Questions and Answers

Administrative Questions

Training & Preparation Questions

Ride/Navigation Questions


Administrative Questions

Q: Who can Participate?
All of our rides are open to the public and do not require membership in any organization. We welcome new riders on all of our events.

You will be required to sign a liability release waiver and pay the full event cost before starting. There are no age limits, though those under 18 will require a parent or guardian to co-sign the release waiver.

Q: I’ve never ridden with NER/BBS before. Will I be welcome?
Definitely. We like meeting new riders. Our Brevets tend to be laid back events as no one is attempting to “win”. A good way of learning more is to register for a ride and latch onto someone who’s been randonneuring for years.

Q: Where do the rides start? How do I get there?
Unless otherwise noted, Boston rides start from the parking lot of the Civil Aviation Terminal of Hascom Field in Bedford, MA. (Google Map of Hanscom Field.)

Directions to Hanscom: From Rt. 128 (I-95) take exit 30B, Rt. 2A West. (Do NOT take the exit for Rts. 4 & 225 which says “Hanscom Field” – you’ll end up at the Air Force entrance and they likely won’t know what you’re talking about!) Take 2A west for approximately 1½ miles until you come to a blinking yellow light. Turn right onto the Hanscom Field access road and follow signs for the Civil Air Terminal – bear left at the fork. The start area is in the first large parking lot on the left, well away from the terminal itself.

The Vermont rides have various different start locations; check the detail page for more information.

Q: Where can I stay close to the Boston start?
There are numerous other motels in the vicinity of Rt. 128 and Hanscom Field. Some riders just nap in their cars the night before. The motels listed below are a few of the choices:

  • Lexington Sheraton; Rt. 128 & Rt. 2A, 727 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA; 781-862-8700 (2 miles from start)
  • Best Western, Rt. 128 & Rt. 4/225, 340 Great Road, Bedford, MA; 781-275-6700 (4 miles from start)
  • Holiday Inn Express, Rt. 128 & Winter St., 385 Winter St., Waltham, MA; 781-890-2800 (4 miles from start)
  • Best Western Inn, Route 2 & Elm Street, 740 Elm Street, Concord, MA, 978/369-6100 (5 miles from start)

In vermont many motels and camping facilities are nearby start locations. The Burlington Hostel in downtown Burlington is inexpensive and near the Old Spokes Home start.

Q: What’s at Hanscom Field (the Boston start location)? What’s nearby?
The main terminal of Hanscom Field is always open, though no guarantees that it will remain this way. The terminal has bathrooms and vending machines. During the day there’s an overpriced snackbar.

Hanscom Field is located at the corner of Minuteman National Park. Concord center (4 miles) and Lexington Center (6 miles) are the closest towns with shops and restaurants. ATA Cycles in Concord and Quad Cycles in Arlington (7 miles) are the closest bike shops. Downtown Boston is 20 miles to the East. For non-riders there are a number of historic and family attractions nearby such as free swimming at Walden Pond state park (7 miles) and the Minuteman trail (1 mile).

Q: Do you need to qualify for events?
No qualification is needed for any of our rides, nor do you have to ride the shorter events before attempting the longer ones. That said, each ride is good training for the next so you’re encouraged to complete the series in order.

Q: How do I view my results?
You’ll be told your finishing time when you submit your Brevet card at the end of the ride. Preliminary results are posted to this website a few weeks after the ride. The RUSA website list member’s results.

Q: What do I get if I finish?
Everyone gets our congratulations. RUSA members can buy a medal from the RUSA store.

Q: I don’t know if I could ride the distance. Should I start?
Before considering an event keep in mind volunteers won’t be available to help you along. If you get tired or have a mechanical problem you’ll be personally responsible for contacting someone who can find you and pick you up. If you’re looking for a more supported event there are many long events run by local cycling clubs which are designed to offer help along the way. If you want to start Randonneuring on flatter terrian, consider the enjoyable (and flat) New Jersey Rando rides.

