previous page: 9.5.1 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 1
page up: Bicycles Misc
next page: 9.5.3 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 3

9.5.2 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 2


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

9.5.2 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 2

Bad weather riding. Do it. Go ride when it's raining, so you will know
what to expect. There used to be a 24 hour ride in Johntown, NY in the
Fall. It rained and was cold both years. It was moved to the Spring
and the weather has been better. So have the distances. I did well in the
events in the fall, bacause I had the right clothing and could tolerate
rain. I heard of one woman who carried her trainer out in the driveway when
it rained, so she could ride in the rain, with less risk.

Night riding. Do lots of this. Get used to reading a cue at night and
finding turns. Get to know you lights.

Start now!

Group riding. There were 2000 riders at the start of my ride. Be prepared
for closeness. Also be prepared at times to ride alone. It doesn't happen
often with that many people on the road, but it can.

Train with all your gear. Strap your lights on and leave them there.
Carry that rain jacket no matter how nice the weather is. Maybe once
a month, ride your other lighter bike for the ego boost, but train with
the weight you will be riding with. This also will help insure that
your lights are secure.

Start now!

Find rough roads. The roads this year were like washboards. Thank goodness
my lights were secure or they would have fallen off early on!

Learn to fix anything and improvise. If you don't know how to change a
tire, learn now and practice in your living room. Then one rainy day
go out and practice in your driveway. Do this at night with a
flashlight and in the winter when your fingers are turning blue.
Simulate real conditions! Also learn to do other minor repairs on your
bike, like adjusting brakes and derailleurs, truing wheels, replacing
spokes, retightening headsets, etc. (Buy a used tandem - you'll be
forced to learn :) Learn to improvise when you don't have the right tool
or clothing. I've seen grown men don panty hose purchased at a 7-11
because they did not have tights with them. The war stories of overcoming
some difficulty are the best part of the ride some times! Learn what
tools you may need and carry them.

Use standard, easy to find parts. I strongly recommend against 27"
wheels. Tires are not available for these at most if any shops in

Oh, and if I didn't mention it START NOW. I did PBP this year with
less miles in my legs that I thought I needed in the past. But I was
able to do it because I have been doing this stuff for years. I had
been to France and knew more about what to expect. I had done BMB, so
I had done the distance. I had been using the same bike for 3 years
and trusted it completely. My legs had the memory of rides over the past
6 years, so while I only had 4000 road miles for this year, I had 50,000
lifetime miles!

In 1988, while preparing for BMB, I rode each qualifier twice, the
Assault on Mt. Mitchell, Double Trouble, and Bike Across North
Carolina. I also did lots of doulbles, followed by another or a
century. I rode at least one century a month. After BMB, I rode the
24-hour ride in Johnstown and rode 300.3 miles (in the rain). I put in
10,000 miles that year. This year I did far less, but I think I put in
more quality miles and some speed work and hills. Plus some 20 hour
days. I've done enough centuries that I now consider that distance
to be like a ride around town. This helps mentally.

As for rides, find some hills and headwinds. The headwinds may not be
around in 1995, but the hills will be and headwinds are good ways to
train for hills. Most of the hills aren't steep, but there are constant.
And what on the first day seemed flat will seem mountainous by the last
day. Plus you could see the headwinds both ways!

I use a granny gear. It is only a few more ounces, but really comes in
handy in the later stages of the ride. Our qualifiers and some of my
training rides had hills that mandated the low gears. PBP, while it
did not have any really awful grades, did have one 40Km climb,
headwinds and a thousand or so little hills. After 3 days, being able
to spin up hills that on the first day, you considered nothing may
make all the difference in the world. It also makes people ask what the
heck kind of riding you do!

Figure out your diet. If you are going to use Ultra Energy, start soon.
It takes a while to get used to it and you may not tolerate it well.
Whatever you are going to do, do it on your qualifiers and training rides.
If you plan to eat their food, be aware that the lines can be long and
the food may not set well. I know of one rider who dropped out this year
due to what she believes was food poisoning.

Be prepared to spend a lot of money. This stuff is truly addictive and
you will want to try all the new things and travel around the country
to other qualifiers and events.

