Winter Cycling Challenge: The Utilitaire 12

If you regularly read this blog, you know that I use my bike as my main form of transportation. I’ve found it is the best way for me to travel around the city and get the things I need.

Riding to coffee on the Romulus

I know some of you like bicycling for those same reasons, which is why I’ve decided it’s time for a pre-spring bike challenge. Are you ready? Today I’m launching the Utilitaire 12, which will run from today through March 16.

What’s a utilitaire? Essentially, it’s utility cycling– a ride on your bike to do an errand, or to transport yourself some place for a specific purpose. Cycling to lunch, to the grocery store, your job… it all falls under utilitairing.

For purposes of this contest, riders can select from a full list of Utilitaire 12-eligible categories.

Utilitaire Control Card

Successfully complete 12 utilitaires in six weeks and win a prize, provided you adhere to my Utilitaire Rulebook!

I hope you will consider being part of the movement. Here’s how it works.

  1. Complete 12 utilitaires from now through Friday, March 16, completing the Utilitaire Control Card (click to open) as you go.
  2. Each utilitaire must be at least two miles round trip, , but there is no maximum to what you can ride.
  3. Any day is a good day to utilitaire! You can complete a utilitaire any day of the week.
  4. You may complete a maximum of two qualifying utilitaires per week.
  5. You must complete utilitaires from at least seven of the 12 categories represented on the Utilitaire Control Card.
  6. Each category may be used a maximum of two times. For example, you may count riding your bike to a movie a total of two times.
  7. You may utilitaire twice in one day one time only!  For example, you could choose to utilitaire to lunch, and then do another ride to dessert.
  8. At least two utilitaires must occur after dark, and you must describe the lighting method used.
  9. To show evidence of your ride, you must take one photo during your utilitaire and submit at least one thing you learned or observed during your trip.
  10. If you think of a utilitaire that does not fall into any category listed on the Utilitaire Control Card, you may request to substitute your proposed utilitaire for one on the card. Requests must be submitted to me, either via a comment on this post or to the e-mail address listed below.
  11. PEDESTRIAN ALLOWANCE RULE: Because stuff happens, two of your utilitaires may be by foot.  Your walk must at least 10 minutes each way, for a total of 20 minutes.
  12. There are no geographic limitations on the Utilitaire 12.
  13. Deadline for submission for the Utilitaire 12 is March 18, 2012.
  14. Submit your Utilitaire 12 paperwork, including your Utilitaire Control Card to me at gersemalina “at”
  15. All qualifying rides must be submitted at the same time. That is, send me all 12 together, NOT ride 1, ride 2, etc. If you have been blogging your utilitaires, you can send me the links to those as well as the completed control card.
  16. Be prepared to be featured as a guest post on this blog if when you successfully complete this challenge.
Shopping Utilitaire with the Burley

15 16 rules, 12 utilitaires, and six almost seven weeks to get them all done. I know you’re up for it.  As you are out and about, feel free to tweet about it using the hashtag #utilitaire. I can’t wait to hear how it’s going!


  1. Questions:
    1. Can you count a destination as 2 different utilitaires on 2 different days? For example, if I bike to work, that counts as one. But I work in a library, so if I bike to work on another day, could I count that as going to the library?

    2. You mention biking after dark. Could we count a ride before dawn if we use lights and describe?

    I may also have to get creative here, but I’m willing to give this a try.


  2. Not fair!!!

    You should have started this last week. A week ago Sunday I biked to the bike store: about 9 miles round trip.

    Then I rode to work (it was dark when I started and finished) last week and once already this week.. Each one is about 29 miles round trip.

    I biked to the hardware store on Saturday. 2 1/2 miles round trip. The big bag of bird seed was pretty heavy so I came home and unloaded. Then I biked to the auto parts store and picked up a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet on the way back. Another 3 1/2 miles round trip.

    I didn’t take any pix.

    Not fair!!!

    P.S. Do I get bonus points for getting an oil change for my car using my bike? (I do it all the time. I don’t want to wait 2 hours at the mechanic so I ride back home and eat breakfast. Another splendid use for my folding bike,)


  3. This is really good. Really good. It will be a challenge, but I think not impossible. Here are my questions:

    1) What constitutes a “week” For example, the challenge starts today, but when does this week end?

    2) I assume that a stop does not qualify if it is part of an exercise/training/organized ride. But it would qualify if it is on the saw to or from that ride?

    3) Must all trips be a round trip? (Work to movie to home – count as a movie ride?)

    4) Must the purpose of the trip be declared before you leave? For example, I’ve used up 2 grocery trips, but heck, I need milk so I am off to Safeway again. On the way home my hair is blowing in my face and I can’t see, but luckily there is a barber on the corner. What chance! I stop by the barber and get it cut. Can I count that as a “Haircut” ride?


