Fat Lad At The Back

  • An Introduction to Audax

    An intro to the world of Audax

    Audax are essentially just long-distance bikes rides. However, they’ve been around a very long time so they come with a well-established rule book, a whole host of acronyms and slang, people that have been doing them longer than you’ve been able to ride a bike and even their own awards system. Being done on a shoestring budget by volunteers, the website, “marketing” and events are functional rather than glitzy. They also go up to utterly ridiculous distances such as the recent 1400km London-Edinburgh-London.

    All that can add up to something that’s very confusing and/or off-putting to the newcomer but the basics of Audax is actually really simple – you just ride your bike between a series of pre-agreed places either on your own or as part of an organised event. They’re surprisingly easy to get into, a lot of fun, great riding, very cheap and full of the most weird, wonderful and kind cyclists you’ll ever meet. They also start at a more manageable 50km!

    So how do you do an Audax?

    Rather than go into a wordy explanation, let’s just look at how you’d do the easiest type of Audax – an organised event done with other people. Known as Calendar Events, this is where you’d want to start your Audax journey and you’ll find a list here.http://www.aukweb.net/events/



    Most items should be self-explanatory, but some require a bit more explanation:





    • Online Entry – Some organisers only allow postal entries, so if you’re not a fan of cheque books and SAEs then look out for events with the PayPal logo, which means you can do it all online. There may be a small extra charge for PayPal to cover their fees, but remember the organisers are all volunteers and put these events on very cheaply, so it’s only fair and usually cheaper than the stamps.
    • Event Type & Rules – the specific rules/organisation this event is being run under. Not important for the casual Audaxer so ignore it.
    • AA (also known as AAA) – unless you really really like hills, avoid events with this on (see glossary for more information).
    • Total Climbing – not always shown but if present usually means the event is hilly (even if it doesn’t qualify for AA points).

    Once you’ve found an event that has potential, click on it for more detail. Again, most of it should be self-explanatory, but look out for:

    • Distance & Time – these not only tell you the distance and start time, but also the amount of time you must complete the event in and the finish time that equates to.
    • Facilities – Audax start locations vary from village halls to pubs to sports centres. This will tell you what to expect on this event. It is in shorthand form but click the ? to get the plain English version. The number is the maximum people they’ll allow on the ride.
    • Route Sheet – this contains the route, directions and further detailed instructions about the ride. Many riders use only this as their only means of navigation.
    • GPX – if the Route Sheet method looks too difficult, many organisers now provide a GPX file for navigation via your GPS computer. If they don’t, and you’d like to navigate by GPS, then it might be easier to chose a different event.

    If you’ve found an event that ticks all your boxes, then go ahead and hit [Enter This Event]!

    Note that Audax UK (AUK) are the organising body in the UK. There are lots of benefits to being a member of AUK, including a regular magazine, but you don’t have to be to enter an event – you’ll just pay a small surcharge (currently £2) for each event you enter – so you can try before you buy as it were.

    On The Day

    Don’t Panic! Get to the start line in plenty of time and any fellow Audaxer will be only too happy to answer any questions or point you in the right direction as to what to do.

    The ride itself consists of riding between a series of predefined places, referred to as Controls, collecting a “proof of passage” at each one to confirm you completed the event as it was intended. Some people like to think of it as a “treasure hunt”.



    To facilitate this, you’ll be given a card when you sign in at the start of the ride, known as a Brevet Card (note the one shown on the left is a completed one).






    Notice how the Brevet Card not only lists the controls, but the distance and allowable times of each one. Details of each control will be in the Route Sheet but the main types are:


    • Manned – a volunteer will be waiting for you at a given place and will stamp your card.
    • Named Café/Shop – they will be expecting you and will stamp your card if you ask nicely.
    • Free – it’s up to you; easiest is to get a receipt from a shop or ATM (often acceptable as an alternative to the others if they are busy).
    • Information – a question written on the card that can only be answered if you are there (see 3rd control @ 80km in above Brevet Card, though it was manned that day).

