Posts Tagged ‘bicycles’

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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People have been using bamboo as a material for bike frames for quite some time. There were even companies selling bamboo bicycles around the turn of the century:

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These guys were on to something! Bamboo bikes are back and they’re better than ever! A lot better. These days, high-end bamboo bicycles are successfully competing against their carbon fiber brethren in races as well as in the showroom. Think of the time and money mankind has spent trying to engineer the perfect material for a bicycle when, all along, mother nature was growing it in her garden! With a little bit of inspiration, engineering prowess and strive for excellence, Nick Frey, owner of Boo Bicycles, is showing us exactly what bamboo is capable of. Like many of the great names in bicycle brands, Nick is also is a professional racer. He races for Team Jamis Sutter Home. Want more? He holds a degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering! Can you guess what one of his design projects was?

To keep track of what Nick is up to you can visit him at nfrey.blogspot.com. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk The Sustainable Cyclist about bamboo and the bicycles his company is producing.


(The Sustainable Cyclist): Would you tell me a little about your background and what sparked your interest in bicycle design? What sparked you interest in bamboo?

(Nick Frey): I recently graduated from Princeton and now run Boo Bicycles and race for Jamis Sutter Home, the top professional team in the country.  I have been racing on the road for nine years and have been on some of the most successful teams in the country at all ages, raced in Europe and at the World Championships in Stuttgart in 2007, and am a multiple National Champion.

Boo Bicycles is the evolution of what began as a mechanical engineering design project at Princeton.  Three classmates and I were a part of a very successful project to build a bamboo bicycle, and we were inspired by Craig Calfee and his bamboo creations that we had seen at various trade shows.  We knew Calfee Design could produce a work of art that you could ride, but we wanted to produce a high-performance racing bicycle from bamboo and carbon fiber that would rival titanium and carbon fiber bicycles.

The project was so successful that we started a company to produce them, Sol Cycles, but we all had so many things going on between mechanical engineering courses and starting a company that we were unable to succeed due to lack of time and energy.  However, I knew we were onto something and I could do this after I graduated, so I started a new company called Boo Bicycles.  I do not make the bicycles–they are made by a team of expert craftsmen led by James Wolf in Saigon–but I design, test, market, and sell the bicycles worldwide.  We have formed a very successful relationship.  As a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he has an incredible eye but his quality and attention to detail is unparalleled.  James has over 15 years of experience working with bamboo, designing and building furniture and complete buildings and bars, so he compliments my experience in the cycling world perfectly.


(SC): People have been making bicycles out of bamboo in Asia for a hundred years or more. Why do you think this is the case? What is it about bamboo that lends itself to use in a bicycle frame when compared to other types of wood? What about compared to other types of bicycle material such as carbon fiber, aluminum and steel?

(NF): Bamboo is an incredible plant as well as building material.  Here’s this for a quick summary: it is one of the fastest growing plants known to man, it is one of the most efficient means of sequestering carbon dioxide known to man, it is one of the strongest natural materials known to man, it grows back after being cut, and it spreads like a weed.  It is truly one of the world’s most amazing living things, plant or animal.

Bamboo has been used in everything from water wheels to scaffolding for skyscrapers because it is readily available, easy to work with, and very strong and durable.  Use in a bicycle frame is just another application for which it is perfect.  One of the most interesting characteristics is the ability to dampen high frequency vibrations, meaning a stiff and light bicycle frame can also be very comfortable, a property that is unique and very desirable in a bicycle.


(SC): Many people these days understand that bamboo is a versatile sustainable resource. It is abundant, grows quickly, and can be made into bicycle frame tubing with little production because, well, it grows as a tube. Where do you see bamboo as a bicycle frame material headed as we get deeper into the 21st century?

(NF): Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Our tubes go through an extensive treatment process over the course of four months to maximize stiffness and durability, and then every tube is drilled out internally to a specific wall thickness to minimize weight and tune the ride characteristics for each frame size.  We preserve the natural finish and shape of the tube rather than using a laminate because we feel Mother Nature has perfected the material, and we only need to massage it to make it into a top-end racing frame.

