My First Ride

Last Modified: 28/10/2019

Terminology

  • Randonnée
    A Randonnée is an organised cycling event, that must be completed between specified time limits and is typically self-supported. These events are not races, everybody who finishes within the time limits receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. The rider will be given a ‘brevet card’ at the start of the ride which he/she needs to carry throughout the ride and have it stamped at designated checkpoints.
  • Checkpoint
    Checkpoints are predetermined “controls” and are generally bakeries, cafes, and service stations. The rider has to reach the checkpoint within the cut-off time and get the brevet card signed by someone at the checkpoint or a co-rider. ATM receipts are also accepted if no one is there to sign. Failure to reach the checkpoint within the cut-off time may lead to disqualification.
  • Randonneur
    A Randonneur is a cyclist that participates in a ride event called a Randonnée
  • Brevet Card
    A brevet card is carried by the rider and is used to record the timestamp and date at each checkpoint during and end of the ride before being sent to the organiser for validation.
    Brevet cards are handed out at the start of the ride by the Ride Organiser.
  • Homologation
    Upon completion of the ride, the Ride Organiser will arrange for the rides to be Homologated, that is to certify or confirm officially. Upon successful validation, a unique homologation number is provided to the rider which can be used to identify the ride.

My First Audax Ride

The end-to-end process to complete an Audax ride.

Ride entry is made online using the registration calendar. The registration page will also contain important information about the ride including the closing date for registration, a link to a RideWithGPS map, the start time/location and whether there is a limit to the number of participants. For supported rides, it makes the ride organiser’s life easier to arrange food and support if you don’t leave it to the last minute. As part of the registration process, you must confirm that you have read the Terms and Conditions and the Audax Australia Safety Guidelines.

The ride fee payment is made via credit card. Riders that are not members of Audax Australia pay an additional fee, although Cycling Australia members do not pay any extra. Riders under the age of 18 will need their parent’s or guardian’s permission to enter. Riders under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult throughout the ride.

Okay, so you entered the randonnée, your machine is clean and in tip-top condition, ready for the ride, all legal and everything, your route sheet’s been sent to you, you know where the start is, what now?

  • Without a well-maintained bike, riding will be awful. Make sure the bike is well serviced, tyres properly inflated and everything is as per law.
  • Examine the map provided by the Ride Organiser and get acquainted with the routes, terrain, and checkpoint locations etc.
  • Review the checkpoints to plan where snacks and major meals can be taken, as well as bidet refills.
  • Upload the maps to your GPS devices like Garmin, Wahoo or the likes.
  • Make sure to carry some form of an ID with emergency contact details.
  • Review the weather: upper and lower temperatures, as well as rain and wind speeds.
  • Charge batteries for lighting, GPS devices, phones, etc.
  • Plan your clothing. Consider taking sunscreen especially in summer.
  • Arrange any travel and accommodation.

Arrive perhaps half an hour prior to the start to collect your brevet card, possibly the route sheet and for the organiser’s rider briefing. There may be nobody about if you arrive late, Audax riders tend to keep one eye on the clock! You can always read the organiser’s copy of the Audax Australia Ride Rules.

A road-worthy bike is a good start. Anything recognised as a cycle in the Australian Road Rules is fine, bicycle or tricycle, recumbent or upright, faired or folding. The organiser can disqualify riders with unroad-worthy bikes.

Do I need anything else?

If any part of your event could be during the hours of darkness, you will be required to fit a set of front and rear constant (?) beam lights and a rear reflector to the bike and to carry another set of lights (can be flashing) plus a reflective vest or equivalent for use at night. This is a requirement even if you plan to finish before it gets dark. The organiser or a support crew member will check your lights and reflective vest before the event starts and the organiser will have no choice but to disqualify you do not have these. Under the Australian Road Rules, a light must be clearly visible from at least 200 metres away and a reflector must be clearly visible from at least 50 metres away when lit by a car headlight. Many experienced randonneurs choose to fit additional lights as a back-up or to assist in reading route sheets or signs and will turn on the lights as soon as visibility starts to drop. It is generally considered impolite to use flashing lights when riding in a group.

