Our climate is heating up rapidly; even more rapidly than climate scientists predicted. Droughts are causing mass starvation and displacement of millions in large parts of the world. Other parts of the world are going up in flames. In October 2017, large areas of the city I used to call home for ten years were incinerated and three more wildfires brought smoke and destruction in 2019 and 2020. Hurricanes are growing stronger and more frequent. Switzerland, which I call home again, is getting hotter year after year. It's not uncommon for February to feel like May. Summer months see more frequent and grueling heatwaves. Swiss summers used to be the best time to ride. Now, summers are the first season during which I often take a break from cycling.
Sadly, we Westerners grew up with the luxury of being able to travel abroad several times a year, we're used to drive south on every extended weekend, we consume like no one else on the planet and drive anywhere, anytime for pure pleasure. Imagine if Africans, Indians, and the Chinese would live the same lifestyle. We would have lived ourselves into extinction already. Some of us stick the head in the sand and don't want to do anything about it. Others have a "devil-may-care" attitude and refuse to change their way of life. We could all do our part to improve things. The sum of small steps towards a better world can produce significant improvements if we all take some. Here's what I try to do:
#1 - Fly Less
#2 - Drive Less
We Europeans drive flipping way too much. Daily commutes, a concert there, a sports event there, an extended weekend to escape home - we're always burning fuel to go somewhere. As cyclists we seek fresh, clean mountain air, yet to do that we're strapping our bikes to the back of our car just as willing to pollute the air during the long drive to and from the Alps. I've never been someone to do that often. For one, an hour's drive to reach a bike destination in the mountains is a waste of my time. That's two hours I could be spending on the bike if I leave the car at home. So, to ride locally is a fairly easy adjustment for me to make. Those alpine sceneries do look nice, but I don't need to go there. I happen to live at the foot of the Swiss Jura. The atmosphere is a tiny bit cleaner if I stick to riding close to home.
#3 - Consume Less
Many of us earn enough money to buy almost anything we want. Apple releases a new iPhone? We want it. A brighter and larger TV than we bought last year? We want it. A bike that's stiffer, lighter, and faster than the one we bought last year? We buy it. Well, guess what? It may keep the wheels of our economy going, but it certainly won't keep the wheels of our planet going. I'm as guilty as anyone. What I try to do is lengthen the intervals at which items are replaced. My Mac Book was 7 years old when it died and I have yet to replace it. My iPhone SE is 4 years old. If I'm honest, my bikes could last longer than I've been using most. But everything I stop using is sold secondhand and someone else keeps happily using it.
#4 - Consider What You Buy
Bicycles used to be fairly simple pieces of equipment mainly built out of steel or aluminum. Generally, they lived a long life. Some of the mountain bikes we used to ride through the woods in the 90ies are still rolling around today; often as bikes for short commutes or little trips within town. And once they break, all the metal bits and pieces find their way into recycling. Carbon, which undoubtedly has made bikes better, unfortunately has a pretty bad environmental footprint. Both to produce and to discard. Now, the industry has completely thrown away its green label by flooding the market with e-bikes. I've had a few carbon bikes and still have carbon components, but I'm trying to reduce that. All my steel bikes are very capable bikes that are a pure joy to ride. Sure, they weigh more than an aluminum or carbon equivalent, but does it matter?
#5 - Reuse, Resale, Recycle
Some of my bikes of the past couple of years have been exercises of reusing components. My first Volagi Viaje was built with parts from my Focus Mares CX 2.0. The Ritte Snob Disc inherited many parts from my Neilpryde Alize. When first built, the Nordest Albarda received the majority of the components that originally went from the red Volagi Viaje to the Ritte. Frames or bikes I stop using always find a new owner through Ebay. Components that are still good to use go the same way. Worn out stuff lands in the metal recycling bin. That way, parts have a long service life. Often with me and when not, with someone else.