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Rapha Festive 500

Rapha Festive 500

Ride to Redemption

Being a big Rapha fan and not wanting to spend the entire Christmas period holed up in hotels, overindulging in the ‘Christmas spirit’, taking part in the Rapha Festive 500 – Ride to Redemption, was a no brainer. You can check the link for more details but the basic premise is to;

“escape the clutches of holiday indulgence by riding 500 kilometres between the 23rd and 31st of December”

Our Festive 500 had a decidedly ‘Hell of the North’ feel to it, (well, we are in the north of Laos); as we navigated our way from the Thai border to the scenic little town of Luang Prabang we faced challenging, (to say the least) road surfaces, copious amount of dust, brutal sun, chilly descents, some steep, (and long) climbs, (especially for fully loaded bikes) and a little bit of going where road bikes ‘shouldn’t’; which we thought was quite apt given this year’s grand prize. Enjoy!

Grand Total: 502.34 KM

As evidence of completion you can find pics of my odometer on Day 1 and Day 8. The exif data for the pics displays the date they are taken on and can be found on my Flickr photostream, (as can any hi-res images you like the look of… aren’t I nice). You can also check out the map below for a summary of our route.

Days 1 (32.9 KM) & 2 (2.6 KM) – Bangkok City Riding

Assembled bikes in Bangkok hotel room, check. Reset ‘distance 2’ on my odometer, check and check.

Being in central Bangkok it was never going to be big, kilometres-wise, (not the most cycle friendly city in the world) but between exploring one of the fine parks, (dodging large lizards in the bike lane), getting to our favourite street food stall and picking up our passports from the Vietnam embassy, we managed to clock up 32.9 KM.

Christmas Eve the only KM’s clocked up were the 2.6 getting from our hotel to Bangkok train station for an overnight sleeper to the Laos border… big day.

Day 3 (100.08 KM) & 4 (84.55 KM) – The Hell of the North…en Laos

Finally some interesting riding, some KM’s on the clock and the route from the border to Luang Prabang started proper. The riding on day 3 started later than expected, (after enjoying a sub-par Christmas morning breakfast on our delayed train and a woefully inefficient visa on arrival process in Laos) we crossed over the Thai Laos Friendship Bridge and enjoyed a swift Christmas lunch of er… a baguette sandwich before hitting the terribly surfaced road towards Vang Vieng.

Road is a strong word to describe what we rode on; the surface alternates the whole way between bad and worse, with at least a quarter of the total distance being gravel/lose dirt/big bloody rocks, but we made a solid 100 KM and inhaled a fair amount of dust. We spent Christmas night in a little town in the middle of nowhere before enduring nearly 85 km of the same the next day to reach the notorious tourist hell-hole that is Vang Vieng.

Day 4 (16.50 KM) & 5 (78.80 KM) – Cyclo-Cross and the Hills Begin

Now don’t get me wrong, the area around Vang Vieng is pretty stunning, it’s just a shame that the town and the now infamous ‘Tubing’ scene has really served to ruin the town itself. But never mind that, it’s bike riding we’re here to talk about, and ride bikes we did… cyclo-cross style; a great way to spend the day if you’re in that part of the world is to go off road and explore the surrounding caves and lagoons; just be prepared to test your bike handling abilities as it can get a bit rough,

The next day we made a swift exit from Vang Vieng and started our ascent, and boy were we glad we did; all of a sudden that scenery we’d been looking forward to was all around us, (have a look at the pics). Fantastic days riding and the surface even started to get a little better. We also had the good fortune to spend the night at some cheap little roadside cabins which were right next to a natural thermal pool, perfect for the aching muscles.

Day 6 (75.20 KM) & 7 (86.90 KM) – Up We Go Again

During the next 2 days the ride into Luang Prabang the was a veritable feast of climbing, but luckily the scenery kept it up and we were distracted from the constant ascent by some spectacular mountain vistas, (not too many pics as it was a big foggy… sorry).

Day 8 (24.81 KM) – Last Day

A bit tired after days of constant climbing but still upbeat we clocked off the last 25 KMs exploring Luang Prabang – checking out some of the great local temples and even better local food.

I think it’s fair to say we had a pretty successful Festive 500 and losing a few lbs instead on putting them of was certainly a bonus. Another bonus being that the by reaching 500 KM we also passed over the 12,000 KM mar for our tour in time for 2012 – Bonus! Now all I need is a new road bike to kick ass on when race season comes around…



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