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OPINION

The privilege of race: No-fly policies only act to make cycling events even more exclusionary

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Should race organisers be dictating how you travel to their events? With the time and finances needed to participate in multi-day events already huge, it's arguably putting principles over practicality, says VecchioJo

Ultra-distance cycling events have just got harder.

They’re not getting tougher by covering longer distances, or directing riders over more challenging terrain (although with each new event there does seem to be a lot of suffering one-upmanship going on, to the point where taking a bike with you might be a hindrance and the race is won by who can walk and carry the fastest). They’re getting harder because race organisers are starting to implement no-fly rules that make it more difficult to travel to their events, so just making it to the start and limping home from the finish can become separate endurance events in themselves.

The very nature of ultra racing means that they are open only to those who are both financially and time-rich. Adding travel constraints to them only makes these races viable for the most privileged.

Essentially, a number of ultra bike races in the last few years have suggested that it would be a worthwhile effort if competitors could make their way to and from the event using more earth-friendly, land-based modes of transport alternatives to flying as a nod to recognising the environmental impact riders from all over the world congregating on a start line has, which is all very admirable.

GBDURO, the UK-based bikepacking event that runs the length of the UK from Land's End to John O'Groats via all imaginable terrains, has been a no-fly event since 2020. The year before it hosted pro cyclist Lachlan Morton for the inaugural running, that brought much media clout and event exposure, but of course that was at the expense of a significantly larger carbon footprint than GBDURO are ok with nowadays (to be fair, organisers The Racing Collective address this on their website head-on). Everyone has their price, but would you have even heard of the event if it wasn’t for him?

Now Lost Dot, the long distance race big hitters who bring you both the Transcontinental and Trans Pyrenees, have launched the Accursed Race for 2024 and slapped it with a blanket no-fly policy. Roving 1,600km across the gravel roads of Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally Kosovo, the race wants to show the cycling community, and the wider industry, that this is what sustainable bike racing can look like.

> Cycling and sustainability: What you can do to further reduce your carbon footprint

In 2022 Lost Dot conducted a carbon footprint analysis that revealed 70% of the organisation's 487 tonne annual carbon dioxide footprint was attributed to riders' travel to and from races, with the majority of emissions stemming from aviation. This is understandable as their events, especially the ultra doyenne of the Transcontinental, attract a global competitive field. It’s an issue Lost Dot tried to address in the most recent edition by introducing the Green Leaderboard as a new race classification, that rewarded riders who chose flight-free travel.

I am totally on their side in taking environmental concerns into consideration with regards to their races, because on the surface ultra racing and bikepacking do seem to appear to be minimal impact activities. What could be more friendly to the earth than riding around on a bike? It’s the favourite active travel alternative after all. But... skim the dust and sweat off the surface and it can become a little less worthy. Travel to and from the events that often start and finish in inaccessible parts of the world because that’s their very nature takes its environmental toll, with riders racking up the air miles to get to and from the event, and for every Instagram fodder image of a tired cyclist mushing in food on a garage forecourt there’s a pile of single use convenience food packaging shoved into a bin (this is why some races have trialled plastic-free ride policies). These self-supported bike races have an impact that goes beyond the self of a rider’s energy, resolve, lack of sleep and knees.

2022 Sonder Camino AL  - bikepacking Glen Feshie.jpg

Multi-day ultra bike races are already incredibly exclusive undertakings, thanks to both the considerable expense involved and time required. Adding extra constraints on the approved modes of travel to get to and from them is only going to ensure they’re a viable opportunity to those lucky few who can afford both the time and the money. While travelling in a carbon friendlier manner is certainly a laudable objective, it invariably takes longer and works out more expensive than flying; an unfortunate truth of the slowly burning world we find ourselves in.

It does feel a pearl-clutching first world problem to be whining about not being able to jump on a plane to an event when the whole idea of ultra racing is one of privilege. Removing yourself from the comforts of home and deliberately placing yourself into an arena of self-imposed hardship, pain and effort by crossing large distances and slogging over mountains is a freedom in itself that would be unimaginable to most people who find living from day-to-day struggle enough. They don’t have the luxury of knowing that it will stop at some point soon, but sufferporn might be a discussion for another day.

