Since starting my long distance training, I have been looking for new trails, new routes and ways to generally keep the miles ticking by whilst keeping the routes inspiring and entertaining. One day, someone said to me, ‘why don’t you do an Audax?’
I have to admit, I had never heard of it before and so asked what it was, ‘Oh its just a load of old blokes on bikes navigating from check point to check point – a bit like rambling but on a bicycle’
Sounds like a laugh (?!) I thought and something new to try, so I decided to look into it and entered one for a few weeks time – 200km distance.
After a couple of weeks training, I turned up on the morning to a car park and a small village hall, it was packed and there were 137 riders which I was told was quite a lot for this sort of event.
I went inside and picked my Brevet card from the table – This card we were to carry with us and get stamps at every checkpoint, which were 50k apart. It also had questions on it that we were to answer along the route – things like ‘what is the phone number for the hairdressers in such and such’
I was glad I had printed out the directions we were to follow – the route is not signposted and organiser of the ride, who is usually a local club rider, will provide written instructions like ‘R@T then SOX’. I have to say it took me a while to figure out how to actually read the instructions but I had also loaded the route into my Garmin as the organiser had provided a .gpx file we could follow also. How hard could it be? I’ll just follow everyone else, surely??
So there I was at 7am in a random car park, amongst a load of lycra clad maniacs clutching onto bits of paper and making the final decisions on appropriate garments for the day.
The forecast was to be dry but overcast, but there was a bit of a chill in the air and fog across the fields so I opted to take my waterproof – best to have and not need than to get caught out I thought.
As I was making my final adjustments from the boot of my car, I heard an almighty holla from the hall and then proceeded to watch as a massive swarm of cyclists came riding by – they had set off…. Best get on with it then!
I fumbled my way to the exit, climbed on my bike and began to cycle hoping I had made the right choice of clothing.
As I peddled along I was passing others wishing them a good morning and wondering if I should ease off, ‘just take it steady’ I kept telling myself. I hadn’t cycled any real long distance for years and today would be my furthest in one go – 130 miles / 200 km.
I would go by my heart rate for the ride and make sure it didn’t go out of my target zone and just see how far I could get with that and how fast.
Eventually I got chatting to some of the guys along the way and the company was great to share experiences and listen to where others had came from and how their love of cycling had formed.
I met so many different characters along the ride; it really was a mixed bag of people from different walks of life, different styles of bikes, different goals and experience of riding. Everyone was so friendly though, which made for a great atmosphere!
I was super nervous turning up to the event, as it always is a bit scary on your own and my own confidence had taken a battering in the last year, but after a while and settling in, there were a few of us that rode together, joked and talked and enjoyed the scenery together.
As I hadn’t done this kind of distance in recent days I had the underlying fear of getting left behind, or getting most of the way through and ‘bonking’. I just kept my foot off the gas but all the while I was waiting for the wall, it could come at any time I thought and I just kept eating and drinking hoping I got my nutrition right.
We went from checkpoint to checkpoint, coffee stop to coffee stop but the ‘bonk’ never came and soon enough we were bombing along the final road into the finish!
I couldn’t believe it, I felt absolutely fine, the legs had held out and I had had a fantastic day!!!
If you are looking to get some distance in, meet some interesting people and explore new routes and new places in a relaxed environment then an Audax is definitely the way forwards!
It seemed to be just a group of people with a common interest, sharing the cycling love with another with no added pressure of racing or chip timing, which meant for a lovely relaxed atmosphere and a chance to take in the scenery and enjoy the countryside.
If you are interested in signing up for an Audax event, you can find all the information you need at: http://www.aukweb.net/
Spiceys Ten Top Tips for Audaxing!
- Clothing – this is always a tricky one for cyclists to get right, but especially important for longer rides. Make sure you check the weather on the morning of the ride and take the right amount of layers. It is better to be too hot than too cold that’s for sure and if your not taking a waterproof you better be sure it isn’t going to rain as this can potentially end your ride if you get too wet and cold!
- Nutrition – this is probably the most important thing for the long rides, you must ensure you are fueling consistently along the ride, just little and often, grazing as you go. I use SiS in my bottles, a powder you can dilute with water to give energy and hydration. I also use their energy bars and take a bite every so often as well as a secret stash of jelly babies in my pocket! Its always best to try this out before a long ride and find out what nutrition works best for you, as this really is an individual thing.
- Maps – always download and take with you the paper directions, even if you have a .gpx file for your garmin. Most organisers will provide good instructions and its always good to have an idea in your mind of your next two turns to avoid getting lost. Its not unusual to end up on your own on a long stretch of road and not knowing which way to turn, so don’t be complacent (like me) and trust that everyone else is going the right way! Keep on top of it and look at the map before the event if you can to get some kind of bearings on the route.
- Bike – Make sure your bike is serviced and in good condition and that you are carrying everything you will need to fix punctures or any small issues. You will not be popular if you eat into someone else’s time or spares because of an issue you have on the ride and are not prepared for it. Also think about where you can store what you need to carry, you may need to attached additional bike bags to store clothing/food. You can get advice/spares/services from local bikes shops such as Spokes.
- Batteries – You will be out for a long time and especially if you are using maps, this can drain your battery, so it is best to carry an additional battery pack to charge your garmin/phone etc.
- Money – Make sure to take cash with you, wrap it in a plastic bag in case it gets wet, but some little coffee stops wont accept cards, so best to have some change and small notes with you also.
- Time – Arrive on the morning in good time to get prepared and set off, including picking up your Brevit card. Most Audax rides just start at a certain time, they wont wait for you, so make sure you are ready!
- Attention – It is easy to get distracted by the scenary or by chatting away with your new found friends, make sure you keep your wits about you and keep note of your surroundings and signposts, its all too easy to miss a turn whilst chatting (I know, I kept getting lost and having to turn around haha)
- Stamps & Badges – Make sure you get your card stamped and the time noted at each checkpoint. Mostly there will be volunteers there to check you off the list, but sometimes there is just a table for you to take your own sticker/stamp and note your own time. Remember to note your time. This is helpful to understand how long each section took you.
- Smile – Last but not the least, remember to smile! It’s a great day out and everyone is really friendly, don’t be put off by being on your own for your first one, you will get chatting to people and people love sharing their advice and encouragement, this is always easier if you give them a cheeky smile in return! 😉
If you have found this information helpful or just want to say hello, please leave a comment or just get in touch!