Category Archives: brevet

Paris Brest Paris photos

Food preparations

French fries or just fries?

Rolling with Marcus (German messenger) and others

Dry.


Villaines-la-Juhel- best control ever

I cut a blister out from under a callus from Norseman

PBP

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Paris Brest Paris ride reports

Have not been able to post much, am finally back in California two weeks after PBP ended and almost two months after I left, but it is straight back to work. Till I have time to get my photos and other stories up here are some ride reports from other PBP riders:
Emily Archaeopteryx
wordpress PBP tag
Joel Metz (messenger)
bike forum list of reports

For now I am preparing with other Swarm! members for our 4-person team at the inaugural HooDoo 500 . I can’t believe I leave tomorrow night for a 4-day trip after only being back 3 days. Also need to find shoes and pedals because my cardboard box got wet in Iceland, opened and one of each fell out. Those Sidi’s are the most expensive clothing item I ever bought!

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Paris Brest Paris

(See this post for the background on this ride.)

The 930pm start (I was way in the back and didn’t leave till 11pm)

I was in one of those deep sleeps, when you are oblivious to the outside world. I don`t know how long it took him to wake me, but the first thing I remember is some guy speaking to me in French. The room is bright and empty, except for this guy talking to me and another guy with a tv camera behind him. I realize I am riding Paris Brest Paris and am at one of the controls. I went to sleep around 230am and had asked them to wake me late- 9am. That`s why the room is empty. I try to gain some composure. I touch the spandex and jersey I slept in- dry. I wonder over to the window- no rain, but cloudy. I see my other set of spandex and jersey hanging and I touch them- still wet from the rain I rode in for the last 5 hours of yeterday´s 18 hour ride. Do I wear my last dry set and risk them getting wet or put on the wet set and be cold for the first hour or so? All of this seems quite rational when the camera guy asks me something in French. I recognize him as the same one who asked me some questions in a small village we has stopped in yesterday. He is with www.parisbrestparis.tv. I explain my ignorance of the French language. He says, in broken English, `Is your head okay?´ Apparently my touching and looking came off far less rational than I thought. Can`t wait to see the video of that.

And that is one story of hundreds I could tell about my 1227 kilometer ride from Paris to Brest back to Paris. Part bike tour, part double century, part critical mass…I dont even know where to begin. The French love bikes! We rolled through all these little villages and people had food and coffee for you, little kids yelling. Great. Some towns even set up tents outside where dozens of people were hanging out (and drinking) and when you rolled by they all yelled ‘bravo! bravo!’
When you are riding with 5000 people and the route is sign-posted, it is not all that miserable. Even if it did rain 20 of the first 26 hours I rode straight through. 760 miles go by quickly. I finished in 77 hours, which I was happy with. I slept about 15 hours, which apparently is a lot. I kept hearing, ‘ You slept how much???’ Ride Hard, Sleep Fast. Or Ride Fast, Sleep Hard.

I cannot say enough about the people along the route and the other riders. In the USA Randoneuring`s reputation, unfortunately, is that it is boring and for old people. Just look at Randoneuring USA´s website (I won´t even go into how they did not want to accept Swarm! as an official club). But internationally it seems to have such a different vibe. There were far more young people from other countries and it is a well-respected type of cycling. I guess that is true for a lot of Europe- respecting things that are not respected in the US, for example a cyclist`s right to the road.

Through the first night I rode with a women from Colorado who is a 24-hour mountain bike racer. She dropped me about 100 miles in and I never saw her again. I then hooked up with a bike messenger from Dusseldorf who recognized my Team Bonobo cycling cap. Apparently a call went out from the guy who runs www.messengers.org that bike messengers should attempt PBP (and early on I ran into a kid riding a track bike from Hungary who knew Jack-crazy!). We rode together awhile, but I quit the ´fuck it, lets just keep riding´ camp at 1230am, after 330 miles and 25 hours of cycling, and went to sleep while they pressed on to Brest. Even the kid with no gloves and no bar tape.

