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Best time to start 400 km brevet?

Old 05-14-22, 08:46 AM
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Best time to start 400 km brevet?

In a 6 days I'm off for my first 400 km brevet. I will be riding on MTB bike. I still can't decide - what is the best time to start? Weather in the night, like 2-3 AM or in the midday/evening. All my previous brevets 200 / 300 I started around 1-2 AM in the night. Not sure, it's a good idea for 400 km brevet as well.

Share your experience.
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Old 05-14-22, 09:11 AM
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Brevet start times are scheduled by the organizers. Or is this an informal 400k ride, not a brevet?

I wouldn't want to start such a ride severely sleep deprived, because a 400k is going to take most people at least 20-24 hours as it is.

I'd think an early morning start would be best. Why did you start a 200k at 2am? Seems unnecessarily unpleasant.

Last edited by Steamer; 05-14-22 at 09:16 AM.
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Old 05-14-22, 09:58 AM
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Sunrise, or thereabouts.
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Old 05-14-22, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Steamer View Post
I'd think an early morning start would be best. Why did you start a 200k at 2am? Seems unnecessarily unpleasant.
the eastern PA RBA started a 200k in the evening, so the finish for most people was after sunrise in the morning. It was fun. I was a bit annoyed about it at the time, because I certainly don't need any practice at riding all night. I think there aren't as many 24 hour convenience stores as there were then. Only problem was that we went through a college town the Saturday night before fall classes started, and the students had started drinking hours before I got there.

Starting a 400k before sunrise means you have the opportunity to see a second sunrise on the same ride. I think the common 4am start works fairly well because you don't miss any daylight hours and it's better to ride early in the morning than late at night in most locales because there is more traffic late at night.
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Old 05-14-22, 01:00 PM
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If you are riding into a sunrise or sunset, not only is it harder for you to see, but the car driver behind you might not see you very well either. Thus, timing eastward and westward segments may be a concern if you have any choice in the matter.

Riding into a sunrise with a bit of fog:

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Old 05-14-22, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
the eastern PA RBA started a 200k in the evening, so the finish for most people was after sunrise in the morning. It was fun. I was a bit annoyed about it at the time, because I certainly don't need any practice at riding all night. I think there aren't as many 24 hour convenience stores as there were then. Only problem was that we went through a college town the Saturday night before fall classes started, and the students had started drinking hours before I got there.

Starting a 400k before sunrise means you have the opportunity to see a second sunrise on the same ride. I think the common 4am start works fairly well because you don't miss any daylight hours and it's better to ride early in the morning than late at night in most locales because there is more traffic late at night.
Starting at, say, 8pm in waning daylight sounds better than starting in the middle of the night.
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Old 05-14-22, 02:27 PM
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We start ours at 4 am and it works well here. It's generally warm enough one doesn't need a ton of clothing, and a good light will have enough suds should one need to ride at dusk and beyond.
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Old 05-14-22, 03:05 PM
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If your goal is to start at the beginning or end of day for visible light to see with, use the time for start or end of civil twilight, not sunrise or sunset. Civil twilight includes the time before sunrise or after sunset when you can see well without artificial light.

You can find that for your location at WUnderground in the astronomy section, here is the link for my community:
https://www.wunderground.com/weather/us/wi/madison

My suggestion here is strictly for the ability to see, but you need to follow the rules as written for reflective gear or lights.
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Old 05-14-22, 07:15 PM
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I've started at 6pm after after a days work. Needed a nap at 2am. Wouldn't recommend this. Had a DNF on a 600 that started at that hour because I tried to push through the night when I needed a sleep.

Midnight starts work OK if you can get a few hours sleep beforehand and you're likely to finish in 24 hours or less. I had some hallucinations at midnight on one of these, was tougher than expected due to a howling gale during the day and a cold front rolling through in the early evening. That was a memorable ride.

