Brevet Audax

A Different Type of Time Trial

1.5 friggin years. I guess it is all coming back to normal.

The bike that was designed to be tested over the ~1200kms in the 2019 Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) as part of the 2019 edition of the Concours de Machines (Long story short), was finally finished more than a year after it was supposed to be.

While I’ve been riding it daily as my main commuter bike, taking to long distances (without support) is a different type of time trial. If things can go wrong, they most certainly will and you are kind of stuck (in the middle of nowhere). So with a bit of fear and lot of excitement when after so many cancellations, a 300km brevet was announced for the end of June 2021.

Fear because last time I rode the same 300km course, it was as part of me qualifying for the 2019 Paris-Brest-Paris, and I broke a rear derailleur cable 170km in and after tying the rear derailleur on the 27 tooth cog I had 2 gears for 130km of VERY rolling terrain. The superstitious/paranoid individual that I am, was playing tricks on me, especially since I would be riding a largely untested bike.

Excitement, well after being told I could’t ride further than 10km from my house for more than a year and the whole world shutting down for the pandemic, getting out there was a very long anticipated change.

So how did it go?

What I REALLY Liked

Low Trail Geometry and Fork Suspension

I have no words to describe how awesome a low trail bike rides. Pure joy comes to mind. It doesn’t flop around (read veer over half the road under even minor handlebar nudge) like a limb dead fish under pretty much all circumstances ((loaded) front bag, rough roads, high speed cornering, looking over you shoulder, getting food out of the bag etc), the bike just holds it’s line and goes where YOU decide it should go. It is still beyond me why low trail is still considered unrideable by the ‘industry’ and cyclists at large.

The flexy fork blades really make a difference in road feel as well, it’s all part of the low trail package.

Gearing: 50/34 and 14-28 cassette

Long distance endurance brevet gearing
14-32 Custom Cassette

While the current (in my opinion silly) trend is to go towards single chainring solutions and even smaller cogs in the rear, a compact (50/34) crankset with my custom 14-32 cassette (11-32 with ‘junior’ cassette parts) where the smaller 5-6 cogs are 1 tooth apart, includes some really nice cruising gears. I found myself just comfortably riding for long stretches of road without ever looking for the right gear; (and hence preserving Di2 battery – more on that later). While the 50/34 chainring jump is quite large, with Di2 synchro shifting, I let the ‘brains’ take care of the work and front and rear shifts in unison made it all nice. I might tweak the shift points a bit though it works nicely.

Rando Bag

It really boggles my mind, how this is not more popular. It is SOOOO convenient to have everyting readily accessible without stopping since….

Steady Does It/Don’t Stop

Garmin 300km BRM Brevet

It took me 13:15min total and 12:45min running time so I stopped a total of 35min at the controls. There were two other Randonneurs doing the same event. They had set off after me and they caught me at the first control (67km) and passed me easily. However, at each subsequent check point I would arrive to see them comfortably sipping a coffee/eating a sandwich and in general taking their time and leaving (and overtaking me again) 5-10min afterwards. I met them at the pre-final control at 250km and we rode together, meaning all in all we finished with (more or less) the same time even though they had started before me and rode considerably harder (and paying for it at the end).

“What could have been better” aka Racing Improves the Breed


I have said this before though aerobars would have added 1-2km/h to the average speed at the same effort, especially since for the most part i rode all by myself or was pulling at the front. It is not a PBP qualifying year and there were thunderstorms so i think a grand total of 3 people including myself did the 300km. Without the benefit of drafitng, aerobars would be a huge improvement, though since there is no kill like overkill, I am already looking for methods for integrated aerobars.

Di2 and Charging Devices on the Go

My Busch-Muller E-werk connected *directly* (without the variable resistor) to my Velogical Special rim dynamo charged my Garmin Edge 810 from 75 to 98% in about 30-45min; I finished the 300km with ~29% charge left so this means a 300BRM I could have gone without the charging. Though it was a nice feeling knowing I would not run out of power (and subsequently get lost a LOT more than I already did with the GPS trace). I have made the cable routing so that the E-werk tucks nicely in the rando bag and only a small portion of the cable comes out to the Garmin. All good here.

After 300km and ~224 front/~2250 rear shifts the Di2 battery went from ~50% to 20% charge and I started to get my first in my lifetime ever low battery warnings while riding a bike (modern times eh?=)) . This means that the Di2 will NOT last a full Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP)(1200km). Or a 1000km BRM event (or anything ‘ultra endurance’ multi day for that matter) without an additional charge. This brevet used a good part of the same roads as the first part of PBP does. It gets even MORE rolling once you get into Brittany (requiring more shifts). Therefore at least a 30min charge will be needed. Just carry the charger says you. Well I did, but I realised just after setting off that I had left the *power cable* in my car. Granted micro-USB cables are dime and a dozen, it still meant some inconvenience.

