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Should You Still Be Riding Rapha’s #Festive500?

By Joshua Donaldson

Now in its 12th year, Rapha’s Festive 500 has become an iconic challenge for cyclists wanting to push themselves during the Christmas period of 24th December – 31st December. It started on the cold south coast of England in Kent and has moved all over the world from Seattle to Sydney.

We are always encouraging our readers to ride whenever they can. But as Christmas is a time for family and enjoyment, can it also be the time to hang up the wheels, rest up and get into the festive spirit?


The pros

More than 65,000 people took on the challenge last year, showing just how popular it is with keen cyclists looking to ride 500 kilometres in the week between Christmas and New Year. There are benefits to be found for sure if you take on Rapha’s challenge. The obvious one to look at is the continued exercise during this period – it can be a great way to offset the larger-than-average meals we all consume during this time.

500 kilometres broken down into five rides of 100 kilometres would see you burn roughly 3,000 calories per ride – meaning you can enjoy all the Christmas treats you want.

Not only is it great for the calorie count but it can provide a great break from what is normally a stacked social calendar, freeing yourself for just a couple of hours to have time to yourself. The mental benefits of cycling are no secret, and this doesn’t change over the festive period – also giving you the best opportunity to reset during a busy time.

The cons

There can be drawbacks though. In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is here, meaning cold weather is incredibly likely, as is rain and snow, for many of us. This can make it hard to motivate yourself to get out onto the road, given that family and friends are likely to gather too. With the increase in outdoor activity during cold weather affecting your immune response, this can have an impact on your physical wellbeing.

There is plenty of debate as to how the cold weather impacts you but that change in temperature, coupled with the mixing of people, can have a negative influence on you.

Alongside that, there is that lack of social interaction, taking time away from loved ones to spend time on the bike. This – given the context of the last two years – could also bring more negativity to your time in the saddle. Making others understand your need to ride can halt this but not all loved ones can be that understanding.

There is also risking your bike. In cold conditions, the road surface is worse, meaning you are more likely to have punctures and other mishaps. So, make sure you take out your winter bike – if you have one – to knock off the challenge.

The best stories from the Festive 500

Every year, Rapha uses the hashtag, #Festive500, to tell stories of those taking on the challenge across the world. Some people try and do the ride all in one go, whilst others break it up and have as much fun as possible. Here are some of the best entries from last year’s event, which saw some ride just 5.8 km due to a birth, whilst others handed out bread rolls to other riders and one rider even created a video game off the back of his challenge.

As Rapha attest, this challenge is meant to be fun. As much as the distance can become an obsession, it is not the be-all or end-all if you do not finish it. But for most of us cyclists, having a goal and not completing it can be a difficult pill to swallow, so make sure that if you want to take it on, give time to other important things in your life before committing wholeheartedly to this challenge. And if you take it on, give it your best shot without worrying about the distance.