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The Sea Otter Classic was this past weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway here in Monterey, CA. Since we live here, my wife and I had the oppurtunity to ride seven miles up the road to visit, watch some racing, and check out arsenals of products, services, and organizations all related to cycling in one way or another. A day pass was $10. We thought about riding in the Gran Fondo, but we figured we ride around here all the time, and $95 can come in useful in so many other ways. I still want to do it next year. Maybe I can work with Riders One to get some riders into other races as well. These guys are just getting going and I like the direction they’re moving. More on them later.

The raceway itself is a 40 foot wide strip of smooth pavement about 2.2 miles in length that forms a loop among the steep foothills of the Santa Lucia Range. In the middle of the loop are hills perfect for mountain bike racing, and flat areas for exhibits and festival activities. Surrounding the raceway on all sides are eight campgrounds, perfect for indulging in four days of nothing but bicycles, beer, and more bicycles.

I kept my eyes out for signs of sustainability, but didn’t find much. The Sea Otter Classic itself however is apparently dedicated to “sustainable development” as read in their mission statement:

“The mission of the Sea Otter Classic is to make people’s lives better through participation in sport and recreation and through celebration of an active outdoor lifestyle. We will accomplish this mission without compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy the benefits of a sustainable environment.
We have been committed to sustainable development of the Sea Otter Classic for 20 years. This concept encompasses ideas, aspirations, and values that will inspire all of us to become better stewards of the environment and that promote positive economic growth and social objectives. We understand that environmental protection does not preclude economic development and that economic development must be ecologically viable now and in the long run.”

I’m not sure I buy it. I’m sure there are some good intentions, but when it comes down to it, there is nothing very sustainable about the event besides getting more people on bicycles and promoting bicycles in general. Encouraging riders to actually ride to the event would have been a good first step. They could’ve offered a discount or something. I understand folks came from all over the world, so cars are expected, but how about a sign at the entrance that tally’s the weight of carbon all those cars used to climb the three mile long hill to get up to the raceway from the highway. We did see at least a few companies who are serious about either reusing materials, or using sustainable materials like bamboo. Cyclelogical was selling shirts made from recycled materials, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company ran their coolers with solar panels, and Calfee had bamboo bicycles on display. Pedro’s, a company that takes pride in its biodegradable products had a bike washing station and Clif bar is reusing wrappers to make bags. These are clearly moves in the right direction, but there is a lot more to be done. OK, enough with the babble, here are some photos. The whole album is at the bottom with some race photos and shots of the site.

I also get up close to another bamboo bicycle, this time made from bamboo laminate. Besides bamboo, Renovo also builds bicycle frames with other types of woods such as Padauk, Black Walnut, Port Orford Cedar, and Curly maple. They claim to use only sustainable sources of wood, originating mostly in Oregon, and their claims about wood taking the prize as the best material for making a bike frame are well argued. They are also beautiful. Here are some nice shots:

The fella in the backround is the Renovo artist. He’s been making bikes like this for about a decade. CNC maching is used to carve out the frame halves. Notice the butting in the seat tube! They are a small operation with just a few folks churning these beauties out. Here are some more photos. The laminated bamboo bike is the Panda and is the “economical” Renovo at just under $2k.

For one of their Panda bikes they used a belt drive instead of a chain. This drive system does not require lubrication and is being used more and more. The major drawback, of course, is that it is a belt and the bike has to accommodate the installation by allowing the opening of the right rear triangle. Not a problem on Renovo since all their chainstay to dropout connections are bolted together. I’m not sure what I think about this yet, but time will tell its story.

We also some some bags made of old tires and tubes from Totally Tubular Design in Santa Cruz, CA. Creative!

You’ll find more photos including some from the races we watched and of the site in this Picassa album:

Sea Otter 2010
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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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Every now and then I stick the words Sustainable and Cyclist in Google to see what comes up besides this site. Today, Sustainable Cycling popped up! This is a race team out of Indiana that had 14 wins this past season! It makes me very happy to see these guys doing their part. Maybe I can convince them to buy a fleet of used steel bikes for their next race, or maybe wool jerseys! One step at a time. Here is a quote from their mission page:

“Sustainable Cycling will strive to be the most dominant amateur cycling team in the state of Indiana. Our program will focus on developing our elite riders into the most competitive, cohesive category 3 cycling team centered around sportsmanship and teamwork.

Sustainable Cycling will not only strive to advance the sport of cycling, but we will also promote environmental sustainability through our carbon-neutral initiative and local environmental projects. We will set a positive image for fellow cyclists by identifying constructive ways to influence our environmental surroundings.

Sustainable Cycling will uphold the obligations to our sponsors by acting as “live” marketing tools to spread brand awareness during training and racing events. We will maintain close ties with sponsors to ultimately help them achieve their goals through this venture.”

I really do hope these guys continue to win. It brings awareness to the fact that the cycling industry has a long way to go. If I lived in Indiana, I would be at the first 2010 race to meet these guys. If you do live in Indiana and want to cover this team for the The Sustainable Cyclist in the 2010 season, please Contact Us. For now, I’ll give them a link and try to check in every now and then. Go Sustainable Cyclist!!!

Here is their logo:

Sustainable Cycling

Sustainable Cycling Race Team

 

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If you ride at night, you need lights. For an energy source, your options once were limited to batteries, dynamo, or Dynohub. Now we can include the Sun! Dynamo’s and dynohubs are great because your light is human powered, just like your bike. This is fantastic! The only problem is that in order to retrofit a bike with a Dynohub you either have to have it laced to your front rim, or buy a whole new wheel.

Dynamo for a bicycle

Dynamo for a bicycle

A typical Dynohub

A typical Dynohub

If you want to go the dynamo route, you have to take on some friction while you ride.  Also If you just need lights on your road bike for an evening ride dynamos are not very practical. When you go for that fast ride on the weekends do you want the extra weight of a dynohub or the extra friction of a dynamo? Most riders choose the battery powered lights when decision time comes.
Batteries can be grouped into the groups “rechargeable” and “not rechargeable“. The rechargeable ones suck energy from your wall (unless you have one of these) and the “not rechargeable” batteries go right to the recycle bin (or trash!) so you can go buy new ones.

Now there is another option. Cateye has come out with a light that is solar powered! Just in case, it has a backup battery, but from reading the description you can get 6 hours of light time (flashing) on a fully charged solar battery! The only issue I see with this is that in order to charge it, one must ride with it during the day, or leave it out in the sun during the day. That’s a small price to pay in order to light your way using the power of the sun.

You can go to Cateye’s site to read more about it. They say it is available in October, so you should be able to get one now. They are $60, which I believe to be very reasonable.

If you happen to get your hands on one and want to write a review, please let me know!

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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!

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Resources:

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

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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.

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