What is audax? Part 4
Audax is a pace and an exercise in regularity and endurance. It is a kind of group ride where the goal is cohesion. Audax is a precise effort against the clock with time checks along the way. Audax is also a kind of tourism by bike. It's even a kind of traveling since you venture to different towns and counties. So, now that you're sold, let's talk technique and equipment.
How do you ride an audax ?
While the tempo should be steady, the course could definitely get technical. This requires calculated positioning within the peloton and constant coordination on various pitches, through turns, and into ever changing winds. In addition to the road captain, who helps with everything from planning to pacing and individual rider support, it is helpful to know which riders are going to be more challenged by the ride, either because they are new, out of practice, or just on a bad day on a hard course. These riders should stay behind others, allowing them a break from the wind and a check on their effort. All the other riders in the group break the wind and hold the pace, this includes changing formation with the wind and speeding up or slowing naturally for the "protected" riders.
What kind of bike do you need ?
The main priority for your audax bicycle is reliability. The easiest obstacles to avoid are mechanical. They can also become the most frustrating and demoralizing when out on course.
Specifically, you will need a bike capable of rolling at speeds between 15 and 35kph. This also means having gears and wheels that you could comfortably push for several hours at an average speed of 22.5kph. Your bicycle needs to be safe for group riding so that it does not endanger those around you on a ride. And it needs to be comfortable for the long haul. Your handlebars, saddle, pedals, and bike fit make all the difference on a long steady ride.
What's in an audax "kit" ?
Your kit is everything you take on the ride, including but certainly not limited to clothes, food/water, and tools. You are responsible for tubes for your bike! Others can help with a lot of tools and roadside repairs and emergencies, but there's only so much someone else can do to prepare for the particularities of your bike. Did I mention it should be reliable? A good audax team will handle unpredictable situations responsibly, keeping everyone safe and rolling. Still, it certainly fosters a better relationship with your peers to have the spare parts you need for your bike. Mechanicals can be frustrating, and mitigating negativity is a big part of the teamwork in audax.
You'll need enough water to get to the scheduled stops. If you're not sure how much to take, ask the road captain; that's his job. Food is very specific to the individual, so start by asking others what they will take on the ride. Then, make the necessary modifications for yourself. Remember, you'll need enough with you to make it to the next stop where you can buy more.
Cycling specific clothes provide a lot of comfort for long hours in the saddle. But again, to each her own. Specific clothing should not be an impediment to your participation. If you don't have a jersey with pockets, be sure to have some kind of bag on your bike or body to carry whatever you will have with you. This means enough bottle cages for your water and probably a saddle bag or handlebar bag for tools, spares, and food.