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How can we make cycling more sustainable?

on my way to bed tonight, i am thinking about a longer-than-usual bike ride i'll be taking in the morning for a visit to a naturopathic doctor. i find myself grateful that the longer ride does not entail, like a car trip would, concerns about whether there's enough gas in the tank. i'll check the tire pressure before i go, and see if the chains need lube, but that's about it. however, the thought occurs to me now, as it sometimes does, that bicycling instead of driving has still not freed me from consuming petroleum and that a future with much less of it that's more expensive will definitely affect me and other cyclists. how can we make this better?
for example, i grease my chains with a product i got at city bikes. i asked the dude at the counter to recommend to me which product to buy, and he pointed out a bottle that he believes works the best for the price. the downside is that it contains a chemical make by DuPont. so i'm supporting DuPont, ugh. are there options (which in the future we might be forced to use) for grease/lube for bikes that aren't petroleum-based? can replacements be made with vegetable-based oils?

manufacturing bike parts involves factories and industrial processes. when i need something replaced on my bike, i go for used parts whenever they're available, so that i avoid that problem, and because they are less expensive. but in a world where bike parts can't be manufactured easily, or become very expensive, there'll be a run on used parts, and eventually they'll start to run short. can welding or casting or die-making or whatever processes are used be replaced by small-scale operations that can be powered more sustainably?

roads, too, could begin to become more difficult to navigate as the funds to fix them dry up, and as heavy machinery becomes more expensive to run. what then? (on a historical note, i've heard that the first asphalt roads in the u.s. were created for bicycles, pre-auto era.)

rubber for tires comes from trees, but they won't grow around here, i don't think. they're tropical, right? can we cheaply/easily reprocess old truck tires for "new" bike tires?

are we going to end up making bikes out of dried bamboo because metal gets too scarce? ;)
please consider a traditional psychologist in addition to the naturopath. 07.Jun.2005 23:51

red suspenders

You've got some serious white man guilt issues going.

I had a dear friend in college who decided he was going to consume as little as possible. He lived in a walk-in closet in our old house, ate mostly out of dumpsters, and except for rent, existed on forty cents a day. He took good care of his bicycle.

A bicycle is the most effecient machine in existance. If you dont want to clean you chain with diesel or tricloroethane you can feel good about simple green or the like. Go buy your self a nice spray can of tri flow, some good street tires pumped up with plenty of air. You will save energy, as in having to buy less food (calories) which take a lot of energy and makes a mess out of the earth to produce, transport, store, cook etc.

It's an unrelated rant, but I see people driving to the gym and "working out" as the ultimate waste of energy. We've got to be the only country on earth where the poor people are fat and the rich people are skinny.

If you are concerned about such things, you are the kind of person we need more of. You have to consume a little space, energy and matter to exist and be happy and healthy.

I personally belive that all human life is precious and everyone should be happy and healthy.

We could discus this matter in person if you like I go to Portland Peaceful Response Friday rally at 5:00 pm SW corner Pioneer Courthouse square. Ben Davis slacks and a striped shirt.

Good awareness 08.Jun.2005 07:54


I think your questions are totally valid. I hope the dude was joking about guilt and needing a psychologist. If everyone was conscious about daily life choices (including the so-called leaders in government and business), we wouldn't be in the mess we're in on the planet.

. 08.Jun.2005 16:16


Threre's something called hippie slick...a chain lube thats made from hemp, I think.


However, their site is down for some reason...ahh, technology.

These issues have nothing to do with guilt... 08.Jun.2005 20:27

oil crash

These issues don't have anything to do with guilt related to consumtpion or any "white male" complex. These are legitimate concerns relating to the availability of petroleum products and industrial manufacturing once the global oil supply runs low. I have thought about this myself. While it personally does not bug me to oil my chain with petroleum products today, I do wonder if such conveniences will be available for me in twenty years...

Wax! 10.Jun.2005 07:30


Paraffin wax has been used to lube chains forever. There's also some brands of drip on wax you can buy but I'm not sure if those contain any petroleum.

bikes are econ viable 10.Jun.2005 10:51

fellow biker

the points raised are worth considering in the context of using less, but also remember we ride our bikes for some of the same reasons people drive, which is because it makes economic cents to do so. unfortunately, most people have too much money and choose to squander it on gas, reasoning it's cheaper to drive than to bike. let's hope gas prices continue to rise.

most effective actions 16.Jun.2005 00:32


its good to generally consume less (used bike parts instead of new, like you do). However, there is a lot of other things you can do which would decrease consumption overall; mainly i'd suggest working with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (www.bta4bikes.org) or the Community Cycling Center (www.communitycyclingcenter.org) or Shift (www.shift2bikes.org) to help get more people biking.

Biking instead of driving probably use 90% less energy. Going to great lengths to reduce consumption further will decrease consumption and energy usage by a few percent, but you could just work on getting rid of the 90% for all your neighbors, family, friends, etc by getting them to bike. Shift's Pedalpalooza is full of good bike events to bring new cyclists on and the BTA has their commuter challenge comming up in September I know they're looking for help planning. And don't forget Car Free Day too!

No need for your guilt 26.Jul.2005 08:33

Jo Routens

If you are using a bike for any utilitarian cycling in the United States at all you are better than 99.99% of the population. Your nitpicking guilt over consumption of resources is, quite frankly, ridiculous. You are a thoroughly superior human being to the mass of 'Muricans who never travel under their own power. It's a hook you have every right to let yourself off of. You are not only saving energy by cycling for useful purposes, you are helping to crack and change an evil, sick transportation culture. You are a good person.

An aftethought 27.Jul.2005 14:00

Jo Routens

If you really want to consume less, ride a bicycle without derailleurs--fixed gear, internally-geared hub, coaster brake, whatever. The source of the greatest consumption of parts on contemporary bicycles are the parts garbage disposals called derailleur drive trains--the more gears your bike has the more maintainance it will need, the more frequently it will need parts replaced.