligations are so, um, you know, you’re just spending so much time on the bike. And so if you can spend some of that with other people who have similar goals, I think it’s that can be a huge resource right there.

Ian: [00:42:00] I think that is a wonderful thing to, to end on. Kate, thanks for joining us.

Kate: [00:42:06] Thank you so much for having me.

Ian: [00:42:13] Next up, we’re going to chat with Justin Ta.

Justin: [00:42:16] Hey, everyone. My name is Justin Tan. I am based in Saint Louis Park. I grew up in Naperville, Illinois. And then I came up to Minnesota for college and then stuck around after I graduated and have always had a love for cycling, I feel like. Basically, earliest memory was when my dad and I were in Naperville along with my mom. My dad took me on a little trip from the house to a nearby grocery store. At the time, the chain was called Dominick’s, and I don’t recall how many miles it was, but I know it was in the summertime and it was a pretty hot day. So we ended up getting some popsicles. Once we got to the grocery store. And so it was a very fun day. It stood out because it was a lot of fun. And at the same time, looking back, it was also one of my earliest type two fun events. You know.

Ian: [00:43:11] It’s funny, the type one, type two scale came up, you know, during yesterday’s conversation as well.

Justin: [00:43:19] Yeah, I think type two for sure attracts a certain variety of people. And so having moved up to Minnesota from Illinois, I’ve grown to love the Twin Cities a lot, especially since I grew up in a suburb, Naperville. And so that’s kind of what I was used to growing up, but then coming here for school and then eventually being able to explore, you know, you can’t really compare Minneapolis to Chicago is what I tell people. They’re very different cities, you know, obviously Midwest people, but a lot of transplants. And I feel like just that smaller feel for me here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul is something that I like a lot. And one of the earliest one of the earliest introductions I’ve had to the Minneapolis cycling scene was back in freshman year of college at the U. I took a freshman seminar called My Other Car is a Bicycle.

Justin: [00:44:18] It was led by a chemistry professor, Lee Penn. At the time. And then one of the great things that Lee did was every Monday it would just be Lee and a bunch of freshmen just riding their bikes around campus and the city. And to this day, I still ride a number of those routes that we did. So picture just the kind of impact that that seminar had on me for the rest of my life. After I graduated from the U. I still stuck around around the cycling scene mainly to commute to work from uptown to downtown. So it wasn’t really that long of a commute, to be honest. But I still try to stay active by going for regular routes. Back then I used to do Alleycats with some friends around the city and those were super fun. I definitely miss those and hopefully can still get back into them sometime. And then I do recall 2015 is kind of when I dipped my toes into the gravel scene. So back then I still had my hospital foam green surly cross-check. So it was a nice heavy steel machine, still had the cantilever brakes, but ultimately made a bunch of modifications to it to suit my needs and getting getting that through my first ever gravel race, I believe it was the filthy 50 was such an accomplishment.

Ian: [00:45:41] Nice.

Justin: [00:45:42] And so I remember distinctly after I finished the race, hung out a little bit, decided I loved gravel racing, long distance riding, kind of a mix of both. And I think that’s kind of where I discovered the Randonneurs I believe. I don’t exactly recall the first very first interaction, but I if I know myself well enough, I feel like I must have Googled something along the lines of long distance bike riding in Minneapolis and then must have stumbled upon a few rides over time. So coming up on, I’d say a couple years of just distance riding one. One of the great things I’ve loved about joining the MN Randos over time was just being introduced to more of the the entire area. I would say not not necessarily the state. I haven’t ridden throughout the state yet, but being able to explore different parts of the state. For example, from Minneapolis, riding out to Stillwater, riding out to Red Wing, riding up north around Duluth, all of that. I feel like I potentially would be able to do without the MN Randos. But if I’m if I’m honest, I feel like that really opened my eyes to distance riding. And I think a lot of great things come with that. You know, it depends on your comfort level. I think you kind of have to slowly build up to riding some of these day long multi day rides. But one of the great things that I feel like the MN Rando group did for me was help me ease into that whole riding scene, whether it was helping me answer my questions or at least giving me pointers and tips on riding in the dark or riding along long stretches of road with either lots of traffic or just not a lot of easily accessible riding room.

Justin: [00:47:37] So I’d say over time it gave me a lot of confidence in my riding too. And so one of Robin Williams quotes that he mentioned was that his favorite thing to do is to ride a bike and he rides bikes for him. It’s mobile meditation and I feel like the days that we spend out on the bikes, even if we’re in groups of 4 or 5 people, or sometimes you find a riding buddy or even if you’re by yourself, which I’ve definitely had many times where I’ve been way out in the countryside riding just by myself, which is, you know, I’m perfectly comfortable doing that. Those are the days where as soon as the rides are over, I kind of think back to just the number of hours I spent on the bike being able to meditate and kind of think through different things. And I feel like it’s there’s there’s different ways people can do that for themselves off the bike. But at the same time, those are the times that I look forward to actually, where I just kind of get that alone time. So to me it’s kind of sacred. I know I feel like some people have time to themselves in the morning that they consider sacred for themselves. For me, it’s being on that bike and I think that the MN Randos rides gives gives me a lot of good opportunities to be able to do that on a weekend.

Ian: [00:48:49] Yeah, for sure. Um, so one thing that I think a lot of people get out of being in the, in the randonneuring community is like being able to chat with other people about like, about techniques and equipment and, you know, just like, you know, like getting better at this thing that we want to be able to do. And everybody wants to share, you know, share equipment, you know, advice and everything. Um, I hear that you ride on a single speed.

Justin: [00:49:18] I do. Yeah. The fixed gear.

Ian: [00:49:22] Please, please tell me about that, because that sounds bonkers.

Justin: [00:49:28] That. That’s been a very interesting journey. And the funny thing too, is like, I’m so used to it that it kind of surprises me when people bring it up. But I love kind of talking about how I got introduced to it and how I got to where I am today. Riding fixed gear bikes on 100 plus mile rides. Um, my first fixed gear bike was actually back in college a Kilo TT and was able to ride it throughout the winter and realized I loved the simplicity and the lack of maintenance and how easily you could beat that thing up throughout the year without having to to work on it a lot. So suffice it to say, I got used to riding that fixed gear bike throughout the years from like 2011. I think onwards ultimately fell in love with just being able to get around the city and riding a fixed gear bike. I remember how many times I’d be called a hipster by my friends, even though I felt like I wasn’t the closest to the definition of a hipster, although I’d say I would drink, you know, PBR on occasion. But I did bring that bike over. I think one of the earliest long distance rides I ever did with a fixed gear was 2017. I signed up for the Seattle to Portland Ride STP about 200 miles and being able to ride the fixed gear for that long of a distance over so many miles, so many hours, I think, um, really gave me a whole new perspective on riding that single speed, basically giving me that confidence to know how steep of a hill I can climb nowadays. Nowadays I’ve, I’ve climbed Ramsey Hill a few times on the fixed gear. And nowadays when I tell people I go for rides with people who are comfortable riding that hill, I’m like, We got to make an attempt at that hill, especially if I’m riding the fixed gear. So trying to show off a little bit, but mainly just trying to to get the legs going. So yeah, it is strange to think about when I look at it from from another perspective, but I love the challenge being able to just that connected feeling of riding with your bike and being able to use your legs to kind of scrub your speed a little bit. The biggest weaknesses for me, those of those of the listeners who’ve ridden with me when I’ve brought the fixed gear out is just that if it’s a windy day and I don’t have gears to shift, it becomes a challenge. Especially. On the headwinds. Of course, those those are the times when. A) I made a mistake and I should have used a different bike and B) it’s just probably not the smartest idea trying to ride a fixed gear into a 13 mile an hour headwind.

Ian: [00:52:08] Um, so other than the fact that it’s a fixed gear bike, is it, you know, a, is it a pretty like touring bike setup? Like does it, you know, is it drop bars, ergonomic, uh, you know, geometry, etcetera.

Justin: [00:52:21] It’s, it’s a, it’s a traditional, I’d say traditional steel fixed gear. The way I have mine set up right now are all flat bars and mainly the goal for these, for, for these kinds of rides when I bring the fixed gear out is just minimizing weight. So usually they’re only good for, I’d say rides of no more than like 200K in the times that I’ve ridden it, I’m certainly willing to test more miles on them, but for the most part can only carry so much food and water. Those those are also the days where I’m probably carrying most of my water on my back.

