Re: [CR]Vintage Racebikes--PBP slant

(Example: Framebuilding:Paint)

Date: Thu, 09 May 2002 17:11:25 -0700
From: "Bill Bryant" <>
To: John Price <>
Subject: Re: [CR]Vintage Racebikes--PBP slant
References: <307BB21BAB87A047AC0813C0FA3DDD923ACF5C@prexchange.hbw.local>

In my opinion, making time comparisons at Paris-Brest-Paris is rather difficult and it is hard to draw big conclusions from them--but you'll see that in the years since 1966 the fastest times have been pretty similar despite the "advances" in bicycle technology.

In reality, the rain and wind plays a really big part in the eventual outcome over 1200 kms of cycling, so comparisons don't hold up as much as you'd think. There have been events run under 72+ hours of strong rain and wind, while others where in good weather most of the way. For example it is useful to know that the final race in '51 saw tailwinds virtually the whole way--the wind switched 180 degrees about the time the peloton reached Brest! Also in recent years the route has steadily stretched out a bit from the original 1196 or so kilometers in 1891 to around 1215 of modern times. (The 1999 event was a good 40 kms over-length beyond that due to road construction detours and route mis-marking, so perhaps that has the highest average speed of all despite a slightly longer riding time.) Importantly, the PBP route from 1891 to 1975 was along the rolling N-3 highway, while the rural route used from 1979 onward is definitely much hillier (but it also has far less car/truck traffic and is much safer).

Also, PBP was a race contested by professional riders from 1891 to 1951, so the caliber of rider has varied over time too. However, it has been organized as a randonnee for amateurs since 1931 (alongside the pro race), and the fastest randonneurs have been setting the times since the professionals disappeared in the 'fifties. FYI, since the conclusion of the last PBP race in '51, those cyclists currently holding pro licenses are forbidden to ride the randonneur event. Since then, only ex-pros of at least two years retirement can enter. In the randonneur version, any advertising on clothing was forbidden and fenders were compulsory for many decades. These rules were rescinded in 1995, but professional riders are still forbidden. Unlike the old days, one rides PBP for the love of cycling, not prize money.

So for what it's worth, here are a list of the PBP professional race times: 1891--71h37m 1901--52h11m 1911--50h13m 1921--55h07m 1931--49h23m 1948--41h36m 1951--38h55m

PBP-Randonneurs (amateurs): 1931--68h30m (solo) 1948--49h20m (tandem); 51h15m (solo bike) 1951--47h54m (tandem); 48h25m (solo) 1956--50h29m (tandem); 52h19m (solo) 1961--46h18m (solo)* 1966--44h21m 1971--45h39m 1975--43h27m 1979--44h01m 1983--43h24m 1987--44h05m 1991--43h42m 1995--43h20 1999--44h22m

* Though tandem teams are very active at each PBP-Randonneurs, solo bike riders, either alone or in a small group, have arrived back in Paris with the fastest times since 1961.

For a more complete look at PBP and randonneuring in the US, CR members might want to visit the website of the Randonneurs USA at Under the PBP page you'll find "A Short History of Paris-Brest-Paris" by yours truly.

And getting back to the current discussion of vintage bikes vs. modern machinery, PBP is a great sporting contest where the rider's strength, determination and cycling skill make the biggest difference in earning a finisher's medal. These factors are certainly ~much~ more important than the type of bicycle that is used.

(If you're interested, the next PBP is in August of 2003. Four qualifying "brevets" of 200, 300, 400, and 600k must be done prior to July 1st for entry. Contact RUSA for more info about the brevet series nearest you.)

Bill Bryant Vice-President, Randonneurs USA Santa Cruz, CA

John Price wrote:
> That's pretty interesting. I've never thought to look at average speeds like
> that - definitely food for thought. If nothing else I would've thought such
> things as improvements in road conditions would've up'ed the average speeds
> the most.
> How does the same apply to the various randonneuring events I wonder ? I
> know PBP is more controlled in that regard but if you look at - say -
> winning times over the past 2-3 decades are they dropping significantly
> (within the controlled time "window" anyway) ? Are they staying about the
> same ?
> John Price
> Denver, CO
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2002 3:55 PM
> To:
> Subject: [CR]Vintage Racebikes
> Thought this letter from the letters section at was
> interesting in the light of this ongoing thread of vintage vs new race
> bikes.
> Bike tech a waste of time?
> Consider this: Leige-Baston-Liege winner's average speed in 2001 was 38.5
> kmh, in 1974 it was 38.5 kmh! But get this, in 1943 it was 37.7. Makes
> you wonder if titanium frames, 10 speed clusters etc are making any
> difference at all. Another comparison: Amstel Gold winner's time in 2001
> was 38 kmh. In 1967 it was 43.7.
> I know courses vary over the years, as do wind and weather conditions But
> looking at average speeds over, say, the last 40 years, you'd be hard
> pressed to see an upward trend of any sort. Factoring in the road
> surface, which would presumably be better now than in the 50's and 60's,
> and things look bad indeed for the expensive new bike technologies and
> training methods. (Read Cycling News Tech Pages)
> Stuart Davis
> Australia
> Saturday, April 27, 2002
> Just thought it was kinda interesting. Don W. Tucson, AZ