Winter Challenge: The Errandonnee

Winter got you down, craving the warmth of home? Feel down no more and hop on that bike. It’s time for a February challenge designed for the utility cyclist with lots of errands to do, even in wintertime– the Errandonnee!

Utilitairing with the Burley Trailer

If you are a cyclist with places to go and people to see, this challenge is for you!

The tweet version of the challenge is:

Errandonnee: Complete 12 errands in 12 days and ride a total of 30 miles by bike between February 9-20. (103 characters!)

Since we must run errands, anyway, let’s take the opportunity to acknowledge the utility cycling we often do, but seldom celebrate.

The term “errandonnee” was developed in my friend Eric P.’s language laboratory and is a hybrid of “errands” and the French word “randonnee.”

Conceptually, these two words may not initally fit well together, but string 12 errands together for one long ride interrupted by sleep and other diversions, and you have… an errandonnee. Technically, I suppose there should be an accent above one of those last e’s, but it’s too much work to find that character on my computer.

Errandonnee is almost as much fun to spell as Mississippi so how can you not want to participate in this challenge?

Below are the 11 Errandonnee categories (or controls) in order for you to plan and map your Errandonnee accordingly:

  • Bike Shop
  • Breakfast or Lunch
  • Coffee or Dessert
  • Community Meeting (e.g., church, parent-teacher conference, board meeting)
  • Dinner
  • Grocery Store
  • Any store that is not the grocery store
  • Personal Care and Health (e.g., doctor, haircut, massage, gym, manicure)
  • Library (also includes book reading)
  • Work
  • Wild Card
BikesNCoffee Control Card
BikesNCoffee Control Card from last year’s Utilitaire

Of course, a Chasing Mailboxes challenge can’t be too simple so I’ve added in some rules. These may initially look like a lot of rules, but I think after you read through them you will find this challenge to be quite manageable.

  1. Complete 12 errands from Saturday, February 9 through Wednesday, February 20.
  2. Complete the Errandonnee Control Card as you go. Based on one of the comments, I also created a Google Doc version, which you may find here.
  3. There is no minimum length for each errand, but you must complete at least 30 miles of bike riding over 12 days to successfully qualify for the Errandonnee. That’s an average of 2.5 miles per errand.
  4. There is no maximum number of errands you must complete each day, provided you complete all 12 by the end of Wednesday February 20. You can ride all 12 errands in one day, do one errand per day, or any other combination that works for you.
  5. You must complete errands from at least seven of the 11 categories represented on the Errandonnee Control Card.
  6. Each category may be used a maximum of two times. For example, you may count a ride to work a total of two times.
  7. The Wild Card errand is for any trip you make that does not fall into any of the categories listed on the control card.
  8. At least two errands must occur after dark (or before daylight), and you must describe the lighting method used.
  9. To show evidence of your errand, you must take one photo during your outing and submit at least one thing you learned or observed during your trip. Photos may be provided to me in the following ways:
    • If you have a blog, you can post them there and send me the links.
    • You may also use a site like flickr or Picasa and link me to your photos that way as well.
    • You can send me the links to your Errandonnee tweets.
    • Finally, I will accept 12 photos via e-mail if that’s what works best for you.
  10. There are no geographic limitations on the Errandonnee. OK, Earth. All participants must be from somewhere on Earth.
  11. Deadline for Errandonnee submissions is midnight in your area, February 28, 2013.
  12. Submit all Errandonnee paperwork, including your Errandonnee Control Card to me at gersemalina “at”
  13. 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 or tweeting your errands, you can send me the links to those as well as the completed control card.
  14. Everyone who successfully completes the Errandonnee will receive a prize. Please include a snail mail address in your submission so that I may send your Errandonnee swag to you.
  15. Be prepared to be featured as a guest post on this blog if when you successfully complete this challenge.

Also, please feel free to tweet as you go using the hashtag #errandonnee.


Questions? Let me know in the comments or send me an email if you’re shy.

The Errandonnee: February 9-20. It all starts Saturday. 12 errands in 12 days. Have fun and feel righteous while out doing errands on your bike. I know you can do it.

2/10/13 UPDATE: An additional Q&A post is here to address some of the questions people have asked. Thanks!


    • Yes, it is. I wanted to do something like the Utilitaire, but I felt it required too much vigilance to successfully complete it. The Errandonnee is more streamlined, shorter term, and (I hope) more flexible.


  1. Errandonnee control card link worked fine for me.

    I do have one question or clarification: Rule 6 lists work as an example of a category, but work is not included in the list of categories. Would I have to use a wild card for a commute to work?


    • Ooops! My staff… what am I going to do with them? Updated the post and to include work as a separate category and will update the control card tomorrow.


  2. Whee! Control card downloaded. I just wish it were starting on Thursday; I have to go to the dentist and that would take care of half my mileage in one fell swoop.

