Culture

Man completes entire Rapha Festive 500 on Christmas Day

Computer programmer Dave Bage pedaled 500km on Zwift on December 25th in 13 hours and 30 minutes.

No one asked Dave Bage to try, or dared him to do it. He just wanted to see if he could ride 500km inside in one go.

The software developer from Woking, Surrey, in the U.K., had tackled a few challenges before. He had done a few centuries outside (but never inside). And he had recently lost 24kg / 53lb, thanks in part to cycling.

For a decade now, the clothing brand Rapha has promoted the Festive 500, a challenge to ride 500km / 311 miles over the course of eight days. An associated Strava Challenge has got traction around the world — nearly a quarter of a million people signed up this year, when Rapha broadened the challenge to also include indoor riding.

“I’m not a fan of riding in the dark so when it was announced that virtual miles counted, I knew I would have a go,” said the Bage, whose family situation prompted the Christmas Day attempt. “My ex and I alternate masses with our son, so he was with her this Christmas and I have him from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day. So that gave me one day to get it done because when he’s here, I spend time with him, not really marathon efforts on my bike.”

Bage in 2017 at left, and in 2019 at right.

Early on Christmas morning, Bage climbed on his Cannondale SuperSix on a Wahoo Kickr smart trainer and started pedaling the flat Tempus Fugit course in Zwift. A little more than 14 hours and 502 virtual kilometers later, he climbed off. Total moving time was 13:30:01, with 41 minutes for breaks.

Zwift has many algorithms to replicate the physics of riding outside: flat courses are faster than hilly courses, and drafting other riders reduces required power and increases speed.

Bage set off alone. He found another rider to join him for kilometers 50 to 100, after which he took a break, and then set off solo again. After 300km, he latched onto one of the virtual pacers Zwift has recently instituted in the game. Like a marathon pacer, these virtual pacers keep a steady pace for others to follow. And in Zwift, the more riders that clump up around these pacers, the bigger the draft. So Bage latched on a group following ‘Coco Cadence’, a pacer that sits at a 2.5 watts per kilogram effort.

Bage’s Christmas perch. Lots of bananas, drinks, and SIS gels were involved.

As other riders in the game noticed the enormous distance tally next to his name, he started receiving a lot of comments in Zwift.

“It was brilliant and so encouraging,” Bage said. “Everyone was amazing. I felt like a celebrity.”

In addition to just seeing if he could complete 500km, Bage said he also likes to encourage people.

“Most people need to see to believe,” he said. “I’m not an Olympian; I’m a computer programmer. And I will not hear anyone thinking they’re not good enough to try something. This year has been about me achieving things I never thought I could.”

So why did he do 502km instead of just 500? Well, just in case, Bage said, because “I would have been royally pissed if Strava showed 499.99k!”

Want to try 500km on Zwift yourself? Join the WBR500 ride on December 30th, which is a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief.