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Guide To Randonneur Bikes

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We all love cycling but perhaps there are times when it feels like you are going through the motions. The same local loops, constantly looking at endless streams of data trying to decipher what it all means.

If this is you then it is a good idea to mix things up and rediscover the innate joy of cycling.

Shrouded in mystery, randonneuring is a cycling event like no other as it is more concerned with conversation than speed.

In this article, we look at the esoteric world of randonneuring and the perfect randonneur bike(s).

What Is A Randonneur Bike?

Before we look at randonneur bikes, let’s look at the event itself.

Randonneuring is a million miles away from the ultra-competitive and hyperactive world of professional cycling that you see on TV.

To complete, not compete, riders follow a predetermined route with controls along the way. At each control point, riders collect a stamp in their brevet card and carry on to the next control. Arrive too early then you wait, arrive too late then no stamp.

At the finish line, the brevet card is checked.

Between the control points, riders have to be completely self-sufficient. The rules governing the event allow any type of human-powered bike to be used but for the fullest experience, a randonneur bike adds to the romanticism.

A randonneuring bike (rando for short) sits somewhere between a road bike and touring bike; lightweight steel frames, comfortable geometry, drop handlebars, room for wider tires, old-school triple chainsets, and space for some luggage.

If you live in the UK you will be more familiar with the term Audax which is basically the same as randonneuring.

For an authentic look, the luggage should be a randonneuring bag perched on the handlebars.

What Makes A Good Randonneur Bike?

Although any bike can be used to ride a randonneuring event there are some important things to look out for to make it easier and a more authentic experience.

There is a lot of crossover between touring bikes and randonneur bikes. When you turn up to your first randonneur event you will probably see every type of bike imaginable.

You will also see lots of customized bikes and old classics that have had a makeover, making it great if you like nothing more than tinkering in your bike shed.

Frame Material

Most randonneuring bikes, like touring bikes, have steel frames.

Steel frames help to smooth out the road for a much more comfortable ride. They are also stronger and better suited to carrying luggage.

Read more: Touring bikes Vs. Road bikes

Frame Geometry

A good randonneur bike will have a longer wheelbase than a dedicated road bike. This gives a more comfortable position on the bike and more stability for carrying luggage.

The more comfortable you are on the bike, the more likely you are to complete the event.

Durability

Self-sufficiency is the key to completing a randonneuring event and this means having a bike that is closer to a workhorse than a thoroughbred.

Look for reliable components and even wheelsets with a higher spoke count. Even with a couple of broken spokes, the wheel will remain true and you can finish the event.

Functionality

For the authentic experience, a randonneur bike should still be functional even when shorn of all modern technology.

This means things like a front generator hub (dynamo) to power lights. Since some events take place through the night, self-powered lights mean that you don’t have to worry about modern battery-powered lights failing or having to carry spare batteries.

The functionality extends to having mounting points for mudguards to stay dry during the ride. Some events require mudguards as it makes cycling in a group a much more pleasant experience.

Best Randonneur Bikes

1. Vivente World Randonneur Swabia

  • Frame Material: Steel
  • Groupset(s): Rohloff hub gears (14-speed)
  • Weight: 32.41lbs

Don’t be put off the fact that the Vivente World Randonneur Swabia comes with a hub gear as opposed to a standard cassette. The German-made Rohloff SpeedHub is one of the finest hub gears around. Smooth-shifting and indestructible.

The handlebars are designed to be at the same height as the saddle or even higher which might not be the fastest position but it means that there is no compromise in comfort.

Quite simply this bike won’t let you down.          

2. Orbea Avant H40-D Bike

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Groupset(s): Shimano Tiagra (10-speed)
  • Weight: 20.39 lbs

The latest Orbea Avant H40-D might not be a true randonneur bike in the strictest sense of the word but it is such a reasonably-priced all-rounder that it makes the list.

It has everything you need for randonneuring; clearance for 35mm tires, well-placed mounts for mudguards, and internal cable management.

If you don’t like the idea of a dedicated randonneur bike then the Orbea Avant offers much more versatility. Equally at home as a commuter as it is a randonneur bike.

3. Specialized AWOL Expert

  • Frame Material: Steel
  • Groupset(s): Shimano Tiagra (10-speed)
  • Weight: 22.5lbs

The appropriately named Specialized AWOL Expert is a do-everything type of bike. Made for long haul touring it was built to drag luggage and comfortably chew up the miles.

It comes with racks and fenders already fitted making it a bike that you can roll up to the start of a randonneuring event.

The Dynamo front hub keeps the lights glowing.

In Conclusion

Randonneuring harks back to a simpler time, a time before power meters and endless streams of data.

For a proper randonneur, speed takes a backseat to comradery. It is the company with other friendly riders that helps you beat the common enemy, the distance itself.

This style of riding is the perfect tonic to the intensity of modern road cycling and should be on your list of things to do on your cycling journey (no pun intended!). You don’t need a special bike or any special equipment but hopefully, this article helps to make your first time successful and most of all enjoyable.

You can learn more about randonneuring here.

Mark Whitley
Mark Whitley
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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