Long-distance cycling, known as brevet, is among the best cardio activities that can be pursued at any age…

What are brevets?

Brevets are long-distance, free-paced cycling events of 200, 300, 400, 600 or 1000 kilometers within specific time limits. Started in 1921 by Audax Club Parisien, Brevet denotes the certificate issued to the rider who has successfully ridden the event.  Each season is from the beginning of October to end September the following year, by which time these rides must be completed. Participants of these events are called randonneurs.  The rider can ride at his or her own pace. A brevet is not a race. It is an event of endurance and a challenge where there is no ranking. All finishers are equal.

Since 1975, the 200, 300, 400 and 600 km brevets are required to qualify for the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) Randonneur (1200 km), organized every four years by the Audax Club Parisien since 1931, under the auspices of the French Federation of Bicycle Touring. Today, PBP is the most famous of all long-distance rides around the world.

Benefit of long-distance cycling

Meet randonneur Saravana Kumar who works in a private firm and is associated with most cycle clubs in Chennai such as BOB, Joy Riders, Tamil Nadu Cycle Club etc. He speaks about the benefits he derived from long distance cycling and also enumerates on benefits you can derive.

  • A fitness freak, Saravana Kumar developed a ligament injury during a basketball game. After a lot of research and enquiries, he took to long-distance cycling which helped him get over this condition.
  • Saravana Kumar speaks about Sundar Rajan who started long-distance cycling at 58 and is India’s most senior, grand super-randonneur who has completed 1000 km twice and 600 km four times! He completed Kashmir to Kanykumari in three days recently. Age is no barrier for endurance cycling.
  • Today most of us lead stressful lives and often we do not spare even an hour for our health. Cycling is a great stressbuster and keeps you charged and energetic.
  • Long-distance cycling takes you to new places. After Kumar started doing long rides, he has explored every nook and cranny of Chennai and its outskirts.
  • Long-distance cycling helps in developing both physical and mental stamina.
  • You get to meet different types of people from different age groups, develop camaraderie and the habit of helping others.
  • Other cardio activities lead to ennui. But long-distance cycling sustains interest and excitement.
  • Regular cycling produces a balance between exertion and relaxation, which is important for body equilibrium. It also helps improve coordination.
  • Studies report that regular cycling reduces the risk of heart attack by more than 50%.
  • It is believed that a week of inactivity reduces the strength of the muscular system up to 50 % and in the long term, harms the muscles. During cycling, most of the body’s muscle are activated.
  • Cycling has a relaxing effect. It stabilizes physical and emotional functions and is known to reduce anxiety and depression. It also helps in other psychological conditions.
  • Cyclic movement stimulates muscles of the lower back and helps people who are not able to move easily.
  • Cycling is also ideal for targeting problem areas. It increases fitness and stimulates the body’s fat-burning mechanism
  • The circular movement of cycling helps to transport energy and metabolic products to cartilages, reducing the risk of arthritis.

Precautions to be taken before long-distance cycling.

  • According to Saravana Kumar, it is advisable to speak to a doctor to ensure you do not have spinal problems or other issues that can be aggravated by cycling.
  • Stretching is important before starting and after the event. Not only leg muscles, but those of the shoulder, neck, forearm and wrist too get strained. If you don’t do stretches, don’t cycle!
  • You need to rest for two-three days before the cycling event and increase your intake of protein and carbohydrates because you would be burning a lot of calories.
  • You need to hydrate every 15-20 minutes during the event and consume solid food every 45 minutes. Beginners can take fluids like electral.
  • To keep muscle cramps away, just hydrating won’t do. You need to cycle at a pace that is comfortable for you and not compete with anyone else.
  • If you do not take proper rest, then you can develop muscle cramps.
  • It is important to set your mind to the distance necessary to ride. Only then can you complete the distance.
  • During long distances, you would be starting out early in the morning during sunrise, riding through the hot afternoon, sunset and may continue into the night. Keep your body fit, hydrated and well prepared to go through these temperature variations.
  • One of the biggest challenges during long-distance cycling is the headwind, which means you would be riding against the wind during a part of the ride. Beginners do not realize the impact of the head winds and try to push themselves when they notice the variation in their speed. To counter this, it is important to be aware about adjusting the gear ratio and keep spinning the pedal without putting pressure on your muscles.

Elevation is another challenge, and often, on highways, it is not noticeable. Cyclists should be prepared to handle elevations by adjusting their gear ratio.

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Swati Amar calls herself ‘the write person’ precisely because she claims her brain starts functioning only when her fingers dance over the computer keyboard. Gripped by an obsessive compulsion to write, her day is incomplete until she has ‘keyed’ in a few lines. Moving from counting money as an erstwhile banker in State Bank of India, Swati has been counting words for more than fifteen years. She has contributed copiously to various print and online publications in English and Tamil, numbering over 15K articles on varied subjects. Swati Amar swears allegiance to the Chennai Press Club and prides on her experience as a media entrepreneur and consultant, never losing a ‘write’ opportunity. Swati’s favorite pastime is to watch News on television, read, revel in melody, doodle and dawdle and follow the footsteps of global chefs when time permits. She believes that a good laugh peps up one’s life! And the write words too…