The Festive 500 has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years and definitely encourages people to get out of the house at one of the darkest and coldest times of year. 500km in the depth of winter is no easy task and a lot of people don't reach that goal but any kilometers are better than none at all.
I've completed the Festive 500 for the last couple of years but firmly believe Christmas is about spending time with friends and family. It's okay to ride for a little while on Christmas Day but you've got to keep it short and sweet and spend the majority of the time being festive.
Unlike previous years, completing the Festive 500 was harder this year owing to some poor planning on my part but also the wide range of horrible winter weather we encountered here in Yorkshire.
Bike, check! Clothes, check! Helmet, check! Shoes? Where are my shoes? It turns out my shoes were back in Yorkshire gently heating on top of the boiler. In the rush to get over to Lancashire for Christmas I'd forgotten to pack any footwear. That would mean three complete days off the bike over Christmas and an almost impossible Festive 500. After a small amount of inner rage and generally being sassy I came around to the idea of having three days off the bike. It's been a lot year after all and it's a good excuse just to eat and drink in abundance; a 'Festering 500' of some description.
Amongst my sassing around Sarah was quietly sitting in the corner trying to avoid saying anything that might make me grumpier. It turned out she was also texting most of Lancashire in a bid to find me some shoes so I wouldn't go insane. We sourced a pair from her sisters fiancee who by sheer luck was the same size.
Unfortunately that's where the similarities ended; he rides Look Keo and I ride Shimano SPD-SL. So we figured we'd just change the pedals. Sounds easy right? Wrong, we didn't have a pedal spanner and the Allen key was too short to leverage. Back to that sinking feeling of three days off then!
In the end I borrowed Sarah's cleats and his shoes so I could nip out for a short ride and then come home and swap the cleats back for Sarah to take her turn. Now the simple issue of keeping a brand new pair of white Sidi's clean in the middle of winter....
Thankfully a little bit less eventful. After a leisurely start to the morning and some present opening I popped off along the Fylde Coast for a quick 25 miles. Christmas was nice and mild so there was no risk of ice and I could hammer out the miles as fast as my legs would allow. White Sidi's just about remained white on this occasion thankfully, and an unexpected KOM as a present to myself when I uploaded afterwards!
Still on the Fylde Coast but weighed down by the two, or maybe three plates of Christmas Dinner, I decided to do a nice easy spin around the lanes. I'm a bit OCD about numbers so making my limited two days of riding up to a round 50 miles was pretty nice work. The Sidi's had survived my time in Lancashire and after a bit of baby wiping went back to their rightful owner. Christmas cheer!
Still weighed down by most of a turkey I decided to head out to the annual "Get Out of the House" reliability ride at the local cafe. It's only 43 miles long so shouldn't be too taxing, I thought. Wrong! Into the cafe scroll Scott Thwaites and Alistair Brownlee amongst a handful of elite riders and triathletes. It was looking like a pretty tough day out after all.
I wasn't wrong either. After a gentle 5 miles to get warmed up the pace went through the roof on the first climb of the day and what was a group of around 30 suddenly became a group of eight. Shoehorned in amongst some genuine talent, I was forced to work a lot harder than I'd planned and pull my turns. I eventually got dropped from that group in the last few miles but suffered my way back to the cafe. My legs were cooked and even more so after I topped up the ride with another 17 miles for the day.
A day of blind optimism. I'd posted a ride on my local cycling club page asking if anyone wanted to join me for 80 miles to a cafe we all love in Easingwold. Six people agreed to come out and ride; one turned up. Oh well, not as if my legs were already tired from the day before...
The outward leg into a tailwind was nice and brisk, getting us to the cafe in good time. The temperature never getting above -1c throughout the morning meant we'd done plenty of ice dodging so far. The return leg was a solid headwind that got progressively stronger throughout the day and lowered the temperature further. I finally hit the wall after 75 miles and crawled home for the final 10 of the day.
An amber warning for heavy snow. I mean seriously, so far I've forgotten my shoes, been battered by a Brownlee and bonked on an icy road. Can I really be bothered with the snow? Unfortunately yes.
I was needed in work for a few hours so hopped on my singlespeed and quite literally ploughed my way into Leeds on the yet to be gritted roads. The one bonus being that there wasn't really anyone else around so I didn't need to worry too much about having a moment.
I left work at lunch and retraced my route from the morning. At this point the snow was melting away as fast as it came so it was more a case of getting soggy feet than sliding off. 28 miles ticked off and my final commute of 2017 was a bit more dramatic than usual!
The snow was mostly gone but the weather wasn't much better. We'd swapped snow for rain and some of the roads were still covered in a slushy mess from the day before I've always said there is nothing worse than riding in cold and wet conditions and this ride was enough evidence to back that up for me.
After suffering with soggy feet on our group ride I bailed early and caught up with a whole host of people at the cafe, giving my feet time to dry before blasting home as fast as possible in the rain. I think so far we'd had pretty much every type of weather possible.
Just 42 miles needed today to finish off the Festive 500. New Years Eve usually sees most of the Yorkshire cycling fraternity descend on Cav Pav for coffee and cake as the last opportunity to wish everyone well for the New Year. As with most years I decided to join in and ride up to Leeds to meet everyone and then back down to the cafe to wish everyone well.
It's not the most exciting route on which to end the challenge and the year, but it's a comforting route that's used by almost every cyclist in Leeds at least once a week. It's a route full of familiar faces. A route that you can take when you're tired and know that you'll tick off the miles without too much stress.
That's what I needed to do. It's been a pretty huge year for me and I'm feeling tired now, so what better way to finish the Festive 500 and the year than do something simple and easy.