LEL prep – time tracker spreadsheet

You might think this is a bit geeky, but for me the need is concrete and borne of hard experience and failure. On my dismal PBP attempt back in 2015 I got lost in time. I had decided not to take a watch (why?!) and was relying on my GPS for time and distance. It died pretty early on and, as I was riding by myself, I quickly lost track of time. This killed me in the controls when I became tired and by the time I got to Brest I was just about over time and very much out of energy.

I am not being as casual about time on LEL let me tell you that!

First of all, no phaffage. I know that saying that I will inevitably take time doing silly things, but the idea is to reduce it as much as possible. We want to reduce time spent doing silly things. Unfortunately for me being a slower rider doing silly things might include long cups of tea. The adage ‘race out tour back’ will hopefully apply and I will get a chance to smell the roses in the second half, but we’ll see how we get on.

In order to reduce phaffage:

  1. Decide what time to leave a control as you come into it.
  2. Know roughly what you intend to get done at the control (stamp and tea? Sleep? Shower and go?)
  3. Track time in hand and ‘drift’.

It’s the third point that requires some kind of tracking and spreadsheet. Not that I am going to use a phone and do anything fancy online (bound to go wrong).

Time in hand is the time you have before you run out of time. If a control closes at 3pm and you get there at 2pm then you have an hour in hand. Simples.

But what inevitably happens is that you start fast and have tons of time in hand until you take your first sleep, then time in hand drops quickly. On PBP it can drop very quickly as the time allowed is relatively short. LEL has a lower average speed so, in general, more time in hand but obviously more kms to track. You can see time in hand on these pictures from my PBP post:


You can see the rider here quickly gets 5 hours time in hand, then, with a sleep that dips to 2.5 then he grinds out the rest of the ride with a short nap or two and finishes with about 1.5 hours time in hand – full value!


Here’s a faster rider – his speed allows him to take two big sleeps and he finishes with 10 hours to spare. Nice ride!

This is mine – starts too slow, sleeps too long. Grim.

So in order track myself with time in hand I am going to keep tracking my time – I want to know how I am doing in a quick graphical format that will make sense to me even as I am delerious with tiredness.

Note that this is tracker not a planner – I do not have a figure to ride too, or a particular plan of where to sleep and when, I just want to know roughly how I am getting on. Calculations for effort, eating, sleep etc will still be done on the bike 🙂

Here’s what I have ended up with:


On the left I have the controls, the next leg distance and the overall km and %.

On the right I have five times for each control. Each of those represents a pace with an average speed in (brackets) and the final control close time. Below that is a blank line.

The blue cells are night time control visits – not strictly accurate but a good way to see where you are day by day.

As I go I will enter the control LEAVING time on the sheet (refer to point 1 above – this will be the planned leaving time which will be accurate to 5 or 10 minutes which will be enough).

So I will end up with something like this at control 1:


As the ride progresses that line will move steadily right, maybe left a bit on a long leg with a short stop. This should be enough info to let me know how I am doing and what my overall average speed is.

So how did I end up with those times?

I stared with a grid that worked out overall average speed based on average road speed and time of bike per hour. At the fast end I plotted an average road speed of 25kph and 15 minutes off the bike per hour. That’s never going to happen for me, but I might achieve that for the first leg 🙂 On the slow end I am averaging 20 kph on the road and have a rather generous 30 minutes off the bike per hour. I suspect I will end up with a road average around the 22 kph mark and between 20 and 30 minutes off the bike per hour (while aiming for 15 to 20). I then stuffed all that into a spread sheet to get candidate overall average speeds:


Then I picked a few.

First of all I was going to do this as a chart that I could mark my progress on and made something to print out and draw on so that I could make a graph as I went:


To get the progress lines I just plotted what time the average speeds would give me over the full distance, marked that at the top and drew a line. That gave me four lines, from ‘fast’ to slow. By ruling lines across at the distances where the control was I could then draw lines that would show fast (green) and red (slow) exit times from controls.

It looks nice, but of course is entirely useless. That’s when I had the idea to plot the times on the tracking sheet – much easier to read and track.

Here is a link view the full tracker for a 4PM start: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-EAuSWNf2g7IZB_igudPWROQ5H5Uz9KpNc086DI246w/edit?usp=sharing

Oh yeah, I am taking TWO GPSes and a watch this time.



  1. Nice work, I’ve just done something similar for a recent 600, my first. I can’t post a graphic but the bare bones are thus; 622 km in 37:30 hrs. This equals an average speed of 16.66 kph. Actual time on bike, riding it, was 25:31 hrs. This equals an average riding speed of 24:30. Time spent on faffing, including 45 mins sleep was around 12 hrs ! I will re-read your post and produce something similar (thanks). I am riding the same 600 in 6 weeks and hope to faff for approx half the time to allow for much more sleep. The long game is PBP 2019 and I want to be able to start the second half well rested.


    • Hi Harry – yes my time for a 600 is usually around 36-38 hours with around 40% phaffage. Phaffage reduction is the key to PBP if you are riding at normal people’s pace I think…


  2. Nice work Al, It’s good to see you are putting that PBP experience to good use and I am sure it will motivate you. I am slightly concerned I am taking it all a bit too easy for this one, I have just concentrated on getting the miles in and my plan roughly involves sticking with Tomsk :-). I’m pretty comfortable that since PBP I have got much better at ignoring those around me and doing my own thing though which I think is a good thing in some ways.

    Looking forward to sharing some time on the road with a fellow kiwi!


    • Failure is a good lesson.

      You will be fine, you are stronger and tougher mentally than me 🙂 My prep is so much better this time all round and my ability and confidence much improved, so I have a really good chance at finishing it and maybe even enjoying parts of it.

      Sticking with Tomsk is a ride strategy in itself 🙂 As you know I will be riding with J and I who need some encouraging to get through the controls quickly, so I might start pointing at you and Tomsk to encourage them along!

      Liked by 1 person

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