Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Festive 500 - 2012 - One for the Books

We coordinated with the great folks at Ride Studio Cafe this year to put together a series of rides, based from the Studio, for the Rapha Festive 500.  This was actually my selfish way of ensuring that I would have some company as I tried to complete the challenge. And it worked. We had fabulous turnouts for most of the rides, with everyone else showing better judgement than me on the cold rainy day. It was really nice to see such large turnouts, despite the seasonable weather this year. Last year, we suffered a snow drought and while we had some very cold rides, we didn't have any good epic snowy photos. I wanted to get a few snowy shots for this year, and routed a few of the rides by ice rinks, so we could at least get "Zamboni snow" shots if we again failed to get any natural snow. But that proved completely unnecessary. We had snow on the ground Christmas morning and got quite a bit more more as the week wore on.

Our first ride on Christmas Eve saw a crowd of about 40 riders head out from RSC to climb up Brimstone Lane followed by lunch at Panzano in Southboro. More on this ride here.

You can imagine how popular I was with those riders who hadn't studied the route profile ahead of time!

The crowd at the top, plotting their revenge.

For Christmas Day, we hosted the ride start at our house, about 8 miles south of RSC. We made our best attempt to emulate the RSC experience with espresso drinks and hot porridge. We had an inch or so of snow overnight that put off a few riders, but had 4 hardy souls ride to the End of The World and back.  Read all about it here.

We rode along the carriage roads at World's End, taking in a nice view of Boston

We then embarked on a fruitless search for an open coffee shop on the way back!

The day after Christmas again saw a good crowd at RSC to do the ride to the Lost Lake Roller Coaster, with lunch at Fihlo's Cucina. The day started out with bitter cold temperatures, and it was surprising to see so many brave souls. They must have liked all their Christmas presents and had nothing to exchange! More details on the ride here.

Bitter cold, but dry conditions for the exchanging-day ride

Riding past a frozen lake on the way to the lost one!

Great displays of holiday spirit!

The forecast called for snow overnight Wednesday, with clearing by mid-morning on Thursday. We had only rain overnight in Watertown (what else in Waterown), so I failed to realize quite how much snow had fallen just a few miles away. Still the temperature was almost balmy when I rose on Thursday, and I have all this rain gear that would be a waste not to use, so I headed out for the 10AM start. No one else was foolish enough to join me, so I decided to do a slightly shorter ride than the one we'd advertised. As I got further out, the rain came down harder and the temps plummeted, and I finally came to my senses. A long break to dry off and warm up with soup saw my hands recover enough to continue to home. By the time I arrived, it was positively pleasant out! Read more here.

I switched the planned rides, for Thursday and Friday, to avoid potentially snowy conditions at higher elevations, but more importantly to head to one of my favorite cafes, the Blue Moon. This was the real theme of the week. All the rides had great lunch destinations, and the Blue Moon was a hit with everyone. All the details here.

What the Festive 500 is really all about

A few trails on skinny tires

Saturday was to be the big ride for the week. We had special Rapha guests, coming up from New York, and had planned a 105 mile ride out to Mount Wachusett with a few good dirt sections just for fun. But the forecast for an afternoon snow storm had us scale back to Bolton Flats, and the timing worked out quite well, as everyone was home by the time the snow started to fly in earnest.  We did encounter some snowy roads at the western end of the route, but everyone kept rubber to the ground. More here.

Quite the crowd braved cold and forecast of snow. (Photo taken by Rob Vandermark)

Derrick live-tweeting the roads conditions for the folks in the slower group! (photo courtesy of Neil McInnis)

Photo Courtesy of Henry van den Broek

The 2 inches of snow predicted turned into about 8 inches on the ground. We were a bit late for the start by the time we shoveled a path up the driveway, but the one hardy rider who came out, waited patiently for a delayed start, and put up with a shortened route. The fact that we took in a great lunch complete with cupcakes helped. Probably my favorite day on the bike for the challenge.

Finally some good winter riding conditions

The final day was a ride up Harold Parker State Park. By this stage, I was well over the mark, but I wanted to attempt every ride. Besides the sun was out! More here.

It was a great way to finish off the year, with a bit of motivation to burn a few calories and ignore the less than ideal weather.  It was great to be able to make use of my cold and bad weather gear and bikes! Thanks again to Rapha for the challenge and special thanks to Ride Studio Cafe for helping me get some riding companions for the week.


  1. Whoa I never heard of the Rapha festive 500! That is such a great challenge over the holidays!! I from Montreal and I don't seem to see many people riding for fun over the winter... You do see winter commuters but they are not that numerous. This really motivates me to keep riding later into the season!! I haven't yet found a community like Ride Studio Café in my neck of the woods, but I'll try not to let that stop me! I will have to dig around your blog for tips on getting winter cycling ready.
    One quick question -- do you have any/many younger (<30) riders who participate in these club rides?? As a younger rider I notice that a lot of the times there aren't many younger riders in club rides and it can seem intimidating when you consider jointing in. Any thoughts?
    - G.C.

  2. There are lots of young riders in the club, and plenty of younger riders on weekend rides. I wouldn't let being YOUNG put you off joining a ride with a bunch of tired old folks!