I see bamboo as the next big frame material.  There was steel for decades, then titanium and aluminum promised lighter weight, higher stiffness, and an improved ride quality (for the former).  Then carbon came along and reduced weight further while maintaining or increasing stiffness, but durability and ride properties often suffered.  It is quite difficult to reduce weight, increase stiffness and durability, and preserve a smooth and lively road feel.  Bamboo is never going to be as light and stiff as carbon, but it is close–and for 99% of riders today, they are not looking for the ultra-stiff race only frame anyway.  The ride quality and handling of bamboo is unmatched, and I feel that Boo is on the forefront of this movement–we make a race-winning bamboo-carbon fiber hybrid bicycle that blends the best aspects of both materials to make a unique and superior product.


(SC): Would you like to share some of the work you’ve done (and I’m sure continue to do), on the life span of bamboo frames? From my understanding, over time bamboo will develop longitudinal cracks. Is this preventable? What are some reasonable outlooks on bamboo frame life span when ridden on a daily basis?

(NF): The cracks that bamboo experiences are purely cosmetic when paired with carbon fiber joints.  We have done much structural testing on this, and the bamboo’s strength is not affected by longitudinal splits.  They are the result of a different contraction rate from the inner, younger bamboo material to the denser, older material on the exterior of the tube, so when they are dried during the treatment process, the material naturally wants to split.  We have invested a great deal into preventing splits through tube treatment processes as well as our bamboo source.

We have a ten year warranty on our frames and believe they are far more durable than most carbon fiber frames.  A Boo Bicycle is an investment and we want our customers to be happy for many years and thousands of miles!


(SC): Boo Bicycles makes high-end, artisan bicycle frames, but that’s not the end of the road for bamboo. There are programs in Africa that teach people how to make basic bamboo bicycles from their native bamboo plants. Is Boo Bicycles involved with any organizations that provide assistance to poor communities in need of transportation that have easy access to bamboo? If not, do you see Boo bicycles participating in these sorts of activities in the future?

(NF): Boo Bicycles is working with the Bamboo Bicycle Project as a consultant and a potential future partner.  I have personally taught the BBP’s founders some things about bamboo bicycle frame construction and I think they are doing great things in Ghana and have plans to sell low-cost sustainable bamboo bicycles throughout Africa.  It’s a ways off in the future, and Boo will be focusing exclusively on the high-end market for the time being, but a low-cost model is definitely something we envision for the future.


(SC): There is a place in New York City where you can go and make your own bicycle from bamboo. There are independent folks sprouting up left and right making their very own frames from bamboo in their back yard. The Sustainable Cyclist even has a research project of its own that involves building one. In a sense, this shows how accessible building frames with bamboo is here in the United States. Soon we may see many more people out there riding homemade bamboo bikes to work, and then hopping on their Boo for that weekend group ride or race. How is the rest of the industry going to react to this, especially the powerhouses like Trek and Specialized? Will they try to come out with a bamboo product line?

(NF): Interestingly the build-your-own-bamboo-bike operation in NYC is run by the very friends of mine working on the Bamboo Bicycle Project.  I think that operations like this are a reflection of the interest in the material, just like there an incredible numbers of individual steel and titanium builders.  It gives us confidence that more and more people will come to accept bamboo as a viable building material for bicycles, and we have focused on building the very BEST bamboo frame on the market.  While it is not very difficult to source bamboo, make a jig, and miter and wrap some tubes to create a frame, it is quite difficult to make a refined product that is stiff, light, responsive, and beautifully finished.  I raced our first bamboo bicycle, a Princeton design project, in the Rutgers Season Opener, but it was not stiff at all, not very light, unimpressively finished, and unrefined.  It has been almost two years since that first bamboo bike was built and it’s been an incredible amount of testing and refinement not possible with the expertise of James Wolf and the racing experience of yours truly.  This is why Boo will be positioned to take advantage of this growing wave of bamboo bicycle design, and also why manufacturers like Trek and Specialized will likely never get into it.  There is too much investment needed to perfect the frames and too much handwork–these will always be handmade, high-end, artisan frames.


