Bringing Made-Up Words to Life: Coffeeneuring and Errandonnee

I don’t mean to shock anyone, but the words “coffeeneuring” and “errandonnee” are totally made-up words. That’s right, both are fake words used to describe activities that people do on bicycles.

These terms were born out of similar circumstances.

Coffeeneuring:  A Seattle randonneur said he’d like to earn a medal by riding his bike to the coffee shop. I thought I should run a contest through this blog that offered such a medal. Felkerino and I tossed phrases around our living room about what to name said contest. The result was “coffeeneuring,” a combination of coffee and randonneuring.

Errandonnee: I wanted to host a winter transportation-based challenge around doing errands. I’d come up with the word “utilitaire,” but it didn’t sound quite right. During a bike ride with our friend Eric P., we exchanged ideas about what such a contest should be called. What regular word and randonneuring word could be melded together just so? “Errandonnee. Errand plus randonnée,” our friend Eric said. We all agreed it worked.

Coffeeneuring has been a fake word for more than three years, and errandonnee is going on two-plus. While some linguistic purists surely shake their finger at my audacity to invent words, generally people seem to like them.

It’s much easier to say “I’m coffeeneuring,” as opposed to “I’m riding my bike to get coffee.” As for errandonnee? It’s tricky to spell, but fun to say, and wraps two concepts into one delightful word. And I don’t know when I’ll tire of saying “Errandonnee is a word with triple double letters.

These two words emerged in fits of brainstorming. Both are examples of three minds thinking more creatively than one– unless you don’t like these words, in which case they show you that three minds can come up with truly unfortunate combinations of symbols and sounds.

Surly 2015-03-09 on Potomac

Most of the feedback I’ve received about errandonnee and coffeeneuring is positive. People have even nabbed both errandonnee and coffeeneuring as domain names.

Someone wrote that they had originally heard of coffeeneuring through the New York Times, but they could no longer find the news article. Some have attributed the creation of both coffeeneuring and errandonnee to other people or sources.

When I learn of these situations, my instinctive reaction is grumpy and egotistical. “Those words originated on Chasing Mailboxes,” I think indignantly. “I’m not getting credit for these made-up words, ” I say, even though it took three of us to come up with the original word, anyway.

I’m transported back to graduate school where we explored the importance of sharing knowledge freely in an effort to create better ideas, products, and organizations. Then someone threw a wrench into our knowledge sharing theories by saying people gotta eat and what about the commodification and ownership of ideas if that’s your meal ticket. However, I’m not inventing words for profit; I just want them to be used and understood by people.

I know others who have poo poo’d my made-up words, remarking that they diminish the significance of randonneuring. It reminds me of my university days as a language and linguistics major and intense discussions with those who believed that simultaneously coding in two languages was dé classé– an affront to the pureness of language.

I don’t view language as static or pure. It is meant to evolve and change over time, depending on the circumstances of the day, the needs of communities, and as people look for ways to effectively share information with each other.

Over time, new words come into being and people adopt distinct ways of coding. I’m not claiming that the words errandonnee and coffeeneuring need to exist for the sake of humanity’s growth, but these words are not inherently bad or intended to minimize randonneuring. In addition, their ability to neatly combine two ideas into one word gives them a practical implication, at least in my eyes.

Some have suggested that I could monetize the Coffeeneuring and Errandonnee Challenges by securing local (or broader) sponsorship and selling souvenirs such as t-shirts. In my mind, that is not true to the spirit of these activities.

These challenges are about connecting to others through everyday, low- to no-cost activities. Hopefully they serve as an encouragement to be outside on our bikes. The challenges offer a virtual space to share simple moments with each other, free from commercial backing.

Now that the made-up errandonnee and coffeeneuring have had time to soak in the world, people have begun to use them and developed their own ideas about them. It’s surreal to watch something you created expand and take on its own life.

The words have become somewhat uncontrollable in many ways, and that occasionally disconcerts. Like I said earlier, a small part of me liked to think that I owned these words, that credit for their existence belonged with me.

Generally, though, seeing errandonnee and coffeeneuring increase their radius has been exciting to watch. I’ve connected to people I would likely not know otherwise. I see other people’s quirky, sometimes comic, creative interpretations of the errandonnee and coffeeneuring and I’m struck by their observations. People have embraced coffeeneuring and the errandonnee, and given them meaning and life.