That said, most cyclists who can comfortably ride a century can complete a 200k. If you do OK on the 200k then you’re ready for a 300k. And if you do OK on the 300k then you might as well try the 400k…

Q: How are Brevets different from a club centuries or charity rides?
Brevets are far more challenging and with far less support than most charity and club rides. On the difference between the two, local rider Cris Concepcion writes:

There is more climbing. There is a greater sense of individual accomplishment, because you are forced to rely only on yourself and your innate sense of resourcefulness. You have to be a better mechanic. There is more climbing. Brevets don’t have rain dates. You learn to forage. Brevet route planners do not pull their punches. There is more climbing.

Q: Is this a race?
Randonneuring events are not races — You are only competing against yourself and the time limits, not other riders. Some people try to complete the ride as quickly as possible whereas others build up enough time to stop for coffee and ice cream.

Q: Are Helmets required?
Per RUSA rules, a helmet must always be worn while on the bike.

Q: Why should I join NER or RUSA?
New England Randonneurs, Inc. is a volunteer organization and depends on help from other riders to make events happen. If you enjoy the rides then please consider joining and volunteering for a ride or two. Volunteering is a great way for non-riders to become involved with the event. Volunteers for day-of-event duties can pre-ride the course and receive credit for the distance.

If you plan on using BBS events as qualifiers for longer rides (such as PBP) then you’ll need to be a member of RUSA before the event. You’ll also need to be a member or RUSA to order purchase medals and awards.

Q: It’s raining hard. Is the ride canceled?
No. Rides are not canceled due to weather conditions except in extreme cases. (Icestorm, Terrorist Manhunts, Volcano, etc)

In the very rare case that a ride needs to be canceled, a notice will be posted to this site and you will be contacted if you had pre-registered.

Q: What is BBS, NER, RUSA, ACP, RM, and RBA?

  • BBS: Boston Brevet Series. A brevet series is a collection of four rides in the following distances: 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k. Riders completing all four riders are considered ‘Super Randonneurs’ and are eligible for entry into longer events.
  • NER: New England Randonneurs. We organize the Boston Brevet Series and other randonneuring events in eastern New England.
  • RUSA: Randonneurs USA. This is the domestic sanctioning organization for all US Randonneuring events.
  • ACP: Audux Club Parisian. This is the worldwide body sanctioning Brevets and Fleches. ACP hosts the Paris-Brest-Paris grand randonn√©e every four years. PBP and other international events require ACP certified results for qualification. All NER rides are official RUSA rides but only the 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k are certified by ACP.
  • RM: Randonneurs Mondiaux. This is the international organization which sanctions 1200k+ events and establishes rules for the sport.
  • RBA: Regional Brevet Administrator. This is the person in a particular area who is responsible for adding events to the RUSA calendar and ensuring the events are run according to RUSA’s rules.

Q: How do I register for an event? Can I get a refund if I can’t make it?
Click the “Event Calendar” link at the top of the page for links for online pre-event registration via BikeReg. Bikereg adds a small processing fee of around $2.50 which they keep. Pre-event registration ends the Wednesday evening before each event.

All events offer day-of registration for an additional fee. You don’t need to tell us you are coming — just show up at the start location 30 minutes early to complete the paperwork and pay the entry fee + day-of-event $5/$10 surcharge.

We do not offer refunds for any reason except in the rare case of a ride cancellation.

Q: Do I need to ride the events in order?
Nope. You can complete the rides in any order and skip events if you wish.

However, if you are going for an SR (Super Randonneur) medal you’ll need to complete a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k in one season. You can substitute a longer distance for a shorter one if necessary. (You can ride two 400k events instead of one 300k and one 400k.)

You can also mix and match rides from other Brevet series if you’d like.

Q: What’s the deal with the ~100k events?
The 100k is considered a Populaire (short brevet) and is sanctioned by RUSA but not ACP. These rides follow the same format as the ACP events. The 100k is a good way to get a taste of the series without committing yourself to a full 200k.
100k events count toward RUSA distance awards and the P-12 award.

Q: What is BMB? What is PBP?
BMB is the famous Boston-Montreal-Boston, the premiere American 1200k grand randonnee. It is the first 1200k to be held in the United States. It follows a hilly route from Newton, MA to the suburbs of Montreal, Canada with a 90 hour time limit. After being run continuously from 1988-2006, BMB is no longer being offered as formal randonnee. The ride lives on as a Permanent and riders can choose to ride this route whenever they wish in an unsupported fashion.

