What is an Audax Ride?

An Audax ride - known internationally as a Randonnée - is a cycle ride that has to be completed within a set time limit, including any stops to eat or rest. In most cases, riders have to maintain a minimum speed of 15km/h (some particularly long or hilly rides have a slightly lower minimum speed) and importantly a maximum speed of 30km/h. That's a little under 10mph and 20mph in Imperial measures.

It's not a race and individual riders' times are not published; if you finish within the time limit, you've succeeded.

Riders are expected to be self-sufficient. That doesn't mean that you have to ride alone or that you can't call on the services of a village blacksmith to help weld your frame back together, should the worst happen, but you navigate for yourself and if you do have any mechanical problems along the way, it's down to you to sort them or get yourself home. 

Some rides offer food along the way; more often, you'll be finding your own sources of fuel, from cafes and pubs to village shops and service stations. 

Throw in the hills, the British weather and distances ranging from 50km to 1400km and what might have sounded like a simple bike ride becomes more of a challenge - one that is appealing to increasing numbers of cyclists year on year.

Are you up for it?  

Then read on.

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The Route

The

One of the benefits of Audax is that you get to cycle challenging routes that have been lovingly planned and tested by experienced cyclists who generally want to show off the best that their region has to offer. They also tend to know the best places to stop off for food and drink along the way. 

Types of route vary widely. Some cram in as many tough hills as possible within a relatively short distance; others are more rolling or almost pancake flat. You can find yourself riding through chocolate-box villages, deep forests or bleak, exposed moorland - sometimes all in the same day.

Most routes are mainly on quiet roads, perhaps with the occasional stretch on a busier road linking the smaller lanes. On longer rides, many organisers also try to make navigation as simple as possible for the parts of the ride that are likely to be ridden in the dark by the majority of entrants or to ensure that there are other places to get provisions between the official checkpoints (called "controls").

Almost all return to - or very close to - the start point, making it easier to plan your travel.

 


Proof of Passage - The Brevet Card

Before almost every ride* you'll be given a Brevet Card. The name comes from the French word for "certificate" and is used to prove that you have completed each part of the route within the time limit.

The card will show the various points along the way at which you must "control" - in other words, prove that you have been there.  In some cases, there will be someone at the Control who will stamp or sign your card. More often, especially on longer rides, you will need to obtain a receipt, from a cafe or a bank cash machine, for example, that shows both the location and the time that you were there.

Some rides also have "information controls" which require you to answer a simple question about something (for example, a road sign) at the relevant location. You write the answer on your Brevet Card.

At the end of the ride, hand (or post) your card, together with any receipts, back to the organiser, who will check it. 

Proof

Sometimes, on shorter rides, the organiser will do this straight away and "validate" your ride on the spot. This means that your achievement will be recorded officially by Audax UK and, if you're a member, you will be credited with points that can be applied to the annual awards competitions.  For the majority of rides, though, your card will be sent to Audax UK for validation and then returned to the organiser, who will post it back to you. This generally takes a few weeks but can be a bit longer when there are a lot of events taking place or in the years when Paris-Brest-Paris is being held and qualifying rides must be validated by Audax Club Parisien.

* Some organisers of events that are ridden solo are now accepting GPS tracks as proof of passage, but this is not yet widespread.

Controls

Controls/

A "control" is a checkpoint along the route to ensure that the rider completes the distance in the relevant time allocation.  Typically, they are at intervals of 50-80km, along the route. Here, you will obtain your proof of passage, as explained above, needed to validate your ride.

There is a wide variety of types of control: a village hall, with drinks and snacks laid on or to buy; a cafe or pub, often offering a special menu for cyclists; a marquee in someone's garden; a "free" control in a town, where you can obtain a receipt from a place of your choosing; a garden centre or service station; or even a couple of trestle tables set up in a roadside lay-by.

On longer rides, controls may also offer you the opportunity to get some sleep before you set off again.  However, you should always remember that the clock continues ticking even when you are off the bike, so don't stay too long!

Of one thing you can be sure, though. On most UK Randonees you're never more than about 40km from a mug of tea.

Making your ride count

As the organisation that governs randonneur cycling in the UK, Audax UK sets the rules for how each type of event should be run and the differences between them. Rides that are "validated" by Audax UK earn the riders credits that may be counted towards a number of UK and international awards.

Reflecting the French origins of randonneuring, distances for Audax UK ride are measured in kilometres and altitudes measured in metres. For your first few rides you will probably find yourself constantly trying to convert from kilometres to miles in your head, but after a while measuring your pace in metric becomes second nature.

