Fancy some distance cycling in 2017? Tackling some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery? Collecting stickers and receipts? Or perhaps just enjoying a day out cycling a great route without the sportive price tag? Then, perhaps Audax is for you!
What is Audax?
Audax United Kingdom, known as Audax UK or AUK, is the foremost long-distance cycling association in the UK. It was established in 1976. AUK oversees the running of long-distance cycling events, and, using a system of timed checkpoints, validates and records every successful ride. Cycling clubs, CTC groups and individuals organise and run the events themselves, which go from 50km up to 1,400km (yes, that’s 875 miles!). There are a series of challenges within the Audax system, such as accruing altitude points for hilly rides or the Super Randonneur series of events at 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k. There are also Audax associations in many other countries.
What are Audax rides?
At the start of a ride, you get a brevet card which contain details of controls (checkpoints) on the ride. At each control, you must get a proof of passage in order to validate the ride. These could be a volunteer with a stamp, stickers from a certain café, a receipt from the town or the answer to a simple question (eg, What is the first name on the war memorial?). For navigation, you get a paper routesheet and, sometimes, a file for sat navs/Garmins. The timings for Audax rides are around 15km/h (9.5mph), so as long as you pace yourself, take sensible breaks and avoid a major mechanical, you should complete the ride in time. Audax is a non-competitive form of cycling where finish times are not recorded. The main thing is to enjoy the challenge of the ride. You can also ride DIY routes or routes designed by others (Permanents) at a time of your choosing and validate the ride with receipts or a GPS track log.
Audax events do not include ‘broom wagons’ or rescue services. The level of support on rides does vary. Some include hot meals, snack vans and sleep stops (often a village or sports hall with airbeds and blankets) while others use commercial controls, such as cafes and pubs or a mix of the two. Some events with an early start also offer a basic place to sleep before the ride. In general, events are run on a volunteer basis and costs are kept to a minimum. Details of typical entry fees are below.
What are Reliability Rides?
These are distance rides organised by CTC groups and cycling clubs which are open to all and often run as a charity fundraiser, sometimes with refreshments before and after the ride at a clubhouse etc. Some have checkpoints, like Audax rides, and a certificate at the end. The club has run a few in the past. I’ve included three local reliability rides in the listings below, but would be grateful if you’d let me know of any others organised by nearby clubs or just post them on the club’s Facebook page.
Reliability Rides are generally open to all cyclists, and you can pay on the day. Best to check beforehand though, as some popular events do have a booking system and sell out. Rides run by Cycling UK (CTC) do sometimes offer you the chance to book a place and pay through their website.
You can join Audax rides without being a member of Audax UK. Most rides do ask you to sign up at least two weeks before the event, but some allow on the day entries. A few popular events, such as the Bryan Chapman 600, can be booked out a few months before.
For Audax events, go to the calendar: www.aukweb.net/events/ You can adjust it to filter events in certain regions, of certain distances etc. Select your event and click ‘Enter this Event’. You need to complete a simple form and pay. You can do this by printing the form, writing a cheque, enclosing an SAE or two and sending these to the event organiser. You can also complete the form online and pay using Paypal, generally with a small surcharge to cover the cost of Paypal and postage.
Audax rides cost an extra £2 if you are not a member of AUK or Cycling UK (CTC) , to cover ride insurance. Joining Audax UK is also good value.
How much is it to join Audax UK?
£19 for the year and £14 for renewal. For that, you get a quarterly magazine, ride insurance and access to the awards system. The magazine, Arrivée, is a very good read and the back issues available online (www.aukweb.net/arrivee/) give a good flavour of Audaxing. The awards system is really good as each ride you complete is recorded centrally and displayed online for you to see. It is a remarkable feat of volunteer administration. Successfully completing a challenge, such as the Super Randonneur series or the Ride Round the Year, often leads to a nice letter or email from the organisers. You can also purchase badges, patches and medals for a small cost.
Please make sure you write ‘Coalville Wheelers’ as your club name on your Audax UK record so we can get some points in the club competiton and see how popular Audax rides are.
How much do Audax events cost?
Costs are generally between £5-10 for most rides. There is sometimes a small surcharge for Paypal payments (around £1) and not being a member of AUK or Cycling UK (+£2). These events are remarkably good value when you consider the volunteer hours and that a toast/cereal breakfast, finishing snack and venue hire are often included in that price. Some events cost more, but you are looked after more.
