October 8, 2017

Is Randonneuring Dying?

I only say this up front, because I have (in the past) personally fallen into a burn-out trap which subconsciously had me thinking along the lines that - because I have traditionally had limited riding days available - if a ride was not going to count for RUSA credit, it wasn't worth riding.  I think, personally, I've missed a lot of great riding because of my attitude.

But, I also think too much.  (Noooo, not you, Dude!)

This, in some ways, makes me a rando-snob.  People don't ask me cycling-related questions, EVEN when they see I've ridden to work, because they know what I do "for fun", and they immediately assume they aren't going to be on my same wavelength.  I've somehow, unintentionally, isolated myself in a place where I'm "unapproachable" and "weird"... and nobody wants to be like me. 

So... let's grow the sport... (crap)

Lots of bad behavior to un-do on my part.

How do social isolates find OTHER social isolates?  These equations don't solve!

When I approach this same concept from a "community" perspective I feel a conflicted sense of responsibility.  I am a social outcast and lone wolf - like many randonneurs... yet, I genuinely want MORE people to discover the freedom, personal satisfaction, sense of accomplishment, and genuine thrill of riding LONG.  In that same breath, however, I - again, like most of us randos - am fully content to spin out 200 miles in complete solitude and not think anything of it.  I have dropped out of pace-lines JUST to be by myself.  This is a weird sport, this.  My behavior certainly doesn't encourage growth!  
How the heck did I get here?

GETTING to RUSA-land is a process.

We've often tossed around ideas on how to build the club, grow riders, and keep RUSA relevant; yet, to do that I have to remember where I came from.

It was 1999.
I didn't plan to be a randonneur.
I honestly thought that 100 miles was "THE" end-goal.
Warbird and I trained... and trained... and trained.  The MS-150 was a big success as a result, and it was happy days.  

But, that itch was there... did we have to wait for the big club century to ride long?  What if we went farther?  Who are these "idiots" riding DOUBLE centuries??  Seriously?  

"Those guys are crazy...."  

...and yet, I'd find myself secretly wondering if *I* could do it, too.

Then Warbird met the "Grim" Rieper.

He rode a 200 and 300k, and came back to me with tales of epic, awesome rides, endless days, challenges  ... the kind of rides that rattled bottle cages apart and destroyed morale (and backsides) ... and yet... it all sounded amazing.

When I rode my first 200km from Liberty to Platte City and back (thanks, Bob, for making it "easy" - pfffffft) I had no idea that I'd STILL be enamored with it almost two decades later. 

I talked it up, wrote hundreds of thousands of words about it, posted pictures, and tried to make it sound amazing and romantic.... and some riders came.

...BUT, I have seen far too many riders join RUSA and then slip away.  I feel, sometimes, that I didn't do my part to help support and keep them there.  Do we really have a "community"?  Am I doing enough?  Is it even UP to me? 

I need to start doing my part again, and start holding some of the shorter rides that ultimately started to build a community.  People came out and tried 50km, with coffee and jokes and good times - and some showed up for their first 200k.  Some stuck around, some slipped away.... honestly, like Everest (if you'll forgive that lofty analogy), people train and train and train, and then summit; but, it's not something the spirit or the body can often allow annually.  

When one does something HUGE, it's just "done" - and that's normal.  

Some folks join, ramp up, qualify, ride P-B-P, and never ride another rando event.  Box checked.  Done.  Same with Ultra-Cycling.  You train, you ride Furnace Creek or RAAM (I wish), and it's "done".  Forget completely about cost and time... assuming THOSE things were free, most would not come back year over year.  Many can't.

... but, a strong community of "lifers" like myself can help make those journeys possible.  

I need to start making appearances at the local club rides and mix it up with racers and people riding their FIRST road ride EVER - and everyone in between.  I need to show up in the RUSA jersey with the weird saddle bag, and answer questions and talk, and make people realize that it is possible.

I can't expect people to flock in when I haven't even propped open the door.

Yeah, we're a strange bunch... and, it's hard enough riding 100km for the first time when you have to show up to a dark parking lot and try to mingle with a bunch of "weirdos" you've never met.  Rides of ANY distance become SO much easier to digest if "my friend ____ is gonna be there!".... you know?  

Rando isn't dying on its own... heck, it's not dying at all.
But, I can't complain about low ridership and not make the time to try and change things.

Of course, my time limitations are real.
I have high hopes - but, here I am on another weekend morning doing homework and (ahem) typing THIS... instead of mixing it up at the local show-n-go ride.  One of these days the time will present itself - and you can be sure I'll be out there as ambassador for RUSA and Audax K.C..  For now, maybe these posts are enough?  Maybe the Instagram posts are enough?  Maybe... maybe... and I know for every one of "me", there's another RUSA lifer in KC that is fighting the same fight.  We may not ever be as big as San Fran, or Seattle...

...but, OH baby... the thrill of completely running out of route cards at the registration table at the Spring 200km, because we suddenly had 50 walk-ups?  dude.... 

I think we can do this.

Randonneuring isn't dying.
We won't let it.

Let's go ride  


Monkeywrangler said...

Sadly I had a bad experience with my first and only RUSA populaire. I was normally more than good for the distance, but it all fell apart when the rider I was supposed to ride with, showed up with her BF on his tandem, and the last I saw of them was less than 3 miles in...it was also a complex route, in an area I had no knowledge of, and I was unaccustomed to reading cue sheets. It didn't help that the following day I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. The whole experience sort of soured me on RUSA. I guess even after all these years, it is still a sore point with me. I wish it wasn't the case, and maybe if I worked with a different group, I would have a good time.

Unknown said...

I have never been a racer, I tend to stay away from organized group rides,I would be your classic lone wolf.

I am a everyday bike commuter, my co workers look at me as if I am this mythical creature that they have read about, but never witnessed. I explain that riding in traffic is my drug, head winds are an ex girlfriend that I love to hate and tail winds are a mistress that I cherish.

I have ridden the Tour de Cure and MS150 several times, these rides do not fulfill what I am after. I need self supported organization, I need to do these long rides on my own. As much as I like to socialize, I tend to desire that quiet place on my bike. The type of place where I can fight the inner demons while pedaling long straights of flats and never ending climbs.

This is why I am strongly interested in your blog. I feel that 2018 will become the year that I finally branch out and join the weirdos.