Rapha have launched their annual Festive 500 Challenge, daring cyclists to abandon the fireside and clock up 500km in the cold over eight days between Christmas and New Year. More than just a cycling challenge, Rapha want to hear your stories too - and some fabulous prizes are on offer for the best winter tales.

See out the year in style with the Rapha Festive 500 challenge.
See out the year in style with the Rapha Festive 500 challenge.

Now an established tradition, the Festive 500 began as a self-imposed challenge in 2009, when Rapha's lead designer, Graeme Raeburn set out to ride 1,000km to see what it was like to train like a pro. Of course, as Graeme discovered, pros ride nothing like 1,000km between Christmas and new year - so when the challenge was launched to the public in 2010, the distance was halved to 500km. From 84 participants in that first year the challenge has taken off, with 82,000 riders taking part in 2016.

"The challenge is the perfect antidote to offset the excesses of the festive period and ensure you stay active and keep the Christmas pounds at bay," say Rapha, who will be offering a series of workshops, rides and advice over the weeks leading up to the start.

Perhaps mindful of the fact that spending your entire Christmas out on the bike may not go down well with family and friends, this year they are encouraging participants to be sociable:

"The holiday season is all about enjoying time with your friends and Rapha is encouraging cyclists to take on the #festive500 together. After all, a challenge shared is a challenge halved."

Entries open on Wednesday 6th December at rapha.cc, and riders are encouraged to log their miles on Strava to avoid shouts of "Oh no you didn't..."

As in previous years there's a commemorative woven badge for everyone who completes the 500km, along with an array of fantastic prizes for the most creative documentation of the challenge. Last year Ruth Cousins, a policewoman from Wales, won a trip to Colorado to collect a bespoke Moots bike for her submission of seven hand-painted postcards addressed to her deceased father.

#FESTIVE500 kit

Needless to say, Rapha's design elves have been hard at work creating a special range of #festive500 products. The cap, musette, neck warmer, socks and T-shirt, all feature unique graphics which we would describe as a pixellated winter sunset - as viewed by Santa after one too many mulled wines.

It's better than that sounds - check it out from Wednesday 6 December at rapha.cc.

And enter the challenge! Winter miles make Santa smile.