Tandem Bicycles at Paris-Brest-Paris 2011

Events like Paris-Brest-Paris are difficult to unbox all at once. Some aspects can be, such as the immediacy of the ride experience and the emotions and physical states experienced.

Felkerino and me, bike inspection

Others take time to absorb and appreciate especially when, for many of us, PBP occupies a small space in between a flurry of other activities and responsibilities. It also happens after an intense period spent building our stamina through longer rides, including a full brevet series and summer training.

Ron and Barb, PA Randonneurs, on their purple Burley
Ron and Barb, PA Randonneurs, ready for the 90-hour start with their purple Burley

Because PBP is yet again peering around the bend– 2015!– I’ve been revisiting my first trip to this great event. Today takes me back to the 90-hour start, which began around 6 p.m. The “special bikes”– such as tandems, recumbents, and velomobiles– launched first.

Back to back recumbent tandem. They took the 84-hour start.
Back to back recumbent tandem. They took the 84-hour start.
Back to back tandem in action. Photo by Felkerino
Back to back tandem in action. Everywhere they went people wanted to take their picture. Photo by Felkerino

This was also true of the 84-hour start, where Felkerino and I were one of only three tandems among the special bikes.

Cannondale tandem. They took the 84-hour start
Cannondale tandem. They took the 84-hour start

This was not the case for the 90-hour group. Dozens of tandems lined up. According to the PBP-2011 results, 42 tandems (84 riders) were part of the PBP field.

Look tandem, returning from bike inspection
LOOK tandem, returning from bike inspection

90-hour start. Tandem

Triplet! Photo by Felkerino
Triplet! Photo by Felkerino

What a sight, all of these diverse bicycles in one place. Big multi-day events like RAGBRAI have their share, but many of them are not tested randonneuring machines, like the ones you see on PBP.

Hey, I know you! John and Cindy ride by on their Co-Motion
Hey, I know you! John and Cindy ride by on their Co-Motion

PBP tandem start

My head spun like crazy, trying to get a look at all the bikes while I dealt with my own nerves and excitement about our upcoming day’s ride. (Unlike the 90-hour riders who started in the early evening, the 84-hour riders did not clip in until 5 a.m. the following day.)

PBP tandem and recumbent
Tandem trike and matching pink caps.
Tandem trike and matching pink caps. Mark & Arabella.

It wasn’t just the riders and tandems from all parts of the world, but the luggage used for the journey. From panniers to Berthoud bags, it covered a wide range of choices.

We saw some builders that were familiar– Co-Motion, Cannondale, Bilenky– but many of the tandems that flew past were not any I had seen before.

PBP start

Another interesting aspect to PBP is that it does not require riders to wear helmets. I’m not saying that for any other reason than it is not something that would happen on a domestic randonneuring event or even most organized rides. It gives the riders a different look than I’m used to seeing.

Bilenky tandem. I believe these are PA Randonneurs, and were honeymooning on PBP.
Patrick and Cecilie from Philadelphia on their Bilenky tandem. I believe they were honeymooning on PBP.
Another shot of the Bilenky, this time from Felkerino's side
Another shot of the Bilenky, this time from Felkerino’s side
PBP tandem
Brouchard tandem at a controle
PBP tandems at the start
Sonya and Colin (left) with a team from VC167 (right)

I hope you enjoyed this PBP 2011 Throwback Thursday, Tandem Style. Yes, I said Throwback Thursday. Oh, and please let me know if you recognize any of the bikes (and/or riders) in the pics.


  1. An unscientific survey suggests about a 60/40 split in favor of matching jerseys on Tandems. But I can’t recall ever seeing you and Felkerino go that way. As always, it’s fun to read your observations of the sport.


  2. That’s the excellent Colin and Sonya Crawford in the Audax Ecosse Jerseys in the last photo. They’re riding a custom coupled titanium Santana – the single most expensive bike I have met. I can’t remember their names but the other tandem team in that shot are from VC167.


  3. The VC167 is captained by Andrew Sinclair with stoker Steve Bateman. They looked after Colin and me after we embarked on PBP 2011 five days after I was diagnosed with cancer. It was an amazing experience with so much kindness from many people.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post made me think of your conversation a few years ago with Joe Platzner which started the great Coffeeneuring Challenge. As a result, I loaded up my stove, cup and some coffee this evening. Time to start some serious unracer training…..

    Ride Report (Training):

    Location: Coffee Shop Without Walls – campus of Messiah College, PA. Covered bridge near Starry Fields.
    Date: Today, 15 August, 2014
    Brew of Choice: Folgers singles
    Ride Details: Given my serious lack of training for this year’s challenge, I found myself quite limited in available brewing supplies. So, instead of a nice cup of specialty coffee brewed atop a Trangia stove, I made due with Folgers Singles and my MSR Pocket Rocket. Even with these near critical challenges, the brew was still pretty darn good in the cool evening air.

    Total miles: 16.2 Average pace: 12.5 mph
    Pictures located at: http://ridewithgps.com/trips/3222326

    in homage to your tandem article that gave me the idea for today’s ride, I made a second cup. 🙂


    • Lovely! I’m looking forward to another edition of Coffeeneuring this year; and the Coffee Shop Without Walls category is a favorite of mine.


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