Audaxers / Randonneurs - Share your knowledge and experiences!

Hello!

After doing the festive 500 and reflecting on where my training has slowly been gravitating towards (I’m one of those people who loves a good 2-3 hour trainer ride), I am thinking of getting into long distance cycling. However, googling around leads me to many random forums and not many great places of centralized discussion about people’s experiences, tips, tricks, and bike setups.

Why don’t we use this topic to discuss anything and everything related to long distance cycling. Would love to see the bike setups, experiences, and thoughts of other TR users who focus on long, non-competitive distance cycling.

To start off, perhaps people talk about what got them into long distance cycling, what setups they use, and just anything that comes to mind when thinking about it.

Edit: Will add annotations here since it appears theres a lot of lingo that many may not know

PBP: Paris - Brest - Paris: 1,200km long distance cycling event. Started in 1891 and is considered to be one of the most prestigious long distance cycling events in the calendar.

LEL: London-Edinburgh-London: 1,500km long distance event in the UK. Started in 1894 and happens every 4 years. Another one of the prestigious long distance events one can ride

TCR: Transcontinental Race: According to them: “The Transcontinental Race is the definitive self-supported bicycle race across Europe”. The race is roughly 4000km with set control points but no clear map of how to get there. It is also a competitive race but many take it as an Audax.

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I’ll bite…

  1. I spent a decade doing “ultra” type stuff before it had a cool name and even cooler gear.
  2. Then spent almost two decades evolving into an adult with responsibilities and played basketball three to six nights per week.
  3. Knees are mostly shot now and I’m fondly remembering my “ultra” decade. Don’t have the time for summers hiking the long trails anymore, so bicycling is the next best option.
  4. Picked up a Surly LHT to be N=1 and fully Fredified it. Rear rack, fenders, handlebar bag. It works and there is something to be said for training on a bike with twice the weight and twice the wind resistance of my peers. Plus, it’s indestructible and less likely to be stolen than the rest of the bikes leaned up against the wall at Sheetz or WaWa.
  5. I’ve spent the past 18 months working hard to move from a middle of the bell curve of completion times (it’s never ever a race) to the 25% percentile. There are a slew of racing “ultra” types up in 10% zone and I’ll never reach their ride speeds, but it’s still fun to steadily get stronger / faster. I might even bite the bullet and replace the Surly LHT someday with something zippier.

Edit: Honestly, the best way to learn about Audax / Rando riding is to just sign up for a ride and talk to folks. The pace we roll (IF = 0.6) is a talking pace and every single rider has opinions about everything. And it will blow you away to see the geezers on their old steel racing bikes still crushing out the mileage.

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Thanks for this!

I would love to sign up for a ride and talk but…you know…Rona…which is why I made this thread as I avoid doing actual work.

Any funny stories / opinions from the Geezers that you remember? Also, training wise, do you use TR to train for these rides or is this mostly for general fitness given your background.

Lastly, whats your dream bike?

TR is great for raising the FTP. Rolling all day at 60% of 280 watts finishes a 400K hours ahead of riding at 60% of 220 watts. You can use those hours to get home sooner, take longer breaks, or wait at the finish to share pizza & beer with the folks arriving after you; just depends on the mood of the day. And even though it is never a race, we’re all still human and passing riders on a long hill while staying at tempo pace is always satisfying…

My favorite geezer stories are the mechanical failures that are overcome. Guys (and gals) 10 hours into a 20 hour ride having a derailleur break or crank arm snap off. Ridiculous stuff, but two zip ties, some spit, and a random stick get them hobbling to the finish line just before the time cut off.

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This is likely the apex of ‘audax stories’:

https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=47514.0

I’m not on that level, only have 4 SR series and a PBP to my name :smiley:

Where are you based? (as I have a feeling UK and US audax is very different and the advice might change, and possibly the available kit)

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That story is some “1920s Tour De France” type story. Awesome

Only. Lol

UK based so things work in SI units. But I think many long distance cyclists have similar stories, tips and tricks since its all about going as long as you can. Thoughts?

Hi

I started life doing Judo/Karate from the age of 10. Got some medals and black belt in Judo. But Then got a job so training time eventually drifted, to playing squash, Then someone sold me a bike, i had always run to keep fit, so it was inevitable, lets try swimming which i had not really ever done. Got a swim coach and 5 days a week of training. I did a Tri, short distance, did those for about 12 years, doing Time trials also. Eventually too many injuries, shoulder and ankles. Left cycling. Trained for LEJOG for cancer charity did that in 5 days with 2 other guys. Late in 2006 decided i would try to do Paris Brest Paris, my first audax was on the 2nd of January 200km, it was cold, frost covered puddles, windy, i rode a steel bike with mudgaurds and a rack and pannier, i finished that event at 4:30pm in the dark , cold and needing something to eat. The organiser laid on soup and coffee and chocolate :slight_smile: I told them it was first ever audax and he told me i had finished 3rd which lifted my spirits. I did the the 300, 400 and 600 all in Scotland and got my entry to PBP in 2007. All i can say i loved PBP, the people were fantastic. It Rained for 2 and 1/2 days. over 1700 people failed to finish, after that they changed the way you qualify for PBP now. Oh! i should say i did finish , in 86hrs 15 minutes.

