Its been two weeks since PBP finished. I've almost gotten over the cold I caught there and my bottom is starting to feel normal again. I still need to clean and reassemble my PBP bike, a 1999 Rivendell Road. It was the third time doing PBP for the bike and its owner.
The 2007 PBP was a heck of an event. Very wet and a little above normal for headwinds. The rains were warm though. The first persons back had times of about 44 hours. That is in line with past events given the conditions. The 30% DNF rate was not. My performance was way off but within the time limits.
Anyway I wanted to report on some notable American bikes I saw. They included:
1. Exxon Graftek - mint condition all Nuovo Record. 2. Teledyne Titan - updated with some new gears but with original fork 3. Chris Kvale 4. Brian Bayliss 5. Steve Rex - several 6. Ericksons 7. several vintage steel Treks 8. Several Mercians 9. Several Bob Jacksons 10. Several newer Follis Randonneurs 11. a few Dave Yates(UK) 12. a few Jack Taylors 13. a few Alex Singers 14. a few Gilles Berthouds 15. at least one Toei 16. at least one Hirose 17. a few Herse's - none sporting orginal cranks 18 one French 1920 two speed with low gear activated by pedalling backwards 19. a few british racing trikes - various makes mostly Longstreets 20. at least two very nice Nova Scotia made Tamaracks 21. Many Rivendells - mostly Rombouillets, some Romulus', some Bleriots, at least one Saluki, some Rivendells, a Quickbeam or two had to be there but I didn't see any. 22. a few Waterfords 23. at least one Richard Sachs 24. at least one Richard Moon (with Richard Moon as rider) 25. at least one Curt Goodrich
I didn't see any 70's american artisan builder frames other than the treks (graftek and teledyne are not considered artisan built). No eisentrauts, no paramounts, no Sachs (from the 70's but some from recent times), no Wiegles, no Kellogs, no Bill Boston's, no RRB (Ron Boi), no Assenmachers, No Nobillettes (I know I'm forgetting many). I did see a few Peugeots, Motobecanes, Raleighs, a Lejeune from the 70's there. There may have been some 70's classic american artisan built bikes (since the starting fields was around 6200) but I didn't see them. The field was full of mostly newer bikes. The was a lot of Carbon Fiber. Aluminum was on the wane. Titanium is holding steady. There were a large amount of steel frames but less than in the past. Carbon took away share from steel and aluminum. There were a lot of radial spoked wheels and straight headed spokes. Cycles Tournesol (Hamsptens) had examples in steel, titanium and carbon fiber.
The components were mostly newer stuff. TA cyclotourists cranks were around but I estimate on only 100 bikes. Shimano was dominant mostly Ultegra/105. Campagnolo was present though I didn't see much Record or even Chorus stuff. It was other levels - Veloce, Xenon, Mirage. Before PBP I saw Ergo and STI controls on department store road bikes selling for 350 to 399 Euros (that would be $450 to $500 for a complete ready to ride bike). Never seen that in the USA. I didn't recall seeing any vintage Simplex stuff though I have to believe that a few bikes had SJ style gears. I did see a fair amount of maxi-car hubbed wheels. I saw a few Mephisto rims. Mavic was dominant there for rims, not so for other components. There were not too many bikes with center pulls brakes. The numbers did exceed 100 in total, though - weinmanns, pauls, mafac. Dual pivots dominate. Leather saddles (Brooks, Selle Anatomica, Ideale) were outnumbered by leather covered plastic saddles I'm guessing maybe 30% to 70%.
As would be expected, there is no "standard" build for a PBP bike. They very much reflect the individuality of the rider and the parts availability in the area that they live. Most everyone has access to the same stuff, though - one way or the other.
The Americans/Canadians wore more wool jerseys than the rest of the entrants. The Euros, Aussies, Japanese, even the Israelies, seem to prefer sublimated polyester.
In 2003 the American contingent led the field with bright lighting including the use of the Schmidt Hub Dynamo. In 2007 the rest of the entrants caught up. LED lights are coming on strong but halogens are still widely used. Battery lights outnumber dynamo lights about 70% to 30%. I didn't see any vintage lighting in use. That is a good thing from a safety standpoint. The vintage bike owners replaced their vintage lights with modern lighting for PBP. The Euro randonneurs remain cautious descenders despite excellent and very smooth roads.