(SC): Whats next for Boo Bicycles?

(NF): We will be growing our brand at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, Eurobike, and Interbike in 2010.  We will be building our dealer network to include one top bicycle shop in each major metro area, and I have a network of sales representatives riding and racing Boo around the country, spreading the word.  There will always be a focus on refining and improving our bicycles, bringing out new models, and advancing the product.  For the near future, Boo’s focus is on increasing visibility and sales while maintaining excellent customer service.


(SC): In closing, please say anything you’d like about sustainability within the bicycle industry.

(NF): The bicycle industry is fragmented.  There are racers and commuters, freeriders and BMXers.  We need to come together to promote certain causes, and green/sustainable is one.  The entire bicycle industry can benefit from this through improved sales, and while it may not seem that racers and commuters have anything in common, that is simply not true. Many of my racer friends commute to work for training, and many of my racer friends actually STARTED racing after riding more and more when commuting.  It should not be a fragmented or divisive industry because, let’s face it, just riding a bike is green and healthy!  I would like to see, at minimum, at acknowledgment that cyclists are all part of the same family, whether a top professional or a two-mile commuter.

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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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Here in Monterey California the cycling is fantastic! Scenic ocean roads, curvy rolling hills, steep climbs, long descents, you name it, we’ve got it. We’ve only been here a month, but have put quite a few miles in. Today my wife Syrah and I decided to venture down famous route 1 to Big Sur and back. bigsurroute1We had heard that route 1 was somewhat bicycle friendly, that it is part of the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, as well as a part of many organized rides.

Before I go on, you must know that the Big Sur highway is a tourist destination, and this is the middle of tourist season! Cars, vans, SUVs, buses, motorcycles, and lots of RVs full of tourists cruise along enjoying the views from the comfort of their home on wheels. Some RV’s are the size of trucks. I’m talking gigantic!

I’d driven down the road a couple times and it seemed like it was safe enough. I noticed the narrow shoulders but bicycles and motor vehicles seemed to be sharing the road fairly well.

fall-rv-trip We weren’t that concerned, seeing that I thought I remembered seeing some “Share the Road” signs, and coupled with the fact that RV drivers know they have to take it easy on a popular cycling road. You know, so they don’t accidentally kill someone.

Once we got onto route 1 south of Carmel, things seemed OK. The shoulder was large, lots of folks were out on the sides of the road walking to the beach or Point Lobos, and the cars seemed to be traveling at safe speeds. We passed a sign that said “Pacific Coast Bicycle Route.” All was well.

A couple miles south of this pleasant experience, things changed. The shoulder disappeared, the cars got faster and the folks on the side of the road vanished except for a pull off every now and then. The Volkswagens, Priuss’ and the like waited to pass us at a safe time, making an arc around us. The pickup trucks with over-sized wheels and the sports cars flew by without a glance in our direction. Typical. It wouldn’t be surprising if they were annoyed that we were on the road, preventing them from getting the most out of their Route 1 experience. The RV’s fell under two categories. The respectful, careful RV’s and the I-rule-the-road RV’s. The careful ones are not a problem. They waited to pass at a safe time, and drove at an appropriate speed. The I-rule-the-road RV’s blasted by like the careless sports car did. Oh yeah, not a single “Share the Road” sign was seen.