PBP is Paris-Brest-Paris, the premiere international 1200k. PBP is held every four years and is next scheduled for 2015. This ride has a long history going back more then 100 years. The BBS series was originally created to train and qualify riders for PBP.

Q: What are the time limits?
The time limits for events are determined by ACP and RM. They are:

  • 200k: < 13.5 Hours
  • 300k: < 20 Hours
  • 400k: < 27 Hours
  • 600k: < 40 Hours

There are also opening and closing times for all controls. Time limits are based on a formula established by RM.

RUSA-only rides have a time limit based on the actual distance of the event but are similar to the above.

Q: Can I have a personal support crew?
Brevets are about self sufficiency and thus no personal support (including follow support) is allowed outside of controls. While we discourage it, personal support is allowed at controls provided that it doesn’t interfere with the control’s operations. Take a look at UMCA events if you prefer help along your ride.

Q: Are there opportunities to buy food and water along the route?
Most routes pass convince stores every 40-50 miles during the day. At night services might be much more limited. Plan on carrying everything you’ll need with you on the bike.

Q: What are road conditions like? Do you go off-road?
Road conditions range from OK to bad to horrible. Expect large potholes, bumps, etc even on the state numbered roads. Some rides have short packed dirt sections, particularly in Vermont. (The dirt is sometimes preferable to the pavement.) Some riders find 28mm+ tires to be preferable for this reason. Riders should come prepared to handle a wide range of road conditions.

Q: Can I download a Cue sheet in advance?
The cue sheets listed on the website should be considered preliminary — only the sheet provided at ride start is the official route. Ride organizer will normally announce at the start if they have modified the cue beyond what was listed on the site a few days before the ride.

Are there other rides nearby?
New Horizon Sports in Westfield, MA (near Springfield) hosts the
scenic Berkshire Brevet series. These are highly recommended.

The RUSA website has a handy map showing ride start locations in other parts of the country. You can also search their ride database.

I have more questions! Where can I learn more?
If you have other questions about NER/BBS, use the contact page. Questions about the rides in general or NER should be sent to the RBA. If unsure who to address your question, send it to the webmaster and it will be forwarded to the right person.

The RUSA Website has more information about Randonneuring in general.


Training & Preparation Questions

Q: What mechanical skills do I need?
You should be comfortable enough with the mechanics of your bike to fix any common problem that might occur over several hundred miles. There is no mechanical support. You should be able to fix a flat quickly. At night. In the rain. It is helpful to have a working knowledge of your bike’s drivetrain, brakes, etc.

Tip: Brevets are not the best place to test new equipment or bikes that have been infrequently used. Ride the bike you plan to use a few days before the event so you have time to fix problems. Minor annoyances on short rides frequently become big problems on long rides.

Q: What should I do before my first Brevet?
Make sure your bike is in good working order. Shake or bounce the loaded bike. Did anything fall off? Ride-test any new components and accessories well before the brevet.

Download and look at one of the cue sheets. Do you understand how to read it? Do you have a way to attach it to the bike? Some riders like to enlarge the text or cut up the sheet to make it fit a holder.

Try to go for a longer (60+ mile) ride a week or two before the Brevet. Is the bike comfortable? Do you need to adjust anything? Your bike isn’t going to get any more comfortable as the ride progresses. Do you feel comfortable with your speed?

Go for a night ride with your lights before the brevet. Are your lights good enough? Do you have enough batteries? Do you have a backup plan in case one of your lights fails?

On the day before the ride, gather everything you plan to take so you aren’t scrambling to find things early in the morning before the start. If you live close to the start, riding from home is a good way to get warmed up.

Q: Do I even need to ride a bike?
Nope. Any human powered vehicle is allowed. Just make sure that you have a reasonable chance of finishing within the time limits.

Q: What is the right type of equipment for Randonneuring?
The rules for randonneuring are flexible but it must be a 100% human powered vehicle. Other than that, observation of randonneurs of all speeds and abilities shows only two obvious consistent factors: good quality, reliable equipment is typically preferred and correct fit is important too. Beyond that, it’s up to the individual.

