The Rapha Festive 500 returns to Strava this year, so here are our top five tips to complete the distance challenge

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Strava‘s annual link-up with British clothing brand Rapha returns this Christmas. The Rapha Festive 500 is now an annual event running from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve that appeals to thousands of cyclists around the world.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the short days and cold temperatures mean we need to plan well to cover the 500 kilometres in the eight available days.

Plan properly, and you can nail the distance of the Rapha Festive 500 and still have plenty of time for family and other commitments.

Say it quietly, but you could even stay off the bike entirely on Christmas Day.

Everyone has their own approach, from self-appointed heroes of the chaingang who will be out smashing the miles every day to those of us seeking a balance between our hobby and real life.

So here are our top five tips to get you through the 500km challenge with your legs – and relationships – intact.

1. Dress yourself and your bike for the conditions

Dressing poorly for the weather where you live is a sure fire way to end your ride early, and possibly keep you off the bike for a while after.

Low temperatures, rain (even snow) and high winds are all factors in winter riding but barring extremes these can be negated by well chosen kit.

Keep the rain out and your skin dry to retain body heat with a decent rain jacket. A pair of high quality overshoes will keep you comfortable and your toes toasty. Pull on a pair of bib tights and your legs can stay warm all day.

Dressing properly for the conditions allows you to cover the intended distance in relative comfort and not be put off getting out on your bike day in day out.

If you’re lucky enough to be having a warm Christmas in the southern hemisphere, make sure you’re prepared for the warm summer temperatures and plan where you’ll top your bottles up.

Once you’ve kitted yourself out, what about your bike? Winterise your machine and you’ll soon be munching the mileage problem free.

2. Don’t take risks

(Photo: Andrew McCandlish)

Sometimes missing a day is the best option. Photo: Andrew McCandlish

It’s often hard to admit but sometimes cycling just isn’t a safe or sensible option. Hit a patch of black ice and that could be your spring racing and sportive season out the window, let alone finishing Christmas week with some decent miles under your belt.

>>> Which type of winter cyclist are you? Find out here

If you’ve planned your riding well, then there should be plenty of spare capacity in the week to extend a couple of the other rides or get out on New Year’s Eve even though you thought you’d be done by then.

What’s more, if the conditions are completely unsafe and you don’t complete the challenge then it really doesn’t matter. The following weekend could be wall-to-wall sunshine and ice-free roads.

Come the spring your legs won’t know if you received a badge in the post or not, so long as you get the miles in over the winter as a whole.


Looking back: Our favourite shots from the 2015 Festive 500


3. Pace yourself

Heard about the local chaingang going out for a 22mph smashfest around the lanes on Christmas Eve but feeling a bit under-trained? Probably do your own thing and catch-up with them later in the week.

Putting yourself right in the red on the first day will not stand you in very good stead for the rest of the challenge.

Think about the mileage you want to cover on each ride and the speed at which you can cover that distance without over-stretching yourself ahead of the remaining rides.

4. Plan a day off for Christmas and other commitments

Christmas table

Plan properly and you can enjoy a day off the bike for Christmas

Got your eye on a podium finish at next year’s Tour of Flanders or fancy yourself as a Tour de France stage winner?

Probably not, so will a day off for Christmas really hinder your form that much? Get a big ride in on Christmas Eve and reward yourself with a day off on the 25th.

Your loved ones will (probably) appreciate having you around and the day off will have you raring to go when you next swing your leg over a bike.

Remember not to go too mad on the festive food, there are alternatives.

5. Find an easier route

Photo: Russell Ellis

Friendlier routes are available. Photo: Russell Ellis

Huge elevation gains and tricky cobbled routes are great, most of the time.

But what about when it’s New Year’s Eve, it’s forecast to rain at midday and you’ve got 70km left to complete the challenge?

Climbing can be an enjoyable challenge but with 400+km already in your legs and a bit of added Christmas weight sitting heavy around your middle, you might not fancy dragging yourself up that local 20% killer ramp.

Stick to the lowlands, use the wind to your advantage and you’ll be home and done before you know it.

  • ian franklin

    Or come over to Thailand and cycle on good roads in the wamth!

  • dougles

    I’m going to play it by ear this year. In previous years I wish I’d tried it because I’ve been at the in-laws/my own family, but this year it’s just me, my wife and son for most of it (apart from Christmas day) so it might be harder to pull myself away.

  • J1

    I am surprised by the number of people who complete it to be honest, for me family > cycling. I still go out, just not anti-social out.

  • Steve

    I’ve got several nominees if that’s the criteria lol

  • Nic Lowe

    Great event if you hate people and they hate you.