16 August, 2007

Paris-Brest-Paris, and Paris

Paris-Brest-Paris is being run August 20-24, 2007 and many of our customers and friends are riding. I case you don't know what PBP is, here is a description from the Randonneurs USA site:

First run in 1891, the 1200-kilometer Paris-Brest-Paris, or "PBP" as it is commonly called, is a grueling test of human endurance and cycling ability. Organized every four years by the host Audax Club Parisien, the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneurs is the oldest bicycling event still run on a regular basis on the open road. Beginning on the southern side of the French capital, it travels west 600 kilometers to the port city of Brest on the Atlantic Ocean and returns along the same route. Today's randonneur cyclists, while no longer riding the primitive machines used a hundred years ago over dirt roads or cobblestones, still have to face up to rough weather, endless hills, and pedaling around the clock. A 90-hour time limit ensures that only the hardiest randonneurs earn the prestigious PBP finisher's medal and have their name entered into the event's "Great Book" along with every other finisher going back to the very first PBP. To become a PBP ancien (or ancienne for the ladies) is to join a very elite group of cyclists who have successfully endured this mighty challenge. No longer a contest for professional racing cyclists (whose entry is now forbidden), PBP evolved into a timed randonnée or brevet for hard-riding amateurs during the middle part of the 20th century. The event is held in August every four years.

You can track riders through the official PBP site. Yes, we'll be watching you.

Many folks have e-mailed me asking what bike related things to do while in Paris. My advice is not to do anything bike related! You'll be riding 1200 bloody kilometers; forget about bikes for a few days and enjoy the city of light. Eat, drink, walk, go to museums, sit in cafes. That's what Paris is about.

First, to get into the mood, go see Ratatouille (the film) and count the 2CVs. Even the French love this film. I took my 7-year old to see it and it was great.

One of my favorite restaurants in Paris is Aux Charpentiers, 10 Rue Mabillon, 6e, where, if you look confused enough, the chef/owner, clad in jeans and a tweed jacket, will graciously help you with your meal.

Eat the bread from Poilâne bakery or one of the other great Parisian bakeries. You will be astounded. If you ask nicely they'll let you go down into the basement bakery.

Not all great food in Paris is French. Try Bouillon Racine for superb Belgian cuisine and the best Creme brulee in the world (according to Annette).

If you enjoy art, take the short trip to Giverny and visit Monet's house and gardens, a truly magic place, as well as the The American Art Museum and the Vernon Museum. Giverny is one of my favorite towns in the entire world.

If you must do something bike related, ride around on one of the new rental bikes that are everywhere. Check out this article from today's Guardian. By the way, the Alex Singer shop is closed for vacation during August and I've never bothered to visit any other bike shops in Paris. But you can get quite an education in city bikes by just noticing what's parked on the street. I've seen plenty of neat constructuer frames by just wandering around, but expect them to look well used; they are.

Finally, good luck to Ralph (and/or Joel), Jan, Ed, Chris, Mike, David, and everyone else who's riding PBP.

Does anyone else have favorite spots in or around Paris?


Edward said...

Thanks Chris for the good wishes. We are flying the flag for solid, practical and beautiful bikes in a sea of carbon, 23mm tires, and all the rest that comes with racing bikes. Good advice, too, that we see France while we're here. We're off to Chartres tomorrow.

Ed Felker
from PBP

JoelMatthews said...

Good luck to all riding. Hope your support teams enjoy as much as you.

Chris: I am a little worried as one of those roof tops behind the beautiful lilly pond almost looks as though it could be topping a McMansion. Hope I am wrong.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Joel, Ha, one of those is Claude Monet's house. I guess you could call it a modest mansion, mostly due to the grounds, not the house. His pond was the subject of many of Monet's paintings. There are some large houses in Giverny, but no McMansions. It's a great place to spend a few days, particularly in the off season.

Chris Kulczycki said...

OOPS! I'm wrong, Monet's house is not in that frame, I think it's behind the trees.

BG said...

I'm overdue to go back to Europe, but the dollar to Euro exchange rate is murder these days. Have fun everyone who goes anyway!

BG said...

"..I am a little worried as one of those roof tops behind the beautiful lilly pond almost looks as though it could be topping a McMansion."

joelmatthews - LOL funniest real estate terms heard this month, "homemoaners" and "garage mahal"

JoelMatthews said...

