Audax – the understated world of long distance cycling
In a world obsessed with bragging rights – Strava and PB times, Audax stands out for its modesty. Where else in the world of cycling can you find riders doing remarkable things but generally not wanting to make too much of a fuss about it?
Every weekend, up and down the county, people set out on organised events to ride significant distances, in all weathers. The only aim is to complete the event within a maximum time; but those times are never shared and eyebrows are raised at people suspected of racing or trying to be the first back. It’s the distance that is the challenge and, because the only competition is yourself and your nagging inner monologue, the occasion is about cake, community and collaboration rather than kudos.
In this two part guest blog, written by experienced audaxer and organiser of London Wales London and the Tour de Ricky, Liam FitzPatrick, we will introduce the world of audax to you and provide top tips on how to approach them and what to expect.
The ins and outs of Audax
The rides themselves are a sort of scavenger hunt on two wheels. You get given a card at the start detailing places where you need to call and get a stamp, a receipt or gather a piece of information such as the name of a pub or a distance on a signpost. Although it’s up to you how you navigate between these points, riders are supplied with a suggested route sheet and (usually) a GPS file.
The website of Audax UK [www.audax.uk], the discipline’s organising body, lists rides starting at 50km and 100km, although the 200km ride is a very common entry point. Finishers soon find themselves contemplating events of 300, 400 or 600km; and the true aficionados are drawn, mothlike every four years to the 1,200km flame of Paris Brest Paris – the world’s oldest organised bike ride (taking place next in August 2023).
Part of the attraction of these events is that they take riders down lanes and back roads in parts of the country that they would rarely discover unguided. Ever wondered how to ride from London to Wales avoiding main roads? Check out the London Wales London 400km. What’s the most scenic way around Yorkshire? Fancy exploring bits of the North Pennines and the Dales? Try the Hartside 200km.
A well thought out route with a bit of space to breathe makes riding outside your home patch stress-free especially if you find yourself out at night.
Riders are expected to be self-sufficient. There is no broom wagon to get you home, so mechanical issues have to be managed on the road. Navigation is the rider’s responsibility; no way markers or soggy stewards to point out the next turn and food is grabbed where it can be found. Sometimes there is a welcoming rest stop with home baked cake in a village hall, sometimes it’s a snatched chocolate milk on a petrol station forecourt.
But the biggest hurdle for many riders is the inner monologue that is lurking at the bottom of the next hill, sitting ready to speak up when the temperature drops a couple of degrees or is quick to point out the signpost to a railway station. For, on an audax ride, you often discover that the real competition is your own mind.
Thankfully, the spirit of community and collaboration is there to reduce the weight of these burdens. If you are uncertain following the route sheet or the GPS track, another rider will be glad of the company and the chance to help. Audaxers with mechanical issues often find fellow riders on hand to offer help or spares.
Best of all, experienced audaxers know that we all wax and wane at different points. When riding in company you are able to encourage a total stranger at the moment he or she is fading. And, in return, other people will be ready with a Jelly Baby or just a bit of silent company when your own energy flags. Which is why, especially on the longer rides or through the night, groups of cyclists join together in small friendly groups; some lasting until the next hill or others lasting a lifetime over multiple events.
We think you’ll do well to find an experience that will top an audax!
Tune in again for part two where we’ll demystify the world of audax further and bring you tops tips!