To keep this readable, I am switching to list format:

  • I rode with a German and French guy up and over the biggest pass, working together the whole time. Outside of the teams that were there, not many worked in pacelines. We did and it was super fast and a fun time.
  • There seemed to be two ways to take this on: ride fast and sleep little or ride moderate and sleep little. The only people I saw who did what I did (ride fast, sleep a lot) were young and by themselves (that is not very many riders!). Each control had cots set up where you could sleep comfortably with a pillow and blanket!
  • Helmets were optional. Pretty cool. Lots of women did not wear helmets and a lot of the recumbant riders as well. The less their bikes looked like a a normal bike, the less likely they were to have one on.
  • Saw multiple fixed gear riders, including Emily from Boston who rode the Furnace Creek 508 fixed two years in a row. She said this was the first time she didn´t ride to a Brevet.
  • Rode with some Spaniards with beards. They were stoked. We talked Spanish and rode fast.
  • I had what I thought were bad saddle sores. Not horrific- I was able to shuffle around on my seat and avoid hitting the worst ones- but present nonetheless. There was some blood and I didn´t put anything on them, so I was scared to look at them. When I finally did, at the end, I saw that the worst one was not a saddle sore, but a 3-inch long gash. Wtf? Fat Dan, ever the funny one, said I was probably shanked by a RUSA member in my sleep for not being patriotic enough. It sure looks like I was sliced!
  • The controls had plenty of vegan food. I heard the French word for vegetarian many times. I had carried or put in my one drop bag, almost enough food for the whole ride. I ended up eating some peas and rice and some soup at a couple of controls. I also carried some tofu pate in a tube (Mexican flavor!), that was delicious with fresh baguettes from bakeries.
  • In towns, people moved aside so you could get what you needed. They opened new registers for you so you wouldn´t have to wait in line.
  • I did have some emotional lows and some hallucinations, but those stories are far better in person
  • Any and all rain gear is worthless after several hours in the rain. Though, my strap on fenders were pretty helpful for the periodic rain and/or wet roads.
  • One of the toughest parts, mentally, was the last 30 miles and then after I finished at 4am. I had no where to go, nothing to eat and no clothes to change into, so I slept on the floor of the gymnasium in my cycling clothes, using my bag as a pillow and my space blanket to stay warm. Never one to shy away from a good night´s sleep, I slept till 11am!
  • I will hopefully get my own pictures up when I am back in California. All of the pics on this post are from www.parisbrestparis.tv

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Preparing for Paris-Brest-Paris

Why in the world would anyone do a 750-mile bike ride? Because it is there? Randonnuering is self-contained long-distance cycling that fits right between bicycle touring and double centuries. It is a ‘ride to finish’ event, though some people, of course, race it. Paris-Brest-Paris is thee event; it started in 1891 (before the Tour!) and now happens every four years. Over 5000 cyclists from around the world are signed up, including 600 americans. There are staggered start times; I am starting 930pm (1230pm in California) Monday and have a 90 hour time limit. Just under four days. Fa(s)t Dan(donnuer) is already in Paris; after my ferry/train journey we’ll meet up for bike inspection Sunday. My Seven is hooked up with a front/rear lighting system and fenders.

You can follow my progress online, here. My plate number is 4660. If you can read French, there is some sort of GPS tracking planned.
I have so much food with me you wouldn’t believe it! Some pate in a tube, flapjacks, havla, Lara bars and the powdered stuff I am use to. I have a drop bag set up for Loudeac; since it is an out-and-back I’ll see it twice. My plan is to ride 274 miles, sleep 6-8 hours, ride 198 miles back to Loudeac, sleep again, then ride the 278 back to Paris. With the exception of the first night, which I will ride straight through, I hope to avoid real long stints at night.
Concerns? My biggest fear is getting a flat at 3am in the rain with no around and not being able to speak French to anyone. Also saddle sores, duh. Should be a great way to see France!

