4 Steps to Earth-friendly Cycling

Bikewagon - BWCC


Riding a bike is widely known as an Earth-friendly means of transportation. Bicycles are among the most efficient machines known to man and, compared to cars or buses, don't require inputs of gasoline or diesel fuel. Riding can not only reduce the need for fuel, it can reduce the demand for new roads and parking spaces -- which means more green and less gray.

A good bike can stay on the road for decades without contributing to global warming or the destruction of natural habitats. Besides a little lubrication and the occasional spare part, a bike doesn't require any inputs to keep on spinning. So to honor Earth Day, we've written this guide to make your riding as green as possible. Check out the tips to make your ride the most environmentally friendly cycle around.

1. Reuse, reuse, reuse

One great way to reduce the impact of your riding is to fix up an old bike, rather than riding a new one. Creating a new bike uses a small amount of energy and materials (5% of what is required for a new car), but by fixing up a used bike you can skip even that environmental impact.

Whether this means pulling an old bike out of the garage or searching around on Craigslist for a promising looking bike, a used cycle is a great way to green your ride (and save some green in the process). If you are in the green game for good, look for steel frames - they are durable, easy to repair, and can be recycled at the end of their lifespan.

Fix up your new (old) bike by replacing the old rusty chain and the brake pads, scrubbing and re-greasing the gears, replacing the old tires and tubes, tightening all the cables, and installing any new accessories you need. You will be ready to hit the road in no time!

2. Get your bike ready to haul

One of the biggest reasons people reach for their car keys instead of their helmet is running errands. It makes sense; hauling 20 pounds of groceries around in a backpack on your bike is not comfortable.

Bike cargo trailer

You can reduce your car trips further than ever (or even get rid of your car fully) by getting some panniers, also known as saddlebags. Simply mount a rack on the back of your bike, pick up some pannier bags, and you will be ready to run some errands to the local farmers market.

Some people prefer baskets or milk crates, which can be attached to a rear rack or to your handlebars, and also let you haul around a bag of groceries. Whatever you use, try to get in the habit of using your bike for all the trips that you make around your home. This not only prevents a load of pollution from entering the air, it also helps you get fit and get some sun.

The leading edge of cycling is going even further with the use of small trailers to haul furniture, mulch for the garden, and other bulky loads. These trailers mount to the rear of your bicycle and can generally carry a substantial load of gear without too much trouble.

Are you really ambitious? Attachments are available that allow you to haul even bigger loads -- like a full-size ocean kayak -- on the back of your bike. Nice!

3. Accessorize and maintain wisely

Another good way to reduce your consumption is to use rechargeable batteries for your bike lights instead of single-use batteries. While they may not provide as much power as disposable batteries (except in the case of high power Lithium-ion designs), they can be used hundreds or thousands of times before being discarded.

Hand pump

There are tons of other little tricks you can use to make riding greener. Use washable rags to clean your bike, instead of paper towels. While you are at it, use biodegradable lubricants and citrus-based cleaners. Old, worn-out inner tubes can be sliced lengthwise to create strong rubber bands, or used as strong, flexible straps for other projects.

Using CO2 cartridges creates more waste and is only necessary for racers. Use a hand pump to avoid those emissions! Wear clothing made of natural fabrics; you really don’t need all that expensive, synthetic biking clothing unless you are doing extra-long or extra-fast rides. Much of the time, you can keep it casual and stick with what you normally wear.

While it can be tempting to try to streamline your bike as much as possible so it is lightweight and speedy, there is a point of diminishing returns. Hold on to basics like safety lights, gear racks, water bottle holders, and fenders. While they do weigh you down a bit, they will make it easier to skip the car trip and hop on the cycle.

4. Put better fuel in the engine (a.k.a. you)

While you aren't burning any fossil fuels for your ride, you are burning calories. Power your ride the green way by skipping the fast food. Instead, choose local, organic vegetables and animal products from grass-based family farms to reduce your impact and support the local economy.

Unless you are riding all day in the heat without eating a balanced diet, you will likely be fine with plain old water. Skip the soft drinks and sports mixes and stick with the old standby!

Some farmers markets are taking cycling to the next level with bike-powered machines that can replace electricity for small-scale uses. Bike-powered blenders, anyone? A fresh smoothie made with local fruit and a bit of leg-power makes a nice springtime snack.