What is an Imperial?

NEW IN 2021!  Max distance for Imperials increases to 125 miles.  All 200k Routes in the club will be available as part of our Imperials Program.

Imperials are rides are a form of ride that is maintained by the club but has very open scheduling for riders as a way to emphasize social distancing.  In many ways, they are no different from other clubs who have rides that are scheduled on a much shorter notice than a year (or even 6 days).  They also don't necessarily mean a solo ride; it's perfectly alright to invite others.  However, the club rules of conduct still apply and that includes social distancing guidelines during the current pandemic.

Imperials are a bit like the old RUSA permanents but we simplify them.  GLU's Imperial Routes are either 25-125 miles with a real emphasis on riding in a safe, socially distant way.  They are also restricted in which months they can run.  If you have a route around 25-100 miles, contact us about volunteering it to be an Imperial Route.

While riding an Imperial:

  • You must register on our website for the Imperial and sign a waiver
  • The Club Code of Conduct Applies
  • External support is up to the rider - encouraged from family members to as a part of responsible social distancing
  • Imperials are only available to GLU Members, cost is free
  • An Imperial  can be anything from 25-100 miles
  • There are no real "control times" but we still suggest the standard ones as a guide to avoiding riding at night
  • You MUST bring lights and reflective gear on any Imperial just in case
  • All Traffic Laws are to be respected

NOTE: For COVID-19 and social distancing, we highly recommend you take your own food and limit stopping.  However, you won't do well bonked and being stuck on the side of the road needing a ride defeats social distancing.  Please be very aware of the nutritional requirements of a century and don't push yourself.  Take hand sanitizer and a mask in case you need to go indoors for support.

Imperials are, by design, shorter than brevets.  You may do them as training, or to simply have access to a good route that is written, maintained and shared by others just like you.  We want the flexibility of scheduling to rest with the rider and share the maintenance of the route.   We also know that some people enjoy seeing their mileage increase on our website and we like to acknowledge the accomplishments of others.  That’s a big part of camaraderie.

During the current pandemic, the need for vetted routes and options for people to ride alone is great.  We also hope that this is a good way for our members to share their experiences even when we are not riding together.

The Basics

  1. Find an Imperial you want to ride from our library
  2. Register for it, they are free to all GLU members.  Pick your start date and time.  Your registration email will contain a link for reporting your finish
  3. The ride will show up on our calendar.  Invite a friend or two to sign up.
  4. Ride the ride and let us know you finished using the link provided.  If you want, include a GPS track so that we can see how to make the ride better.
  5. Provide feedback! Include any notes about hazards or fun things to see when you submit.

Imperial Routes

Club members will design and submit routes to the club for approval as an Imperial using our website (which is pretty easy but will require an RWGPS route).   There will be a review process for routes as well.  We also want to be certain that all routes are maintained for safety.  We have a lot of flexibility to change them if construction comes up so feedback from riders is critical.  All Imperial Routes MUST be reviewed (by car or bike) by the submitter at least 1x a year to remain available for everyone to ride.  Ideally, these are popular routes that would be on your path anyways.  You are just giving others the opportunity to share.

Safety is the #1 consideration in route design.  All Imperial Routes will have partial credit granted so there is no reason not to use the very best roads possible.  Imperials can be in Illinois and Wisconsin to start with.  We are looking to add Iowa and Michigan soon since there are GLU members there as well.

If you want to design a route specifically for the winter, that is fine too.  Winter routes typically have different restrictions (tree cover, shoulder availability, plowing, etc.).  Imperial routes should be well maintained with potholes or other hazards marked by cue sheet OR on the road (where legal).  The route should be updated if construction forces a change.  It’s up to all of us to make sure these routes are safe and understandable while they are being used (not just when they are created).

How far?

While the randonneuring world is all metric, we thought it would be nice to have a name that reflected something different.  While brevets come in increments of 100k, Imperials come in increments of 25 miles going up to 125 miles perhaps the best-known distance in cycling.

An Imperial can be as short as the 25-mile route you do a couple times a week as training.  Or it could be a favorite century ride that you’d do any weekend of the year.

When can you ride them?

The shorter distances make them much more comfortable and amenable to our midwestern weather.  It’s fine if they are in the evening or at night as long as you follow the safety guidelines carefully – in the heat of summer, it’s hard to be out in the dead of the afternoon.

