Some need no reason or reminder to ride; they simply do it. Some like to make a commitment of some kind, large or small. Some may be newer to riding and not yet know of the many fun and informal types of bike events out there that enable you to ride with a virtual crowd.
No matter what kind of rider you are or what kind of reason(s) turn your cranks, every month brings its bike events and challenges. I’m sharing this full bike rack of events along with my own “why we ride” thought for each month and a few ideas for designing your very own personalized inspiration.
First, what this is most definitely NOT as a list of bike events—
This is not the “Ultimate Cycling Challenges List” that requires you to ride straight up mountains really fast.
It’s also not the “Best Bike Challenges You’ve Never Heard Of” list, although I’d love to learn about bike challenges I’ve never heard of that fit into my very loose parameters. Leave those in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.
It isn’t “Bike Fitness Challenges for Your Health“, although bicycling is certainly good for your health.
It isn’t “Best Ways to Build your Bike Mileage in 2023”, although if you haven’t been riding that often, participating in any or all of these would build your bike mileage pretty easily.
What it is: A roundup of the kinds of bicycling events or challenges with low barriers to entry that can build a sense of community through participation in a shared endeavor. Just say you’re doing it. No entry fee, maybe some prizes and maybe not. A bit of logging required for some if you want to actually prove you participated. (Writing things down makes us more likely to follow through.)
I’m posting this in January so you can plan ahead. If you know of other date-specific events or have dates for ones listed here as TBA, drop a comment to help others join in.
Why we ride in January: To start the new calendar year with movement. Or because we made a resolution.
Any time during the cold months, really: Icy Bike Winter Commuting Challenge. This functions as a Facebook group; you sign up and log your miles and weather conditions.
Why we ride in February: To clear our heads. To breathe crisp air.
Feb. 3, 2023: Winter Bike to Work Day. Always the first Friday in February.
Feb. 11, Winter Bike Parade (if you organize one!): The promoters of Winter Bike to Work Day encourage people to plan and participate in a Winter Bike Parade on the second Saturday in February.
Why we ride in March: Because some years in some places, we might see a hint of oncoming spring.
Still cold where you live? Maybe you jump into the Icy Bike Winter Commuting Challenge now if you didn’t in January because starting new things in January is such a cliché.
This is potentially the month to figure out when you want to tackle Errandonnee, created by DC-area bike blogger Mary Gersemalina, if you’re a plan-ahead-er. Within whatever date range she announces, you choose 12 consecutive days within that window to complete 12 errands by bike (or walking or running, if you want to work that hard—riding is easier). Is it time to set an appointment for a haircut or a trip to the dentist? Make a date with a friend or loved one for a future outing by bike? Take yourself to some fun destination you keep meaning to stop at, thus creating your own personal joy snack? My own errandonnee track record has been a bit spotty so I know it pays to think ahead. NOTE: Depending on what date range Mary announces this may shift! If so, I’ll come back and update this post.
Why we ride in April: Because now we really should starting getting a glimpse of spring.
#30DaysOfBiking: So easy. No, really. Just ride every day. Totally counts if you ride to the end of the driveway and back, put your bike on the trainer and spin while you binge on Netflix or Hulu, take a quick Tour de My Block—however you turn your cranks, it counts.
Errandonnee, dates flexible, TBA: DC rider/blogger/Inventor of Fun Informal Challenges Mary Gersemalina created errandonnee in a mash-up of errand + randonneuring. She skipped 2022 and I’m hoping this one is back in 2023. The 2021 errandonnee post will give you an idea of what’s involved. Rules get tweaked a bit each year; basically you bike, walk, or run to a variety of destination types over a specific time period and reach the target mileage total.
Civic action season: Ask your city council, county commission, or governor to adopt a proclamation for Bike Month coming up in May. Yes, it’s a symbolic gesture. And symbols matter. This bike advocacy toolkit from Washington Bikes includes a sample you can adapt no matter where you live. My post on the WSDOT blog, Bike Everywhere Month Rolls in May, shares a copy of the 2022 state proclamation by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Why we ride in May: Because April showers bring May flowers! And on your bike you’ll be able to see, smell, and enjoy directly rather than from behind glass and steel.
Bike Everywhere Challenge: Near and dear to my heart, considering I worked on Bike to Work Week celebrations as some of my first bike advocacy in Spokane and this put me on the path to a change of city and more than one career change.
May 1-31: Recognized as National Bike Month with a nationwide challenge promoted by the League of American Bicyclists that starts in May and continues for several months. In Washington we call May #BikeEverywhere Month and Washington Bikes runs a statewide challenge. I sign up faithfully every year and ride. How could I do otherwise? (Whether or not I actually log my miles is a separate question.)
