While winter is still around us in europe, randonneurs are already focused on the coming season and the highlight in august in Paris. For the first time the limited slots will be an issue to riders who want to participate. Meanwhile 850 additional slots where announced by the organizers.
To be on the safe side, I already took the chance and did preregister in January. Fortunately I finished a 1000km brevet last year. Now we are slowly entering the preparation phase. After the mistakes of my last PBP participation in 2015, I have gained a lot of experience on the long distance, which I would like to share with other riders.
- My personal DON`TS
- My list of items
- Pack Bags
- Handlebar setup
However, I do not claim to be universally valid. It’s based on my own experience and preferences. If you expect a one-one manual to succeed in Paris, you will probably will be disappointed. Every rondoneur follows a different strategy. But I hope to give you some inspiration and in return I am thankful for any constructive feedback and critique. Don`t hesitate to let me know:
My personal DON`TS
In 2015 I started together with two friends in Paris with the ambitious goal of covering the entire route together. This was a tough acid test because such long distances inevitably lead to different needs and sensitivities that are very difficult to reconcile. It’s an honorable thought to succeed as a team. At PBP, I’m not gonna do that anymore. I will go my own pace, taking breaks when they are needed and take the drops when it feels good. Even if we still ride a lot of brevets together as a group, for PBP I want to go with the flow and meet riders from all over the world.
Riding a new bike setup
Actually it doesn’t need any major explanations, as this happens all by itself when you have already completed a few long distances. In 2015 a car crashed into my bike and made it unusable at all (lucky me: almost unhurt). So I had to find a new bike two weeks before PBP. Thanks to my good friend Erik, who lent me his Canyon, I could start fortunately. The bike fitting took 30 minutes, the first and only test ride was 30 kilometres around the lake. The only part of my old bike that went to Paris was my Brooks B17 sofa saddle. Fortunately, the setup worked fine for me on the 1200 kilometers, but it’s not recommended. I would already be driving the same setup on the 200 kilometres as in Paris. This is the only way to notice where things are still stuck, what is annoying and can be optimized.
Ride in a group too fast
Randonneurs from all over the world meet every four years in Paris. Of course, anyone leaving the starting area is nervous. After all, it is the absolute highlight for many long-distance riders. The motivation goes through quickly with you. It is important to find your own rhythm as quickly as possible despite the hectic start phase. I found this much more difficult with Paris-Brest-Paris than with any other brevet, because you hardly ever ride alone and are constantly tempted to put a little too much power on the pedals. If you don’t notice this in time and take it out, it has bad consequences, because once in this hole it is hard to drive out again. Since I’m riding without a power meter, it’s just a matter of feeling.
Spending a lot of time at a checkpoint
This is certainly one of the points where it depends entirely on the individual plan how you handle it. But keep in mind – at PBP you don’t lose time on the track, but at the checkpoints. In 2015, very long queues formed at the food counter in the prime time. It is a good idea to stop for lunch in one of the many small towns, at least during the day. My personal plan is to minimize the time at the checkpoints, so just get the stamp and some food on the way. I prefer to have conversations with other randonneurs on the track instead of in the cafeteria.
Forging a detailed timetable
It can be helpful to set goals. However, it makes little sense to draw up a concrete plan that you then follow for 1200 kilometres. At such a distance, many X-factors play too large a role alongside fitness. These are for example wind, rain, mental daily form, breakdowns and defects and so on. I orient myself on my own time windows within which I would like to reach a certain control point. After all, you just have to let yourself roll and take things the way they come.
My list of items
This is the list of items I used last year (including the ARA-1000-KM-Brevet in Saxony (Czech Republic and Austria) and didn’t miss anything. Every randonneur has own preferences! I tend to be more sporty on the road. I more or less drove through the 1000km last year. I had a very small summer sleeping bag with me, but basically I only hung it on the saddle as a decoration. That’s why I won’t have it on board in Paris.
- cycling jersey
This has large back pockets and a closable pocket for brevet card etc..
- cycling shorts
Comfortable upholstery and tried and tested on the long haul.
