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9.5.3 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 3


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

9.5.3 Paris-Brest-Paris Part 3

I slowly began building the vitus. I had acquired another new set of
rims - Matrix ISO C's. These also took Michelin tires. My obsession
with these tires has become legendary. I put a triple crank on, which
was no easy feat, considering the small size of the bike. The short
stays make the angle a little harsh, so shifting is not as smooth as
it could be, but it works fine. For the drivetrain, I basically used
mountain bike componentry, Deore XT front and rear derailleurs. I'm
not a very strong climber, but I'd recommend a triple for anyone. Save
your knees for the 750th mile. Recovery is much faster if you spin,
rather than hammer. The wheels came with cassette hubs which would be
very strong and reliable and easy to change gear ratios for various
rides. (BTW, these were the original cassettes; it is not as easy to
change sizes with Hyperglide.) I picked up some Dura Ace brakes from a
Performance Tent Sale. This was my first experience with the SLR type
brake and I was amazed. I could actually put on brakes with my weak
little hands. Index shifting and clipless pedals included, I think
this style brake is one of the best new innovations for cyclists,
especially women, in a long, long time. For handlebars, I had picked
up a set of Scott aero bars. I used to have problems with hand
numbness, and all my long distance friends swore by them. The seat, of
course was a ladies Gel Flex. And I used look pedals. I bought a red
pair to match the red frame. This is basically the bike I ride today,
with a few minor modifications.

I picked up some "Stealth Fenders" from Adventure Cycles in Raleigh,
NC. These are real skinny, but legal fenders. I tried out a French
rack and saddle bag, but I had problems getting everything on the bike
and eventually broke the rack trying to force things. My frame is a 46 cm
and things that caused me problems would not necessarily be a problem
on a larger frame.

I also bought a handlebar mounted shift lever bracket for the Scott bars.
I really like this, but had a problem when the mount broke early this
summer. Bike Nashbar cheerfully replaced this mount and I haven't had
any other problems.

How to carry all my stuff became an issue. I had a very large wedge
bag, but it was still inadequate. I had noticed lots of riders with
this doohicky mounted on their seat post that allowed them to put a
handlebar bag on the back of the bike. I found that this thing is not
made anymore, but I noticed one rider with a stoker stem serving the
same purpose. So I ran home a stole the stoker stem off my tandem
and put a rather large handlebar bag on the back. (BTW, I evetually
bought another stem and put the tandem back togther, so my stoker
doesn't have to ride holding onto my hips!)

Incidentally, I went with this setup because I couldn't use a
handlebar bag on the front with the Scott Bars and I couldn't get a
rack on the vitus - at least not one that didn't break.

So now I bagan filling the bag. First a spare folding tire. The
fenders had reduced clearance so much that I could only use a 20 on
the front. I did have room for a 23 on the back, but my spare had to
be a 20, so it could work either place. I carried a couple of tubes,
and a patch kit, with lots of patches. I had the "swiss army" bike kit
with hex wrenches and slotted and philips screw driver, and an 8 and
10mm box wrench. I carried a chain tool and spare links, a headset
tool, a spoke wrench, spare spokes, spare cables for derailleur and
brake, a roll of electrical tape and some boots ( a two inch section
of tire with the bead cut off - this is useful if you cut the sidewall
- you can place this inside the tire between the tire and the tube if
you can't replace the tire.) I also had some miscellaneous nuts and
bolts for shoes and the bike. I had a small first aid kit with
bandaids, neosporin (good for chapped lips too ), powder for the
shorts to stay dry and saddle sore free, baby wipes for cleaning up,
toilet paper, sunscreen, bug repellant, and Ibuprofen. I carried spare
batteries and bulbs for my lights, a small flashlight for use in
reading maps and finding my way around in the dark. The tools I carry,
I have used over the years, either on my own bike or on someone elses.
If I have a failure, that a small tool would enable me to fix, then I
will usually add that tool to my list. I like being well prepared and
self-sufficient. I guess I was well-prepared and LUCKY this year,
because I did not have a single mechanical failure on the ride!