Errandonnee 2015 Update: Best Year Yet?

As I write, there is warmth in the air and light in the sky here in D.C. Lots of people were out and about this weekend, not only to celebrate the warm weather and the arrival of Daylight Savings, but to make inroads on their Errandonnee quests!

If you haven’t started the Errandonnee, it’s not too late. You have until the clock strikes midnight on March 16 in your area to complete 12 errands and ride a total of 30 miles in the process.

Are you on the fence about participating? I think you should go for it!

The rules essentially come down to this: 12 errands, 12 days, 30 miles, take a picture as you go, do a variety of errands on your bike. Or, you can also do an Errundonnee, which one of the writers on The View From the Crosswalk is in the midst of completing.

If you want to share your progress, here’s where the Errandonnee is being talked about:

  • Instagram: Use the hashtag #errandonnee
  • Facebook: I created an Errandonnee Facebook group. Submit a request to join, and I will add you.
  • Twitter: As with Instagram, use the #errandonnee hashtag to highlight your errands.
  • Flickr: A 2015 Errandonnee group exists for those who like to post on Flickr. Thanks, Rootchopper!
  • Blogosphere: Blogroll coming this week. In the meantime, please let me know if you’re blogging. You can tag your post with Errandonnee and use a Pingback (linking to the original Errandonnee post in your post).
Categories clarification:

Work or Volunteering: If you are a full-time student, you may count your ride to school in the “Work or Volunteering” category. If you are transporting a child to his or her school by bike, you may also consider this “Work or Volunteering” (it would also fit under “Personal Business,” too).

Category revision comments: One of the reasons the Errandonnee categories were changed this year was because people felt they should be broader, to allow for all types of errands, whether you are single, not single, urban, small town, retired, family biking, etcetera.

Also, some noted that many of the categories were store/consumption-oriented. I hope you find that many of these updated categories will allow you to complete an Errandonnee without feeling like you have to buy stuff. If you want to buy stuff, that’s totally fine, too.

Finally, people really seem to like the “You Carried WHAT on Your Bike?!” and I plan to do a special post about that sometime this week or so (blog time can be very elastic). If you have any photos you’d like to share for this category, please send them my way.

As before, I’m interested in your feedback about the categories and rules so if you see where any changes could be made to improve the challenge, please let me know.

Rules clarifications:
  • Does your bike have to be in your Errandonnee photo? No, but you do have to describe it in your final submission so at least one photo of your bike would be nice.
  • Do you have to take a picture while your Errandonnee is in progress? Ideally, yes. However, the point of the photo is to basically show us that you actually did the errand you said you did. And because sharing the photos is rather fun. That said, here is an example from None the Jess who found a creative way to show her outing, post-errand.
  • Can I do an Errundonnee, like Mark in The View from the Crosswalk? Sure!
The Errandonnee Lookbook

That takes care of all the bureaucratic updates. Now for some photos of what errands people have been up to. These are all pulled from Instagram. Updates from other outlets coming soon!

Thanks to everyone who continues to imbue the Errandonnee with a sense of humor,  creativity, and joy.


The Errandonnee Starts Now!

By the time this post reaches you, the Errandonnee will have officially begun. You may be just waking up. You may already be out riding.

I’m not going to hazard any guesses about what the weather is doing as you read this. It’s March, and winter has a mind of its own.

tropical snowman

Errands wait for no one– past a certain point, that is– and neither does the Errandonnee.

I’ve put together a visual pep talk for you, from prior year errandeurs’ Instagram photos.














It all starts today– March 5 through March 16.

@MrTinDC on the CaBi during a snow day
@MrTinDC on the CaBi during a snow day

You. Can. Do. It.

The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

If you’ve been around bikes long enough, you’re likely familiar with the “n+1″ principle. Velominati describes it as follows:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I became quite caught up in the n + 1 principle in my early days as a bike enthusiast, although I did not know it had a name. My stable quickly grew from one Fuji road bike to a road bike + fixed gear + light touring bike + a commuter/touring bike + folding bike + single speed folding bike + you get the idea.

As cycling became one of my central activities, bicycles also caught my fancy. I justified my n+1 purchases in different ways. I need a bike for commuting. I need this one as a back-up bike. I need a fixed gear to work on my spin. I need a single speed because it’s low maintenance and easier to clean.

