An audax or “randonnée” is a non-competitive long-distance ride from about 100km (62 miles) upwards. Legendary Audax events like Paris-Brest-Paris feature on many riders’ cycling bucket lists. Competitors are equipped with route instructions on a sheet or downloaded to a GPS. Riders follow a course through a series of checkpoints which are typically 20 – 50 km (12 – 30 miles) apart. In some events, riders are asked to supplement this by collecting till receipts in certain places and by answering questions about their surroundings at "information controls", e.g. recording a distance from a milepost.
At the end of the event, a rider’s brevet card is handed in to the organisers who check and certify the results. The card is later returned as a certificate of achievement. The success rate on these events is very high - probably only about 10% fail to finish.
What speed would I expect?
Riders are expected to keep within minimum and maximum average speed limits. For a typical 200 km (125 mile) event, the minimum speed is around 15 km/h (9.3 mph) and the maximum is 30 km/h (18.6 mph). You are free to ride individually or in groups as you wish. An Audax event is not a race, and no completion time or position is published.
Is there any support?
Unlike in Sportives, you are expected to be fully self-sufficient between controls and you must carry food, water, spare clothing and tools to meet all your needs. There is no sag-wagon. Support - for example a following car - is very much frowned upon. It is usual – but not necessary - to stop to eat and rest at controls, though no extra time is allowed for doing so. Organisers may provide refreshments at some controls (especially Dave Hudson, aka El Supremo, who prides himself on good filling food for cyclists!).
How do I find out about events?
You may want to ride Audax events with Excelsior members and you can check forthcoming events on the Audax UK Calendar. An entry form can also be found on the site. Entry fees are very modest, typically £5 - £10. There's a £1 surcharge for temporary third party insurance, if you're not an AUK member. Entry must be made in good time before the date of the event - if your entry is received less than 2 weeks before the start it may be rejected. Also several events have a limit on size of entry so enter in good time to be sure of a place.
How long is 'long-distance'?
Kilometres are used due to the French origins of the sport. A 'popular' event is usually 100km or less in length. The 'classic' distances for AUK events are 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km. The most illustrious event is Paris-Brest-Paris, held every 4 years. The 1230km (768 miles) must be completed in 90 hours and is taken on by 5000 riders from 50 different countries.
Brighton Excelsior's Bob Harber was successful on PBP in 2003 (89 hours 55 mins!) and 2007. 2007 saw the worst weather during the event for half a century. More than a quarter of entrants failed to finish, despite all having had to ride earlier qualifying events to be there. Simon Maddison has since achieved 72 and 57 hours. Both have also completed the premier British event, London-Edinburgh-London which, at 1400km, is longer than PBP.