PARIS BREST PARIS 2015 – MY PACKING LIST (PART 2 – STUFF)

Part 1 was here In many ways, part 2 is more important. Clothing is clothing - we all know we need some, but, depending on how hot we run, makes for very personal choices.

Part 2 is all the other stuff, some of which may not be obvious to first timers, or indeed those who've done it a few times. There is, however, still quite a lot of personal choice to take into consideration on what 'stuff' to take. People's attitude to spares differs dramatically (though no-one should ever undertake a long ride without the stuff to sort out their tyres going flat (be it tubes or stuff for tubeless etc.)). But some people carry spare gear cables, brake blocks etc. None of that is wrong, and may well be very valid on a long ride in wilder locations, but PBP is well-equipped with mechanics at every control and I would hope that each control would have a good stock of things like cables. Clearly, if you ride a weird and wonderful machine, you should consider spares specific to that machine that may be hard to acquire (odd tyre sizes, extra long brake/gear cables for tandems etc.

Clearly a good approach to maintenance can also pay dividends and not starting PBP with worn cables/tyres/chains etc. is a sensible approach.

People's approach to electronics is also very different. Apparently, there are people who ride PBP with neither a smart phone nor GPS - well, if it isn't on Strava, it didn't happen or something like that! The trouble with those of us who do like our gadgets is they need charging. Whilst some controls on LEL etc. had charging stations where you could leave your Garmin to charge whilst you slept, do not expect anything like that on PBP! The numbers are just too big. So, you need to be 100% self-sufficient in that aspect, with cache batteries, replaceable batteries, dynamo recharging, whatever - you just need to be able to look after yourself completely. Those with electronic gearing need to be doubly certain they are charged up and/or have a spare battery with them (LEL saw a number of people with non-functioning gearing due to flat batteries).

All joking aside about GPS, you really do not need it for PBP - the navigation is very simple (look at the route sheet, it has less instructions than most 200s in the UK!), there will be marshals at key junctions and everything is way-marked with big arrows etc.

Anyway, on with the stuff! Again, just hover and click over the item and you'll be able to read my words of wisdom!  SADLY THE CLICKMAP HASN'T TRANSFERRED WITH THE MOVE OF THE BLOG.  ONE OF THOSE PROJECTS FOR A RAINY DAY IS TO REDO IT!

click map

Spanner

Being on fixed, I need a spanner to undo my rear wheel. I've looked a specific 15mm spanners and, honestly, nothing beats an old-fashioned box spanner in terms of weight! I know that box spanners don't give a huge amount of torque, but I have never had a wheel slip when tightened with a box spanner. And it comes with the bonus of lots of other spanner sizes on it (though the only other one I need is the one for mudguard bolts).

Tyre levers

Topeak Shuttle levers are great. There are some tyre levers out there (Park Tools I am looking at you) that suck, badly and if you have a tight tyre/rim combination are too thick to get under the bead and pop it out. These are nice and thin and have never let me down. The important thing is to be 100% certain that your given combination of lever/tyre/rim works for you.

Multitool

I've put two in the photo as I am torn! The usual one I carry is a Topeak Mini 18 that has just about everything on it. Trouble is I also have a Lezyne V5 tool that has just about everything I need. Touring, yes, the Mini 18 has some stuff that might save a tour, but PBP, well hopefully I can get away with the smaller one. I've not snapped a chain since the late 90s (mountain biking and hitting a rock), so a chain tool (particularly on fixed) seems like overkill. Anything serious can be solved by waving Euro notes at a control, so I will probably go with the smaller one as it does save 150 grammes, which is a chunk. I have just noticed that Lezyne do a carbon V5 tool that is a whole 6 grammes lighter than mine - I reckon I might keep the £60-odd they want for it in my wallet though!

Inner tubes

Not too much to say. You'd be insane not to carry them (or the stuff to sort out issues with tubeless).

These days, more and more tubes have removable valve cores and some pumps (Lezyne in particular) are very good at unscrewing the valve core. So, do make sure you tighten the cores up good and proper before you put the tubes in your bag!

Patch kit and boot

I've carried a spare tyre on rides before (in fact, I did on the last PBP). Given that I've never torn a tyre in my life, I really don't want to take that extra weight with me. Bigger riders who are really tough on tyres may have a different approach, but I will take the risks. I will replace my tyres pre-PBP as a bit of pre-emptive maintenance and I will carry a tyre boot with me. These Park Tool ones seem pretty good with an adhesive back to keep them secure etc. Of course, in a pinch, you can use almost anything for a boot - cash, crisp packets, brevet cards?!?, but for the sake of a few grammes, I will pop this into my bag!

