Designing the Ideal Paris Brest Paris Bike
Paris Brest Paris is the most famous of all of the randonneur rides in the world. It is a 1200km ride starting near Paris, France, the furthest point riders go is Brest, then they return to Paris. The clock begins when riders begin in Paris and ends when they return. Therefore, the time they spend sleeping is part of their overall time. Riders also self-support so they bring tools and anything they may need in case of a flat tire or mechanical. They are able to stop for food periodically so they tend to bring front and rear saddle bags, but don't have the load that one who is touring would carry.
There were quite a few Seven Cycles bikes at Paris Brest Paris four years ago, when the ride was last held.
Seven Cycles posted about the ride and of Henry van den Broek's adventure there. We worked with Henry to design his bike which is a Seven Evergreen SL.
We've worked on numerous randonneur bikes. Sometimes we don't stop to consider just how many bikes and riders we have on the road. After many hundreds of bikes that we've personally worked on in collaboration with riders and Seven Cycles, we've got quite a few to talk about and share with you.
Photo from Henry v.
What considerations are there when we work with someone to build him or her the ideal randonneur bike?
Note that many of these considerations are taken when we work with anyone on any kind of bike.
Comfort. Long distances are only possible if the rider is in the right position, sitting on the right saddle, being jarred by the road as little as possible. Between working with our professional bike fitter to achieve the perfect bike fit to selecting the proper ride qualities desired for Seven's tube set selection, this extreme comfort is quite achievable.
Matt Roy riding
Durability. It would be a disaster if something were to happen to the bike's frame or parts when a rider is out for a randonneur event. To a lesser extent, imagine if a bottom bracket were to develop a creak. Anything that drives the rider to insanity is just about as bad as having the bike break. Bikes built from the best source of titanium have frames that are extremely dependable. Standard threaded bottom brackets simply don't have the squeaks, creaks, and other issues associated with other bottom brackets. (We've seen and serviced so many squeaky bottom brackets, we can recommend standard threaded BBs without hesitation.)
Maintainability. When calling for roadside assistance isn't an option, it's important a rider is able to easily swap in a new spoke for a broken one, or fix a broken chain. For this reason, we usually hand-build randonneurs' wheelsets. We start with a higher spoke count to reduce the chances of a broken spoke. If one were to break, the wheel is often able to stay true enough to ride on safely. Using non-proprietary spokes makes replacing them that much easier.
Light weight. The lighter the bike, the less effort it takes to propel it. Every bit of energy that can be saved is worth a lot. There has to be a careful balance struck between light-weight, comfort, and durability. There are a lot of ways to save weight that are worth considering. This is also quite person-dependent. Frame choice, rim choice, saddle choice are all places where many grams of difference can exist and can make a big difference.
Functionality. Aside from getting a rider from point A to B, the bike can help a rider see and navigate by generating electricity in a front generator hub. When a rider is pedaling through the night, a generator hub and light wired to it is essential for seeing through the night. Lights such as the Busch & Muller Luxos U incorporate a USB port in a handlebar-mounted jack so as to charge small electronic devices such as a Garmin computer or cell phone. A rear light can be wired to the generator hub so the rider doesn't have to concern him or herself with being seen from the rear.
When a rider is riding through the night and sleep-deprived, it is important to have the bike and its systems as simple and easy to operate as possible. The less the rider has to think about the better.
Aesthetics. Henry shows in photo after photo that aesthetics are important. What's right for one person is just that: right for that person. If someone is going to be riding for hours, days, weeks, and years on this machine, it'd better look appealing to get on! There's nothing like parking a bike by the side of the road and capturing scenic views with the bike in the foreground.
Every detail from the feel of the bar tape to the width of the tire is important. We have many years of experience with randonneur riders and randonneur bikes. Simply stated: we help riders get on bikes that go the distance 24 hours a day, seven days a week...without limitations.