Now I’ve had a chance to think about PBP, there were some things that I did different that really worked well.
Riding to Brest quick and back slow
I wanted to have a realistic plan for an enjoyable PBP. PBP started this time between 6pm and 8:30pm for the 90h group start I was in. I had a planning spreadsheet and after a little fiddling around it became apparent that one approach would be to
- Get in a early(ish) start group
- Ride to Brest straight through with a catnap. I hoped to do this in 32h
- Have a longish sleep at Brest
- Do the return route without much of a plan but plenty of time in hand. It was my impression from last time that the retour was easier riding than the outbound
- Use up most of my 90h allowance with extra sleep
That was the plan. What actually happened was
- I did get in an early start group, thanks to spotting Steve Abrahams at the start and following him through the scrum. I was in the 2nd group away at 18:20. This meant that I wasn’t trying to beat any records getting to Brest.
- I got to Villaines at 4:10am the next morning which was pretty much on the plan. After Tinténiac outbound I was starting to feel sleepy on the bike. This is normal for me this time of day after being up all night. I had a 15 minute road side nap in the sun and this worked surprisingly well. I was ready to leave Carhaix a little later than expected but I was with a friendly group. I managed to stick with someone to talk to all the way up the initial ascent. The tour of Brest’s industrial areas was seemingly endless but eventually I got to Brest at 3:13am, 33h after starting
- Unfortunately there were no proper beds at Brest or even any mats in the hall. Fortunately I have been in this situation before and had a sleeping bag liner, buff to cover my eyes and earplugs. The spectator stall at the end of the hall might look like cold, hard concrete to you. After nearly a day and a half of riding it was a featherbed to me.
- The next morning I left Brest as quickly as possible in the fog. I only covered 250km before I decided to have a nice stop. At Tinténiac, I had a glass of wine with my dinner, a shower and 6h in a proper bed. This is a holiday, not an endurance test
- I left Tinténiac with 3h in hand. I teamed up with some pleasant company and found at about 9:30pm that night that I was at Dreux with much time in hand and just 65km to go. As I’d slept properly the night before I felt ok. I was with some mates. It seemed like the best idea to just carry on and finish…so I did, in much less than the 90h
All in all the plan worked. I’d certainly try to do it that way again.
When I fitted these tyres I was hoping that they would be comfortable, with good grip, fast and reasonably hardwearing. That’s quite a long list but they are fairly expensive tyres, so I lived in hope.
First, comfortable. PBP is a great test of if a bike part makes a bike more comfortable. This is because you are sitting on it for several days. The Ultremo ZX tyres in 28mm are potentially very comfortable. This is because the size allows a low inflation pressure and the construction is that of a flexible racing tyre. Most 28mm tyres are not constructed like a racing tyre, they tend to be thicker and more durable. I tried them initially, before PBP, at 90 psi / 6.5 bar front and back. However, I realized that they could go as low as 6 bar. So for PBP I had them at 6 bar front and 6.5 rear. After the first few hundred km of PBP it was clear that for comfort on a 28mm tyre these were supreme.
The grip seemed fine. There were some wet conditions and they were not skittish. There were some (thankfully dry) fast corners on descents and they had reassuring traction.
Speed wise, the bike accelerated like a good ‘un and the tyres contributed to this. I didn’t break any downhill records but I did put up a cracking pace on the flat.
Speed and grip are difficult to judge in the context of one event but I wasn’t disappointed. I was slightly disappointed by the durability. In the 1230km of PBP ( and approx 1500km since they were fitted) the tyres did not suffer any punctures. The central strip of the tyre, which is in contact with the ground when the bike is moving in a straight line, showed no wear, no knicks. It was perfect, even after PBP. But the shoulder and sidewall was damaged in two places on the front tyre. If there was just one bit of damage I’d put it down to “just one of those things” but there were two gashes in the rubber. There was no bulging and no puncture however. I’ve sealed the holes with superglue and will rotate the front tyre to the rear.
I don’t know if the low pressure of the front tyre contributed to this problem but 6 bar is at the low end of the recommended range.
Overall these were good tyres but it looks like they are really just a small improvement on the Continental 4 Seasons I used last PBP in 2007.
Brooks with a hole in
I get on well with Brooks B17 saddles but on super long rides I have, in the past, got a little let’s say discomfort in the front saddle area.
When I got my nice, new shiney Specialized Roubaix last autumn it came fitted with a Specialized Avatar saddle. I swapped this out for a B17 and I put the Avatar on my summer commuting bike.
Two things became apparent. First, the padding on the Avatar seemed to cause unpleasant rubbing on longer rides. Maybe this is just me, most people like padding. Second, the channel down the middle seemed to add a certain something to the saddle .
I did a bit of research and then attacked my broken in B17. As it costs £150 to replace and takes a few weeks to break in properly this was a bold move. Initially I had lacing fitted too which didn’t work. But after a bit of riding the saddle and my backside settled down and it seemed ok enough to take with me to Paris.
I can report that I finished PBP with no discomfort whatsoever in that area. Adding the hole definitely worked.
Using a Barbag
My ride companions later in the PBP commented that I seemed to be going well and put it down to my “nosebag”. I was straining ahead to get the food in my barbag, like a cartoon animal chasing a carrot on a stick.
Food supply was the main advantage of the barbag. I could have a lot of food items stacked in it and select easily without stopping. Same went for the endurance/electrolyte tablets I was using. The other advantage was that I had my “valuables”- password, money, brevet card etc in the barbag. At controls or cafes I just removed this from the bike. There was no need to carry a large saddle bag with lots of clothes in.
Gore Bikewear Ozon bibshorts
I had kind of assumed after the last PBP was so wet and unpleasant that this one would be hot and sunny. So I was selecting kit for high temperatures. I needed new shorts. As I am a fan of Gore Bike Wear I decided to try their “hot conditions” bibshort, the Ozon.
As it turned out the weather was simply temperate, not especially hot.
But the shorts were great, did all the stuff shorts are supposed to do!