I need this bike for randonneuring, and that bike for summer vacations and future bike tours, a mixte just because, and I must have this bike because it’s a limited edition and this other bike since it is no longer made and this might be my very last chance to own one ever.

S-1 does not apply at my house. There are no furrowed brows when someone in my house says “Have you seen this bicycle? I think I may need it.” We don’t hide bike purchases from each other or lie about how much they cost (which I have my own thoughts about for those who do) and I don’t say that my other half “won’t let me” buy a bike (also something I have thoughts about). My spouse and I know all about the need for bikes. Our dining room is proof of that.

Over time I’ve realized that n+1 is truth and nonsense, but more nonsense than truth. That’s part of the ongoing joke, I know. Even though we may be able to concoct justifications for another ride and the bike industry would have us continue to purchase specialized bikes for all types of cycling and road surfaces, who among us actually needs more than one bike?

Rivendell Romulus

I am proud of the bikes I own and it took some years and careful searching to acquire them, but it’s no feat to have a bunch of bikes. All it takes is disposable income, time, and a desire for bicycles.

Over the years, I’ve also learned that n+1 does not match my riding style. Generally, I ride three bikes: the Surly Long Haul Trucker, my Rivendell Quickbeam, and our Co-Motion Java tandem. While these are my everyday favorites, I think of my Rivendell Romulus, Bike Friday Pocket Rocket, and my Rawland dSogn as my preferred weekend single ride steeds. But I’m not riding much single bike on the weekend these days so they don’t see much time outdoors.

I’d likely ride my bikes more if I was doing more long rides by myself, but my current way of touring and randonneuring is by tandem. The other bikes are pulled out every once in a while, but generally they spend most of their lives in the Dining Room Bike Shop.

In contrast, Felkerino is more of an n+1 rider than I am. He frequently rotates through the bikes on his side of the dining room. He told me that he likes to switch his ride every two or three weeks. Felkerino gives all of his bikes equal love and attention, while I focus my affection on a few of the bikes I have.

I am happy with all my bikes and, with the exception of my torrid relationship with the Bike Friday Tikit, I’ve dialed in their fit and comfort so they ride well for short or long distances. It’s nice to have bikes that work particularly well for brevets, mixed surfaces, commutes, and touring, but it certainly isn’t necessary.

I don’t generally ride each of my bikes enough to truly justify owning them all. In the meantime, I keep the bikes I own as an indulgence. I already own them, and I aspire to ride them all more one day soon. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or when it’s warmer outside.

I still look at bikes, admire them, and think about how they would ride and the ways they would complement my current bike family. Future bike is always out there and I want it. Practically speaking, though, my n+1 days are at a standstill. The dining room is far too crowded.

St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run Report

The last time I ran a 5K race was in 1991. As a long-distance touring cyclist and occasional marathon runner, I don’t participate in many short-distance running events. I have many excuses for this: the price per mile is high compared to a marathon or a brevet; I’m not fast; and mostly, I prefer endurance stuff.

However, this year, Felkerino and I thought it would be a fun family activity to run the St. Patrick’s Day 5K , sponsored by Pacers. Felkerino recently took up running again to diversify his physical activities and see what it is people like so much about running.  We lined up together at the starting line, but agreed to run our own paces. Continue reading St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run Report

Winter Challenge: The 2015 Errandonnee

Hey winter, you’re not the boss of me. It’s time for a March challenge designed for the utility cyclist with errands to do, even during cold winter days– the Errandonnee!


The tweet version of the Errandonnee is:

Errandonnee: Complete 12 errands in 12 days and ride a total of 30 miles by bike between March 5-16, 2015.
Continue reading Winter Challenge: The 2015 Errandonnee

Run Cocoon

During a week of intense uncertainty and worry, the running routine has become an effort to keep emotions in check and preserve some aspect of normal. Continue reading Run Cocoon

Whatevering Runner

After a few hours spent contemplating Facebook and the gray of the day, I convince myself that I am letting something good slip away by not going outside for a few running miles. I shelled out all that money on winter gear, why not give it a chance to shine.

A clumsy sort-out of layers and I’m off. I plan to run as I feel and hope to end up with about six miles. The grating flip flop of my Brooks Glycerins accompanies me down the road. Continue reading Whatevering Runner


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