Category Archives: Utilitaire

Utilitaire 12: Winners Announced! Finally!

The Utilitaire 12 was all about celebrating everyday errands and cycling trips. Utility cyclists have figured out ways to use our bikes, our legs, and our own steam to live various aspects of our lives, carry stuff from point A to point B, and get things done. I think that deserves some recognition.

People rode to haircuts, Goodwill, bike shops, the dentist, movies, museums, concerts, basketball games, the post office, FridayCoffeeClub, and libraries. They coffeeneured, lunched, dined, attended various volunteer and community meetings, and went grocery shopping. They even rode to bike rides (meta-utilitairing!). People took photos and diligently filled out paperwork.

Utilitairing with the Burley Trailer

I’m still not through synthesizing everyone’s utilitaire adventures. Once I do, I’ll be back to share some of what I learned from people’s experiences. In the meantime, it’s time to announce the successful Utilitaire 12 challengers and to also recognize those who may not have completed 12 utilitaires, but made a valiant run for it.

Participants represented four distinct countries: Canada; England; Germany; and the United States. Utilitaires took place in nine ten states, and the District of Columbia! The field split evenly between women and men. All told,

  • 15 individuals completed the Utilitaire 12; and
  • 9 10 participants earned an honorable mention.

Of the 15 who completed the Utilitaire 12, six also  completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge I ran late last year. Keith Snyder, the editor and publisher of Ride, will be providing five of these six individuals a copy of his book. Ride is a collection of short fiction stories about bicycling. I’ve yet to read it, but it is on my ebook wish list. Thank you, Keith!

Winners and honorable mentions will receive a special Utilitaire patch. This heart-shaped embroidered patch with the image of the world inside of it captures the essence of the Utilitaire 12 for me.  Love for the bike, dedication to cycling to useful destinations, and seeing the earth from the perch of your saddle. And from a practical point of view, it affixes easily to bike bags and panniers.

Utilitaire Patch

On to the winners and honorable mentions!

Coffeeneur and Utilitaire 12 Champions

BikesNCoffee Control Card

Utilitaire 12 Winners

Biking to work through the blossoms

Honorable Mention

Big congrats to everybody who made the Utilitaire 12 such a resounding success! I’ll be in touch to deliver everyone’s prizes.

Thanks again to all who participated and those who followed our journeys. It was great fun!

Utilitaire to be Announced Tomorrow!

Waylaid again… because I became an aunt. Wahoo!

A Utilitaire Prevented me from Posting the Utilitaire 12 Winners

I intended to announce the Utilitaire 12 winners today, but Felkerino’s and my double whammy utilitaire to dinner and the grocery store kept it from happening.

Utilitaire to the grocery store via Arlington Cemetery

I don’t want to give the Utilitaire 12 short shrift so I’ll be doing a longer post about it tomorrow. I will give you this teaser, however.

  • 14 individuals completed the Utilitaire 12; and
  • 9 participants earned an honorable mention.

Additionally, six of the 14 who successfully completed the Utilitaire 12 also came out winners during the Coffeeneuring Challenge I ran late last year. Special bonus prize!

D.C. Public Library designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

In almost unrelated news, did you know that Tuesday was the 126th birthday of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe? Thanks to Pedal ‘n Purl’s utilitaire to the D.C. Public Library, I learned that Mies was the library’s architect. Pretty cool!

Until tomorrow!

Utilitaire 12: Final Day!

Today, March 16, is the FINAL day for completing the Utilitaire 12. If you’ve been participating in the challenge you are probably well aware of that, but just in case it escaped your mind and you still have a utilitaire pending, today (Friday) is your day!

Community Meeting Utilitaire (FridayCoffeeClub) at Swing's

People have through March 18 (that is, midnight in your area or before I wake up on the 19th) to send me their paperwork.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and seeing all the different types of riding people do in lots of different places. I also added some new blogs to my regular reading list.

As of this post, I’ve received eight submissions and I look forward to more in the next few days.

Zombies in the Bike Lane

Wishing everybody a great weekend, and all the best to those getting out for brevets this weekend!

Utilitaire Roundup: the Final Week!