May 3, 2023: Bike and Roll to School Day. Good for teachers, principals, aides, volunteers, coaches, parents as well as kids! Register your school, maybe help lead a bike train so more kids can roll.
May 14, 2023: Cyclofemme (site down for maintenance as I write this but don’t let that stop you). Global event meant to inspire women to invite other women to ride with them on the weekend that includes Mother’s Day in the US. If your area doesn’t have an organized ride, you’re reading this so maybe you become the organizer. (Which checks a box on the #BikeIt list.)
I love the Cyclofemme statement of inspiration—WE BELIEVE: That strong communities are built around strong women. That being on a bike brings us closer to our community, to nature, and to ourself. That from action comes change. That our hope, courage, and strength is amplified when we unite.
May 15-21: National Bike Week. Some places set their own dates for this. As I repeat quite often, join your local/regional/state/national bike organization. That way you’ll get news about this and so much more.
Civic action season: While you’re at it, check on whether your town has a Bicycle Advisory Board or something like it, possibly including pedestrian issues in a combined active transportation effort. If yes, they would be utterly thrilled if people attended to learn about what they’re discussing. If no, you could ask a city council member or county commissioner about creating one.
May 19: National Bike to Work Day. Always the third Friday in May.
Riding Down Memory Lane
Super fun at Sequim #BiketoWorkDay this morning! Biked there, talked #SafeRoutesNow, #OlympicDiscoveryTrail, rode (as Paden, or “wheeler”) in the bicycle Sequim Wheelers uses to take seniors for bike rides. Wheeee! #BikeEverywhere pic.twitter.com/jJHH5Oqmst— Barb Chamberlain (@BarbChamberlain) May 17, 2019
Why we ride in June: I mean, how could you not? Beautiful spring days heading toward summer, flowers blooming, birds singing, frogs peeping.
National Bike Challenge continues.
You could also make this a #30DaysOfBiking month to keep rolling from #BikeEverywhere Month.
June 3: World Bicycle Day. Ride your bike!
Make or break month for Errandonnee: If you didn’t take the hint in April or May you need to get rolling to complete it before the cutoff date.
Why we ride in July: Because bicycling gives us freedom and independence.
National Bike Challenge continues.
Why we ride in August: Because even if it’s the dog days of summer, when we ride we make our own breezes.
National Bike Challenge continues.
Why we ride in September: It’s back to school season so maybe we’re riding to accompany our children to school, or because we can’t resist the cool morning air and the beginnings of the color change in the trees.
Sept. 22, World Car-Free Day: Know what really sets you free? A bicycle!
#30DaysOfBiking, Autumn Edition: The original organizers don’t always promote this, but 30 days hath September, as the rhyme goes. (Some of you use this one weird knuckle counting trick to work out how many days in a particular month. I use the poem.)
National Bike Challenge continues.
Civic action season: Whether or not you bike to school, take a look at whether your community truly offers safe routes to school for children walking or rolling. If not, this is a good time of year to contact elected officials and city staff (who are the ones responsible for the speed limits and street designs, not your school district, although by all means get the school board and administration lined up in support of safety improvements) and ask for change. Also a good time of year to invite a state legislator or two to experience those school zones personally during parent drop-off/pick-up time (maybe as part of #WeekWithoutDriving). Encourage them to support infrastructure investments to shift more kids to active transportation and reduce some of the vehicular traffic during peak travel times.
Why we ride in October: Those fall colors are simply glorious and the leaves make a nice crunchy sound when we ride through them (although be careful since you don’t always know what’s underneath and you wouldn’t want a flat tire).
Dates TBA: Coffeeneuring usually falls somewhere in the October-November time frame and 2023 represents Lucky Year #13. Another Mary Gersemalina creation, this is randonneuring for coffee and/or other beverage and you can receive a patch for a very small mailing fee if you like to collect souvenirs of your riding. The 2022 rules give you an idea of what to expect. I completed coffeeneuring as a fun series of bike dates in 2019 and in other years thanks to my love of caffeinated beverages, and I’ll be on this again in 2023.
Walktober/Biketober: To change things up a bit you can also challenge yourself to walk more in October. Look for Walktober events and National Walk to School Day October 4.
Oct. 2-8, #WeekWithoutDriving: Organized in 2021 and 2022 by Disability Right Washington, this event will be coming around again in 2023 and now it’s gone nationwide, in partnership with America Walks. The commitment/challenge is right there in the name. You don’t have to bike; maybe you take transit, ask a friend for a ride, walk, roll, take a foot scooter, or yes, ride your bike. Idea is that you experience what it’s like to get around and live your life if you’re not able to drive. Invite/challenge your local elected officials to undertake this and get firsthand experience of what needs to change to make your community really work for everyone.
