Whether you fancy a gentle spin around the country or a 1,000 km odyssey, there’s an Audax for everyone. Committed long-distance cyclist Rob Ash takes us inside this incredible cycling subculture.
In contrast to the sportive, the Audax ride is one of cycling’s traditional disciplines and best kept secrets. The name Audax (‘audacious’) hints at the Italian roots of the sport. The rides are non-competitive, covering long distances within a set time, with success measured by completion rather than speed.
Your tiny entrance fee, sometimes as little as £4, gets you a paper route sheet and a GPX file. Navigation skills, a tool kit, bonk rations and mental strength on the longer rides are the essential requirements to completing an Audax.
All are welcome and participation is refreshingly varied. On an Audax you’ll meet a good spread of young and old, men and women, immaculate carbon and vintage steel.
The classic distances are 200, 300, 400 and 600km. You are handed a brevet card at the start on which you collect stamps at control points to prove you’ve completed the ride.
Paris-Brest-Paris is one of the best known Audax rides. 1200km in length with roots back to 1891, the ride is as almost as old as the bicycle itself. It takes place every four years and the next one is in August 2019.
The British equivalent, London-Edinburgh-London, which at 1400km is one of the most prestigious and challenging rides any cyclist is likely to attempt. The next London-Edinburgh-London is scheduled for July 2021 and the ride has grown considerably since it first ran in 1989 when there were 26 finishers.
Closer to home, there are lots of shorter Audax rides that start in and around the Bristol area. They’re a great introduction to Audaxes and some of the wonderful countryside in the South West.
Try one of these and before you know it you could be riding London-Edinburgh-London in 2021!
Las Vegas Institute of Sport
The Las Vegas Institute of Sport organise four rides that all take place on one Sunday every March. Their routes take riders along picturesque lanes in the West Country with friendly company and plenty of fine baking.
The rides include the 214km Barry’s Bristol Ball Buster, 116km Barry’s Bristol Bash and 116km Barry’s Bristol Blast. They’re also responsible for Barry’s Jaeger Bomb, a day long adventure in September that covers 306km of spectacular South West country roads.
A word of warning, over the last 10 years the Las Vegas rides have become increasingly popular and quickly sell out. Make sure you sign up as soon as entry opens on January 1.
South Glos 100
Starting from Alveston in North Bristol, this May ride follows quiet hedge-lined back lanes with controls at Tetbury, Sapperton and Kingscote.
The Tasty Cheddar takes place in early October. Starting off flat and easy, the ride covers 100km. Most of the climbing comes during the second half of the ride, up Cheddar Gorge and the northern slopes of the Mendips, giving your legs plenty of time to warm up!
Jack and Grace Cotton Memorial
This January 104km ride starts from Aztec West, Bristol with control points at Epney and Tortworth.
Audax UK’s top tips for completing an Audax ride
When riding, keep checking the route. A route sheet holder attached to the handlebars is very useful. Do not assume the person in front knows where he is going! Use your handlebar computer (set to kilometres) to help gauge your location.
Riding in a group, or with one or two others, and your ride will be much easier. You can chat and take turns at the front of the group, sheltering one another from the wind for a minute or two at a time.
On your own, Audax rides can be lonely and more difficult, but don’t try to keep up with those who are too fast for you. You’ll only pay the price later in the event.
If your bike is well maintained you should encounter very few mechanical problems. However, accidents can happen and disaster can strike. You need to be self-sufficient enough to get yourself out of trouble. That may mean bodging a repair or a long walk to a telephone box and a call for a taxi to a railway station.
Two bottles on your bike are definitely recommended. Expect to drink about 500ml (one regular bottle) per hour, more if it’s hot, and carry enough spare food.
After a while you’ll get fitter and faster and you’ll meet up with some of the seasoned campaigners who don’t dash about too fast. Note their habits. Don’t waste time off the bike. Many slower riders just keep going like Aesop’s tortoise, but they all get round. If you are faster, then you can afford to spend some time having teas and toast at a control or two.
Find out more on the Audax UK website and enter a ride