- cycling socks
Depending on the weather long OR short.
- leg warmers
Tinting after weathering and distance length, since I carry them also at night.
- wind vest
At night it can get quite cool at the neck even in summer.
- cycling shoes
Waterproof for the rain shower in between. I had forgotten them at the 1000 last year, because I didn’t have a packing list yet ;). I helped myself out with two small plastic bags over my socks and got my feet warm again. When moving out you should not be in closed rooms with other people 😉
- Rain trousers long
Also protects against the cold during a night break.
- rain jacket
Against water from above and from time to time against wind during nightly descents.
- reflective vest
Mandatory! Previously I had a simple model from a major shipper. But there are different variants in the motorcycle market, which fit much better and flutter less in the wind. For Paris, they only need to be EN 1150 or EN ISO 20471 certified.
A curse and a blessing at the same time, but very few cyclists today are without electronics, although in Paris many things would not be absolutely necessary. And yes, I don’t miss having to look for the right branch on the laminated route map with my helmet lamp in the drizzle during night drives.
- navigation device
I use a Garmin eTrex30 because there are AA batteries at every gas station and a pair of Eneloop Black batteries can loosely hold out up to 600KM brevet. After a little over 30 hours, I usually switch.
Although the Garmin has never let me down so far, it’s good to have a backup independent of a GPS signal, especially for smaller brevets where you’re on your own, at least to keep an eye on the kilometers.
- mobile phone
This is also obligatory. I have mostly activated the location release, so that love knows where you are and that you are still rolling. I do not use Strava with longer Brevets on the telephone, since this costs a lot of battery power unnecessarily. I’ll upload the gpx file from Garmin later. I always carry as a back up the brevet track to the Komoot app in case Garmin fails.
- front light
Here I use a model which is operated with AA batteries (4 pieces) just like the Garmin. It’ll get me through a summer night.
- head light
For fast downhill rides or a possible flat at night in my eyes essential. If the front light fails, the head light can also be mounted on the handlebar and serve as a backup.
Here I have basically two. One primary and one replacement.
- power bench
If the worst comes to the worst, the phone, helmet lamp and Garmin can be charged via the compact Powerbank.
- spare batteries
I usually take 8 AA batteries with me as reserve for front lights and Garmin.
Tools & Co.
Of course, many defects can be prevented by regularly replacing wearing parts, but in case of an emergency I have some tools on board.
- air pump
- tire lever
- Spare hoses (2 pieces)
- repair kit
- small multi-tool
- chain riveters
Yeah, I’ve needed it before.
- brake cable
- shift cable
I’ve had to change at night, too.
- Cable ties and Gaffa tape
Keeps everything together for the time being in case of need
- rescue blanket
- first aid kit
Bandage, disinfectant, painkiller (Absolutely not at all to cover up pain and continue!) Only for first aid if the journey ends prematurely for health reasons.
With cash, EC card, Visa card, ID card, insurance card.
- brevet card
- pen and paper
After all, the best thoughts come from cycling.
- Route plan analogue as printout
That’s where I’m from oldschool.
As a rule, it depends on the concrete brevet. I always look for gas stations along the route next to the checkpoints before the brevet. Since last season I’ve been on the road with my Malto-Dextro mixture, which I portion into each bottle (1 litre) beforehand. Besides, I always carry salt tablets with me. I like to take bananas and nuts with me on solid provisions. I have an energy gel with me for every 100 kilometers but I rarely use them. Everything else is available at the bakery or at the snack bar on the course!
Of course, all this has to be stowed away on the bike and body. There are countless variations of bags, rolls and backpacks.
I’ve been riding longer distances for 12 years. I usually started at point A heading to point B. Everything I needed in B, I had to pack and transport myself. Due to the lack of space and the increasing wheel weight, I learned to optimize and become more minimalistic. By far the most pointless utensil I have ever dragged along on a four-week bike tour from Leipzig to Glasgow was a basketball. The assumption to throw a few baskets somewhere in the evening of a tour day, I buried already after a few stages, but the ball drove to the end (and back again).