I have small story, i was on a 200km, broke a spoke still cycled 100km with a front wheel wobbling all the way home. At the start of LEL, i made the mistake of saying to the guy next to me that i had not had a puncture for 10 years, 15 minutes late …yep flat.

I love my Canyon Endurance… Thinking of getting the Giant Defy advanced pro 2.

I use training road for structured training. As a 55 year getting a higher FTP does make doing Audax easier. Like mimod says, doing 60% to 70% wattage does mean you will finish.

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Isn’t that the legendary 2007 PBP where conditions were so bad that 30% of people didn’t finish (I can wikipedia)? That must have been crazy. Would love to hear what you remember from that more.

Yeah I think a lot is similar, we’re relatively spoiled in the UK with 24 hour availability of food/drink at petrol stations/motorway services/mcdonalds etc though, from what I’ve heard of elsewhere though. Here are some random tips in no particular order that I’ve found:

  • Carry more food than you think you need. Despite the above, when you run out of food/drink it’ll inevitably be 100km from the nearest town and 4am. Due to this I’ve often finished a ride with an unopened bag of fruit and nuts I’ve carried 600km, but better that than the alternative IMO!

  • Have easy gears. The gear that’s definitely easy enough for the steepest hill in your area might not be easy enough for that hill after 35 hours on the bike…and there might be steeper hills where you’re going! I’ve got a 34 front, and 11-36 on the rear on my bike.

  • Dynamo lights aren’t cool, but they are effective. Being able to run lights all day and night is a luxury/safety feature I really appreciate, plus the beams are usually much better and more efficient.

  • I’ve found that sleep is important on 400+ rides, so I’ll carry light bivvy kit. The penalty of the extra weight (0.5-1.5k depending what I bring) is much less than the speed loss I’ll have from not sleeping/trying to sleep in a hall with 100 people roaming around the whole time

  • I’ve tried all the ‘efficient’ bikepacking style luggage, mostly you end up wasting time looking for stuff. Want a multi tool? You’ll realise you packed it first as it’s heavy and small, so it’ll be at the bottom of your bikepacking bag and you’ll have to unload everything else onto the floor (probably in the dark) to find it. A much better option is a Carradice-style bag, organised in a way that you can get to anything you need in seconds. (side tip: put your head torch the top of a side pocket, so when that disaster happens in the dark at least you’ll be able to get light on the problem without an issue). I usually combine the saddle bag with a top tube bag for easy access to extra food on a longer ride.

  • Layers are important. You’ll often go from nearly freezing to nearly 30c on the course of a ride. Arm/leg warmers, a gilet and a waterproof will get you a long way and cover most of the spectrum. I’ve got the Rapha insulated gilet, and despite the price it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made (cheaper options are available). I’d only bring a normal gilet in the height of summer if there was no rain forecast.

  • Silly little tips:

  • Eat as soon as you stop, even if you’re stopping in a cafe the food will take a few minutes - don’t waste them not refueling.
  • If you get a puncture, eat first then fix it (bonus, you won’t have to eat using black hands! double bonus if you’ve brought latex gloves as well…).
  • When you take off your gloves in the cold, shove them under your jersey - you won’t lose them and they’ll be warm when you put them back on.
  • Don’t worry about how far the end is, just the next control. and finally, remember to fill your water bottles when leaving a control! (and don’t leave them on a table before setting off like I’ve done twice!)
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I think many of us that survived PBP 2007 have tried to blank it out of their minds.

Just kidding, but it definitely was awful. I think the only reason I finished was because I’d never done it before so I sort of thought “well, I suppose it’s always like this.” Now that I’ve done 3, I’ve learned that that isn’t the case.

I think the best advice is just to dive right in. Ask lots of questions and just ride your own ride. Getting my FTP up and my weight down has made all my brevets way more enjoyable…a side effect of being a bit faster is that you have a bigger time cushion for sleep or just getting home sooner.