Ian: [00:52:59] Oh, sure.

Justin: [00:53:00] Instead of on the on the bike and things like that. I’m hoping, at least in this upcoming Minnesota Randonneuring season, I can try and help out with either leading more rides or riding with some newer riders who maybe aren’t as familiar with the Randonneuring groups yet, but are considering riding and wanting to dabble and hopefully help them explore a little bit more of this gateway drug. Yeah.

Ian: [00:53:27] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, when you, when you push your, your body and your mind, you know, to those places like that’s, that’s when you really find out who you are, you know, and like how, how you are going to react to, um, I mean, you know there’s, there’s like being aware of how tired you are and like, when you need to stop is like one thing, but also, like, you know, if something goes wrong, right? If you have a mechanical out in the middle of the road, you know, in the middle of nowhere, like how you react to that situation is like, oh, yeah, um, you can, you can either learn some very good things about yourself or some very bad things about yourself.

Justin: [00:54:09] Yeah. Yep, yep. Um, the one. The one mechanical I ever had during a race. That unfortunately I could not have fixed, but I guess I could have been more prepared for. Was my derailleur hanger got ripped off during the Iowa Wind and Rock.

Ian: [00:54:29] Oh, yeah.

Justin: [00:54:30] In 2021. And it’s a race that takes place in April in Iowa. The elevation, I think, is is more than I think 20,000ft of climbing, 340 miles, I believe. And so that year, 2021, I had tried to do as much preparation for that race as I could. Having failed a prior attempt. And so there was a stretch of of I believe it was like a B road. So it was definitely unmaintained. It was also super muddy that I was somehow able to pedal through while everyone else was walking their bikes. And I definitely got. Way too cocky trying to ride that thing. So as you can imagine, my tires. Were getting gunked up. If you’ve ever been in those situations where your adrenaline is going and your wheels are caked in mud and you find yourself, you know slowly getting slower and slower, yet you’re still able to continue pushing forward. And then next thing I know, I’m out of the muddy road and back on gravel and I’m riding along. Mud is getting flung everywhere. And then as I’m climbing a slight hill thinking that I’m finally out of trouble, my derailer hanger snaps, and I don’t think I made it more than like 30 miles into that 340 mile race. So there was a certain point during that moment where I was like, okay, well this sucks. You know? I spent so much time and energy trying to train for this race. And effectively didn’t even get through like 10% of it. Um.

Ian: [00:56:06] What the lesson is, Obviously, you should have brought your your fixed gear.

Justin: [00:56:10] [laughs] Yeah, exactly right. Oh, goodness. What was I thinking? Uh, two lessons. One, I should have brought that to that day, that race.

Justin: [00:56:21] I there’s a there’s a trick where you can get one of those wooden paint sticks from like, Home Depot or whatever. You bring that. With you on a bike and if you know. It’s going to be muddy out that day, you just whip that that paint stick out and you just like start shedding that mud off your wheels. And I didn’t bring it.

Justin: [00:56:36] I distinctly remember as soon as my driller hanger snapped off, I, like pulled over to the side, inspected the damage and basically told myself like my race was done because I didn’t have like a spare driller hanger and things like that. And it was just a really interesting time.

Justin: [00:56:51] I was just like, you know, sitting there on the side of the road. I remember there were like some hay bales in a in a field that I just kind of rolled up to and sat against. And just. Like. I felt like I almost wanted to cry. I don’t think I cried, but it was just a very interesting moment. So there’s there’s certain times where.

Justin: [00:57:07] Even though, like things. Like that may happen, one of the things I do appreciate, though, about being able to try all these different rides and races, though, is just enjoying I guess, the moment, the people. And so that day too, I felt like I was grateful for being able to ride that day. And at least the sunrise was really beautiful that day.

Ian: [00:57:28] And you know, dear listener. I hope that wherever you are, the sunrise is very beautiful for you as well. Thanks for joining us for this episode of The Streets.mn Podcast. This show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative license, so feel free to republish the episode as long as you’re not altering it and you are not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was hosted by me, Ian R Buck, and edited by myself and Tim Marino. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast. So if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at [podcast@streets.mn]. Until next time. Take care.

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"