As we turn our attention to the final part of qualification, many riders (including myself) will ride their 600 qualifiers as they would ride PBP. There are many thoughts on what kit to bring to PBP and you'll see everything from people with 2 panniers full to people carrying next to nothing (who are supported).
I carried a lot of stuff last time - way too much. It was my first ever 1000km+ event and I was far too cautious. I had multiple jerseys, three (from memory) pairs of shorts, longs, all sorts. The bike had a Carradice Camper Longflap on it (shown below with the rain jacket not on top as I was wearing it for the trip to France).
Whilst far from experienced in these things, I have now done four 1000km+ events and have, hopefully, got a little wiser on what is needed. Possibly, also, my standards have slipped! I wouldn't have dreamt of riding for 5 days in the same jersey back in 2011, but I did just that for the HGWI1300 last year. When everyone else is in the same sort of situation it really doesn't matter. You all smell a bit feral and it adds to the adventure.
British riders like myself tend to be better prepared for PBP as the conditions are not terribly different to our own and we know that we could be dealing with anything from 30 degree heat to 4 days of solid rain. Riders from non-northern European climates often seem to suffer on rides like PBP and LEL should conditions turn bad. Memories from PBP last time include plenty of riders from Asia wrapped up in space blankets etc. at controls looking absolutely freezing.
Anyway, below is my clothing packing list. There are a couple of items under debate currently (see the end on shoes in particular) and there will be a couple of other bits in my saddle bag for the trip down (some off-bike clothes for some site seeing post-PBP and hanging around in - these will be left at my hotel for the ride, so I haven't included them). And on the way back they'll be a PBP jersey that I hope to be able to wear with pride.
My list may look over the top to some, and crazy light to others. We are all different for sure. Our tolerance to temperature is very different, and I feel the cold quite badly.
So here it is (hover over and click any item in the photo below for more information - SADLY THE CLICKMAP HASN'T TRANSFERRED WITH THE MOVE OF THE BLOG. ONE OF THOSE PROJECTS FOR A RAINY DAY IS TO REDO IT!)
Kask Mojito - light, cool and comfy. I wear one, some people don't, that's about all I have to say on the matter.
Rapha cycling cap - suitable for everything: keeping rain out of your eyes, sun off your face or neck, looking cool off the bike.
This tiny little jacket is the Sportful Hot Pack. I have some doubt whether to use it or not. I have a much bulkier jacket that has served me well on some very, very wet rides. The Hot Pack doesn't really cut it for being really waterproof. However, part of the jacket's job is to keep me warm even if it isn't raining (I often wear a rain jacket at night). Even when wet, as long as you have layers to stay warm, you should be okay - but I would rather be dry. My proper rain jacket is properly heavy though. I will think on this one.
For the ultimate 80s look, this is great. If things get really hot, a headband is even better than a cap for keeping cool and keeping sweat out of my eyes. Must weigh about 10g, so is a dead cert in my packing.
It is a legal requirement to wear a reflective jacket in France at night (and in poor visibility etc.). This time around, there is a reflective jacket included in the entry price for PBP, however, I need to get to Paris first and that will involve some riding in the early morning darkness in France. So I will need one for that. Besides, who knows what the quality of the included one will be like? Could be a horrible flappy cheap one like I use on construction sites. I'd rather leave that behind and go with this one (from PBP 2011) as I know it fits well etc.
I am a great believer in ankle/shoe reflectives for all my night riding. It really stands out as a cyclist to have two reflectives bobbing up and down. So, I use these ankle straps for night riding.
It was my wife who first got me interested in arm coolers. They're essentially lycra tubes and work just like arm warmers (in fact, they are superb in the very height of summer as arm warmers at night (but see below)).
Where they really excel though, is if it is really hot indeed. I've worn these on some very hot rides, including touring in Thailand, and they really do help to keep your whole body cooler. They can even be soaked in water for extra cooling! You see a lot of riders on stuff like RAAM wearing these and the equivalent leg coolers as well - and they really do work. Highly recommended.
A buff should be in every saddlebag. There's so much you can do with them. This is the thin style (there are thicker merino ones etc., which are great in winter).
If it's chilly, they'll keep your neck warm.
If it's really hot, they can be soaked in water and worn around your neck (good for wiping your face with cool water on climbs etc. as well).