Longer Audax events often include a manned night stop, and/or somewhere to sleep before and after the ride. The Old 240 (400K ride) includes a sports hall to sleep in before and after the ride, toast/cereal breakfasts, car parking and volunteers manning a public convenience and bus shelter in the middle of the night, with some sandwiches on offer. It is remarkable value for £8.
The 2015 National 400K cost £40, but included cereal/toast breakfast, four cooked food stops, two stops at the homemade cake/flapjack-laden ‘Van of Delights,’ a sleep stop and a third breakfast at the finish line. At the dinner, tea and supper stops, there were three courses available, with nutritious real food including soups with homemade bread, beef pie, chilli, pasta bakes, vegetarian options, puddings and so on. The cooked breakfast with Staffordshire Oatcakes was a particular highlight. If all else fails, there’s always road kill! 😉 Feeling hungry now?!!
What about events in our area over the next few months?
Further rides will be posted to the club’s Facebook page, and feature as a list in future emails.
Which events do you recommend?
I like hills so I am biased. The Coritanian Crippler is a good reliabilty ride starting from Birstall. The Yr Elenydd (300K, 4,950M of climbing) in early April is an awesome ride through some of mid-Wales’ best scenery and comes with basic free camping before and after and lots of well-organised controls. The National 400K is also a great event for beginners, as there are generally a choice of sleep points, four cooked meals, cake/flapjack camper vans and plenty of volunteers to help you. Flat rides, like The Flatlands 600, are also available. Each ride has a climbing figure listed.
Most events will have some description, discussion and write ups from previous editions on YACF, which is the most popular distance cycling forum: yacf.co.uk/forum
200 & 300 kilometres….sounds too much for you! The rest sounds even crazier!
It can be done! A good base of rides, decent lights, sensible pacing, proper food, TLC and some warmer clothes for the night help. As regards navigation, studying the route beforehand and making sure you can find your way using both a Garmin/Sat nav and a cycle computer and routesheet gives you options in case of problems. The Audax season generally builds up to longer events, and you can also tailor your training to follow this pattern. Feel free to ask myself or some of the other Audaxers around the club for advice.
Read the guidance provided by your event organiser. Some of this may well be very useful, such as advising of food available at checkpoints or junctions where you have to pay particular attention.
Some of the technical advice in Simon Doughty’s Long Distance Cycling Handbook (2003) is dated now, but much of the advice on training and so on it very relevant. There are also some great resources online.
Audax UK has a very good hints section, covering basic advice on rides, navigation, lighting and nutrition. See: www.aukweb.net/hints/
The unofficial forum for Audaxing, YACF, also has some excellent posts for beginners. You can search it to find out more information about previous editions of rides. yacf.co.uk/forum/
The Audax UK Facebook page is also a useful forum for advice.
What about an Audax weekend?
I will be riding down to London for Friday 3rd March, using a great route through the countryside. It’s just over 125 Miles/200KM and a good chance to visit friends/family etc. On Saturday 4th March, there’s the Hilly 50K CTC ride which takes in Box Hill and the climbs of the Surrey Hills, which I generally do with a friend. A good chance to enjoy some Olympic climbing! On Sunday, I generally get a train to Northampton or wherever is cheap and bike back from there. So if you’re not on the YHA weekend, why not join me?
The weekend of 15-16 July might be worth having a look at. There are three Audax rides (60K/100K/200K) from Corwen, North Wales, and the first two are good for climbers. The Barmouth Boulevard (200K) is a stunning ride and includes 3,650m of climbing including the awesome Bwlch-y-Groes climb. On the Sunday, you could have a reasonable run using the Denbighshire hills, including the Old and New Horseshoe Passes and a cooked breakfast at the Ponderosa café. There is also a cheap and good campsite at Carrog (www.stationcampsite.com/ ), an excellent B&B just opposite (www.parcgrovebnb-northwales.co.uk/) and an award-winning Indian restaurant in Corwen itself.
The Awesome Bwlch-y-Groes Climb
Let me know if you fancy either of these, or have an idea to propose. You can ring me on 07910 848465, email or contact me via Facebook.
What about an Audax event of our own?
I am thinking about organising an Audax event in 2018 using our club house as the start and finish. My initial idea is for an English Civil War themed 200 heading out to Newark. Please let me know if you would be interested in planning a route or volunteering or riding such an event