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.
Ortlieb handlebar bag (414 grams plus mount)
This is a tried and trusted piece of kit. It already accompanied me on a three-month fully-loaded tour across the United States ten years ago. It’s waterproof and very handy, but not super-light. In there goes stuff I frequently need: the camera, sun cream, vaseline and – most importantly – a lot of food that I can reach and wolf down without stopping.
Apidura saddle bag (400 grams)
This is a new piece of kit which I bought only in early July after my 600k qualifier. It replaces my Carradice Super C saddlebag, as it is about 800 grams lighter than the Carradice bag plus rack.
Considered the price of 85 pounds, the Apidura bag is not a bargain at all. But the perspective changes a bit if you consider how much you’d have to fork out to reduce your bike’s weight by 800 grams.
The saddle bag will primarily contain the sleeping gear, spare cloths and probably some food.
A clear disadvantage of the Apidura bag compared to the Carradice is that the luggage is less accessible during the ride. I was also concerned that the Apidura bag may destabilize the bike as it wobbles when pedalling hard, but that’s does not seem to be a big problem.
Apidura top tube bag (100 grams, not pictured)
Unfortunately, the Apidura saddle back lacks side pockets, which on the Carradice are fantastic for tool and spares. Hence I also bought Apidura’s large top tube bag. Currently, it carries my tyre repair kit, but I may put that into the bar bag and use the tube bag for food, as it’s really nicely accessible when riding.
Most probably, I’ll also carry a bum bag, where I put my phone, wallet and brevet card. I’m using a Fjällräven one, which is not water proof but has several different pockets. All sensitive items that go into the bum bag will need to be protected against rain. I’ll use an Ortlieb case for my iPhone and a small Ortlieb document bag for the wallet. Both bags have a ribbon so I can hang them around my neck at controls.
Spare cloths will be the heaviest single category of luggage – with about two kilos. Not included in that calculation is the stuff I’ll wear: a Vulpine merino shirt, a pair of Maloja bib short, my Giro cycling shoes, a cycling cap, a Specialized helmet and a pair of mitts.
I will carry two spare pairs of bib shorts, which weigh 200g each. Maybe one spare would do, but I don’t want to take any chances here. So far, I’ve never had any issues with saddle sores, and this will hopefully remain this way (knock on wood…). My plan is to put on a new bib shorts every 400 or so km. I’ll carry a pair of leg warmers (from Decathlon) for the night.
I have long been in two minds over my waterproof jacket. I have a choice between a Gore Tex one, which is relatively breathable and warm, but quite heavy (560 grams) and bulky. The alternative is a super-light Vaude rain jacket that weights only 210 grams and has a super-tiny pack size, but is not really breathable.
As the weather will be highly unpredictable and long periods of rain and chilly nights are possible in Brittany in mid-August, I will take the Gore Tex one.
I won’t take any waterproof overshoes, as I find them useless without waterproof trousers that prevent rain water seeping in from the top. There is no way of keeping dry feet during protracted periods of heavy rain anyway. The best compromise for me are Gore Tex socks, which keep the feed mostly dry and warm. Moreover, they are nice if you have to get back into wet shoes with dry socks.
With regard to jerseys, I have become a complete Merino convert. Merino wool keeps you warm even when wet. And even after days of continuous use, it does not become smelly. I will wear a Vulpine Meriono zip shirt and will carry an Icebreaker Merino tank top, either as a base layer or if it becomes really hot. On top comes the souvenir PBP jersey I will pick up in Paris. I’ll also carry Merino armwarmers (also by Icebreaker).
A lightweight gilet by Castrelli will serve as another layer against wind and cold. I will also carry a light weight pair of shorts for sleeping. Two or three pairs of spare socks and a couple of spare mitts, a spare cycling cap and a buff or two also will go into the bag.
In terms of weight, that’s the second biggest component at 1.5 kilos. The iPhone plus charger and backup battery pack add up to 400 grams. The camera – a Canon G7X, which is absolutely fantastic – plus two spare batteries is at 350 grams.
My choice of GPS unit is a tad bulkier and heavier than the cycling-specific devices most riders use these days. I’m using a Garmin GPSmaps 64s, which is a handheld device designed for numerous purposes from hiking to sailing. Including batteries, it weights 300g.
Two core advantages over the Edge series are that it does not have a built-in battery but takes AA batteries which you can buy at any garage. Moreover, it does not have a touch screen and can be used with gloves.
PBP veterans point out that you do not need a GPS on the ride, as the route is signposted. But I will use it to get to the start, and to record my track.
I’ll power the Garmin using my hub dynamo but will take four spare batteries (rechargeable Eneloop pro ones), which I can also use for my backup rear lights.
I’ll wear a Garmin heart rate monitor which I use to pace myself. The basic idea is to keep the heart rate below 130 beats per minute.
I’ll also take a LED head torch for repairs at night and as a emergency backup head light.
Tools and spares
I will crack down on my usual habit of carrying many tools and spares, which brings down the weight to about 700 gram. There are bike mechanics at every control, and you can buy spares there too. So I will take only two inner tubes and a set of repair patches, plus tyre leavers and tyre boots.
As a pump, I’ll take the Top Peak Race Rocket, which only weights 90 grams (not pictured). A multi tool, an Opinel pocket knife (also for making sandwiches), a chain tool plus some chain links and an emergency spoke come on top.
I’ll also take tiny bottle of chain lube – the chain can become dry and noisy in heavy rain quickly, which is super-annoying.
What I won’t take is a spare tyre, a CO2 pump plus CO2 cartridges, a Leatherman-style pair of pliers, spare cleats and a spoke took – taken together, this reduces the weight by 900 grams.
All in all, this stuff adds up to 500 grams. The ususal stuff: Toothbrush, tooth paste and shampoo, sun scream, Hidrofugal anti-perspirant. Vaseline for my bum.
One of the biggest inconveniences on the long qualifiers were dry and sore lips, which was super-annoying. I will carry UV protective lip balm (for prevention) and Eurecim lip balm (as a cure). Wet wipes to keep my private parts clean and prevent saddle sores. Sun glasses plus case are at 100 grams. I’ll also carry a lightweight microfiber towel for showering at the controls.
At 670g, my sleeping kit will be heavier than what most people take on PBP. Many riders just carry a space blanket for emergencies and rely on the sleeping facilities at the controls. After some real sleep troubles on my 400k qualifier, I want to be able to sleep comfortably everywhere. At peak times, empty beds at popular controls can come at a premium, and one can be hit by the dozies in between controls.
Hence I will carry a lightweight Therm-A-Rest mattress (the NeoAir xLite at 360g), a Cascade Designs sleeping bag inner liner (260 g) and a Terra Nova super light-weight bivi bag.
Earplugs and a sleeping mask will come on top.