1) 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.
2) Follow the route (don’t assume that another rider knows where they are going) and obtain signatures and/or stamps at the nominated checkpoints. 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 will be on your brevet card, although there may also be ‘secret checkpoints’, to ensure no shortcutting. Don’t lose your brevet card; it is proof of your ride.
3) Most riders carry two large water bottles. A little extra is better than not enough! Carrying bike tools, pump and spare tubes is sensible.
4) 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.
5) 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 35 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!
6) 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.
7) 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.
8) The Organizer/Emergency contact numbers are in the route sheet, let them know if you are abandoning the ride.
9) 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.
10) After a while, you’ll get fitter and faster and you’ll meet up with some 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 taker a longer break with a refreshment 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.
Can I be Disqualified?
Yes, the organiser or designated support crew members can disqualify riders for any violation of the Audax India Randonneurs rules. If you get disqualified you should withdraw from the ride and find your way home.
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, you must know how to fix a puncture or change an inner tube yourself.
Get kitted out: What clothing 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.
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 lights and a rear reflector to the bike. It is also highly recommended to carry another set of lights plus a reflective vest or equivalent for use at night.
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.