Words: Joe Hall | Date:
The Festive 500 is meant to amaze and delight. The Challenge – which has now risen in participation to 31,000 people this year – comes at just the right time of year to really exemplify what a ‘challenge’ means. A quick look on Christmas Eve gave us a good idea what we were in for – we noticed that there were a number of people that had already completed the entire ride…
Nonetheless, we would not be dissuaded. For in the North American office here in Portland, Oregon, there were two of us that decided, no matter what the odds, we would finish this infernal challenge.
Photo: J. Dunn
Here are few things that we learned along the way:
Go easy. When starting the Festive 500 the inclination can be to “go easy” for the first couple of days. There may be good reason for this. Christmas Eve and the next day are times to celebrate with your family and friends. So, you plan an easy ride to kick things off. Then you skip the next day as time does not permit you to spend another day out riding.
Photo: J. Dunn
Utilize your friends. Especially the ones that aren’t participating in the challenge. Everyone knows a few of these people. They refuse to use a Garmin, ever, they abhor the thought of a ‘segment’ or a ‘KOM’. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t like riding with you. These people can be your best friends. Coax them out for a ‘leisurely’ 50 miles. Note: do not use up these friends all at the same time with one big group ride. Space it out throughout the days to get more mileage out of them. They won’t mind.
Photo: J. Dunn
Glorious food. Eating and drinking in the cold can sometimes prove to be a pain. Especially when it comes to gloves. Or just plain not wanting to stop. But eating is especially important in the frigid weather, when your body is not only trying to heat you but fuel your muscles as well. What works? Leftover pancakes rolled with a few generous dabs of Nutella (bonus points for foil that is easy to unwrap while wearing Deep Winter Gloves).
Photo: J. Dunn
Capture it! Take lots of pictures. This is the way that I remember these rides. It may look dorky to take out my little point-and-shoot camera every once in a while. Or actually circle back to capture something but it is the only way that I will remember a lot of what happens on these rides. Especially the ones that come day after day, the previous day’s adventures erased almost completely from memory by the present. However, would I have remembered that descent on the slippery moss when Tim rode away, or when we stopped to greet Michael as he raced toward his Festive 500 completion as well?
But enough about us. For the other thing that’s truly great about the Festive 500 is that, thanks to the digital age in which we reside, we are able to keep each other motivated for our rides by continuing to check in each day online. It was oddly comforting to me that, even when I knew I had another long day on the bike the next day, there were people that would be going out and doing the same. They may have not been riding with us but there were times when it at least felt like we weren’t alone. There were also times that I cursed the mere thought of our friend, the Festive 500’s originator Mr. Graeme Raeburn, and the ‘little ride’ that got us into this mess in the first place.
Photo: J. Dunn
But each night when I got home, I would look through the days captures for something to share, to make my contribution and let myself (if not others) know that I had continued riding on that day. Then, after it was tagged and posted, I would comb through the other photos quickly filling the tag. For some, it seemed a fun-filled romp in the sun, for others a day that began and ended in the darkness. For all of us, it has become ‘that crazy cycling thing that we did at the end of December’, a way to end the old and push on through to the new.
Here’s our first shortlist of the week in an attempt to decide the Best of the Festive 500.
The Return of the Notorious Minipips
To complete the Festive 500 it’s good to have a companion on the road to motivate and inspire. And if the sight of an eight-year-old riding the Festive 500 isn’t enough to make you ‘MTFU’, we don’t know what is. It’s also good to have a sunny disposition when attempting The 500, especially if you’re riding in extremely soggy winter conditions, which wee Pips seems to have judging by the photos (but we may have discovered his secret weapon… Skittles). What’s even more remarkable about Minipips second successful Festive 500 (he completed it in 2012 as a seven-year-old) is that he and his Dad also ran 34 miles on top of all the riding they did on their cross bikes. Buy that kid a drink.
O Brother, Where art Thou?
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No, this isn’t a toothpaste commercial. It is in fact a very slick film offering from Tjebbe Venema and his two brothers. Called Les Trois Frères, we’re not certain it will win the Palme d’Or but it’s a nice effort.
Henrik Alpers Klokken clocked all of his festive kilometres in the dark in Norway over five frosty rides. His blog shows and tells of all the kit he used, such as spiked tyres, a Nikon D3s, eight different lights, and also mentions his use of the Rapha Deep Winter Base Layer which is, in Henrik’s opinion, the “best wool garment out there.” He also claims he covered his entire body with Rapha Winter Embrocation (ouch) to keep warm. Fantastisk. Visit his blog here »
I’m with Stupid
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Four riders and one filmmaker, plus a very ambitious (or stupid) idea to do it all in one go from Paris to Haarlem in the Netherlands, makes for a fine film here. As they ride into Brussels – 345km amassed and with 14 hours of wind and rain already endured – two of the (sensible) riders drop out. It’s then up to Paul Sneeboer and Bas Rotgans to finish the job. Bas says after completing the 507km trip, “I’m too tired to be happy right now.”
Epic is a word that should not be used lightly. This, however, is a worthy contender for ‘most epic ride’, plus a stylish documentary.
Mark Dawson’s website is a beautiful and sunny journal compiling what looks to have been a very enjoyable 500 in the Bay Area. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in this part of the world you will know that there aren’t many better places to carry out the Festive 500. Compare these pictures with the film above and Californian kilometres seem like a dream world compared with the hell of European winter conditions.
The Original Instagram
Although we expect a lot of Festive 500 documentation to be carried out on the worldwide web (or whatever the internet is called) via smartphone and digital camera uploads, Mario of Spain went back to the 1970s and used the very height of technology for that era: Polaroid. He also hand wrote and addressed the letter and envelope (apparently using something called a ‘pen’). Thanks for keeping it real, Mario. We wonder if he used 1970s gearing on his bike…