Rapha's Festive 500 has become a Christmas tradition for many cyclists over the past 11 years. The challenge of cycling 500 km in eight days and facing the elements on a bike leaves many wondering: should we cycle outside in the cold and wet, or sit cozy in the warm in front of the TV and fill our bellies?

This year we decided to tackle the Festive 500, even if it means spending less time with our families. For us, the right thing to do in times of Covid-19 is to support each other and not put ourselves or others at risk of infection.

This is the first time we've participated in the Festive 500 Challenge, and we know that with the cold, dark and rainy winter days ahead of us, it won't always be easy to find the motivation to get outside and ride. That's why we've been doing everything possible over the past few days to prepare and maximize our chances - after all, as the saying goes, "those who fail to plan, plan to fail."


So the challenge is to ride 500 km in eight days - but how you complete this distance is up to you. Whether you ride long or short, on the road or off-road, alone or in company - everything is allowed. This year there is even the possibility to count virtual Zwift kilometers.

Since we have no family commitments this year, we decided to spread the 500 km over the eight days, which is an average of 62.5 km per day. And since no one is waiting for us, we are free to decide when to get on the bike each day.

To help us decide, we used Komoot to create a collection of routes that are both on and off road. This gives us the opportunity to cover more distance in less time on days with bad weather on the road, and to ride longer routes on sunny days to have a buffer for supposed rainy days.

We decided to choose routes with distances between 50 and 100 km, so that we can ride a longer route on days when the legs feel good and choose a shorter route on days when the weather is bad. This way we are well prepared for the Festive 500 Challenge!


The most important question (especially for me): What do we eat to be fit on the bike for 8 days straight? Sure, we could start each day with a quick slice of toast and cook pasta and open a jar of pesto after the ride, but that wouldn't give us enough energy, nor would it do Christmas justice - because the best part of Christmas is also the delicious food.

So we made a plan: for breakfast and dinner. We start each day with healthy fats, long-chain carbohydrates, and plant-based protein. Our bowl consists of whole-grain oatmeal, and then we add all kinds of seeds, nuts, fruits, peanut butter, dates, and definitely dark chocolate. This keeps us full for a long time and gives us enough strength for the coming miles.

Along the way, we will drink lots of water, eat Clif Bars, vegan snack sausages, and fruit.

And then what? When we arrive home tired and hungry? Then we'll have a festive winter dinner: homemade red cabbage, vegan goulash, and pan-fried dumplings are on the menu, among other things. Much of it is already prepared, so there's no need to spend hours in the kitchen. And every day, there is something different because every day, the same would be dull.

If we can't complete the challenge of the Festive 500 like this, at least it's not because of the food.


Layers, layers, layers. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we have to deal with wind, cold, and rain. Temperatures can vary from -2°C to 10°C. So it's not so easy to dress accordingly. In some way, you're always either dressed too warm or too cold.

Our basics are a warm long-sleeved baselayer; we have several to choose from, in different weights. Warm socks. Winter bib shorts and a long-sleeved thermal jersey. Depending on the temperature, we add a jacket or vest. Ideally, we will pack something to change into to keep warm if it gets very wet.

To keep our limbs warm, each has two different pairs of gloves, a warm cap for under the helmet, and to keep our feet warm, we chose overshoes made of neoprene.

Perhaps the biggest weakness is that we don't have everything in multiple versions, and if it rains very hard, the bibs from the day before may not be dry yet. The same could happen if we don't manage to get the laundry dry after washing. But that will be fine...


We will not be racing the Festive 500 on our own bikes. Instead, we're happy to announce a collaboration with Cannondale. We will contest the Challenge on two Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3s.

Since we ride gravel bikes ourselves, this is basically not a significant change for now, but the bikes have suspension and wider 650b tires, which should make the 500 kilometers in the saddle more pleasant. Let's hope so.

We often carry bags on the bike anyway, be it a saddle bag or a handlebar bag; plenty of storage space for multitools, extra snacks, or layers are very welcome. Also, this time excess liquid will be on board, as coffee shop stops are not possible at the moment.

Last but not least, it is likely that we will be riding at dusk or in the dark, so good bike lights are essential. These should be charged before each ride. This also applies to our GPS device, because as we all know, if it's not on Strava, it didn't happen.


Before the ride, we have breakfast and check the bikes once again, inflate air depending on the route, and prepare ourselves. This includes getting peeled in all layers, of course, but perhaps also a little stretching and warm-up program. Not to be neglected is also the use of Chamois cream; with 8 days in the saddle at a stretch, it certainly can't be wrong.


So after the ride, we treat not only our bikes with love but also our bodies. This includes stretching exercises after the ride, perhaps a massage, and appropriate products, such as a regenerating balm or a warming massage oil.


The cold is here, and maybe we're soaked after a long ride in the saddle, thinking only of a hot shower and the remainder of the day on the sofa. However, forgetting the necessities might get in the way again on the next ride.

At this time of year, our bikes are exposed to a lot more potentially horrible conditions, so a little extra love and attention can't hurt. Luckily, we can rely on a battery-powered low-pressure cleaner to properly clean the bikes after a ride.

Otherwise, we would have to carry the muddy bikes up to the fourth floor to clean them in the bathtub. This way, we can rinse off the grossest mud outside and then take care of the details inside. We should pay special attention to the drivetrain and brakes. We will maintain our chains with a new lubricant from Muc Off, the Hydrodynamic Lube.

So after the ride, we treat not only our bikes with love, but also our bodies. This includes stretching exercises after the ride, perhaps a massage and appropriate products, such as a regenerating balm or a warming massage oil.


Ultimately, flexibility and limiting unplanned down days seem to be the keys to a successful Festive 500. While the challenge is measured in distance, the reward is measured in happiness.

We will ride some of our favorite routes, spend time together, be active and most of all have fun because that's what cycling is all about.