Reducing Stopped Time on Brevets

Midjourney prompt: Cyclists stopping for a coffee at a cafe, New Yorker style illustration

One of the defining traits of randonneuring is that the clock never stops. Although brevets aren’t races, each event has time limits, and riders need to reach control points before the point’s closing time. Whether your plan is to ride fast enough to stay within the time limits or you have a personal goal for a faster time, everyone watches the clock to some degree on a brevet. This is especially true on a 600 and beyond – the faster you are, the more sleep you can get at an overnight control.

This spring, I noticed my brevet times were slower than I expected. I wasn’t at risk of finishing over the time limits, but I was noticeably slower than last year. When I looked at my rides in Strava, there weren’t any glaring differences compared to the previous year’s efforts. My average speed, power output, and riding times were fairly consistent. The big difference was that I was spending more time off the bike at controls and food stops. Each stop was pretty innocuous on its own, but ten minutes here and there adds up over several hundred kilometers.

It all came to a head on a recent 600, where I finished in 38:15. Somehow, I managed to rack up 10 hours of non-riding time, despite only getting one hour of sleep at the overnight control! After getting home, I started figuring out where I had gone wrong with my control hygiene.

Strava is obviously focused on analyzing what you were doing on the bike, not off. So I did the only logical thing and built the anti-Strava to analyze what you were doing when you weren’t riding. I don’t have much experience working with GPX files, but with some coaching from ChatGPT, I was able to make an initial version in a Python notebook. Later, I rewrote the same functionality in React to embed it here.

How to see your stopped time

You can analyze the stopped time for your rides here.

Screenshot of my time stopped tool

The tool takes your GPX file and returns all the times you stopped longer than five minutes, along with some basic stats about your stopped time. Hopefully, it will let you spot areas for improvement in your control hygiene!

Lessons from my 600

The screenshot above is from my sluggish 600. Some obvious areas for improvement are:

  • Stop less. There were only 5 controls outside the start/finish, but I had 14 stops! The most egregious was a 25 minute stop for breakfast less than two kilometers after leaving the hotel in the morning. We should have just eaten on the bike.
  • Plan my controls better. During this ride, I underestimated my fluid needs a couple of times and stopped less than 10km before a control point to refill my bottles. I should have either toughed it out for a few minutes or deducted the time from my next control’s time budget. Speaking of which…
  • Have a budget for time at control points. I used to start a stopwatch when I arrived at a control point to make sure I got out relatively quickly, but I have gotten lazy this year. It made a big difference when I started doing it again on rides after this.

For further reading on the topic, I found this post by Olaf Storbeck to be very insightful. It’s also where I got the “Time Stopped per 100 kms” metric for the tool.

If you also like measuring stopped/100kms, you can set it up as a custom Garmin field with the AppBuilder ConnectIQ app using these instructions as a starting point.

Mark Allen

Written by Mark Allen, a product manager and designer currently based in Toronto. Say hello on Twitter.

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