We had it in our legs to make it all the way to Big Sur and back (64 miles), but we decided we did not want to deal with this road any longer. We turned around at a beach near Granite Creek, 15 miles shy of Big Sur. On the way back there are a few descents. They don’t have shoulders, so you kind of have to ride a foot or two off the edge of pavement, which puts you in the right of way. One particular decent also involves some fantastic corners. While on this fantastic descent, with my wheels hovering a couple feet off the white line, I hear a shockingly loud horn. The kind an 18-wheeler makes when the driver needs you out of his way. I glanced back quickly, and a gigantic RV was on my tail! I’m talking 10 or 15 feet behind me. WAY too close for comfort. It looked like the driver was trying to pass me, but it was a terrible spot to do so. I swiftly did the only thing I could think of. There was no shoulder to pull off onto, and I was probably going 30mph, so I veered into the middle of the right of way. Thankfully this worked, as the Giant RV stopped trying to pass me and slowed down a bit. Half a mile later, there was a paved pull off. I veered in, and let the behemoth pass with an accelerating roar! Syrah rolled into the pullout a minute later and told me how she thought she was going to die when that jerk passed her. He (or she, but probably he) came so close to her, that she felt like she was getting “sucked in” to the vehicle! Thankfully, she held on and survived the pass.

She wasn’t really getting sucked in, but I do believe that’s what it felt like to her. Here’s why. As we all remember from science class, the pressure of air changes when you change its speed. This is why airplanes can fly. The faster air below the wing has a higher pressure than the air above the wing. AIRFOILIf you have air with higher pressure touching air with lower pressure, then the air with the higher pressure moves into the air with the lower pressure until they equalize. This is also the concept behind many of the earths weather patterns. Back to the giant RV pass. What Syrah felt was the higher pressure air around the RV pushing on her. She compensated for the push by turning towards the RV. Then, as quick as it came, the RV passed and the pressure was gone. Syrah is human, and human reaction takes time, and this all happened quicker than her reaction time leaving her with a wheel turned to the left. This gave her the sensation of being sucked into the RV.

Truck drivers are aware of this phenomenon, and so are many giant RV drivers, but there are clearly some out there who do not understand this. Anyone who has driven on Interstate 80 through the mid west knows this concept as well especially if your going 50, and the 18-wheelers pass you going 75. You react to the higher pressure, and then its gone. Sometimes it can even shake the car a bit! If it can shake a car, it can put down a cyclist.

We ride bicycles as a favor to our bodies, the environment, and society. It also happens to be very fun. Our bodies delight in the exercise. The environment is grateful for one less car. Society improves with safer roads and tight nit communities that aren’t designed around cars. Human powered vehicles are noble and beautiful, and if you choose one over any other type of vehicle, you’ll have a deeper understanding of that beauty. Its hard for someone who doesn’t ride a bike on the busy roads of our country to understand what it feels like when a giant RV or speeding car pummels by while your pedaling along on a bicycle. On your right, inches from your wheels, the road drops off into a channel full of shrubs. On your left, traffic is whizzing by occasionally getting so close you can feel it. In front of you more pavement awaits your next pedal stroke keeping your steed on a line as straight as you can get it. Your eyes are scanning the road in front of you while your ears scan the road behind you. Your thighs and calves are burning from the lactic acid building up in your muscle cells. To stay alert is to stay on course, and stay alive. When a careless driver gets too close or passes too fast, alertness can be shaken for a mere moment. This moment is all it takes for tragedy. We don’t have safety belts, airbags, or 2,000 pounds of steel and plastic to protect us from the coarse, unyielding pavement or blow from another vehicle. Please keep this in mind when you see us out there.

Giant RV vs Cyclist Safety Suggestions for the RV driver

1) Do not pass a cyclist unless it is safe to do so, and you can clear the cyclist by 5 or 6 feet. Remember, cyclists have a right to use the road just as much as you do. When you do pass, SLOW DOWN.

2) Do not honk your horn at a cyclist. They know you are there and want to pass. Every motor vehicle wants to pass a cyclist. Your horn can startle the cyclist, causing a crash.

3) On a decent, do not pass the cyclist until the decent is over. It is much too dangerous to try to squeeze your giant vehicle between a cyclist traveling 30mph (that is fast for a bike) and the oncoming lane of traffic. During a decent, the cyclist may be a bit more unstable than at other times. Once the decent is over, wait for the cyclist to pull closer to the shoulder, and slowly pass when safe to do so.

