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Trace out the route on a map at home. This will help you understand the route much better when actually riding. Your local library should have a set of OS 1:50,000 maps which can be very handy in the planning stage. However, these maps are too large a scale for most randonnées and you’d need to carrying a library with you. Buy yourself a road atlas, 3 or 4 miles:1”. Tear out the relevant sheets and cover them in clear plastic. Fold them into 3x3 sections and they’ll fit neatly into a jersey pocket. You’ll rarely ever have to carry more than 3 sheets. Road atlases are also cheap enough to replace them every year or two. Some websites now offer the option of displaying the route on OS maps and printing them at a variety of scales.

Many riders rewrite their route sheets into a more suitable format to follow on the move. If you do this, check and double check that you haven’t made any mistakes! Others simply photocopy to a different size or colour code the instructions for better legibility; or create a GPS track or route, using digital mapping, and download this to a handlebar mounted GPS unit.

When riding, keep checking the route. A route sheet holder attached to the handlebars is very useful. Do not assume the person in front knows where he is going! Use your handlebar computer (set to kilometres) to help gauge your location.

Riding in a group, or with one or two others, and your ride will be much easier. You can chat and take turns at the front of the group, sheltering one another from the wind for a minute or two at a time. On your own, audax rides can be lonely and more difficult, but don’t try to keep up with those who are too fast for you. You’ll only pay the price later in the event. It’s better to have a little in reserve than to do 40 kph at the start with the fast boys, get dropped and then get lost because you weren’t paying attention when hanging onto their back wheels!

If your bike is well maintained you should encounter very few mechanical problems. However, accidents can happen and disaster can strike. You need to be self-sufficient enough to get yourself out of trouble. That may mean bodging a repair or a long walk to a telephone box and a call for a taxi to a railway station.

Many riders carry a mobile phone, but don’t rely on this. You may not get a signal, damage your phone in a fall, or run out of charge. Make sure you are equipped to cope.

Widespread acceptance of credit cards and cash machines in many places means that you don’t have to carry wads of cash with you but once on the ride you are on your own.

You must eat and drink. Have a good carbohydrate rich meal the night before and then snack on other high carbo foods during the ride. ‘Energy bars’ are good but can be expensive and you’ll tire of them in longer events.

Two bottles on your bike are definitely recommended. Expect to drink about 500ml (1 regular bottle) per hour, more if it’s hot, and carry enough spare food.

After a while you’ll get fitter and faster and you’ll meet up with some of the seasoned campaigners who don’t dash about too fast. Note their habits. Don’t waste time off the bike. Many slower riders just keep  going like Aesop’s tortoise, but they all get round. If you are faster, then you can afford to spend some time having teas and toast.

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