The World of the Audax is long distance cycling, the events go all year round and start at 200K. It is very much taking part rather than how quick, nobody really cares how long you took or how fast you might have gone. It is about the journey or completing the journey.

The Audax is also about touring, cycling to places you have never been, the route little more than an excuse to cycle a long way.

It was touring and seeing unfamiliar places that attracted me to the idea and that is how my interest in the RRTY Randonneur Round the Year started. This event is simply do an Audax every month for twelve consecutive months. The accepted wisdom is to start Oct, so you get the winter stuff finished before you ride to a glorious triumph in the late Autumn sunshine in Sept. 

Tip one is accept this wisdom and just plan it that way. Of course, there is a lot of wisdom on the Audax Ireland website and well worth looking through it. There is advice on lights, bags, what to carry what not because these events are unsupported. So when you get a puncture or your tyre disintegrates after a 100K you still have to make it home. As your journey unfolds you find what works for you in the way of equipment and what you start with will nearly always change as you gain more experience. Although unsupported there is an unbelievable sense of camaraderie among the people taking part. In Orwell it turned into a band of brothers and one sister. 

Roughly 14 of us started out one Nov morning in Whitehall Church carpark.  We did a permanent which is basically a route that you cycle at a time of your choosing agreed with the organiser, on this occasion The Kings Mountain. This ability to move the date of the event is a Godsend because it does allow you to find pleasant weather. Despite what you might hear we are not nutters who enjoy pain and laugh in the face of hailstones and high winds. 

I remember that event for the brilliant colours of the Autumn trees because it had been a wonderful calm and sunny Oct. The mature trees of County Meath and further north where glorious. In Dec we started in Stanmullen and cycled over some of the same roads. starting in complete darkness and finishing last, in complete darkness. Marc being a wonderful organiser feeding us hot bacon butties and beer when we got home. 


January brought me south to a route called The Ardatton 200, I was getting cocky and started it with the beginning of a head cold. That small reduction in health made it a long day as I did suffer thank you Jose and Kevin who nursed me home. The lesson was never to underestimate how a small illness can really hurt your ability to cover the distance. That was the start of Jan, so I did it again at the end of Jan because Ken and Leonard wanted company and sure I was doing nothing anyway. The finish is brutal and was that day, wet, cold, clear clear night with stars in the sky to heaven. Then left at Fishers and left up that hill then down in to Delgany left beside the Pidgin House up to Old Windgates the back way, finish in Bray Wheelers. With 180K in the legs it is the hardest finish I can think of, it would even give Torr Head a run for its money

Feb I was bullied around by Colin and Sinead as I was ready to chuck it in. The cold and dark days were getting to me because temperature regulation is a big issue. From starting at zero degrees at 6am then an afternoon hitting ten degrees, with finally a head wind home in the dark and a wind chill making it feel like minus five degrees. Getting the clothes, gloves, socks, jackets right and carrying it all with you is an art form. I often felt like my teenage daughter, a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. 

In March I had day off from work and I did the East Wicklow 200. I just decided to do it on my own as I was a bit disillusioned at this stage.  It starts in Dundrum and goes to Sally Gap, Carnew down the coast to Bray and home to Dundrum. 

It was 17 degrees and sunshine by lunchtime and by the finish I had fallen in love with cycling again. Stunning scenery and having left the Stepside road I did not see another person until I hit Laragh. Sally Gap in bright morning sunshine to myself, a few random conversations with passers-by and two young lads giving me a tow home into the head wind from Enniskerry. It was a special day. After that it became easy I did a few with Leonard the Birr 200 which was a wonderful day. The Midland Meander, A West Wicklow or two and a DNF in a 400K event, where we got off the bikes after about fifteen hours of rain. My admiration of Colin, Noel and Tony was enhanced by their ability to complete it. Two days later Leonard and I got back on the bike and rattled off a tour to Athy and back in the sunshine. Leonard posting daft photos on the Audax Whats App thread and our “friends” wondering were we cycling at all.

I went back to the East Wicklow for another solo effort and another amazing day. Forgot my tool kit so I only had one spare tube and no tyre levers. When you are at Sally Gap and it’s all downhill from there, well you are not going to turn back. But I did decide to stop at a spot I knew lots of bike people stopped at just to see if somebody had dropped a tyre lever and what do you know.

Finally, Leonard and I completed our RRTY with the West Wicklow in the company of Tom Wymas and Tom Crotty in Oct. A final day and a well-earned pint in the nearest pub to the finish. Who was there but Dennis, Club President, by a fluke and happy to pose for a selfie with the conquering cyclists.

It was such a journey filled with everything from ancient tombs, high crosses and modern filling stations, ruins and legends. Buckets of ducks, rainy and sunny days and being a tourist in your own country. An older gent furious, cycling his bike spitting about "the breath of Satan" as he referred to the fumes of trucks in Athy. All the time having these wonderful conversations with people along the way. Receiving a passing invitation to stop at a family BBQ. Because they are curious about your journey and being on a bike makes you very accessible .

Is it worth doing, absolutely because it’s a journey of your inner self as much as it is a cycle along our roads. There are few places today where you can get away from the constant chatter and distractions of this modern world. Our time and space are always being interrupted by the mobile phone, TV, radio billboards e-mail etc.

In the minimal world of the Audax a reliance on a bike, a page of directions, what you can carry and one or two companions, gives you not less but more. More time to think, more contact with friends and strangers, more days that matter, days when you really did something. More days of sunshine and rain, more time to see how history has shaped our country, it’s written in the landscape. More time to witness the seasons changing the light, air and hedgerows. Rather than days filled with empty distractions. it will give you a year of purpose and time to notice the difference.

So, think about a RRTY - it is a quest worth doing.

The bling at the end

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