No one would ever get the idea of carrying a basketball with them when they get a brevet, but in every Randonneur bag there is an object that you don’t actually need. In mine it was more than one! „When the place is there,“ I hear myself thinking. I drove my first (shorter) brevets with saddlebag and handlebar bag – packed full, as if I would leave civilization. Each time after the brevet I unpacked the bags and noticed what I didn’t need. After all, I disciplined myself and only allowed myself one bag.
For me, the only thing I could do was get a saddlebag. On the one hand it has a better aerodynamics than a handlebar bag, on the other hand it protects me from the cold rear shower when it rains. The biggest disadvantage of this type of bag is that you cannot reach its contents while driving. Here lies the great advantage of handlebar bags. I have, however, found a solution for myself. Behind me in the saddlebag are all objects that are of no use to me anyway during the rolling, such as tools, pump, hoses, clothes, rescue blanket and my supply of bottle powder. Everything that might be interesting during the ride finds its place either in a very compact frame bag under me or in the big bags at the back of the cycling jersey.
There are basically two variants of saddlebags. The first possibility are pockets that are clicked into via a bracket on the seat post. These bags are more stable in themselves and swing less. However, I would not necessarily impose such a bracket on any carbon post.
The second variant are packing bags which are fastened to the seat as well as to the seat post with Velcro straps. This means that the load is slightly better distributed and no mounting on the seat post is necessary.
Instead of the saddlebag, I also find somewhat more spacious frame bags interesting for long distances. The center of gravity is more centered there and it doesn’t swing when you get out of the saddle. But then I would have a problem with my two drinking bottles, each holding one litre. And of course the „mud guard“ is missing.
The reason I don’t use a handlebar bag is my feeling. I like to ride sporty and don’t want to feel like I’m on a packhorse. I like the view of a tidy handlebar. Even without a handlebar bag, you can quickly get space problems here if the aerobars, speedometer, gps and light are installed.
The handlebar setup
The handlebar has very limited space, even if you have such wide shoulders (and in the best case also a wider handlebar). Anyone who doesn’t look like Hercules (and probably stays under half a meter handlebar width) and uses aerobars on top of that, quickly gets space problems in front. I have found solutions for myself that enable me to fix everything in a practical way. But what needs to be fixed at all?
The following things I need to fix on my handlebars:
- front light
- Garmin eTrex30 Navi
Not on the list, but still mostly on the handlebars:
- Aerobar (Profile Design T2+dL)
As the aerobars spread out where Garmin, light and speedometer would otherwise have their place, it slowly gets cramped. If you only use a roadbike speedometer (Wahoo etc.), there are practical holders that hold the device securely in front of the handlebars. For the eTrex nothing like this is available. But thanks to my friend Toni there will soon be a solution from his own workshop. With this I can finally place the eTrex in front of the handlebars (between the tribras). So far I had strapped the holder around the stem, which works in principle, but I never really liked it.
I can buckle the speedometer onto the bridge at the front of my aerobars. So I have a good view on it when I use the tribrars and Garmin is under me. Now the light… Well, I’ve tried a lot of things here. The problem was always, even if the lamp was small enough to fit on the handlebars, the aerobars always threw shadows on the road – not good! Then I had an idea that I thought was very good. I fixed my front lamp upside down under the handlebars. Looked great – at least during the day. At night I noticed how big the influence of the lenses inside the light housing can be. The trees at the roadside were bright, the oncoming traffic was dazzled and the road remained reliably in semi-shade!
This was followed by my present solution, which I had put off for a long time. I bought another attachment – a handlebar extension that I can attach to my stem. Now the front lamp hangs right under the stem and I have to say that I am very satisfied with it. I have already driven a 600km and a 1000km brevet on rough czech asphalt and the part holds bomb-proof.
And if the question arises again:
Are aerobars allowed at all at PBP?
I photographed my setup and sent it directly to the decision makers on site. The answer is: Looks ok, but will be checked again on the spot.
If it doesn’t go through, I’ll dismantle the tribars in Rambouillet. Then I have more space on the handlebars again. Then finally my bell fits again!
With that in mind!