Tips on how to approach the Festive 500

Rebecca Bland
3 mins

If you’ve been cycling for a while, you’ve probably heard of Rapha’s Festive 500 challenge. Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, cyclists across the globe attempt to ride 500 kilometres over the eight day period, instead of hibernating and glueing themselves to the sofa. 500 kilometres equates to 310.6 miles, and for most of us, it’s a daunting mileage to have to tick off in just over a week. Sure, the professionals may be used to it, but for the vast majority of us amateurs, we just don’t have the time to spend in the saddle. Which is why it’s different around Christmas. With many 9-5 workers off during the period between Christmas and New Year, the Festive 500 is a great challenge, something to focus your mind and legs on in this odd limbo period. So if you’re thinking about taking it on this year, what’s the best way to go about it?

Start it fresh

The Festive 500 is not something you want to be attempting on tired or heavy legs. If you’ve just finished a big block of training, perhaps give it a miss or focus on a smaller challenge. Additionally, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, winter is fully here and it can present some arduous weather. Respect the challenge, and prepare for it like you would any other goal or training block.

Vary your intensity

There’s no way to avoid longer rides if you want to complete the full 500km. Even if you split the mileage equally each day, that’s still 38 miles or 62km. So, avoid burning out quickly by varying your intensity. Keep the intensity low on longer rides, as these will be energy sapping enough just due to the length, and keep your sprints or intense riding to shorter days (think under 60 minutes). Luckily if you’re a Spoked rider, you can alter your hourly estimate for each ride and the algorithm will plan a ride for you.

Anytime during the week, you can edit your time to train.

Check the weather forecast

It’s winter (for the northern hemisphere at least). It’s not going to be shorts weather. So be prepared to put the miles in on the better days, and save the bad weather days for your indoor sessions or for your shorter rides. Take advantage of any low wind, sunny days if you can.

Double it up

Whether your planned ride is indoors or outdoors, if it’s a long ride, consider splitting it in two and doubling up your days. If you have to work, you can still complete the Festive 500, just use each commute as a separate ride and perhaps plug in a little extra if your overall mileage doesn’t cover what you need. If you’re just busy, then splitting your rides to one in the morning and one in the evening helps you to stop getting bored - particularly on the turbo!

Easily create a double day. Simply click ‘add another activity'.

Consider your nutrition

Doing these long miles is a great time to try out different brands, different gels, etc. Much better to do this while the intensity is low and you can see the effects it has on you rather than waiting until race season to figure out what does and doesn’t work. Quick tip - Christmas cake is like rocket fuel (if you like it!)

Plan ahead

Unless you’re an ultra-endurance rider and planning on getting this challenge done in one ride, then you’ll want to have some sort of plan to spread the miles out over the eight days. For many, Christmas day may be a write-off, so you may only have seven to get in the full 500km. Each person’s schedule will be different, so keep in mind how much time you actually have, and don’t neglect the family over the festive period! It’s meant to be a bit of fun, not a die-hard challenge. If you’re riding with Spoked, the plan can change to be as flexible as you need it to. So if your three hour ride now needs to be one hour, the algorithm will change it to suit your goals so you remain on track.

Click the ride duration and pick how long you want to ride for.

Ride with friends

Riding in a group won’t just make the experience more enjoyable, as you can collectively grumble about the headwind, but it’s also a little easier. The miles will tick by much quicker and you won’t have to put in as much effort as if you were riding solo.

Have a group ride pop up, no worries. Just change your planned ride to a free ride.

What else can you do if you don’t want to do the F500?

Of course, the Festive 500 isn’t for everyone. Not everyone has the luxury of time off at this time of year, and some of us don’t even want to ride on the road! So why not make your own festive challenge, tailored to you? Let us know what you’ve got planned over the Christmas period!

Final thoughts

The Festive 500 is one of those rites of passage in many road cyclist’s eyes. For some, they might ride this mileage every week, but for others it may be a goal they eye up over the year. Whether you do or don’t manage to complete it, it doesn’t matter - as long as you enjoy the process. And at any time it begins to feel like a chore, and it ends up sucking the life out of you, then maybe give it a pass until next year. Cycling is meant to be fun, after all!

The Spoked app can help you to take the guesswork out of your rides for the Festive 500. Simply enter in your longer term goals and tell the app how much time you have available to train and it will do the rest. Want to give it a go? Download it from the App Store or from Google Play for free, and every new user will be offered a free trial of our top Pro tier plan for 30 days. Want to leverage the Spoked technology in your business? Read more here.