The cold, dark nights are coming, the incessant Christmas carols are blaring, and motivation is slowly fading – that can only mean one thing: winter is officially here. Many of us choose to hang up the wheels during the colder months, opting for a season on the turbo trainer instead. But what if there was a way to keep that adventurous spirit alive this winter, something that will keep us pedalling despite the weather? The fabled ‘audax’ is the answer, a remedy for those winter blues. Here’s our quickfire guide on the what, whys and where’s of one of cycling’s lesser-known disciplines…
What is an audax?
Lying somewhere between touring and sportive riding on the cycling spectrum, audaxing carves a unique niche for the most stalwart of cycling traditionalists. With no mass starts, sponsors, medals or jumped up racers to deal with, audaxing strips cycling back to its simplest form – an out and back ride with nothing but the spirit of sheer adventure and comradeship between riding mates to spur you on.
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The discipline has been around for over 125 years in Britain but has largely been kept a secret from the masses – many of the regulars unwilling to share out the pre and post ride cake. Once you arrive at the starting location and pay your fee the route will be revealed, either in the form of some scribbled notes on a scrap of paper or – if you’re lucky – a GPX file.
The routes are often long, many way past the 100 mile marker. As a result, they require an incredible amount of endurance and/or an insatiable appetite for cake and coffees – the staple audaxing diet. While there is no real racing involved, there is ordinarily a time limit that you must try and dip under. Fear not however, these time limits are often calculated by taking the most leisurely pace and then doubling it.
After all, an audax is all about the journey, not who crosses the line first or completes the route in the fastest time. It’s the perfect kind of cycling for those who have long since abandoned their dreams of turning pro.
Why should I join in?
Audaxing may be one of the lesser known cycling disciplines, but it’s by no means a club for cycling snobs. Seasoned audax veterans welcome the newbies with open arms – a smile at the start and shared slice of Victoria Sponge enough to forge a bond that will last the whole ride.
With no racing to worry about, the atmosphere is incredibly relaxed and inviting. You’ll hear countless tales of past audax events and no doubt meet a handful of interesting characters along the way to feature in audax stories of your own.
Aside from forging new friendships and immersing yourself within a historically-rich, cycling community, audaxing is also great for racking up the winter miles. By cycling alongside others, you’ll stay motivated for a whole lot longer and, ultimately, enjoy your ride through the – let’s face it – torrid winter weather. Audaxes are also some of the only cycling events to occur all year round, allowing you to continue exploring and adventuring with your new-found audaxing buddies whenever and wherever the mood takes you.
If none of that caught your fancy, then perhaps the incredibly small entry fees and veritable feasts of cake at the finish lines will. With events costing often no more than £5, you could cram a load into your off-season without even noticing a hole in your pocket.
Affordable and incredibly enjoyable – it’s a winning combination.
Where can I find an audax near me?
Audax events can be found throughout the UK, each corner boasting their own eccentric communities of bedraggled, long-distance cyclists. The best way to find out when and where an event is happening near you is through Audax UK, the official and internationally recognised long-distance cycling association in the UK.
The latest events are listed on the homepage of their website with a short description and difficulty rating for each one. They range from blue ‘easy’ routes of around 100km, to red ‘tough’ routes of 300km and above. Everything BUT the route is given to you on-site, including handy advice on what kit would be best to wear and what tyres would be the most suitable for the ride.
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If you feel like you might just catch the audaxing bug, then it may be worth signing up to become an AUK member. As well as cheaper event entrance fees, you’ll also receive a quarterly magazine packed full of the year’s best audaxing stories and photographs, 3rd-party insurance while riding AUK events, and a place in the AUK awards and Championships structure.
Audaxing is one of the best ways to stay motivated and have a blast on two wheels this winter. Before you get started however, you may just want to clue yourself into some of the top maintenance tips for winter riding. Audaxes are unsupported events and, as such, you’re left to the mercy of your own maintenance abilities.