Advice on preparing for PBP from the doyen of Queensland Audax Club (Australia).

No doubt there will be plenty of pre-ride tips available, and they are all worthwhile taking on-board. At the risk of going into infom1ation overload, I offer these comments/tips for prospective entrants, in the hope that they will be of some help.

Obviously preparation is the No. 1 priority, both from a personal and logistics point of view.

On the personal side, and bearing in mind that different training techniques suit different people, depending on their strengths and weaknesses, it is nevertheless vitally important to accustom the body to prolonged periods on the bike, riding in differing conditions.

In no way am I asserting that that my training schedule was the ultimate preparation, but it worked for me!

I rode the 1995 event at the age of 63, and finished in 75hrs 17 mins.  In the eight months prior to departure I covered 16,000 k, in Audax rides, and additional training rides, the longest of which was 380k.  I left home (on my own), at 8pm, (that’s about when your Paris ride will start), so that I was more or less replicating the actual event,…not that you will be on your own when you start, but there will be times during the ride when you will find yourself on your own, and you’ll  begin to wonder if you have gone off track somewhere.

I maintained a schedule of no less than 500k per week, for the last three months prior to leaving.

It was during the last 5–6 weeks that the extended time spent on the bike began to tighten-up leg muscles causing stress to my knees, and it became necessary to have physio treatment, and start a stretching regime.

Up until then, I had never done stretching exercises, but it is something that I do to this day, and strongly recommend that all long distance riders do so.  You will avoid the discomfort, and the inconvenience of seeking treatment, if you start the stretching, and self massage practices, early in the piece.

Quite a few of the 1995 participants went on “training camps” in France, or did some touring leading up to the event, but in retrospect found there wasn’t much value in doing either. This could well have changed, following responses to surveys which inevitably pop-up, subsequent to the event.

I just felt that it was better to prepare on home ground, and do the touristy things afterwards, so I gave myself three days to “acclimatise ” in Paris, and found that quite satisfactory.

Bearing in mind there will be another 2,999 riders in the vicinity, it is important to take with you, from home, any personal needs that are common to bike riders. For example I went looking in St Quentin, for sports drink powder, only to find the supermarket shelves empty. I did however find some Dextrose tablets in a nearby chemist shop. Fortunately they turned out to be just as good.

Even though I had no need to go looking for bike parts, I believe the same scenario applied. Whilst on the subject of hydration, water replenishment opportunities are few and far between, particularly at night, so I recommend three 750ml bidons or the equivalent thereof.  Some bidon cages will hold a one-litre bottle.
Maybe this situation has also been addressed by the organisers!

Make-up check lists whilst you  are doing your qualifying rides of all the items that you find essential, and will  need for the big event.    This should include items that you will need to have included in the small bag you  are going to have dropped off at the Loudeac (400k) control.  Also make up a list of items to he included in your bike bag, and on your person .   Remember, you will be packing these bags over there, and it is easy to forget, or miss things that are important to you and the bike’s welfare, when you are away from your normal environment.

Know your bike well, and how to fix it. If you can’t service it yourself, have a good mechanic do it for you, a couple of weeks, (and rides) beforehand.
Definitely do not make untried changes to any equipment, or clothing, and including food, before the actual ride.
I would recommend:

  • Fit new tyres and tubes,
  • Fit a new chain, – (and block if necessary),
  • If the computer battery is a bit old, fit a new one.
  • Clean all components of the bike before packing it.

I firmly believe that on endurance rides, (or any rides for that matter), it is preferable to pedal, or “spin” lower gear ratios, rather than to push higher gears. It has to be less stressful on one’s legs,
and body overall, and will get you there feeling a lot more comfortable.
There are no major climbs to bother about on the P-B-P route. As I recall, and provided the course hasn’t been changed dramatically, the only climb of any threatening altitude, is at the Brest end of the course, and that would be of less significance than Mt Mee.
On my Audax bike I have:

  • Front chainwheels of 46t – 36t
  • Rear sprockets of 26t – 13t

This gives me gear ratio ranges of:

  • High 95.5 inches
  • Low 37.4 inches

I have found this range of gears quite adequate for my needs, and have served my purposes well, over many years of riding.
You don’t need to be concerned about navigation. The route is marked in its entirety with reflective arrows at each change of direction, yellow for the outward journey, pink on the homeward leg.
Having said that, be very attentive when coming back into Guyancourt, it is quite complex, and vandals have been known to alter the direction of arrows, or souvenir them altogether.
Motorcycle marshals patrol the course, checking on the welfare, and rule conformity of riders.
Soak up the atmosphere and enthusiasm of the locals. Cycling is their passion. They set-up chairs and tables on the side of the road to cheer you on, and some get quite disappointed if you don’t stop to accept the drinks they are offering.
Take your camera on the ride, (remember, its not a race!) The memories that photos provide later are well worth the weight penalty!! I took mine, and that was before digitals arrived on the scene.
This is not a comprehensive summary, as I am conscious of the amount of information that becomes available pre-ride, but I hope it is of some use to “first timers”, and unreservedly invite those seeking further details to contact me at any time.

Lindsay Green

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