Before we go to great lengths to tell you about yet another Audax, perhaps it is time we spent some time explaining exactly what an Audax is and why you might want to try one.
If you want to test yourself there’s a lot of mileage (arf!) to be had from the sportive scene. They’re often up to around 140km, occasionally on closed roads and food & technical support is often included as part of the deal.
However, if a long ride is what you are looking for, an Audax or Randonnée is definitely a good way to go.
What is a “Randonnée”?
The French word for excursion, a Randonnée is exactly that –an excursion. Rather than a fixed route, you are given a series of control points and you can decide which route to take. You will invariably be given a cue sheet and a GPX file before you start, but you are at liberty to decide which roads to take.
This means that if the organiser has suggested a winding route between two control points, but you are feeling confident and you would like to get home quicker, there may well be a more direct A-road between those two points as well.
At the start you are given a Brevet card with each control point marked on it. At each location you get someone –ideally at a café or restaurant so you can eat and rest, to sign or stamp your card and away you go to the next one. However, if it is very early or very late in the day you can just visit a cash machine and get a receipt to prove you were there.
However, unlike a sportive an Audax is completely unsupported, so it is worth getting to grips with some basic bike maintenance before you set off and also worthwhile having someone at the end of the phone should you get into difficulty.
You also need to think about where you acquire food and water when you arrive at a control –there will likely be nothing laid on, but organisers will generally do the route a few days or weeks earlier and give them prior warning. It is worth taking cash and a debit or credit card, as you never quite know what the control is going to be like.
It’s all about time…
All Audax events will set a time limit with a minimum average speed. A 200km event may have a minimum speed of 15kph, so if your average drops below this and you are near the end there’s a good chance you won’t finish in time. However, time spent riding over 15kph can effectively be “banked”, allowing you more time to spend at controls, eating and resting. This is of course based on the assumption that you are going the right way and not adding undue mileage to your ride!
This also means that the clock never stops from the time you depart until the time you get back again. If you have auto-stop enabled on your cycle computer, you need to turn that off as your average speed isn’t determined by the time you are actually moving but by a combination of moving time and rest stops. The more time you spend not moving, the lower your average speed will be.
There is also a maximum speed as well, typically around 25kph so that you can’t go all out and treat it like you would a race.
Finishing times are almost never published –they’re for your own benefit. An Audax is more of a pass/fail situation anyway. The only exception that we are aware of is Paris-Brest-Paris.
Calendar events, Permanent and DIY’s
There are different types of Audax events. Calendar events are set up by a local organiser and often run at roughly the same time every year. Your entry fee includes the cost of the Brevet card; the liability insurance and other costs incurred by the ride, such as overnight accommodation for the really long rides.
Permanents are rides with pre-determined control points in a particular order that can be attempted whenever you feel like (just complete the order on the website a couple of weeks before you ride) and can be started at any control point on the route (so pick the nearest!). The organiser will send you a Brevet card to complete. We did one called the Cambrian 1K that you might like to read about.
DIY’s are rides that you design yourself. You pick the control points, you pick the route and you let the local organiser know in advance that you are going to attempt it. You need to order some blank Brevet cards from the organiser, but they are around £3. We did one to Midford and back that you might like to read about.
DIY-by-GPS rides are similar to the above, but you submit a GPS track of your ride as proof of passage.
Points mean prizes
So, there has to be some point to these big rides, besides the camaraderie; the views and the experiences. As an Audax UK member you can earn points for each ride completed that are then totalled up at the end of the season. Points are earned for rides of 200Km and up, so a 200Km ride will earn you two points, a 300km will be 3 points and so on. Rides under 200Km don’t earn points for the season so you will often see them on the calendar with AAA points instead. This means that they are usually absurdly hilly.
The Audax Altitude Award (AAA) points are awarded for completing a route that features a significant amount of climbing, such as the Cambrian 1K and the Trefil Travail. However, it is possible that a route of 200Km or above will also earn AAA points. Buckle up, that’s going to be a really tough day at the office.
However, this is the thin end of the wedge. There are a variety of awards for completing set groups of rides as part of the Brevet series or the Randonneur series. For example, the Randonneur 500 involves completing a 50km, 100km, 150km and a 200km in the same Randonneur year (1st October-30th September). Badges and medals can be earned by the most determined, as well as qualification for Paris-Brest-Paris.
However, you don’t have to be a member to complete your first Audax and you can have your points added retrospectively if you decide to join afterwards. If you do join you get a copy of the magazine Arrivée a few times per year.
Is Audax for me?
If you have been inspired by the recent Transcontinental or even the Trans-America Bike Race and you wish to try your hand at riding longer distances or riding unsupported to strange new places, Audax may well be for you.
The cost of entry is typically lower than the average sportive, with many of the shorter events being less than £10, but there are no feed stations; there are no support vehicles and you alone are responsible for your wellbeing. You have to know how to look after yourself and your bike –including what foods work for you; what clothing you need to have and how to navigate your way around.
Longer events, particularly 600km and above are an exercise in sleep deprivation (or wild camping) and can be particularly tough, but you would want to have a good few 200km and 300km rides under your belt before even considering one of those. When you are ready for a 600, the legendary Brian Chapman Memorial departs from Chepstow every year, heads to the Menai Bridge before returning to Chepstow.
They are as much an exercise in self-discovery as they are about cycling. You may well spend extended periods on your own; you may contemplate giving up halfway around; or you may need to bodge your bike back together with whatever you have to hand.
However, there is great satisfaction in knowing what you are capable of and how well you can overcome challenges using your own initiative. If that is something that excites you, take a look at the Audax UK Calendar Events and see if there’s an event that takes your fancy. The Cardiff ones usually start at the Village Hotel in Coryton or the Toby Carvery in Pontprennau. Maybe one day we’ll see you there?