That's before we begin to think about putting one on your head, where it can be configured in various styles to provide sun protection or just to cover up your messy hair after a few days on the road.
Buffs are also perfect eye masks as well - this is great when you are at a dorm and want to cut out all light and ensure you get the best sleep possible.
This will be worn all the time, but is included in the photo for completeness! Short sleeved jersey with full-zip. I much prefer full-zip jerseys as they are easier to deal with a toilet stops (and you need to get your bib short straps down etc.) and can be opened all the way if it's hot.
As I said at the top, I took a number of jerseys last time - but I've become more comfortable with just the one jersey. It can be rinsed at a sleep stop and left to dry a couple of hours.
Long sleeve base layer
As I said above, I tend to feel the cold, possibly more than most. What I am trying not to do this time is carry long-sleeve jerseys or jackets as they are very bulky and heavy. Everything I am trying to carry is very modular, so I should be able to layer up as needed to deal with pretty much anything I hope. Combined with the arm warmers and wearing two base layers, jersey and gilet etc., I hope to be as warm as needed.
Base layer vest
I love these Castelli string vest style base layers as they seem to work in a wide variation of temperatures. They hold enough air to keep me warm, but can also let sweat evaporate well if it's really hot. I used to use merino base layers exclusively, but am totally converted to these. This will be worn all the way.
This is actually a new purchase, yet to be tested on Audax events; but replaces an older gilet - this one is just ridiculously light and compact, so can easily be carried all the time. Great for summer time riding when the evenings cool off etc. and you need to keep your core warm. Also great for descents etc.
I use a very light pair of mitts most of the time (from POC) as I don't particularly like wearing gloves, but do get some numbness without them sometimes.
I will also carry a pair of long-fingered gloves for night time or wet conditions. There's nothing worse than cold hands (or feet, but they are less dangerous than cold hands in my opinion), so a pair of warmer gloves is a worthwhile addition.
Wait! What? You have arm coolers and arm warmers? Well, yes I do!
These are a Rapha thicker roubaix fabric pair that are warm and toasty if things get chilly. Combined with a long-sleeve base layer, they should be as warm, if not warmer than a long-sleeve jersey with much less of a weight and space penalty.
One on, one spare.
Plenty of people ride PBP in one pair of shorts. Plenty of people ride PBP in 4 pairs of shorts.
I had 3 pairs last time - that's too much space taken up and overkill. So, I will go for two pairs on this ride. I have a hotel booked near Loudeac, so can wash pair 1 and leave them drying to change back into them on my return.
Two pairs (though see footwear notes below!).
I won't be carrying any form of overshoe or the like, so if my feet get very wet, there's something quite uplifting about putting on clean and dry socks (I accept that if your shoes are wet, the new socks will be wet pretty quickly, but it still feels better than wearing the socks you've had on for 50plus hours or whatever!).
Finally, knee warmers. Rather than carrying longs, I find knee warmers far more useful these days. They offer just about as much protection and warmth as longs, whilst taking up much less space. These ones are quite long, so go half-way up my thigh to about half-way down my calf.
I haven't photographed my shoes as I haven't decided what to wear yet. I use Bont Vaypor shoes for most of my riding and will use them for my 600 next week. However, after that, I will try a 300 in SPD sandals. I have toured in them, and they are comfy; but it's quite a big leap to trying them on a longer ride. Plenty of people swear by them for long rides, though you do need to abandon all notions of being a suave fashion icon when wearing them as, particularly the Shimano ones, do look a little, hmmmm, special.
If I do stick with my Bonts, I would carry a pair of sandals (I have a pair of really horrible things that were super cheap at Sports Direct, weigh really next to nothing). Something that isn't cycling shoes is a relief if you're stopped for a couple of hours at a sleeping control etc. Also for wandering around before and after the event etc.
So that's about it for clothing. I will follow this post up in the coming days with one on 'stuff' to include the stuff like tools, spares, medicines, hygiene etc. This is as much for my own benefit (as I have to really think about it for the post!) as the reader's!
I will also weigh everything once I have it together. I will ride my 600 with the full load (including the off-bike clothing) and see how that feels. The ride I am doing doesn't have bag drops (and why should it? Too many people are becoming over-reliant on them for a ride of 2 days!), so it's perfect to test out the rig.