Rider Prep Page

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club

The following is a set of recommendations by Gord Cook which he put together in preparation for his January 1999 workshop for first-time PBPers. I just sat down to rewrite it, and bring it up to date, but actually it's still all relevant four years later, and is an excellent set of recommendations... so why reinvent the wheel? I have added just a few comments [in square brackets]. Gord Cook is an experienced randonneur and has participated in PBP twice (1991 & 1995). [Eric F, 2003]

PBP Recommendations
by Gord Cook

The PBP is more than a cycling event, it's an experience of a life time. In previous PBP's we experienced things that would never happen here, such as crowds at the start line cheering us on, people in the small towns along the way directing us through town at 2 AM. Little kids at the roadside dispensing water and looking up at us as though we were a Wayne Gretsky and many more things like this too many to mention here.


A lighting set consisting of a head lamp and a steady red (flashing is not permitted - flashing light that is) tail light are required. It is strongly recommended that a back-up system, either a battery or generator powered, be provided. My preference is two battery systems, but many people prefer one battery and one generator system.

Food during the event

Food is available at the control points for a reasonable price and is usually of satisfactory quality. Many people use carbohydrate drinks for both the maintenance of hydration and blood sugar levels and use solid foods sparingly. Others cannot tolerate the high carbo drinks and stay strictly to solid food. If you plan to change your eating habits for the PBP it would be wise to experiment with the new food on training rides first then on the longer brevets and get to know how your body reacts to the new fuel. I use a Camel Bak for water and a water bottle for a concentrated carbo drink. The carbo powder is packed in zip-lok bags with enough powder in each to provide 600 to 700 calories when mixed with water in the water bottle. This negates the need for measuring the powder into the bottle, just empty the zip-lok bag into the bottle and add water. Having the water source (Camel Bak) and a food source (water bottle) in separate containers you can drink as much of each as required.

Saddle Sores

As you have probably guessed this can be a problem, particularly if the temperature is hot. The old saying "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" goes a long way to solving infections that come with long, hot hours in the saddle. A change of shorts at least once during the ride, and preferably twice, is mandatory to decrease the chance of problems. I start with an old worn out pair of shorts and discard them at Brest. A Dan McGuire solution is to mix one part Aloe Vera (vitamin E) hand cream with one part Preparation H. I used Tea Tree Oil cleaning pads each time I have my shorts down. These are available at many health food stores. I cleaned front and back then tossed the pads. I had no infection problems at all, however it stings a bit for a few seconds after the application.


This may or may not be a problem for most, but is for some. The stress of not being familiar with the language, different food, jet lag, finding your way around, etc. can take a little of the starch out and leave you a little flat. Something to be aware of. Arrival in France a few days prior to the event will help to mitigate the effects of jet lag. Even looking for the directional arrows on the PBP route in the dead of night when you're having trouble concentrating can be rather stressful, especially if you haven't seen any other cyclists for a while.

Planning the Ride

Have a plan based on your performance in the longer brevets at home. How far to ride the first, second, third days, where and what to eat, where to sleep, etc. However, don't worry if you fall behind your schedule, pushing too hard may mean not finishing. If you haven't ridden at least a 1000 km brevet before I suggest you ride a 1000 to get the feel of the 1200. A 600 km qualifying brevet is only half of the 1200 km PBP. There are three start times, 8:00 Monday evening, 10:00 Monday evening and 5:00 on Tuesday morning. The first start time has a total allowable time of 80 hours, the second, 90 hours and the last start time allows 84 hours. The major benefit of the choosing the first start time are fewer starters therefore fewer riders at the controls. This helps if you are a fast rider but the benefits diminish the slower you ride. The second start time provides the greatest time allowed. Both the evening starts gives you the advantage of facing the first night of riding while you're fresh. The early morning start is fine if you're a morning person but tough if you come on line about noon. I have done both the evening and morning start and prefer the evening. To take it a little further, the 10:00 PM start, for me, is preferable because of the longer time allowed. If you have to struggle to complete the 600 in anything over 36 hours perhaps you should consider a more strenuous training regimen, but don't over train.

Bike fit

Make sure the bike fits you, that the seat is adjusted for tilt, height and fore and aft etc. Any problems should be picked up during training and qualifying brevets and corrected. Incorrectly positioned cleats can cause untold misery such as numbness in the toes, pain and permanent damage to the nerves of the foot. It's easier and a lot less painful to get a bike that fits you than attempting to make you fit the bike. Don't go with untried equipment, especially when it's equipment that must fit your body. A thorough inspection of lighting, cables, bottom brackets etc. should be done since there's nothing worse than spending all that money and having to pack it in half way through the event due to mechanical problems.

Medical Coverage

Cycling BC insurance will cover you while you are cycling, but you won't be cycling all the time. [Ed Note: Our club PBP '03 insurance strategy is still under consideration - it may, or may not, be with Cycling BC this time around. Your should be aware, however, that riders must prove that they are adequately insured as part of the entry process.] Ensure you have adequate medical coverage. First aid is also an important item. Even though first-aid posts are located at every control, the basics should be carried by each participant. A couple of things I find particularly important are an anti-inflammatory such as Advil and a product such as Tums to settle a fussy stomach.


If you don't have a current passport, now is the time to start the ball rolling. With this item you will be dealing with the government and we all know what that can be like!

Medical Certificate

A medical certificate has always been necessary in the past and we anticipate it will be this time also. This can be acquired from your family doctor. Just a note to say you are fit enough to undertake this cycling event. Don't tell your doctor the details of the PBP or you may get a certificate that reads, "Physically fit, but mentally deficient".

Transport of Your Bike

I've never been charged for the transport of my bike on international flights but I suggest you check with your chosen airline. The airlines I've checked with prefer the bike to be packed in a box rather than the plastic bags they provide. Via Rail (a Canadian passenger rail) has an excellent box available for a nominal sum (sometimes free, if the right person is on duty and they think you're going by train). The Via box requires no dismantling of the bike, just point the pedals inward and loosen the long bolt that holds the stem and the handlebar bolt and swing the handle bars around and down, snug up the bolts and, voila! the bike's ready. It isn't even necessary to remove the wheels and fenders. The airlines like you to deflate your tires, why I don't know. Even with a total decompression of the aircraft the pressure loss is about seven psi so the increase in the tire is about the same. I usually drop the pressure to about 50 psi just to satisfy their demands.


A good training program is a must. This is a very difficult event that will require a strong body and a strong will to finish. The mental aspect is often forgotten or not given the priority it requires for a ride of this length. A positive mental attitude is easy to attain during the excitement of the planning and even at the start of the ride, but it is another matter at the 800 km point at 3 am when it's pouring rain and cold. Try to be conscious of your attitude during the longer qualifying brevets and if you're down, smile and think of something pleasant. I don't think I have to stress physical training, however I'll just mention it's very important and if you don't know how to train, get professional help.

I hope this has been of some help to you in your quest for ultimate reward of randonneuring, to complete the Paris-Brest-Paris ride. Any changes to your regular routine or equipment should be fully tested before PBP.

Have a good ride!