What Is a Brevet? Unveiling the Thrilling World of Long-Distance Cycling

Unravel the allure of brevets—a thrilling realm of long-distance cycling adventures. Get ready to push your limits in the open road!

Ready for an exhilarating journey on two wheels? If you’re new to the world of long-distance riding, you may have come across the term “brevet” and wondered what it actually means. Well, fear not! In this post, we’re going to unravel the mystery of brevets in cycling. So, fasten your helmet and join us as we delve into the captivating world of brevets and discover why they hold a special place in the hearts of riders worldwide.

What is a brevet? A brevet, in the sport of randonneuring, is an organized long-distance bicycle ride where cyclists, known as randonneurs, follow a designated route and pass through checkpoints within specified time limits. It’s a test of endurance, self-sufficiency, and touring skills that’s sure to leave you craving more pedal-powered adventures!

What is a brevet?

In the sport of randonneuring, a brevet is an organized long-distance bicycle ride that puts participants through their paces. It’s an opportunity for cyclists, or as we like to call them, randonneurs, to embark on a challenging adventure following a designated but unmarked route.

A group of cyclists in a race. Source: unsplash
A group of cyclists in a race. Source: unsplash

The term “brevet” originates from the French word for certificate, which refers to the card carried by randonneurs (participants in these events) that gets stamped or signed at checkpoints along the route. The brevet card serves as proof of passage, showing that the participant completed the entire course without taking shortcuts and finished within the allotted time limit.

Brevets are not races, although riders may aim to improve their personal best times. It is a pass-or-fail event, where participants must finish within the allocated time frame to be considered successful.

Participants use regular road bikes or recumbents, and drafting (riding in close proximity to reduce wind resistance) is allowed.

Randonneuring is the type of cycling associated with brevets. It is a form of ultra-cycling characterized by long distances and minimal or no support during the event. Participants use regular road bikes or recumbents, and drafting (riding in close proximity to reduce wind resistance) is allowed.

Randonneurs travel lighter than self-contained touring cyclists without the heavy pannier bags needed for camping. The word “randonnée” translates loosely to “ramble” or “long journey” in French.

My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

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My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

This is my daily ride, my trusty Black Label It’s lightweight and beautifully crafted. It looks like a beast and rides like one too. I upgraded the saddle, but everything else is pretty much as it was out of the box. I highly recommend it.

What sets brevet apart?

Unlike traditional races, brevets focus on endurance, self-sufficiency, and honing your bicycle touring skills. The goal is not to compete against others but to test your mettle and explore your personal limits.

Checkpoints and time limits

During a brevet, randonneurs must pass through check-point controls at designated locations along the route. These checkpoints ensure that participants follow the course and complete the ride within specified time limits. Now, don’t fret! These time limits are designed to be challenging yet reasonable, allowing you to complete the ride at a comfortable pace without the need for racing speeds or high-pressure strategies.

Cycling on any bike

The beauty of brevets is that you don’t need a specialized bike to participate. Most riders opt for racing bicycles or fast-touring bicycles. In fact, several manufacturers offer models specifically designed for randonneuring or audax, equipped with mounts for a baggage carrier and mudguards. But hey, don’t be surprised to spot recumbents or velomobiles on the route too. These unique bikes are well-suited for long distances and add a touch of variety to the brevet scene.

A group of cyclists racing in an uphill. Source: unsplash
A group of cyclists racing in an uphill. Source: unsplash

What are the types of brevets?

Ready to explore the diverse world of brevets? Let’s dive into the different types of brevets that await adventurous cyclists like you:

1. Classic distances

Brevets come in various lengths, but the classic distances are 200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km. Completing one of each during a given year is known as completing a “series.” These distances serve as stepping stones, testing your endurance and preparing you for the ultimate challenge.

2. Variety of events

In addition to the classic distances, there are brevets of greater lengths, going beyond the 600km mark. These longer brevets allow experienced riders to push their limits and embark on extraordinary journeys. However, it’s worth noting that no brevets are held under 200km.

3. Populaires

You might come across the term “Populaires” when exploring brevet events. Populaires are recognized and organized for distances less than 200km. They offer a gateway for beginners or those seeking shorter yet exciting rides. It’s a fantastic opportunity to dip your toes into the world of randonneuring.

4. Paris-Brest-Paris

Ah, the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). This iconic brevet event holds a special place in the hearts of randonneurs worldwide. It takes place approximately every four years and covers an out-and-back course of around 1200km between Paris and Brest. Dating back to 1891, it’s the oldest regularly run bicycling event. Today, it has transformed into a non-competitive endurance challenge, allowing cyclists to create lasting memories and conquer personal milestones.

As you venture into the world of brevets, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

Pack appropriate clothingDon’t underestimate the challenge
Carry spare parts and toolsDon’t forget reflective gear for night riding
Stay hydrated and fuel up with nutritious snacksDon’t ignore proper bike maintenance
Follow the designated route and checkpoint controlsDon’t overexert yourself beyond your capabilities
Embrace the adventure and enjoy the journeyDon’t forget to capture memories along the way
Dos and don’ts of joining brevets

What makes Paris-Brest-Paris special?