  4. Well isn’t this a great intro to your blog! And unlike rootchopper (I feel your pain), your timing is excellent as I just picked up my new ride last weekend and am itchin’ to ride everywhere!

    It is indeed on…and I look forward to browsing your archives, I feel like I’ve been missing out –


  5. Well I did the Coffee challenge last year and I will give it a try this year… I do want to know if riding a populaire and getting a bite to eat on the trip counts?? also do you need to leave from home and go back to home on the same ride??

    IT IS ON…


  6. Thought of another question already! If you are on the board for a non-profit that holds a community event, would biking to a board meeting count or does “community meeting” have to be open to everyone?


  7. Is it ok to extend a ride a bit to meet the distance? I live in an older part of town near the center — purposely to be close to things like restaurants and the local history museum, etc., but that means I usually walk to them — some, like restaurants, I can and do ride to others far enough away, but the two museums in my town are both about 1/2 mile from my home — so is it ok to ride a non-dorect route to get there to turn it into more than a mile, perhaps 2?


  8. […] There, I’m sure that clears it up and now you understand why a bike blog is writing about this.  What? You say you can’t understand what I just wrote.  You say, since we live in AMERICA it should be in AMERICAN!  Well in that case, let me direct you to the originator of this challenge, Chasing Mailboxes D.C. […]


  9. […] There, I’m sure that clears it up and now you understand why a bike blog is writing about this.  What? You say you can’t understand what I just wrote.  You say, since we live in AMERICA it should be in AMERICAN!  Well in that case, let me direct you to the originator of this challenge, Chasing Mailboxes D.C. […]


  10. […] Utilitaire. This is cool except for two things: 1) many places I go to are well under two miles, and 2) I sort of have a zero social life (I don’t belong to any committees and I haven’t been to a movie theatre or book reading in ages.). Maybe I should aim for “bike at least 4 miles a week on two different days per week,” which is fairly doable if it’s a dine-out night… or maybe this is telling me I need to get out and interact more. […]


      • Hi, Megan, and welcome to the challenge!

        No, can’t count any extra for you and the youngest Utilitaire participant.

        However, you will be fine, provided you get in two rides per week until the 15th of March, as the Utilitaire 12 timeframe gives you seven “weeks” to get all 12 rides in.


  11. Damn! I found out about this too late- can I retroactively count things that I did in the last two weeks? Also- I’m about to be out of town for a week in a place where I won’t have a bike, Any chance I can get a dispensation to do four Utilitaires in one week to compensate? because I can do that without even trying!
    I’ll guess I’ll just do it anyway because it’s fun, even if I don’t “officially” qualify.


    • Also, I’m assuming that any ride that includes one of the control goals counts?. I.e.-I ride home from work, and detour a little bit out of the way to go to the library to pick up the book that came in for me. The library itself is only half a mile from home, but the overall ride from work to library is 4 miles, so I assume it meets the milage requirement?

      If I can count retroactively things I did in the last two weeks, and am a little flexible about what day of the week a “week” begins, I can accommodate the week I’ll be gone.
      You can see my first trip (to the grocery store for superbowl snacks-5.2 miles- with generator lights and bonus christmas lights) here


      • Hi there! Yes, any ride that includes one of the controls counts. Just checked out your blog (which I enjoyed, by the way) and saw the post you referenced. You were utilitairing and did not even know it!

        You can certainly count things retroactively, provided you have some kind of documentation of the ride. You should go for the Utilitaire 12, and join in on the fun!


    • Hi, Mark,

      If you do, I will put you in the “honorable mention” category. That doesn’t get you quite as much fame as an officlal finish within the parameters of all the rules, but you will still receive some notoriety for your accomplishment.


  12. Ooh, I also found out about this too late, but I have some events that could count retroactively. Does the photo have to be of the bike itself, or will a photo of the event do? For instance, I biked to cream tea with a friend. I have a picture of the tea, but not of the biking part.


  13. […] Utilitaire 6.12: it began as a trip to the bike shop, #8 on the control card (for the second time).  And then transformed into a fun family-friendly community ride on the Greenway, and finally a quick stop for dinner – along with picking up a few boxes of girl scout cookies. Mmmm.  🙂 […]


  14. I am in the process of blogging my utilitaires from the past three weeks. I have another question (for future reference): can a clothing swap count as a community meeting?


  15. This is great. Too bad I only just discovered it, as rule #4 puts me out of the running. If you do this again perhaps you could add a category for general schlepping. I tend to haul cargo to and from a variety of non-commercial locations.


    • Hmmm… this one is tricky! I would say you could probably count it, as I’ve been pretty lenient with defining this one, provided you make a case for how it qualified as a community meeting. For example, if you showed up, rode, didn’t talk to anyone, and then did not stay to eat the blueberry soup at the end = community meeting fail.


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