Long Distance Utility Cycling

Today, our post is dedicated to the most diligent and tenacious kind of utility cyclist – the long distance utilitarian. This post is part of our series on general bicycle transportation, which is any kind of bicycle transportation that is not directly focused around bike commuting. So although long distance utility cycling could certainly involve a long distance commute to work, it certainly doesn’t have to. Long distance utility cycling has many similarities with bike touring, as well. However, there are also many important differences between the two activities. Below, we will elaborate on the idea and share some incredible examples of long distance utility cyclists.

packed-tandem-yes1-300x199What Constitutes “Long Distance” Utility Cycling?

To be honest, “long distance” is all in the eye of the beholder. While ten or twenty miles might seem pretty impressive to some, others hardly blink at covering 50, 75, even 100 miles by bike. However, I struggled a bit as to how best characterize “long distance” with regard to utility cycling. In general, I don’t feel that a specific number or mileage needs to be applied, rather a broader conception is possible. Therefore, I would argue that long distance utility cycling is any type of utility cycling activity that is “out of the ordinary” for the person doing it. This could be any type of unusual or uncommon experience; something that doesn’t happen everyday or if it does happen everyday, involves a longer time commitment. However, there is no specific value – like number of days or miles – that makes something long distance and another not.

Of course, the most important element to anything we talk about on this site is the utility element. Utility cycling is viewed as a goal-oriented type of cycling, or more specifically, goal-oriented cycling that accomplishes a meaningful goal that has some sort or serviceableness or usefulness beyond the individual rider. So in this sense, long distance utility cycling differs from bike touring, as bike touring is generally more of a recreational activity. However, there are definitely some great examples of long distance bike tours that have a greater mission, and those would definitely fall under our long distance utility cycling conception. Below are some incredible examples of long distance utility cyclists. If you have any examples or stories of others to share, as always, we would love to hear from you.

Long Distance Utility Cycling Examples

Perhaps my one of my favorite examples of two long distance utility cyclists are the folks from the Path Less Pedaled. Russ and Laura of the Path Less Pedaled sold most of their worldly possessions a little over a year ago, and since that time, they have been living on the road and getting everywhere by bicycle. Not only does living by bicycle fall under the utility cycling conception, the other cool thing about The Path Less Pedaled folks is that they are not interested in any specific number of miles or days on the road. Rather, their goal is to find meaning and joy in the journey itself and connect with people around the country and world that they meet. So not only are they long distance utility cyclists, they are also community builders. There are other great examples of people living by bicycle, but Russ and Laura just so happened to stay at my house in Tucson for a few days this winter, which was very inspiring and fun.


There are also long-distance utility cyclists who are concerned about miles, days, and even hours. One great example is James Bowthorpe of Globe Cycle. James circumnavigated the globe in record breaking time to earn money and awareness for Parkinson’s Disease. James is just one example of long distance utility cyclists who do some extreme to bring attention to a cause, raise money for charities, or otherwise spread the word about something through their extraordinary efforts.


Another favorite example of mine are musicians who tour by bicycle. Recently, I have been posting video chapters about cellist Ben Sollee and the crew of the Ditch the Van Bike Tour. The group is touring around the country on bicycle, playing gigs, and documenting their experience. Another musician/ long distance utility cyclist is cellist Kristin Rule, who will soon be starting a tour soon using a solar-powered, electric-assist bike trailer. When not being used to assist the bike, the solar-powered trailer will also help provide watts to power machines at the gigs that Kristin plays. Very cool!

Other examples of long distance utility cycling might include riding to a visit friends or family in another town or state. I have even heard stories of students moving to a new town to start college, shipping all of their possessions, and then riding there. There are many great examples out there, so please feel free to share any others with us. In future posts, we will talk about long distance utility cycling gear, tips, and more.

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7 thoughts on “Long Distance Utility Cycling”

  1. Hi Deb,

    That is a great story about a carfree life! It’s so cool to hear stories like that to help others see the possibilities of using the bicycle. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dave says:

    Something magical about the idea of long-hauls like this. I have yet to jump into it… I’m still working on my long-distance chops, but the thought of tackling these kinds of rides – while hauling something around – keeps me going every day on my training rides. If I could go completely car-free right now I would, but the life of a traveling salesman demands a car. But I’ve contemplated making around town sales calls all on the bike. Thanks for the feature!

  3. Hi Dave,

    Agreed. There is something really cool about the idea of using a bicycle for serious long-hauls. It is definitely something that does take a little bit of courage or sense of adventure, because it’s not always easy. But it definitely makes for great stories and memories!

    Good luck to you if you start making your sales calls by bike!

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Bill T says:

    I have followed Russ and Laura ‘s entire trip on facebook. They have given me the incentive I needed to do a coast to coast trip next spring. This is my one thing on my bucket list I have not done. To cycle from San Diego to Cape Cod, MA
    At the age of 73, my wife is concerned about safety on the road going solo. She thinks about my being mugged ect. I try to be positive about the trip in spite of her concerns.

    The world is moving at a record pace, with one hour this and fast serve that, I feel cycling is an escape from the race for speed. I want to see the country and smell the roses,as they say.

  5. Hi Bill,

    It’s cool to hear that Russ and Laura’s journey has inspired you to take one of your own! I’d hazard a guess that you will find many nice people and places along the way. Best of luck and let us know about your trip!

  6. barton cohen says:

    i am 64 years dec 20 2010,i was an ultramaronthoner for over 20 yrs running sometimes 80 miles a day in winter weathersnow on the beach,i turned to mountain biking at age 59 after using bikes on and off for about 20 years,i also use two dutch made cargo bikes for transportation,55 lbs each,i use my denmark made mt bike called pronghorn mainy in fall and winter,snow is now problem,i have studded mt bike tires,for me it is not biking it is a way of life,i am now trying to fit this way of iife into a sustainable buisness,at my age,i have trained using weights,rowingmachine,swimming,whirpool,and playing basketball,this has enabled me to do what i do ,i am living in williamstown nj about 2 hrs south of new york city,i have put together what i feel is a buisness model,that indeed has intellectual property information tied in,i feel with another person not necessarily living in my town i could show that person a new way of life that would also include designeing new mt bike trails,as well the use of all ergonomically fitted products to accomplish what we do,we have registered our name,and are open to feedback as well as your foresight,and vision,to see what other people do not see thanks again barton cohen

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