These endurance races are an expensive hobby, and that’s before you’ve even turned a pedal. It starts with the entrance fees, which can be chunky, and I’m not going to complain too much as there’s not so obviously a lot of work that goes on in the background to create these. I’ve worked in the shadows of enough bike events to see the toil that goes into even a Sunday race round a field, and that needs remunerating.

A lot of cycle events are expensive now and hard to justify. The £-a-mile rate is frequently breached by sportives, which is preposterous, and yet I’m happy to spend £25+ for less than an hour round a muddy field, and both make the hundreds of pounds for a cap and brevet card of an ultra race seem good value when you relate the cost to time in the saddle; but it always feels a like an unnecessarily painful financial gulp, especially if you’re expected to spend countless evenings working out the route for yourself. Maybe its point is to cement a certain amount of commitment towards the event, but it does lead to the lingering shadow of worry that nothing untoward happens between now and then meaning you can’t attend, because no race and no refund is an even bigger hoof in the wallet.

Then there’s all the time and expense of the training required to make riding these events barely manageable. Hours on the bike on the road or in the shed away from the partner or family that takes considerable understanding on both sides, and then the outlay of the increased calorie consumption because of all those extra hours on the bike. It can be all encompassing.

Then there’s all The Stuff. While it’s possible to do a long-distance race on the cheap, the required kit does add up. My first foray into long distance eventing was a constant shuffle of scraps of paper of lists of things to buy. Some big and spendy and important, some small, cheap and useful, but a constant river of costs. There were some things I just had to go without because I couldn’t afford them, and then wished I had bought them by about day three. Those scraps of paper morphed into Christmas present lists to fill the equipment gaps for future outings, with photos of the gifts in situ with a nice view sent to the givers as a thank you for the really useful thing they didn’t quite understand. Then at the other end of the race it took me nearly a year to nibble away at the credit card debt it left me in. It’s a harsh price I’m happy to pay. Eventually.

Lachlan Morton at GBDuro

Then, once you’re actually within the race you’ll experience life on the road as being one of relentless outgoings. You’re mainly eating pre-prepared and packaged food out of supermarkets and petrol stations, dipping into bakers for buns and sarnies, raiding shops for foods you don’t recognise in foreign languages, pillaging fast food joints because they also offer free Wi-Fi, toilets and plugs, and because the staff aren’t paid enough to care that you’ve brought your bike in, smell terrible and they’re cheaper than the restaurants you might have to use because it’s the only place open. The economics of batch cooking and ultra racing don’t mix. And because you’ve been riding your bike constantly for several days, the incessant refuelling demands a high financial outlay too. On top of that there’s the accommodation for those times you’re tired of sleeping in a bus shelter or a ditch, and the thought of the smallest moment of relief and comfort of a bed, or even just being indoors, can smother any budgeting worries. 

Everything about these events demands time and money from its competitors, and it chews greedily at both from the moment you press the enter button. The majority of riders in these events see them as the big challenge of their year, or life, and stretch both their spare time and finances to the limit to make it happen. Adding more time, expenditure and effort to get to and from the race will push those to breaking point, and make them an adventure too far for many.

There are already stories of riders who have had to stop racing and head for home before the finish because they’ve run out of the time they were allowed away. While Han Lu’s experience in taking a month to complete the most recent Transcontinental is an amazing story, shows incredible determination, true resilience and is inspirational to its core when most of us would have given up, simply taking that amount of time away from home, work and family commitments is a luxury that few of us can afford. Adding time and money to events seems a counter-intuitive decision to make at a time when many rides are making an enormous effort, and thankfully succeeding, in being more inclusive, increasing diversity and equality and attracting those that have traditionally felt left out or unwelcome in cycling circles. The Transcontinental and the Accursed Race both implement bursaries to help riders of low income to race, which feels very much like giving with one hand and taking away with the other. While it might have been implemented for well-intentioned motives, the net effect of a no-fly policy is one of increased exclusion.

It doesn’t help that coming from a UK perspective, having to choose no-fly travel options makes things unnecessarily stressful, complicated and expensive thanks to having to cross a body of water, but mainly because our public transport network is a complete shambles that brings with it a hard-wired mistrust of buses and trains everywhere else. Every journey is a lottery of predictable disruption and creaking infrastructure as to whether it will get to where it’s supposed to on time, and if it will even turn up at all. Add travelling with a bike to that and the difficulties can expand exponentially towards impossibility. Just the habitual dread-filled thought of what might go wrong makes flying not just the cheaper and quicker option, but the only halfway reliable and viable one too.

