Drop Bags at PBP

275 views
Skip to first unread message

Chris Beauchamp

unread,
Sep 2, 2022, 9:43:31 PM9/2/22
to Randonneurs USA
Based on PBP 2019, does anyone know if it is possible to arrange for drop bags?

Rob Hawks

unread,
Sep 2, 2022, 11:01:00 PM9/2/22
to Chris Beauchamp, Randonneurs USA
Word is that the US travel agent who offered drop bag service in 2019 will not be offering such service in 2023. The drop bag service offered by that US travel agent appeared to be much smaller than any other outfit handling bags in 2019. Unofficial feedback so far is that other entities that offered these services in 2019 have not confirmed either that they will do so again in 2023, or that they have received requests for information regarding 2023. There is no definitive information on new players offering drop bag service in 2023.

If anyone on this list has new and current information directly from a company offering 2023 drop bag service, please let us know so that this can be added to the RUSA PBP wiki pages and shared on this list.

All the above said, I would guess that there will be someone stepping forward to offer this service in 2023.

Thanks,
rob hawks

On Fri, Sep 2, 2022 at 6:43 PM Chris Beauchamp <chrisbea...@gmail.com> wrote:
Based on PBP 2019, does anyone know if it is possible to arrange for drop bags?

--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Randonneurs USA" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to randonneurs-u...@googlegroups.com.
To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/randonneurs-usa/6832fe77-1f3c-4326-8990-884e172e2fbdn%40googlegroups.com.

Jack Nicholson

unread,
Sep 3, 2022, 4:54:32 PM9/3/22
to Rob Hawks, Chris Beauchamp, Randonneurs USA
Unlike the quick and efficient drop bag service provided by organizers at events like LEL, I had heard horror stories about the drop bag service provided by contractors at PBP’15 : hours wasted trying to find drop bags, when found they were in water,… 

So at PBP ’19 I carried a spare kit and small hygiene kit on my bike and used them at Ludeac. I plan to do it again next year.

Jack  

ed bernasky

unread,
Sep 3, 2022, 6:13:29 PM9/3/22
to Randonneurs USA
2015 bag drop was a bit of a mess for me.  I beat my bag to the first control and then it was returned very late afterwards.   A big screw up on my part not knowing none of the controls would have food until Loudeac.  I put extra food in my Villaines drop bag planning it would get me to Loudeac.  I still feel stupid on that one.

I thought the young lady who did the bags in 2019 was exceptional.  I also thought she did not charge enough for the service.  Mostly. I put spares into the drop bag just in case, carrying everything I need having learned my lesson.   IMO, this is the best strategy and in fact is what I carry on every brevet.   Everything minimally necessary to do a 1200k (not so clean and fresh)

I might have family support me in 2023.   Getting too old to carry all that junk and since they will be there anyway, why not have them meet me a couple km before a control although there are mixed emotions for me to have support.  Would be nice to do PBP like some of the French in the Vendettes on a stripped down racing bike.  But I would say don't rely too much on a drop bag at PBP from my experience.   And, I have not found a PBP drop bag service yet although it is early for that.

Chris Beauchamp

unread,
Sep 3, 2022, 11:34:02 PM9/3/22
to Randonneurs USA
Thanks to all who responded. It is very helpful to me as I formulate my ride plan. I guess PBP is not like our regional rides in NorCal with reliable drop bag support and motels for the overnight to charge devices. It seems that PBP is very well aligned with the  Randonneuring  ethos of  self-reliance. It seems that one key to success is to carry everything I will need for  the 1200k. No more and no less.

Bill Gobie

unread,
Sep 4, 2022, 3:05:59 AM9/4/22
to Chris Beauchamp, Randonneurs USA
Participation at PBP is two orders of magnitude greater than regional events in North America. A handful of volunteers and a couple of personal cars can provide lavish support to two or three dozen riders on a 600. But multiply participation by 100x and double the distance and all logistic aspects of the event get out of hand. 