But generally 5-6am is best. Have a 3pm nap under a tree and get most of the ride done by midnight. Generally miserable after midnight if I'm still riding but it gets forgotten at the finish.
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Old 05-14-22, 09:13 PM
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I like the 4am starts, here the earliest the sun rises is ~5:20 or so, starting a bit earlier is nice to take advantage of the twilight. I like evening starts too, it's worked well for me on the flèche and I also did well at PBP, though that ended up being ~450km to my first sleep stop.
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Old 05-15-22, 06:26 AM
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Yesterday's 400k started at 4am. I slept 3 hours Thursday night and 3 hours Friday night leaving my house at 2:30 am to get to the start yesterday.

A 400k in rain and lots of hills is going to test you way more than getting up early, so, I say it doesn't much matter when it starts but a 7 am start sounds nice to me. You are going to get night time riding in during a 400k unless the route is flat and you are fast, so, there isn't really any advantage that I can see starting at night because you will also be riding thru the day, too.
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Old 05-15-22, 09:56 AM
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I like a 5 am start in the late spring or summer. One starts in the dark or almost dark and you get to see the day start. It's beautiful to see, and then at the other end there won't be so much dark riding when one is starting to get tired.
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Old 05-21-22, 12:43 PM
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Here's why I'd want the 400 K's 27 hour limit to expire at sunset.

The 400 K is usually done with the idea of riding straight through without a formal sleep period. This means going 24+ hours and that means riding through the entire night.

My preference is to be as wide awake as possible, when riding at night. A lot more can go wrong at night and one should have their wits about them. Thus I'd opt for arranging the dark hours towards the beginning of the ride.

The sunrise will give the body a boost to make up for any time lost by being extra cautious at night.

The real downer comes at a second sunset. That's why I prefer to end any misery before then.
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Old 05-21-22, 03:48 PM
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I think the idea of a 400K is to finish and sleep before the second sunrise. Anyone who starts at 4am should be in bed sleeping well before a second sunset if they want to comfortably do a 1200K. Ona flat 400K, this could mean finishing a 8 or 10 pm but on a hilly one, it could mean midnight or 2 am. If you get in at 2am after 400k on a 600k or 1200k, you can sleep 3-4 hours.

I believe ACP published statistics on finish times and PBP success rates. I also believe the DC Randonneurs or Potomac Pedalers did similarly publish such information but I do not have that anymore. Of course if someone has the ultimate goal of completing a 400K, what I wrote means nothing but a 400K is sort of the first day or maybe just short of the first day in a 1200k (Loudeac is 447km into PBP)
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Old 05-22-22, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I think the idea of a 400K is to finish and sleep before the second sunrise. Anyone who starts at 4am should be in bed sleeping well before a second sunset if they want to comfortably do a 1200K. Ona flat 400K, this could mean finishing a 8 or 10 pm but on a hilly one, it could mean midnight or 2 am. If you get in at 2am after 400k on a 600k or 1200k, you can sleep 3-4 hours.

I believe ACP published statistics on finish times and PBP success rates. I also believe the DC Randonneurs or Potomac Pedalers did similarly publish such information but I do not have that anymore. Of course if someone has the ultimate goal of completing a 400K, what I wrote means nothing but a 400K is sort of the first day or maybe just short of the first day in a 1200k (Loudeac is 447km into PBP)
PBP''s time logistics have changed considerably, since I rode it in '79 and '83. It used to be the 90 hours started at 4am, 84 hours at 10am and 78 hour at 4pm. This allowed marginal riders like myself to minimize night riding by sleeping at Tinteniac, Carhaix (return) and Villaines. It divided the 750 miles into: 225, 200, 175 and 150. If one could maintain a 20 km/hr pace from ride start to the sleep point, it allowed 5 hour of sleep per night between 11pm and 4am. It meant less sleep, if one fell behind that overall pace. The idea was to start each day even on time.

They changed the setup in 1991, starting with the fast rider first and slowest riders last. This meant the 90 hour finishers would start at 4pm and go mostly in the dark, if they followed my 4 day breakdown. The alternative to maximize daylight riding is to use the 84 hour start and go clear through to Loudeac. That was beyond my ability and I would never have attempted PBP, under the present starting times.

