Wikipedia defines an Audax as “…a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport: success in an event is measured by its completion”.
Think of an Audax as a cross between orienteering and a Club Ride with a bit of “I Spy”. You have a set route to follow, defined on a cue sheet or as a GPX file, with control points to prove that you’ve been to key places and completed the minimum distance. With no direction arrows to follow you have to complete the course within set maxmium (no racing!) and minimum speeds. An Audax is not a race, it’s a personal cycling challenge!
Audax UK, The Long Distance Cycling Association, oversees the running of events in the UK, and, using a system of timed control points, they validate and record every successful ride. Rides build up from 100km with structured goals and awards for distance and altitude climbed. With awards from Brevet 500 (for 500km of Populaire events) to the ultimate goal of a Super Randonneur series of 200, 300, 400 and 600km events in a year.
The internationally reknowned Paris – Brest – Paris (1200km) runs every 4 years tracing the route of one of the world’s oldest bike races. Closer to home, the epic London – Edinburgh – London tests riders over an astonishing 1400km distance in 5 days, again every 4 years.
In order to prove you have completed the ride within the time limit you will be issued with a Brevet Card which will list controls; the places you must visit to prove you have completed the event distance.
- A standard audax ride is a Brevet de Randonneur (BR) typically 200km or over.
- A Brevet Populaire (BP) ride is a certificated ride of lesser distance.
- A Grimpeur or Super Grimpeur indicates hilly or very hilly events.
There’s also the Audax Altitude Award series, a points based system where 1 ‘AAA’ point is equivalent to 1000m of verified climbing, with its own awards series.
Regular Audax riders should be a member of Audax UK , if not then you pay a ride surcharge (typically £2) which provides temporary membership for the duration of the event.
You can join Audax UK as member (£19 first year, £14 thereafter) which means that you don’t need to pay the extra. You’ll also get access to all a log of your completed rides which are stored online and get recognition for your efforts in the various online results tables.
The website has a huge amount of background information as well as a calendar of all the rides organized by Audax UK.
At the start
The HQ for an Audax can range hugely, from a public car park to somebody’s house through to a village hall.
When you arrive you must first register and pick up your Brevet Card and any last minute instructions, don’t forget to complete and sign the Brevet card before you start and make a mental note of the Control points.
Many audaxes have catering before and after so you might even get a hot drink and a biscuit or even a full breakfast before you hit the roads.
The start itself might be a mass start at the allotted time or individual riders might set off when they are ready, watch what others do and follow their lead or try a ride with other club members that was posted on the forum.
There are four main types of Control points on an Audax all of which require information to be record on the Brevet card;
1. Cafe stop: here you’ll get a stamp, a sticker or a receipt for your Brevet Card from the proprietor. Most Audax organisers pre-warn the Control venues and they’ll be ready for you. Make sure the time is noted on your Brevet card as this proves you were there.
2. Organiser: the organiser may drive to meet you at a control and stamp or sign your card and write down the time.
3. Shop or ATM receipt: here you need to get a receipt or an ATM slip showing the location, time and date.
4. Information control: answer a question to prove you have been somewhere, typically; distances on signs or names on monuments.
On the ride
You’ll find that most people riding Audaxes are very friendly and will go out of their way to be helpful. If your experience of other cyclists has been limited to Sportives then you’ll notice a real difference in attitude.If you enter an event on your own, you will always find someone suitable to enjoy the ride with. There are also many types of bikes and kit on display, from classic racers, modern road bikes, fixed wheel, tricycles, tandems and recumbents. The pace is generally relaxed as the time limits tend to be generous (although there are also some fast riders), and quite often the café stops and social aspects are just as important as the cycling. The rides are unsupported meaning that you must carry with you all your spares, food and drink, taking into account the cafe stops and controls at shops for additional refueling.
The rides run all year, so be aware of daylight times, especially on longer rides, and be prepared with a decent set of lights if in doubt.
One important word of warning though – don’t think the rides are all easy. They aren’t. There are some seriously difficult routes. If you’re wary of hills then look carefully at any rides with AAA points but don’t take this to mean that a ride without any points will be flat. It is worth building up to a BR ride by riding some BP’s first.
At the end
As you ride round the route you will gradually fill your Brevet Card until you reach the finish. Again, the finish can be at a variety of locations. If the organiser is there (typically they are, sometimes with food laid on) they’ll take your Brevet Card from you. If the organiser isn’t at the finish then you will need to post your card and receipts etc. to the address on the card.
Make sure you sign the back of the Brevet Card before handing it in or posting it on. A few weeks later your card will be returned after it’s been validated, proving that you’ve done the ride. Job done!
If you fancy an Audax ride but you can’t make the organised date, then don’t worry. There’s a good chance that you can ride the audax as a ‘perm’ or ‘permanent’ A permanent is generally the same as the calendar event but you can ride it whenever you want.
You can enter the same way as a calendar event, they’re generally a little cheaper and you’ll receive the route instructions and your Brevet Card. Then, you simply ride it when it’s convenient for you, although some organisers do require an email or a text with the date you intend to ride. There will be no organiser present and no HQ so you’ll have to prove you are at the start and finish by collecting shop receipts or ATM slips.
After the ride, remember to send in your brevet card, after you’ve signed it of course!