A bike isn’t just for brevets

The Art of running errands by bike, or errandonneuring

Christmas has been and gone.  The lights in people’s houses that had kept you energised on the commute home by bike have been packed away.  The fun rides to bring back a Christmas tree by bike trailer have been done.  Endless cold, wet, frosty and perhaps even snowy weather has crept in.  Winter is at its most tedious and seems to be going on for ever.  By February you are questioning if you are going to survive to March with its lengthening days and marginally better weather.  You need something that gives impetus to February and bridges you over to March. Mary G’s errandonneuring challenge is a perfect fit with its format of tasks accomplished by bike and foot.

In effect, the tasks are checkpoints that you can visit no more than twice.  You need to complete 12 tasks. Many tasks can be rolled into one ride, providing your total distance covered for the 12 tasks is at least 30 miles.  As each task is done, a photo is taken and published on social media with the errandonneuring hash tag.

The 2020 errandonneur window opened 1st February and closed 31st March.  Within that window, your errandonnee tasks from a list of 9 catagories needed to be accomplished (duplicates don’t count) in any consecutive 12 day period.

My usual daily commute to work would be ridden.  Two February AUK events were planned.  Plus, the final week in March would be a combined mini tour and randonnee.  Therefore, time for errandonneuring would be tight.

Storm Ciara hit the UK on the weekend of 8th / 9th February, bringing mega winds both days and rain on Sunday.  For some crazy reason, this was the weekend I scheduled a Saturday multi-task day with Scotti my ever-faithful roadified MTB and the Gecko bike trailer.  8 tasks in all completed, a few of which broke the duplicate rule.

Adding rain to the already fiercely blowing wind, riding held little or no appeal on Sunday.  However, a social call to Daisy’s in the Park, my local independent café became essential.  So, on foot I went.  The suck value of the mud on the footpaths through fields and woods made things a tad challenging.

A rather unusual personal task followed.  A visit to Charing Cross Hospital to get my feet ‘set on fire’ with chilli patches as a measure to reduce my vasculitic neuropathic pain.  After three days of my feet being a ball of fire, the pain was reduced to a background hum, so a big improvement.

A rather odd ‘surprise me’ challenge slipped in when Eccles (of the elf behaving badly persuasion) took an unexpected opportunity to buy a Valentine’s card for a puncture fairy he knew!

To round things off, Scotti with the Gecko trailer ticked the ‘you carried what’ task.  Unbelievably another storm had arrived to bring a wind from hell.  The ride out to the local ‘amenities’ site with a fully loaded trailer was totally brutal.  Just for giggles, the wind had a bash on the way back of turning the empty Gecko upside down.  A social stop for a mocha and cake on the return ride was totally essential.

Why ride the errandonnee challenge?  Exchanging your experiences with likeminded folk gives a sense of community, of being one of the many, rather than one of the few. Sharing your errandonneuring tales via blogs and other social media shows what is possible, so hopefully spreading the word that bikes can easily be used for those little around-town tasks, rather than a car.  That running errands on your bike is fun, rewarding and the perfect excuse to go to your local coffee shop and relax.  Also, earning a fabulous patch can never be overlooked!

The footnote to this errandonnee was that Covid Lockdown 1 in the UK came in straight afterwards, in March.  At that point, riding your bike became seen as fashionable, great exercise and perfect for getting around town.  Hopefully, the bike as practical means of transport and good way of running local errands will last beyond the pandemic.

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