The Rapha Festive 500, started in the South of England in 2010, has grown into an international affair. Every year, cyclists challenge themselves to ride 500km in eight days, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Already a formidable challenge, some cyclists increase the distance to 1,000km. Ride it solo, or as a group, in one go, over several days in your region, or even virtually. The official version departs from the Rapha flagship store in Seattle. Combine the distance any way you see fit, as long as it’s on a bike and recorded in Strava.
Here are 11 tips to help you complete the Rapha Festive 500 in style.
Study the map for alternative routes that may be less demanding or better suited for your needs. Decisions made now mean all the difference later.
You’ll need food, water, and hot beverages along the way to keep you fueled up and avoid bonking.
Your route should include rest stops such as grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, and lodging. The less you have to carry, the faster you’ll go. Check that their opening hours correspond with your schedule.
If you’re starting out in cycling, or this is your first long-distance ride, consider creating a figure-eight course or one that loops. This allows you to be closer to home if the weather turns for the worst, you want to sleep in your bed, or you just run out of gas. Staying close to home means potential support from family and friends too.
Once you have your itinerary, make a definitive training schedule to match. There are apps such as Trainerroad to help you create your program. Organize rides on consecutive days for your body to adapt to the stress. Work up to at least half the distance the week before.
Avoid Christmas Day
Holding the Festive 500 over the holidays means cyclists are available, but the time of year also comes with family commitments. It starts on December 24th, so plan to complete the largest portion of your miles on this day.
Shops and businesses open on the 24th but close on the 25th, which complicates finding provisions.
Instead of riding, use the 25th as a rest day. It’s perfect timing for you to take part in family holiday activities too. Non-cyclists may not understand your commitment to the challenge and will appreciate your presence during this festive period, even if you are tired.
If you have to ride, do a short recovery ride instead.
Check the 7-day weather forecast
While the weather is fickle, checking the 7-day forecast is a sneak peek into what the Festive 500 week may have in store.
Foul elements can add new meaning to the challenge, and most choose not to ride outside in the wet, cold, grey days of winter. Riding in miserable conditions deflates your motivation, zaps your energy, and requires extra clothing and protection as you battle the rain and cold.
Riding in the sunshine, or at least dry conditions, makes all the difference. If nasty weather or storms are looming, boost your mileage on the other days to keep to your schedule.
Build up some buffer
Riding 500 or 1000km in a few days at the end of the year with the least hours of daylight is no small feat. Riders make plans, but there’s no guarantee they’ll come to fruition. Family obligations, the reality of the weather, or mechanical problems can turn a well-intentioned program into disorder.
If you’re feeling good and the daylight and weather are on your side, it’s the perfect opportunity to build a buffer in your plan by logging in extra miles. Doing so may be the antidote to some unforeseen event in your schedule, saving your challenge from ruin.
Banking extra miles when possible also takes some stress out of the equation.
Take it easy
Remain conservative in your efforts to complete the event. It’s a challenge for a reason, but don’t overdo it.
Riding regularly during the week and on weekends is one thing, but completing several days of long-distance riding in a row is a challenging fit for any athlete. Scheduling rest is equally important.
Inspect your bicycle before heading out, don’t ride with headphones, respect traffic signals, and avoid heavy traffic areas. In short, do your best to avoid any incidents that may prevent you from riding the next day.
Ride with friends
There’s strength in numbers, so stay motivated and enjoy the experience of riding with friends.
When riding solo, it’s easy to bail when there’s frost on the window and you’re cozy under the quilt. But if you’ve committed to completing the challenge with friends, you’ll have more incentive to get up and go.
You may start the Festive 500 in a group, invited by one or another, but you’ll finish with friends. When you’re down or struggling, your teammates will pull you through.
More reading : Bunch Riding Etiquettes - How to Ride in A Group
Join your local Rapha Club rides
Rapha as a brand may not particularly speak to you, but this clothing company started in 2004 has earned worldwide attention. Rapha has established a series of flagship stores known as Clubhouses to promote its products and the cycling lifestyle.
There are seven in Europe, seven in North America, and six in the Asia Pacific. Check out their website for specific locations.
Each Clubhouse has its calendar with regularly scheduled rides and events. If you don’t live nearby one of these stores, join Rapha online via Zwift. Rapha has created six structured training workouts to get you started and improve your endurance for the big event.
More reading : 9 Benefits of Joining A Cycling Club
Ensure your bike is in tip-top condition
Your bike and gear must be tip-top to complete such an event. You’ll be stressed enough thinking about making it to the finish line, so ease some pressure by giving your steed a thorough clean, lube, and check over before starting. If in doubt, leave it to the experts in your local shop.
Check chain wear, tire tread and sidewalls, and even your tire strips if you’re running tubes. Use a torque wrench to verify all nuts and bolts are secure. Is there enough liquid in your tubeless tires? Do you have spare tubes?
Don’t forget to charge any electronic shifting or light batteries and install some fenders if you haven’t already.
Have proper rest
Rest is an integral part of any training program that is often overlooked. Your body undergoes a lot of stress and damage when riding long distances, and it’s only with proper rest that your muscles can repair themselves for the next day’s effort.
Rest is equally crucial to prevent mental fatigue, which can be as debilitating as physical exhaustion.
Schedule the time you need to rest and heal to improve your fitness. Overtraining or ignoring sufficient downtime post-ride makes you more susceptible to injury and illness.
More reading : How to Plan for An Active Recovery Ride
Keep yourself fueled and hydrated
Our bodies sweat during exercise to keep internal temperatures cool, constantly losing salt and water. The more you sweat, the more water you need to replace.
Dehydration is common among cyclists, and it prevents your body from cooling, inviting your entire body to malfunction or shut down completely.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, plan a regular drink schedule.
How much you consume depends on your weight, height, age, and exercise intensity. The numbers can get impressive quickly, so keep enough gas in the tank. Eat something every 20 to 30 minutes. Set a repeating alarm if you have to.
Get your kits ready
You probably won’t have enough time to wash and dry your kits for the next day, so plan accordingly.
Prepare your wardrobe in advance, particularly having fresh, dry base layers. While you may not smell the best, you can wear jerseys and jackets a few days in a row if they’re dry.
The same isn’t true for your bib shorts. Bacteria that develop the heat down there can cause saddle sores or infections. This is especially true for women, so have several clean, dry pairs ready to go.
In a pinch, hand wash them in a sink, then roll them up in a towel to remove excess water before turning them inside out for drying.