We’ve had riders complete the series on fixed gears, tandems, recumbents, 3-speeds, old road bikes, and expensive lightweight racing bikes.

Q: How should the bike be equipped?
Here are some suggestions for bike accessories:

  • A method of holding your cue sheet. (Handlebar bag, clips on cables, etc.)
  • A basic cyclocomputer.
  • A watch.
  • 2-3 water bottles and/or a camelback.
  • Some place to store tools, food, and cloths.
  • Fenders — it will rain on many rides.
  • Two battery taillights or one battery and one generator taillight.
  • Wider tires (28mm+) are preferred by many riders.

Q: What should I carry during the ride?
Here are some suggestions:

  • Your Brevet card. (Don’t Lose it!)
  • ID, insurance card, etc.
  • Cash and a Credit Card.
  • Snacks to eat while riding.
  • Spare batteries and parts for lights.
  • Rain jacket and/or additional clothing layers.
  • Ziptop bags for keeping brevet card and cue sheet dry.
  • Pump, tubes, patches, and tire levers.
  • Basic tools, a chain master-link, etc.

Q: How much to eat on a long ride?
While the advice from reputable sources is very consistent, polling experienced randonneurs suggests that it is a personal matter. So rather than making specific recommendations, we suggest one attempts to find an approach that works for the individual. Always attempt to eat enough to avoid bonking but don’t eat a great deal while riding as the digestion can’t keep up. And avoid water-electrolyte imbalances. If you bonk, stop and eat whatever you have available. Most riders recover from a bonk quickly if they get plenty of food.

Reading material for on nutrition and exercise physiology:

Q: How much to drink?
Varies according to weather conditions, rider weight and individual physiology and effort level. Typical recommendations are at least 1 oz of water per hour per 10 pounds of body weight but considerably more is needed in warm conditions. Some riders sweat more than others and just need more water. The references provided with the previous answer will explain how you can estimate your individual sweat rate. Take the trouble to figure this out because dehydration is dangerous, can be debilitating and takes a long time to recover from. Know its signs but avoid it in the first place.

Q: How fast to ride?
This can be a complex problem. One first needs to state the objective of riding in the event since the question of riding speed depends on that. Consider the differences among the following goals: ‘have a safe, comfortable ride, enjoy the weather and scenery, and get some exercise’, ‘ride together with my buddies X, Y and Z’, ‘finish and get off the bike as soon as possible’. Clearly these lead to different approaches to riding speed. With the goal established, the answer to the original questions is: whatever achieves the goal for the individual. What that means in practice depends on the individual’s talent, fitness, equipment, etc. Experience can
help a rider put a number on it. A typical brevet series offers rides of increasing length through the riding season to allow one to gain this experience.

Q: How to train?
As with the previous question, it’s largely up to the individual and depends on his or her goals. But it’s clear that being well trained allows one to ride in greater comfort. For long distance cycling, endurance is the primary training focus followed by climbing ability. More training is good but overtraining is not. With those points in mind one can turn to the
advice of the professionals:

  • The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling: Build the Strength, Skills, and Confidence to Ride as Far as You Want by Edmund R. Burke and Ed Pavelka
  • The CTS Collection: Training Tips for Cyclists and Triathletes by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong and Jim Rutberg
  • The Cyclist’s Training Bible (Paperback) by Joe Friel

Many long distance cyclists have noticed that the adaptations of long-distance training and brevet riding accumulate year-on-year. This is especially encouraging because it seems to apply even into later life. To get the most out of this one should keep doing long distance rides after the brevet season closes through the fall and early winter and maintain some kind of a reasonable fitness program over the winter.

Q: What are common reasons for DNFing (Not finishing)?
Digestion and physical ailments are the most frequent causes of not finishing. Experienced riders learn what food works for them and know the early warning signs of problems. Physical ailments can often be minimized by fixing anything that is uncomfortable as soon as possible. Minor annoyances can become ride-ending problems within a hundred miles.

Mechanical problems account for a smaller number of DNFs. Use quality parts and check the bike before the ride.