It is a bit of a Catch 22 since the nicer and more integrated a bike you make to more integrated you need to keep making it. What I mean is that while having wires, zipties and duct tape for attaching everything on your bike, what is one more eh? Well the thing is once everything is neatly arranged, putting ANY kind quick type of solution would look absolutely horrendous. I use the bar-end Di2 charging port so the setup would go somethig like this

Dynamo>5V charger (E-werk in this case)>Di2 charger>Charging port

The latter two would stick out really inconveniently (possibly dangerously) at the end of the handlebar. It would get me out of a problem for sure (just ride 30-60min without getting your hands tangled in cables). In addition there are a different options from Shimano for the Di2 charging port. I am looking, designing and currently testing a more integrated and sleek solution. Look for it under the Bicycle electornics category of my webshop.

Ripstop Nylon Randonneur Bag

Ripstop Nylon Randonneur Bag

While I continue to be amazed at the lightweight and especially ripstop properties of Risptop nylon, this bag was made to fit one purpose – be lightweight first and foremost, since the 2019 Concours De Machines the weight of the (empty bags) was going to be included in the grand total of the bike. I had some pointy objects (keys/tools?) in a plastic bag and while bouncing around they wore a small hole in the bag. Due to it being ripstop it won’t get much bigger though it is slightly annoying.

Also the hook closures seem to be incompatible with the very thin fabric. I had one hook already replaced (with a button) and the second one started to come undone during the brevet. A simple large button in my opinion looks much better and worked surprisingly well. While I know my lesson to keep important things (phone/brevet card/etc) in a sealed plastic bag, I have some (much tougher, waterproof, and solid) Xpac21 fabric for V2 of the bag. Even so, the bag never really got soaked while it POURED on a couple of occasions. The ripstop nylon dried surprisingly quickly, the spare clothes inside were starting to get damp, though.

Cantilever Brakes

Classic Lightweight Randonneur- TRP EuroX cantilever brakes
Classic Lightweight Randonneur- TRP EuroX cantilever brakes

As previosuly mentioned, I found out post factum some of the…well…features of cantilever brakes or that they shudder and squeal due to the fork flexing. The Ultegra disc brakes of the two people I rode with squealed just as loud=). The rim brake version of my randonneur bike would probably evolve towards centerpull brakes such as Paul Racer Medium. Disc brake randonneur is a whole another project hehe.


It was really pouring, and the front fender is as low as practically possible, maybe a mudflap might have helped a bit. Even so it was nothing compared to the fenderless deluge for your feet and drivetrain. Upon further inspection of the cover photo, my white socks were still (relatively speaking) white after the ride which took place among many farm fields so a mudflap might be a couple of percent difference.

Stainless Steel

The bag bouncing on the rack with the aforementioned pointy objects, had worn down the paint of the rack on one spot and it had started to rust slightly.

Rack Rust spot

It was a single stage paint (I really wanted to get the bike on the road after all) with no primer. (My first attempt at making a front rack failed and stainless steel was considerably more expensive for redoing it from scratch). I knew that the regular cromoly steel rack would eventually chip and start to rust. Epoxy primer and two stage paint would have just delayed the inevitable. Nothing major or catastrophic by a longshot, though a spec of rust makes the whole paint job not look so clean.

Subsequently the same can be said for the front fork dropouts and the stem clamp bolts.

Rusty dropouts
Stem Rust Spots

It is no wonder that vintage (rando bikes) were chromed especially in those areas. I personally have several problems with that – first chrome is basically a very tough paint.At the right conditions (stored in a humid basement, salt, scratched etc.) it would pit and it will spread like cancer afterwards. Second, it is a nasty process for all involved in it, the environment included which brings me to third – I have no idea where to even look for a plater around me….and it will not be cheap for sure so rather than wasting time….

What I can do without too much hassle is use stainless steel (even if the part will still be painted) for those ‘wear points’ in Version 2


The old adage “Horses for courses” is hard to beat. The randonneur/low trail bike has evolved (and for some reason being largely forgotten?) over many kilometers and as such is hard to beat by a ‘big tire road bike’ for any kind of long distance riding. While equipment is rarely the sole deciding factor, in this case it was defintely a major reason for me riding the 300km in 13h45, nearly 2h faster than my last run over the same course. (Even though I rode the a third of it on 2 gears). What is more is that i didn’t feel physically beaten (no tingling fingers), tired yes, not beaten even days afterwards. With all that being said, this project has proven a lot of things and has left me with more ideas to improve for version 2 for (hopefully) the 2022 brevet season.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you back on those pages again.

Additional High Resolution photos can be found on my Flickr page HERE

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