Thursday, January 31, 2013

Let's Ride: Announcing The 508 Challenge Cycling Club

I love riding my bike, and I love meeting fellow cyclists, but I work at home and it can be isolating and so I most often ride alone. Traditional bike clubs generally don't interest me, because I don't want to do "the same ride" week in and week out, and too many club rides degenerate into stop sign-running testosterone fests and clashes of egos. (Notable exceptions exist, of course.) Also, even though I work at home, just like many people I get caught up in my work and "skip workouts" and rides. A little outside motivation - peer pressure, if you will - is a great way to minimize that happening. With all that in mind, I am pleased and excited to announce the first of two new cycling initiatives here and I encourage you - yes, you! - to join in and get involved, regularly! Let's ride together!

First, I am pleased to announce The 508 Challenge Cycling Club, a club - and virtual club - of cyclists around the world who ride a minimum of 508 miles (817km) every month, year-round, as a celebration of fitness, fun, and camaraderie with fellow lifestyle cyclists. The 508-mile distance is chosen in honor of Furnace Creek 508, the legendary 508-mile bicycle race also known as "The 508." The race celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and I have been the race director of this race since 1990. One of the many things I love about The 508 is that it gives cyclists a really great reason to get out and ride and pursue cycling goals while getting fitter and healthier in the process. 

The flip side is, in December or January I hear all too often, "Oh, I haven't been on my bike since The 508 last October!" I really don't like hearing that kind of thing, because it tells me that that particular 508er doesn't live a particularly balanced way of life, and that all the training for The 508 was just about the race and that particular accomplishment: peak-bagging, you might say. (No offense intended.)

For me, cycling is a way of life and it's an active, ongoing pursuit with benefits for the mind, body, and spirit which go way beyond being able to ride far, or fast, or both. Honestly, I just really want people to embrace the Cycling Lifestyle and ride year-round: not like maniacs, racking up tons of miles without any consideration to the seasons or what serves them best in terms of long-term health and fitness, but instead cycling a reasonable amount, year-round, as a baseline activity level.

Cycling 508 miles every month is a really good number for achieving that goal: It's enough miles to stay in decent bike shape even in the off-season, but it's also enough miles to be bike-fit enough to ride centuries and such in-season. For some people, if complemented with cross-training and a healthy diet and lifestyle, it could even be enough average monthly miles to complete Furnace Creek 508 itself, whether on a two-person or four-person relay team, or even as a soloist.

As such, I've set up a virtual club for The 508 Challenge Cycling Club on, a fun website to which members upload their rides (from their GPS-based bike computers) and stay in touch with others, give them "kudos," and connect, regardless of where the members live and ride. You can find my profile and riding history from the past few years on Strava at this link. I also announce my rides and send out ride photos via my Twitter feed and my Instragram account, which also posts my photos to my Flickr account. I encourage all 508 Challenge Cycling Club to use any or all of these media (especially the Strava site) to keep in touch with one another.

The Spirit of The 508 Challenge and What "Counts"
First off, this is a Cycling Lifestyle Club and it's open to anybody and everybody. It is NOT just for those cyclists who have The 508, the race, in their past, present, and future. The spirit of The 508 runs through this club, but anybody can join and everybody is encourage to do so!

Second, the idea is to ride regularly and consistently, throughout the year. While any combination of rides that total 508 miles in a month will "count," what we're really all about is the cycling lifestyle: a practice done regularly, at any distance, NOT just a "weekend warrior" pursuit. The truth is, the health and fitness benefits, and the peace of mind and refreshing of one's spirit are best accumulated in regular doses: perhaps two 25-mile rides and a 75-mile ride in a week, or three 25-mile rides and a 50-mile weekend ride, or five 25-mile rides spread throughout the week. Yes, technically members of The 508 Cycling Challenge Club may ride 100 miles every Saturday and 25-30 miles every Sunday, and still reach the monthly goal of 508 miles. But really, we encourage all members to ride at least three times per week and to use their bike whenever possible as part of their lifestyle:. How? Sure ride centuries and brevets and such, but also, even more so: Bike Commute! Run errands on a bike! Go coffeeneuring. Ride your bike to and from a club ride, instead of racking your bike on a car and driving. Meet up with your family at some family activity, but get there by bike. Ride to a hiking location, the lock up your bike and ride. Go mountain biking. Cruise a beach bike path on an old beach cruiser. You get the idea: ride every way, and everywhere, you can, because it's fun, it's good for you, and it's who you are!

Third, although we'll use Strava to "track" everyone, this really all comes down to the honor system. Anybody who posts bogus miles is only cheating himself or herself. Let's all be real, OK

The goal is to bicycle twelve consecutive months of 508 miles per month, without fail. We'll have some sort of special recognition for those who accomplish this. (Please note that no special awards will be given for riding MORE than 508 miles per month.)

I managed 442 miles in January of 2013, so my plan is to ride at least 508 miles a month, every month, from February 2013 through January 2014. Won't you join me, virtually?

Real Riding Together
Finally, I do hope and plan that members of The 508 Challenge Cycling Club will meet up and ride together - for real, in person. I'll certainly announce many opportunities to do that here in the Los Angeles region and elsewhere, and we'll create various channels to announce 508 Challenge rides all over the world, too. Let's get connected, and start riding, including together!

Please announce your interest in joining The 508 Challenge Cycling Club by joining the club on, and by posting a comment below (include a link to your Strava profile, as well as to your blog and/or any Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr streams you use, plus tell us who you are and where you live).

See you "out there"!

- Chris Kostman