As sports go, cycling is tight with stuff. The top ends of every game has its gear-happy scene but cycling goes above and beyond: one need only a glance at the bits and pieces of shining goodness pedaled around the local group ride to see that new stuff is a part of the game. Iʼm not going to pretend that this isnʼt something that moves me. I love the feeling of new parts, love when bikes are put together without a ʻstockʼ piece in them, love the creativity and new-stuff-lust that consumes the kits, wheelsets and rolling displays of happy consumerism. (Remember, Iʼve never hidden the hypocrisy that comes with being compelled by sport and sustainability.) Yet, rarely are products considered for their performance and their footprint on the world. So I present for your consideration, the first in a series within this series: Five Sustainable Bits. Given the changing of the seasons (there are actually some leaves gathering color up here in Vermont) and the impending cyclocrossgasm threatening the bike community, the focus herein will be cross.
5 Sustainable Bits for Cyclocross:
1. Pedroʼs: This isnʼt the first green list Pedroʼs has shown up on. Their environmental initiatives are well documented from reduced packaging and shipping to bulk sizes for their fluids and cleaners, yet the quality of their products is often overlooked. (You canʼt argue with their Bike Lust cleaner.) When Pedroʼs restructured last May, it renewed its focus on distribution of its products and leaned out its scene. New products and tools are to follow but the focus on the sustainable remains. There isnʼt a season thatʼs more suited for tool purchases than the muddy destruction of cross. Plus, in the season of beer hand-ups and Oktoberfests, you canʼt argue with a laser-cut bottle opener. More at www.pedros.com.
2. Alloy Frames: Carbon fiber is grand. It is light, stiff and wild in its performance. Itʼs also considerably worse for the world, less durable than its alloy cousins and pressed forward with marketing genius because, in addition to its performance benefits, it is considerably more profitable for bike companies to make and sell. Iʼve owned carbon fiber frames. I recognize their performance, yet Iʼm happiest on my aluminum frame. I just like it. It might be the sturdy welds or it ability to be recycled, an issue, that despite efforts still haunts carbon fiber. Regardless of the trends and focus, the real-world demands of cyclocross will be kinder to alloy even if you wonʼt.
3. Dr. Bronnerʼs Soap: Ok, forget about the end-times style manifestos that grace the bottles, despite how fun they are to read in the shower. Look PAST the fact that Dr. Bonnerʼs has the ability to save dudes from accidentally grabbing their partnerʼs inexplicable bottle and using its contents for chamois-area washing, thereby ensuring a subsequent verbal beat down. (Can you tell Iʼm speaking from experience?) The best part about the preachy fair-trade, organic soaps made in California is their versatility. Pack it for post race clean ups, quick bike wipe downs, shoe cleaning, glasses cleaning, bottle rinsing, etc, and youʼll be surprised and how often you actually do use the stuff. Mercifully, Dr. Bronner has pulled “toothpaste” from his list of suggested uses, an option that thorough consumer testing proved to be unpleasant, unless you have nostalgia for the days of grade school curse word punishments or youʼre compelled by the residue of poorly rinsed dishes. Available in bulk sizes. www.drbronner.com
4. Ibex Wool Clothing: While most clothing companies the size of Ibex have seen their manufacturing bleeding to foreign lands, the Vermont-based outdoor wool clothier has made a concerted effort to push manufacturing back to US shores, citing quality oversight and reduced shipping costs, both environmental and financial, as a boon. The sustainability of wool is easy to understand. (Indeed, those sheep get shorn every year.) The performance of wool takes a little more diving into to feel. Having used their baselayers for years, the variety of conditions they make comfortable is still surprising. Think: insulation against the seeping rooster tail of cold mud on your back. For the pit crew, the new Ibex AIRE jacket, insulated with wool where other companies use down will stand up to the soggy season better and keep folks warmer, longer. (Which is good because those peeps are doing you a solid by hosing down your pit bike after that last go around.) www.ibex.com
5. The Telephone: Yep. You read that correctly. The telephone. 140 years old. Comes in a variety of options: old school, payphone, cordless and cellular, the “phone” as it is known colloquially is a wonder of sustainable planning. Hereʼs an example, I have, more times than Iʼd care to admit, arrived at my weekly cross race, only to find my neighbor close by in his separate car, having made the forty minute drive by himself. Iʼm guessing Iʼm not alone in this. Iʼm guessing a quick call to bike homies, a bit of planning might save a fair amount of driving. How you split the gas money is on you. More at www.telephones.att.com.