As a touring cyclist, I had never ever thought of cycling 220km a day and on top of that, the distance has to be completed within 13.5 hours. This goes directly against my “go slow and enjoy the sights” attitude when I cycle.
Before yesterday, the furthest I’ve done in a day was 140km; with my bike fully-loaded carrying my tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils and roughly 25kg of stuffs in my panniers. There was no time limit and sometimes I would cycle from morning and continue throughout the night as I please. Then fun is in the journey and not the destination.
Well..that was before “randonneuring” entered into my dictionary and turning my usual cycling style haywire.
Randonneuring or Audax is another branch of cycling activities with origins in Europe and now spreading into this part of Asia. Audax Randonneurs Malaysia is the latest addition joining its affiliates in Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.
According to Wikipedia “Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. Riders may travel in groups or alone as they wish, and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls. A randonneuring event is called a randonnée or brevet, and a rider who has completed a 200 km event is called a randonneur.  The international governing body for randonneuring is Audax Club Parisien (ACP), which works with other randonneuring organisations worldwide through Les Randonneurs Mondiaux (RM). Randonneuring is popular in France, and has a following in the Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia, USA, Canada, Brazil and India.”
To kick off the new year on January 2, Audax Randonneurs Malaysia held Malaysia’s first audax for 200km ( the actual distance was 220km plus) to be completed within 13 hours and 30 minutes. The route was from Kapar towards the first checkpoint in Sungai Besar and passing through back roads towards the second checkpoint in Felda Kg Soeharto. The final checkpoint is again the starting point in Kapar.
Registration started as early as 4am and through Facebook the event attracted about 496 cyclists (paying a RM40 fee) but I’m not sure how many actually turned up that day and how many actually completed the course.
Every cyclist is given a brevet card that will be stamped at each checkpoint indicating the arrival time. This is a free-pace ride so you can ride as fast or as relaxed as you like but you need to meet the qualifying time window of each checkpoint.
This event is sanctioned by the Audax Club Parisien and governed by the same audax rules worldwide. The link to Audax rules are here (www.audax-club-parisien.com/EN/312.html ) Audax Rules
I entered the 220km ride riding my steel touring bike (the bike alone is about 16kg), definitely looking very out place, amid all the super light road bikes around. I also saw one tandem bike (really cool!) and 2 folding bikes whizzing past me in Jalan Kapar and I never managed to see them again after that.
To be honest, my personal goal for this event was just to reach the 2nd checkpoint at Felda Kg Soeharto which is about 138km away from the starting point. In fact I already made arrangement with my wife to pick me up at 3pm (mentally, I was even prepared to be the last cyclist to reach each checkpoint).
My personal cycling preference is cycle touring (relaxed-paced cycling, taking in the sights and stopping whenever i like, as long as i want, with no time pressure what so ever) so for a distance of 220km given my usual pace and current fitness level it would normally take 2.5 days to complete :mrgreen:.
An audax is a self-support event, that is what attracted me to it. No support cars, no marshalls, no directional arrows and signages, and no sweeper truck to save you when you are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Out there it is just you, your bike and the road. So for cycling tourists this is familiar territory and the enjoyable part of the whole thing.
Completing a 220km audax to me is about endurance and determination. On top of that planning and preparation for the ride is key.
As a slow rider I can only manage an average speed of 20km per hour. So as a general strategy I have to maximize my cycling time within that 13.5 hours allocated. Planning before hand when and where to stop for food and water, rest, toilet breaks and finding the appropriate mosques or surau for prayers along the way, takes away a lot of the uncertainity in your riding plan.
Also knowing your own physical ability will help you to pace yourself throughout the journey. Drink a lot of fluids along the way, being well hydrated is key to prevent muscle cramps during the last stretches when you need your legs the most. Learn to eat while on the saddle it will save your precious time. I find eating dates as the best fuel. Pack them up in your jersey back pockets and munch on them whenever you feel your energy reserves are depleting. Again drink a lot of water.
I arrived at the second checkpoint at 12.42pm well ahead of my planned 3pm rendezvous with my wife. As my legs still felt like they could go further I called my wife to cancel her trip to the checkpoint. I realised I’ve just burnt my safety net. No chance of giving up now.
The next 80 km was pure suffering but it was a good kind of suffering. There were moments when clarity of thought hit you and you start to ask yourself why are you doing this? Just perservere and stay focused. As a quote from Marilyn Monroe “I do not stop when I’m tired, I will stop when I’m done” or something to that effect.
So, get out there and pedal the epic ride of your life my friends. Stay safe.