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Randonneuring: Preparations for a Summer Night Ride

by on July 31, 2012

Every time I plan a randonneuring event I’m amazed at the planning and preparation in which I engage.  This post is an attempt to describe that planning and preparation.

The Bike

There is a fine balance between preparing the bike for a long ride and over preparing.

  1. The bike should be clean.  Cleaning the bike allows for a thorough inspection of the components.
  2. Chain and gears should be cleaned, checked, adjusted and lubed.  I like to put 25 miles or so on the bike after cleaning and adjusting to work out any potential issues.  Never have the bike tuned and then have the first ride after the tune up be the randonneuring ride.  That’s asking for trouble.
  3. Check the brakes and tires.  Replace worn brake pads and carefully evaluate the tires.
  4. Fenders, bento bag, tool bag, & lights installed, checked, prepared and charged as needed.  Do you have enough battery power for the lights?  If the night has a forecast for rain, your lights will need to be brighter in order to safely navigate the wet pavement, which usually means battery consumption is higher.
  5. If the bike has been properly maintained, this part of the preparation won’t take that long.  Much more than this list and you are inviting potential complications on the ride.


Every randonneur I know frets over the clothing more than just about anything else.  Summer is easier than winter.

  1. Consult your clothing chart for the proper clothing for the forecast temperatures.  (In reality: double check the forecast twice a day from now until the ride to determine the proper clothing and be sure to bring something you don’t need and forget something you do need.)  Remember to pack for both the forecast highs and lows.  My experience has been that it is good to expect lower than forecast temperatures.
  2. Will you need wet weather gear?  What type?  Match the rain gear to the forecast temperatures.  A garbage bag will work in a pinch.
  3. Reflective gear is required for any RUSA night time event.  That means ankle reflectors and a “Sam Brown Belt” as a minimum.  The goal is to be seen.
  4. Shoe cleats should be checked.  Overly worn cleats aren’t very smart on a long night ride … or any time for that matter.

Nutrition & Hydration

Planning proper nutrition and hydration resources can mean the difference between a fun night ride and a nightmare.

  1. Hydration & electrolyte plan.  In the summer, humidity levels increase as the temperature decreases overnight.  That means your body’s cooling system will not work efficiently and your sweating will be above normal.  Water and electrolyte replacement is critical to a successful ride.  Make a plan.  One way I try to stick to the plan especially in the summer is to set a timer alarm on my Garmin telling me to drink or consume electrolytes.
  2. Fuel plan.  Food is critical on these long rides, and for me it is easier to eat a little, often.  Calorie intake is important and you should plan variety.  Nothing invites bonking more than taking only gels and being so tired of the taste and consistency that you avoid consuming them.  Many sources suggest planning about 400 calories per hour.  Your mileage may vary.  Ice Cream from a convenience store is a treat I can anticipate for miles.
  3. Plan how you will carry these resources or what you will buy along the way.  Make sure it is easy to access while on the bike and moving.  Re-stock your easy access locations at the controls.  That means decisions about wearing a camelback, how you will use jersey pockets, etc.

“Emergency & Disaster Planning”

I often ask what might go wrong and what do I need to do to remedy it.

  1. I wear an interactive Road ID and make sure that the website is updated before the ride.
  2. I usually carry 3 tubes and a patch kit on a 200k ride especially if it is wet.  Two tubes and a patch kit is my bare minimum.
  3. I carry CO2 cartridges and an air pump.
  4. Sufficient money, credit card, insurance information, and contact information is carried in a sealed plastic bag.
  5. Spare batteries for my headlamp.  A headlamp is so helpful for reading cue sheets AND street signs.
  6. Duct tape.  No, not the whole roll!  Rolled around itself or some wrap it around CO2 cartridges.
  7. Spare spokes.
  8. Small first aid kit.
  9. Straight pin for removing debris from tires.  Just remember where you stick it.
  10. Complete tool kit. Multi-tool, tire levers, spoke wrench, spare chain link, etc.
  11. Cell phone
  12. Toilet Paper

Miscellaneous Stuff

Some of this is easy to forget.

  1. Chapstick.  Reduces windburn, chapped lips, and can be used on eyebrows to make them work more efficiently to channel sweat from your eyes.
  2. Helmet & Shoes.  Yes, I’ve known people who forgot these items, especially if you must drive to the start of the route.
  3. Gloves & eyewear.  Same as #2.
  4. Cue sheet & Control Card.  I carry duplicates of each.  Carry the Control Card in a plastic bag with a paper clip and pen to keep receipts and document controls.  The cue sheet is in plastic and/or may be printed on waterproof paper.  Card stock is helpful.
  5. Garmin or other cycle computer.  I like to have the course programmed in the Garmin to assist in navigation.  At night, navigation is more challenging.  Defer to the cue sheet when in doubt.  I also wear a heart rate monitor.
  6. Chamois Cream.  In the summer I usually carry extra small packets of the stuff.  Sweat makes it go away.

My goal is to carry just a little more than I think I will need, but not so much as to cause me to have to put the luggage rack on the bike.  In the winter, the rack is more likely to be needed.

Now, what did I forget?

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