I had to visit Bob Lepertel at his house before PBP in 1979 because my credentials got lost in the mail. At that time the ACP's recommendation for the 90 hours was to ride clear through to Brest, get a good night's sleep and then limp back. Many clubs would divide their riders between the 90 and 78 hour times. Those in the 90 hour group would pull the 78 hour riders back from Brest.

1987 was a bad year for doing PBP. There was a headwind and rain. I was there with a support vehicle for the Americans. The high dropout rate caused a lot of soul searching within the ACP. The different starting order was one of the resulting changes. Lepertel wrote me they did not want the 90 hour riders finishing in the dark. I think the nature of Scott Dickson's first place finish might have had more to do with the change.

The ACP ran some statistics on the 1987 ride. The 84 hour riders had the best completion rate. The ACP may have wanted to discourage the marginal 90 hour riders and force others into the 84 hour group.

I have not seen any recent ACP statistics regarding starting times for various distances vs. completion rate. The PBP statistics don't consider shorter distance completion rates.

As I said, I want to minimize the amount of time spent at night on the brevets and other long distance rides my club ran. My ideal 600 k start is 4am for a NYC to Montreal ride I used to run. The sleep over was Glens Falls and the goal was to cross the Jacques Cartier Bridge before 8pm. Similarly, my club used to run a NYC to Washington DC ride over Columbus Day weekend. We started at 4pm so that we would get out of NYC traffic before nightfall. There was no getting around 13 hours of darkness on the DC ride. The idea was to be as alert as possible in the dark.
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Old 05-23-22, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by SBinNYC View Post
PBP''s time logistics have changed considerably, since I rode it in '79 and '83. It used to be the 90 hours started at 4am, 84 hours at 10am and 78 hour at 4pm. This allowed marginal riders like myself to minimize night riding by sleeping at Tinteniac, Carhaix (return) and Villaines. It divided the 750 miles into: 225, 200, 175 and 150. If one could maintain a 20 km/hr pace from ride start to the sleep point, it allowed 5 hour of sleep per night between 11pm and 4am. It meant less sleep, if one fell behind that overall pace. The idea was to start each day even on time.

They changed the setup in 1991, starting with the fast rider first and slowest riders last. This meant the 90 hour finishers would start at 4pm and go mostly in the dark, if they followed my 4 day breakdown. The alternative to maximize daylight riding is to use the 84 hour start and go clear through to Loudeac. That was beyond my ability and I would never have attempted PBP, under the present starting times.

I had to visit Bob Lepertel at his house before PBP in 1979 because my credentials got lost in the mail. At that time the ACP's recommendation for the 90 hours was to ride clear through to Brest, get a good night's sleep and then limp back. Many clubs would divide their riders between the 90 and 78 hour times. Those in the 90 hour group would pull the 78 hour riders back from Brest.

1987 was a bad year for doing PBP. There was a headwind and rain. I was there with a support vehicle for the Americans. The high dropout rate caused a lot of soul searching within the ACP. The different starting order was one of the resulting changes. Lepertel wrote me they did not want the 90 hour riders finishing in the dark. I think the nature of Scott Dickson's first place finish might have had more to do with the change.

The ACP ran some statistics on the 1987 ride. The 84 hour riders had the best completion rate. The ACP may have wanted to discourage the marginal 90 hour riders and force others into the 84 hour group.

I have not seen any recent ACP statistics regarding starting times for various distances vs. completion rate. The PBP statistics don't consider shorter distance completion rates.

As I said, I want to minimize the amount of time spent at night on the brevets and other long distance rides my club ran. My ideal 600 k start is 4am for a NYC to Montreal ride I used to run. The sleep over was Glens Falls and the goal was to cross the Jacques Cartier Bridge before 8pm. Similarly, my club used to run a NYC to Washington DC ride over Columbus Day weekend. We started at 4pm so that we would get out of NYC traffic before nightfall. There was no getting around 13 hours of darkness on the DC ride. The idea was to be as alert as possible in the dark.
You can sort the finish results by the 80H, 84H, and 90H groups. In 2018, the 90H group had a 63% finish, 84 had 70%,and 80H was 83% finish. Overall, the DNF was 32%. Unless one was snappy getting to Brest, there was a headwind in both directions generally.