You would expect the sort of riders that might enter long distance races to be well aware of the environment, all the issues around it and the impact they might have upon it, as they spend a large proportion of their time outside. Any changes in the climate, they literally experience head-on. While I agree with the ethos and the need to consider our actions and the impact they have (your politics on the issue might be different) I feel that it’s preaching to a choir that knows the hymn sheet off by heart. The people that participate in these events are going to be, by the very nature of bike riders and those that like to do it for extended periods, active travel advocates, and are already aware of the choices they make without being dictated to (you’d like to think, anyway).

For years now, even before it became the hot topic, I’ve been making travel miles to ride miles decisions, deciding not to go to an event if the former outweighed the latter, just because it made for common sense. Any environmental concerns were a pleasing bonus, that I can only now virtue signal about if I wanted to make a point.

I’m not a saint though, and my carbon footprint is visible from 40,000 feet. It didn’t start well, and it’s not my fault as my dad was an airline pilot and mother a stewardess. Screwing the planet over is in my genes, sins of the father and all that, and we spent a lot of my childhood jetting around the world to exotic places thanks to my dad’s work. Then I made use of those cheap flights to ride my bike in picturesque places all over the place. In my job of writing about bikes I’ve been flown around the world several times to encourage you to fly to great riding destinations, and later as a bike guide I’ve jetted to all the cycling honeypots to help you up honeypot mountains and then clean your bike afterwards. That’s quite the legacy, and I’m uncertain that not owning a car, having no children, existing very locally and walking or riding almost everywhere, starting 99% of my bike rides from the front door, making conscious decisions about any rides that are further afield and religiously washing out my peanut butter jars could ever undo all of this.

Having a no-fly policy on a race is a blunt hammer with which to assess someone’s carbon footprint as a way to earn a ticket to race, and ignores all the other choices they may have made in their life to minimise their impact on the world. Applying an eco impact points system would be hard to implement, and also favour those that have the time and money to make those choices easier to make. Then again, I’ve had to list my previous cycling achievements as part of the acceptance process to ultra races, so would having to provide an eco palmares become part of a race entry requirement? I imagine the admin cost of this would bump the race entry fee up a bit. Oh, wait... 

If we’re going to have environmentally sound races, then probably the best way around this would be to not put on events that route from one remote part of the world to another even more inaccessible one. It’s easy to feel holier than thou because it involves bicycles, but in simple environmental impact terms, flying across the globe just to ride a bike through the night and pick up a brevet card stamp is no more worthy than flying to Magaluf to dance through the night and pick up an STD. We’re all getting on a plane for what we like to call fun. But when people are flying to Ibiza and back for a night out because it’s cheaper than a night out in London, or flying to Poland for a Lidl shop because it saves on the weekly spend, and are being applauded for it in the national press, it does make you wonder how much more pissing in the wind you can do before you get tired of your nice Sidis getting wet with splashback.

I’m of an age to remember when going away abroad for an annual holiday was considered fancy, and watched the advent and stampede of the cheap holiday when flying away three or four times a year became the norm. So, as the expected right to be able to travel whenever and wherever we want is only a recent phenomena, would it be impossible to go back to considering a single big trip away a year as a treat? Taking back what people consider to be their freedom is always going to be hard, but are we past that point already? Have we run out of polite options and need to be told what to do? Is it time to shut up and suck it up, because we fucked it all up?

Transcontinental 2017 - Madelaine Bars.jpg

You may dispute the veracity of the politics, in which case you’re totally allowed to not attend a no-fly event and do what the hell you like; but will a no-fly rule make people think about their travel options and whether they need to fly to an event? Yes. Will a no-fly rule have an effect on the cost in time and money this will add to the event? Absolutely. Will this exclude some people who can’t afford either? Certainly. Does it make these events more exclusive? Yes. Will taking all the time and the expense and the environmental concerns into consideration encourage more people to not sign up for an organised event in some other distant part of the world, and plan their own adventure from their front door instead? Let’s hope so...

