It’s a cycle ride run under the auspices of Audax UK (AUK) (or a foreign/international audax/randonneur organisation).
The idea is that it is non-competitive, so no times are published, no official placings are given. However there are time limits: the idea is not to ride too slow or too fast. There are maximum as well as minimum speeds and to keep you within these you check into controls around the route. On a 100 or 200 km audax you’d probably get 3 or 4 controls on the route.
Some controls are cafes or village halls with food and a controller to stamp your card; sometimes they are petrol stations and you grab a till receipt as proof of passage. Sometimes you use an ATM. There’s a range of luxury, from fully-catered with beds (on an overnight event) to totally shoestring where you are pretty much on your own. They’re all different.
You tend to get out of them what you put in: it’s usually possible to find a group going at about your pace to go around with, if you choose, but there’s a very strong self-sufficiency ethos. If you puncture they’ll check you can cope and most likely leave you to it. If it’s a more serious mechanical you’ll get lots of help.
Unless you know the riders before hand and/or have agreed to ride together they may not slow down if you get dropped – it’s not unfriendliness, it is a recognition that people choose to ride at their own pace and often deliberately drop out of a group if they fancy a slight rest. People have variable paces over a long day: sometimes you’ll be flying off the front, other times hanging on the back. You’ll all meet up down the road.
An SR Series consists of a 200, 300, 400 and 600 km audax ridden in the same audax year (currently 1st November – 31st October). To get people to ride an SR Series is, if you like, the goal of AUK. An SR Series is also the qualification for the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 km audax (commonly referred to as PBP).
In the early years AUK existed entirely to get UK riders to PBP; these days the vast majority of its 4000 members ride 200 km events or shorter. Only a few hundred each year do an SR Series, and a handful do several.
Then there’s Altitude (AAA) points, Permanents, Darts, Arrows…
More info can be found at www.audax.uk.net, including the online events calendar. There’s an AUK mailing list for the truly hardcore; though it is quite low-traffic it has good info and a pretty good signal-to noise ratio. Another good place to ask further questions is the Audax & Cyclosportive section of http://yacf.co.uk/forum/, populated by many high-mileage audaxers.
How far you want to go?
Audax United Kingdom is the foremost long-distance cycling association in the UK. We oversee the running of long-distance cycling events, and, using a system of timed checkpoints, validate and record every successful ride.