Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2009

The topic of clothing comes up a lot in cycling. I’ve run across this topic quite a bit lately, and I want to share my thoughts. First, just a quick list of my encounters with this topic. There are the Bridgestone catalogs I’ve recently been purusing that have great articles on wool, and why its the best material for cycling. Then, of course, there is my addiction to this little comic strip called Yahuda Moon & the Kickstand Cyclery, where the topic of cycling clothing is brought up quite a bit. There is the conversation I had with my sister-in-law about jerseys and why I don’t tend to wear them when I go out for leisurely rides. There is the researching I did on Smartwool. There is the comic strip by F Minus that features an “alien” roadie with all his performance cycling gear on. The Tour De France contributed with the colorful jerseys they award to riders, and the fancy team sponsorship clothing all the cyclists wear. There is the article on the Rivendell Bicycles website that I read a few days ago. Most recently, I was introduced to a clothing line called Pedaler Clothing. I need to vent a little.

Bicycle racers do a very specific thing. They go as fast as they can while using the least amount of energy possible. This is most evident when they are in a time trial. Anyone who has seen a professional time trial race in the last decade knows exactly what I’m talking about. Everything on the cyclist from the helmet down to the booties (shoe covers) is as aerodynamic as technology and the regulations allow.

Tom Zirbel

Tom Zirbel

The clothing on the cyclist is most likely synthetic. Fabrics that are literally engineered to be aerodynamic, comfortable, and suitable for the outdoor conditions the cyclist will face. All this to get the racer going as fast as possible while expending the smallest amount of energy possible.

During a regular road race, the goal is the same, but now wind resistance is less of a concern, since the riders are taking turns in the brunt of the wind, or riding in the peloton, or some combination. Their clothing is still aerodynamic in the sense that its not flopping all over the place, and it’s still made out of synthetic, engineered fabrics that are designed specifically for racing. Some of these fabrics include spandex (Lycra), polyester, nylon, etc. There are many different combination’s that include organic fabrics as well. The end result are these tight fitting, colorful outfits you see out on the roads.

Spanish Team Euskaltel Euskadi

Spanish Team Euskaltel Euskadi

The amateur racer emulates professional racers, and wants to win racers, so as expected, you see amateur racers in similar clothing hoping that it gives them an advantage over their less prepared peers.

The weekend group rider, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. The amateur racers, and sometimes even the professionals, show up for weekend group rides wearing their training clothes and riding their training bikes. Their training clothes look a lot like their racing clothes. The non-racers of the group emulate the racers, and end up wearing similar clothes. Now, if you show up for a group ride wearing wool, you just don’t fit in. There is of course a bit of marketing worked in here, but for the most part, folks just want to fit in with the social group they are a part of. In the weekend roadie warrior world, this means spandex shorts, spandex (or some other synthetic fiber) jersey with a nifty picture or slogan on it, a carbon fiber steed, smooth bottomed, stiff soled shoes, brifters, a drivetrain that is in one of the top two groups of the only three companies out there and a helmet that is so light, if there wasn’t a strap it would float off your head. Sure there is that old guy who wears wool, has a steel bike with downtube shifters, no helmet, and maybe even a leather chamois under those shorts, but he’s cool because he’s vintage.

I admit to having spandex in my cycling wardrobe, but that’s mainly due to the fact that my revelation that the cycling industry is far from sustainable, and that I wanted to live my life as sustainably as possible came after I bought it. In respect to full disclosure, when I go out for a long, hilly road ride I currently ride a used, 2000 Lemond Buenos Aires (Reynolds 853 steel), built from the frame up with a Shimano 105 drivetrain including 105 Brifters, Tange steel fork, and used FSA wheels. I usually wear a pair of spandex cycling shorts with an awesome chamois, and then whatever suits me for the weather on my top. This could be a T-shirt, long sleeve shirt, coat, windbreaker, whatever. If I’m going for a ride where I want to go fast and long, I wear a jersey. My shoes are Specialized Tahoe’s, and my pedal system is Time ATAC XE. The Tahoe’s let me use the same shoes for my two favorite bikes, and walk around in comfort when I’m off my bike. This is also because I have Time cleats, which are little and fit in the cavity on the Tahoe’s perfectly. You see, 90% of my riding is just around the city, whether commuting, running errands, whatever.  I stick out in my own way, which is the way I like it.

