A cyclist’s guide to surviving Christmas

From nabbing the last roast potato to sneaking out for a ride

Santa Claus on a mountain bike

Christmas certainly feels like the time of year when non-cyclists want to relax, wind down and flob about on the sofa to watch old movies and eat their body weight in chocolate, slowly preparing their bowels for the next onslaught of food.

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For cyclists, though, it can be frustrating not getting enough time out on the bike to let off steam and if you’re anything like us, you’ll start to feel the pressure mount and cabin fever can set in after only a few hours of containment with a distant relative waffling on about something entirely irrelevant.

Fear not, however. We’ve bashed our skulls together and come up with a list of things you should be doing to keep sane during Crimbo’s drawn-out social encounters. There is hope of escape to the trails or tarmac.

Meticulously plan every hour of your Christmas break

Cyclists on a winter group ride
A group ride is a great way to encourage you to get out. 
Robert Smith/Immediate Media

On the face of it, this might not sound like fun, but a little foresight, a few spreadsheets and well-timed phoned calls to relatives can free up crucial minutes of bike time.

In fact, if you’re really good at planning, you should be able to sneak in cheeky festive rides every day of the Christmas holidays.

Make sure you know where you’re going to be, who you’re going to be with and what you’re planning on doing every day of the Christmas break. As a starter for ten, we’ve got a few ideas for Christmas and Boxing Day.

Christmas morning; no one gets up early (unless they’ve got young children – we’ve got a solution for that ‘problem’, too) so sneak in an hour-long ride before the hysteria of present-opening commences. If you’ve got young kids, cater to their whims by letting them open their presents as early as possible. Once they’re engrossed in discovering the joys of their newest possession you’ll be able to slope out for a ‘cheeky one’.

Boxing Day is a great window for the cycling opportunist. You can almost bet your bottom dollar that the evening’s activities will be dull and slow-paced, mostly involving TV-watching and dreary chit-chat. Get your lights strapped to your bike and head out under the cover of night for another cheeky ride.

To get the most from your time, rinse and repeat this rather fantastic – although slightly clinical – way of getting out on the bike in small windows of opportunity.

You’ll thank us when you managed to get the much-needed exercise, and so will your loved ones because you’ll be in a much better mood after that endorphin kick.

How to nab the last roast potato

Roast potatoes on baking tray, Christmas food
Roast potatoes are the move.
Danielle Wood / Getty

The Last Roast Potato. It sits there, gloriously crispy on the outside, fluffy, white and carbohydrate-packed on the inside, all alone in the dish just waiting for someone to make their move. That someone should be you.

You’ll be doing lots of riding over Christmas, and you need to make sure you’re well fuelled to compensate for the energy you’ll be expending when you’re out. This goes doubly for our Northern Hemisphere-based readers who’ll also be battling against the cold, snow, rain or quite possibly all three.

Your family surely don’t want you to bonk when you’re out, do they?

So chow down on that little crispy parcel of tastiness, and why not wash it down with a little more turkey. You’ve earned it.

How to deal with present disappointment

Wrapped kids bike with other wrapped presents with out of focus Christmas tree in foreground.
Don’t hold your breath – you’re probably not getting a bike this Christmas.
Martin Leigh / Getty

You bound down the stairs towards the tree, overtaking pets and small children, to rip the wrapping off the parcel with your name on it. It’s big enough for a new groupset! Or maybe some fresh rubber? How about a stash of clothing for your new year riding plans? You open your gift and find… well, it’s not quite what you wanted.

Disappointment often lurks beneath the tree, unless you’ve already had a frank discussion with your family about what Santa should focus his attention on. And while we fully appreciate it’s the thought that counts, why not swap it for something you actually need or want? After all, that’s what gift receipts were invented for.

So, to help you through the tricky process of profusely thanking the gift-giver, while gently suggesting that the gift in question might not be quite what you wanted and can you swap it, we’ve supplied a selection of tailor-made excuses. Deploy strategically:

  1. Oh, it’s lovely! But sadly it’s not compatible with my bottom bracket/head set/wheel size/hubs (delete as appropriate) – mind if I swap it?
  2. You know, I’ve always wanted a chocolate fountain/donut maker/candyfloss machine, but I’ve just signed up for a big event and I need to watch what I eat. Can I exchange it for a NutriBullet?
  3. That perfume/aftershave is lovely, but I’m worried I wouldn’t get the use out of it. Did you know that Rapha do a lovely chamois cream though? I’d certainly get use out of that!

How to avoid the washing up

Stacked crockery stacked on cutting board for washing up
If you do offer to help with the washing up, expect major brownie points
Debby Lewis-Harrison / Getty

The washing up is everyone’s least favourite chore on Christmas Day. A massive pile of crockery, cutlery and pans the height of a person, with burnt-on bits of roast parsnip, congealing custard and the inevitable leftover sprout remains.

Here’s how to avoid several hours spent with your hands in sudsy, gravy-stained water and get out for a ride instead.

  1. Fake falling asleep on the sofa until someone else starts doing it. Wait until everyone else is asleep, then very, very quietly sneak out the door. Make sure you have your kit prepped in advance.
  2. Offer to help a small child assemble some kind of model. ‘Realise’ that you need a tool from your garage. Sneak off for a ride.
  3. More than one of you? Say you have to pop round someone’s (think of someone plausible) house to drop off a gift and go for a short ride instead. Brief the other party ahead of time. Or ensure the other party also rides bikes, and head off together.
  4. Couples: you could try using the ‘we need to visit the other set of parents’ excuse. Or plan ahead and make this a legitimate excuse, stopping for a ride between visits.
  5. Act rowdy and annoying until someone tells you to leave. Risky, and not very festive.

WARNING: There may be serious repercussions with the deployment of these, including broken trust and the banning of any further cycling activity over the festive period.

OR, and this is our favourite suggestion, you could OFFER to do the washing up. Give your family a rest, pop on some festive tunes or your favourite bike movie, and get stuck into that sudsy bowl.

You’ll get a great sense of contributing to the festive spirit, and can head out for a ride afterwards with a clear conscience. Hell, why not bring everyone with you?

How to bring your bike away with you for Christmas

Skoda crossover with bikes on roof driving
The Karoq is a thoroughly competent family car, if not the most exciting thing to drive.
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

Are you staying with family this Christmas? One of the first obstacles you might face is convincing your co-travellers that bringing your bike with you is a good idea, particularly if the car is already crammed with people and presents. There are a few of options here:

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  1. The first is obviously to ensure your family are also into cycling, which means everyone is on board with the idea in the first place – of course you’d bring your bikes away with you. Duh!
  2. If you have kids and bought them bikes for Christmas, then simply explain innocently that they’ll want to go for a ride on them ASAP and you’ll need your bike to keep up with them.
  3. Buy a van so you can bring lots of bikes with you and all the Christmas bits and pieces. Pricey, unless you already own a van.
  4. Convince them that it will help keep you fit/sane/out of the way when things get busy.