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Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Bike SnobNYC said it best:

“Because nothing can be toxic as long as bicycles are involved somehow.”

There seems to be this pervasive notion that because it has to do with bicycles, its good for the earth. We saw it in Bicycling Magazines letter from the editor, and we see it in the video Junkun BSNYC shared with us. I also discuss this topic with bike riding folks on a regular basis. Its nothing new, in 1994 Bridgestone had an article about it in their catalog. For some reason, some folks tend to think bicycles are inherently good for the earth. Its clear that if all you do is strap it on the roof of your car for getaway weekend rides, its actually worse for the earth than if you didn’t buy a bike in the first place. The only time it’s good for the earth is if you use it instead of your car until you’ve offset the environmental impact from the bicycles creation and ending. This notion gave the bike companies an opportunity to delay jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon, because their products were inherently “green” just by being what they are. Something tells me the big boys like that rumor and tend to spread it. In the first few seconds of the video I’m about to share with you, a Trek representative slips in a “…bike riding itself …” when talking about Treks new Eco Bikes. It doesn’t really make sense except of course in a subliminal way. Listen carefully, its crammed in there.

Trek is stepping up to the plate with a line of Eco Bikes. The fella admits at the end of the first video that this is “just a beginning” in Trek’s commitment to saving the earth. Lets take a closer look at what they are doing. I encourage you to watch the videos on the website. The fella in a black shirt and jeans gives a good introduction.

(EDIT: I can’t get any of the direct links to the videos to work. Sorry Folks, watch them all Eco Bike)

EcoBike Intro

Trek Belleville

Trek Atwood

They’ve added two steel bikes to their lineup, made in China, that have recyclable plastic in the saddle and grips, and recycled material in tires. One is the Belleville, and the other is the Atwood. I can’t be too hard on them, because I really do believe they are making an effort, although most of the effort seems to be put into the marketing.

The man in the black shirt goes on to tell us about the method they used in designing these bikes. They used “basic principles” from “Eco-Design” which uses the OKALA method to score the design based on the products lifecycle. He does not, however, tell us the score OKALA gave to Trek for these here machines. He goes on to tell us that OKALA uses the birth, life, and death of the product to grade the eco-friendliness.

During the segment on birth, the presenter talks about how steel is the best choice for an Eco Bike and reminds us of the great riding characteristics steel has.  So, if Trek is truly committed to helping the earth, and this is a new venture for them, I suggest they replace their carbon fiber and aluminum with all glorious steel! I’m not holding my breath. They also take advantage of “close sourcing” for the components. So instead of buying all the components from somewhere in Asia, boxing them up and have them shipped to a factory somewhere somewhere in Asia to make bikes, they are…….wait a second! Nothing changed here. The guys in the finance department figured out close sourcing a long time ago. Less shipping means more profit.

The paint is powder-coat instead of regular bicycle frame paint and they don’t use chrome plating. Less waste, less toxins, longer life. I like it Trek! Moving forward in your endeavor, you can do this with all your bikes!

In the life segment, all the black shirted man says is that the bikes are useful for a really long time. This is great. So all this time Trek has been building bikes that are not useful, and don’t last that long. I believe Trek should be striving for these characteristics in all their products, and not just the “green” products. I noticed in this segment he didn’t mention that the Shimano components will last forever and never need to be replaced. Maybe that’s because its not true. In the future, Trek could start a platform initiative to change the planned obsolescence practices of Shimano. They could team up with Specialized and demand that parts have a life span more than a few seasons and be made of something other than plastic. Now THAT would be something to make a video about!

The end segment really gets me exited. They designed the bikes so they can be taken apart. Well, until this very moment, I thought most bikes could be completely dis-assembled with nothing more than a couple wrenches, some cable cutters, and a bit of alcohol for the grips. Boy was I wrong, and apparently hallucinating during my experiences of taking bikes apart.

This is a good sign though. The green movement is mainstream enough for Trek to get on board. Its only a matter of time before Specialized has a competing line. Then, they will compete to see who can make the most sustainable bicycle ever. Will they still have a new model every year?

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A reader posted a comment on my rant about Bicycle Magazine’s transparent attempt at greenwashing that included a link to an article written by Chris Lesser at Bike Magazine. Maybe he saw what Bicycle had to say on the subject and got as angry as I did. Chris focuses his article on the most popular bicycle material, aluminum. He goes into detail about the manufacturing process and the effects it has on the environment. There are some great pictures as well. He also highlights some of the companies that are doing their part, and others that clearly are not. I hope Bicycling Magazine sees this and decides to try again. Articles like this are an important step into getting cyclists everywhere to consider the environment when purchasing bicycles and bicycle products. Way to go Chris! Keep up the good work!

shades_of_green by Chris Lesser

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I don’t subscribe to Bicycling magazine, so I don’t get to read the editors introductions all too often. It just so happens my grandmother-in-law likes to send me things about bicycles. In the mail today, I got the September issue of Bicycling magazine courtesy of her. Who knows how she got it, but that’s not the point. Loren Mooney, the editor-in-chief of this publication, wrote a letter to the readers entitled “It’s Easy Being Green”. She starts the piece by announcing this issue of Bicycling is the Green issue, even though there is nothing to indicate this on the cover and none of the content is different than usual. She then goes on to say that Bicycling magazine is “Green” every month. Why? well because cycling is green! Thus, her logic is that her magazine is “green” as well. This, ladies and gentlemen is GREENWASHING!!!!

I couldn’t find an online version of this prime example of greenwashing, so I scanned the magazine page.