Bill

Jake Kassen

unread,
Sep 4, 2022, 6:51:39 AM9/4/22
to Randonneurs USA

> I might have family support me in 2023. Getting too old to carry all
> that junk and since they will be there anyway, why not have them meet
> me a couple km before a control although there are mixed emotions for

Unless ACP has changed their rules, you can't have someone meet riders before or after a control. Only at the control itself. That's certainly a rule for all RUSA sanctioned events.

"Article 6: No personal follow cars or support of any kind are permitted on the course. Personal support is only allowed at checkpoints."

Personal support at PBP is nice but the controls are a zoo and it can take 15-20 minutes just to find the people who are bringing you supplies. Even for a paid bag service you're going to spend a lot more time on logistics then on a domestic event so that's a reason to skip it. The flip side is that if the weather is horrible at PBP (2007), having a dry change of clothes can be great.

Probably the best option is to do a few qualifying rides with one of the countries that shows up with a fancy tour bus so you can use their services. :)

Jake


Jake Kassen

unread,
Sep 4, 2022, 9:25:55 AM9/4/22
to Jake Kassen, Randonneurs USA

> Unless ACP has changed their rules, you can't have someone meet riders before or after a control. Only at the control itself. That's certainly a rule for all RUSA sanctioned events.

Err, looks like I might be mistaken about this. I was told off-list that ACP gives more leeway to having personal support near the PBP controls than would otherwise be allowed at other brevets.

I don't remember anyone meeting people outside of the control at PBP 2007 but that ride was all a blur at this point. Emily and I split the fee and used a shared a drop bag 2007. I probably would have still finished had I not used the service but I don't regret having the option for a change of clothes given how wet everything was. If the weather was perfect I would have left the bag unopened.

A related PBP Tip: Generally the control is at the end of the town. So unless you're short on time, stop at the bakery just *before* the control as you won't pass another bakery once leaving the control. The PBP controls have food but you can save a lot of time by eating elsewhere.

Jake

Ken Lanteigne

unread,
Sep 4, 2022, 7:44:36 PM9/4/22
to Chris Beauchamp, Randonneurs USA
Chris,

There are many people far more experienced than me, but I will share my view. Of the three PBPs I've ridden, the one where I carried everything presented the least logistical challenges on the road. Things happen, good and bad. Having a fixed plan to adapt to, whilst dealing with realities of the road, adds unneeded stress. Be free, like a bird 😄.

Cheers

Bill Bryant

unread,
Sep 5, 2022, 6:20:27 PM9/5/22
to Jake Kassen, Randonneurs USA
Yes, support can be gotten in the control town, not just specifically at the control itself. I've been registered as a PBP support crew twice and I seem to recall some instruction that support can be given in town, up to 5 km before or 5 km after the control along the route. Indeed, you'll see numerous RVs and support cars all along the rout in the control towns.

Bill Bryant
RUSA #7
--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Randonneurs USA" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to randonneurs-u...@googlegroups.com.
To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/randonneurs-usa/20220904132551.33097.qmail%40server263.com.


Chris Beauchamp

unread,
Sep 5, 2022, 6:37:34 PM9/5/22
to Randonneurs USA
Thanks Bill for confirming that support crews have been a fixture in past PBPs.  I see the benefits of being free as a bird strategy and I see that strategy helping tilt the odds in my favor to finish within the time limits . I am also going investigate a conscription strategy and have started canvassing my family. What I like about the conscription strategy would be having to carry less, fast food, and being able to quickly get to sleep and resume riding. 

ed bernasky

unread,
Sep 6, 2022, 7:47:48 AM9/6/22
to Randonneurs USA

I do not have a reference to ACP's exact position WRT to support on PBP other than I know from experience that riders sometimes have their support just before a control by a Km or three, support is not uncommon for the 80H group historically, and for the faster riders this might be the only way to get food as the early controls might not be prepared yet.  It makes a lot of sense to me.   I do recall seeing some really fancy support for the Hamburg club, motorhomes with chairs setup with cold weather kit in the chairs and food all ready,  pretty spiffy.  I was just thinking it would be nice to have some food to eat the first night and to not have a 40 pound bike

Bill Bryant

unread,
Sep 6, 2022, 12:55:14 PM9/6/22
to Ken Lanteigne, Chris Beauchamp, Randonneurs USA

In the past the ACP has complained that too many riders have personal support—about a third of them. The vast armada of RVs, campers, and cars can clog the control towns’ narrow streets and make the locals unhappy about PBP being in their town. The ACP has also lamented how the randonneur ethos of self-reliance seems to be in short supply fair often at PBP with so many riders brining support crews.

