How green is my bike? Let's do some sustainability research.

Luckily more and more people are concerned about the wellbeing of our planet and taking action in recent years. There are even countries now banning plastic bags and other one-use plastics. There is still a long way to go to preserve our planet for both nature to flourish and humanity to live in balance with nature and wildlife.

But when I think about the question “How to create a more sustainable mountain bike community or industry?”I get very confused and slightly overwhelmed, I literally don’t know where to start. Everyone would probably argue that the act of mountain biking itself is sustainable, because it is a human powered activity and therefore there is no air pollution when you do it. Mostly true until the industry came up with electric mountain bikes. 

I assume the bike industry became less sustainable thanks to the huge drive of innovation in making mountain bikes go faster, become lighter, have better suspension, the urge to change your apparel every year etc. The bike industry uses more resources than it used to do in the early days of the sport. 

unbeaten adeventures mountain-biking-pyrenees-zona-zero-ainsa-bike-and-sustainability-mindmap.jpg

VAUDE, IXS, URGE, SPANKPEATY'S & PEDROS are the only truly sustainable brands I have at the moment. Only SPANK does bike parts the rest is apparel or maintenance products. Luckily there is the Earthball Riders Foundation that does a big effort.

For me mountain biking is one of the most fun things to do. It is a way I can enjoy nature, do sports and meet new people along the way. Everything can occur at the same time. With my interest in sustainability I find it hard get my head around doing this sport in a more sustainable way. I am not a fanatic or short sided when it comes to sustainability and I truly believe that more people should bike instead of drive a car. After all we all want to promote biking. Surprisingly I don’t see much brands in the industry taking real action, for example circular business models or doing active recycling programs of taking in old products to up-cycle. Perhaps, I haven't done enough research yet.

I always said I don’t want a carbon bike because that is bad for the environment, since carbon is not recyclable, so I sticked to aluminium. Then I read the the thorough article by Richard Cunningham about the Carbon vs Aluminium discussion in Pinkbike on February 13 2018. I was SH**T. Aluminium might be more evil than carbon! Although I missed the steel comparison in the article, it left me hugely confused. I think the big problem is that most of the aluminium bikes are made of virgin material. They don’t contain recycled aluminum, because of loss of strength (this again is something I assume) or recycled carbon because that is almost impossible.

unbeaten adeventures mountain-biking-pyrenees-zona-zero-ainsa pinkbike.jpg

But the frame is just a part of the bike and the mountain biking sport. What about the rest of the bike? I am trying to find recyclable mountain bike tyres for example, but I don’t think they exist. Schwalbe seems to have a go at it but those are road and not mountain bike tyres.

How about creating all these new trails in the landscapes all over the world? Were the old natural trails not good enough? What is sustainable trail building?

I am confused again... How sustainable is the mountain bike sport and Industry? Do we need to look into new ways of manufacturing? Do we need new bike models every year? Maybe as long as mountain biking is a fashionable sport and a performance sport nothing much will change? Should I try to develop a truly sustainable bike locally manufactured with a circular business model? Should I even consider challenging these issues or just have fun on the bike and be ignorant? All of these questions I want to try to find answers for in the next period and I want to do this in a positive fun way.  I believe working on sustainable challenges that help the planet can be tons of fun just like biking. Peaty’s is prove of that with their sealant and loam foam!

Meanwhile I leave you with a bike love story by Osole Visual - Ara Salvage trailer

Author: Jeroen Spoelstra
Pictures: Jeroen Spoelstra & Pinkbike

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