The Spirit of the #Festive500

The Spirit of the #Festive500

From scented candles to storyboards, we celebrate some of the ingenious ways in which riders around the world have commemorated their kilometres.

04 February 2021


Whilst the Festive 500 is a solo affair for many, Frances chose to go the distance with her oldest riding partner, her dad. There’s nothing like five hundred festive kilometres to forge a bond. Preferring to avoid busier roads, Frances, who is autistic, started her rides before dawn to make the most of the early morning tranquility. To document the sunrises and wildlife she saw on her rides, Frances drew an incredibly detailed storyboard, complete with a brevet card to count up the kilometres.

“Frances loves to draw. For her, it’s a means of communicating to others the things she’s seen, done, enjoys, and is proud of. A picture can speak a thousand words which in this case is only too true.”


Christopher understands that there is only one constant in life: change. And since 2020 brought so much change and uncertainty with it, he decided to embrace it by learning a new skill: candlemaking. Christopher rode the distance on Zwift this year and during his time off the bike created a selection of scented candles. As industrious off the bike as he was determined on it, he made a candle for every 100 kilometres covered, each scented to bring the outdoors in.

“In a year that has brought about so much change, we are reminded that the moments we are truly alive are those which take our breath away.”


Riding the challenge in Germany, Christiane commemorated her ride with some charming illustrations. From the snacks and tools in her pockets to the kit she wore, every detail of her ride was documented, including the multitude of weather conditions she faced along the way. Though it seems she experienced more than her fair share of headwinds, nothing was going to stop Christiane as she went the distance in the space of just six days.

“This year’s edition wasn’t only about the physical suffering, the mental suffering was much higher. We will never forget.”


The Festive 500 is a stern test but after a trying year, it was also a great source of solace for many riders in 2020. After being furloughed during lockdown, Chantal was made redundant. But rather than sitting at home, she decided to get in the saddle and spread some cheer on the Festive 500. Decorated in Christmas lights and tinsel, she delivered care packages to people stuck at home along the way.

“I had been convinced to buy a bike in 2019 and I had barely used it. In March, I picked it up and started riding. And I haven’t stopped since.”


Like many of us, Millie’s plans to go home for Christmas were cancelled due to the pandemic but that didn’t stop her from having a holiday period to remember. As a newly qualified doctor, Millie has been working incredible long hours, treating coronavirus patients. Using the Festive 500 as a coping strategy for emotional and physical stress, Millie got out for rides in between 12-hour shifts at the hospital and made short shrift of the challenge.

“The Festive 500 kept me sane. It filled the time I was meant to be with family and gave me an enormous sense of achievement.”


Over the last eleven years, the #Festive500 has become a family affair. In 2019, 13-year-old Oliver completed the challenge with his dad. Capturing the ride, which they finished in five days, Oliver created a flip book to show some of the views he enjoyed along the way. We were so impressed with his efforts and so crowned him the winner of The Spirit of #Festive500 Awards which carried the ultimate first-place prize of a Canyon Grail bike.

“I found the challenge difficult and I am so grateful to my dad for doing it with me. We had a lot of laughs, and only one puncture.”


Riding the #Festive500 is a tough challenge by anyone’s standards. And so it only seems right to mark the occasion. Youngjoo did this by creating a poster and postcards. Bold, bright colours depict the enjoyment as well as the distances covered over the three days in which he completed the ride.



Taking on the #Festive500 is no small feat. It requires preparation, motivation, and dedication. But when you get on the bike and begin riding, it’s a great space to reminisce on the past season. Anna did just that back in 2019, and she recorded it with an illustration she screen printed.


Paulo Macahilig not only completed the Festive 500 but gave out pan de sal – traditional Phillipine bread rolls – to the people he met along the way in his home region of Aklan. The idea behind his awards entry came from a family of artisans who make woven bags. Inspired by them, he customised a collection of woven wonders to mirror the badges of the Festive 500, scooping 2018's top prize in the process.


@Paulo Macahilig

"I took on the challenge to cover 500 kilometers from December 24 to 31. And to make this effort more meaningful, I decided to give out 500 pieces of bread to random people I meet along the way."


It’s important to remember that riding the Festive 500 should be a bit of fun. This was not lost on game designer Hannah Nicklin, who created a satisfying and strangely addictive Bitsy game to celebrate completing the challenge.

Don’t take our word for it though, play the game for yourself, here.



"Rapha has punctuated my cycling life over the years. My first 100km was ridden as part of a Women's 100, as was my last ride in the UK before I moved abroad. The Rapha riding challenges are simple, but the community around them feels significant."


As anyone who has attempted the Festive 500 will attest, going the distance can become somewhat of an obsession. That said, there are certain life events that come before everything else. Karl Maguire managed just 5.8 kilometres in 2018 but entered the new year with something much more important: a healthy baby born on Christmas Day. His charming letter netted him the epic fail award though, on reflection, sneaking in a few kilometres while shopping for baby supplies was more deserving of a medal.


“The Festive 500 was always going to be an interesting one as our baby’s due date was the 1st of January so my wife wasn’t overly keen. In the end my challenge was drawn to a swift end, spent in hospital awaiting the arrival of my beautiful baby girl instead.”


Win Assakul rode the #Festive500 in 2017 on country roads in South West England. An architect by trade, he chose to sketch out his exploits on this beautifully hand drawn map.



“My favourite thing has to be the winter sunrise. Starting out in the pitch black. spinning through the freezing cold and having the sun slowly creep over the hills to warm your bones was a glorious feeling.”


As industrious in the kitchen as he is on the bike, Gavin Osborn commemorated his #Festive500 with a selection of delicious baked goods. What he didn’t eat to keep him going on the bike, he sent to us.

“While riding, the less robust biscuits did tend to disintegrate having been stuffed into a Camelbak but, with a different taste every day, my nutrition never got dull.”


From dark memories of hunger knock to the elation of completing the challenge, Gary Dumbill’s animated film is an honest tale of hard-earned miles that saw him scoop second prize in last year’s Spirit of the #Festive500 Awards.

“I've normally got my head down grinding out a good average speed, but with the conditions being a bit sketchy I slowed down and lifted my head up. It turns out the English countryside is actually very pretty, which gave me the idea for an animation.”