by Ernst Engelbrecht

Some thoughts on PBP2015

Clearly I can only reflect on my personal (and probably also Gideon’s) experience, but by all accounts we had a very good ride, i.e. we were blessed with some good riding weather, we completed PBP within the time limit, without suffering too much, having had no mechanicals whatsoever,  sleeping well and managing to not go hungry or thirsty.

The breakdown for my ride goes something like this:

  • 55h40m — Actual moving time
  • 10h54m — Controls/stops
  • 20h14m — Sleep
  • 86h48m — Total Time
  • 1241.5km — Total Distance
  • 10,786m — Total Climb

What worked for me:

Riding together

Having someone to share the PBP experience (i.e. training, qualifying and the actual event) with makes an enormous difference. Gideon and myself are cousins and we’ve have been riding together for many years and I’m really grateful that I was able to do PBP2015 with him.


We agreed a strategy before we started and we basically stuck to it. The 600km qualifier gave us a very good base for our planning and we managed to finish PBP within 30 minutes of our planned time.

Our planning was based on a number of things, but mainly on the fact that we wanted to get some proper sleep and minimise night riding. Based on this we basically broke our ride up into 4 sections:

  1. 526km to Carhaix
  2. 313km to Quédillac
  3. 327km to Dreux
  4. 64k to Saint Quentin en Yvelines

The 19h45 starting time worked really well and we normally arrived at our sleepover stop between 23h00 and 01h00 and that allowed us a good rest until the next morning 07h00.

The final day was also very short and we basically had 7 hours to cycle 64km.


The 4 most important things I learned from the qualifiers were that:

  • The most vulnerable parts of your bicycle are the wheels. I had William Keith build me a set of bullet proof wheels specifically for PBP. (32 hole DT Swiss RH585 Rims with a 130kg weight limit laced onto Campagnolo Record hubs with double butted spokes) I also fitted 25mm Continental Gatorskins.
  • PBP is far more hilly (nearly 11km of climbing) than one would expect and I used a compact crank (50/34) with a 12-29 cassette.
  • Buy the best lighting you can find, I easily managed to complete the whole PBP on a single charge using Extreme Lights’s XP3 Performance Cycle Light.
  • Travel light and sort out your storage, i.e. we had a large (2.7l) saddle bag for clothing and a small handlebar bag for everything else.

Support & RV

We left our accommodation planning a bit late and were very lucky that Gideon’s girlfriend volunteered to be our RV support driver. This made an enormous difference for many obvious reasons.

Ride within yourself

It is very easy to get excited and to go out to hard in the beginning. However, it is basically impossible to recover during this event and to repeat the cliché “To finish first, one must first finish”.

I used my heart rate monitor to ensure that I did not overdo it on the 1st day and thereafter the body gets into its own rhythm.

The other important thing was to spin up the hills in the easiest gears and that preserved the knees and the muscles.


Controls are chaos and trying to get food or water there is not very time efficient and one can easily waste hours at them. We quickly learned to simply get our control cards stamped and find food and ablutions elsewhere.