Paris-Brest-Paris, 1987


French Flag

Vive La France

Links to Paris-Brest-Paris info:


Randonneurs USA

Paris-Brest-Paris is the oldest bicycling event currently running. It was first held in 1891. A Parisian newspaper decided to organize a round trip 1200 km bicycle race from Paris to the western most city in France, Brest, to promote bicycling as a means of travel. The event was originally a race for professional cyclists, but for many years it has been an amateur event for randonneurs, a French term for a type of long distance cycle touring. The event is currently held every four years.

I became interested in Paris Brest Paris when I heard Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo speak about their experience here and also other long distance cycling events like the Race Across America (RAAM). Susan was the first woman finisher in the 1983 Paris-Brest-Paris event with a time of 54 hours, 43 minutes. She directed the qualifying brevet events that I completed in 1987. And she gave me a very valuable advice to take wool socks, cross country ski gloves, and extra layers of clothing. In 1987, about one-third of the approximately 220 Americans did not finish for a variety of reasons including inadequate cold weather gear, mechanical problems, and exhaustion from long hours in the saddle. Training is very important. I was also fortunate to a have core group of friends who also enjoyed long training rides that year.

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The following table shows the checkpoints along the routes where riders had their brevet cards stamped. Anyone who arrived after a checkpoint closed was disqualified so there was a lot of incentive to keep riding.

Location Km
1 Rueil - Malmaison 0
2 Belleme 162
3 Villaines la Juh. 234
4 Fougeres 323
5 Tinteniac 380
6 Loudeac 455
7 Carhaix 522
8 Brest 691
9 Carhaix 691
10 Loudeac 755
11 Tinteniac 832
12 Fougeres 889
13 Villaines la Juh. 981
14 Belleme 1052
15 Nogent le Roi 1138
16 Rueil - Malmaison 1215

Pre-Ride Activity

  • Bike boxes from the airlines and Amtrak are much bigger than the boxes from bike shops. Sometimes you can leave the wheels on.
  • Priorities are different in France.
  • A well–marked route. I don't recall having to pull out the directions.
  • Flags for countries represented in the ride at the Rueil Malmaison Stadium.
  • Ken with a souvenir banner. (finished in a little over 84 hours)
  • Every bicycle is inspected before the ride. Riders must carry extra batteries, extra inner tubes, etc. Fenders were required in 1987, but fenders are no longer required.
  • Riders carry brevet cards, and must have these stamped at check points. Riders who arrive after a control point closes are disqualified.
  • Ready to ride at 4:00 am! I elected to start at 4:00 am in order to have up to 90 hours to complete the ride. Riders could choose either of two later starting times, but every rider had to finish the ride 90 hours after the 4:00 am start.
  • The Pink Leopard team, Lue and Patty, finished first in the women's tandem division (finished in 79:43)

During the ride

  • Except for going uphill, tandems are fast. Drafting a tandem is much better than a single bike.
  • Lon and Bob rode swiftly through the night.
  • Lon and Bob pedaled hard most of the day too. (finished in 55:56)
  • I joined the French Toast Bicycle club in 1984, and completed my first 200 mile bike ride with the club that year. On long rides several of us would order our French toast and add, "Make mine a double."
  • My 12 speed bike had 48/34 chain rings. A lantern battery powered the lights the first two nights and then I used a generator the third night. Batteries were different in France.
  • An ambulance was on duty at the check point.
  • A bicycle store truck was also at the check point for supplies and minor repairs.
  • Several British riders rode racing tricycles, and there were even a few tandem tricycles like this.
  • Audax UK riders on a tandem
  • France has excellent bakeries and pastry shops!
  • French bicycle club enjoying a picnic break along the road.
  • A group of Swedish Riders had great jerseys.
  • A pack heading downhill
  • Crossing a small bridge in the forest
  • Pace Line
  • A pub on the edge of town was the only place I could find for a snack on the last day. Several bikes were parked outside.
  • I sat by myself at a table for a couple minutes. Then another cyclist sat down at the table. We each spoke one sentence in French, and he said "You are a Yank." Yes, "You must be British," I said, and we switched to English!
  • Within a few minutes, I was ordering a sandwich and coffee with a table full of Brits from the Willesden Cycling Club.
  • The coffee was served in a bowl and mighty strong. Two bowls gave me a huge boost. After we got back on our bikes, the first Brit and I were leading the pack for the next 20K!
  • The three of us crossed the finish line together.
    (finished in 87:27)

Celebration after finishing 1200km in less than 90 hours

  • Each rider got a complementary bottle of beer. It was a big hit and helped us celebrate!
  • Norwegians celebrating after finishing at Rueil Malmaison Stadium.
  • Ken and George at the Awards Party shortly after the finish.