- When my bicycle gets a flat tire...
Fixing a flat tire is something most cyclists can learn to do for themselves.
And most inner tubes can be patched many times before they need to be tossed out or (better) recycled.
If you don't know how to fix a flat, ask about classes at your local bike shop or cycling club.
As for CO2 cartridges, they may be convenient but they're nobody's idea of green. Take the time to use a pump. You'll find it easiest to keep
your tires at the correct pressure by using a floor pump with a gauge at home, but you can get enough air in to make it home with
a portable pump, too.
- Most of my bicycle rides...
The green benefits of biking are somewhat blunted if you have to burn up a lot of gasoline
every time you take a ride. And, while France and Italy are excellent cycling destinations,
it takes quite a bit of fuel to get there.
- When it starts to get dark I...
Riding at dusk or night doesn't have to be dangerous if you and your bike are properly lit up,
and if you only ride in the bright daylight, you're seriously limiting your use of the bike as personal transportation
for much of the year. Any light is better than no light, but a generator light or rechargeable-battery light,
while expensive, means you won't have to deal with recycling batteries. Today's hub-based generators are (pardon the
expression) light-years ahead of the old bottle type. In general, lights of all kinds have improved tremendously in recent years.
- My bicycle frame is made out of...
Too many people choose a bike frame based on what the pros ride. But do they buy
Formula One cars to drive to the grocery? Aluminum and steel are both fine frame materials
and recyclable. Steel has the additional advantage of being easily repairable, which means a well-cared for steel frame can last
Bamboo frames have been around forever and, though you don't see many of them
(Calfee makes some rather pricey ones),
can you imagine anything more green?
- My favorite cycling outfits are...
Dressing like a bike racer is often more about fashion than function, and there's an environmental
cost associated with all those fancy synthetic fabrics.
Someone who's using a bike as everyday transport is more likely to opt for something a bit more practical.
Wool, believe it or not, is still one of the greatest fabrics around for riding. Bonus: You don't have to wash it as often (see
How Green is
My Laundry)." But don't feel obliged to wear only natural fabrics -- anything that keeps you riding is good. And if you're doing long rides, you're
going to want a good pair of (probably synthetic) shorts designed for that purpose.
- You'll usually find me riding...
If you're serious about being a green cyclist, you'll do most of your riding in your own neighborhood --
replacing trips you might otherwise have taken by car. But there's nothing wrong with
riding just about anywhere that's legal (and that doesn't damage sensitive landscapes like damp mountain meadows).
As for spinning class -- hey, at least you're staying in shape.
- When my bicycle chain gets dirty...
Bike chains do get dirty, and if you don't keep them clean (and occassionally replace them) you'll end up needing to
replace the entire drive train -- a needless waste of resources. You can get a cleaning kit and a more environmentally friendly
solvent at your bike shop, but be sure to dispose of the waste responsibly. Even if your solvent is "green," the gunk
you're cleaning off of your chain probably isn't.
- My bicycle weighs...
Cyclists are often weight-obsessed, but unless you're only racing your bike,
it makes a lot more sense to worry about your own weight and not the bike's.
You won't wee items like fenders, racks, lights, and baskets on the Tour de France,
but they make your bike a lot more useful as personal transportation, which is the greenest way you can use it. One way to have your cake and eat it, too, --
have two bikes -- one for utility riding and one for racing up hills.
- I like to fill my water bottles with...
Most of the time, tap water is perfectly fine for riding -- though you can filter it yourself if you want to improve the taste.
Most people who opt for sports drinks probably don't need them, though if you're doing a long ride on a hot day,
some electrolyte replacement is necessary. You can buy electrolyte tablets (flavored even) and use those with regular water.
- If I get hungry while I'm riding...
Energy bars are very convenient, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that "athletic" food makes you athletic.
Simpler foods will serve you just as well and there's no packaging to worry about.
Still, the occasional energy bar or gel won't destroy the planet if you're careful to dispose of (or even recycle) the wrapper.
And, yes, we've heard of someone who toured thousands of miles fueled largely by wild figs. But he probably had a bamboo bike, too.