The 2011 Brooks Bugle (available from all good bikeshops) will soon be going to press; the following is a sneak preview of the sort of thing you can expect. We'll let Richard take up the story from here...
"It was in order to exceed the physical demands of Paris-Brest-Paris that Geo Lefevre conceived and Henri Desgrange organized the first edition of the Tour de France in 1903. First run in 1891, Paris-Brest, as it is commonly known amongst les anciens of the ride, was then and is now the reference for feats of cycling endurance.
The professional road race of 120 years ago is no more, of course; by 1951, when the last edition was won by Maurice Diot in the all-time record of a little under 39 hours, few top-level racers cared to train for such an arduous event, especially one that was normally run only every 10 years.
Still listed on the racing calendar for the next two editions but cancelled through lack of interest from top-flight competitors, Paris-Brest became the province of cycle tourists and, later, “randonneurs”, who had taken part since the second running of the event in 1901.
Unlike pure audax riders, who must respect minimum time limits at controls, randonneurs are permitted to ride P-B-P at unrestricted pace and start in the first wave with a maximum time limit of 80 hours. It was with this group that I started in 1999 with my regular riding companion, Cole Wright. We made it back to the start point in the Paris suburb of Gyancourt after less than three days on the road with a very clear idea of the demands of such a challenge.
Perhaps the least of them is the need to keep pedaling, since the average speeds required for any of the three time limits – 80, 84 and 90 hours – are not onerous of themselves. More difficult is to minimize the time spent off the bike, which can eat into the time limit at an alarming rate. Eating and drinking can be done quickly enough, but after a couple of days the need to sleep can become overwhelming and it is all too easy to lose several hours napping either at one of the ride controls or by the side of the road.
Most challenging of all, however, must surely be the business of sitting on the saddle after two or more days. An hour or so after leaving a control the pain eases, only to return with added severity on leaving the next one. We did meet one British cyclist, riding fixed wheel, who after 60-odd hours sounded happy enough with his seat, but he was riding a Brooks B17. Maybe he knew something we didn’t."
Richard Hallett from RoadCyclingUK.com