A Bike Scavenger Hunt is a great way to help a lot of people to use their bikes all at once, with all the camaraderie and support of an organized event, but without the logistical nightmares of mass-start rides, the “herd mentality” of “bike-a-thons,” the obvious illegality of alleycat races and Critical Mass.

  • Suitable for everyone
  • Safe and fun
  • Lets riders get to know the city

You won’t need weeks of training, the nerves of a bike messenger, or even your own bicycle to participate (rentals are available). You will need to know about safe and legal cycling in traffic (and you’ll get a briefing at the start), and it helps to know How to Fix a Flat.

How it works

There is no “route” for a scavenger hunt: each rider teams up with one, two, or three other cyclists either before or at the start of the event, to form a well-rounded team with mechanical, directional, bicycling, and clue-finding skills (and at least one related adult for each child). Each team receives a map marked with a variety of destinations, with one or more questions relating to each one. Teams are started at 30 second intervals and devise their own route to find as many of the clues in as close to the exact time allotted as possible, without breaking any traffic laws. “Secret police” are deputized to catch anyone riding illegally, penalties are assessed for being either early or late, and an arcane point system means it doesn’t really matter how fast you ride anyway. At the end, the teams grade each others’ answer sheets, and argue over superfluous rules governing the awarding of goofy prizes for finishers in many different, silly categories. The point is to get people out having fun using bikes to do things they might never do otherwise; like reading graffiti or bridge-dedication plaques.

The beginning of the event includes a thorough rider orientation, with mechanical Safety Check and bike law briefing; then there is time for socializing and strategizing while the teams are started by an official time-keeper. Participants have an emergency phone number for a sag van on their maps in case they get lost or need repairs (but they lose significant points for using it!) and are re-timed, and all accounted for, when they arrive at the finish.

The finish of the event is best held at the same location (or within an easy ride for those who drove cars to the start), and usually a buffet meal is served while the last teams finish. Two hours or less of riding time works well, so the whole event lasts about 4 hours; with 1 hour for registration and rider briefing, 15 minutes to start up to 30 teams, and 45 minutes of scoring and awards at the end. Bonus points for activities like track-stand or tire-change contests can be added if desired.

How to participate

OCBC usually presents a bicycle scavenger hunt in conjunction with one of our bi-monthly members’ meetings, so keep an eye on our calendar page.

However, we prefer to work with other organizations to present these event, as outreach to further our mission of helping people use bicycles. Past partners include the Fagowee’s Ski Club, and the Wendy Park Foundation. If your business, church, or club is looking for a fun, easy and educational activity, please contact us.

What we provide

OCBC’s main value is in providing an interesting, relevant, mechanical and safe-cycling presentation that is an integral part of the rider orientation at the start of the event. We also have a large and growing database of points of interest gleaned from our Saturday Social Ride that can be used as destinations, or to augment destinations and clues that others provide.

We provide

  • training for participants in our regular classes or private group classes before the event, if desired
  • a League-certified instructor (LCI) to present the pre-ride mechanical safety check and rider orientation
  • insurance, naming the partner organization as an additional insured
  • templates for maps (here is an example)
  • a basic list of destinations and clue questions in the downtown area
  • an adaptable scoring system
  • sign-up and release forms
  • bike-mountable clipboards, with pencils
  • bikes for rent (with advance notice)
  • helmets, spare tubes, and tool kits for sale
  • bike-specific prizes, if desired
  • publicity of the event to our members and friends, if it will be open to the public
  • a contract agreement for the event partnership

What we need

We ask for our regular $200 presentation fee for the LCI’s work, which includes basic mechanical adjustments and all tools and supplies.

If more than our basic destination clues are desired, we charge $100/hour for the field work, and for map making (all of which which can take several hours — we’d really rather somebody else do this!).

Partner organization provides

  • volunteers to staff registration, timing, sag van, food, and prize award duties
  • map production and all copies
  • accounting for registration, rentals, sales, and bike prizes
  • event publicity, including appropriate reference to OCBC’s participation
  • a reasonable (tax deductible) donation, if there is a registration fee for the event, to support OCBC’s non-profit bike education work

Origins and purpose of this event

This event format was conceived by OCBC staff and members after reading about a woman in San Francisco who, in response to the problems with Critical Mass, started an event that she called a “Critical Manners” ride. That event sounded exactly like our Saturday Social Ride, though, which gets awkward to manage with more than a couple dozen riders, and we were looking for something more interesting and scalable.

Originally, to differentiate it from an alleycat race, which it most closely resembles, we called it an Alleykitten race. But kittens are even more prone to darting in front of cars than adult cats are, and “race” is not accurate — this event is actually modeled after a sportscar rally, where navigation is critical, as points are assessed for being early or late.

“Alleykitten” is also just corny, so we’re thinking along the lines of “Street Dog Contest” if we need something snappy. For now, though, it’s just a Bike Scavenger Hunt.

We have considered adding elements of orienteering, geo-caching, and more traditional scavenger hunts, and taking advantage cellphone and video technology, but will probably leave those innovations to others, though. The simple format we use now is plenty of fun for the participants, and fulfills our goal to get a large number of cyclist on the streets, acting as actual traffic, for the education that experience gives them, and others around them.