Yowza! The utilitaire deadline is almost upon us. Participants have until this Friday (March 16) to complete their 12 utilitaires so we are truly in the final throes of the challenge.

Lots has been happening while I’ve been away, and I’ve already received four utilitaire control cards for validation. I look forward to receiving several more in the coming days.

The zombies love Capital Bikeshare. Perfect for utilitaires!

In the meantime, here’s a summary of what’s been going on in the land of the utilitaires.

  • Lynne F. posted a fine roundup of her utilitaire exploits on her blog, which includes a link to her utilitaire flickr set. Just can’t get over those bike in the grocery store aisle photos!
  • The one and only @JudithSwallow has joined in the utilitaire activities. She’s even been riding her Brompton. Awesome!
  • An Old Guy on Two Wheels reached the Utilitaire 12 finish line this past week, with a multi-modal utilitaire to an outdoor concert and a ride to a homebrew supply store. I confess, I was unaware that special stores for homebrewing existed. The Utilitaire 12 has educated me in so many ways :).
  • A Rebalanced Life spent one day utilitairing all over the place. I love the Swift Industries front bag on the Salsa Vaya! A separate utilitaire took him to the Cascade Bicycle Club Seattle Bike Expo. Looks fun.
  • @SognRider, who has an excellent Utilitaire 12 flickr set going, also utilitaired to the Bike Expo.
  • Both Porta-John and Bicycle Bug made it to the community meeting organized by utilitaire participant Pedal ‘n Purl. They both recently completed their final utilitaires, Porta-John’s final trip being the local bike shop and Bicycle Bug‘s a dinner outing with a celebratory lap for completing the Utilitaire 12!
  • Speaking of Pedal ‘n Purl, she went on some nice outings and introduced me to a new D.C. grocery store, Smucker Farms of Lancaster County.  She also went to the downtown public library. In her description of her trip, she talks a bit about the architect who designed the library, Mies van der Rohe.
  • Physics Girl on the Loose also completed her 12th utilitaire, complete with a video of her work commute. Not content to stop at 12, I think she’s going for one more. I also enjoyed her writeup about her 11th utilitaire to the pet store, particularly her notes on ninja bike riders.
  • JDAntos ventured out for some live music- in the rain. Extra credit!
  • Baltimore-based BikesNCoffee cashed in a substitution to pedal to and from a century ride, and also utilitaired to lunch. Love that photo of the bike by the graffiti’d wall.
  • Late to the game participant Cyclofiend (welcome, Cyclofiend!) has logged two utilitaires, one to the grocery store and one to the post office. Your A. Homer Hilsen is looking good, despite the lack of fenders.
  • @tangobiker, who has completed 34 coffeeneuring trips in 25 weeks (special prize in his future?), utilitaired to the bookstore and to see The Artist. What’s the verdict on this movie, by the way?
  • Biking in Heels made it to the bike shop, encountering an interesting bicycle along the way and ending the day with a good meal. I also have to give a little shout-out to her coffeeneuring utilitaire, which she completed last week.
  • Rootchopper, who is sort of utilitairing despite himself, went to the bike shop. He did not call it a utilitaire, but it was.
  • Our far flung Utilitaire 12 challenger, Berlin by Bike, invoked the pedestrian allowance and walked with her friend to a German food truck run by New Yorkers. She later went to the salon for an eyebrow haircut. Yup!

That’s the summary. As always, if I missed anything, please feel free to add it into the comments. Thanks to everybody who’s been participating. Can’t wait to see the other people who’ve been doing the challenge sans blog postings!

UPDATE! I forgot Chesapeake Sailor!!  What’s he been up to? A 57-mile utilitaire to the tailor (!) and a trip to the grocery store that involved a lot of pedestrian and bike traffic, due to the nice weather.

Utilitaire 12 Roundup, Week 4

Utilitaires are a great way for me to get out the door when I might be swayed to stay inside otherwise. This Saturday the winds were howling in the D.C. area, but I had a baby shower utilitaire to attend. I pedaled my way diligently to the shower, totally focused on my destination and blocking out the windy conditions with my mind. My reward was a lovely baby shower, a bit of exercise, and an awesome tailwind on my return trip. Thank you, utilitaire cycling!

