Yep, it’s that time of the year already – the Fast Times In The High Weald audax is just around the corner (this Saturday, to be precise!), and we’re in the mood for riding!
If you’re thinking about giving audax a go, with spring in full swing and summer on its way, there’s no better time to get started! To demystify the world of audax, we chatted with BCC audax extraordinaire himself, Rob Hyde.
Sign up to Fast Times In The High Weald here.
What are audaxes?
Audax rides? Aren’t they mainly for old men on steel bikes eating muesli from a margarine tub in remote, windswept bus stops with a pair of tyre levers? They certainly can be, but also, they’re fun, non-competitive cycling events.
If you can get round a 100km Sunday club run you should be able to get round some of the shorter audax events without much trouble.
Done the Dunwich Dynamo before? That’s almost a 200km overnight audax without the brevet card bit, so you've already got some idea of what the distance feels like.
How long are the rides?
There are 50km rides all the way up to 1000km+, and even way beyond that.
Where can I find some upcoming rides?
Audax UK’s event page lets you search by distance, location, and AAA points.
Put simply, more AAA points = more hills. Let’s not go into how they calculate AAA points here, eh.
There’s loads of events near London which don’t involve too much logistical stuff which is good if you just want to test the water and work out if you enjoy it.
Do I have to join Audax UK to ride?
No, you can get a temporary membership for most audax rides on the signup page. If you join (a very reasonable £25), you get the chance to qualify for different audax awards and points, as well as get sent the excellent audax magazine Arrivee in the post, full of really long-winded ride reports where people list every single item of food they ate and describe the weather in lots of detail.
The audax awards are a bit like Pokemon, but for bikes. It’s amazing the lengths you’ll go to in order to receive a £2.50 enamel badge that you can put on your Carradice. The Grimpeurs De Sud is a good first badge – ride 5 x audax events with AAA points in the South East in the same season.
Be warned – audax badge and medal collecting can be addictive!
The GDS badge, in all its £2.50 glory!
What kind of bike do I need?
There’s no specific bike requirement - on the road you’ll see anything from 1970s steel tourers to carbon TT bikes and everything in between.
If you’re doing 200km+ then all-day comfort becomes more of an issue – you’ll thank yourself for making sure you’ve ironed out any bike fit issues, and that aggressive slammed stem you have on your best bike might not be the one. Some of the old school audaxers are stickler for mudguards, but it’s more a courtesy than a necessity.
Why bother riding them? I like sportives.
That sportive you paid £70 for last year where you got 2 gels and a useless medal? Audaxes are amazingly good value for money, with most of the sub 200k ones costing less than a tenner to enter. The routes are nearly always well-planned on lesser known roads, with great scenery. There's usually lots of cake opportunities.
They don’t close the roads for audaxes, but a good chunk of the routes are on quiet B-roads, so it’ll be just you and the bluebells for big chunks of the ride. The other riders are friendly and you’ll find yourself chatting to anyone from retired bus drivers, ex-squaddies right through to TCR veterans.
Am I fit enough?
If you’re regularly 50km+ club runs with Brixton the answer is yes, you probably are. And there’s nothing like signing up for a ride that’s slightly longer than what you’re used to to make yourself mentally prepare for it.
You don’t need to train by doing massive distances, club runs are generally fine. Just make sure you ride your bike a lot. If you’re ramping up the distances a bit of ‘sweet spot’ training isn’t a bad idea, but that's only if you're hoping to ride it fast. The lowest allowable average speed on most audaxes is 15kph, which is very generous.
Do I need tons of kit?
Up to 200k, it’s really what you’d take on a club run plus a bit of extra food and maybe another tube.
As you rack up the distances past 200km, you will be riding into the night so extra lighting and layers is a good idea.
Any tips or advice?
Audaxes aren’t races but it’s still nice to finish earlier and get round efficiently as there’s more pub time. All the stops, bathroom breaks and mechanical fiddling adds up – you’ll see the more experienced riders get in and out of controls and back on their bikes amazingly efficiently. Being quicker through the controls means you don’t have to worry about your average speed so much either.
‘Race out, tour back’ is a good mindset to have - building up a time buffer early on means you have some breathing space later in the ride.
As ultradistance rider Darren Franks puts it, it’s just ‘riding your bike, then riding it a little bit more’. Most of the low points in the longer rides are all driven by your brain rather than your legs. If you find yourself in a rut, ride for another 10, then 20 minutes and there’s a good chance it’ll pass.
This is a slightly jargony FAQ over on the Audax UK website.
YACF is home to lots of in-depth audax discussion. If you’re doing a specific ride then you’re likely to find a ride report here, as well as general audax advice / tips / long analytical threads about dynamos. WARNING: people post line graphs and bar charts here like it’s totally normal.
YACF’s extensive audax FAQs are also good / very nerdy and you probably don’t need to ever dip into here unless you’re suffering from chronic insomnia.
Download Epic Ride Weather for detailed weather reports for your specific route: https://www.epicrideweather.com/
Big thanks to Rob Hyde for his fountain of knowledge – if you’re new to audax, hopefully this article serves as a useful resource for getting started. Now, get yourself some SPD sandals and go riding!
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to sign up for the Fast Times In The High Weald here.