In my previous blog entry, I possibly gave you, dear readers, some concern about my developing obsession for Amazon’s book sales rankings. If so, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m getting over it. After all, life has to go on. However, for those of you who are still genuinely interested in the rankings, I’m pleased to say that, as I write, ‘The Chieftain’ is ranked 3,175, 368 places above my last book (A Dictionary and Directory of Virology published in 1989), but it still has a long way to go before it features in the top 1000 or so.
Today, I’ve decided to get away from books for a few moments and tell you about another activity that has its community of obsessives….members of Audax. Some of you, while driving down country lanes in the UK during the shorter summer nights, may have been startled to come across a lycra-clad cyclist, or even a small group of them, very early in the morning, wandering in a slightly-fatigued manner over the road. If so, you have probably just encountered members of Audax, the long-distance cycling association. I was a member once and it took two years before I was ‘cured’. It truly is a glorious obsession. If you like cycling you must try Audax.
The principal objective of Audax UK members is to complete prescribed routes of various length (e.g. 200, 300, 400 and 600km etc.) that must be completed within a set time limit (e.g. about 40 hours for 600km). For those who ride at my pace, these time limits mean that the events essentially involve non-stop cycling, apart from getting your card stamped at checkpoints, feeding stops etc., and the occasional brief luxury of a lie-down on a village hall floor, a park bench or in a non-vandalised bus shelter (if any still exist). If you like to be sociable you can turn up to fully organised events. If you prefer a more solitary existence, some well-known routes (like “Bernie’s Long Flat One” a 600km Audax route based around Doncaster, Newark and York) can be achieved alone, provided you can produce a satisfactorily completed check-in card. In my short ‘career’ as an Audax rider (1994-1995), I gained the mildly-obsessive award of ‘Super-Randonneur’ i.e. a minimum set of four rides in one year covering 200, 300, 400 and 600km. I soon discovered that riding such distances alone at night is a sure way of producing hallucinations and night-time terrors! But the endorphin-rush when you’ve finished is amazing!
The seriously obsessed (which I’m sad to say I didn’t attempt to become) have the opportunity every four years to do the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 km Audax event. But to my mind the ultimate accolade in Audax UK, for ‘truly glorious obsession’, must go to the individual who logs up the most miles cycled during a single year. If my memory recalls correctly, in 1994/1995 this award went to a guy who cycled about 25,000 miles in one year on a single gear, fixed-wheel bike. What a man! Puts my short-term obsessions with Amazon sales-rankings, into their truly trivial perspective.