It's easy being green

It's Easy Being Green by Loren Mooney

She goes on to say that cyclists are more environmentally friendly people. She backs this up with personal anecdotes. So, because Loren grows her own lettuce and buys organic milk, ALL cyclists are more environmentally friendly than the rest of the population. right! Also according to Loren a characteristic of being environmentally friendly is noticing those ugly bottles, cans, and trash on the side of the road as well as breathing, and appreciating fresh air. Gee wiz! according to Loren, all you have to do to be green is ride your bike, enjoy fresh air, and dislike garbage on the side of the road! This may even give you more ideas, like buying local and organic food products. So, after you go on your evening training ride dressed in spandex riding your titanium steed that was just upgraded to Dura-Ace last season, you can sit down to an organic dinner and a copy of Bicycling magazine and know that you’re helping the earth. And just in case your feeling a little guilty about buying a magazine printed on paper every month, Loren assures us that bicycling recently switched to paper stock that use’s “slightly less fiber” and ink that is “vegetable based“. Oh boy, so instead of switching to FSC certified and recycled sources, you decided to uses “slightly less fiber“. Apparently the reduction in the fiber is so small, she had to use the word slightly. I’m not impressed Bicycling magazine, and I hope your readers are smart enough to recognize this poor attempt at greenwashing.

What is greenwashing? Simply put greenwashing is a company’s attempt to jump on the eco-friendly/green/sustainable band wagon without actually doing anything except change their marketing. You can read more on wiki. They want people to think “wow, that Bicycling magazine sure is doing their part to save our fragile planet” when actually, they are doing absolutely nothing. In fact, I could argue that they are doing more to hurt the earth then if Loren never wrote that pathetic piece of marketing crap. How? by the very act of greenwashing! There are legitimate companies out there trying to do their part to be more sustainable and eco-friendly, but when a company partakes in greenwashing, the consumer has a tougher time determining what is a legit green product, and what is not. This pulls attention away from the companies that are actually trying to help our Earth. Companies who greenwash essentially muck things up and it pisses me off!

Bicycling magazine really could do a green issue. They could interview community bicycle shops that work tirelessly to get used bicycles back on the road. They could promote steel bicycles over carbon fiber. They could eliminate their advertisements and articles promoting titanium. They could eliminate car advertisements in the magazine. They could feature articles on Bamboo bicycles and the people who build them. They could print their magazine on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. They could showcase the clothing companies using wool instead of synthetics. They could focus on bicycle commuting over bicycle racing. These things are just a minimal start. I can think of hundreds of things they could do for a green issue!

I’m angry! I’m angry because Loren and Bicycling wrote this piece as a strategic marking move and nothing more. It distorts the view on companies that really do care about the earth and strive to make sure it’s habitable for generations to come. This is just another example of the bicycle industry being way behind.  Just because you ride a bike does not make you “green”. It takes a lot of hard work to live your life in a sustainable way. It is not “easy“. Riding a bike instead of a car for transportation is one way of being more sustainable, but if you drive your car to work everyday and only ride your bike in the evenings and weekends, you’ve done more harm to the earth than if you never bought a bike in the first place. Why? Because in order for you to be a “green” bicycle owner, you have to use it instead of your car, otherwise, your doing more harm than good by purchasing a non-sustainable bike product. Bicycling magazine owes it’s entire community an apology for trying to mislead them.

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If you travel the online world of cycling its hard not to come across Competitive Cyclist. They are the keepers of all things “high end”. This includes repair work as well. As I’ve eluded to before, a common perception among aficionados of the high end, is that if it’s a couple seasons old, its time for some new stuff. I’m not sure where they get this idea. Hmmmm, lets see, it couldn’t be that the major companies in the component industry come out with new products every single year and need their marketing departments to get consumers to buy the new product and ditch their perfectly working older model for the sake of performance? could it? In order to stay competitive with each other, these companies believe they need a new product every year, and they need to convince us that the stuff we already have needs to be upgraded. That way, we buy it, they make a profit, and their sale numbers are better than the competitions. When Campagnolo came out with 11 speed Super Record, I was reminded of that MadTV skit about razors. Now, of course, Shimano has electronic shifting. What’s next? I’m all for innovation, but not for making stuff just for the sake of making stuff.

Here is a bit of evidence that marketing goes a long way to make sure planned obsolescence stays part of their game. Listen to what Andy says about his old group! Its quite clear from this video that the folks over at CC could care less about the sustainability of their products. All they seem to care about is selling top shelf bikes and bits in as large a quantity as possible. You still riding that Ultegra groupo from 2004? Whats wrong with you?

In case you couldn’t hear him, this is what he said: “…and since my Dura-Ace 78oo was a few years old, it was the perfect time for me to shop for new components…”

So, if your components are a few years old, you better hop right on over to CC and pick up yourself some brand new components that will be ready for ditching in just a few years time! What a deal!

I’m ashamed this sort of marketing goes on in the cycling industry. Why not sell a product that is ethically sourced, will last forever, is completely serviceable, performs well, and is as innovative as I need it to be. I would pay a little more for that!!!! To boost sales, the companies could invest in lobbying in order to pass laws that make our streets more cycling friendly. They could also invest in advocacy programs and community bike shops that strive to get folks riding bikes. This would mean more people riding bikes, thus more customers for them to sell their goods too. As of now, they focus their attention on the top shelf riders, and count on all the other riders to keep upgrading, because maybe, just maybe, that 11th cog will get you that Cat 1 status you’ve been dreaming about.

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