Friday ride home into the sunset

What other utilitaires have been happening, you ask? Let me fill you in…

  • PhysicsGirl on the Loose went to a grocery store with a glass-encased wall of cheese. I’ve never seen anything like it! She made a tactical error in purchasing a mediocre macaron, but other than that and the inadequate bike parking it sounded like  a successful ride. (And what is up with the general lack of decent bike parking in cities? Plenty of space for parking garages, but not for bike racks? Grrr.)
  • Chesapeake Sailor attended his son’s middle school basketball game (sporting event), and couldn’t help himself from prooving en route that he could pedal faster up a hill than a motor scooter.
  • In more school activities, One Speed: GO! rode to a music concert. Because he chose to go by bike, he didn’t have to compete for parking. Nice!
  • Biking in Heels went to the library to pick up a book for her friend, the Scientist. I learned about her library’s “speed read” section and I also like how she bungeed her book to the rack.
  • As a utilitaire substitution, An Old Guy on Two Wheels pedaled over the the county tax assessor to pay something that, ironically, had to do with his car. Later in the week, he went out for breakfast tacos and a cup of coffee. The tacos sound delicious!
  • @katychancy utilitaired and has a new French press to show for her efforts.
  • What’s this? Lynne’s bike is actually locked outside on this breakfast utilitaire!
  • BikesNCoffee went out for coffee. How fitting! He also did some other things along the way, calling the full trip coffeelunchanneuring, and noted that the cold weather really makes his sinuses go. Yes, that’s true.
  • @tangobiker took a page out of Lynne F.’s book and rolled his bike right into the “bottle shop,” rather than lock it outside. Later he attended US Representative Suzanne Bonamici’s town hall meeting.
  • Berlin by Bike went to a cool museum, the Berlin Unterwelten. She also added a coffeeneuring trip to a place where they served Ritual and Stumptown coffee. How is it Berlin by Bike can find a place in Germany that serves San Francisco coffee, but I can’t find the tasty Ritual beans in Washington, D.C.? At least we have Stumptown.
  • @sognrider pedaled the Rawland to the grocery store. Who makes those panniers?
  • @rebalancedlife went to the grocery store, too. Will there be a blog post?
  • shebicycles beautifully documented her ride to her volunteer job with the American Red Cross. I was sorry to read about the reduction in staff at their local chapter. shebicycles wrote several posts about the incredible damage from the previous season’s tornadoes and the involvement of the American Red Cross. On a lighter note, she coffeeneured, too. Great behind-the-bars shot!
  • JDAntos multi-modal-utilitaired by using his bike to assist him in dropping off his car.
  • Port-a-John has been logging some longer miles on the road, including a recent solo century known as the “Weenie One Hundred.” He rewarded himself for his efforts with a utilitaire to a hot dog place, ha ha!
  • Bicycle Bug pedaled himself to the library for a history workshop so that he could learn more about the area where he lives. I didn’t even know groups offered workshops like this. Like!
  • And finally, our man Rootchopper over at A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel. What can I say except… Whoops. Good thing he was riding on steel.

That’s all I’ve got. Know something I don’t? Please add it to the comments!

Thanks to everybody who’s participating, writing, tweeting, and blogging their adventures. I heart utilitairing!

Utilitaire Curiosities: How We Light Up the Night

In order to officially complete the Utilitaire 12, at least two rides must be completed in the dark and thus, require lights.

What do people use to ride in the dark? Some people, not part of this challenge, use nothing. Boo. Bike ninjas are all over. At least, I think they are. I have a hard time picking their silhouettes out of the darkness.

Most people who commute and utilitaire, however, end up adopting some type of front and rear lighting system to get them through dark times. Literally dark, I mean.


I have a front lighting around-town system with which I am quite satisfied. Prior to my current setup, I used an older Nite Rider MiNewt X2, a bright front LED light with a rechargeable battery. I liked this light, except:

  1. The cord had some issues which eventually caused some of the wires to become exposed and I ended up covering them with electrical tape; and
  2. One day it stopped working, never to work again. It gave me three good years of service, though, so I can’t complain too much.