4) Follow all the other safety guidelines that apply to motor vehicles of ALL size.

Giant RV vs Cyclist Safety Suggestions for the Cyclist

1) On busy roads with no shoulders stay as far right as possible.

2) If a large vehicle is passing, hold your handlebar securely and maintain your course. Be prepared for a bit of pressure change around you.

3) If your on a fast decent, and there is a large vehicle behind you honking and wanting to pass, maintain your course and speed. Do not get spooked into going faster, or pulling too far over to the right. At an appropriate time, pull to the right and allow the vehicle to pass. You have a right to be on the road as much as the large vehicle.

4) When in doubt, play it safe!

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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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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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Something that just about every bike has in common is the need for lubrication and the occasional degreasing.  The use of lubes and solvents by eco-concious individuals can be hard to do.  I’m dedicating multipe parts to this topic with the hope of getting comments and refining my information.  If you have a opinion, or information you’d like to share, please feel free to comment.  There are a TON of products out there, many claim to be eco-friendly, and many clearly are not.

Lets start with degreasing.  There are a few options when you go to buy a degreaser.  You can go with a petroleum distillate like mineral spirits, kerosene, or something similar.  You can get a citrus degreaser, such as Paris Citrus Cleaner and Degreaser, or Pedro’s Orange Peelz.  You can get cleaner that doesn’t really fall into these two catagories such as Paris Green Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser, or Nashbar BBD Degreaser.  There are, of course, other products out there, but I can’t list them all.  You could also opt for other industrial solvents that are not petroleum based such as acetone, turpentine, or the bit more rare ethyl lactate.  These last few don’t seem so popular among cyclists, but I’ll mention ethyl lactate again later.

There are a couple different schools of thought on eco-friendly degreasing that I am aware of.  The predominant is that your choosen product must be biodegradeable, and not from a petroleum source.  Fair enough.  The problem with this is that these products are biodegradeable. What!  yes, thats right.  Because they breakdown, you need to replenish your supply more often.  You have your bucket of biodegradeable degreaser in your garage and you use it all the time, and every now and then you filter out the dirt and grime.  Thats great, but one day you notice your degreaser is not degreasing very well so you dump it out and refill it with more.  Over the course of the year you end up buying way more bottles of degreaser than if you used a non-biodegradeable degreaser.  Each one of those bottles had to be produced, packaged, and delivered.  What kind of carbon footprint are we talking about here?  How much dissolved grease went down the drain with your biodegradeable solvent?

The other major school of thought is using a long lasting, non-biodegradeable degreaser.  The problem here is that these are usually toxic, and are produced from petroleum.  Lets take mineral spirits as an example since I’m quite familiar with it.  If you use it a lot you have to wear gloves, and sometimes a mask, but you can filter it and use it over and over and over again.  At some point you have to replenish because it evaporates, splatters, or is mucked up from particles that pass through your filter.  It also works incredibly well.

Which is better?  I’m not really sure.  I’m beginning a course on life cycle assessment, so I’ll have the answer in a matter of a few (or more) months because it will be one of the first things I analyze.  Obviously, boycotting petroleum products is a good idea for the environment (not to mention a load of other reasons), so I’m inclined towards a non-petroleum product that is industrial strength, non-toxic, and non-biodegradeable, or biodegradeable with a very long life in the presence of oxygen.  I’m not sure if this exists, but ethyl lactate comes close.  The only problem is that it’s biodegradeable.  Not to mention, I’m not sure its widely available.  I’d like to try it to see how it performs.  Here’s a place I can get it for what looks like $83 for 2.5 liters.  I may try it once I get my new garage up an running in Monterey, CA.

I am well aware of companies out there working with belt drive bicycles, direct drive bicycles, and greaseless components, but the majority of bicyles out there use grease and oil for lubrication.  I’m commited to solving this, and finding out what we as sustainable cyclists need to be doing to minimize our impact to Earth.

Stay tuned for Part II.

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