Audax UK (AUK), the country’s premier long distance cycling club, want to shake off their “old fashioned” image and attract new members keen to test themselves on rides up to 1,400km long.
The club are planning to launch a new website, among other measures, to attract more riders. They also want to increase the number and quality of 600km-plus events put on annually.
The exploding popularity of sportives could offer AUK thousands of keen entrants eager to test themselves over longer distances, and for a fraction of the costs associated with commercially organised mass participation events.
AUK’s south east regional events organiser, Paul Stewart, told BikeRadar: “It’s almost true to say the sportive boom has really passed us by. We definitely want to see Audax grow, and there’s been a certain amount of discussion on how to take things forward. Most sportive riders have never heard of Audax, it’s as simple as that.
“AUK have a slightly old fashioned image – mudguards and map reading. We have lots of guys riding titanium and carbon, and equally a large chunk of us use GPS – I’ve used GPS for 10 years.”
Stewart said plans are afoot to revamp the website and improve the volunteer-led organisation’s ability to market and promote rides.
“Events tend to be put on by the committed few,” he said. “One of the things the AUK are going to be working on really hard over the next year or so is to look at things like revamping our website and giving Audax UK much more of a modern image [that would] make it easier to market events and support organisers to put events on.”
Two events this year will provide useful test beds for the club’s plans. In July they’ll be tying in with the Orbital Cycling Festival to put on a 200km through-the-night ride dubbed the Lezyne Look Mum No Sleep – a reference to fashionable London cycling café Look Mum No Hands, who will host the start.
And in August the club hold their mammoth 1,400km London-Edinburgh-London, put on every four years. Stewart said the club had dedicated a team to their preparation, to increase the professionalism of the organisation.
“I think this is quite new – it’s new for all of us,” Stewart said. “It is going to be an interesting experience to see whether there’s room for new types of event organisers to start running events that we would recognise as Audaxes.”
Audax routes aren’t marked and entrants are expected to find their own way between control points, where they check in to ensure the distance is completed. The old maximum-speed rule is still in place but is not always enforced. Pit stops are usually at roadside cafés, not manned feed stations. Rides are non-competitve and the aim is simply to complete the course.
Stewart explained the appeal: “What you find as you get into them more is that you can ride further and faster than you could ever imagine riding before. It’s incredibly empowering and, to a certain extent, a little bit addictive.”
According to an Audax strategic plan published last year, event participation dipped slightly in 2012, to 20,500. The club aim to boost participation by 1,500 riders in the next two years.