 

However, given the lines for food at the controls, or the dicey chance of finding a sleeping spot in the dortoirs for most riders in the “bulge”, it is not such a bad idea to bring your own support. If you are a fairly fast rider and can get ahead of the bulge, sleeping spots are much more open, and the lines for food are shorter. That said, as the speedy riders make their return from Brest for the ride east, they then run into the bulge still headed west, mainly at the busy controls in Carhaix and Loudeac. Ooof, it is a real mess.

 

So, all in all, getting some hot food without too much delay, or some sleep, or access to clean short, or recharging of lights & phones is not at all easy in the middle of PBP and much time can be lost. You begin to understand why you will see so many RVs parked along the streets leading to and from the controls. (I can tell you there is a good battle for parking spots too—your crew needs to be aggressive in fight for the parking spots.)

 

While waiting for my rider to arrive, or get up from a sleep, I’ve watched other riders’ support teams in action many times at PBP. They telephone their rider* when they think s/he should be approaching the control town and give them instructions on where to find their particular RV or car. The rider goes to the control, checks in quickly (usually no long lines for the actual control process) and then they cycle to their RV or car. Quite often the crews with cars will have set up some folding chairs on the sidewalk and a camp stove and have hot food & drink ready. RVs are better for sleep, but sometimes a sleeping bag and air mattress laid out in the back of an SUV or station wagon work fine too. Still and all, being a PBP support crew is quite grueling, what with driving a longer supporters’ route, shopping for groceries, locating the control (local streets are often closed to traffic for the riders), then preparing food, doing laundry, etc. And, the crew needs to sleep too! I’ve ridden and finished PBP twice, and been on a rider’s support crew at PBP twice. I think the latter is more mentally difficult and fatiguing than the former, and you don’t get a medal for all your efforts either.

 

*In the old days before useful cellphone communication, they would usually have a pre-arranged location, such as by the church (look for the tall steeple), etc.

 

At PBP, not wasting time is the name of the game, especially for slower riders who need to guard their minutes like gold. Whether it is to get some sleep or hot food, the controls are not often very efficient for all riders, but especially the slower ones. As always, strong legs take care of a lot of problems and it is the slower riders who have to worry the most about how much sleep they can get during the ride. A personal support crew could help with all these concerns but the crew members need to have the mental strength and physical endurance of the riders themselves. I’ve seen some crews fall apart before the finish and it is not pretty.

 

Bonne route,

Bill Bryant

RUSA #7

Phillip Stern

unread,
Sep 6, 2022, 1:29:10 PM9/6/22
to Bill Bryant, Chris Beauchamp, Ken Lanteigne, Randonneurs USA
This bag drop discussion is interesting. 
I’ve thought about doing PBP but after four 600k I decided that is a good distance for me. 

If I change my mind and do a 1200k it will be a less crowded one than PBP. Everything about it (except France) sounds like the type of event I avoid: hard to get a registration slot, crowded, long lines. 

For those of you riding it next year…Bon Chance! I am sure you will have a great experience. 

Richard Wolf

unread,
Sep 6, 2022, 2:38:47 PM9/6/22
to Randonneurs USA
I did PBP in 2015 with support from my wife. On the whole it worked out very well. I might add that both my wife and I speak passable French which is a help.