Be prepared to have fun. I've made some truly lifelong friends doing
these rides. And despite the little (ok big) aches and pains on the
rides, that memeory soon fades and all the fun comes back.

Tell your friends and the net. It will put pressure on you to finish!

Equipment for Paris-Brest-Paris

Over the six years that I prepared for this ride and others, I have
tried a lot of different equipment. I will think I have settled on
something, and then for some reason or another, I will try something
new. In this article, I will describe my setup for this ride, how and
why I chose the equipment that I used, some things that I rejected,
and new things I may try later.

This is what worked for me. While I may make recommendations for some
things, this is not the perfect PBP bike for everyone.

My first bike was a Raleigh Competition. I attempted my first ride
with some dark hours with Cateye lights. I immediately began a search
for better lights, which I will describe in detail in the next
article. I rode several 200 and 300 Km rides with this bike before I
discovered tandeming.

There were several couples in our clubs that had tandems, and I
decided to try tandeming. I found a guy in Durham with a used Gitane
for sale. A friend and I took the bike out for a test ride and what a
spectacle that was. Neither of us had ever been on a tandem before and
we had a heck of a time getting coordinated. There were times when I
was barely hanging on with my feet held up and out to the side as the
pedals were flying around below me. We eventually got things together
and rode the bike home. The next day we attempted a 200K on this bike.
We broke several spokes and had other minor problems, but finished the
ride. After another week of riding the bike and having it checked by
mechanics, I decided it would cost more to fix the bike than buying a
new one, so I returned the bike.

I then started looking for a new bike, because despite the problems, I
really enjoyed tandeming. The manager of a local shop showed me the
Claud Butler. It was brand new, not terribly expensive and had fenders
(a PBP requirement) and braze-ons for racks, etc. I bought this bike
and began my search for a captain who wanted to do PBP. That's when I
met Bob. We did our qualifiers together, learned a lot about repairing
a tandem, and made adjustments to get the size better for Bob. But we
discovered shortly before PBP 87 that we just weren't compatible on a
tandem, so we decided to go back to singles.

A year or so earlier, I had a Fit Kit, and was told that my Raleigh
was too big for me, so when I bought another bike I should look for
something smaller. So I headed off to bike shops and picked out a cute
little Schwinn Tempo. It had the braze-ons I would need for fenders
and a rack and lights. So I bought it and set it up for France. I got
in two double centuries on it before I left for France, but that
proved not to be enough. I had a lot of trouble with the wheels going
out of true, and George, the Bike shop owner, suggested I take another
set of wheels to France. These wheels proved to be my downfall.

The wheels I took from my Raleigh were Araya aero clinchers with a
thinner tire than I needed. I got a few flats in Paris before I
started and eventually cut the sidewalls pretty bad. I remembered a
conversation with George where he said he wouldn't sell Michelin tires
anymore because they would blow off Araya rims in the shop. Well,
guess what the most popular clincher tire is in France? I found myself
afraid to change tires, but needing to. I used all my boots ( a piece
of tire with the bead cut off ) and started improvising with boots
made from tape, candy wrapppers and dollar bills. I had 8 flats in the
first 80 miles of the ride, and ended up dropping out at the 200 mile

By the way, Michelin recommends that their folding tires only be used
on a rim the a hook. I am not suggesting that either the rims or the
tires are faulty. They just are not compatible with each other.

When I returned from France, I decided to sell my Raleigh, since it
was too big anyway, and the wheels went with it. I then needed to
replace the faulty wheels from the new bike, so I asked George to get
me some French wheels that would work with Michelin tires - and some
Michelin tires. If that was all I could get in France, then that's
what I would ride here. I ended up with MA40's which worked

I tried various setups throughout the winter. Bob, my old tandem
partner, had become my regular training partner. He had a vitus and
suggested I try one. He described it as being very comfortable and
light. (he actually ended up giving me the frame for my birthday) This
is the frame I use now.


Continue to:

previous page: 9.5.1 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 1
page up: Bicycles Misc
next page: 9.5.3 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 3