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Bikes built for going the distance

Audax events are long distance bike rides; they're all about being self-sufficient over a long distance, and with events ranging from 50km up to a staggering 1400km, there’s something for all tastes.

Arguably the jewel in the crown of the Audax calendar is the mighty Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200km route that tests stamina, endurance and mental fortitude to the limit. It only takes place every four years, and since it’s happening this summer we thought we’d have a look at the ideal Audax bike.

Audaxes are not competitions or races, there's no medal for the fastest times, instead, it's a test of your long distance riding ability and being self-sufficient. As such they are generally a lot more laid back, friendly and sociable than most events, and there’s more shared camaraderie amongst participants.

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- Wales and back, 600kms - it’s not Epic, it’s just a long way

Instead of signposted routes with marshals at every junction, you’re expected to be able to navigate yourself using either the traditional route cue sheets with turn-by-turn directions, or as is much more common these days, GPX routes downloaded to your preferred bike computer.

The event you choose will have a start and finish, usually at a village hall where you can fill up with tea and coffee, and along the route, there will be checkpoints where you get your Brevet card stamped to prove you’ve ridden the route. Checkpoints can vary from manned stations with acres of cake and homemade treats to unmanned checkpoints where you’re required to get a receipt from a cafe, shop or cash machine to prove your passage of route.

If you want to learn more about Audax and where your nearest one is, the Audax UK website has a wealth of information

- 13 of the best touring bikes — your options for taking off into the beyond

What to look for in an Audax bike

In reality, any bike can be used to ride an Audax, and indeed you’ll see a wide range of bikes being ridden: everything from carbon fibre race bikes with a tiny saddlebag of spares to classic steel touring bikes with racks and panniers and maps clipped to the handlebar.

Whatever bike you choose needs to be reliable and comfortable for the chosen distance. You can get away with a lighter setup for a short Audax, but for the longer events, especially those that run through the night, you’ll likely need extra clothing and a lot more food and spares, so luggage and comfort will be a consideration.

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Mudguards are good to have, given how changeable weather can be and how unpleasant riding on wet roads for hours is. In the past, some Audax events required all bikes to be fitted with mudguards, but you’ll find most organisers are a bit more relaxed about them today so don’t fear, mudguards aren’t essential for taking part in an Audax... You might just find yourself riding on your own if you don't fit them and it starts to rain though!

- Things I learnt on my 300km audaxThings I learnt on my 300km audax

If you need to carry luggage, you can either use a rack and pannier or go with a large saddlepack (Carradice is a popular choice) or handlebar bag, or one of the frame packs that are fashionable with the bikepacking crowd. What to carry and how to carry it comes down to personal preference and you’ll see many different luggage solutions at an Audax.

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- 14 of the best bikepacking bags

Frame material comes down to personal preference and budget. Steel has long been the favoured choice because of its famed comfort, but other materials are fine too. It really depends on what sort of bike you want and what type of ride you prefer. Any material will do just fine. 

Triban RC 520 Disc £729.99

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Proving you don’t have to spend a fortune on a new bike, the Triban RC 520 Disc with its comfortable riding position and mounts for racks and mudguards is a really good option. The super tall head tube and short top tube gives a comfortable upright riding fit and delivers steady handling.

Read the review here

Thorn Audax 853 from £1,394

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One of the earlier test bikes in my career testing bikes still rates as one of the nicest I’ve ever ridden. It was a Thorn Audax 852 and provided the most sublime ride quality I’ve ever experienced. The British company still makes the Audax 852 and has been refined since it was first introduced some 20 years ago. The steel frame and fork accept up to 31mm tyres and mudguards, has rear rack eyelets and three bottle cage mounts, and can carry up to 20kg of luggage.

Fairlight Cycles Secan - from £2,099

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Many Audax routes will keep you away from busy roads and so use quiet country lanes which can often be badly surfaced, making wide tyres a good option. The latest breed of adventure and gravel bikes with their capacity for very wide tyres are a potential choice. The Secan here provides space for very wide tyres whether on 700c or 650b rims and has two choices of geometry for each frame size allowing you to get the right fit. It’s also a bike I’ve used on a 300km Audax last year and can vouch for its comfort and pace.

Read the review here

Ribble CGR from £999

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Cross, Gravel, Road, that's what the CGR initials stand for on Ribble's all-rounder, but you could add an A for Audax in there as well. The aluminium frame has a long wheelbase for a stable ride and mounts for mudguards and racks, and there’s also space for wide tyres.

- Is Ribble's CGR the answer to your road, gravel and commuting needs?

