The Rapha Festive 500 Challenge for 2017 will follow the same format as previous years. The challenge is to cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Riders around the world can take part which makes the challenge a lot easier for those in the Southern Hemisphere (particularly Aussies) than it does for us on the other side of the world.
Completing 500km in usually cold, damp, harsh weather whilst trying to fit in cycling around festive real life things like Christmas and seeing the family make finding the time to go riding tough. The challenge boils down to riding 62.5km (or 39 miles) each day for 8 days. A couple of riders in Australia spent their Christmas Eve last year smashing around a flat oval together to be the first to complete the Festive 500.
I completed the Rapha Festive 500 challenge in 2014 and 2016.
How to complete the Rapha Festive 500
Plan your time
Previously I’ve managed to get out and ride almost every day during the Rapha Festive 500 which allows me to keep things simple and knock out the required 62.5km a day. Last year, however, I managed to factor in when my club rides were. Being able to do a long ride in a group on Boxing Day saved me having to think of a route and gave a chance for an easier ride. If you’re unable to ride on one day, having a plan to compensate on other days really helps to keep on top of the total required.
Plan your rides
As the Festive 500 is solely a distance challenge, there’s no point trying to get a PB up that local hill. It’ll save you time and energy to stick to some of the flatter routes nearby instead. The easier and flatter the ride is, the quicker you’ll be back warm indoors enjoying some mince pies. One or two days going round and round a local club time trial loop will really knock the miles off with a minimum of effort, even if it won’t be the most exciting route.
Check the weather forecast
There’s no point scheduling a Festive 500 ride whilst it’s chucking it down unless you absolutely have to. If the forecast is kind, you’re better off heading out before or after the showers (before is better, less road spray!). Another problem could be ice, as it was in 2016. Checking the forecast to see if a cold snap is coming will give you a chance to knock off most of the miles before ice sets in and makes riding riskier. Once the roads get icier, it’s more sensible to stick to the main roads. Again less fun, but you won’t complete the Festive 500 if you fall off and hurt yourself.
Wrap up warm
Those of us trying to complete the challenge in the northern hemisphere have to put up with Winter. Last year’s Festive 500 saw a lot of freezing temperatures requiring lots of layers. There’s nothing worse than going out for a ride and ending up cold. Gloves that are too thin make your fingers ache and no overshoes do the same to your toes. A good merino base layer will stop the wind cutting through you too. Wrap up warm and you won’t have to return home early having had no fun!
Prep your bike
As the weather is likely to be cold and damp, your bike needs to be in tip-top shape. Mudguards will keep the worst of the road muck off you, a touch drier and somewhat warmer. If there is a lot of water or worst still some ice, proper winter tyres will help you stay upright. Those expensive Summer slicks are a risky choice. Taking 10psi or so out of the tyres will give you some more grip too. A good set of lights will help you keep riding for longer instead of having to go home at 4pm (or earlier). Take lots of tubes, punctures are more common in the Winter when the rain brings more of the grit and flints out of the road.
Find some friends!
In a purely means to an end way, having someone to sit behind out of the wind will keep you fresher as you’re riding for 8 days and they’re probably not. Riding with someone else will also keep you more entertained and stave off the boredom that starts to creep in. Coffee stops are more interesting with someone else to talk to about cake. Chatty friends will keep your spirits up, particularly on Day 7 when it starts to really feel like a challenge. All of a sudden you’ll find yourself back at home with your day’s riding done and it will have felt fun.