Ahead of time you register your driver and vehicle and you receive a placard for your dash. At each control there are designated parking areas for control vehicles so when your "crew" arrives they simply ask where to park. Sometimes it was just outside the entrance to the control while sometimes there was a designated area inside the control. Once my wife found her space she would text me her location which I could see on my Apple watch or GPS head unit. Upon arrival I would check in at the control and then head over to our vehicle, grab some food from my wife, and eat while I was settling in for a sleep. Our vehicle was a small SUV set up with a mat and quilts in the back and it felt like the Four Seasons after also having napped in a control and by the side of the road. 

My wife had a good time observing the scene and chatting with the other control drivers as well as loaning and borrowing food and equipment. When I arrived I would be greeted by my wife as well as our neighbors who were now old friends. Some of the cycling groups had fairly elaborate control stops with a requisite sit down dinner, etc. In general my observation was that the French and Italians favored this sort of approach. These groups would ride the PBP in semi-Audax fashion with a capitaine de route so they all arrived at the control at more or less the same time. They would eat, attend to other matters, and then all depart at the same time. This simplifies supporting a group as the support crew can then move on to the next control.

In general I found that it was the Americans that tended to eschew support in favor of riding riding the PBP "self-supported". This makes some sense as it is easier to enlist ride support if you are a local and more difficult if you are arriving from a great distance. It also goes along with other American idiosyncrasies such as favoring old-timey "randonneur" bikes and wool jerseys.

When a French group would leave the control their support crew would call out "reste tranquille" which in this context translates as "take it easy" or "stay safe", the equivalent of the sergeant from the old Hill Street Blues TV show who used to finish roll-call with the admonition “let’s be careful out there”. "Reste tranquille" has now become our standard send off as well as we head off for a ride.

-- Richard

Charles Coldwell

unread,
Sep 6, 2022, 11:06:09 PM9/6/22
to Randonneurs USA
I’ve done PBP three times (2003, 2007 and 2019). I never had support nor drop bags. As has been said upthread, I like the flexibility of having everything with me on the bike. I know there are mathematically inclined people who work out plans on spreadsheets in advance, but I’m not aware of any 1200 km ride that has gone according to plan. Certainly none of mine have (eleven so far).

You’ll need a basic set of tools and spares. You’ll need a rain jacket and a clean kit. Leg and arm warmers will make the cold nights more bearable. High visibility gear is required by the organization. I was able to fit all of this into a medium sized saddlebag.

I use a generator hub and a fancy headlight with a charging port so I don’t have to worry about spare batteries and my head unit is always at 100%.

I believe there is great value in reducing the cognitive load as much as possible. I don’t know how many times while on the road I’ve identified some minor mechanical tweak I need to do only to completely forget to do it when I reach the control. It seems to me that drop bags reduce the weight on the bike but increase the cognitive load at controls.

It’s probably different with an experienced support crew since the load is distributed to more people, but certainly prior to the smartphone (in 2003 I carried a GSM feature phone) the rendezvous logistics could be daunting.

So it is possible, and in many respects easier, to do PBP self contained. For what it’s worth, the course record was set by a self contained rider (42:26 by Björn Lenhard in 2015).

--
Charles M. Coldwell, W1CMC
"Turn on, log in, tune out"
Belmont, Massachusetts, New England (FN42jj)

George Swain

unread,
Sep 7, 2022, 9:36:43 AM9/7/22
to Charles Coldwell, Randonneurs USA
Thanks, Chip, for this encouraging message. It’s tempting to think that success comes from adding. As you point out so well, it sometimes comes from subtracting. 

Onwards! 

George

--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Randonneurs USA" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to randonneurs-u...@googlegroups.com.

Bill Bryant

unread,
Sep 7, 2022, 9:52:36 AM9/7/22
to Charles Coldwell, Randonneurs USA

A good post, Chip, very useful and a good reminder to us all. Your point about cognitive load during at 1200k is spot on, IMHO.

 

I’m curious how often you changed shorts? I did my first PBP with only fresh shorts in Brest that I carried along. I think I’d want to re-think that approach next time… but doing some quick laundry at a control lavatory sink and letting them dry on the bike while riding wouldn’t be a problem either, and probably still easier/time efficient than searching for a drop bag. At my second PBP I noticed that it was not easy to locate the overall RUSA drop bag locations on the outbound leg, and then locating one’s own drop bag among the pile going both ways. We got to ours before the rain started, so they were dry, but in other years we saw them get wet-ugh. Working at the Fougeres control in 2019, we saw a number of riders who had contracted a private drop bag service but couldn’t find it easily at the control and wasted a lot of time looking. (A big sign was needed, IMHO.)