    At the end, you hand your card in to the organisers to be validated and that’s it! If you’re a member of AUK, you’ll get your certificate/points etc. added to your online account.

    What makes Audax great?

    • The fact that they’re unsupported and unsigned.
    • The array of awards/badges you can work towards (if that’s your thing). There are many awards such as SR, RRTY and AAA (see glossary for details) and fancy badges for each.
    • The challenge (there’s always a tougher Audax waiting for you!).
    • The routes – Audaxes often use the little lanes, researched and ridden by the organiser over many years to give the best views, the best riding etc.
    • Other Audaxers – I cannot stress this enough! Everyone is battling their own challenge, but still has time to be one of the nicest cyclists you’ve ever met.
    • Food – there is often an abundance of food on Calendar Events, usually free or very low cost.
    • Attitude – there are only three statuses in Audax: DNS (did not start), DNF (did not finish) and Finished. No-one talks about average speeds or finish times, it’s simply not important as every finisher is treated the same. No-one really cares what bike you’ve got or what brand you’re wearing – look around and you’ll see a huge array of bikes and kit, all chosen and cherished by the individual on whatever criteria/merit they deemed important to them.

    Important Considerations

    Audax are unsupported and unsigned! It’s up to you to find your way between controls and up to you to get out of any problem or situation that may arise. There is no broom wagon or support vehicle – if your bike breaks and can’t be fixed, then you must find your own way home (but do let the organiser know).

    Audax are time-limited, though the allowances are very generous. The clock never stops and quoted average speeds include stopping. So if you need to eat or wee then you’ll need to be aware of the time in hand.

    Audax often use quiet country lanes with varying surfaces. Many seasoned Audaxers favour steel or titanium frames over carbon and wheels with lots of spokes and wider tyres.

    Who shouldn’t do an Audax?

    Audax isn’t for everyone, especially those who:

    • Value speed over everything else and/or want recognition for their speed.
    • Can’t fix a puncture or do basic repairs at the roadside.
    • Can’t navigate.
    • Like a safety blanket/don’t do self-sufficient.
    • Expect paid-staff tending to your every whim, pre-ride bike doctors, post-ride massages etc.

    Who should do an Audax?

    Anyone that likes long distance bike rides and doesn’t fit into the “shouldn’t” category! But be warned it can be addictive!


    Like most things, Audax comes with it’s own language, full of acronyms and slang. Here are the most common things you need to know:

    • AA or AAA – Audax Altitude Award. Really hilly rides qualify for AA points, collect enough and you can get awards.
    • Brevet Card – The card you get at the start of the ride that includes ride details as well as the controls. This is also where you collect/record your proof of passage.
    • Control – A mandatory stop on the route where you must get proof of passage.
    • Calendar Event – A pre-organised/approved route on a given day, done with multiple participants.
    • DIY – An Audax where you design the route and do it on your own at a time of your choosing (but still allows you to get Audax points/awards).
    • Entry On The Line – Turning up and entering on the day. Not always permitted and maximum number of riders still applies.
    • [Going] Full Value – Someone who takes close-to the maximum allowed time, thus getting maximum value out of their entry fee. Not a derogatory term, in fact full-valuers are often admired! And it matters not, anyone that finishes gets the same points/recognition.
    • Permanent – A pre-approved route that you do on your own at a time of your choosing (but still allows you to get Audax points/awards).
    • Route Sheet – Detailed instructions about the route.
    • RRTY (Randonneur Round The Year) – An award given to someone that does a 200km (minimum) Audax every month for 12 consecutive months.
    • SR (Super Randonneur) – An award given to someone that does a 200, 300, 400 and 600km Audax in the same Audax year (Oct-Sept).
    • SRRTY (Super Randonneur Round The Year) – An award given to someone that does an SR every month for 12 consecutive months.
    • Time In Hand – the amount of time between now and when the ride cut-off is.