For clothing, I always carried at least a rain jacket and a pair of
tights. The qualifiers and the ride itself had a wide range of
weather, and I tried to be prepared for everything. I found arm
warmers very useful in PBP. I have several drawers full of rejected
clothing, and someday I should have a yard sale! Basically, on the
ride I used layers. I started with a one peice ladies bib short, a
jersey, arm warmers, tights, and a jacket. One morning was so cool
that I added a thermax sweater, a wool sweater, a polypro hood, and
heavy gloves. I had these in a support car. I changed my shorts daily
and would have done so more often had it been warmer all the time.
This is very important for preventing saddle sores. I use an Avia look
shoe with a recessed cleat that can be walked on. This was great for
walking into restaurants, bathrooms, and moving around at checkpoints.

The next posting will contain info on lights.


This was an old posting on lights that I have modified slightly, since
I have discovered new lights since then. I talk about commuting a lot,
since that was the discussion at the time.

I've tried many different systems over the years. Because since I do
mostly unsupported continuous long rides, I do not use rechargeable
systems, such as BRITE lights. These systems are great for commuting.
I used to commute to work (I still do but now I have a 1 hour train
ride) Since it was not my primary reason for lights, I just used what
I had for brevets. If you are only commuting you can look at things a
little differently. First rechargeable systems work well. Keep one
recharger at work and one at home, so you can keep your batteries
charged for the next ride. Bright lights do a very good job of
illuminating the road. The charge will last a varied time depending on
which bulb you use. The higher wattage the shorter the time. A
complete bright lite system runs about $100. I have heard from
electrically minded folks that you can buy the batteries and
rechargers from electrical supply houses for much less. The quick
release mounting brackets are worth the $$ if you only use your lights
a few times a year and don't want to keep them on all the time. I
have heard that people who remove them daily have had problems with
them brteaking. There are lots of other rechargeable systems around -
look in the back of *bicycling* I have riden with people using bright
lites and nightsun. Both had very good beams, while they lasted. ( the
time on these was between 3 and 4 hours) Unfortunately if you are
riding all night that isn't long enough. If you have a hour commute,
it's just fine.

Generator systems. I have used both Union and Byka generator systems.
Unions seem to be the most popular generators, and if you win a race
with Union lights, rumour has it they will give you $$$. A generator,
front and rear light runs about $20, and they are almost universally
available. One disadvantage is that when you stop moving the light
stops. This isn't so great when commuting in the city and stoping at
lights. The Byka has a neat additional feature of a battery backup,
for when you are stopped, or riding slowly. It also regulates the
power so that you don't blow out bulbs when flying down hills. I
bought my Byka about 6 years ago, and they aren't as easily available
as Unions. Both of these generators mount under the bottom bracket.
Sanyo makes a system that runs off the sidewall. I have never used one
of these.

One hint about buying halogen bulbs. They range in price from $7 to
$20+, depending on the wattage. Flashlight halogens ($2) tend not to
be bright enough or rated for 6V. Be sure that your bulb matches the
power output of your generator. Back to the hint. You may occasionally
see Union headlights in a grab box for $1. They have bulbs in them -
if they are good - you've gotten a bargain. I always buy them when I
see them, because the bulb is cheap and I have had a few bumps cause
my lights to dismount and go crashing to the ground. Another note on
Halogen bulbs is don't touch the bulb. Handle them with tissue or by
the base. I carry several spares wrapped in handy wrap in a film case
in my seat bag. I would recommend carrying a spare bulb. Bulbs can and
do go bad. Sometimes they burn out, sometimes they can blow on a rough

I used a lantern battery system for a long time . I had dual union
headlights with one high power and one regular bulb, plus dual
taillights. I did some semi-elaborate wiring to put in swithes to
easily be able to turn everything on and off. A Union headlight comes
with the power wire already set up. It attaches (solder it for more
reliability) to the spring inside the light. The ground is provided by
metal piece located on the mounting hole. The ground wire should come
in contact with this. I have a ring lug soldered to the end of my
ground wire. The bolt that holds the bike to the light, passes through
this lug, and the light. On the other end of both wires I have
alligator clips, which attach to the terminals on a lantern battery.
As I mentioned I have in-line switches, but these aren't necessary.
The alligator clips are an extra too. You can just wrap the ends of
the wire around the terminal. The clip just makes things easier. I
know people who don't bother with the ground wire, but I've never had
any luck without it. I have run two headlights and two taillights off
the same lantern battery.

