Audax goes back to the beginnings of cycling, when a dozen Italian cyclists rode from Rome to Naples in June 1897. That's 230 kms, and the ride was described as 'audacious', which I think it was, for the time. As with many things in cycling, the Italians had the flair but the French wrote the rules, and Henri Desgrange, he of the Tour de France, produced the first Audax Regulations in 1904. Early Audaxes were group rides, but in the 1920s individual rides became more popular, which remains the case. The essence of it hasn't changed much in more than a century, and the oldest cycle race, Paris- Brest-Paris, was, and still is, an Audax.
So what's it all about? Pretty simple, really. For every event there is a 'Brevet Card' and a Route Sheet. The Brevet Card has a list of 'controls' you must pass through, the Route Sheet is a suggested way of doing it. You don't actually have to follow the Route Sheet, but it usually makes sense to do so. But you do have to pass through all of the controls, and in time, which is the most important thing. For every Audax there is a minimum and a maximum average speed, typically 10 mph minimum and 20 mph maximum, but it does vary. Easy enough for a short run, but harder and harder as the distance gets longer. There is no allowance for stops of any kind - rest, food, breakdowns, it's all up to you.
You get your proof of passage either by getting your card stamped, as you see here, or, for 'Permanent' rides, by getting receipts at garages or cafes. Permanents, as the name suggests, you can do at any time. 10 mph is not much of an average speed for 50 kms, but longer rides such as Paris-Brest-Paris or London-Edinburgh-London are a pretty tough proposition.
Here's the Route Sheet for the ride I'm planning for us:
I'll bring some copies on the day.
If you're interested in doing the ride as an Audax, you can get a brevet card and route sheet from here; it costs £3. There's lots of information on the Audax UK Website if you'd like to find out more.
And if all this seems just too much fuss for you, don't worry. Forget all of the paperwork and come along for the ride!