I will also have a few patches - again, being light, I tend not to suffer too much with flats, though I had two on the way down to Paris last time (one less than 10km from home in the pouring rain and the other due to clambering down a motorway embankment having made a navigational error with Paul Stewart as we attempted to ride down the motorway). These patches weigh nothing and will do the job for a decent enough fix if I am starting to have issues.

Cable ties

A handful of these should be in everyone's bag - especially the bigger ones. Can be used for holding many things together!

Rubber gloves

Useful things to have in the bag - there's nothing worse than having to fix a flat (or worse, an issue with gearing/chains), especially in the rain, and ending up with hands covered in oil and muck than then gets everywhere, all over the bike, your clothes etc. The state some people turn up at controls is quite funny sometimes with oil smeared over their faces! So, a pair or two of latex gloves can keep you clean and tidy for the ride. They can also be pressed into service if it is very cold and wet as an extra layer for warmth.

Wet wipes

These should be in every long-distance cyclist's bag. They serve many purposes and can be a real boost at times. Hygiene can be difficult on long rides, and a good wipe around one's bits can do wonders for bum issues! Equally, if you're hot and grubby from road grime, it is very nice just to clean your face and feel a bit more human (I don't suggest using the same wet wipe for bum then face, but the other way around could work!).

There are showers at most (probably all?) controls on PBP. You will pay a small fee (3-4 Euro) to use them. Don't expect anything much more than a shower (i.e. no soap and probably no towel (see below!)). However, if you are pushed for time, you may have to forego a shower (though I would personally recommend making the time if you can - it is like a magic reset button and can give you so much energy again to be clean, especially when combined with some clean clothing!).

Some toilet paper (not pictured)

Wet wipes can be used for the job, but a few sheets of TP rolled up in a plastic bag can be a real life-saver at times. For those moments where controls are out of the stuff to the emergency need in the middle of the night nowhere near a loo. I forgot to have some on a recent ride and was having some stomach issues, and all I can say is thank goodness I was carrying a spare routesheet. I'll leave that image with you.

Travel towel

As above, the towel policy on PBP seemed pretty random. Some controls had towels, many did not. I saw people drip-drying and some using paper towels to try and get dry. Of course, you could use the clothing you have taken off to dry yourself, but wiping yourself dry with a jersey that you've worn for 2 days seems to defeat the purpose of having a shower slightly!

This little towel is tiny (probably 18 inches by 18 inches), but is about enough to get myself pretty dry. It has a little bag with a clip that can hang on the saddlebag and dry off as I ride.

I'd really recommend it!

Tooth paste and toothbrush

Your teeth and mouth take a battering on long rides. Sweet foods galore etc.

Another little boost is brushing your teeth. Feeling less disgusting is really quite a lift!

I can't imagine not carrying one really, but people don't.

Shower gel

Don't assume there's going to be a range of grooming products at controls. There won't be any most likely.

A shower without soap is not really a shower! Getting the grime off is only really easy with soap, so a little travel bottle of shower gel is good. There are the tiny sheets of soap as well - not tried them though.

Comb (not pictured)

Depending on your follicle abilities, you may, or may not need a comb.

I have hair, so prefer to carry a comb!

Bum cream

Some people don't use any, some people use too much. I've been using much more this year due to riding fixed. It works for me! Keep things clean and reapply cream at regular intervals.

Tablets

I am sure people do take iPads on PBP, but I prefer some medicines. I am not a pill-popper in normal circumstances, but if push came to shove, I'd happily guzzle vitamin I for a couple of days to get the job done.

I will carry a small number of the following:

Ibuprofen

Pro Plus (though very, very rarely use them - prefer to snooze things out. Plus abstinence from caffeine for 3-4 weeks in advance of PBP will help me greatly anyway)

Anti-diarrhea tablets - serious diarrhea or food-poisoning is probably ride-ending. Luckily I have a pretty sturdy constitution, so can cope with most things (interestingly, I have had food poisoning twice in my life - both times cycle touring in France). But something to slow things down may be very useful. Stomachs and digestive systems take a battering during long rides.

Sumatriptan - migraine tablets. I am an occasional and mild sufferer (3-4 a year and not too intense these days), however a recent serious flair up of numerous very strong migraines within a very short period has led to a prescription for these. Touch wood, I won't need them, but I need to carry them just in case.

Dressings and plasters

If anyone, including myself, had a serious wound; don't ask me for help. I go pretty feint at the sight of blood! However, a small selection of plasters, antiseptic wipes and small dressings are good for minor mishaps or even things like rubbing shoes etc.

Sun Cream

Let's hope I get to use it more often than not.

Spork

Not so much for PBP, but on long rides in the UK, this can open up culinary avenues that the less well-equipped have no access to (unless they are prepared to, as I have seen, eat rice pudding with tyre levers).

