Recently I was rereading a testimonial about the 1999 Paris-Brest-Paris in an issue of On The Wheel written by Larry Strung and fantasizing about my ride this summer. It is vivid account, with many of the same worries and observations I had 4 years ago before trying to ride PBP. Will I ride too hard in the beginning, and fall apart on my way back from Brest? Who would I ride with? How long should I sleep? What bike to ride?
I quickly looked on the internet, and I was surprised that the article -“When is a race not a race? Paris-Brest-Paris 1999”- is not available online. If you are thinking about riding PBP, or just wonder what it is like, I recommend tracking it down. It is in issue #12 of One the Wheel(out of print).
Larry rode an older Peugeot, where as his friends rode fancy Litespeeds. Four years ago, I did all the brevetes in the series and took to France a 1968 Jack Taylor Super Tourist. I was shocked at the disproportionate amount of modern race bikes present in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, the start and finishing town of PBP. Along with Joel Metz, also on a Jack Taylor, it would be fair to say, we were in the minority riding old steel bikes, probably in the 1 percentile.
This year, I have been doing all of my riding on an early 1980s Eddy Merckx, not something I would have ever imagined doing more than 70-80 miles at a time, yet I have done two 200kms on it and plan to do a 300km in a week on it. I did install 700x28c tires on it, but it is far from ideal, as there is no provisions to install fenders or lights.
I put up with inconvenience because I am waiting for my custom frame to being built by Simon Firth, former head framebuilder at Bilenky Cycles, that has started to build his own bikes. I will own the first Hanford, named after the small town in the United Kingdom Simon is from. It will have a mix of modern and older parts, and will be the first new bike I have ever bought. Im excited.