Holdsworth Brevet Frameset £149.99

holdsworth brevet

A steel bike with Brevet in its name is surely ideal for Audax rides, and on paper, the Holdsworth looks just the ticket. The frame is constructed from Tig welded double butted Chromoly tubing with a matching fork, and there are mounts for mudguards and a rear rack. Tyre clearance is pegged at just 28mm which might not be enough for some, but for most people, it’s likely to be just fine. The best thing is the super low frameset price so you could build a bike on a budget.

Genesis Equilibrium from £1,399

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The Equilibrium has long been a solid choice for long distance riding, with a choice of steel or titanium frames and a sorted geometry that just work. It has many fans over the years, including our own Dave Atkinson who built one for Audax riding a few years ago. Combine a Reynolds 725 frame with a carbon fork, relaxed geometry and all the eyelets for racks and mudguards and you have a good pick for Audaxing.

Mason Definition from £2,795

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Steel is often the preferred choice for an Audax bike but doesn’t discount aluminium especially when it’s done as nicely as the latest Definition from Mason Cycles (there’s also its Resolution if you prefer steel). It’s got a focus on speed without diluting the essential comfort, with a dialled back geometry, space for wide tyres and eyelets for mudguards and it’ll take a rear rack.

- 13 of the best aluminium road bikes

Read the review

Van Nicholas Yukon Disc from £2,992

Yukon-Disc

The Van Nicholas Yukon has long been a popular option with UK cyclists wanting a titanium touring bike capable of turning its hand to commuting, training, touring or Audax, and now the rim brake model has been joined by a disc brake version. It’s got space for 35mm tyres, has eyelets for mudguards and racks and all the cables are internally routed. It’ll even accommodate a dynamo with internal routing.

Read the first look here.

Cannondale Synapse from £800

2019 Cannondale SYNAPSE CARBON DISC ULTEGRA

Endurances bikes are natural choices for Audax because they are designed to provide a smooth and comfortable ride and most cater for wide tyres. The Cannondale Synapse is a popular choice with aluminium and carbon frame options, and both will take mudguards. There are no rack mounts on the carbon version though so you’ll want to look at large saddle packs, frame or handlebar bikepacking bags for your luggage solution.

Read the review here and here.

Specialized Roubaix from £2,000

2019 Specialized Roubaix

If you want maximum comfort, then the Specialized Roubaix with its innovative Future Shock front spring could be a bike to consider. Like the Synapse, there’s no fitting a rack but it’s got mudguard mounts and space for wide tyres and the geometry is designed to provide a relaxed riding position.

Read the review

- 23 of the best 2018 & 2019 sportive bikes — great bikes for long, fast endurance rides in comfort

Enigma Etape from £3,999

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If you want to spend a bit of cash on a high-quality bike, then the Enigma Etape with its beautiful titanium frame is surely worth a closer look. The geometry has been developed over a decade to deliver long-distance comfort and ride quality and it has space for wide tyres, there are rack and mudguard mounts and the tubing is size-specific across the 50 to 60cm size range.

Kinesis RTD frameset £850

Kinesis RTD_Bike

UK brand Kinesis Bike offers a number of suitable Audax bike choices but we’ve plumped for its RTD, a lightweight scandium frame with a carbon fork, clearance for 34mm tyres, three bottle cage mounts and mudguard eyelets. And because it's a frameset only you can either build it yourself, or get your local bike shop to build it, with your dream parts to suit your requirements or budget. 


If you're planning to take part in an Audax this year we'd love to hear about it, so let us know in the comments section below.

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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

13 comments

Avatar
Joe Totale [159 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

Some of these definitely do not have a long enough stem to tape your cue sheet onto! 

IMO any bike will do for an audax. I rode Gently Bentley last Sunday and there were plenty of people on aero bikes with deep carbon wheels. In the end of the day there's still a cut off time for controls on an audax so you can't dawdle.

Avatar
lmm [2 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Since audaxes are non-UCI you don't have to be restricted to conventional bike geometry. I've ridden two this year on my Azub Six (touring configuration similar to this), and am signed up for two more.

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Thunderchump [3 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Genesis Day One 20 surely a better Audax bike than some of these?

Avatar
David Arthur @d... [950 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
Thunderchump wrote:

Genesis Day One 20 surely a better Audax bike than some of these?

You're recommending a single speed? I reckon most people (myself included) would prefer some gears for a long Audax

Avatar
Tommytrucker [129 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

The Day One 20 has a Nexus 8spd hub. It's great for commuting every day come rain or shine, stable filtering through traffic and dependable, but not sure how you'd feel on an audax. The gearing is great for town, but you're spinning out around 25 mph, and the stock tyres are awful. Also, be aware the shifter is on the end of the drop, may take some getting used to. Super comfy though.