    Go try!

    Hopefully that’s given you a good overview on how to get started. My advice is if the idea appeals, then definitely try one. Rafe




    Ride London is a three day cycling event that started in 2013 as a legacy event from the 2012 Olympics, some of the route is on the same roads as used in the 2012 Olympic road race.

    There are several ways to get involved, you can apply for a place in the 100 or 46 mile event by entering a ballot before the closing date and they send out a magazine to let you know if you’ve been successful. There are also thousands of charity places available and most will have a minimum amount for you to raise in exchange for a place. You can also take part as a relay peloton team of four each doing a fixed distance of 25 miles.

    The Prudential RideLondon Classique - the richest women’s one-day race in cycling, offers spectators the chance to see the best women’s cycling teams in the world battling it out over 12 laps of a closed 5.5km circuit that starts and finishes on The Mall the inaugural event in 2013 was won by Laura Trott.

    The prize money for the Women’s race is the same as the men’s and is the highest ever offered for a women’s one day race.

    100,000 people are expected to participate over the the three day event.

    There are several amateur and professional events taking place including a closed road family event FreeCycle on Saturday.

    Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix: Friday 28 July 2017, 11:00-18:00

    Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle: Saturday 29 July 2017, 09:00-16:00

    Prudential RideLondon Classique: Saturday 29 July 2017, 17:00-18:45

    Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100: Sunday 30 July 2017, 05:45-17:30 (approx)

    Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46: Sunday 30 July 2017, 09:00-14:00 (approx)

    Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic: Sunday 30 July 2017, 13:15-18:15 (approx)

    An estimated 150,000 spectators will line the routes to watch the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic.

    There are a few hills on the 100 mile route, one of them Box Hill has now become the focus of dread for a lot of riders taking part, it’s not that bad. Leith Hill is the toughest climb of the route and also the hill at Wimbledon which catches a lot of people out because for a lot of riders their legs are getting quite tired by this point and they can feel drained after conquering all the other hills.

    Some residents and businesses on the route will be completely cut off due to road closures however loads of notice is given to those directly affected and planning for the events involves the Police, Fire, Rescue and Ambulance Services and other critical services to allow any situation to be dealt with quickly and safely. Emergencies will be treated in the usual way, and the safety of residents and visitors will be dealt with as a priority.

    Handcycles, unicycles, Penny Farthings or Electric bikes are not allowed to participate in the ride london100 but this year they are allowing 100 tandems and 50 tricycles to enter.

    There are three bypass routes with an optional time and a mandatory time, for example at 11am you have the option to bypass Leith Hill if you are finding the route difficult but if you haven’t passed this point by 13.20pm you will have to use the bypass as the route must be cleared of amateur riders in time for the cyclists in the professional event to race the route.

    We have a FLAB cheering squad on the route Ade and Megan will be in Dorking high street to cheer all the FLABS taking part in the 100 mile route. They will have a big flag and if you would like to stop for a selfie with them and they will have emergency jelly babies, hugs and morale support to get you through those last few miles.



  • What is Zwift?

    As the nights are drawing in, soon it will be winter, it may be time for some of the FLAB community to dig out their old turbo trainer, put on a video on their laptop and pedal like there is no tomorrow for an hour or until their legs say no!

    However there is another way to wile away the hours on a turbo trainer… Zwift!

    Zwift is a turbo trainer multi-player online game that enables you to link your computer/iPad/iPhone to your turbo trainer, Allowing you to virtually ride with 1000’s of other riders across the world in a virtual cycling nirvana, free from traffic and headwinds.

    There are three virtual worlds to choose from Watpoia, London and Richmond. There are an array of routes, workouts and organised races to take part in or just ride round on your own workout. When you have finished, your ride can be uploaded to Strava.

    What do I need to play Zwift

    Obviously you need a bike, a turbo trainer, and a computer* /laptop/iPad/ iPhone. If you want an immersive gameplay, are going to be using Zwift regularly, and can afford it, then a smart turbo trainer such as the Wahoo Kickr or the Tacx Neo Smart would be a good investment.

