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 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 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


Filed under brevet, travel

8 responses to “Paris Brest Paris

  1. This sounds incredible! Miles of rain and love and baguettes. What a great story. Sorry to hear about the slash on your ass but I think Dan might be onto something. You can’t be too careful when you’re sleeping in public. Maybe it’s time to get those kevlar undershorts.

  2. oops, I meant kilometers, not miles. I guess I was thinking RAGBRAI (pies) not PBP (pate).

  3. How cool that the vegan options were plenty! This ride sounds amazing…

  4. Congratulations on an excellent PBP finish. Thanks for posting your experiences.

  5. Liz

    I read your post in Organic athlete. I was planning on doing it in 2011. It is good to know that i won’t have been the only vegan to do it. I only hope i can do it raw.

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  8. This is on my bucketlist! Would love to know the story on how you prepped for it, got everything over there, etc!