The French brevet bike builders - Follis, Singer, Berthoud, Pierre Perrin, Thiobaud, Rando Cycles, Daniel Salmon - seemed to be outnumbered by newer efforts - interpretations by mostly American and Japanese builders. I heard a rumor that Follis is considering ending production. That would be a bummer, in my mind. Predictably, demand for steel brevet bikes appears to be off. The desire for a less weighty bike is the only reason I can think of to explain it. I saw no (ok, one- the Tournesol) carbon bikes that had adequate clearances and mounting sockets for fenders. they all sported the ugly clip on fenders. Lots of clips, clamps and zip ties were used to keep the lights and fenders on the dominant modern racing bike.
With the rains there was a need to use fenders. They haven't been required since 1995 and maybe 25% to 30% of the field used them this time. A lot of people endured rooster tails of manure covered road in the face for days. A lot more people seemed to get sick after PBP than in the past and I think the stuff on the pavement helped in transmitting some diseases/viruses. I brought fenders just for insurance. I decided to mount them a day after I assembled the bike. I did it in response to views of the cloudy skies and the forecasts which were changing from good weather to bad. I was very happy to have mounted them. Nonetheless, my Brooks B-17 lost its shape, I got soaked to the skin (though I never shivered while pedalling). I will need to remold the saddle in the coming days with gingerly use of water, bungee cords and crumpled newspaper. I've done it before so I think it will return to its pre-soaked shape.
I started in the 90 hour group. I got to the front of it after 20 kilometers. The pace, predictably, was lower than the 80 hour starters. It was dark so I couldn't see my speed but if felt like it was between 22 and 26 mph for the first 75k outside of the villages. For comparison, the 80 group (the fastest riders) are doing 28 to 32 mph at similar points on the route (from my 2003 experience where I was able to see my speedo). It is the typical big engine strategy do a high steady pace and watch the lesser gifted riders fade. My turn to fade started at about 100k. By then the lead group was down to 5 with one other American (forgot his name) who stayed on after I dropped off. After that a stop here and there to respond to the weather, adjust the cue sheet, get some food and I was on my own going at a recovery level pace. I did recover and ended up spending a lot of time in a lot in medium sized packs. It always felt like we were going fast but a view of the speedo suggested otherwise - headwinds. This time the outbound route also seemed hillier. Could it have been the 2800 miles I completed for preparation since January (5-8k miles of base is more typical)? Could it have been my body beginning to reject scientific bike for for traditional fare of ham sandwiches, soup, yogurt, and pasta (along with a little red meat and beer when the opportunity presented itself). I'll never know for sure. I was able to do a good pace in the first 100k, the 100k before Brest, the 1000k (Villanes le Juhel) to 1085 (Mortangne le Perche) segment and finally for about 30k before and after Dreux, the last stop on the route at 1158k. I carefully monitored my heart rate more than my speed. Usually a comfortable pace for me is 135 to 145 bpm, AT for me is around 175, max hr is about 195 - I'm almost 50 years old. In the 2007 PBP I spent a lot of time with my heart rate at 100 to 115, an effort on the bike raised the rate to 140 to 150, I did acheive a max heartrate of 207 - on a very little hill but it was in a cluster of small hills - 150 to 500 feet high. I think my AT remained in the 170 range but I didn't get there often because of muscle fatigue.
I slept 9 hours all in Gymnasiums with other riders - I slept like a baby despite the snoring and the constant coming and going of riders - ear plugs were a godsend. The support crews were perfect in waking you up at the time requested. I was amazed by this as they seem totally disorganized during the sign in.
I spent more time at side of the road rest stops then ever before. I was able to enjoy the hospitality and good will of the many families that set up these stands. I wished many times that I had spent more time learning french. Interaction is not satisfactory when all you can say is Bonjour, Au revoir, Merci even when many of the people on the ride and along the road know English much better than I know French.
I was hoping to visit Alex March's family's bike collection in Bourdeaux after PBP. With my PBP finish occuring on Friday afternoon and a departure at 5:00 AM on Sunday, there was too much to do and too little time to make the visit. I hope I can visit them in the future.
PBP is a hard ride. It remains very special.