Our calendar (or group) rides start from 50km and most years go up to 1,000km. Every four years, Audax UK also stages the 1,400km London-Edinburgh-London (LEL), an increasingly international event for which members get priority entry. All the standard distances are listed below.

Riding at least one 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km randonee in the same year qualifies you for Super Randonneur status. Riding at least one 200km randonee in each month for a full calendar year enables you to claim the Randonneur Round the Year award. 

 

Metric

Imperial (Approximate)

 50 km

31 miles

100 km

62 miles

150 km

93 miles

200 km

125 miles

300 km

186 miles

400 km

249 miles

600 km

372 miles

1,000 km

621 miles

 

 

You can tailor the type of rides you undertake, and even when you do them, to suit your own requirements. 

Most people's first experience of randonneuring is a Calendar Event. This is a group ride, held on a specific day. In most instances, everybody sets off at the same time, everyone rides at a pace that suits them and, so long as they reach each of the Controls and the finish (also known, reflecting our French roots, as the "Arrivee") within the set time limit, is deemed to have successfully completed the event. Forthcoming events are listed well in advance here and in the quarterly members' magazine, Arrivee

To enter, simply complete the form, send it to the organiser with your payment (most organisers accept entries electronically with payment by PayPal), and you're in.  Often you will be able to download a printed route sheet or a GPX track straight away; in some cases the organiser will post or email it to you shortly before the event. All you need do then is turn up on the day and enjoy the ride.

If you want, you can also turn the event into a longer one, called an Extended Calendar Event (ECE), by riding to the start or home afterwards. Full details of how to do this are on the ECE pages but the key requirement is that your extension must take the total distance ridden up to one of the standard event distances. So, for example, riding 50km each way to and from a 200km ride would give you a 300km ECE.

There is also a huge selection of events that can be ridden on a day of your choosing, solo or with friends. These are known as Permanents and are listed here. As with calendar events, once you've entered you will receive the route and a Brevet Card listing the places where you will need to obtain some form of proof of passage. And you'll still need to complete the route in the required time limit. 

Another option that is becoming very popular is the DIY Event. Here, you plan your own route over one of the standard distances, inserting Controls to prove that you haven't taken any short cuts. You can use a blank Brevet Card (supplied by AUK) or a GPX track to get your ride validated. These can be round trips or one-way rides - handy if you're planning on visiting friends by bike!

Once you complete a ride, it's essential to have it "validated", which means someone (usually the event organiser) confirming that you have completed the route, visiting all of the controls, within the relevant time limit. Audax UK keeps a record of all validated rides.

When you hand over your completed Brevet Card at the end of a ride, you are starting a process that harks back to the very roots of Audax UK in the 1970s and a group of determined British cyclists who wanted to take part in the world's premier long distance event, the 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris.

To qualify for PBP requires riders to complete a series of randonnees that can be validated by its organising body, Audax Club Parisien. Audax UK was established to run this series of events in the UK so that British riders could qualify for PBP without having to travel to the Continent.

Thus, Audax UK is the only organisation authorised to validate randonnees that are registered with either Audax Club Parisien or with the worldwide governing body for long-distance cycling, Les Randonneurs Mondiaux. 

Depending on the length and status of the ride, your card will be validated as one of the following:

  • Brevet Populaire (BP, usually under 200 km)
  • Brevet de Randonneur (BR, 200(+) km)
  • Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM, 200-1000 km)
  • Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (RM, 1200(+) km)

The distinction between BR and BRM is important as only BRM events may be used as qualifying events for Paris-Brest-Paris.  However, all completed events over 200km earn the rider Audax UK points and are counted towards the various awards presented each year (for more details of those, see the Awards pages).

It's also worth noting that while Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs) may be ridden in Brevet Populaire (BP) events, they are not eligible for validation. 

As mentioned in the section on validation, there are several different classifications of randonnee that are governed and validated by Audax UK.

The principal ones for events that are ridden all year-round are:

  • Brevet Populaire (BP, usually under 200 km);
  • Brevet de Randonneur (BR, 200(+) km);
  • Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM, 200-1000 km); and
  • Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (RM, 1200(+) km).

You can find out the detailed rules governing each by following the links.

There are also two other important classifications that are ridden only at specific times of the year. These are:

  • Easter & Summer Arrows; and 
  • Dinner Darts.

In both cases, these are one-way rides to to from a specific location. Riders choose their own start point and plan their own route, subject to minimum distance and time requirements. Again, you can find out all about them by following the links.