A s I wrote in a previous post, it was on one of the last days of December 2016 when I first heard about the Rapha Festive 500. With a mere day or two to go, it was too late for me to participate but still the idea of riding 500K in 8 days triggered me. Earlier that year I picked up on Brompton folding bike racing and everything new and challenging on two wheels tickled my fancy. And the Festive 500 was one of those things!
The first half of 2017 I mostly cycled on my Brompton. I participated in folding bike races in the UK, Spain, Italy and Denmark, and my girlfriend and I even wheeled our folding bikes from Belgium all the way to Norway. With the purchase of a proper road bike in May and a MTB in October I had everything I needed to ride those Festive 500 kilometers in style. And that ladies and gents is exactly what I did!
On the first day of the Festive 500 I took my cycling buddies on a 120 km trip to the basilica of Scherpenheuvel. I sincerely hope lighting a candle for good luck isn’t considered cheating. Or is it? After our second rest stop I felt my right knee was getting sore and by the end of the day I could barely bend it. This made me worry a bit but in the end, with nearly ¼ of the km’s done, I was pretty happy with our silent ride, holy ride.
I woke up on Christmas day and my knee was still hurting. And while I performed the never ending ‘wait for my girlfriend to get ready to go to the restaurant’ routine, I decided to go for a little ride to check the actual damage. So I took my trusty folding bike for a spin to the restaurant – 13 kilometers or so – and still managed to get there sooner than my sharp dressed better half. That’s how I roll! And since my knee kept aching, I hitched a ride home afterwards. That’s also how I roll!
On the second day of Christmas we headed over to the Flemish Ardennes where we released our inner Flandrien to defeat steady climbs, cobble stones and poor Belgian weather. Worst news of the day? My buddy had a flat after 6 kilometers which meant we had to work our way back to the peloton. Best news of the day, my knee felt great so I got us there in now time!
Now imagine a 100 riders strong peloton, a support vehicle / broom wagon and several people on motorbikes to keep intersections free from traffic. We might have been a bit slower but for a couple of hours we actually felt like the pro cyclists that will be riding the exact same streets very soon! Time to bring on those Belgian classics people…
Since I was working during the Festive 500 I had to dig up my 1200 lumen strong lights to do some riding in the dark. Empty roads, a pitch black scenery and the odd flickering in the eyes of a spying hare, deer or owl… Something I could get used to.
Our planned gravel grinding session on Friday turned out to be nothing more than a full on mud fest. Ironically it was the heavy trucks of lumberjacks that turned the forest roads in one muddy bonanza. Nevertheless dressing up like a full-fledged lumberjack to make those kilometers count is a whole lot of fun.
The remaining two days we circled our own neck of the woods with the occasional bar stop for some good ol’ Belgian beers. After all, it was the Festive 500 now wasn’t it? And you know I’ll drink to that!
Yes, I know this sounds like something you’ve not yet heard before, but the Festive 500 was everything I hoped it was going to be. And then some! It’s not just a good excuse to ride every day, nor is it the reason to do so. It’s the ideal excuses to ride with like-minded people, bicycle minded people who ride all sorts of bikes.
Being the time of the year to make all sorts of resolutions, you can consider the Festive 500 as reminder to ride in the year to come! Find rides that suit you best and enjoy them, no matter distance or pace. Meet new people on the road and above all, be seen and be safe!