Randonesia: The Rise of Indonesian Audax
Indonesia has a burgeoning audax scene and is quickly establishing itself as a destination for self-supported long-distance cyclists, even boasting an ultra-distance race, Bentang Jawa (which Apidura is proud to support). We spoke to Jaya Lim, who organised the country’s first 1,000km brevet about the audax scene in Indonesia to find out why its’ appeal is growing so quickly.
Jaya returned to cycling in 2013 on a folding bike with 20-inch wheels that he got in 2011 and intended to use for local transport when travelling. He got back into cycling just to stay fit and the folding bike was the only bike he owned at the time.
The first 14km was the hardest, then the distance grew. Gran Fondo and century rides became usual on the weekend and several day-long bikepacking trips became an annual tradition.
300km felt like the point at which a cyclist becomes a long-distance cyclist, so in 2016, Jaya entered a 300km audax. He wanted to experience what it is like to ride a 300km ride but had never found a reason to ride such a distance by himself.
Until now, the longest distance he ever rode was 1,000km – and that was because he plotted the route and thought it was only fair that he ride the full course himself!
“I never considered myself a long-distance cyclist. I never ride more than 150km on my own – except for bikepacking. All my long rides happen because I get the idea that it will be fun to go there for lunch or I suddenly get the urge to see somewhere I haven’t been for a long time. It’s entirely spontaneous. I like travelling. I like outdoor activities. I like watching people and going places. I like to be alone and get busy with my thoughts and not be bothered by anyone. I like doing things by myself. I find all of that while cycling.”
From Supported Rides to Self-Supported Audax
We asked Jaya to tell us a bit more about the history of Indonesian audax and that 1,000km ride:
Bicycle touring and long-distance cycling are quite common here in Indonesia, especially in Java. There are lots of communities and individuals who ride long distances over multiple days. It’s common for some cyclists to ride back to their hometown during Eid or Christmas, often covering 200-500km or more in each direction.
Over two decades ago, one of Indonesia’s biggest newspapers, Kompas, started to organize an annual bicycle tour to explore Indonesia from different parts of the archipelago. The most recent edition was 2018, covering over 1,000km and aiming to promote cycling. The participants were invited from cycling communities and all expenses are covered, including a per diem allowance.
In the late 2000s, event organisers and institutions started to organize audaxes in Indonesia and now they’re everywhere. Almost all cycling events are categorized as audaxes and are fully supported. In 2012, Indonesia received a license from Audax Club Parisien (ACP), which oversees global audax and Audax Randonneurs Indonesia (Randonesia) was born and self-supported audaxes were implemented. After years of fully supported events, complete with feed stations, mechanics and medical support, many cyclists weren’t keen on the new self-supported approach and Randonesia developed its own unique following of bike enthusiasts and daily bike commuters looking for new challenges.
In the early years, it was hard to fully implement the rules because organisers still needed to promote this type of event. Riders felt like paying an entry fee and getting very little support in return was a big no. However, some randonneurs (known in Indonesia as audaxonists) started becoming role models for long-distance cyclists after participating in PAP 2014 (Perth-Albany-Perth 1,200km audax). Their influence inspired more people to want to be a randonneur and Randonesia grew.
Apps like Strava have also played a significant role in pushing cyclists to ride farther and spend more time on their bikes with the never-ending challenges and goals set each month. Lots of Indonesian riders take part in challenges like the Rapha Festive 500 and it’s become common to see people tackle that challenge in a single ride. The social element also means that people who like to ride far get to know each other and share routes and information.
Ambassadors for the sport of self-supported ultra-distance cycling are another part of the puzzle of the growing scene in Indonesia. Jay Petervary at the Tour Divide and later Mike Hall’s Transcontinental Race appealed to me, while the younger generation has been drawn in by riders like James Hayden. It’s benefited the scene as people get to know those riders and events and the products self-supported riders use.
Organizing the First 1,000KM Audax in Indonesia
It all started at the finish line of a 600km audax. After waiting for all the riders to return from a particularly wet and challenging ride, the organiser and I got talking – about the event, the participants, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) and rides delayed by the pandemic. Out of nowhere, he asked me to plot a 1,000km route for the next audax! I felt honoured, it was a big chance to share some of my favourite routes.
I started plotting the route a week later. Indonesian and Asian cyclists struggle with the wind, rolling terrain and temperature at events like PBP, so I looked at past routes for PBP and London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) to try to make my route as good an introduction as possible. A week before the event we had to revise the route as our test ride found a small part to be too hard and dangerous to ride but after that came the best parts – coordinating with volunteers to make sure all participants ride safe until the finish line and then enjoying their stories at the end.