Opinion: Why I won't be doing the Festive 500 this year, or probably ever

The idea of suffering over the Christmas period for fun is not an attractive one to me

Adam Becket
(Image credit: Future/Andy Jones)

Good morning and welcome back to a Christmas edition of The Leadout. I hope you are all having wonderful Christmases, or festive periods, or whatever you are up to. In the UK, it’s Boxing Day, which means another day off for most of us, one filled with sport, or whatever keeps you occupied. If you’re particularly bored, or you want to discuss the subject of today’s newsletter, feel free to email me: adam.becket@futurenet.com.

I love cycling. I feel this is not particularly controversial or shocking for someone who works for a cycling magazine to say. In fact, I ride a decent amount - not as much as some others, and not as much as I probably could do - I’ve done about 5,000km in 2023. I even cycled from Bristol to Southampton for Christmas at the weekend.

For all that cycling, and my professed love of going quite far, I will not be doing the Festive 500. In fact, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever complete it, try to, or even get particularly close, unless I do it by accident. 

If you’re uninitiated, the Rapha Festive 500 is a cycling challenge set up by the British clothing brand, and it is quite simple: ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Day, the bit of the year where nothing really happens. It’s a clever marketing tool for Rapha, and also a good reason for people to get out on their bike, but it really is not for me.

Anyone who manages it, with the necessary 71km a day, needs more than kudos on Strava, but a wholehearted congratulations, it is no mean feat. However, to be quite honest, I don’t really get it.

I understand that people like pushing themselves, and having this once a year target must help do that, but it is too much, even if most people are off. Not everyone has some kind of Hollywood-perfect family Christmas, but a lot of people do spend it with their loved ones, and the idea of using that special time, in potentially the worst conditions of the year, to cycle a lot, seems mad to me.

I’ve never cycled 500km in a week, but I could, given the motivation and the right weather conditions, and, crucially, the inclination. I’m a hardcore cyclist though, and one who is single and largely without responsibilities, and if this seems too much for me, then I can’t imagine how much it seems for someone with children, who has never cycled this much, or even someone - gasp - who has to work at this time of year.

If the motivation is to burn off calories from the Christmas Day meal, too, then I dislike the whole thing even more. While we should all be eating in moderation, one day of excess does not necessitate days of suffering to follow. Maybe allow a bit more fun into your life, even if it is just once a year. The fact you can do it virtually irks me a bit too, but perhaps that's for another column.

I have nothing against the Festive 500, Rapha, or the people that can find time and the energy to do it - chapeau, really - but the fact it has become the go to challenge for this time of year fills me with a level of despair. No one should feel like they have to cycle 500km to fit in, or feel like they’re missing out on the action if they don’t quite make it. It’s an all-too exclusive club, that in my opinion doesn’t really fit in with Christmas. 

Doing any cycling at this time of year, fitting it in with other responsibilities, should be enough for acclaim. Perhaps it’s time for a post-Festive 500 world. Perhaps try something different, go for a run, or - shock - go for one of those family walks which also ends well. Maybe you could even go on a family cycle, just probably not 500km.

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