Time Limits?

We will suggest you aim for around 10 mph as an average for your own pleasure.  This isn’t for competition, it’s for fun so maybe plan on having a nice lunch halfway and checking out some town.  And a good personal challenge never hurt anyone.

Who can ride them?

These rides are for our members.  The major reason is because of the idiosyncrasies of insurance.  We will cover the details of that in the GLU procedures and safety meeting.  It also makes signing up really easy since you really just have to pick a ride and go.

Ideally, these are a great way to get your friends into the sport or just have a fun afternoon on the bike.  With the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are sensitive to the difficulty with this.  Randonneuring is probably one of the most ideally suited sports to social distancing - there just are not a lot of us and we tend to ride separately.  We strongly recommend that in 2020-21, we try to ride in pairs or triples while maintaining distance between us - at LEAST 6ft and preferably more.  The solo ride is acceptable too.

Services, Controls, and Support?

There are no controls that require you to stop.   It’s perfectly possibly to ride a century or more without stopping for food (in the summer, you will probably need to stop for fluids).  We encourage you to read our website for social distancing and safety when stopping.  Carry hand sanitizer and pay attention to what you touch.  You can stop wherever you like.

Much is made about support.  The fact is that in 2021, we have a pandemic going on.  We DO NOT want traditional follow cars as they block traffic.  However, if your family wishes to restock you at a safe point, we welcome you to do so within the guidelines of social distancing.

It is a REQUIREMENT of riding an Imperial that you have a bail-out plan and proper emergency contact information registered with the club.  And always let us know you finished.

Submitting an Imperial

One of the reasons that our club is able to have Imperials is the safety record and integrity of our members.  That is critical in having an Imperials program.  One of the most valued aspects of an Imperial is that it allows our members to share their favorite routes with each other, even during a global pandemic.

That said, owning an Imperial is a committment to the club.  We have lots of flexibility with these routes and with that comes the responsiblity of keeping them safe.  The Safest Route policy should ALWAYS be respected.  We want Imperials to be well reviewed; they should be ridden frequently with feedback provided. As the submitter, you will always have the ability to update them via the submission link and it is critical that you do so.  If a road goes under construction, it's key that you send an update and suggest an alternative so that others riding have that update.  We don't care how that happens.  Perhaps these are roads on the way to something else that you drive frequently?  Perhaps they are roads on your cycling commute or other club rides.  Point is, we want to hear from you - frequently.  We will be as responsive as possible.  Your updates also can help other routes as well!  The final step to approval is the copying of your RWGPS route to the club account.  We review this constantly so if we find out that a road is unavailable for your route, we can update other Imperials that share the same road.  The other bonus to using our library is that everyone will have premium RWGPS features when accessing the ride.  That gives downloads, turn by turn directions, etc.


Everyone likes awards.  Starting this year, GLU has its own medals.  These are engraved with the various accomplishments.  We will hand them out at the end of the season. 

The Imperial Dozens

An Imperials Dozen has 13 rides.  There are two kinds based on the distances of your rides.

RIDE 12 Imperials (you can do the same one more than once)

  • Straight Imperial Dozen: 12 Imperials of any distance
  • Royal Imperial Dozen: 12 Imperials of 100 miles

SUBMIT and OWN at least one route of your own to our Imperial Library, this is your 13th ride

Just so you know, there will be a separate but equally cool set of awards for ultra events.  We are hoping that Imperials will get you going so that your first event is a snap.

The Hebdomadal Imperial Challenge

Hebdomadal means "weekly".  In order to complete this grand daddy of challenges, you must:

RIDE at least ONE Imperial every week for 52 weeks (1 year)

You can start on any week.  You can't skip any of them.  No replacements.  It's 7 days or nothing.  Major accomplishment here with the club.  Imperials can be of any length.

Commendations and Thanks

While they are not the same as the previous (and indefinitely suspended) RUSA permanents, Great Lakes Randonneurs would like to thank Crista Borras of DC Randonneurs for her years of service to the permanents program and strongly influencing the creation of this program as well as Robert Fry of the Iowa Randonneurs who brought permanents to the US many years ago. Their contribution to the sport of randonneuring lives on with Imperials.