Being able to eat a yoghurt, tin of rice pudding etc. is a bonus when scouring the shelves of the 24 hour garages!

Electrolytic tablets

NUUN tablets are great for me. They have pretty much eliminated some issues I had early on with getting dehydrated and severe stomach cramps. Once you're on the path to dehydration, you're pretty stuffed until you get things sorted. You will stop being able to eat, and once you have stopped being able to eat properly, well, game over (or at least the unfunometer will being hitting new levels of sadness).

Charging leads

When everything has different connectors, that means a selection of leads. A pain in the arse for sure. By buying shorter leads, I actually managed to save nearly 50 grammes of useless weight!

Backup battery

My Garmin will do about 10-12 hours on a good day (call it 200km at PBP pace). So this will charge it up 4-5 times and really doesn't weigh much.

For a 600 that means I don't have to worry about much. But, for PBP, I will have to charge this up some time. I have a Luxos U front light with USB charging, so can charge the battery pack up during the day. When I reach my hotels, then I have other options as well (see below).

Batteries

Backup lights below need backup batteries.

Neck wallet thing

I like carrying cards, cash etc. in this neck wallet. There will probably be one for your brevet card given away when you register as well. It's one of these

Some people say it contributes to neck issues - sure if you carry coins etc. in there, but for a few bits of paper? No issues.

Headphone

I use these one-eared headphones that channel both sides of the audio into one. It works for me and has helped me on many solo night rides. Some people don't like music when they ride, and that's fine. Much like the helmet thing, don't bother lecturing me about it all please.

Music can really lift you in the middle of the night - some thumping music can keep you motivated and awake and can provide the soundtrack to some amazing memories.

Euro USB charger

I'll probably carry it with me on the ride. I'll certainly have one with me on the trip, but don't think I will leave it in Paris whilst I ride. Offers another option for charging when at hotels etc.

Head Torch

This is a maybe. I usually carry one, but I have a spare battery front light that can be pushed into service for nighttime repairs etc.

I'd probably always carry one in the UK, but for a way-marked course in France, probably not as I am never going to have to use it to read a backup routesheet if my GPS has failed etc.

Silk sleeping bag

Another maybe to be honest. I have a hotel at Loudeac. But it does offer a little bit of luxury and an impression of cleanliness when you hop into a bed in a dorm that had someone else in it 5 minutes before!

Space blanket

An emergency blanket could be really important in a serious incident for keeping a casualty warm etc.

Even finding yourself in a bad situation and needing to stop at night in particular, you could be very grateful of it's properties.

Ear plugs

DON'T CONSIDER GOING TO FRANCE WITHOUT THEM!

Unless you are able to sleep with several hundred people snoring and farting, let alone the fecker who's decided to wear his tap-dancing shoes in the dorm, you need ear plugs.

You will be tired when you choose to stop for a sleep (or you should be - if you aren't, then push on to the next control), but it is still easy to not get a good sleep. Most people are only going to grab a handful of hours each night - make the very most of them.

Lock

If I were driving to France and just riding PBP, then I probably wouldn't take one. I don't think that bike theft is a real issue on PBP itself (though I am sure it has/does happen), but for the getting there and back in particular, I will carry a cafe lock as I do on UK rides.

Documentation

Passport, EHIC card and relevant hotel booking information etc. (printing on A4, double sided and 2 pages per side).

Pump

On the bike, mounted on the bottle cages.

It does unscrew cores as above, but it works well other than that.

Bidons

Don't forget to put them on your bike before you leave the house!

Also, a massive time suck is forgetting to take them off your bike when you walk into a control. The controls are massive - having to walk back to your bike, get them, walk to the tap, walk back to the bike etc. could easily be 5-10 minutes. Do that half a dozen times and you've frittered away an hour that could be spent sleeping!

Lights

I use a dynamo front light - the Luxos U.

However, I now carry a spare little Cateye light just in case. It wouldn't be good enough to ride with at full tilt in the night, but it would prevent me from being penalised/stopped if my main light failed. As above it also could be a torch for nighttime repairs.

Rear lights - need to experiment a bit before WCW as I will be removing my rack that is normally on the bike (as it is also my commuter). There will probably be one or two Fibre Flares and a Cateye.

Garmin

Not needed to navigate the ride - but possibly for the ride there and back and certainly to record it all for Strava heroics.

So, that's about it! Or I should say probably. I reserve the right to change my mind and add and take things away!

Again, everyone's approach is different and some people would be shocked by how much stuff there is on the list, and some will be shocked how little!

PBP packing list
PBP packing list

I will do a final part on the packing list about how I carry it all (the bags I use etc.) and how I fit it all into the bags (rolling and elastic bands!)