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UK Cyclist: Long-distance and leisure cycling in the South-west and elsewhere

From: "Ian Hennessey" 

To: "Randon" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>*

*[Randon is now at]

Subject: Paris-Brest

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 15:16:37 +0100

I arrived home yesterday after around 1850kms on fixed - 3X more
than I've attempted before. 35yr old Claud Butler stood up well,
though I think I've destroyed the headset. The back wheel I built
the day before leaving also survived - no truing needed. I kept the
luggage to a minimum. 2 sets of cycle clothing (wear one, wash
one); shirt and shorts + sandles for off the bike; camera; maps;
toothbrush and travel-towel; 2 light capes (1 waterproof - not
used); and essential tools. The off-bike wear I left at the hotel
during the event. Managed, with the aid of an accomplice, to get to
the head of the 90hr queue. Joined in the 'road-race' as we set off
- thinking "This is stupid/Ishall suffer for this/I should have more
sense." etc. Passed the courageous fellow on hand-cranks - shame he
didn't finish. Caught and passed most of the'silly' machines, before
finally losing contact (thank goodness) with the last of the fast

As forecast, I suffered all of Tuesday morning. The heat didn't
help. Lots of liquid and a steady pace helped the recovery. At
Loudeac I had a rather public shower, though by wresting control of
the hose from Monsieur-in-charge I managed to be a little more
descrete than that American. The long descent towards Brest was
painful. I was determined not to use the brakes, so cadence
approached 200. I was irritated by people coming past then
freewheeling and slowing, so that they impeded my progress. The
climb back up was less severe than I'd expected - kept a good steady
pace. At Carhaix, another shower and clean clothes.

I had been taking the odd half to one hour naps since about the
500km mark, mostly by the roadside where I could lie down to ease my
back. At one point I heard, but didn't feel, a couple of heavy
showers pass - They fell in the field across the road. I had
another bad patch between Mortagne and Nogent and had to stop a few

Caught a large group near the finish and, finding my legs again,
went past them to finish with another Brit (embarrassing - I forget
his name) with cheers from the crowds on the roundabout. A
'leisurely' (sheila Simpson's word) 82hrs. 6 UK fixers finished:
Steve Abraham; Dave 'Dr Box' Pilbeam; Mike Friday; Me; Alan 'Pedals'
Pedliham; and Ian Jackson - though he finished on a borrowed, geared
machine, having torn the flange out of his rear hub. There was also
rumoured to be a frenchman on fixed - did he finish?

Food and service at the controls was generally excellent. A couple
were so crowded that I by-passed them and used local bars or
pattisseries (These were good intermediate stops anyhow). I also
stopped at a couple of the roadside services that local people had
set up - they were obviously enjoying the event tremendously.

One thing which was irritating was the number of support vehicles
clogging the approaches to controls, and even, once, one cutting me
up in its hurry to get past. It doesn't say much for some people's
independent randonneur spirit that they can't leave their infernal
combustion engines behind even when they're cycling.

Bengt Sandborgh wrote: "..noisy Americans.." Several people
commented similarly; and also about the disciplined Danes, and the
beer-swilling French. I'll leave it to others to criticise the

Upstaging everyone, even Pete and Noel on 'le grand lit', was Drew
Buck on his 1904 Pederson, with a 1904 3 speed which sounded like a
clockwork motor on descents; no toeclips, and a straw hat.

Congratulations to all who finished; and commiserations to those who
didn't (there's another in 4 years).

Ian Hennessey, Exeter Wheelers CC.

Long-distance cycling under AUK rules is often (though inaccurately) referred to as audaxing. Mudguards are not required for any of these events. Use whatever bike suits you. If you don't want to follow a routesheet then download the GPS file. You will need to be fit and self-sufficient. Most of these events, especially the longer ones, are hard. You should be an experienced cyclist with both fitness and stamina. There is a minimum speed of 15kph for all the events of 200km and above. Don't worry about the maximum speed of 30kph, you won't get near it. Prepare your bike and yourself carefully for any of these events. If you do all the distances, you become an Exeter Wheelers Super Randonneur.

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