Back from PBP and France. Jaye Haworth and I did Paris-Brest-Paris on the old 1948 Rene Herse tandem, complete with Cyclo rear derailleur and rod-operated front derailleur. It was a great ride, and we came first among the mixed tandems. Only one (all-male) tandem was faster. We did the 1225 km (765 miles) in 52:44 hours. Our longest stops were twice 30 minutes for warm meals. The last 200 km were hard, but that is normal, I am told.
It was great to ride the old machine - many older spectators remembered the days when PBP was hard-fought between the teams of Herse, Routens and others.
The old machine worked flawlessly, the comfort of the fat 650B x 35 mm tires was instrumental in enabling us to press on through 3 nights and 2 days. Often, we had 20 to 30 single bikes in our wake, who had been dropped from the "fast" start group (they had left 1:45 hours before us). On the many twisty downhills, we could show them that nothing corners like an old Herse tandem - it usually took them 15 minutes of hard effort to catch us - if they did at all. It didn't rain, but the fat hammered fenders would have come in handy if the forecast ("rain at times") had been accurate.
(We updated the bike with clipless pedals and a SON generator hub and light, plus LED rear lights. Jaye used a modern Avocet O2 saddle. Otherwise, it was all 1940s/50s parts, or equivalents.) This tandem negates almost everything we are told is important in a modern tandem (narrow handlebars, few gears, short rear top tube, no stoker suspension), yet I prefer it greatly over all I have ridden. But that is a topic for a future VBQ article...
Otherwise, except one all-chrome 1970s Singer and a Singer tandem of the same vintage, there weren't many on-topic bikes in PBP. Rumors had it that there were 2 or 3 other Herse bikes on the ride. The others mostly were disappointing modern racing bikes, poorly suited to the event. All in all, I saw maybe 20-30 bikes with fenders, hundreds without.
For more details and photos, check out the Vintage Bicycle Quarterly web site at http://www.mindspring.com/~heine/bikesite/bikesite/index.html
PLEASE NOTE MY NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS. If you have e-mailed me and not received a response, please try again. Upon returning from France, I had to delete thousands of junk mails, and some messages may have got lost.
Jan Heine Editor/Publisher Vintage Bicycle Quarterly Seattle, WA http://www.mindspring.com/~heine/bikesite/bikesite/index.html