Riding 500km over eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve has become a holiday tradition for many cyclists around the world. Still being quite new to road cycling, I had no clue if I had what it takes to finish it. But I gave it a shot. Here are my learnings from each day’s ride.

Day 1: There Are No Perfect Conditions

90km / 610m elevation gain

A few days before Christmas Eve, I was checking the weather forecast hourly and my motivation was almost killed by doing so. The prediction was ranging from heavy rain to snow and sub-zero degrees. Sounds pretty shit for a holiday activity, right? But waiting for perfect conditions will simply reduce your chance of completing the challenge. Put on some good tunes, grab your best jacket and get out there.

Day 2: Ride Together

90km / 350m elevation gain

Although my Spotify Best of 2016 playlist would have been long enough to keep me entertained for a while, by the second day I was super bored. Sometimes I actually prefer riding on my own, because it helps clear the mind bla bla bla — you know what I’m talking about. But taking on challenges like Festive 500 is more fun together. Period!

Day 3: Take Lights

136km / 1,490m elevation gain

After riding on my own for two days, I finally had some company from a friend, Bob, who was also a fellow Festive 500 virgin. Early morning we left Salzburg and headed towards Salzkammergut mountains. The route was mainly gravel and it was fun exploring some new trails off the beaten track. But sub-zero degrees meant icy roads, (I’m talking icy roads—the type you’d fear for your Gran’s hips on), ice pellets and snow storms which messed up our schedule. Piece of advice: take lights—just in case.

Day 4: Keep Going

193km / 1,340m elevation gain

When kicking-off day #4, we had no clue that this would actually be the final day. Bob had 140 km left, whereas I still had 185 km to go. But conditions had finally changed and Salzburg area was surrounded by clear blue skies. Although it was –8 °C and it took us 50 min to ride 6 km over ice and snow, we simply enjoyed every pedal stroke in the sun. It was just so much better than the other days.

Learnings from the days before fell into place and we just kept pedalling. It was one of those rides where you have so many moments of pure happiness and you just don’t want to get off the bike. So much so, we ripped up the final 140/185 km on day #4 meaning our Rapha Festive 500 was complete.

Words & Photos: Philipp Doms