The 80H groups start in 5 waves. A Group goes at 4:00 pm, B goes at 4:15 pm, etc. The Specials go in wave F at 5:15. There is a Specials wave in the morning 84H and several upright bike 84H waves in the morning, too.

The only way to avoid a 400k distance into the night on PBP is to be very strong and do the 84H Monday morning start. So, I suppose getting some night riding experience might be a good idea for PBP aspirations.

https://www.pbpresults.com/2019
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Old 05-23-22, 07:24 AM
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tl;dr: if you are starting a 400k 6 time zones to the east of where you live, it doesn't hurt to start during the night. If you start the ride in your own time zone, it's going to cause sleep disruption. Which may or may not be a problem. I have never really had bad sleep problems on a 400k. 600k, yes, but rarely.

In '19, I realized why they used to start PBP a little later, at dusk. The wind really dies down at dusk, and in normal times you will have a headwind going west. I started in the first 90 hour group and we had a stiff headwind and everyone thought they were in a local 20 mile race. Long line of riders instead of a pack, it was not what I was expecting. It seems like in 2015 those groups might have been fast, but at least they were in packs. Then I was blown up and there was nobody to ride with when dusk hit and the wind died down. I think if I go back next year I'm starting later. Hopefully a more relaxed cohort and less wind. I didn't mind riding all night this time, I got plenty of sleep in preparation and it's more aligned with an east coast U.S. time. My thought process was that I wanted to start in daylight, but now I realize that's not worth what you lose. I was definitely starting to fade when I got to Loudeac, but I wasn't too sleepy before that.

We had a pretty stiff headwind at the start in 2011 too, but I was always in packs that usually felt too slow. In 2019 it was a long single line of riders that can't really handle their bike and are constantly opening up gaps. Not the way you want to start a 1200k.

I dropped out with 250km to go, my knee was the size of a grapefruit even with the massages. If the wind hadn't been so strong I might have finished, I don't know. I made various mistakes, you always learn the most on DNF's, but there is a point at which you have too much knowledge. But it was a lot of fun anyway.

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Old 05-23-22, 08:53 AM
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My mistake on PBP 2019 was staying in the Mercure overlooking the drunks in the courtyard, I could not sleep with all the noise into the night days leading into the start. But my biggest mistake was eating some bad rabbit; if anyone wants to know the location of all the porta potties all the way to Brest, I know them. My other mistake was trying to work my way thru slower packs of riders ahead of me. I should have just sat in and relaxed at the slowish pace. I also did not program the address of my Brest hotel into my Garmin and wasted over an hour looking for it, finally sleeping Monday night at the control. I planned to ride pretty quick to Brest and sleep 8-9 hours and then ride back like a tourist. My BB bearing failed and with a lose crankset, I could not shift off the big ring. Fortunately, I took the 56T off and put a 53T before flying to France.. A total cluster. I did finish eventually. Live and learn.
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Old 05-28-22, 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Steamer View Post
Starting at, say, 8pm in waning daylight sounds better than starting in the middle of the night.
400k brevets around here start at 8pm. Starting in the evening allows for a full night's sleep and even an afternoon nap prior to riding through the night.
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Old 05-28-22, 04:46 AM
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Originally Posted by girona View Post
400k brevets around here start at 8pm. Starting in the evening allows for a full night's sleep and even an afternoon nap prior to riding through the night.
Does the clock stop when taking the afternoon nap?

8 pm start would mean 11 pm finish or almost dinner time in Barcelona.
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Old 05-28-22, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
Does the clock stop when taking the afternoon nap?

8 pm start would mean 11 pm finish or almost dinner time in Barcelona.
Yes, finishing time will depend on the duration of that afternoon nap.
Dinner time can be stretched out to a later time. No need to rush it.
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