It’s by no means a new concept that cycling is a ‘green’ mode of transport; neither is it new for those who wish to influence us to borrow the language and aesthetic of environmental friendliness in order to look and feel the part. Those of us ‘in the know’ don’t need much more convincing to ‘do the right thing’, but it isn’t always obvious who the good guys are when it comes to choosing a brand!
And while our individual choices do matter – our actions really do all add up – how do we know that the bigger picture is working? That when we buy a bike and that new kit we’ve been promising ourselves, they’ve been made and delivered with at least one eye on the planet’s health? Let’s look at a few key areas.
Sourcing & manufacturing
The number of component parts used in the bike industry quickly runs up to the tens of thousands. Each of them presents some choices to make about the type of materials used and how these are sourced, produced, delivered and assembled.
Take frames for example: while the world seems to have moved en-masse from metal to carbon, a large and growing number of bikes are being made from alternative materials. Using traditionally sustainable materials such as wood for a product as inherently ‘mechanical’ as a bike is not as wacky as it might sound at first.
Check out our Danish friends Coh & Co, who were inspired by their experience in the boat industry to make wooden bikes. “We want our bicycles to help build a sustainable and healthy lifestyle while brightening up the streets,” they say.
Veneered and laminated Danish grown ash is combined with carbon fiber reinforcements to make a tough frame, with great power transfer but a ‘warm’ ride. Other elements such as drop-outs are made from aluminium; it’s a combination that seems to make the balance very successfully between performance and sustainability.
You don’t get off to a much more better start towards sustainability than refurbishing an existing bike. That’s what Elephant Bike do, with the project to make ‘new’ sturdy, load-carrying commuter bikes out of retired Royal Mail delivery bikes. Want more? Buy a bike from them and Elephant Bike donate a bike to their social enterprise in Africa, where owning a bike can mean securing work, generating an income, or getting an invaluable education. Still not enough? OK then the refurbishment work is done in partnership with UK prisons, training inmates toward a new, productive future, so you’re helping to transform live here as well as overseas.
While making a log of how much mining, metalworking and fossil fuels go into our new bikes, it’s also important that these firms ensure that the workforce are treated and paid fairly, and visibly. It’s not just bike-makers, but accessories and clothing too – take Raynsie, for example, the Dutch makers of an all-in-one cycling weatherproof that’s as ecologically impressive as it is eye-catching. “The way we see it, there’s no such thing as crappy weather, just crappy clothes,” they say of the rationale behind their product. But what of the people who manufacture it?
“We partnered with KTC, world renowned makers of premium tech gear, proud affiliate of the Fair Labor Association, to produce Raynsie responsibly to exacting standards from their base in the Pearl River Delta, in China. We are proud to have our product made in the Far East in a place that supports the community and its workers’ families.”
Innovate and create
For that ‘bigger picture’, sometimes the considerations aren’t about the direct ecological impact of creating the bicycles themselves, but the broader effect the resulting bikes can have. Those companies who, collectively, make bikes, and clothing, accessories, lights, luggage and events that turn /would-be cyclists/ into /actual cyclists/ with their amazing, innovative products.
Folding bikes, conceptually, are a work of genius. Train-friendly, traffic-dodging pieces of innovation that tuck away in your car boot, under your desk and in the under-stairs cupboard. Want to see the latest folders? See you at Spin.
And the next big innovation? Electric bikes. In adopting e-bikes the UK is catching its European neighbours, with assisted machines now come in all shapes and sizes: ‘urban’ flatbars, MTBs, fatbikes(!) and even ‘drop-in’ wheels which can quickly adapt a regular bike to electric-assist. And yes, electric folding bikes.
Ahooga’s neat, lightweight folding e-bikes will be on show at SPIN. These aluminium-framed Belgian folders provide an average assisted 50-70km per charge in hilly landscapes, a range way beyond the average 12-mile two-way commute, with a larger battery option to iadd another 25km just released.
Co-founder Philippe Lefrancq told us about Ahooga’s sustainability policy: “Our intention in the medium term is to produce locally in Belgium. We love the idea of a reduced carbon footprint and a local economy boost. Yet, this will require some extra time and efforts. Until then, the Ahooga is designed in Brussels and manufactured in Europe.
“All Ahooga employees are provided with Ahooga Bikes as a means for transport to and from work, and our new packaging is made of recycled cardboard. That’s only a drop in the sea, but you know what they say…”
Yes! Every single drop in the sea adds up – all of our actions and our choices count. From deciding to ride, to choosing the right brands, to encouraging friends and family to ride, and to thinking carefully about how we recycle our bikes and cycling kit. Join us at May’s Spin Cycling Festival to see the latest innovations, get informed and get inspired!