Ride/Navigation Questions

I want to abandon the ride. What should I do?
If you can’t continue, you MUST CALL the ride leader and tell them you are abandoning. Contact info is listed on the cue sheet distributed at the start of the ride. Then call a friend or a cab to pick you up.

Tip: Try to make it to the next control and rest for a few minutes before deciding to DNF. Sometimes a 15 minute break and some food can improve one’s sprits.

What are Bag Drops?
On some Brevets riders can bring a SMALL bag of supplies (cloths, food, batteries, etc) and the ride organizers bring this bag to a specified control so riders can retrieve or leave items. Bag drop locations will be listed on ride webpage and on the cue sheet. Note: fast riders might arrive at the finish before their bags make it back. Not all events have bag drops.

On the 600k riders are encouraged to leave a sleeping bag and toiletries in their drop bag if they plan to stay at the overnight control. Check the event page a few days before the event for specific information about the event.

How can I navigate from a cue sheet at night?
A helmet mounted light can be shone on the cue sheet and on road signage. Cheap LED helmet lights can be purchased form hardware and outdoor stores. Or you can use Bruce Ingle’s trick and solder an LED to a used battery and strap that to your helmet.

Note: Be careful with helmet lights — it’s inconsiderate to point your light in other rider’s eyes.

Can I leave the route or stop outside a control?
Sure. You’re welcome to leave the route so long as you return the same location before resuming the ride. Some riders find a good cup of coffee at a nearby cafe well worth a few extra miles. However, bypassing any part of the route (intentionally or not) is grounds for disqualification.

What is a control?
Controls are mandatory stops placed at the edges of the route to ensure riders keep a steady pace and do not shortcut portions of the course. Controls are typically found every 40-75 miles. At the control you’ll need to get your Brevet card signed by a brevet volunteer. In the event that a control is unstaffed, you’ll need to get your card signed by a local merchant or answer a question printed in your brevet card.

Most controls along the Boston Brevet Series rides are staffed and have water and light snacks. In Vermont there is a mix of fully supported and unsupported controls.

What’s at the Control? Got at Control Tips?
You want to get through the control as quickly as possible. 30 minutes on a bike might seem like a long time but 30 minutes at a control can go by in a heartbeat. This time adds up!

Get you Brevet card signed ASAP once you arrive at the control. Forget this and you DNF the ride. Fill your bottles, flip your cue sheet, and otherwise get your bike ready for the next leg. Then it’s time to eat. Most controls will have PB&J fixings, potato chips, cookies, and fruit. On longer rides the controls might also have energy drink mix, summer sausage (600k), deli meats (300k), or baked beans (400k). Those with special dietary needs will want to bring their own food.

How do I read the Cue-sheet?
To read the cue-sheet:

The first column shows the distance until the cue listed on the same line.

The second column shows the total distance to that cue from the previous checkpoint.

If a cue is not indented then it indicates a turn. Don’t miss these.
If a cue is indented, then it is only a mile marker and not a turn. These let you know that you’re still on course. A few people find these distracting and create cue sheets with turns only.

All distances are in miles. Tip: The cue sheet only helps if you can read it. Put it in a ziptop bag and attach it to the bars. The cue sheet will also tell you the opening and closing times of controls and lists the emergency contact info for the ride leaders.

Should I carry maps?
Some riders like to carry state maps or the Rubel bike maps. Not all roads will be on state maps and the rubel maps won’t help outside of MA. If you’re prone to getting lost you might want to carry a GPS with loaded maps. Even if you don’t preprogram the route, GPSs can be preferable to paper maps. (Particularly at night when it’s raining.)

Should I use a GPS?
GPSs are allowed and some riders find them helpful. However, they aren’t a substitute for the cue sheet. Note: GPS files are NOT reviewed by the ride leaders for accuracy. We are not responsible if you go off-route while following a GPS.

The Cue sheet provided at the start of the ride is the only listing of the official route. Deviate from the cue sheet and you risk being disqualified. If using a GPS, double-check all turns with the cue sheet before turning.

