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Audax and Randonneuring vary slightly in their true meaning with an audax referring to a riding as group while randonneuring is about riding as an individual. However in this country the terms tend to be interchangeable so the information below will be based on that assumption.

An Audax or Randonée is basically a long distance cycle which must be completed with a certain time.  The word Audax comes from the Latin meaning 'brave' or 'audacious'. Audax in Ireland had started to die out as more people took up sportives and long distance cycling events were reduced in number. However in recent years there has been a revival of this aspect of the sport. See the Audax Ireland Website for a calendar of events. An audax is non-competitive and your success comes from completion of the event within the time limit.

Many randonneuring events are classified as "brevets des randonneurs" where riders follow a course through a series of predetermined "controls" (checkpoints) usually a few tens of kilometres apart. Each rider carries a "brevet card" which must be stamped at each control to prove completion. At the end of the event, the brevet card is handed in to the organisers who will then check and certify the results. Riders are expected to keep within minimum and maximum average speed limits. For a typical 200 km brevet, the minimum speed is around 15 km/h and the maximum is 30 km/h. Riders who arrive early at controls will be made to wait before they can carry on.

Riders are expected to be able to look after themselves and carry what they need for the journey which will include necessities such as food, water, spare clothing and tools to meet their needs. Preparation for such an event therefore is of paramount importance. Eoghan Barry of Audax Ireland has written a good article about Preparing for your First Audax

As well as the 200 km events, there are brevets of 300 km, 400 km, 600 km and more. These will typically involve an element of night-riding. There are also shorter events: in a "brevet populaire" (or simply "populaire"), riders follow a course of 50 km, 100 km or 150 km. These brevets are seen as a good introduction to the full-blown "randonneur" events, and also as a managable distance for riders who want to maintain regular participation in the sport over a sustained period of time.

In addition to brevets appearing on a calendar date, there are "permanent" (or "raid") brevets which may be ridden on any date by prior arrangement with the organiser. One of the most famous of these is the Raid Pyrénéen in France which many of local riders have completed. This is a 710km route over ten mountain passes in the Pyrenees which must be completed in 100 hours. After the Paris-Brest-Paris route it is the most popular and prestigious cyclo-touring event in France. There is also a tourist version of this which is slightly longer at 827km and takes in the Tourmalet. It must be ridden over ten consecutive days. It is organised by the Cyclo Club Béarnais in Pau and one which many local cyclists enter.

There are variations on the brevet theme including team events such as the "Flèche" or "Arrow", which usually converge on a single end point from many starts, and 200 km per day "Dart" events.

Chosing a bike for an Audax Event

Choosing a bike for an audax event is very important as you will in the saddle for many hours so you need a certain amount of comfort. Having said this events have been ridden on a great variety of bikes from  road bikes, and folding bikes, to adapted mountain bikes. The main points to look for are comfort and efficiency. The bike should also be suitable for carrying your equipment and be fitted with mudguards which are often a pre-requisite of many events.

It is possible to buy a purpose built audax bike. These, at first glance, are not dissimilar to a road bike, but they have a number of important differences.

  • There will Clearance and fittings for mudguards
  • Clearance for larger tyres (28mm including mudguards is optimal)
  • Fittings for a rear rack (to carry food, extra clothing and other essentials)
  • It will probably have a longer wheelbase and slower steering which make for a more stable ride.

This article is only designed to give you a brief overview of this type of cycling activity. For those of you interested in finding out more there are many useful websites.