About Randonneuring

When Paris-Brest-Paris was run for the second time, in 1901, the field included not only professional racers, eager to claim the fame and prize money that went to the victor, but also cyclotourists--touristes routieres--eager to prove their mettle by finishing the challenging journey from Paris to the northwest tip of France and back. Gradually the two diverged. The race continue to be run once a decade, except for the 1940s, until 1951. By 1931, the Audax Club Parisien was organizing the Paris-Brest Randonneurs--the Paris-Brest for cyclotourists. That event contained five women among its entrants, four of whom finished.

At the same time, the sport of randonneuring had split into two factions--one that rode together as a group at a fixed pace established by its leaders, called audax, and one that allowed riders to maintain their own pace as long as they reached intermediate controls and the finish within established time windows, called allure libre. While both styles are still practiced--there is an audax Paris-Brest that is run every five years--the allure libre style became vastly more popular and is now practiced world-wide by thousands of riders.

Charly Miller, the first American to finish Paris-Brest, did so as professional racer in the very respectable time of 56:40 in 1901. No Americans joined him until 1975 when four Americans--two men and two women--were among the 559 finishers that year. Harriet Fell's account of her experience remains one of the greatest of all ride reports.

From there, the sport grew slowly in the United States until 1987, when a large contingent of Americans made their way to the start, including two local riders, Ken Zabielski and David Berning. The field they were part of was still overwhelmingly French. Three decades later, Paris-Brest draws a field of over 6,000 entrants from around the world. Other grand randonnees, run under the auspices of the Randonneurs Mondiaux, take place around the globe twelve months a year. National organizations in many countries represent the sport under the auspices of the Audax Club Parisien as Randonneurs USA does in this country.

Besides the challenge inherent in any long bike ride, one of the great pleasures of randonneuring is completing rides in places nearby, such as North Carolina or Pennsylvania, as well as all across this nation and continent. The Randonneurs USA website's search tools for scheduled rides and permanents will help you find those rides.

In addition to its rich history, which now extents back three decades in time, randonneuring in this region boasts a wide selection of rides journeying through a region of impressive natural beauty and variety. Use the resources elsewhere on this site to find rides, see who is signed up to ride them, and book yourself a place.

Bonne route et bon courage!