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9.5.1 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 1


This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.5.1 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 1

by Pamela Blalock

I have recieved lot of wishes of good luck and requests for a report when
I return. Thanks for the encouragement and I will try to write up something
small (shorter than a dissertation!)

I've also been asked about equipment and training, and since I've posted
so much about this before, I'm a little hesitant to post more, BUT I will,
so if you are tired of hit, hit the n key or put PBP in your kill file.

My flight leaves on August 20. I will have a few days to get
acclimated. The ride (for me) starts at 10pm on August 26 - ending 90
hours later (racers starts at 8pm - they have an 80 hour cutoff time, and
confident people start at 5am on the 27, with an 84 hour cutoff time)

For those who don't know or have asked me and I haven't had time to
return email. Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is a cycling event (not a race)
that covers 1200ish kilometers (~750 miles) between Paris and Brest and
back. The time limit is 90 hours - unless you chose less. This includes
sleeping times, and all other stops. Riders should be self-supported -
carrying spare tubes, tires etc. Support is allowed, (not encouraged)
at checkpoints only which are about 100 Km apart (first is 200 Km from
start) Support vehicles are not allowed on route (they take a different
one) Riders must get to each successive checkpoint before is closes or
they are disqualified - closing times are based roughly on a 13Km/Hr
pace. There are also secret controls to keep riders on route and prevent

Registration is limited to 4000 French riders and unlimited for International
riders. The event is held once every 4 years, and was first held in 1891.
This is the 100th anniversary. I think it was held every 10 years for the
first few times. It really is something to see that may bikes on the road.

Since night riding is a necessity, lights are required. So are fenders.
We discovered *Stealth fenders* in 1987, little strips of medal that
sort of work and pass inspection. We also were led to believe that bells
were required so the Americans bought every Mickey Mouse Bell in france
and showed up with these on their bikes for inspection.

Riders come from all backgrounds and have different goals. Some, like myself,
just want to finish and ENJOY the ride. Others go for a fast time, little
sleep, and in my opinion little enjoyment. And even though it is not a race
(licensed racers are not allowed) there is a race with teams and team
tactics. These people will go for a time of 45 hours or less. The first
person in is acknowledged, but since it isn't a race their is no prize.
All finishers receive a medal AND BRAGGING rights.

French riders qualify by riding a 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k and 1000k ride
within the same time limits in the year of the ride. US riders may do
this or ride the 2,3,4 and 6 for two years in a row. Some members of
the US advisory board are suggesting that the 1000K be required. I have
mixed feeling on this subject.

There are sleeping and eating facilities at checkpoints although they vary
in quality. Some sleeping facilities were quite primitive in 1987 - a
barn with a peice of cardboard for a blanket, a barn filled with hay was
comfy, and dorm rooms were a luxury. The price varied accordingly.

The food was good and cheap, but the lines were long. (i will be using
all ultra energy this time to save time and ensure I get enough calories)

The route is well marked, and cue sheets are provided.

The cost this year to register was $128. The various qualifiers vary
in price. International Randonneurs, the US sanctioning organization,
arranged a travel package that included airfair, transport to/from
airport, room for 14 days, 2 meals a day, and taxes for < $1000 from
New York. The price goes up as the desire from more privacy - room for
2 more expensive than room for 8. We thought it was a great deal.
Additional costs would include bike, modifications, lights, fenders, etc;
training rides. It turns out not to be cheap, but it can be addictive.

I am really looking forward to relaxing some when I return.

I discovered this ride in 1986, and trained for the 1987 event. I did
not complete the ride due to mechanical failures, weather and failure
in my spirit and desire to go on.

I returned and COMPLETED Boston-Montreal-Boston ( a similar ride, with
the same format) a year later. I had hoped this accomplishment would
quench my desire to return to Paris, but it did not; I have spent the
last three years getting ready. Unfortunately I am starting to grow
weary and am really looking forward to the conclusion of this.

I am especially looking forward to SHORT FUN rides in September!!

Equipment and MY training schedule to follow in later posts

Training and Qualifying for PBP

First I'd like to say thanks for all the support before and congrats
after the ride that I have received over the net. It really has meant
a great deal to me. A lot of people have asked what they have to do
to participate in 1995. So here goes.

Qualifying for PBP this year involved doing a series of 4 qualifiers
in 1990 AND 1991, or the series in 1991 and have finished PBP or BMB
in the past, or the series in 1991 plus a difficult 1000Km ride. These
rides were 200, 300, 400, and 600km in length with time limits based
roughly on 13km per hour. The rides vary in difficulty with some
regional administrators more sadistic than others. Of course, the
tougher the training rides the better prepared a rider will be for
PBP. Some regions offer hills, cold and rain; others offer heat and
headwinds. It seems to equal out. Although IR will be publishing
completion rates based on region later this year. These rules may
change again next year.

Qualifiers are run by regional adminstrators in Syracuse, NY; Boston,
MA; Columbus, OH; Davis CA; Fort Worth, TX; Kansas City, MO;
Lexington, KY; Chicago, Milwaukee; New York, NY; Raleigh, NC;
Riverside, CA; San Francisco, CA; Southern CA; St. Louis, MO; Bamberg,
SC; Tuscon, AZ; Portland, OR; South FL; Potomac, MD; Wichita, KS;
Huntsville, AL; Boulder CO; Montreal, CAN; and Vancouver BC. This list
is considerably longer than it was in 1987 and may grow more in 1995.

If you are interested in a particular area, I can give you a contact
for that region. Riders interested in doing PBP in 1995 should join
International Randonneurs. There address is IR, 727 N. Salina Street,
Syracus, NY, 13208. IR publishes a journal once a year, a a newsletter
several times a year with info about qualifiers. The journal has lots
of history and anecdotes from riders.

My recommendations follow.

Start now. If you have never ridden a century, set that as a goal. If
you have never ridden a double set that as a goal. Then look for a 24
hour ride. You will need lights for this, so start checking out
lighting systems. (see other post on lights)

Find a place to ride the qualifiers. Get your friends involved. If you
can't get your friends involved you may be able to find new training
partners at the qualifiers. Training partners can become an important
motivation tool. You may not want to get up for a ride, but if you
have committed to ride with someone else, that may help get you on the

The qualifiers tend to serve as good training rides for the next one.
If you have a good base and regularly do centuries, then the first
ride will be easy. It's just a century followed by a 30 mile ride. In
fact it works very well to think of these rides by breaking them up
into segments of distances that you know you can do. The 300K is just
a 200K (that you did last week) followed by a 100K that you do all the

Many people feel that a 600K ride does not accurately prepare a rider for
PBP. Several people are lobbying for a mandatory 1000K ride, or past
completion. I have mixed feelings on this subject. I would certainly
recommend that anyone thinking of doing PBP should do a 1000K or BMB
sometime before going to France, but not necessarily in the same year.
I think the body needs recovery time. I also don't believe that these
rides truly prepare a rider for PBP, since there are so many other
obstacles besides the physical ones.

Start now!

There is the culture and language. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.
There aren't any 7-11's, so a rider has to carry supplies to last through
the night. The roads are marked differently. The directions are to a town,
not North, South, East and West. The drivers pass very close! When you
order something in a restaurant, always say S'il vous plait (please). I
found a lot of the people to be abrupt and if you don't speak up, you
will lose your place in line; so be assertive, but say please! Try to learn
the language or at least enough to get food. A lot of French people speak
English, but a lot don't and you may be in a crucial situation with
someone who doesn't. Keep your phrase book with you always!

Multiday riding. This is where the 600K is somewhat inadequate. Many
people do this ride straight through, so they don't know what it's
like to get up the next day and have to get back on the bike. I don't
think you necessarily need to do PBP distances, but 3-4 days of 100+
miles is a good indication of what it is like to get up again and
again. In 1988, in preparation for BMB, I did a 4 day crossing and ride
home of NC, where we rode about 150 miles a day.

Start now!


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