Between Christmas and New Year every year it’s the same thing: a group of ‘enthusiasts’ throw their legs over the crossbar and get in the saddle, whatever the weather. If you’re cocooned in your warm car as you pass through the rainy landscape and you see a racing cyclist, there’s a good chance she or he is working towards a serious goal: finishing the Rapha Festive 500.

Rapha Festive 500

Yes, you read that right. This is the annual challenge set by Rapha, the brand of brands when it comes to cycling clothing. The challenge is to ride 500km between Christmas and New Year. Why? To get us outside and to get us to enjoying riding our bikes alone or with others. Actually, it’s a way to express your true love of cycling. And this challenge, started in 2010, appears to be evolving into a tradition. Participants can register on Strava and, by uploading their .gpx navigation files, can accurately monitor how many kilometres they’ve already ridden. For riders without a digital cycling navigation system (Strava refuseniks), you can also pick up a score at any of the Rapha Clubhouses.

Rapha Festive 500

Rapha’s Lead Designer during his inaugural Rapha 1,000, er, 500. – Credit: Rapha.cc

A white Christmas in 2009…

It all began during the white Christmas of 2009. Graeme Reaburn, head designer at Rapha, decided that it would be a good idea to ride 1,000 kilometres in eight days. Just because 1,000 is a good number. The unique weather conditions that year made the challenge particularly, well – challenging. His rides lasted longer than the amount of daylight. And he finally concluded that even the Rapha pro-team didn’t ride 1,000 kilometres in eight days at that time of year. They clocked up around 500.

And so it was that a year later, in 2010, Rapha launched the Festive 500. A total of 94 riders signed up for it, along with the idea that the riding should be social, not competitive. The numbers have gone up since then. In 2017, 82,376 riders signed up for the challenge. The difficulty degree is clearly illustrated by the number of riders who actually succeeded in completing the 500 kms: in the same year, only 17,737 riders made the grade.

Rapha Festive 500

The idea is that is primarily a social challenge. – Photo: Rapha.cc

Taking part is easy

Although it’s entirely up to you how you meet the challenge and fit it into your festive season diary, it’s worth signing up for. Why? Well, there’s always the Rapha goodies prizes. As soon as you share a post about your adventure, you become eligible for the prizes. You also get a roundel (a commemorative sew-on patch) if you make the full distance. Also, if you claim your digital roundel on Strava, Rapha donates an amount of money to the World Bicycling Relief Fund. You therefore automatically sponsor a good cause, as well as getting some serious training done, and having some seriously social cycling. Want to know more? Have a gander at the special Rapha Festive 500 page.

And, oh yeah, if you’re looking for a new winter clothing set: check out No such thing as bad weather — just bad clothing