    These turbo trainers generally have a direct drive design, with a built-in power meter and variable resistance. These turbo trainers will measure your power output, then send this data to Zwift to power your online avatar.

    The variable resistance on these turbo trainers will also allow you to feel as if you’re actually riding in the online world, so when you are going uphill on-screen the resistance will increase, and when you are going downhill it will decrease.

    However you dont need a smart turbo trainer - any turbo trainer can be set up to use Zwift. All you need is a speed sensor / cadence sensor, and a ANT+ USB dongle for your computer. Data from the sensors is then sent to your computer and transferred into the game.

    Your also going to need a couple of water bottles, a towel, a fan and a rubber matt to put under your turbo trainer­ (although Halfords do workshop flooring for £10 which locks together and is perfect).

    Zwift isn’t free but they do offer a 7-day free trial, and after that if you like it, it’s £8 a month.

    Setting up Zwift

    Once you have got all your equipment, you’re ready to set up Zwift, firstly download and install the Zwift application to your chosen device. You are then prompted to set up an account, and give details such as your gender, height, and weight (its best to honest, as this will reflect how you are progressing through your training and plus this information isn’t displayed to anyone other than you). This data will be used to create your Zwift character and to give an accurate measurement of your speed in the game.


    Its all about the bike…

    In Zwift your character is completely customisable, including changing skin tone, hair colour, and also what Jerseys you wear. When you first start out you get a basic bike with basic wheels, but after every km you get 20 experience points which go towards unlocking upgrades, for example, Zipp 808 firecrest wheelset, or a Canyon Aeroroad, s-works Tarmac, etc. The more you ride the quicker you will get upgrades!


    There are three different worlds to ride in: Watopia, London and Richmond:


    Watopia is by far the biggest map and has everything, from serious alpine style climbing to flat routes for time trial, racing or a social ride, and lots more in between, including the Volcano, with its own lap counter.

    There are also live Zwift segments including a sprint and two king of the mountains each giving live results and also awarding a temporary winners virtual jersey (green for sprint and poker dot for king of the mountains).


    The London map uses the route of the Prudential RideLondon Classique Course and the Richmond course is a copy of the UCI 2016 World road race championship course.

    Let’s ride

    Once you have finished setting up its time to ride, first select a course ( if your on Watopia I would recommend the Flat route it has a bit of everything but nothing to extreme a full lap is about 10km), next click ride now, and you will appear on the virtual world, just start pedalling, remember you don’t need to brake on the downhill (although to be honest I did on my first attempt), cornering is also a bit weird when you first start out, as you think you will fall off!

    So now your up and running, explore the various routes and extensive workout plans, or take part in a social ride. If your on a smart turbo trainer, your going to notice the hills, it does get harder on the inclines, you also see that when you get near another rider, it gets easier, this is virtual drafting, and works exactly the same way as it does in the real world. The start of sprints and hill climbs are marked on the road as a solid white line and finish under a banner arch green for sprints and blue for climbs.

    picture5 picture6


  • Beginners guide to using clipless pedals

    Confused why Clipless Pedals are called “clipless”, when you clip into them?  Well, here’s why:

    In the days of Merckx, Coppi and Anquetil, straps and toe-clips were common place among the pro-peleton until LOOK, who manufactured ski-boots at the time, decided to introduce the same technology into cycling shoes. 

    The “clips” were replaced by “cleats” and the new “clipless” pedals were born!

    Here's our Top Tips for switching to clipless pedals

    1: USE MTB SHOES and MTB/SPD pedals, set them on the loosest settings by adjusting the +/- screws on the pedal and fit your shoes with multi release cleats.

     2: PRACTICE with your bike set up on a turbo or if you don’t have one, lean up against a wall or hold on to some one’s shoulder so you can and get used to the motion of unclipping.


