Addicted to novelty since 2001

Paris-Brest-Paris Sounds Deadly

Today I visited a local bicycle shop to get my new hand-me-down bike’s tire fixed. I was chatting with the owner, and he was telling me how he did the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling race last year. It sounds seriously extreme. From Wikipedia:

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) was originally a 1200km long bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris. It is the oldest bicycling event that is still regularly run…

Cyclists participating in the event must first complete a series of brevets (randonneuring events) within the same calendar year as the PBP to qualify. A series consists of the following rides: 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km. Each ride can be replaced by a longer ride.

You apparently have to complete the 1200 km in 90 hours, so you barely sleep at all. And, having done a very gentle bike trip in Brittany a few years ago, I can tell you that that territory is seriously hilly.

I also learned the term randonneuring. A randonneur participates in long distance bike races where there’s more of an emphasis on self-sufficiency and endurance than competition.

5 Responses to “Paris-Brest-Paris Sounds Deadly”

  1. Geet

    Randonneuring isn’t really racing. There is no prize for coming in first. I am sure there are those who would like to finish first, but that isn’t the goal of the ride.

  2. Andy K

    Note that the French word “randonneur” means hiker or backpacker, hence the use for long, non-competitive events. I have to laugh at the verbing of the word, the noun in French is “randonnee” (also used for Alpine touring). Wikipedia translates the word as “excursion” but it usually refers to self-propelled excursions.

  3. Gord

    The Rando’s in BC have a lot of history and one of the most active randonneuring clubs anywhere. Every year at the Cycling BC annual general meeting, all of the mountain bike and bmx cyclists gasp at the distances done by the competitive road cyclists. Then the road cyclists gasp at the distances done by the randonneurs when they give their annual report.

    The Pacific Populaire is coming up in Vancouver and offers a 50km route for those just getting into “long distance” cycling. While there isn’t a winner, there are time cut offs and the times are kept from year to year. More on the randonneurs history in BC is here. And if you think PBP sounds hilly, check out BC own PBP: the Rocky Mountain 1200. Gulp.

  4. Darren Inouye

    Almost more important that the physical challenge itself though is the cultural experience. In Canadian terms it’s as if you had one massive road hockey game that took up the entire trans Canada, with everyone lining the road to watch.

    (Brittany is hilly, apparently PBP has greater total elevation gain than BC’s own Rocky Mountain 1200 … as for most punishing I’ve looked and this is the nuttiest I could find:

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