    I can see I will need to get creative about this.

    Could dance rehearsal count as a wild card?


  3. I think I may actually be able to do this!
    One question (I always have a question, don’t I?)- does mileage count one way? If I’m riding one (or more) errands and then go home, do I count the mileage going home, or do I just count the mileage to the errand(s)?


    • You could actually count both toward the 30-mile total. When I was putting it together, I was thinking about average minimum distance round trip.


    • Additional: Must agree with the above comment about there being no “Beer-Run” category. Really!? Should be a given! 😉

      On a technical note, I was unable to download the control card. However, I’m thinking that is likely due to the Steam-punk era computer and Windows 1897 running here at work. I have asked the IT boffins if they might be able to print one out on the old ditto machine for me. Let’s see if that works…

      (The ditto machine reference doesn’t date me, does it?)


  4. I’m in, though I’ll have to pad every one of those categories to get my mileage up to 30. Small town life.
    Any bonus for carting children on said errands?


  5. […] Randonneuring for utility cyclists—or vice-versa?  If you’re looking to bridge the gap between biking for purpose and biking for a physical challenge, Chasing Mailboxes is hosting just the thing: errandonneuring. […]


  6. Errandonee control card is downloaded, and I’m off for groceries on this blustery winter day!
    Thanks for one more incentive to get out and pedal in the late-winter doldrums


  7. Aww, shoot, the “after dark” requirement. I’ll assume “before daybreak” would work as well. I guess I’ll have to get back to my pre-xmas habit of riding bike in a.m. darkness to the gym 2-3 days a week….


  8. Day 1: Doing my first few Errandonneés, at hardware store, bike already locked there, met other biker, chatting, get phone out to take picture, mention I’m doing something called an Errandon…. other biker jumps in to complete my sentence- neé!!!!! What are the odds?? Well, given the fame of Gersemalina, the odds are actually pretty good. (It was Rob Cannon, who also lives in Arlington.)


  9. Question: If several different errands are combined in one trip, how do I break out the mileage for each? So for example, total trip = 13 miles, included 3 categories, how to indicate such on control card? I’m thinking of using the first category to record the total mileage and then saying “see #2” or whichever.


    • What a great coincidence, seeing another errandonneur out and about! AND the hardware store… right on!

      Regarding mileage, what you suggest is fine. Use one category to record the total mileage for the errands done that day, e.g., “Community Meeting, 10 miles” and when completing the other category, e.g., “Store,” note “see Community Meeting, 2/9.”

      I do not expect people to track miles from one errand to the next, unless that is something they want to do– only overall mileage for the day’s outing.


  10. […] MG over at the blog Chasing Mailboxes D.C. has issued a winter utility cycling challenge: The Errandonee. Participants must complete 12 cycling errands within 12 days and ride at least 30 miles while doing so. Documentation of the errands is required, including photos and a randonneuring inspired (could you tell from the term Errandonee?) control card. Errands fall into 11 categories of which you must complete at least 7, using each category no more than twice. For more details on the rules of the challenge, check out this post. […]


    • If you ride to the start of an organized ride, then yes it counts. If it is an informally organized ride among friends, then it counts provided you all do something like stop for coffee or eat somewhere before or during the ride. Make sense?


      • Thanks, now if it will only rain again. Did I actually SAY that? My sweet son just said he’ll go with me in the dark if I don’t get soaked in time to finish, so I might just be able to pull this off!


      • Well, please do not worry if it doesn’t. No need to hope for more rainy days! Just submit your rides and you will be fine. 🙂


  11. Hi, MG — I meet up with a couple of bike club leaders for easy, recreational rides, always involving coffee, food, and conversation. I bicycle to the train station, take the train into the city where the club is, bicycle to the meeting point, and then, of course, do the ride.

    Does this qualify as a coffee, lunch or wild card errand for purposes of this challenge? I guess technically it’s a formally organized ride, but there are usually only a couple or three of us on the ride, since it’s a low-speed, very casual ride.


    • If it is a formal organized ride, then it would be a wild card for riding to the start. OR you could be bold and say that riding to the start of the ride is also “Personal Care,” providing you give a justification… say, “The bike ride is for my health and I make it even healthier by riding to the start.”


  12. I’ve already done the errands without even knowing there was such a thing as Errandoneering. Unfortunately did not take any photos. O well. I think most 10-day periods of my normal life would qualify.


  13. The wild card for go to daycare centre, school (major) or church…hmm I think to encourage parents and students, you might want to include daycare and school as a separate category as optional. Or visiting a nursing home which is what my cycling partner did for 3 years several times per week for his mother.

    I would say parents and students do deserve a category…and particularily parents who must do stuff dropping children off and picking them up…it is an effort that childless folks can’t fully appreciate. Not really.


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