    Every time you brake unclip the foot that you would usually put on the ground first when you stop, after a while this will become a habit like when you’re in your car and suddenly break your foot automatically moves to the clutch.

    Beginners guide 

    Switching to clipless pedals maybe the easiest upgrade you can make to your riding yet a lot of new riders are terrified at the thought of being locked into the pedals. and this confounded with stories about cyclists forgetting to unclip and falling off at traffic lights maybe further be adding to your reluctance to change to clipless.  Don’t be scared to make the change,It really is easy and you’ll get used to it no time with a little practice and you'll be so amazed at the difference it'll make to your riding.


    pedal graphic

    There are many types of pedals, shoes brands etc. to choose from but we will keep this guide very simple and look at the two main types of shoes and pedals, Road and MTB.


    SPD/SL commonly known as the road shoe. (A+B IN PHOTO)

    They have three bolts and cleats that sit on the outside of the shoe.

    Road shoes are said to have stiffer soles and therefore offer a better power transfer for optimal performance.


    roadYou can only clip in on one side of the pedal so they can be a lot trickier to get used to. 

    They are extremely difficult to walk in as the smooth sole makes them slippery and with the cleats sitting on the outside of the shoe you end up walking like a duck! The cleats also wear down very quickly if you do walk in them although cleat covers are available.


    So if you have to occasionally walk up a hill or are using them to commute to work and have a long walk between your bike shed and your office this is worth bearing in mind.


    They have two bolt cleats that sit recessed into the sole of the shoe.Many MTB shoes are now identical to their road shoe counter parts in looks and offer the same stiff sole found on road shoes with the only difference being the recessed cleat.


    The white shoe on the left is a road shoe and the red one is a MTB shoe.

    spd multi release graphic


    Standard SPD cleats only release when you twist your foot outwards but shimano also make a multi release SPD cleat which will release in other directions making it easier to unclip especially when you’re feeling a bit apprehensive and get in a bit of a panic when you’re desperately trying to unclip your foot.

    multi release SPD



    The MULTI release cleats are SM-SH56 and can also be identified by the M engraved on it.



    Using SPD’s also gives you the advantage of being able to clip into both sides of the pedals       (D IN PHOTO ABOVE)

    Unlike road shoes you don’t have to faff trying to get your pedal the right way around and if you need an extra bit of reassurance or do a lot of start stopping on your commute you can have pedals with a platform on one side and cleat on the other   (PHOTO C ABOVE)

    Which gives you the option of only riding with one foot clipped in which can provide an extra bit of confidence.

    Finally whatever shoes and pedals you choose when you buy shoes take into consideration that  your feet will swell up a bit when you ride in the warmer months and you will need a bit of space in the winter for thicker socks so it's advisable to go up at least one size to avoid foot pain whilst riding.



  • MEET RHE FLAMBASSADORS 2017: Rafe Aldridge

    rafeNAME:   Rafe Aldridge


    FLAB social rides Swindon


    Cycling is something that pretty much anyone can partake in and get a lot out of, whatever their size/fitness/age/health. I want to help spread that message and get people on bikes.



    Hmm, that's really difficult. I think I'll go with... Anyone that's genuine and wants to give more than they take.


    Cycling is fundamentally very very simple - you just need a bike (any bike) and a bit of time. Everything else is just an ambition, a luxury or, worst of all, marketing b*******. The best bike in the world is the one you're riding. The best ride in the world is the one you're currently doing. Don't get so fixated by being thinner, faster, going further or having the latest "must-have" that you forget to enjoy what's available to you right now.




  • MEET THE FLAMBASSADORS 2017: Charlotte Gore


    NAME: Charlotte Gore


    FLAB social rides SE London


    I love cycling, I love getting more people into cycling. I was so impressed with the positive spirit of FLAB on the sportive this year it seems like a great organisation to get more people on bikes in a friendly and happy environment. The thing that made it different to any sportive I've done before is that we had FLambassadors out with us, talking us through the ride. It felt more like a community of riders than a sportive.


