Riding a bike is a legal activity that involves intrinsic risks, including of road accidents. Some risk factors (such as the behaviour of other road users) are largely outside our control, but there are things we can and should do to reduce our exposure to the various risks while participating in Audax rides (and while riding generally).
Riders are responsible for complying with Australian road rules for lighting and visibility (as well as for other matters). These require that cyclists riding at night or in reduced visibility display:
You must comply with each of these elements, but Audax Australia recommends that you treat them only as a baseline. For example, we suggest that you use one fixed beam and one flashing light at the rear at night (although, if only using one, we recommend that it be flashing to say more obviously ‘this is a bike’).
Fortunately, modern lighting systems are extremely good and inexpensive, and less cumbersome than in the past. LED lights provide reliable, bright light and long battery life. They can be seen from hundreds of metres, even from kilometres away. Riders can choose to power lights with hub generators, which provide reliable light ‘on-demand’.
In using lighting, things to keep in mind include:
Of course, lighting is only one part of the visibility story – wearing a significant amount of bright and reflective material is also important to optimise a rider’s visibility to other road users at night and in low light (including when you are off the bike, such as when next to the road mending a puncture).
The Audax Australia Safety Recommendations contain extensive material on reflective clothing – including what works and what doesn’t, drawing on Australian and international standards and research (tip, lots of commercial products are not up to scratch). Key points include:
<< insert two panel of pictures here, taking from the Safety Recommendations doc. The first would be the three panels of the current Audax vest (on page 3) and the flanklets from the same page>>
In addition to the rear red bike reflector required by law, other options to increase your visibility on the road at night include using tyres with reflective side-walls, or to adhere extra reflective material to the rims, the frame or any bike bags you are carrying.
For more detail on the science of reflectivity, what works and what doesn’t, please see the Audax Australia Safety Recommendations.
By law you must have a roadworthy bike and safety equipment including a bell (in some states) and a helmet that complies with Australian standards. Not all helmets offer the same injury protection, and Audax Australia recommends you consider procuring a helmet with MIPS, Wavecell or other advanced safety technology.
Clothing needs to be not only visible but also appropriate for the weather. For long rides in particular, check the weather forecast along the route beforehand and take out some ‘insurance’ by packing more rather than less clothing. And for overnight rides, consider carrying a compact space blanket.
As our rides sometimes traverse remote areas, Audaxers will often carry spare spokes, a chain tool and tyre boots (or even a spare tyre) along with more basic tools and spares. Ideally you also subscribe to a mobile network with good coverage in the areas you most frequently ride, and consider using a spot-tracker or similar device for particularly remote riding. (The club has some for hire.)
Endurance cycling can place considerable demands on the human body. Know your body, its needs, and what substances you can ‘stomach’. If you have food allergies, it is your responsibility to inform the ride organiser beforehand, and supporting volunteers at controls, in order to avoid those foods.
Adequate fluid is critical for maintaining blood volume, regulating body temperature, and for muscle contraction during exercise. Proper hydration during a ride is also important for reducing tiredness. However, sweat rates and thus hydration needs are highly individualised, so there are no simple rules.
Audax Australia recommends that you err of the side of caution when deciding how much water to carry, particularly on hot days. Likewise, we suggest you carry some extra sports-gels or other calorie-dense pocket foods between controls as a contingency.
Cycling is a naturally stimulating activity, but fatigue and tiredness can build over an Audax ride, particularly a multi-day ride. You should plan to get plenty of sleep in the days before an Audax ride, and pace yourself during the ride to ensure you can get adequate rest.
Our circadian rhythms mean that alertness is lowest during the night but particularly between 2am and 6am, which is therefore a good period in which to be sleeping. (There is also another dip in alertness after lunch). If signs of significant tiredness eventuate (such as yawning, blinking, or not holding a straight course on the road), Audax Australia recommends that you stop for a rest, powernap or a longer sleep. (You may alternatively want to take some caffeine).
If after these measures the signs of significant tiredness quickly return and persist such that it is unlikely that you could safely complete the ride within the time limit, Audax Australia recommends that you withdraw from the ride immediately.
The trip home after a long Audax ride is potentially one of heightened danger, particular where riders need to drive long distances to get home after multi-day events.
If you are doing a multiple-day ride or a ride that you will finish in the early morning period, Audax Australia strongly recommends that you either: