Enjoy an Advent(ure) calendar of cycling this December
1. Start an Advent(ure) calendar of cycling
Sunday 28 November marked the first Sunday of Advent, defined as "a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming."
However, traditionally, Advent calendars are first opened on 1 December with a window opened every day until Christmas Eve. Why not start your own cycling calendar this week and, instead of opening a window to find a festive scene or a chocolate (if you're lucky!), make a pledge to cycle every day until 24 December? Post your promise on social media so that your friends and family know you are keeping it up - this will make it more likely you will venture out and they will enjoy seeing the different places your bike can take you.
If you don't think you have time to cycle every day, see if you can swap car or public transport journeys for cycling trips instead! Try getting up a little earlier to fit in a ride before work if you're working from home or not commuting any more.
Good lights are also useful so you can ride after work or in the evenings. Even short trips can count towards your tally, as long as you venture a bit further than the end of the road but it's up to you - be creative with the rules but don't feel tempted to go out if conditions are dangerous, you can always ride more a different day.
2. Twelve Days of Christmas Bingo
If an Advent(ure) calendar sounds too much, you can always commit to riding during the Twelve Days of Christmas instead. In the past, this would have started on Christmas Day, which signified the start of the festivities that continued until the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January, when the three kings visited the baby Jesus.
Nowadays, the feasting starts long before 25 December so you could start your 12 days on 12 December. South Devon CTC have been inspired by the eponymous song to create even more interest with a version of their famous iSpysolation game. Create a card with some festive sights to spot each day - it might be a bit difficult to find twelve lords a-leaping so stick to more usual Christmassy things like a Christmas tree or a holly bush with berries on. Have fun with your family or on your own seeing who can cross them all off first!
3. Cycling treasure hunt
Similar to the above but something you could do on a single day is have a festive-themed treasure hunt on wheels. Ask someone in your group or club to create some cryptic clues to local places with a Yuletide theme - for example, Hollybush Lane or a street with lots of Christmas decorations - and then tick them off as you find them. If there are no suitable places, think of alternatives such as collecting a bit of greenery or buying a mince pie. Make sure everyone is wearing a Christmas jumper or a bit of a tinsel on their bikes to get in the festive mood.
4. Santa ride
In fact, why not go full out on the dressing up and award prizes for the best elf outfit or reindeer bike? Plan a route to take in the best Christmas decorations and lights in the area and finish up, of course, with a hot chocolate or a mulled wine to warm up - a mince pie stop en route is also a must.
Remember the coronavirus guidance for each nation if planning a stop indoors but if you think it's better to remain outdoors, remind everyone to bring extra layers to put on as they may rapidly cool down after cycling, even on a fairly mild evening. In fact, why not also opt for a venue with extra blankets available to outside patrons?
5. Set a festive cycling goal
There are plenty of organised challenges you can join in during the festive season to keep your mileage up, for example the Rapha Festive 500 requires riders to cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve - the Fasted 500 was similar and took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, suggesting cyclists ride 500km in 30 days.
You could obviously create your own, with a target of 10 miles a day or 100 miles before New Year's Eve - whatever you feel would be do-able but challenging enough to motivate you. Perhaps you've got a charity fundraiser to prepare for in 2022? No point in waiting until January to start training when you can mount a damage limitation campaign in December and start next year with only a spare tyre for your bike, rather than round your middle.
6. Treat yourself
Talking of which, you could also use the carrot and stick method to provide motivation. Well, maybe forget the stick but what cyclist doesn't love a big, fat slice of carrot cake? It is Christmas after all so why not pick a different coffee stop to visit within, say, a 30-mile radius of your house every week of Advent and sample a different baked treat at each? If there aren't any suitable cafes, bake your own granola bars from recipes supplied by our Cyclists Cafe of the Year 2018 winners I Want to Ride My Bike Cafe Bar and Workshop in Wales or the fat-free tea bread made by the Bow Bells cyclists' cafe (pictured above) in Northern Ireland.
7. Treat someone else
Take a leaf out of some of the Advent traditions of other countries: in Norway, not only do they open an Advent calendar window, but they also open a small present every day from 1 to 24 December. This could be the perfect excuse to gift yourself or a loved one a little cycling treat every day - there's always something small but essential they need, whether it's a can of oil, a new bicycle bell or something less tangible like a wipe down of their chain.
Cycling UK's Christmas Gift Membership, is of course, the ultimate gift for any cyclist and lasts throughout the year - with your choice of two free gifts thrown in so maybe save that one for Christmas Day itself.
8. Give goodwill to all
If all you can afford to give is time, our 10 easy ways to make the world better by bike this winter has lots of suggestions of simple things that can be done by and for cyclists from home.
Rather than giving material goods, use the build-up to Christmas to create a kind of reverse Advent calendar by performing acts of kindness using your bike every day. Whether it's collecting shopping for a housebound friend or neighbour, delivering items to the food bank, volunteering at a local bike recycling or vaccination centre, there's plenty of things that you could do by bike.
We also have lots of volunteer opportunities all over the UK, from tandem pilots to walk and ride leaders to Facebook moderators. By helping others through cycling, you'll also be helping yourself both mentally and physically to survive the challenge of winter.