BikeOWeen: I’m declaring this one an official holiday. Instead of driving kids around and contributing to the single biggest day all year for drivers to hit and kill children with their vehicles, why not roll out for goodies on your bicycles? Family bike, cargo bike, kids on trikes—couldn’t be cuter. Organize a bike train with friends, neighbors and family to add to the cuteness and contribute to the “safety in numbers” phenomenon.
As a parent you’ll feel marginally better about the sugar consumption knowing that they had to work for it a bit and you bring down the risk of a deadly crash through the simple act of not driving. True story: Reducing vehicle miles traveled is listed in the Highway Safety Manual as a proven countermeasure, meaning research shows this helps reduce the number of serious and fatal crashes. A mile not driven is a mile not running into anyone with a steel box weighing two or more tons.
#BikeOWeen is an actual hashtag, by the way.
— Jim Jinks 🇺🇸 🏳️🌈🇺🇦🚴♂️🚣♀️ (@JimJinksCT) October 12, 2021
Why we ride in November: So many, many things to be thankful for, and the ability to move our bodies outside is one of them.
All month long: #RideInTheRain. This one is promoted by Washington Bikes but there’s no reason it has to be confined to the Evergreen State. Note: No requirement for actual rain affecting the length or timing of your ride. I find a lot of beautiful sunny days to ride, most Novembers.
#Coffeeneuring wraps up this month.
Nov. 18, 2023: #Cranksgiving. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, ride your bike to collect food for food banks. This food drive scavenger hunt by bike doesn’t happen in your town? Well, you have nearly 11 months to plan, promote and make it happen if you’re reading this in January. Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog gets it rolling in Seattle, and people organize it in Port Angeles, Sequim, Tacoma and West Seattle. Find your town on the map.
Better yet, do this at a time of year other than the winter holidays. People need to eat year round. And before you donate any canned foods, watch Adam Ruins Everything on canned food drives and why you might decide to ride your bike to the food bank and give them some cash instead, or at least not treat this as an excuse to clean out your pantry and get rid of food you wouldn’t eat yourself.
The savvy Cranksgiving organizers put together lists of things to purchase so you’re not donating old bulging cans of that oddball ingredient for a recipe you decided not to make. But even fresh foods require storage and that costs money. Your donated dollars will go farther spent by the food bank staff than the boxes of stuff you buy at full retail prices.
Why we ride in December: It’s genuinely wonderful to ride in the cold and experience the winter wonderland directly.
Depending on where you live, December might also be when you realize you’re participating in the Icy Bike Winter Commuting Challenge.
Other Ways to Construct Your Own Personalized Inspiration
- To-Do: Have a #BikeIt List
- Geography: Define a set of destinations or places you want to bike (like my Washington state trails and Washington counties lists)
- Low-key game: Use my #BikeBingo card or design your own
- Take your wallet on wheels to bike-friendly businesses: A bit like errandonnee but not timebound—bike to local businesses that have bike racks, spend a bit of money there, and tell them they’re getting your business because of the bike rack, which is a visible invitation to biking customers. If a business you love doesn’t have a bike rack, ride there and go inside to ask them where you can store your bike since they don’t have a rack—yet.
- Two-mile touring: Inspiration from cartoonist Bikeyface to find ways to work a really short ride into your life now and then (or, put differently, a list of answers to the objections you may be raising)
- Activism by bike: Need to draw attention to a critical issue in your town? Is it something people can ride to, like this 2019 bike ride to all the Seattle libraries to draw attention to the need for funding? You’ll attract regular riders to your cause, attract those who support the cause to the idea of riding a bike, and while you’re at it you’ll likely attract media attention. Win/win/win!
However you get rolling, bicycling offers events, challenges, and tracking opportunities of various levels of difficulty and complexity. The more you ride the easier it gets until eventually, as Bikeyface puts it, you may develop a habit loop.
How about you? Are you a tracker? Like/love/hate/ignore challenges? What structure or theme motivates you, if any?
Lots and Lots of Related Reading
- New Year, New Mode(s)
- Year Ending, Year Beginning
- To Track or Not to Track: A Blogspedition
- Who’s Keeping Track? Not Me
- Oh So Challenging: ‘Tis the Season to Track Your Riding
- 5 Behavior and Culture Hacks to Get More People to Bike and Walk
- Why a Cyclist Needs a Pedometer
- Gamification Keeps Me Going (aka I’m the Self-Tracking Type): An Andrea Post
- #BikeIt: What’s on Your List?
- An Easy New Year’s Resolution: Write It Down
- Starting the New Year Off Right: On My Bike!
- By the Numbers: A Morning Bike Commute
- Take It Easy: How NOT to Increase Your Weekly Mileage
- Riding More, Riding More Often