 

Cheers, and thanks,

Bill Bryant

 

 

From: <randonn...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of Charles Coldwell <cold...@gmail.com>
Date: Tuesday, September 6, 2022 at 8:00 PM
To: Randonneurs USA <randonn...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: [RUSA] Drop Bags at PBP

 

I’ve done PBP three times (2003, 2007 and 2019). I never had support nor drop bags. As has been said upthread, I like the flexibility of having everything with me on the bike. I know there are mathematically inclined people who work out plans on spreadsheets in advance, but I’m not aware of any 1200 km ride that has gone according to plan. Certainly none of mine have (eleven so far).

--

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Randonneurs USA" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to randonneurs-u...@googlegroups.com.

ed bernasky

unread,
Sep 8, 2022, 3:52:46 PM9/8/22
to Randonneurs USA
Richard, thanks for sharing that perspective.   It seems support is more a European thing to me.  Do you have an opinion whether having your support team stopped several Km before the Control would be viable, basically to give bottles, some food, and maybe warm clothing.   Do you see any issues with that sort of approach?   In 1995 and 2015, I was quick enough that there would not be any interference with many other riders whereas in 2019, I did a tourist type pace and can see where support vehicles could cause some traffic.   My wild guess is 1/2 of the 80H riders have support.  There is almost no chance to stay with a supported group as an unsupported rider unless you are a TCR winner like Björn Lenhard and very young.  It was quite a sight seeing him start the climb up the Roc all smiling and then 20 minutes later a pack of heavily breathing chasers who never caught him.  I suppose Nutella and Baguettes are the key.  If I did have my family follow me (they really want to share the experience), I'd make sure to read the rules carefully when registering the car.   Just wondering if you think stopping on the outskirts leading into the control might make sense.   I'd probably just do every other control.   I do love the way PBP is run.   I have never had support but it might be nice.   In any case,  thanks for sharing your experience.

Eric Nichols

unread,
Sep 9, 2022, 9:08:02 AM9/9/22
to Randonneurs USA
In 2019, I rode parts of of PBP with another US rider whose spouse provided support for her along the route. I pulled ahead of her after the first day and never saw her again, but I saw her spouse at almost every control.  It was nice to see a familiar face.  Because he was often at the control hours ahead of his rider, he knew the layout and often gave me helpful suggestions like "the restrooms are right over there".  He had food and drink ready for his rider and she was able to sleep in the car. It worked very well for her.

In 2021 I saw her spouse at a ride and asked him if he would support her at the next PBP.  He gave an unequivocal "No".  Support is very taxing on the support crew. and it's a huge ask for anyone especially if they are not a paid professional.  Your support crew will be doing their own endurance event, with much less fanfare. If you talk a loved one into providing support, be sure to repay that kindness in double or triple measure.  

In-ride support has advantages, but I've heard it said that the DNF rate is higher among supported riders. Low moments are inevitable on a 1200k, and if you can step into a heated or air-conditioned car and be whisked away to a shower and a bed, the temptation to abandon may become too great.  

Despite all the horror stories about drop bags, I used drop bag services at PBP 2015 and 2019 and both worked smoothly. Choose a waterproof bag that is easy to spot in the pile.. 

In 2019, I had a hotel room in Loudeac for two nights. After checking into the control, I grabbed my drop bag and rode to my hotel. Showered and slept for 4-5 hours, left my stuff in the  room, and rode to Brest and back.  After another shower and sleep, I dropped the bag at the control. I ditch-napped the third night. This is a great strategy for anyone riding a moderate pace that can bank sufficient time. I'm a light sleeper and can't abide the dortoirs so a private bed in a quiet room is like gold to me.  

Eric
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages