I started riding sportives and audax back in 2010 when I came back to road cycling having spent the previous 15 years on my mountain bike. At the time I didn’t know the difference.
I’d say what I like about audax is the vibe and the types of characters it attracts. The 70 and 80 year old who’ve been riding them for over 4 decades and still use lighting technology and bikes from the 80s to the youngsters in their 20s and 30s on about a modern a bike and setup as you’ll see.
The types of bikes are everything from folding bikes, mtn bikes, ordinary road and touring bikes, time trial bikes, recumbents, velomobiles, trikes. Everything from DI2 and aero wheels , to fixed gear bikes, to down tube shifters. Hydraulics disc, rim brakes. Traditional luggage , bike packing luggage though the latter as many are finding slow you down on audax.
You’re not competing and someone finishing before you, has zero effect on your enjoyment of your day out. There are all sorts of approaches, some maintain a high average and short stops at controls, some maintain high average but have decent stops, some rider slower but have minimal stops. The last group are wily old campaigners and can often be back sooner than those who ride fast. They spend minimal time stopped maybe less than 5 mins stopped over 200km etc in some cases. No one cares how quickly you completed an audax, and in the UK no times
I love the places the routes take you and type of lanes and places you’d never find unless very local to the area. Even in your own local area you can be surprised at places audax takes you.
I love the night riding which is essential if you’re going to tackle 400km and above events. I’m also a big fan of dynamos as battery lights are generally a world of recharging faff and pain on all but the shortest audax.
I’m also an organiser and love putting events together and seeing riders coming back having had a great day or weekend out with smiles on their faces and tales to tell. You see the first back, you see the last back, and they all get the same reception.
You hear tales of riders suffering problems, and other riders sticking with them to get through a bad patch or fix a mechanical. No one goes I can’t help this rider as it’ll ruin my “race”. There really is a lot camaraderie on the road.