- Distance: 402KM
- Elevation: 2,200 Meters
- Start: Longjumeau, France
- Check Points: 5
Aside from the occasional pleasantry, the conservation of energy is an unspoken, sacred oath taken in silence… I think I found my guys.
The pace is uncomfortably high through the first checkpoint at kilometer 113. I’m in Zone 3 and 4 hanging on in the cross wind as our gruppetto of 15 churn away. There is no way I can keep this up for 400KM, I repeat to myself. The first checkpoint was closed, due to the proprietor having recently passed away. Morbidly ironic, we find a cemetery to refill our bottles with water. I can’t help but wonder, is our proprietor buried here? Another lesson I learn, is the value of experience. Many in this group were older than myself, maybe 10 to 30 years in some cases. They all held their own at this pace, but they also knew all the tricks. I would have never guessed to go into a cemetery to look for a water faucet. Later on, a fellow rider found a water source at 1am in a dark alley of a sleeping village. I felt like a student on this ride, soaking up years and countless kilometers of experience from my fellow randonneurs.
We grabbed a picture of the closed restaurant in lieu of a stamp and pushed on. Then the rain started and would not stop for the next few hours as the sun began to slip away. Pulling out our rain jackets and flicking on the lights, the blistering speed slightly relaxed for safety. Around 9pm, we reached the second checkpoint in Blois at kilometer 180, wet and hungry. The group at this point was whittled down to 11, as we stormed a local falafel joint and made an absolute mess. The owners weren’t angry, they almost seemed amused, and maybe grateful for the rush of business. Finishing my sandwich, I grabbed a dry-bag from my bike and changed out of my wet bibs, socks and base-layer. It felt wonderful to put on some fresh clothes at this point, and was the boost I needed to begin the nighttime odyssey.
We swerve around the damp road, avoiding transient frogs that have made their way to the roadside to answer that suicidal question.
To be seen was a multi-pronged attack. Along with the required yellow jacket, I packed a high-viz orange vest and over socks. For lights, I have a very powerful battery operated 800 lumen front torch that can light up the darkest roads. I packed a smaller city commuter light as well for the twilight hours to conserve the big gun for the night. My rear light was a standard commuter light that can last a solid 8 hours while blinking. I also tried very hard to find and stay in a group. This was by far the safest course of action, even if it meant exerting myself further than I anticipated.
Lastly, I wanted to be comfortable. I assumed I was looking at a 20 hour day, and the weather did not look good. I packed in my dry bag a change of bibs, base-layer and socks. I managed to change into them around the halfway point after the worst of the rainy weather. The bibs were important for 2 reasons. Avoiding saddle sores from riding in damp shorts for hours, and it was a terrific boost to the moral to get into something dry and warm.
Though it can never be relied upon, finding someone or a group to ride with is certainly the best strategy for a ride through the night. It made every aspect of the 400km better.
I was almost in bikepacking mode for this BRM, with a complement of bags. Though the weight does start to add up, I feel being prepared puts your mind at ease more than worrying about another kilo. Building on my choices for the 300KM Brevet , the conditions again influenced my loadout and learning from the past, I was pretty happy with the following essentials.
400KM Equipment List
- Top tube bag
- Frame bag
- Saddle bag w/ dry bag
- 2 X 750ml water bottles
- Nutrition for 18 hours (one energy bar or gel per hour)
- Electrolyte/ Calorie Tabs
- Extra gloves, base-layer, socks, shoe covers
- 800 lumen front light / spare commuter light
- Rear red light
- Battery pack
- Wahoo ELEMNT GPS computer
- Tool roll w/ patches, multi-tool, spare link, inner tubes, chain lube, etc.
- Hand pump
- Waterproof pouch for money and phone
- Small toiletry bag with aspirin, chamois cream, tissues, spare contact lens
- Yellow eyeglass lens for night riding
My next and final qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris will be the 600KM BRM distance. I will hope to tackle this 3 weeks after my 400KM BRM. I will let my body fully recover, but will continue riding short distances to stay sharp. The 600KM will be broken into 2 days most likely. The general idea being to ride 300-350KM the first day, and then finish out the next day with a “shorter” distance. I have not yet decided how I will rest between these rides. The options are camping, or finding a hotel for 6 hours. My next few weeks will be weighing the pros and cons of each. If you have any tips yourself, please leave them in the comments below, I would love your feedback! Otherwise you will just have to wait for my ride report 😉 A bientot!
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