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jerome [79 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

Thorn Audax 852? First it was 853, second the company stopped making it about 10 years ago and is now selling Audax MK3. Stop drugs, really.

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froze [112 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

It was explained in the article that Audax are long distance rides that could go into and all night which meant to carry more food and clothing, ok, what about water?  There was only two sets of water bottle bosses on all the bikes I looked at, I would think water would be important and would see at LEAST 3 sets of bottle bosses plus probably 2 more sets on the forks; am I being crazy?

Avatar
Sir Wobbly [26 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

"If you want maximum comfort, then the Specialized Roubaix with its innovative Future Shock front spring could be a bike to consider."

If you want ultimate comfort on long Audax rides then I highly recommend the Pashley Roadster!

Fully sprung Brooks B33 saddle and mahoosive wheels & tyres really do make the miles much more comfy.

And a free bonus is the look of respect/incredulity/pity you get from "roadies" when you finally make it the end of, say, a 400 or 600 smiley

Avatar
Joe Totale [159 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
froze wrote:

It was explained in the article that Audax are long distance rides that could go into and all night which meant to carry more food and clothing, ok, what about water?  There was only two sets of water bottle bosses on all the bikes I looked at, I would think water would be important and would see at LEAST 3 sets of bottle bosses plus probably 2 more sets on the forks; am I being crazy?

You do realise that on an audax you reach a control every hour or two to get your Brevet card stamped? Often they will provide a bit of food and sometimes they are based at cafés!

Other times you have to get a receipt in a particular town, these will usually be at a café/corner shop if you're anything like me. I carry some food with me but you don't actually need too much due to the amount of opportunities to get hold of some more. Two bottles have always been fine for me as you can get them refilled at a control. IMO you only need 3 bottle cages if you carry tools in one of them.

You will need to carry more spares such as tubes and more tools as due to the distance you are more likely to have a mechanical. Also a battery charger so your GPS device or lights don't run out of charge. Only on the 400km+ ones do you need extra clothes in a large saddle bag as you'll spend the night somewhere.

Avatar
Sir Wobbly [26 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
froze wrote:

It was explained in the article that Audax are long distance rides that could go into and all night which meant to carry more food and clothing, ok, what about water?  There was only two sets of water bottle bosses on all the bikes I looked at, I would think water would be important and would see at LEAST 3 sets of bottle bosses plus probably 2 more sets on the forks; am I being crazy?

Although Audax rides do sometimes go through the night they are routed so that "controls" (i.e. checkpoints) are rarely more than 50 miles apart. You get to refill water bottles; you don't have to ride the entire night without a refill!

And Audax is about self-sufficiency; there's nothing to stop you from getting refills en route (at pubs, petrol stations, etc.) you could even ask local residents for water. I've done that many times...

 

Avatar
theSplund [7 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
froze wrote:

It was explained in the article that Audax are long distance rides that could go into and all night which meant to carry more food and clothing, ok, what about water?  There was only two sets of water bottle bosses on all the bikes I looked at, I would think water would be important and would see at LEAST 3 sets of bottle bosses plus probably 2 more sets on the forks; am I being crazy?

I must admit that the 3rd bottle cage on my Mk1 Thorn Audax was rarely ever used for anything but my tools (in an old Isostar wide-necked bottle) especially as it was rather exposed to the elements - still, not every Audax is quite so well populated with controls (especially 'Permanents') and in the summer you might be glad of a third bottle (but might turn out to be an extra 3/4kg of dead weight)

Avatar
lmm [2 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

On long rides I've been known to stash an extra bottle in my pannier, and then you can swap them over at a control. But yeah usually you can rely on topping up at stops, particularly within the UK.

Avatar
Bmblbzzz [294 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
theSplund wrote:
froze wrote:

It was explained in the article that Audax are long distance rides that could go into and all night which meant to carry more food and clothing, ok, what about water?  There was only two sets of water bottle bosses on all the bikes I looked at, I would think water would be important and would see at LEAST 3 sets of bottle bosses plus probably 2 more sets on the forks; am I being crazy?

I must admit that the 3rd bottle cage on my Mk1 Thorn Audax was rarely ever used for anything but my tools (in an old Isostar wide-necked bottle) especially as it was rather exposed to the elements - still, not every Audax is quite so well populated with controls (especially 'Permanents') and in the summer you might be glad of a third bottle (but might turn out to be an extra 3/4kg of dead weight)

For a second I was boggling at how a water bottle could weigh three or four kilos. Then I realised you meant 750g... enlightened

Generally I agree that a third bottle is rarely if ever needed on an audax.