Synthetic fabrics are made from production chemicals. Spandex in particular is made from polyurethane and a few other things. The process is long and involves all different kinds of chemicals produced by all different kinds of companies, including Dow. Reading about it is making my head spin! For Example, the major ingredient in spandex is polyurethane, and polyurethane is made from methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) among other chemicals dependent upon the use of the polyurethane. These two chemicals, MDI and TDI, have to be produced and then transported via tanker to the facility that makes the polyurethane. The polyurethane is then produced for spandex production and then trucked to a facility to make spandex. This is just ONE line of production and transport. There are dozens of others associated with spandex alone! This one line of transport already involves multiple factories with multiple truck trips in between. In reality there are dozens of production lines in order to get the final stretchy product. There are catalysts for the different reactions and additives to the polyurethane in order to make it the right type for spandex. These catalysts and additives are made in different factories and need to be trucked to the next factory to continue the spandex making process. Trucks use lots of gas, factories use lots of energy and chemicals tend to spill every now and then. There is also industrial waste along the way in just about every step of the process. Not to mention the stretchy textile is shipped to Asia where it is sewn into colorful clothing by discount labor. If you add this all up you get one mega footprint for that pretty jersey. Do you really need to fit in that badly?

I’m not anti-polyurethane, since this fine product is used for spray insulation for buildings which greatly improves heating efficiency. In other words, I’m not picking a fight with polyurethane, but the cyclists who choose to wear synthetic materials, when there is a perfectly suitable organic material to be used instead. Polyurethane itself is inert once it is formed, and MDI and TDI are also inert once they are allowed to react with water. Weekend group riders, commuters, and the daily riders out there every day do not need the performance enhancement of synthetic materials, and could help the earth a little bit by choosing organic. The next time your in the market for a new jersey, or a new new pair of cycling shorts, check out these companies:

Pedaler Clothing

SmartWool

Tweek’d

Zoic

On my quest to become more sustainable, any future cycling clothing I’ll buy will be organic fabrics and made as close to me as posible. Wool is that organic fabric that has been around since man discovered sheep. Bamboo is another one that is rapidly gaining momentum in the sustainable world. both of these fabrics come in unlimited supply and should be embraced by us everyday cyclists.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Our reader Greenobike had a wonderful contribution! He referred us to an article in the 1994 Bridgestone catalog written by Jennifer Ackerman. Unfortunately this was the last Bridgestone Bicycles catalog before they shut their doors. Browsing through their catalogs on Sheldon’s site, it looks like they put a lot of time and effort into them. If you found my articles on frame materials (common, alternative) interesting, you’ll love this one! I have lots of questions I want answered. If you do to, shoot me an email with your list, and I’ll do my best to get answers. It sounds like titanium is worse than I thought!

1

1

2

2

3

3

4

4

5

5

6

6

7

7

8

8

9

9

10

10

11

11

12

12

13

13

Resources:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/bridgestone/index.html#catalogues

Read Full Post »

I’m in the process of moving into my new place in Monterey California (hence the lack of substantive posting lately) and part of the whole process is getting my shop set up in my garage. I’ve built a few things in my past from wood, like some skating ramps in my high school days, and a chupah when I got married, but nothing as precise as my new garage shelves and workbench. I was going over in my head whether or not my workbench fell under the sustainable umbrella, and I concluded it did for a couple different reasons. First, if your going to be working on your own bike, you get to select which products your going to use, whether its for cleaning, lubing, components, or even tools. In order to work on your own bike comfortably, you’ll need some sort of work bench. You can buy a workbench or you can make one. If you make one, you can select all your own materials. For example, if your going to build your bench from wood, you can select FSC certified wood. You may also choose to build your bench from recycled material, such as RPL (Recycled Plastic Lumber), or reclaimed steel. You get the picture. Besides, it’s also good to know how to build basic things, such as a workbench. There are thousands of “how to’s” on the web on how to do this, but if you want a plan, you usually have to buy it. Here is one that I drew for free. My bench is 6 feet by 2 feet and 38 inches high, but you can adjust these dimensions to suit your needs. I’m about 5’11” with a 32″ inseam, and 38″ is just about perfect. Have fun!

