87 very special hours – my PBP 2015

“Vous-avez fait déjà 1001 km”. It was a beautiful afternoon when I rode past that humble sign. Locals stood by the roadside cheering us on, and I started to cry.

Leaving Paris…

Having left Paris 69 hours earlier, I still had 230km ahead of me. But with more than five hours time on hand, I felt pretty confident that – barring disasters – I would make it.

I had expected a lot of suffering on PBP, the 1235 kilometer non-stop bike ride from Paris to Brest and back again: Saddle sours, hot feet, Shermer’s neck, falling asleep on the bike – the internet is full of long-distance rider’s horror stories.

But to my big surprise, I was feeling really strong despite having ridden 1001 km.

Morning is breaking (on day 3)

The second half of the ride was actually going better than the first one. I had found my rhythm, had met the perfect cycling companion, and being on my bike had turned into a spiritual experience. I felt like the bike and myself had become one entity. A magic experience I had never had before.

Almost half way: the last leg into Brest

This is not to say Paris Brest Brest was a walk in the park. It wasn’t. I had experienced my low-point after about 350 km, about 20 hours or so into the ride.

Continue reading “87 very special hours – my PBP 2015”

My PBP qualification and RRtY in pictures

It’s only a few days to Paris-Brest-Paris. I have been dreaming for more than a decade about taking part in this historic long-distance cycling event, but always considered completely it out of reach. Not just cycling 1230km in 90 hours. Just the challenge of qualification –  doing four long-distance rides of  200km, 300km, 400km and 600km in the same year and within a certain time limit – seemed way too big.

Well, after upping my cycling significantly in recent years and successfully starting to lose weight in January 2014, I began seriously pondering to “do PBP” in 2015. As a preparation, I started a challenge called RRtY. This stands for  Randonneur Round the Year and means doing  at least one 200k ride in 12 consecutive months. I completed it last Friday with a 200k ride after work.

Here’s my RRtY and PBP qualification year in review.

My Audaxing career started in earnest in July 2014, when I did a 325k  ride from Lille in France to Oberhausen in Germany. At the time, it as by far the longest ride I had ever done so far.

I took the Moulton on the Eurostar, spend the night at a hotel in Lille and headed off 4.30am. Continue reading “My PBP qualification and RRtY in pictures”

Paris-Brest-Paris 2015 – my kit list

It’s less than four weeks to Paris-Brest-Paris, a historic long-distance cycling event . My big dream of taking part is eventually coming true is year. I’ll be rider J208, trying to ride 1230km (769 miles) in less than 90 hours.

I used the qualifiers and other long-distance rides to test and optimize my equipment. Other people’s kit lists proved also very helpful – in particular Marcus Jackon-Baker’s.

Including bags, but excluding food, I’ll be hauling about 6 kilos of luggage across Brittany.

Here’s a detailled outline of my kit.


I’ll have three bags on the bike and most probably an additional bum bag. Total weight of the bags is 1.1 kg.


Continue reading “Paris-Brest-Paris 2015 – my kit list”

Deep Lee Coroner’s Inquest – A chance missed

This is a guest post by Andrea Casalotti, who attended the inquest on the death of cyclist Deep Lee, who was killed by a lorry at King’s Cross in Oktober 2011.  For a full report of the Inquest, read Paul Foot’s article. These are Andrea’s personal points on some aspects of the Inquest.

The Coroner’s conclusion was “Death caused by road traffic collision”. She considered but decided not to issue a “Prevention of Future Death” (PFD) Report.

The Coroner (who also heard the Inquests of Brian Dorling and Philippine de Gerin-Ricard) conducted the inquest fairly, asking the right type of questions and at one point castigating TfL for waiting for corpses before implementing change. She also concluded that if the Transport Authorities continue to plan roads that put cyclists and HGVs sharing the same space, tragedies like the death of Deep Lee are inevitable.

The Coroner said she is very keen to use PFDs whenever she sees road conditions being a potential cause of future deaths, but she explained that she was not going to issue one in this case because TfL had presented new plans for the junction, which are now under consultation.

Continue reading “Deep Lee Coroner’s Inquest – A chance missed”

London’s bad cycling infrastructure at work

London’s so-called Cycle Superhighways, once a flagship project of mayor Boris Johnson, have been criticized right from the beginning in 2010. Most of the flak  is focussing  on the particularly dreadful Cycle Superhighway 2, where five cyclists died within two years.