Ah, the crown jewel of brevet events—Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). Paris-Brest-Paris is an approximately 1200km out-and-back cycling event that takes place between Paris and Brest. Dating back to 1891, it holds the distinction of being the oldest regularly run bicycling event. What started as a race for professional cyclists has now transformed into a non-competitive endurance challenge that captivates riders from around the globe.

Qualifying for PBP

To participate in PBP, cyclists must complete a series of brevets within the same year. The order of completing the brevets may vary, but the traditional progression is 200km, 300km, 400km, and finally 600km. This series qualification ensures that riders are well-prepared for the grand adventure that awaits them on the roads between Paris and Brest.

Challenging but rewarding

Paris-Brest-Paris pushes riders to their limits, testing their endurance, perseverance, and mental fortitude. The time limits set for completing the course add an additional layer of excitement and challenge. It’s an extraordinary journey that takes cyclists through scenic landscapes, rolling hills, and unforgettable experiences.

So, my fellow riders, if you’re seeking an extraordinary adventure that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime, consider qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris. Embrace the challenges, conquer the distance, and revel in the camaraderie that comes with riding alongside passionate cyclists from all corners of the globe.

Average speed and finish times of top brevet cycling events (2018-2023)

The following table presents data gathered from several significant brevet cycling events across the globe from the years 2018 to 2023. The data showcases the average speeds and finish times of the top performers in each event. The trends may also serve to illustrate the increasing competition and development of training strategies in this challenging sport.

YearEventDistance (km)Average Speed (km/h)Average Finish Time (HH:MM)
2021The Gold Rush Randonnée, California1,20025.946:18
2022Rocky Mountain 1200, Canada1,20026.046:09
2023Perth-Albany-Perth, Australia1,20026.345:40
Comparative data showing the average speeds and finish times of top performers in global brevet cycling events from 2018 to 2023.

Advantages and disadvantages of participating in brevets

Participating in brevets brings forth unique advantages and disadvantages for riders seeking thrilling cycling experiences. Let’s explore them:

Advantages of participating in brevets

  • Pushing your limits: Brevets provide an opportunity to test and expand your endurance, both physically and mentally.
  • Sense of accomplishment: Completing a brevet, especially longer distances like 600km or more, gives a tremendous sense of achievement and personal growth.
  • Exploration and camaraderie: Brevets take riders through scenic routes, allowing them to discover new landscapes and build connections with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
  • Building resilience: Facing challenges during brevets helps cultivate resilience and determination, benefiting not only your cycling endeavors but also other aspects of life.

Disadvantages of participating in brevets

  • Physical demands: Brevets require substantial physical exertion, and the longer distances can be physically taxing, demanding proper conditioning and training.
  • Time commitment: Completing brevets, especially the longer ones, necessitates dedicating a significant amount of time to preparation, training, and the event itself.
  • Weather and unpredictable conditions: Brevets often involve riding in various weather conditions, including rain, heat, and wind, which can pose additional challenges and discomfort.
  • Potential for fatigue and burnout: The demanding nature of brevets can lead to fatigue and burnout if not managed properly, emphasizing the importance of rest and recovery.

Participating in brevets offers remarkable adventures and personal growth opportunities, but it’s essential to weigh these advantages and disadvantages to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and rewarding experience.

If you want even more great tips and information, check out the video.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about what a brevet is? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

Can I participate in a brevet if I’m new to cycling or don’t have much experience?

Absolutely! Brevets welcome riders of various skill levels. While it’s beneficial to have some cycling experience, brevets also provide an opportunity for beginners to challenge themselves and gradually build their endurance and skills.

What kind of bike should I use for a brevet?

Brevets can be completed on various types of bicycles, including road bikes, touring bikes, and even fixed-gear or single-speed bikes. Choose a bike that you feel comfortable riding for long distances and ensure it is well-maintained.

Are brevets organized only in specific countries?

No, brevets are organized worldwide! While they have a rich history in France, many countries host brevet events. Check with local cycling organizations or randonneuring clubs in your area to find brevets close to home.


And that, my adventurous friends, brings us to the end of our brevet journey. We’ve explored the ins and outs of this captivating world of long-distance cycling. From the variety of brevet types to the challenges they present to the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris, brevets offer an extraordinary avenue for testing your limits, experiencing unforgettable landscapes, and creating lifelong memories.

So, tell me, did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on cycling. Thanks for reading, and happy pedaling!

Key takeaways

This article covered the topic of brevets. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Brevets are long-distance organized cycling events that test endurance and self-sufficiency.
  • Paris-Brest-Paris is a legendary brevet event held every four years.
  • Brevets welcome riders of various skill levels and can be completed on different types of bicycles.
  • Participating in brevets offers personal growth, exploration, and a sense of accomplishment.

Helpful resources

Bradley Knight Image
Written by Bradley Knight, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Bradley, and I've been riding fixed for years. I love all the joy and pain that comes with this unique style of cycling and the passionate community that drives it. If you love fixed-gear bikes, this is the place for you.

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

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