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

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34 comments

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larrydavid | 4 months ago
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 "That’s quite the legacy, and I’m uncertain that not owning a car, having no children, existing very locally and walking or riding almost everywhere, starting 99% of my bike rides from the front door, making conscious decisions about any rides that are further afield and religiously washing out my peanut butter jars could ever undo all of this."

Since when was having no children an environmentally virtous choice? Why do you think 'having children' is environmentally damaging? Why is your environementally damaging - which to be fair you detail - lifestyle to be offset by those not yet to live? 

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yellowjack | 5 months ago
1 like

Two things.
First, since I left the military in 2012 I have NEVER taken a flight ANYWHERE. So I'm in credit to a huge degree compared to a lot of people, right?
Second, it doesn't matter whether I'm on the aeroplane or not. So long as it is a scheduled flight, the seat is flying to its destination whether it has my buttocks on it, someone else's buttocks on it, or it is empty.
So the no-fly event policy achieves net zero (impact on carbon footprint), and serves only to make life exponentially more difficult for race/event participants while surrounding itself and its organisers with the fuzzy warmth of signalled virtue.
A genuinely better (environmentally at least) solution to reducing the impact of ultra endurance events would be to limit participation to local passport holders and/or residents. Because the current system seems utterly pointless when viewed through a wider lens...

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Rich_cb replied to yellowjack | 5 months ago
3 likes

Doesn't a no-fly policy achieve the exact same thing as limiting it to local people/residents?

Some very determined people might travel from the other side of the world on a boat but most participants will be from the local(ish) area.

I'd agree that one person making a switch away from flying to alternative transport makes little or no difference. Once many people do it the airline will adjust the number of flights accordingly.

This can be seen in Europe where new high speed rail routes reduced the number of flights serving the same area.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rich_cb | 4 months ago
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Rich_cb wrote:

Doesn't a no-fly policy achieve the exact same thing as limiting it to local people/residents?

depends what you mean by local. I've travelled to several cycling events in Belgium, France and Netherlands by train/ferry and bike. I wouldn't say I was local to Paris, Ghent or Maastricht.

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wycombewheeler replied to yellowjack | 4 months ago
1 like

yellowjack wrote:

 Second, it doesn't matter whether I'm on the aeroplane or not. So long as it is a scheduled flight, the seat is flying to its destination whether it has my buttocks on it, someone else's buttocks on it, or it is empty. ..

are you suggesteing that the airlines would continue to run these services if they were empty? Sure one extra empty seat is not going to  see this flight cut from the schedule, but the continuence of the route is the result of all/most of the seats generally being sold, so each passenger has a sahre of that responsibility.

Why is there talk of needing more runway capacity in London? because the flights are generally sold out and the airlines want to run more. This is the result of their flights being full or nearly full due to the cumultive effect of all the individual passengers.

larrydavid wrote:

Since when was having no children an environmentally virtous choice? 

No single action a human makes will have a carbon footprint anywhere near that of creating another human (while living in the west). This does not mean I am advocating for zero births, nor arguing that someone could use their "carbon allowance" for a child on extensive travel instead.

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Keesvant | 5 months ago
3 likes

Awereness.. how can a flight from amsterdam to london only cost €63 ?
I connot by a full tank of gas for my car for that amount , cause i'm taxed €0.96/liter..
And kerosine is tax free ? Things are not right in the world..

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Marshall2389 | 5 months ago
3 likes

If the event organizers want to try to make their event less carbon intensive then they're free to. It's their event. 

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Brauchsel | 5 months ago
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How do race organisers police this? Getting to the start isn't part of the competition, so I don't see what right they would have to require you to document how you get from your house to the start line. They can't go snooping without your consent for data privacy reasons, and while I suppose it could be a term in your race entry contract/agreement it doesn't feel like one that would survive a challenge on grounds of unfairness/irrelevance. 

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james-o | 5 months ago
7 likes

It's odd how bike touring in the UK was a popular, accessible post-war working class holiday option and now we celebrate both the history and imagery of the era i.e. the Rough Stuff Fellowship, and the 'ultra' racers who fly to 3 or 4 or more global locations each year to show how fast they can ride with not much sleep, often sponsored by bike brands who like to talk about sustainability. Thanks for raising the discussion. We need to see the disconnects and hypocrisy. 

