Friday, July 22, 2011

PBP: Kind of Like the Tour de France for Old Slow Guys from Seattle

If you're riding in Paris-Brest-Paris and you haven't found your way to the PBP Wiki yet, you should definitely go take a look. It has some great information and tools that can help with your planning.

One section I found to be particularly interesting is the statistics on who from the U.S. is registered. They have a complete list of all U.S. riders along with a bit of demographic information about them. You can go there and see all the details for yourself, but I thought I'd pull out some of the highlights here just for fun. (Yes, I'm one of those nerds who think statistics are big fun. Woohoo!)

In total, 438 U.S. riders have registered for PBP. Not surprisingly, the vast majority are men.

Ages of the riders cover a wide range from 21 to 70. The average age is 50, and a sizable majority (about two thirds) fall between the ages of 45 and 60, clearly supporting the stereotype of randonneurs as a bunch of grumpy old men.

Notice the large anomalous spike in the chart at age 49? I wonder how many of those are people trying desperately to do something meaningful as they cross the half-century mark and begin the long decline into senior discounts and vacations on cruise ships. I suppose you could put me in that camp.

One of the things I've agonized over and still stress about is the choice of a start time. I'm now locked into the 80 hour start, so I might as well get used to it. Here's how the other U.S. riders are lined up for start times.

U.S. PBP riders will be coming from all over the country, but clearly a disproportionate number are from the west coast. California has the largest number of riders with a fifth of the total. Not too surprising since it's the most populous state and much of it has an excellent climate for cycling. But how about this? Washington State is a fairly close second with 12%. Almost every one of those Washington riders is a member of my club, Seattle International Randonneurs. Since the California riders are divided among several clubs, SIR has the largest number of riders by a landslide (64). The next closest club is San Francisco Randonneurs with 43 riders.

I was curious how disproportionate Washington's number of randonneurs is compared to other states, so I compared the number of registered riders in each state with the state's total population. Washington state has 9.37 randonneurs per 1,000,000 of total population (call it "Rando parts per million" or RPPM). That's the highest rate in the country by far. Next is DC (the other Washington) with a RPPM of 4.99. Impressively Alaska ranks third with 4.22 RPPM (but since that's based on only 3 riders total, I'm not sure it means much). Colorado, Montana, California, Oregon and Minnesota all have RPPMs of 2 or more. In the rest of the states, a PBP rider is literally one in a million or less. Ten states had no riders registered for PBP (Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming).

So what's going on in Seattle that makes randonneuring so popular compared to other parts of the country? I sit here in the middle of the Seattle Rando scene and honestly I have no idea. I mean, the club is fantastic. We have great leadership, volunteers and members. But why here in Seattle where it rains 367 days of the year? I have no theories...


  1. No snow, no extreme heat, we can ride all year. Plus the club organization is awesome.

  2. Weird. I would expect Oregon to not only have had its own slice but one of the bigger ones!?