It Takes Two: Paris-Brest-Paris On A Tandem

Bjorn Lenhard is veteran of the ultra-cycling world, making his name at major races such as The Transcontinental and Transatlantic Way. Having completed Paris-Brest-Paris twice already before the 2023 edition, he was after a way to experience this iconic event in a different way – on a tandem with his wife Gabriela. Here, Bjorn talks us through his relationship with event and why he decided this was the year to tackle it in tandem.

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Paris-Brest-Paris is the oldest cycling event in the world and has run every four years in some form since 1891. The 2023 event was the 27th edition, with 6,000 riders hoping to complete the 1,200km route from the outskirts of Paris in Rambouillet to Brest, and back again. Distinctly not a race, PBP is the pinnacle of audax and randonneuring calendar.

Paris-Brest-Paris is the ‘race you cannot win’! It’s really a brevet, but of course everybody is interested in the time too.

-Bjorn Lenhard

Bjorn first heard about PBP the same year he took up road cycling in 2011, when a friend was preparing for that year’s event. “All the talks there where about PBP and the preparations. At the time, riding 1200km in 90 hours was almost inconceivably. But I was fixed to it. The following year I was riding Brevets and it was clear, I was going to do PBP in 2015.

“The year before, I did my first 1000km Brevet as preparation and pre-qualification. So far it was going well and I was gaining experience. Because of that, I was able to get a place in the first start group. I was in a perfect shape and really fast. I ended up in Paris with as first rider with a new record time of 42:26 Hours.”

Four years later, Bjorn was back for his second go at PBP 2019. But this time, on a fixed gear bike and with a focus on enjoying the ride rather than all out racing. “It was by far a much different experience with lot’s of problems, but I finally finished it.”

How could someone spend so many hours on the bike? What about eating and drinking? Sleeping? A lot of questions. I was fascinated from the very beginning and I got hooked.

“My wife came up with the idea a few years ago, as she also wanted to do PBP. She cycles too, but not as much as me so the difference in speed between us of us is quite big. In autumn last year we borrowed a tandem from one of my friends and even did a 200km Brevet on it. Well, it turned out to be quite good. Since then, it was clear, the best chance to finish PBP together was to do it on a tandem.”

“The tandem is a Big Bang Road Disk from the Czech maker Duratec. It’s a little manufacturer situated very close to Plzeň. Of course, it’s set up to our needs. It has a dynamo hub with lights and a charger so we are independent from any energy source. Also it has a Shimano Di2 shifting with a very wide range. We have 52/36 to 42/11.”

Bjorn and Gabriela ended up finishing PBP 2023 together in a time of 80 hours, 45 minutes and 45 seconds.

“There were several reasons for doing PBP again this year,” says Bjorn. “The atmosphere, being there with thousands of other riders with a similar mindset doing the same crazy thing. Every little village is adorned like at the Tour. Meeting cycling friends from all over the world there. The route, to do it every year, is maybe a bit boring. But I love the elevation profile. A little up and down all the time. I don’t think this will be the last time!”