Preparing For My First 600km Audax

I would like to think of myself as a long distance cyclist, and compared to some people I might be. All things are relative though, and truth be told, I’m probably more of a medium length cyclist. If I’m completely honest even that might be pushing it. Although I’ve completed a handful of 200km rides and the odd weekend away, I’ve yet to cycle more than 150 miles in any given ride.

The prospect of completing a 600km Audax is therefore a little daunting to me, especially considering that the idea of attempting one only started to really bury itself into my head a few days ago.

Realistically I would have preferred to have completed a 300km ride or two before attempting a 600km, but somehow this hasn’t quite materialised. I’ve also only just got back from a week cycling around Northumberland which goes some way to explaining why I’ve got such a bad case of the cycling bug, but also means that I’m not as well rested as I would like to be.

If it sounds like I’m making excuses, there’s a good reason for that. Not being mentally or physically prepared I’m already thinking that I might not be able to complete the entire route. Happily, the rest stop at 383km is the same as the start and finish point which means that I can both leave my sleeping gear there and, if it comes to it, easily call it a day on Saturday night and get the train home.

I’m also giving myself some small amount of mercy in doing “The East and West Coasts 600” rather than “The 3 Coasts 600”. Neither are easy rides, but the latter involves a bit more climbing. Maybe if I can complete this one I’ll do the other next year.

What to Pack for a 600km Audax

One thing I have learnt from the long(ish) rides I’ve done so far is not to over-pack. At the same time, with this ride, I don’t want to catch a chill as I push on into the night and nor do I want to waste time faffing about with mechanical problems. I have received word from a friend that there will be vegan food at the rest stop but even so I want to bring a good amount to eat with me. Eating in cafés as a vegan generally means having an amount of beans on toast that won’t do me or anyone around me any favours, and I’ve no idea what I can eat from a late night petrol station apart from nuts and skittles.

My packing list is very much subject to change, but currently stands as follows:

Tools and bike things

  • Two spare inner tubes
  • A multi-tool (inc. chain link tool)
  • Cable ties and some electrical tape
  • A puncture repair kit and some tyre levers
  • Lights and spare batteries

Extra clothes

  • Leg warmers
  • Overshoes
  • Softshell jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Rainlegs (depending on the forecast)
  • A change of socks (nothing worse than wet socks)

Other things

  • Sunscream and sunglasses (optimistically, but I am very pale)
  • Phone (which is also my GPS) and large external battery
  • A fairly light café lock
  • Printed route cards and a pen
  • Wallet with cash, card, and railcard
  • Sleeping bag, bag liner, and mat
  • A flannel, toothbrush, and toothpaste
  • Painkillers and caffeine tablets
  • Food, and lots of it (as below)

I’m debating whether or not I should bring a second pair of bib shorts. I’m thinking not. Sean Conway cycled across the whole of Australia in a single pair of cycling shorts so 600km around Northern England should be fine. At least I’ll get plenty of space on the train home.

Vegan Food For a 600km Audax

Accidentally vegan bars from Aldi

I’m going to stick to my usual go to snacks of bananas, bananas, and bananas. I would normally also mash some extra ripe ones up, mix them with oats and a little peanut butter, and then bake them in the oven in a cupcake tray for 10 or 15 minutes. To save a bit of time and effort, this time I’m going to opt instead for buying as many accidentally-vegan Aldi energy bars as I can physically carry.

I will also make myself a couple of falafel and kale wraps for the first day. While certainly not strictly necessary, for my first 600km Audax the extra bulk and weight will be worth it for the peace of mind of having something good to eat at various points throughout the ride. Getting enough fuel in me is going to be essential if I’m going to complete stage one, let alone get round the whole route.

Final Preparations

Although a full service ahead of a long bike ride is strongly advisable, with only a few nights to go I just don’t have time to do that now. A relatively quick check over is going to have to do. My brake pads are good, my bike is clean and oiled, and the gears work. That should be enough.

I’ve also downloaded the route onto my phone, which will sit on my handlebars and (all things going well) guide me from coast to coast without a hitch. As a backup I will carry the route-sheet with me, but I’m really hoping that it doesn’t come to that.

With just a couple of days left, the initial fear that washed over me when I decided to do this event is starting to be replaced by excitement. I’m still scared, but less so now that I’m a bit more organised. The only thing left to do is get as much sleep as I can, eat loads of carbs, and hope for the best.

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