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By Bill Bryant
Doing Paris-Brest-Paris is an impressive feat of athleticism and mental fortitude, but for a few participants, making it even more difficult holds a strange fascination. One will see fixed-gear bikes, English trikes, triple tandems, and all sorts of other contraptions that are surely harder to propel than a normal bicycle. Year after year, it would seem that doing the extra work in exchange for increased bragging rights holds a certain appeal to a small group of PBP entrants.
At the most recent PBP the bar for "weirdest machine to finish" was raised very high by a Finn named Alpo Kuusisto. He successfully completed the event on a scooter! Thrust forward by his tennis shoes upon the pavement, he "kicked" PBP in about 84.5 hours and arrived at the finish line in Guyancourt at about 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
I saw quite a lot of the Scooter Guy during the event because his speed was similar to that of my wife, whom I was meeting at the controls. Not surprisingly, Kuusisto attracted quite a crowd of curious spectators at each checkpoint during the ride. One of our RUSA members, Jim Gerphreide of California, rode with him for a while on Wednesday and reported the Scooter Guy's "kicking" method was very impressive—and effective. His speed on the road was quite good and this allowed some substantial sleep breaks along the way. It seemed, though, some randonneurs on bicycles were clearly annoyed at being passed by the Scooter Guy, particularly when going uphill. Things were the same on descents, where he would crouch into a low tuck and rip downhill, passing still more riders.
Kuusisto told Gerphreide he took up the scooter as a method of summer workouts for his winter speed skating. How this got stretched out to doing long-distance randonneuring brevets is not known, but his PBP feat is more understandable when you learn he also holds the current 24-hour scooter record of 519 kilometers. Apparently none too worse for wear from PBP, a day later Kuusisto flew directly to San Francisco to begin a transcontinental crossing of the US on his trusty scooter.
At the finish I picked up Kuusisto's machine. The handlebar bag seemed to be heavily loaded, but otherwise the thing felt very lightweight. It had an aluminum alloy frame and a carbon fiber fork with a standard 700c front wheel. I didn't recognize the rear wheel size, but it looked to be around 14-16" in diameter. His mount had minimal lighting (two Cateye Micros and a rear LED, if memory serves.) There were also brake calipers on each wheel of the scooter. All in all, it was a picture of speed and simplicity—very little to go wrong. Kuusisto obviously didn't wear cleated cycling shoes, so walking about the vast PBP controls was no problem. Word had it that he had some serious foot blisters by the end, but the Scooter Guy completed PBP in fine fashion mid-morning on Friday.
British randonneur Marc Millon wonderfully described his encounter with Kuusisto on the Audax-UK chat list a few days after PBP ended: "We had heard of Scooter Man through the rumor mill that buzzed around Guyancourt before the start, spoken about in awe and total incomprehension. 'Hey, guess what, some crazy guy's doing it on a scooter!' Of course there were other remarkable machines to comment on, too … but Scooter Man, the very thought of it was so totally absurd that you could only scratch your head in wonder and say, 'Why?'
"All along the route people who had sighted the guy commented on it, but for us it was not until 1000 kilometers that we finally caught up with him! It was around dusk on Thursday evening and we had just shared a very enjoyable stretch of the road with some of our fellow Brits. We were up on a high, lonely plateau. 'Holy s***!' I cried suddenly, spotting him in the distance, 'There's the Scooter Guy!' At that point I was cycling easily at around 25 kph and had to speed up to catch him. The rhythm was indeed remarkable: push, push, glide, (change foot) push, glide; push, push, glide, (change foot), push, glide... Man, he was working hard, and concentrating hard for it looked very technical, getting a good flat powerful push-push. If he was just wearing tennis shoes, it seemed he had about size 15 feet (though maybe he was only an 8 or 9 when he started).
"I hardly dared to speak to him. 'How's it going?' I asked. 'Fine,' he replied firmly. 'Real fine.' Clearly there was nothing more to be said. We arrived at Mortagne-au-Perche just after 10 p.m. and, feeling that yes, the end was definitely in sight and achievable. We got stuck at the bar and downed several beers before bedding down for the night. I never saw the fellow come in but if he was back in Guyancourt by 10:30 a.m., it seems he skinned us easily. Which sort of puts the whole thing in perspective: yes we rode PBP's 1200 kilometers, but clearly not overly briskly if someone on a scooter could push his way around faster than we could actually pedal...."