Paris-Brest-Paris 2015: The Bicycles

Just as Paris-Brest-Paris draws a diverse gathering of randonneurs from around the globe, it’s fitting that an endurance event that pushes individuals to their extreme limits also attracts a wild range of human-powered machines. Registrants in the “F” category — which my fellow “G” riders joked was the “Funny Bike” group — were tandems, triples, hand-powered bicycles, tricycles, all manner of recumbents, vintage rides and velomobiles riding off from the start. And there was even a small squadron of Elliptigos — their riders gently swaying back and forth as they passed by with loud whoosh-whooshing sounds — that clumped together in towering packs of two or three.

Back in 2003, a Finnish rider completed the ride on a scooter, while in 2011, veteran French rider Sophie Matter wanted a new challenge and tootled along on a Dutch bicycle decorated with flowers overflowing from her basket and panniers. And the legendary ancien Drew Buck, who once stated in an interview that he always rides “stupid bikes”, pedaled along this year on an antique 3-speed Raleigh that he had fixed up for the occasion.

Several riders observed that the Europeans gravitated towards racier, carbon bicycles with all of the modern accoutrements while the Americans and British trusted steel steeds — and the French would ride whatever they dug out of their basement. I even saw a few mountain bikes, with knobby tires still mounted on their rims, hustling down the road.

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Whether or not these stereotypes are generally true, whatever helps motor you along the distance of 1230km is welcomed by the governing body of Audax Club Parisien. My personal hero was this gentleman I spotted from the Ukraine. Wearing a bright green cap, jorts, sneakers and a fanny pack, he casually cruised on a single speed using just a plastic bag dangling from his handlebars to carry his stuff. I pulled up alongside him, gave him the thumbs up and said, “AWESOME!” with a big smile. He proceeded to ignore me; perhaps he thought I was teasing him or maybe didn’t know what the hell I was saying. At any rate, this impressive dude arrived at Brest at the same time as my group, which just goes to show that in the end, it’s your spirit that will push you over the finish line.


  • Alex Plumb

    A thought on your Ukrainian gentleman. He may well have preferred to ride PBP in much greater comfort, speed, and style, but only had enough money to get himself and the one bike he knew and owned across the starting line. His snub may have been based on your (perceived) insensitvity. I had a similar thing happen when I met fellow Goldrush 1200k rider, Tatiana, on the second night of PBP. Two years before, she and her two Leningrad Randonneur buddies had impressed everyone by finishing Goldrush on abused and badly maintained road bikes they rented in Davis just days before the brevet. I jokingly asked her if she was renting a bike again for PBP. She was clearly embarrassed and only reluctantly said, “no, this is my bike.” Looking at her bike more closely, I suddenly understood her discomfort. It was a very old and beat up carbon road bike that looked more like an Oakland day laborer’s ride, than a Randonneur’s. Her Goldrush rental had been an upgrade from her normal brevet bike. This ended our conversation, but I’ve been thinking about my ignorance of her economic realities ever since.

    • Yeah — I was bummed he didn’t realize that I wanted to give him a compliment!

    • Garkusha Alexandr

      this man from Ukraine is deaf-mute

    • Thanks for the info!

    • Григорий Промоцкий

      Now he can appreciate your compliment. During the PBP he had got just look at your gestures.This Ukrainian gentleman – Eugene Sprutsko can not hear and speak.
      Bicycles with multiple speeds he does not like, even with planetary hub. This is a kind of philosophy. On the sing-speed in 2011, he traveled alone from Mariupol to Vladivostok.

    • Thank you for the information!

    • Maksym Lohash
    • Ярослав Михалич

      Name that man from Ukraine is Yevhen and he is deaf.

    • Alex Yarov

      The man from Ukraine is deaf-and-dumb. This is why he ignored you – he just could not hear you. As for his bike – he is from a town of Mariupol which is next to the frontline. The russian invaders are constantly shelling the town by their artillery. It is really hard to find a job in such places. Split, the main sponsor of Ukrainian team for PBP2015 have covered his expenses for the event.

    • Thank you for letting me know the info!

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