Friday 4 December 2020

It's beginning to look a lot like.....Festive 500!

It only seems like yesterday when I was doing my Park Life tour as part of the Festive 500 at the end of last year. Once again the Festive 500 is happening, just like in previous years. That challenge of cycling 500km (310 miles) between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve captures the attention of millions of bike riders around the world since it began in 2010. Since then, 130 million kilometres have been covered by cyclists all around the world.

It's not always an easy challenge for people, particularly those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere and have to battle through cold, gloomy, sometimes rainy days - riding over damp, gritty roads, sometimes through the dark. It's not always easy to find the time either when you'd rather be home with friends and family, playing Monopoly or bingeing on Christmas movies. Consequently, most people who start the challenge don't complete it. For example in 2015, of the 72,000 people who started the challenge, only 13,310 finished.

Given the potential lockdown challenges of completing the distance outdoors in different parts of the world, and also the popularity of the indoor cycling programme Zwift, Rapha have modified the rules and are allowing virtual kilometres to count to wards the 500km, as well as those ridden outdoors.  

To help people complete the challenge Rapha, in conjunction with Zwift will be organising some virtual bike rides, and there will be two Q&A sessions on the @Rapha_UK instagram accounts - one with Team GB paralympian Kadeena Cox on December 8th at 7pm, and the other one with Team Canyon-SRAM racers Hannah and Alice Barnes on December 22nd at 6pm.

As before, folks who complete the 500km will receive that all-important rondel. Then, as an added incentive, all finishers will be entered into a draw and will have the chance to win a Canyon Grail CF SL 8 (including SRAM AXS eTap electronic groupset).

Many riders have reacted negatively to the news that virtual rides can count. The very essence of the Rapha 500 is about riding outdoors and battling the elements. Where is the element of challenge if you can just ride your bike in a cosy house while watching a video, or join a virtual ride with friends and a couple of professionals?

I am inclined to agree. But on further reflection, two things come to mind. Firstly, riding your bike 500km outdoors during the Northern Hemisphere winter is a challenge. But given that the Festive 500 is a global event, there are many people around the world who won't have those issues at all when riding outdoors. People in Australia or South America will benefit from long days in glorious sunshine. So where's the challenge there one might ask? In fact, looking at people's recorded kilometres on Strava the many riders reach 500km within three days! Secondly, I have never ridden Zwift and don't plan to get into the habit of doing it, as being old school I prefer to ride outdoors. I do ride on my rollers and my turbo trainer, and I must say that the idea of covering 500km on those machines within eight days sounds like nothing short of excruciatingly boring! Give me a gloomy day on the road any time!

So, I will actually tip my hat to those who manage the Festive 500 on Zwift! At the end of the day, I say each to their own. I think the most important thing here is to give people the incentive to stay active over this period, which is not necessarily the easiest thing to do at this time of year. If the Festive 500 manages to achieve that, I think it is a win-win situation for everyone.

First day of my Festive 500 last year at Richmond Park

For my part, I will be out riding my bike outdoors for the Festive 500, and once again basing the rides around a theme. My theme this year will be British Waterways. So watch this space for more updates.

Related Posts

Wanna do the Festive 500?

Why I like the Festive 500

Reflections on the Festive 500

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