Hi.
It was the legendary year, just over 60% finished. I remember a lot , starting at 9pm at night set of in waves of 500, behind the motorbike who guides the riders out of paris first 20km. After that its a free for all various speeds and jumping. But it one Huge trail of rear red LED lights. The first control was at 140km Mortagne came very quickly, , just a control point no food. I do not remember when the rain started, but had overshoes water proof and baseball cap on, head down, next control. I was told do not waste time in the controls, so quick feed pasta chicken and pudding, cola. Water bottles filled and off. That’s how it was all the way to Carhaix, 27 hours in, Rain was not taking its time to come down. I was starting to have micro sleeps on the bike. This was where i spent the best 7 euros ever in my life for a bed,towel and soap for a roasting hot shower. 5 hours sleep booked in. up at 5am. breakfast and off as the sun came up. Head up over the ROC… Then made it to Brest, it was sunny, the control was at the top a very steep climb. Beer at the control, warm sunshine people lying out on the grass. I did not hang around, set of with a Guy i had cycled with in previous Audax. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon… RAIN. The journey back feels great as you are heading home. Some low’s in the controls when i could not eat…Another control and 1am and got a bed for 5hour sleep. Stuffed my face with breakfast, set off with my cycle buddy, who did sit at the back for a lot of the time… We swapped my painkillers for Andrew, and he gave me Sudocream. We changed strategy for sleep, Got to the control at Fougers at 6pm , got a bed, shower, shave… 5 hours sleep. when we went to sleep, only 10 people in the sports hall. When we woke, 800 people, all snoring and FARTING… was a smiling moment. Had another bite to eat set off into the dark, this where you find out the French villages switch the street lights off at some point… Secret control…French people staying up just to meet riders… amazing :-))) After riding with Andrew for 500km, he was feeling busted, so i headed of to Paris after a dull experience in Deux, concrete mess. I paired up with a guy from America, he was being supported by his wife, so he was riding light. We sat at 20mph for 80km. There is some lumpy bites of road as you approach Paris and people even stated racing to the finish. Got to paris, people cheering you home :slight_smile: Awesome. The bath and legs afterwards…arrrggghhh.

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These are all really really good tips. Thanks for your experience on that. I may be randomly asking you why on various parts why you give these recommendations since a lot seem to come from personal experience.

What got you into Audax? (I assume you are UK based) if you don’t mind me asking? Also, are you using TR much like others say; to raise FTP so long distance rides can be run at higher watts?

Yeah no problem!

I got into it as most of my favourite rides had been long ones, a London to Winchster return, ‘Chase The Sun’ from London to Burnham-on-sea and perhaps crucially, the Ditchling Devil which was my first official Audax. I loved the route and organisation and did my first SR series the next year. It’s been a long road since then!

Yeah basically, get fitter, 60% of 300 is faster than 60% of 200 etc (although from personal experience I’ve had trouble holding over 100w on the second day of a particularly bad 600!)

I generally use TR in the off season and mostly give up during the season, this year as there have been no events since March I’ve been doing more structure - it definitely works! I’ve learnt to try and keep some structure even during the season, in fact my best ever 300 (subjective feeling rather than speed) was the week before the lockdown, so I know I don’t need mega miles outside - at least at my stage of experience. I can say that I spent a couple of seasons learning pacing, fueling and sleeping strategies that you can’t learn indoors, but with that in my back pocket now I feel higher fitness and freshness is probably better.

One of the guys in our club has just started doing Audaxs and I think signed up with Audax UK… From his first couple of rides before lockdown he’s firmly got the bug and from those hooked up with others.

It’s like being on here or in a club - very supportive. I admire people who can do these long events - family means I can’t at the moment but one day. :grin:

If you’re in the UK even during lockdown I’m sure you could find out others local to you and try and get some more tips and training ideas.

But we’re in actual lockdown so meeting up isn’t feasible.

Any chance at Audaxing in the future for you?

Use forums, you have an email and a phone. You can chat to people remotely. If you want to do something about it do that. Isolation can be an excuse but it shouldn’t be a barrier. You can pick folks brains maybe even local ones and go for some long solo rides trying out tips you’ve picked up.
I wasn’t advocating going for a ride with anyone.

If I want to do an Audax in the future I’d be training now. Go for a very long ride - be sensible about it like create a circular route around your home and do several laps.

Er, no I wouldn’t Audax as it simply doesn’t appeal. I’d rather spend time with the wife and kids. Club rides are the absolute limit when they’re allowed.
Each to their own.

Out of curiosity, how long do you think it took for you to have the legs for long distance riding? Is it more withstanding physical fatigue over time or is it more of a mental thing?

I did PBP last year (my first) and in fact, 9 months before that I hadn’t ever done and audax. I was chatting to a guy at a dinner, and he was a veteran of many PBPs - he made it sound amazing. So, I started getting interested. I set little targets. First ride a 200 and see how it goes. Then a 300. Then a 400… and at that stage I started to believe I could do it. Moreover, I was really, really enjoying audax.

I finished PBP reasonably well up, and I am already planning more/similar stuff. But I do like to set targets and push myself, even though the events are non-competitive and there are certainly no prizes, or even timed results - just a list of who has completed. But there is something very nice about being able to push yourself well over those kind of distances.

Because I wasn’t confident in my long distance ability last year, I just did a lot of long rides at Z2. It gave me confidence, but it probably didn’t make me quick. This year I am using TR - but I’m experimenting, and focusing on sweetspot, as its very specific.

There is a guy called Eric Norris who has done a brilliant series of videos on youtube under the name campyonlyguy. They are absolutely invaluable, and should be on the list for anyone thinking about PBP or LEL. I probably learned more from him than anyone.

Audax and rando are very broad churches, and there’s room for all sorts. One of the difficult bits is to work out how you want to approach events and what you want to get out of them. This could well have a bearing on… well, everything from training, bike choice, kit choice, sleep approach… the list goes on. But do bear in mind that just because one person says “always do this” doesn’t mean you have to. But unless you have a lot of experience, its well worth giving each of these bits of information proper consideration, because you can bet that someone has learned each one the hard way, and has a story to tell!!

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