The pictures below are of the workbench I just built. Most of the wood used is FSC certified. I say most because I’m not sure about some of the 2×4’s. The sign said they were certified, but after the purchase, I realized the tag didn’t look like the tag on the certified 4×4’s. I used Liquid Nails Heavy Duty construction adhesive at all the joints and between the two courses of plywood at the top. Maybe not the greenest product out there, but its the same stuff used to put LEED certified buildings together. If you decide to use RPL you’ll need a different adhesive. The vise is just a basic 41/2″ vise held on with three 3/8″ bolts, and one 3/8″ 3″ long lag bolt. After I took these photos I installed a surge protector onto the front of the bench. I may also make some additions to it in the future to hold certain tools.

Here are the photos as well as the plans free for you to use. Its supposed to be one sheet, but my scanner can only do 8.5x1a. The original is 11×14.

Read Full Post »

I made the folks at BikeForums.net aware of The Sustainable Cyclist. Some highlights from the Thread.  Also, Veetie.com has a live feed of Le Tour, if your interested.

Originally Posted by cod.peace View Post

My bike is mostly steel and aluminum, all of which is completely recyclable. There’s some nylon and foam in the seat and a bit of Kevlar in the tires, but those last a long time. Even carbon fiber can be recycled. Cycling itself is pro-environment. How do you propose making cycling sustainable?

Read my article on Carbon fiber, steel and aluminum. also, I’ll be doing a follow up on alternative materials, sourcing of materials, manufacturing, and recycling. your right, CF can be recycled, but the process is quite far from mainstream, and the most abundant CF recycling renders it not usable for the construction of bikes. there is a process which does render it usuful for bikes, but it is very costly, and not even close to main stream.

You are right that cycling is pro-environment, but the products that are made are not necessarily. For example. PVC is found in many things cycling related. PVC is horrible for the environment. Many products undergo industrial processes that are not environmentally friendly. The mass production of bikes in asian countries is not necessarily earth friendly (not to mention factory conditions for workers). some materials last longer than others, some companies are more earth friendly than others. buying local is better for the earth. buying from companies that contribute to eco-friendly causes is better for the earth. patronizing stores that have a commitment to the earth is better. I could really go on and on and on.

The cycling industry consumes an incredible amount of products from cleaning supplies to clothing, to metal parts. There is always room for improvement when it comes to protecting the environment. an easy example is the waste produced by bike shops. Not all bike shops recycle tubes and tires. Not all bike shops use biodegradable cleaner in their parts washer. I could go on.

I urge you to keep visiting the site, and you’ll begin to see how you can help, and how the cycling industry can change for the better.

Originally Posted by lighthorse View Post
Let’s see. If we send you money you will write a blog and tell us what we should buy? Do I have this correct? Good luck.

Absolutely wrong! I have not asked for, and will not ask for money from anybody. I’m also not telling you what to buy. CSB will be making suggestions on how to make our industry better for the earth.

Where did you get the idea we were asking you for money? Blogs are free!

Originally Posted by DieselDan View Post
Pipe dream in the USA. The number of serious cyclists in the USA is too small to sustain several manufacturers of bicycles. 98% of bikes sold is big box crap. Americans think bicycles are a child’s toy and something adults shouldn’t be bothered with.Sad.

I’m not quite sure the number is 98%, but yes, much of it is big box crap. This, however, does not mean advocacy towards a healthier planet through grass roots organizing within your own community is a pipe dream. Many people are interested in making all products in general more sustainable. Bicycles are products and subject to environmental regulations and labor laws. If the majority of consumers of a product have a demand, than there is a certain likelihood that demand will be supplied whether through regulations and politics, or the manufacturers and suppliers changing how they do things.

