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Next story: 2011 Summer Guide

The Summer Randonnée

In warm weather, by all means take your time - but get on your bike and go

In past summer guides, we have provided you, our readers, with lists of things you must do in Western New York’s warm months. We’ve driven down sun-drenched highways and catalogued their roadside attractions for your edification and delight. We have eaten an enormous number of hot dogs and boatloads of steamed clams so that we could impart to you the knowledge of where to find the best summery fare.

This summer, we offer you as inspiration the enthusiasts of the Buffalo Lazy Randonneur Club. Its many dozens of members disagree on the club’s origin: at an Oscar party which, perhaps by coincidence, gathered together a critical mass of individuals interested the pursuit of…something, or nothing, pleasure maybe…on two wheels? One randonneur, artist Nathan Naetzker, advocates for a creation myth: a meeting of revered bicycle makers Rene Herse and Alex Singer at Ulrich’s Tavern.

The Buffalo Lazy Randonneurs celebrate the French and English tradition of bicycle touring. That is, riding short or long distances for the sake of the ride. Distance is relative. “Long rides are more of a feeling than a distance,” says club member Jack Courtney. “I’ve left the house for a ride and returned 500 miles later…my only complaint was the ride was too short.” Neither is speed the goal. The club, which is open to all, is a loose affiliation, and the members plan rides of all varieties via a Facebook page. (The club’s purpose, according to that page: “Half-heartedly dedicated to the French and English traditions of cyclotouring. Plan group rides. Brag about rides. What not.”) Last weekend, some club members spent a Sunday afternoon riding from Buffalo to Lewiston for a beer, getting soaked by rain along the way, while others enjoyed a long brunch at Trattoria Aroma after posing for photographs for this newspaper. Both pursuits seemed reasonably within the scope of the club’s interests.

The bicycles that the riders choose run the gamut: sturdy Dutch and English commuters, sleek fixed gears, sturdy mountain bike hybrids, vintage cruisers, and, naturally, touring bikes of the sort that the late French genius Herse perfected, beginning in the late 1930s: strong steel frames with relaxed geometry and beautiful lugs, comfortable leather saddles, exquisite gearing, fenders, wide tires, front lights, panniers and saddle bags for gear—everything you need to be self-sufficient on, for example, a 1,200-kilometer race in which the goal is simply to finish (see “Paris-Brest-Paris”) or on an afternoon roll around the city that ends with a beer on a patio somewhere or a bottle of wine under a tree.

What better inspiration for the short, sweet months of summer, whether you ride a bicycle or not—if you can, of course, you should—than a club whose members are eager to go but in no hurry to arrive, who celebrate function and form equally, who are egalitarian in all matters. (“Any bike underneath a person is more beautiful than the fanciest bike hanging on a wall,” says Jack Courtney. “There are bike clubs for every genre but none that celebrates…nothing,” says his brother, Gregory. “Is that what we do best? Celebrate Nothing? We certainly celebrate and for no reason.”)

The Buffalo Lazy Randonneurs have two established annual rides, one of which is forthcoming: The Seersucker Ride takes place, rain or shine, on June 26, the first official Sunday of summer. The cyclists dress in seersucker suits and summer dresses, tour the city, and end with a champagne picnic in Delaware Park. It is, Naetzker says, “a celebration of the brevity of summer, the camaraderie of cyclists, and Buffalove.” That’s hardly nothing. Anyone is encouraged to join. Check out the Buffalo Lazy Randonneurs Facebook page for details.

geoff kelly

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