Remember the more visibility, whether it be lights or reflective material and tape on your or your bike, the better. Oh and don’t forget to have enough batteries to get you through the night on a long ride.

You may cycle on your own or in a group. Riding together chatting and sheltering each other from the wind can help the miles go by but be aware of your abilities. Don’t cling to the wheels of the fast blokes to later burn yourself out before getting lost because you couldn’t keep track of where you were on the route sheet. In general, organisers try to provide an enjoyable route but our events can include sections that are hard, hilly, heavily trafficked, cross railway tracks, are roughly surfaced, with steep descents, ridden during rainstorms, ridden at night or with all options combined. Keep your wits about you, the ground is not soft.

Follow the route (don’t assume that another rider knows where they are going) and obtain signatures and/or stamps at the nominated checkpoints. Till or ATM receipts also count if there’s no one around to sign, so don’t lose them. The opening and closing times for each checkpoint (usually 40 – 80 km apart) will be on your brevet card, although there may also be ‘secret checkpoints’, to ensure no shortcutting. You may need to answer an ‘information control’ question, so a pen to record the answer might be useful. Don’t lose your brevet card; it is the proof of your ride.

You should carry sufficient food and water to get to the next place you can resupply. Audax rides go through remote areas and country shops are often shut when we might want to use them. Most riders carry two large water bottles. A little extra is better than not enough! Carrying bike tools, pump and spare tubes is obviously sensible.

Don’t waste too much time off the bike but there is no need to burn yourself out on the bike. The time limits are quite generous and there is no prize for being first. Slower riders just get better value for their money.

Support is only allowed at checkpoints although there is nothing stopping you getting food, drink, mechanical assistance from disinterested bystanders. You cannot organise for a friend to help you between checkpoints.

When riding, keep checking the route. A route sheet holder attached to the handlebars is very useful. Do not assume the person in front knows where he is going! Use your handlebar computer (set to kilometres) to help gauge your location.

Riding in a group, or with one or two others, and your ride will be much easier. You can chat and take turns at the front of the group, sheltering one another from the wind for a minute or two at a time. On your own, audax rides can be lonely and more difficult, but don’t try to keep up with those who are too fast for you. You’ll only pay the price later in the event. It’s better to have a little in reserve than to do 40 kph at the start with the fast boys, get dropped and then get lost because you weren’t paying attention when hanging onto their back wheels!

If your bike is well maintained you should encounter very few mechanical problems. However, accidents can happen and disaster can strike. You need to be self-sufficient enough to get yourself out of trouble. That may mean bodging a repair or a long walk to a telephone box and a call for a taxi to a railway station.

Many riders carry a mobile phone, but don’t rely on this. You may not get a signal, damage your phone in a fall, or run out of charge. Make sure you are equipped to cope.

Widespread acceptance of credit cards and cash machines in many places means that you don’t have to carry wads of cash with you but once on the ride you are on your own.

Look in your brevet card or on your route sheet for a contact telephone number and let the organiser know if you are going to be very late or are abandoning the ride.

You must eat and drink. Have a good carbohydrate rich meal the night before and then snack on other high carbo foods during the ride. ‘Energy bars’ are good but can be expensive and you’ll tire of them in longer events. More detailed advice on nutrition is on this page

Two bottles on your bike are definitely recommended. Expect to drink about 500ml (1 regular bottle) per hour, more if it’s hot, and carry enough spare food.

After a while you’ll get fitter and faster and you’ll meet up with some of the seasoned campaigners who don’t dash about too fast. Note their habits. Don’t waste time off the bike. Many slower riders just keep going like Aesop’s tortoise, but they all get round. If you are faster, then you can afford to spend some time having teas and toast at a control or two.

Be polite, say thank you to the controllers, obey the rules of the road, smile and I guarantee you’ll be making friends and coming back for more.

Sun cream, rain jacket and warm clothing are prudent choices. These rides are long enough for the weather to change dramatically and rain or sleet at midnight requires something better than when riding on a sunny afternoon. It takes extreme conditions for an organiser to cancel a ride, so you should be prepared for anything.