Mounting brackets. I use the quick release ones made by Brite-Lite.
Sanyo used to make a bracket that attaches to the fork. I found some
of these in a box of junk parts in a bike shop one day. They work very
well. If your bike shop will let you rummage through their old parts,
you may be able to find some good mounting hardware. A lot of people
look at me like I'm crazy when I say I need a light for this purpose.
There don't seem to be a lot of my breed around these days.

Where to keep the battery. - In a water bottle cage. Lots of
alternatives here. I have a over-the-handlebar quick release cage that
works well. The standard water bottle cages work, as does the new
behind the seat cages. Just think about where you will keep your
battery when you cut the wires. I also found bags - like tire bags
which I keep the battery in and attach it to the cage. I have seen
many unsecured batteries fly out of cages before. One of the bags I
found was designed to go around a water bottle and then attach under
the seat. You can also tape your battery in, but then it isn't easy to
change or get out. You can get rechargeable 6-volt lantern batteries,
so this system works well for commuting and long overnight rides,
because you can also use non-r batteries. 6-volts are as readily
available as other batteries and you may not find them in convenience
stores and their might not be a K-Mart around when your light burns
out, so carry a spare if you think you might need it. I have also
found that in the past few years the length of time these last has
discreased :(

Up until this year I had great luck with this system, but despite what
battery companies say I don't think the *new* batteries last as long.
I used to be able to get 6 hours out of one and this year got only
2-3. But I had a backup - I had a new light called a NICE LIGHT. It
uses 4 AA batteries, and a Xenon bulb. One of those was brighter than
my TWO halogens, including the high wattage one. So on the next ride I
had two of these mounted, with one on, and the other ready to go on
when the first burned out. These lights are quite weatherproof and I
really like them and will use them until I find something better.
They also have a recharging system. There literature says they will be
coming out with a rear light soon. I used a cateye rear light until I
blocked it with my bag. I found it quite adequate. I would not
recommend the non-halogen cateye front light. Cateye does make a
halogen front light now, which is much better than the non-halogen. I
think it runs off of 2 d-cell batteries, but I didn't think it
provided enough light. I've also seen a system called a Turbo Cat to
enhance this light, but I haven't tried it.

This past year, I modified my taillights. I bought a Vista Light and
am quite happy with it, but didn't think it would be legal in PBP, so
I also added a taillight to my fenders. It did not work well, so I
will be replacing it. Fortunately the Vista was a great backup and
apparently legal.

I found some new lights while I was in France. One was a taillight
that basically is like the Vista, but doesn't flash. It takes two
AA batteries and lasts 400 hours. I purchased this light my last day
in Paris and will find out soon how well it works. I also found a
Sanyo light that mounts on the front wheel through the quick release
lever. It takes two C cell batteries and I tried it during the ride.
It has the front and rear light in one unit, although I'm not sure how
visible the rear light is through the pedals! I used it mainly as a
backup and it worked very well also.

I also used a relective vest and had relective tape everywhere I could put
it on my bike. I used sidelights on the wheels and stays, and had an
orange reflective triangle mounted on the bag on my seat. It really was
a sight in the middle of the night to see all those taillights and vest
strung out on the road for miles and miles!

A brief description of the ride

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is a cycling event (not a race) that covers
1218 kilometers (~755 miles) between Paris and Brest and back. It is
held every 4 years, and attracts riders from all over the world. This
years field was to include a team from the Soviet Union, but the
events in the days prior to the start of the ride prevented the team
from making the trip. The time limit is 90 hours. This includes
sleeping times, and all other stops. Riders are self-supported -
carrying spare tubes, tires, clothes, etc. Outside 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 it 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 cheating.


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