Seven lessons learned for my next PBP

At the time of writing, it’s 53 days, 20 hours and 8 minutes till the start of the 19th edition of Paris-Brest-Paris on August 18, 2019.

For me, it will be the second time after 2015 to take part in a legendary event that is older than the modern Olympic games. 

and this

Four years ago, when I was relatively new to Audax, I wrote a lengthy blogpost about my experience.

Since then, I have finished  50 additional Audaxes including London-Edinburgh-London in 2017.

Here are my key lessons learned:

1) Don’t waste too much time on spreadsheets 

Back in 2015, I spent hours after hours pouring over a spreadsheet listing the distances between PBP controls, my expected average speed, estimated stops at controls and potential sleep stops. Continue reading “Seven lessons learned for my next PBP”


Why long-distance cycling is like Tinder without sex and nine other things I’ve learned in 55 Audax rides

I was planning to write this post this July, when my fourth Randonneur Round the Year series (12 subsequent calendar months with at least a 200km ride) was supposed to come to an end.

Unfortunately, the series broke in May and I currently have more time on my hand than I want. Two days after completing the London-Wales-London 400km Audax on May 6, I had a little mishap on my Brompton in downtown Frankfurt.

The result was a stellate open patella fracture which led to a short-notice appointment with the surgeons of Frankfurt trauma center (BG Unfallklinik). I was in the operating theatre just a few hours after the crash, and spent the following week in hospital.


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I hope to be back in the game in about three months, with enough time to regain my fitness for Paris-Brest-Paris 2019. I’m back to zero, but I’ll be back.

So here are the key lessons I took home in 55 completed Audaxes, including Paris-Brest-Paris 2015 and London-Edinburgh-London 2017, and a total of 16785 long-distance km since July 2014.

Lesson 1: Perfect Strangers
(It’s not about the distance, it’s about the people you meet)

Everyone I tell about Audaxing is blown away by the rides’ sheer distance . Going 200km by bike in one go? Bonkers! 1400km within five days? Impossible.

I was also fascinated by the apparently insane distances, and the challenge to tackle them. But the key reason why I love Audaxing has changed over time. Continue reading “Why long-distance cycling is like Tinder without sex and nine other things I’ve learned in 55 Audax rides”

LEL and PBP – how do they compare?

That’s a question many riders asked me on LEL 2017 when I mentioned that I’d ridden PBP two years earlier. As I’ve only done both brevets once, in 2015 and 2017, my experience may be not overly representative.  But I’ll still give it a try comparing them rides.

As this is going to be a long post, I’ll try to give a short answer first. Both Paris-Brest-Paris and London-Edinburgh-London are ruddy fantastic events. Taking part and finishing was among the best experiences I’ve ever had. From the outside, PBP and LEL may look very similar – you ride your bike for a bloody long way. But in fact, both events are rather different: PBP is a party, while LEL is an adventure.

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Which one is harder?

This is more tricky to answer than you might think. For an outside observer, LEL probably looks tougher, as it is longer. When reaching the finish at LEL, I had 1425 km on the clock, compared to “only” 1241 km at PBP. When we were ploughing into a heavy headwind on day four on LEL, with about 200km to go,  I thought: “Well, on PBP, we would be done by now.” For most people riding 200 km is utterly mad even if you have not done 1200 km beforehand.

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However, and this is meant less arrogant than it may sound, I would argue that the additional distance on LEL eventually does not matter a lot. Being able to ride PBP means making sure your bike is comfortable enough for you to spend 18 or so hours a day in the saddle without inordinate suffering. Sure, that’s a big ask and requires months if not years of preparation. But once got there, another 200 km really don’t move the needle. Continue reading “LEL and PBP – how do they compare?”

My best cycling moments in 2016

With 2016 coming to an end, it’s time to reflect on my cycling year. Overall, I’ve ridden 12856 km over the last twelve months, 419 km less than in 2015. The year did not fully pan out according to my original plans, which involved riding a very hilly 1000km Audax event in Nothern England in the summer. After a very tough 300km Audax in March, I decided to chicken out, and also was on the brink of abandoning my second Randonneur Round the Year attempt. I’m glad that I decided against the Mille Pennines ride, which took part in horrendous weather and saw a very high percentage of riders packing, and I’m also glad that I stuck to the RRtY. I completed my second series in August and started a third one a month later.

Here are my 10 best bike-related moments of 2016. Many thanks to everyone involved, in particular Kat, Gordon, Titus, Eddie, Tim, Mary, Haiko, John W.  and  Andrew.

Bring on 2017!

August: Dessoubre valley



Riding down the D39 from Pierrefontaine-Les-Varans to Staint Hyppolyte in the French Jura in the early morning hours of a hot summer day was just beyond magic. The narrow Dessoubre valley is really fairy-tale stuff.


Later that day, we had to carry our bikes through a  road blocked by a landslide, and climbed up a pass into Switzerland. Continue reading “My best cycling moments in 2016”

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”