What are the lighting & safety requirements?
The minimum lighting and reflectors required to meet RUSA’s Rules for Riders and state laws for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont (the states we may ride through at night) are:

  • A white headlamp, firmly attached to the bike, visible from at least 500 feet to the front. High power LED lights are acceptable;
  • A rear steady (non-flashing) taillamp, firmly attached to the bike, visible from at least 600 feet to the rear;
  • In New Hampshire and Vermont on the 600k, a red rear reflector or red taillamp reflector attached to the bike and visible from at least 300 feet to the rear;
  • In New York on the 600k, side lighting attached to the bike, visible from at least 200 feet to the side (forward or rear lights which emit light to the side are permissible);
  • reflective ankle bands, visible from at least 600 feet front and rear;
  • a reflective vest, sash, Sam Browne belt, or some other device that clearly places reflective material on the front and back of the rider.

Riders will not be allowed to continue the ride with inadequate or defective lighting — it is recommended that backup lights be carried.

Note: The orientation of your lights is import. Please ensure that taillights are pointing at the road and not up in other rider’s eyes. Headlights should be mounted to the frame and not to rider’s helmets.

Pamela Blalock has a helpful page with lighting tips.

Additonal Lighting Tips and Suggestions

Beyond the minimums required by law and RUSA regulations, the amount of light you’ll need will depend greatly on riding conditions as well as your own riding speed, skill, night vision, risk tolerance and ability to ride with others. It should be noted that most Boston brevets have some rough roads which are usually traversed at night, as well as the unpredictability of New England weather. If you suffer a crash from hitting a road hazard while trying to see by inadequate lighting, it’ll be nobody’s fault but your own. Hitting a road hazard is by far the most common cause of cycling crashes, and can easily result in serious injury or death in spite of protective measures.

Additional reflective material, lighting and backup lighting are both allowed and strongly encouraged. We want you to look like a christmas tree or UFO at night.

Many riders find helmet-mounted lamps useful for fixing flats, getting the attention of motorists and reading street signs, cue sheets and instrumentation. REI carries a wide variety of headlamps which can be mounted on or adapted to cycling helmets. If you mount a light to your helmet, make sure to use a breakaway mount (e.g. velcro, easily broken zipties, elastics/rubber bands, the original headband, etc.) so the helmet remains effective in a crash. Please use them with consideration when conversing with other riders (turn them off or point them elsewhere.)

Bar end plug lights can be a useful adjunct to your main rear lighting on bikes without bar-end shifters. These inexpensive plugs are available from many popular internet bike part retailers and at larger local bike shops.

Xenon Strobes are optional and can greatly aid your visibility to motorists in poor conditions, but they can also be a nuisance when riding in a group; please use them (as well as other flashing lights) with consideration for other riders immediately behind you. The Lightman is one of the better models available.

Use high quality batteries; Lithium AA & AAA disposable batteries are exspensive but some riders find it’s worth the cost.

Generator Hubs (Dynamos) have inproved in availablity and decreased in price in the last few years. Shimano’s new high quality generator hubs ($100-$150) are reliable choice for thoes on a budget. The new Schmit SON 20R ($250) weights as much as several batteries and adds verticully no additonal resistence when riding with the light off.

For thoes who like to tinker, homemade lights are frequrently brighter and much less exspensive then their commercial counterparts. The Candle Power Forums is a good resource. The NER Mailling list is another good place to ask questions about homemade lights.

Identi-Tape offers reflective tape for clothing and other surfaces in several different colors; most Wal-Marts carry red or white “200 MPH” brand reflective tape in the automotive section. White and yellow tapes are much more visible than other colors. Covering a sixth of the inner exterior surface of the rim with a solid block of white reflective tape is a great way to enhance the bike’s nighttime visibility; applying reflective tape to your helmet and the bike’s fork, seatstays, mudguards (if applicable), seatpost, cranks and pedals is helpful as well. You can even make your handlebars reflective using Cinelli Lux Ribbon.

Light-colored clothing can aid your visibility in nearly all conditions; a solid white or hi-viz (neon) yellow jersey appears to get the best response from motorists at night. Illuminite clothing also retroreflects about as much light as light-colored clothing, but the dark colors normally used mean it won’t show up as well as light-colored clothing under streetlights or during the daytime. It’s a good choice for tights, which are normally black anyway. Illuminite clothing will not meet the requirements for reflective equipment on the rider, since it isn’t reflective enough.