The only pipe dream is thinking this stuff will improve on its own.

A perfect example regarding this is paper products. For the longest time paper was just paper. you bought the type you needed and didn’t consider the forest it came from. Then “save the rainforest” and the environmental movement came about. All of a sudden, the forest stewardship council came about, and post consumer recycled paper came on the market. Today, you can still buy paper from questionable sources, but you also have the option, as a consumer, to buy FSC certified, or recycled paper.

Consumer movements are not pipe dreams. All it takes is people caring. Imagine if you are an earth-conscious parent who knows nothing about bikes, and you want to buy a bike for your child. You find a website online to help you make your purchase as earth friendly as possible. Or even better, you walk into a big box store, and in the childs bicycle section you see a selection of bikes made from recycled material. These things happen, because we, as consumers, cause them to happen.

Also, your thought about adults not bothering with bicycles. This is changing in the US through bicycle advocacy, green building advocacy, and health advocacy. This again, is something that is changed by us. Cities across the US are dedicating millions upon millions of dollars on bicycle infrastructure because they see bicycle use by adults increasing. Developers are designing and building things these days to be more accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists, and less to the automobile. The country is changing for the better, and we need to take our blinders off to see whats going on and to find out how we can help the cause.

Originally Posted by cod.peace View Postr
My bike is mostly steel and aluminum, all of which is completely recyclable. There’s some nylon and foam in the seat and a bit of Kevlar in the tires, but those last a long time. Even carbon fiber can be recycled. Cycling itself is pro-environment. How do you propose making cycling sustainable?

Response from Gerv:

Yes… bicycles are both recyclable and durable. You can actually re-build and re-use bike from 30/40 years ago. They do work. This is in stark contrast to, say, cars, where it is possible to re-build, but the costs are exorbitant.

However, there are some trends in the cycling world that don’t sit too well with the concept of sustainability. The biggest issue is the trend to build extremely lightweight components, particularly wheels, that are intended to last — at best — a few seasons before being tossed. The ideal of light weight doesn’t work for wheels or other components that could last a generation. Yet there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t be able to buy a wheel that could last 20,000 miles. It would be very marginally heavier, but many riders wouldn’t particularly care.

One heartening trend is the move to more commuter-style bicycles, which are build to endure more miles and more harsh conditions. There’s no real reason why the bicycle industry couldn’t move to generally more bomb-proof products.

Originally Posted by toledoeng88 View Post
I work for an Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing Lab doing research and I agree that the cycling industry could be more green but at this time cycling is not where the United States needs to be working on being green. On reason is because you don’t see our landfills being filled up with stuff related to cycling. We are located in the city of Toledo and I know if we did a bike shop it wouldn’t even compare to many other industries. I think that you would probably be better off working on your recycling habits for your municipal solid waste and maybe educating others once you have a good handle on the issue. I believe this would have a much better impact on the environment.

No doubt this is true. I ask you, however, to think of the cycling industry as a whole and not just Joe Cyclist and the products he buys. There are plants where the products are made and slews of companies that don’t take the environment into consideration when making their product. Take Specialized, for example. They have factories in the far east and churn out an incredible amount of bicycles and bicycle products, yet I see nothing of their environmental stewardship. They, like other large companies, want to spend as little as they can to make the products after they’ve spent a ton on design and engineering. The cost of lack-of-sustainability doesn’t seem to enter their equations. Another part of being sustainable is in the treatment of human resources. Cyclists are blind to the treatment of workers in manufacturing plants. This can be improved, and I’m inclined to help out.

I understand where your coming from, but my passion lies in bicycles, and it bothers me tremendously that the industry is not a leader in creating sustainable products. I’m doing what I think needs to happen, and I’ll take suggestions, but will reject those that tell me my efforts should lie elsewhere. My work also contributes to the overall education of a citizen. For example, a cyclist stumbles across my blog, realizes that the sport he or she loves needs serious improvement, and begins to look around and learn how their entire life can be more sustainable.

Read Full Post »