In the interim, Felkerino loaned me a rechargeable Ixon IQ from the Dining Room Bike Shop. We use the Ixons a fair amount on brevets. That light was bright and worked well, except it took a little effort to remove the attachment system from one bike to another.

Ixon IQ headlight

Fortunately, I did not wait long for a new light. Soon after the death of the MiNewt, I won a Light ‘n Motion Urban 180 Commuter that is my go-to, go-anywhere light. This light is fantastic because:

  1. I won it.
  2. It easily attaches to any of my bikes. It’s also easily removeable.
  3. The light does not have a separate battery pack and recharges via a USB port. This makes it easy to charge either at home or at the office.
  4. The run time of this light is several hours, supposedly up to eight on the lowest setting, which is still decently bright. I haven’t tested it over an eight hour ride in darkness, but it has lasted several hours in the dark, which is all I need from this light.

Light ‘n Motion Urban 180

Neither Felkerino nor I have any hub generator lights. People love their generator lights, but we’ve found that, since we are jostling multiple bikes for multiple purposes, the portable rechargeable battery lights work well for us.


As for rear lights, I haven’t found a perfect system. I like to use two rear tail lights when riding at night, but many of the lights I’ve used have not been bright enough. I found an easily attachable runner’s light, but it doesn’t hold its charge well and the brightness of the light fades quickly.

I have a couple of older Cateye rear lights that serve both as a light and reflector, but I realized that the light they cast is rather dim.

Inadequate primary rear light. Sorry, Cateye.

On my Quickbeam’s Tubus rack, I’ve attached a German-made Spanninga rear light. This light is awesome and I’m totally satisfied with the brightness of it, but it does not move easily from bike to bike.

Spanninga and backup Cateye light on the Quickbeam

I probably should just bite the bullet and purchase another Spanninga, but I’d like to find a light that is bright, hold its charge well, and moves easily (via clip or something) from one bike to another. Also, things like lights fall into the “not much fun to buy” category of bicycle gear. I prefer to take from what’s in stock in the Dining Room Bike Shop.

Reflective Vests

This year, I finally got serious about wearing reflective gear when I commute. I realized through watching other runners and cyclists at night on the trail, that those who wore some kind of reflective wear in addition to lights were a ton more visible than those who only used lights. I figured, the brighter the better and, even if I look nerdy in my vest, at least I have a better chance of showing up in drivers’ headlights.

My current reflectivewear of choice for commuting is a bright orange fabric vest with two big reflective horizontal stripes. Felkerino picked it up for me when he went to PBP in 2007.

Reflective Vest

The vest closes in front with two smallish velcro patches, making it easy on and easy off. It also stows easily in my Carradice.

Reflective Vest – Front

My backup system is the RUSA reflective sash. I feel a bit like a crossing guard when I wear it, but it’s easy to thrown on and takes up very little space in my bag or pannier.

Crossing guard uniform. RUSA Reflective Sash

I do not think the sash is as bright as the orange vest, but I like using the sash in the summertime because the vest can get a little warm, even though it is not a heavy fabric. I’m still searching for a better or brighter summer reflectivewear solution. I think I may have one, but I haven’t tested it yet, as it is not yet summer (ha ha!).

What’s in your nighttime arsenal? I want to hear about it.

Utilitaire 12, Week 3 Roundup: Wheels Keep Turning

Friends of the spoked wheel, I am having the best time reading about all the utilitaires people are doing. I’ve found that it’s the everyday adventures that give life its spice, and that’s what I see in the utilitaire posts, tweets, and photos. In daytime, darkness, weekdays, sick days, and all kinds of weather people are out pedaling to get things done and make the everyday routine special.

Additionally, people often turn their utilitaires into multiple destination rides, which has given me a great idea for my NEXT challenge.

So let’s talk utilitaires. What’s been going on? Here’s some of what I know:

  • Porta-John finally got his library card. He also shaved his beard, but said it does not make him a faster cyclist. Are you sure?
  • Bicycle Bug got a bad haircut, and believes the Utilitaire 12 is partly to blame, as his usual barber lives closer than the minimum utilitaire qualifying distance. While I’m sorry for the haircut, the writeup made me laugh. Maybe next time, you should just extend your route a little, Bicycle Bug!
  • Biking in Heels attended a meeting for one of her local cycling advocacy organizations, Livable Streets. She even made sure the Massachusetts Secretary for Transportation was familiar with the state’s transportation issues. On a separate outing, she went out for a haircut. Apparently, it went better for her than Bicycle Bug.
  • bikesncoffee took a lovely photo of his recent utilitaire to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and included some cool sketchbook photos.
  • @tangobiker saw a concert. Or would this be a movie? Guess I’ll know when the control card arrives! Oh, and need I mention… he also coffeeneured?
  • Another utilitaire tweep, @SognRider, took on wind and rain for one utilitaire, and went out to lunch on a nice day for another.
  • There are two people with Rawlands participating in the Utilitaire 12. @SognRider is one, and Five Toed Sloth the other. Five Toed Sloth ventured out with his to the hardware store and the grocery store. Because of the low trail of the Rawland, he prefers carrying weight in the front, as opposed to panniers. Did you see his nice basket?
  • bikesncoffee wasn’t the only one at the museum. PhysicsGirl on the Loose, who’s been doing some catching up on her various utilitaire writeups, ventured out into some snowy streets to see the the Royal Ontario Museum. Extra credit!
  • I always enjoy Chesapeake Sailor’s utilitaire observations. On one ride, he observed that his Ostrich bag needs more cushioning for his banana, and on his most recent utilitaire to breakfast, he learned that bamboo on the trail hangs low with snow.
  • shebicycles went to the bike shop, and what I would consider a community meeting on wheels. Loved her photos from the ride. Earlier in the week, she took the Xtracycle to the grocery store. That bike is so cool!
  • Pedal ‘n Pearl intrigued me with her recent utilitaire to a “tiny desk concert” that featured the Cranberries. She also coffeeneured to Lot 38, a new shop I want to check out.
  • I’ve been remiss in highlighting Big Orange Bike‘s posts. She’s been out utilitairing with her little one!
  • One Speed: GO! coffeeneured, ate, and picked up some camera stuff, including this item he called “film.”
  • A Rebalanced Life purchased some cool stuff at the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Bike Swap, including a Swift Industries bag that I’d like to know more about.
  • Over the Hedgerow picked up groceries and utilitaired to a haircut. I think it looks nice, as does his bike setup.
  • Lynne Fitz ventured out for a haircut, too. What’s wrong with this picture? Her bike is outside and not sitting in the salon.
  • An Old Guy on Two Wheels went on a date with his Dahon to see a movie. He went to REI, too, and bought a Clif bar in a flavor I want to try. It has coconut! And guess what? He also got a haircut!
  • Not sure which category this one would fall into, as it could be “Any Store that is not a Grocery Store” or a substitution. but Rootchopper dropped off his car at the shop and, rather than sit and wait, rode home on his bike to do other things. Smart thinking, Rootchopper. You’re definitely in the running for an honorable mention!
  • This other guy I know, The Daily Randonneur, finally wrote up his first seven utilitaires, and I even made it into a couple of the photos!
  • Our most far-flung member of the challenge, Berlin by Bike, took a night ride to the library and then took herself out to dinner. Later in the week, she coffeeneured to a flat white and some awesome-looking pancakes. And I learned about KeepCups.

That’s what I know. If I missed something, fill me in via the comments, and I hope everybody has a great week of utilitairing!

Utilitaire Curiosities: How We Carry What We Do

Boop bee doop. Reading through the utilitaire posts and tweets got me thinking about the various “bike and haul” setups people have chosen, and also prompted me to analyze my own.

I have two primary systems and bikes I use for hauling stuff around. For riding in the city, I generally use one of two bicycles: a Rivendell Quickbeam (single speed); or my Surly Long Haul Trucker (many speeds).

Setup 1: Rivendell Quickbeam with the Carradice College Saddlebag

Quickbeam, Carradice College, and Tubus Cargo Rack

This is the less robust of my carrying methods, but still works great for getting my work clothes and me to the office, and allows for a spur of the moment side trip to the grocery store to pick up dinner fixings.

My Rivendell Quickbeam is a steel frame single speed tourer with 700C wheels. I affixed a black Tubus Cargo rack that I found (for free!) in the Dining Room Bike Shop. (Felkerino had intended to use it on one of his bike projects, but changed his mind and then left it unattended one day.) The rack provides a sturdy base for the Carradice College saddlebag that I purchased several years ago from St. John Street Cycles.

The College is one of Carradice’s larger saddlebags. I call it my “magic hat” bag, as it has a great deal of carrying capacity, but it does not look bulky (to me, anyway). The saddlebag loops are looped through my Brooks B-17 “S” and the bag itself rests on the Tubus rack.

Pipsqueak front bag

In the front, I use a Rickshaw Pipsqueak bag. This little guy is perfect for carrying things I like to have at my fingertips, such as my work ID, a camera, and even my phone.

I could also use panniers with this setup, but usually the Carradice meets my needs. I don’t like carrying heavy loads on my single speed, as it puts additional stress on my knees, which I like to baby. For bigger hauls, I use Setup 2.

Setup 2: Surly Long Haul Trucker with a Carradice Pendle and Ortlieb

My Surly Long Haul Trucker is the bike I choose when I want gears and when I want to do things like run to the grocery store or drop stuff off at the dry cleaner’s. My Surly (size 54) is a heavy sturdy steel bike designed for loaded touring. Sizes 54 and smaller come with 26-inch wheels.

Surly LHT with Carradice, Ortlieb, and Rickshaw

In order to transport my panniers, I purchased a Nitto Campee rear rack.

I bought a Carradice Pendle, a mid-sized saddle bag, from St. John Street Cycles and belted it through the eyelets of my Brooks Flyer saddle.

Both the Tubus and the Nitto racks are awesome. They are sturdy and made to carry loads. Adding a pannier won’t throw off the balance of the bike, which has happened with other racks I have used. I also think the Tubus and Nitto are nice-looking, compared to a lot of others out there.

Summer Days with the Surly (and a view of the Nitto Campee rack)

Usually, when I ride the Surly I carry at least one pannier, sometimes two. My panniers of choice for town riding are the Ortlieb front-roller classics. I love love love them.

First, they are simple and come with no pockets. These Ortliebs are just solid waterproof pannier “sacks” that are easy to close. Second, the mounting system is adjustable and easy to attach and remove from the bike.

Ortlieb Attachment System

Third, they include a carrying strap you can attach to carry the pannier over your shoulder. I would not recommend carrying these panniers very far, as the hooks will grind uncomfortably into your legs, but to get in an out of a store, they are perfect.

As on the Quickbeam I use a Rickshaw Pipsqueak on the front.

Both the Surly and the Quickbeam have two bottle cages. One is a steel bottle cage from I don’t know where, and the other is a plastic Kleen Kanteen cage. I often use the steel cage to hold my coffee and I use the plastic cage for grocery store purchases, lately wine or almond butter. I don’t like to have glass rub directly against steel, which adds to the appeal of the plastic Kleen Kanteen cage. It has proven hardy, yet flexible, and is an excellent holster for a bottle of vino or a medium-sized jar.

Bottle Cages Close-Up

Those two setups are what I’ve found work best for me as a commuter and transportation cyclist. What kind of setup(s) do you use? I’d love to read a post about it or let me know directly in the comments.

Utilitaire Rules Update: Pedestrian Allowance

Hi, blog readers! I’ve added an additional provision in the Utilitaire Rules. 

I Have Something to Tell You Panda

While the name of the game in the Utilitaire 12 is ride your bike, I also recognize the following things:

  1. It’s winter so there may be inclement weather that prevents a person from riding; 
  2. Some people have jobs that require them to travel and they can’t always bring their bikes along; and
  3. A major mechanical could require your bike to be in the shop and leave you sans bike.

To account for these situations, I will allow for two of your utilitaires to be by foot.  Your walk must at least 10 minutes each way, for a total of 20 minutes.

How did I decide on ten minutes? It passed my personal commen sense test in its comparability to the minimum utilitaire travel time on a bike.

All other Utilitaire rules apply. I will also update the Utilitare Rules accordingly. Happy riding (and walking)!