    Coffee and walnut. Controversial, I know.


    This will sound very trite but it's true, my dream cycling buddy is my best friend Nicole who started me on my cycling journey. We talk about everything while out on our bikes, she's normally waiting for me at the top of the hill cheering me on (which can be a bit embarrassing actually) and she carries enough sweets to supply a small army.

    BEST TIP OR PIECE OF CYCLING ADVICE?Nothing can prepare you for a big ride like regularly going out on your bike. If you don't have long to be out do a short series of sprints on the bike over the course of the ride, it will improve your speed as much as a longer ride at a slower pace.

  • MEET THE FLAMBASSADORS 2017: Martin Sheldon-Batt

    martinNAME:        Martin Sheldon-Batt


    Norwich area

    FLAB social rides Norwich


    To help give something back to FLAB as the amazing kit helped my confidence as it fitted! And hopefully help others who may feel out of place in a club run.


    Either a good old bakewell or coffee and walnut (can’t have too much coffee)


    Would have to be G (Geraint Thomas) seems like someone you could have a laugh with (and with on a few climbs)


    When you first go out with clipless expect to fall over once at least, as you'll forget you’re clipped in.




    NAME:  Kris Baldy


    I am based in Trowbridge, Wiltshire so I will run rides primarily from there but if demands dictate am willing to organise rides in surrounding towns. FLAB social rides Wiltshire


    Exercise should be an important part of everyone's routine and let's face it the more calories you burn the more you can consume! FLAB embraces that concept and encourages the less stereotypical person to squeeze into Lycra and ride. Personally it was the only brand I could fit into when I started cycling and now it is my brand of choice because of the quality and ethos behind it! I want to get more people out on their bikes and building a supportive social network that helps people get and stay healthy!


    I think if I was pushed I'd go carrot cake! Counts as one of my five a day so it's win win!


    I should probably start by saying my current cycling buddies are an absolute dream but if I could chose one person it'd have to be Boris Johnson and he'd have to be on a Boris bike!


    Measure the success of your rides on the people you meet and the quality of coffee and cake, not the speed or distance you achieve! Oh and if you are going to fall over while clipped in it is essential you shout "TIMBER!".


  • MEET THE FLAMBASSADORS 2017: Ali Kocho-Williams

    NAME: Ali Kocho-Williamsali


    Pembrokeshire  FLAB social rides Pembrokshire

    WHY DID YOU APPLY TO BE A FLAMBASSADOR? I love the FLAB ethos, and it matches me as a rider. I want to be able to share and socialise with others.


    Rocky Road. Seems appropriate....


    Anyone I can laugh with in the rain.


    Learn to draft in a group - if you can get out of the wind for some of the time, it's less hard work. You do have to do your time in the wind.



  • MEET THE FLAMBASSADORS 2017: Dave Bickel

    DaveNAME:  David Bickel


    Organising rides in the South Norfolk Area, mainly in Attleborough, Watton, Wymondhom, groups include Sliming world, or Hippo Hideout as it is secretly known as, Velo Watton have a group of riders who appreciate guidance, support and encouragement and I have been asked to mentor that group.  FLAB social rides Norwich


    Like the tiddly winkers from Blackadder, I’m one of the original Norfolk fat Lads who was at the back!!!  Looking to give something back to cycling, I was helped a lot in the dark days and feel that FLAB gives me an opportunity to give something back and help those who may not have the confidence to get out on a bike and enjoy the benefits it offers.


    Millionaires shortbread – one small slice is enough to satisfy this big lad for another 50 miles!!!!


    Already have them – my short haired general, she has supported, drafted me, pulled me along for many a mile.


    No matter how slow or fast you’re riding, you’re doing more than most people. Cycling really does save lives.However the best advice is drink, eat throughout your ride – not when your thirsty or hungry otherwise you will suffer!!!

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