But Cycle Superhighway 3, which runs from Barking to Tower Gateway, has flawed bits as well. Yesterday, I gained some first hand experience on how  bad design puts cyclists at risk and annoys motorists who don’t understand the odd layout of the cycle lane.

The flawed spot is on Horseferry Road in Tower Hamlets, which is a one way street. It has a contra-flow cycle lane for eastbound cyclists riding towards the City. The snag is that that cycle lane runs on the right hand side of the road, rather than the left one. The lane is not physically separated from the street and entails a blind turn.

Car drivers who don’t know the layout assume that riders not only go in the wrong way of a one-way street but also think those bloody lycra louts are doing this on the wrong side of the road. A real life example of such a situation can be watched in the video. Unnecessary and potentially dangerous conflicts are imbued in that layout.

A second, related problem is that the cycle lane is too narrow so you can’t safely overtake a slower cyclist, as you can see in seconds 6 to 9 of the video.

This has been an issue for years, as this 2011 comment on Londonist’s website shows:

 “I live in a flat overlooking the CS3 that flows past the T-junction at Branch Road & Horseferry Road in Limehouse. At least once per day, a cyclist runs into a car turning right off of Branch Road onto Horseferry Road one way system (the cycle route runs opposite in the opposite direction to the one-way system).


I guess the reason for this odd layout is that there are parking spaces on the left hand side of the road; and I fully understand that it is of course utterly unacceptable to sacrifice parking space for the safety of cyclists.

Arsenal, Schalke and a bike – cycling from London to Gelsenkirchen

I always love to combine two of my biggest passions, namely football and cycling. Back in Germany, I usually cycle the 28 km / 17.5 miles from my dad’s place to Schalke home games in Gelsenkirchen, the town of my birth in the old, struggeling industrial heart of Germany.

Leaving the Emirates….

It’s quicker than public transport, you don’t have any parking issues and you can have a beer or two. In early November, my journey to Schalke happened to be slightly longer. On 6 November, Schalke was playing Arsenal in the Championsleague. Shortly after I moved to Highbury two years ago, I also became a staunch Arsenal supporter and was completely thrilled by the prospect that “my”  German team was playing “my” English team. Since I  happened to be in between  jobs in early November I decided to cycle from the Emirates in Highbury to the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen to see the match. Continue reading “Arsenal, Schalke and a bike – cycling from London to Gelsenkirchen”

A black day for the Olympics and cycling in London

Yesterday was a fantastic day for cycling in Britain. In the afternoon, after an astonishing performance in the time trial, Bradley Wiggins won the Gold medal while his Team GB mate Chris Froome got Bronze.

(Wiggos views on road safety are barmy, however.

Update: On Twitter, the Lord of the Cyclists later said his views on helmet laws were misreported: “Just to confirm I haven’t called for helmets to be made the law as reports suggest. I suggested it may be the way to go to give cyclists more protection legally I involved In an accident.”)

However, yesterday was also a black day for cycling in Britain and for the Olympic games. Only a few hours after Brads triumph,  an “Olympic bus” carrying journalists killed a male cyclist on the junction of Ruckholt Road and East Cross Road.

The crash happened at 7.45pm very close to the Olympic Park in East London. The victim is the 10th cyclist who died in a traffic accident in London in 2012 (full details about all cycling fatalities  in London since 2006 are available here).

Update: According to the London Fixed Gear and Singlespeed Forum, the killed cyclist was Dan Harris (@gecko84 on Twitter). On his blog, Dan describes himself as “social media strategist, community manager and web editor” and a physicist by training. Rest in Peace, Dan.

This death makes me very sad and very angry at the same time. The fatality is related to the Olympics in several different ways. The most straightforward connection is that he was killed by an official games vehicle. (Here’s an appalling report by an eye-witness of the crash.)

The bigger story is that the games are making cycling much more dangerous in London. Important and safe cycle lanes around the Olympic Park have been closed due to security (= terrorism) concerns for months. Yesterday’s fatality apparently happened 120 meters beyond entrance to a closed segregated cycle-path, as cyclist Donnachadh McCarthy wrote on Facebook. Continue reading “A black day for the Olympics and cycling in London”