I wonder if the majority of bikepacker/tourers do just go and ride in the UK but the majority of what we see on social media is the 'epic' stuff with the heroics and big locations. Brands do find it hard to make engaging content that doesn't involve dramatic locations. 

Call me a hypocrite too maybe. I was inspired by the early days of long distance self-supported racing and travelled as far as Canada to race, but it didn't last long with the travel aspect being a big part of why. I also arranged a bike event fore some years with a very photogenic and instagram-promoted route which now draws riders from all over the world.. part of why it's all on my mind these days. People will fly to ride somewhere but I think on your last point, it's time we saw it as no more socially co-operative as owning a massive SUV. Ride local. 

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I love my bike replied to james-o | 5 months ago
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It should be noted that train travel often isn't as difficult some believe, especially if the bike's in a bag (which doesn't need to be padded). A road bike (depending on size) with wheels, bars & saddle removed can meet the Eurostar rules.

 

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chrisonabike replied to I love my bike | 5 months ago
1 like

Rinko!  The ancient oriental art of taking your bike on the train. (Art - and engineering.)

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wtjs replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago
1 like

Excellent link, and many of the problems have been solved by the Ritchey Break Away frame we heard about yesterday, which you can have with proper brakes or crappy obsolete rim brakes

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Bigfoz | 5 months ago
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Wonder what the carbon cost of driving my 18yo diesel van 4,000 round trip to and from the race? Also pretty much assures the race is only accessible by Europeans. Don;t see many Aussies etc making i over without flying

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mark1a replied to Bigfoz | 5 months ago
1 like

Bigfoz wrote:

Wonder what the carbon cost of driving my 18yo diesel van 4,000 round trip to and from the race? Also pretty much assures the race is only accessible by Europeans.

That's an interesting question... without knowing the make & model of the van, it's difficult to say, but even at 18 years old, by 2006 diesels were starting to get lower emissions in CO2 terms, so let's say at 150g/km, the 4000 mile round trip will generate 967kg of CO2, just under a tonne. I've read that air travel generates 250kg per passenger per hour, so if the flights between UK & Albania are 3 hours each way, that's 1.5t CO2 per passenger, so 50% higher than driving. Take a passenger in the van and you've halved the per passenger CO2 emissions, flying is then 3x more. 

 

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Dnnnnnn replied to mark1a | 5 months ago
1 like

mark1a wrote:

Take a passenger in the van and you've halved the per passenger CO2 emissions, flying is then 3x more.

There's also the 'radiative forcing' effect with aviation, which favours surface travel.

Another variable is the carbon cost of manufacturing the vehicle in the first place. Keeping a car or van on the road longer is often more climate-friendly than throwing it away and having a new, more fuel efficient one created. Not sure how it would compare with a plane though - they tend to last longer than most road vehicles and will be intensively used, at least in their youth - with each extra mile 'diluting' the manufacturing carbon cost.

Conclusion? Take the train and enjoy the journey! If you can afford it, of course...

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60kg lean keen ... | 5 months ago
1 like

If you are going to make it no fly, then why is it so hard to travel with a bike without flying. Just look at the mess that is Eurostar, try taking a bike for example to Amsterdam. Then look at flying with a cheap airline to the same place, just make sure its in a box and its within the weight limit, pay your money (not expensive either) and boom you are good to go. This is all before you need to get to London (not every one lives in the south west uk) most of us have a airport close or close ish to us and would not need to use public tansport to access, as car parking is cheap and plentiful. Try using tains and buses with a bike and that can be a real headace then add in all that other stuff (you might take with you), like childern partners and luggage and the plane is still the easy option, change that and then people might stop flying.

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cqexbesd | 5 months ago
1 like

These are important points and of course effect more than just long distance bike races. Regardless of what bike races chose to do I think real solutions have to come from a few steps back so I will take this opportunity to rant.

1) less work. Of course it differs from person to person but I struggle to find anytime outside of work most weeks. Weekends I can catch up on household duties and spending time with my family. We know that less working time is good for health and well-being, and carbon footprint yet I haven't really had time for hobbies since I left univeristy decades ago. If people had more time they could take slower transport. They could have hobbies close to home because they wouldnt have as much need to "maximise" their one thing they can do for a few years. A nice side effect is more people would have time to volunteer to run e.g. cycle events.