It can vary from a route sheet, a card and a cheery wave at the start to lashings of hot and cold food, espresso coffee and sports drinks at every checkpoint. The organiser may even offer a drop bag service. Contact the organiser to find out what is provided and what is available along the route. Support, of course, is a great benefit but please don’t treat it as a right; it may not be possible to provide support to everyone across a spread-out field of riders. If this happens support may be biased towards the slower riders.

An organiser may help get you and your bike back to the start if you decide to pull out but has not made any commitment to do so. Randonneurs should be self-reliant. Don’t rely just on a mobile phone and an ATM card, our rides can go anywhere. If you do decide to pull out of a ride, please contact the organiser, to avoid somebody waiting patiently for a rider who has already gone home. Look at the route sheet or on your brevet card for the organiser’s contact number.

Most riders don’t need sleep on the shorter events but over 400 km most of us prefer to get our heads down for a while. The organiser may provide sleeping accommodation at specific checkpoints, particularly on 600 km or longer events, so ask the organiser for available options. It is sensible to adjust your riding schedule to take advantage of this although you can sleep wherever you wish. The tales are legendary of hardy randonneurs wrapped in space blankets napping on park benches or under bridges.

Think about how you will get home after a long event. Organising a lift home or taking a snooze before driving off are worthwhile options for a tired rider at the finish.

Find out more about night riding.

There is a cut-off time for the start of the ride, so if you for some unforeseen reason are unable to start with everyone but would like to start before the cut-off, please inform the organiser.
Similarly if you are unable to attend the ride, please inform the organiser. You may be refunded the ride cost as long as you inform the organiser before the ride starts. Refunds are not possible post-ride cancellation.

Yes, the organiser or designated support crew members can disqualify riders for any violation of the Audax Australia Ride Rules but particularly for lighting irregularities. A rider can be disqualified for being a danger to themselves or to other road users. If you get disqualified you should withdraw from the ride and find your own way home. You can appeal to the National Executive Committee but overturning the organiser’s decision is a rare occurrence.

Successful riders hand or occasionally post their filled-in brevet card to the organiser for validation by Audax Australia and Audax Club Parisien (the international governing body). It will be mailed back to you, together with the relevant cloth badge or medallion marking your achievement, if you choose to purchase one. Congratulations on a successful ride!

Top Tips for riding a Randonnée

  • Build up slowly: The key to successfully tackling any long-distance ride is to build up the training and the length of events progressively and consistently.
  • Be realistic: If you last rode 50km and felt broken by the end, it’s not a good idea to enter a 600km ride in two months’ time. Plan to build up with even stepping stones.
  • Count time, not distance: Try to complete a set duration per week for your average training schedule. This could include shorter hilly rides, mountain bike outings or steady riding on smooth, flat roads. Build the hours on a bike as you become fitter and stronger.
  • Take time out: Time off the bike is important for allowing muscles to recover and strengthen. Plan to cut back your riding by 25% every four to five weeks. Include a couple of easier days each week of your cycling, too.
  • Train on your audax bike: Because audax events are long, it’s vital that you feel comfortable on your bicycle. Try to train as much as possible on the bike that you will use for the event.
  • Bike fit: Ensure your bike is set up to offer optimum comfort levels. There are specialist companies that can offer you a professional bike fitting service. Also, don’t overlook the benefits of a good saddle, quality padded cycling shorts and the right pedal cleats.
  • Take it easy: Pushing out high gears for miles will build big muscles but it will also leave you exhausted after only a short distance. Try to stick to low gears that make turning the pedals lighter and easier. You will keep going for longer.
  • Carry spares and tools… and know how to use them. If you have a puncture, although there might well be others around to help you, it is important that you know how to fix a puncture or change an inner tube yourself.
  • Get kitted out: What you carry with you will depend on the length of the event and the time of the year.
  • Most riders prefer not to carry a rucksack because it can become uncomfortable after many hours of cycling so you might want to think about a pannier or handlebar bag. The new range of made-to-fit-bike bags used by bikepackers are worth a look, too.
  • Bright lights: Any ride that is more than 300km, or any ride in winter, will require bike lights. Two front and two rear lights are recommended.

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