Cool. So those gables are the real thing.

I need to get up to Paris. I have been throughout Southern Europe, including Southern France, but never made it north. I usually can only get off late fall and winter, and the weather is pretty nice (when not raining) along the Med then.

BG: Pretty funny! A trend I have never understood. Maybe with all that is going on of late, a dying one.

Anonymous said...

I suggest a visit to the VAR tool headquarters, located at 6 rue Pasteur, Paris. But visit after the ride...

K Matthias said...

A visit to Cafe Angelina on the (yes it's touristy) Rue de Rivoli is always on my plan. The best hot chocolate in the world:


K Matthias said...

Hmm Blogger at my URL. Here's a short one to Angelina's:


david_nj said...

It's about 20 miles SE of town, but one of my two or three favorite things on Earth is the Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte, which is located in Maincy, near Melun, in the Seine-et-Marne département. I just cannot recommend a trip strongly enough. The garden and in particular the fountains are one of the great pieces of stagecraft in the world. A map of the chateau's location is at http://tinyurl.com/yqdh.

Michael S said...

It looks like Jan finished already!

est arrivé le 22/08 à 22h00 à SAINT QUENTIN (15)

Am I right that he rode it in 50 hours?

Annette said...

Michael S --

That's how I computed it, too. When I saw this morning that Jan had already finished etape 12, I felt very, very, very, very tired....

Anonymous said...

In fact, according to a thread on the Serotta forum, Jan was the first American finisher.


C said...

I just got in from France at 2:00am this morning. Originally was supposed to go there for PBP but when that didn't happen it became a family trip. Here's some general observations:

1) The Velib bike rental system seems to be a roaring success. We never saw a full station and the bikes were EVERYWHERE. Sadly, the system requires a credit card with a smart chip (which American cards lack) Paris is a perfect city for such a program since it has lots of narrow, slow streets and is almost completely flat and fairly compact. The bikes themselves had dynamo generators, hub brakes, and a custom front rack/basket.

2) The French love babies. We had our 10 month old daughter and everywhere we went the French couldn't get enough of her.

3) Paris isn't much of a cycling town. I didn't see a single bicycle shop beyond a couple that carried only CTT (city) bikes. The 10 days we were in France I saw a whopping total of 4 people on road bikes (not counting PBP riders) By far and away the most common brand of bike was Decathlon which seem to enjoy a near monopoly judging from what I saw on the streets. Beyond that we saw quite a few GoSport (chain similar to Dick's in the States) and Gazelle models. Only saw one each from Trek, Specialized, and Giant. Also surprisingly few bikes from Peugeot, Gitane, etc. Did see nice city bikes from Jacques Anquetil, Luis Ocana, and Eddy Merckx.

4) The French don't seem to be into French randonneur bikes. I encountered numerous French riders on their way to/from PBP and not one was on what we would consider a classic randonneur bike. All rode carbon or alloy road racing bikes with clip on handlebar bags and large seat bags and all of the riders were PBP veterans. One French rider I met at the Montparnasse train station actually said he was baffled by the American obsession with "our old garbage" (TA cranks, Mafac brakes, etc.) That cracked me up.

5) Nobody wears a cycling helmet. Considering the erratic driving of most French drivers and nearly kamikaze nature of the scooter riders it's amazing more people don't get killed. French drivers also have no respect for crosswalks.

6) The French know their food! We ate at mostly small neighborhood places and would simply tell the waiter to bring us whatever they did best. Even the grab and go food we picked up from Monoprix (their take on Target) for lunch was better than what I find at Whole Foods. The beer is terrible but the wine was cheap and fantastic.

7) The French love Americans. They may not like our government but everyone we met from waiters to bakers to the gendarmes were thrilled to talk to someone from the States. So long as you made the effort to at least try and speak French they were extremely friendly.

8) The French hate the handicapped. Any notions that France is ahead of the USA on social policy were blown out of the water by the near total lack of accommodations for the handicapped (and those of us with baby strollers.) Very few of the Metro stations have elevators and the few that did required a station agent to operate (and the station agents never answer the intercom!) This meant carrying the stroller up and down stairs everywhere. Clearly, France has no equivalent of the ADA.