Note: Adapted from Wikipedia’s entry. Read it for a full explanation.
Randonneuring is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every 20-40 miles. Each rider carries a “brevet card” (or control card) which must be stamped at each control to prove completion. In some events, riders will be asked to supplement this by collecting purchase receipts in certain places and by answering questions about their surroundings at “information controls.”
Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. Riders may travel in groups or alone as they wish and are expected to be fully self-sufficient between controls, carrying food, water, spare clothing and tools to meet their requirements. At the end of the event, the brevet card is handed in to the organizers who will then check and certify the results. Riders are expected to keep within minimum and maximum average speed limits. It is permissible – and common – for riders to stop to eat and rest at controls, though no extra time is allowed for doing so.
A randonneuring event is called a randonée or a brevet. A rider who has completed a 200 km event is called a randonneur. In addition to 200 km events, there are brevets of 300 km, 400 km, 600 km and more. These will typically involve an element of night-riding. There are also shorter events: in a “brevet populaire” (or simply “populaire”), riders follow a course of 50 km, 100 km or 150 km. These brevets are seen as a good introduction to the full-blown “randonneur” events and also as a manageable distance for riders who want to maintain regular participation in the sport over a sustained period of time.