2) better transport. Some places have started this already but no more short haul flights. The governement subsisides that would have gone to them can go to trains and buses. Longer flights should have no subsidies - again diverting the money towards trains and buses. Sadly for now truly long haul flights across oceans have no real alternative but shorter flights are a start. This has to be done at the same time as there is actual investment in e.g. the rail network. There are many routes, even within continental Europe that are hard or slow or expensive to do, some mentioned in the article and many more besides. Not that much excuse for that now days - we have had decades we could have been sorting out ticketing and building rails.

Like most things though these changes don't work without each other so its hard to move on just one. Given most places can't even manage a decent bike lane I don't expect there is much hope of antyhign bigger, at least until its too late.

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Krd51 | 5 months ago
2 likes

Only mugs believe this climit nonsence. Answer one question when did the climit not change, and why is France not parcially a desert as was claimed would happen during the 1976 heat wave......LOKL

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Boopop replied to Krd51 | 5 months ago
4 likes

Snore 🥱

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perce replied to Krd51 | 5 months ago
3 likes

I've no idea what a climit is.

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quiff replied to perce | 5 months ago
8 likes

I think it's the extra adjustment screw on SRAM's new derailleur. 

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Rendel Harris replied to perce | 5 months ago
3 likes

perce wrote:

I've no idea what a climit is.

It's that green frog on the Muppets isn't it?

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Tom_77 replied to Krd51 | 5 months ago
3 likes
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Ian Carey | 5 months ago
7 likes

An interesting article about such an important topic, for which there are no easy answers.

'No Fly' events are a good way of raising the issue about the damage aviation causes. However, the numbers involved are miniscule compared to the global amount of flying, which continues to grow.

I admire people who don't fly, but sadly I have given up worrying about global heating as it is too late and the world continues to increase its consumption of carbon.

I sadly accept that my consumption is contributing to the misery of poor people living in the likes of Bangladesh or Sudan, whose lives are in peril due to rising temperatures.

What I do find interesting is that the world of Audax continues to provide low cost and local events, many of which are in the 'ultra' category, but still very much under the radar.

Most weekends there are numerous 100/200 km events across the UK, Europe and the world, with the occasional 300/600/1,000km event.

Often the entry fee is around £10 and most of the participants will not have flown to the start.

 

 

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jaymack replied to Ian Carey | 5 months ago
6 likes

Audax is most certainly the way to go. But I am of course completely biased.

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Flâneur replied to Ian Carey | 5 months ago
3 likes

"most of the participants will not have flown to the start"

No, but many will have driven. And I say that as an enthusiastic audaxer myself - have done LEL & PBP and yes, I flew to Paris and back for PBP, not proud of it but pretty much the only way from the North of Britain other than a long drive when Eurostar and Dutch trains don't take bikes.

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Backladder replied to Flâneur | 5 months ago
0 likes

Flâneur wrote:

"most of the participants will not have flown to the start"

No, but many will have driven. 

The only way to avoid people driving to the start is to have the event start from the competitors door, perhaps using a sealed GPS computer posted to the competitor and a certified weight for the competitor, then they could set off from home and continue until the device indicated they had completed a certain amount of effort. They could then upload the results to the event website with the first one declared the winner. No non-active travel required for anyone and different levels of effort could be tailored to one day/weekend/full week/etc events with the GPS trace proving they didn't sneak home every night  3

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quiff replied to Backladder | 5 months ago
2 likes

Backladder wrote:

Flâneur wrote:

"most of the participants will not have flown to the start"

No, but many will have driven. 

The only way to avoid people driving to the start is to have the event start from the competitors door

Extended Calendar Events: https://www.audax.uk/about-audax/event-types/extended-calendar-events-eces/ 

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Backladder replied to quiff | 5 months ago
1 like

Interesting!

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vthejk replied to Backladder | 5 months ago
3 likes

DIY audaxes, which allow you to qualify for certain audax UK awards (don't ask me to explain them - they're as clear as mud), are a thing and you can do a ride of your own making, from your own doorstep, suiting a certain set distance (50/100/160/200/300km and so on). You then just submit completed GPXexes. Audaxes are absolutely a lovely thing, and should be celebrated.

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