More info on the 115 year old event:
French site
BC Canada Randonnuer PBP site (the better of the lot)
PBP tv? Not sure what is going to happen here.
The painfully boring American Randonnuers PBP site

From the French site(!?):
The reputation of the cyclos must not be a synonym of
SLOVENLINESS
NUISANCE
BAD SMELLS

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Final brevet: the 600k

Je t’aime ! Oh ! dites-le avec des pavés !
Let’s go to Paris! Paris-Brest-Paris dates back to 1891; that’s older than Fidel Castro. By someone’s logic I am now prepared to ride 1200 kilometers after finishing 600 in the alloted time. Okay, sign me up. They do require doctor’s note though. Imagine that conversation: ‘Hello, doctor, can I have a note saying that I am healthy enough to ride 750 miles in 90 hours? No, this is not a joke. No, I am not insane.’ I think I’ll just ask a friend.
So here are some pictures. Fa(s)t Dan and I had a blast. 110 miles up the coast through Big Sur then the first control 30 miles inland from there. Headwinds north through Salinas Valley (broccoli land) then control two at 212 miles at an Inn. We were one of the first people there (out of the huge field of 14) and the last to leave cause we slept for 4 hours. So it was like two rides: 212 miles one day, 163 the next. California is so damn big, we really should secede.
It’s not a purse, it’s a Randonneur’s bag

The big, rolling hills of California

This is why the following picture exists

The guy on the motorcycle is the RBA (means something in French) for this brevet series. He once rode 3 1200k brevets in one year. He was super helpful and made what he calls ‘the hardest 600k out there’ a pleasant ride.

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40 MPH at 4am in 40 degrees

That’s a first. Another 4am start at the San Luis Obispo Brevet Series and this time we left with the main group. For some reason I thought I would hang on to the guy with Zipp wheels (read $$$) up the first climb. Luckily he knew the descent and told me what to expect, so I held on tight and bombed down in the dark and cold. Eventually Brian would bridge up and we rode the whole day together. The whole day being 18 hours and 251 miles.
Everything is everything. There were only a handful of stores or towns for the first 225 miles of the ride, the organizers had to have water at the control points and even some of these were 70 miles apart. We’d have heat midday on the out-and-back to the Pinnacles National Monument and on the last big climb, up highway 46 out of Paso Robles over to the coast, we watched the clouds and fog roll in, obscure the last minutes of sun and drop the temperature 15 degrees. Brian and I had been riding hard all day, but on the coast, with the fog and darkness and low temperatures, we took it easy. When we finally rolled back to the Main’s house (at 10pm) they had vegan barley soup for us and we sat around and talked for a bit before we went to the van to sleep (luckily I had left the window open, because Dan and Michael got done at 130am and we didnt have a key).
Easter morning (see picture of Brian) we packed up at 630am to drive back to Los Angeles. I was stoked that my favorite coffee shop, Home of the Velvet Foam, was open in SLO.
Now only the 600k is left to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris.

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‘Rich girls love machine guns, it’s a proven fact.’

So said Fat Dan, aka Fast Dan, aka Dandonneur, in regards to Tania as we passed Hearst Castle on the SLO 300k. Wit is especially appreciated on a long ride, even more so after 40 miles of head winds. Thanks Dan! His dope VW Eurovan had made the Friday night trip from LA as comfortable as I can imagine being, which I soaked up before our ‘night’ of sleep at the ride start.
After 3 hours of this sleep-like horizontal thing, it was comical riding up the coast in the dark, at 430am, in a slight drizzle and a haze of fog. From the coast we headed up over the ridge and out past Paso Robles. Not comical was the 39 degree, slightly wet, gloveless descent. The first control was the earthquake capitol of the world. It’s a one trick town and there were no earthquakes happening so we left. The last bit back on PCH goes up to Ragged Point, one the most beautiful sections of the California coast. We finished the 187 miles in around 16 hours, much slower than anticipated, but the burrito lunch was worth it.
We did not get back to LA in time for the midnight tunnel sprints. Sucks! Jack won and Megan got second female so Swarm! still represented.

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