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Why is There Such a Lack of Diversity in Audax?

WORD & PHOTOS | Lindsey Bonner

EDITED BY | Varun Jyothykumar


Following on from her own very first Audax last year, Lindsey explores the nature of the Audax and speaks to Vera Ngosi-Sambrook about the lack of diversity in the events.


Audax 200km events were created in 1897 in France to fill the gap between the elite, licenced road racing season on closed roads and the slower, heavily laden cycle touring alternative. In the 1920’s, longer distances from 300km to 1000km were added to the regulations as well as the classic 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) event.


As such an historic cycling institution, it’s not that surprising that these events are still dominated by the classic slim white man ‘cyclist’ archetype.


In a previous article, I told you how I undertook my first Audax. The following Saturday, Vera Ngosi-Sambrook, winner of the Ultra-Distance Scholarship in 2021 and finisher of the self-supported 2000km Pan Celtic Race that same year, also completed her first Audax event.


At 203km, the Malmesbury Mash was her longest ride since the PCR.


“ I did my first Audax in what some would consider a back-to-front way of doing things. A sensible approach would have been to have done Audax rides a year earlier as good training for my first endurance event – the Pan Celtic Race. Instead, I had already completed a 2,000km ride in which I rode an average of 220km each day, and so you could argue that a 200km ride wasn’t going to be much of a challenge, but alas, it turns out 7 months is plenty of time to lose fitness and conditioning…


So, why hadn’t I tried an Audax before this? One of the reasons was not having heard much about them until 2021, and when I did hear tell of them, the impression I formed was that Audaxes weren’t really for people like me - a black woman in her twenties. Most of the people I’d heard mention Audaxes tended to be much older people, always white, and often male.


So subconsciously or not, I just wasn’t drawn to the idea of being part of yet another cycling thing with very limited diversity. What it took for me to eventually enter one a few weeks ago, was hearing women I admire such as Emily Chappell and Anisa Aubin speak fondly about their experiences doing Audaxes, and then seeing Lindsey, whose cycling journey I’ve enjoyed following over the past year, share that she had entered one. I finally felt compelled to give it a go.


My Audax experience was everything it had promised to be and then some. The day started nice and early at 6:30am, where I set off with an enthusiastic group of women who were part of my local cycling club. I’d never seen people so cheery at such an hour!


I found that the format of the event kept things interesting. Breaking the distances up by control points meant that I kept motivated between them, far more than I previously had on 200km solo rides. Checkpoints provided an opportunity for an ‘enforced’ pause and refuelling, something that I sometimes neglect on self-organised rides.


My understanding is that whilst Audax rides have a time-limit, the focus isn’t necessarily on the speed you do them at. However, I found that the environment gave me an opportunity to complete my fastest ever 200km by quite a margin! I think the motivation brought on by riding alongside other riders and leapfrogging each other had a big part to play in helping me push myself that little bit more.


At one point on the ride, I found myself cycling alongside a man who had been doing Audaxes longer than I’d been alive. I remember him saying to me that he was “very happy to see a young person taking part”. He shared with me that as someone who has done Audaxes for decades, he would like to see them enjoyed by the younger generation more. Hearing this warmed my heart and made me feel a bit more welcome in that space. It was reassuring to hear someone who, to me, fit the stereotype I had of an “Audaxer” recognise to some degree the lack of diversity in these events and express a desire to see more of it. ”



Whilst Audax clearly is a sub-culture of international cycling in its own right, awareness of the discipline isn’t exactly mainstream. Both Vera and I had not heard of Audax before this year and if you haven’t read Emily Chappell’s ‘Where There’s A Will’, or follow the likes of regular event participants such as Katie Kookaburra or Michelle from One Less Car on social media, it’s not surprising you may have been missing the memo.


One common misconception that puts many off exploring Audax is that it is exclusively ultra long distance road cycling. Not everyone has the confidence for 200km distances or the luxury of thirteen hours to spare on a Saturday alongside childcare, work or other commitments.


Whilst the 200km events are the traditional distance that defines a randonee, the Audax calendar offers both 50km and 100km distances all year round at locations all over the UK, as well as do-it-yourself options allowing riders to plan and schedule their own events and still have them validated by Audax UK. They are great for riders whose other commitments make it difficult for them to join Calendar Events or may not have suitable Permanent Events near their location.


A major draw for me was the affordability, with annual membership in the UK costing £30, and each event roughly £7-8. If you compare this to the average sportive entry fee of £35-40 a time, or UK ultra races such as GBDURO at £200, or the PCR at £425, it’s easy to see how Audax can play a part in removing at least one potential barrier to participation in cycling events.


Whilst this makes Audax more affordable, ultimately their events are relatively low budget, which can also mean that information about their struggles to reach beyond their dominant demographic of white middle-aged men. Knowledge, stories and experiences about them doesn’t get into the mainstream cycling social media and so to some extent it relies on its avid participants sharing their Audax experiences with those that they know to draw more people in. Sadly, this means that other diverse groups of people are excluded in part through not knowing about these events, or worse, don’t participate because we don’t feel represented.


The cycle then continues.


From the warm welcome to everyone I interacted with, to a well-organised route taking in some of Herefordshire’s finest, and a great day on the bike, you can now well and truly consider me an Audax fan. I have a sneaking suspicion they may be a little bit addictive and I will be back for more. More events, categorically yes. More distance, don’t hold me to it but probably.


More diversity, I sincerely hope so.


Useful Links

Audax UK: https://audax.uk/

Randonneurs USA: https://rusa.org/

Audax Australia: https://audax.org.au/


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