In the last couple of years I have been dipping my toe into the world of Audax. For the uninitiated Audax is the art of long distance cycling with a rather more adventurous and self sufficient approach than Sportive rides. Distances vary but short events/rides start at 100km, 200km events are really popular and from there the distances just go up and up with through the night riding on 3,4,6 & 8 hundred km events. The Paris Brest Paris & London Edinburgh London are examples of the more extreme length events. Events are either Calendar organised on set dates or Permanent rides ridden on a whenever you like basis therefore allowing good days to be picked. I have ridden a number of these Permanent events in the Lakes & Yorkshire which has led me to a number of remote spots/routes that I might never have otherwise found. Entry fees are minimal to cover postage/admin costs and I could probably do 30 or so Audax rides of 100-200km each for the same cost that my Mallorca 312 trip cost in 2016. There are no prizes, no tee shirts, no toot bags. It's a fab way to ride. Routes are followed by either gps gadgets or from written turn by turn notes provided by the organiser - no arrows pointing the way. And if you get stuck it's up to yourself to sort it out. There is a time limit for events but they tend to be generous. And so to my most recent exploit. One of Audax's slightly harder challenges is to ride 12 x 200km events in 12 consecutive months. My attempt at this started last Sunday - and thank heavens I wasn't on number 12 as if you miss one then it's down the big snake to start all over again!!

The ride I was attempting was a 200km loop that started from Ambleside, thence to Keswick, Honister Pass, Gosforth, Hardknott, Wrynose, Ambleside and then an out and back to Penrith to complete the distance. Proofs are picked up en route (ATM slips/receipts) to prove that you've been through each location to avoid taking any sneaky short cuts. Living locally I knew the route, knew the roads and had ridden all sections in the past many times. I had a maximum of 13h 20m to complete the ride. The day started a little gloomy but improved with little wind - perfect.

Nice to get a few easy miles in from Ambleside to Grasmere, over the Dunmail Raise, along side Thirlmere, to Keswick and a first coffee stop and proof of passage from the Glaramara Hotel before the first big test, Honister Pass. Honister done and then glorious Buttermere and alongside Crummock Water.

And then, approaching Lorton I made the most blitheringly, daft & nicompoopish mistake - instead of heading for Ennerdale Bridge and over Cold Fell to Gosforth I headed for Cockermouth, Eaglesfield and thence to Egremont via Frizington et al. Flipping heck, what a numbskull! That added about 12 unnecessary miles on. A few miles then along the busy A595 led to Gosforth and a snack before the double bill of Hardknott & Wrynose. If you've never ridden these before, come and do so. Up and over Hardknott then along the delightfully remote valley and up Wrynose. Care on descents here, the road surfaces are rubbish to say the least.

Disaster! With one tiny cattle grid to cross at the bottom of Wrynose I had a few miles to go before a fuel stop in Ambleside. Now, I'm not a reckless, fast etc etc cyclist but going over that wretched cattle grid over I went. Shaken & a bit bruised I thought that would be it. Rear derailleur was bent but after a bit of sorting seemed to still be shifting ok. Got to Ambleside for a decision. I was a bit sore but not totally broken. Eat, drink, go on? Or head home? I still just about had enough time. On I went. The Struggle was hard, really hard - and I ride this road quite a lot. However, glorious to now be riding in the dark in the most incredible star lit night. Down to Glenridding and on to Penrith. This seemed to take an age and arriving at a petrol station for food and receipt now realised that I probably wouldn't make the time limit. I'd also found that the gear lever was shifting an extra click putting the chain off the cassette and into the rear wheel. Ok, don't forget, if in first gear don't click that wretched lever again. Return ride was much quicker. A way past the last houses in Patterdale I mis-clicked, off the chain came and wrapped itself around the rear wheel. Tried and cursed to get it out but no joy. So, 10-30pm, crystal clear night, carrying extra jacket so not getting cold, no mobile signal, rear wheel not going round, started walking towards Kirkstone Inn following Orion, no one in at 2 lit buildings that I passed and 2 cars drove straight past my flailing arms. Eventually a good Samaritan stopped, but no room for either me or bike. They took my home number, carried on and rang Lady B at the earliest opportunity. They weren't exactly sure where they were as they were on holiday and had slightly forgotten to mention that I was walking up the Kirkstone Pass. Anyway, a rescue mission was organised and a good chum came and picked me up. Home by midnight, wounds bathed and wrapped in clingfilm. Bike taken to shop the next day and off to Dr's to have wounds dressed properly. Now that's a bike adventure! Luckily the way that Audax works is that I can have another shot at this route at my earliest convenience. So my 12 x 200km rides will start in February, maybe with this one, maybe with one of the other 11 that I have lined up. Ta for reading.

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Comment by Andy Bruce on February 3, 2017 at 9:25

Oooo, I don't think I'm hardcore enough yet to join the sleeping in bus shelters/churches brigade! I deliberately haven't bought enough bike luggage to carry all that extra gear. If I ever dared have a go at anything 400km or further I think I'd bottle out and grab a Premier Inn - even for 4 hours kip!

Comment by Middle Ringer on February 3, 2017 at 1:26

Great read! Good luck with the 12x200 challenge. Rather you than me, as Dave had said that AUDAX stuff is for the truly hardcore lot who don't mind spending 15 hours in the saddle and sleeping in bus shelters, haha! Hope it all works out and you get a lot of tailwinds on your journey! :-)

Comment by Andy Bruce on February 2, 2017 at 14:43

Thank you for the kindly comments Gents - and thank you for the compliment Dave Nash! The Cannondale has worked out really well for these sort of adventures - it's a much beater bike than bought since I've upgraded the bottom bracket, wheelset, brake calipers (trying the TRP Spyres) & tyres!! Hopefully I'll be able to add a post sometime in Feb with an update - then every month until next Jan.

Comment by Dave Nash on February 2, 2017 at 14:11

I greatly enjoyed reading your blog post Andy though it confirmed my position that audax is best left for the hardcore nutters out there (no offence intended - it was meant as a compliment!). In all seriousness, I have to take my hat off to you for setting yourself such a tough challenge for the coming year - the fact that you have to start all over again if you fail one ride is going to add to the pressure you have put yourself under. Good luck with the February ride and and all the subsequent eleven audaxes!  Be sure to keep us posted on how you are getting on!

Like the look of those Hunt wheels by the way and the Cannodale CX  . .  

Comment by Dave Rowe on February 1, 2017 at 20:44

Great article Andy, sorry about the chute, still as you say, there's always a next time. Conversely to you, I'm actually trying to cut down my distance rides this year, keeping to a max of 65miles/100k. I've had a couple of bouts of pneumonia and the breathing sacks ain't quite what they were. Plus, to be honest, I tend to zone out of the pleasure zone over 65 miles these days. Under 65 love it, over 65 I'm just hanging on in there. Altogether now, 'Man Up Rowe!'! It's enough to turn a man to derailleur gears. ETA tomorrow!!!!!

Comment by Mike the Bike on February 1, 2017 at 16:24

When things go wrong, they really go wrong.  Having made all those mistakes, although not necessarily on the same day, I feel for you Andy.  And best of luck for February.

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