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Carbon Wheel Print

AS CYCLISTS IT MAY BE ROMANTIC TO THINK WE’RE AT THE VANGUARD OF SUSTAINABILITY. BUT AS PETER MANIATY EXPLORES, THE VAST MAJORITY OF US ARE STILL FAR FROM CARBON NEUTRAL.

Cycling's Environmental Impact

IT WILL OUTLAST RELIGION. This is how a production director I once worked with described the materials used to make the accoutrements that surround our 21st Century lives, including those associated with cycling. Plastics. Composites. Fabrics. Inks. Varnishes. Additives. Solvents. Adhesives. Lubricants. All ingenious in their own way. But invariably with carbon footprints bigger than Oleg Tinkov’s bank balance.

While undoubtedly more palatable for the planet than combustion-powered transport, it’s fanciful to think there is no carbon cost associated with riding a bike. In fact, the deeper and more holistic your view, the broader the environmental impact of our riding becomes. According to a somewhat contentious 2013 study by Aidan Duffy from the Dublin Institute of Technology and Robert Crawford from the University of Melbourne cycling can produce around 40% of the carbon emissions of driving. Even if the reality is only half that amount it still seems pretty high. Until you do the math, as I recently did.

Turns out I’ve ridden something like 47,000km over the past six years. In that time I’ve accumulated, crashed or offloaded six bikes of various pedigrees (one of which now adorns my wall as a custom lamp), eight sets of wheels, four pumps, three heart rate monitors, one power meter, one turbo trainer, one work stand, roof-racks for my car, at least fifteen bidons, seven helmets, eleven sets of tyres, over thirty inner tubes, forty CO2 canisters, in excess of twenty-five riding kits and base layers that constantly need to be washed, four pairs of bike shoes and perhaps fifteen sets of cleats, more pairs of socks and gloves than I could ever possibly need, smeared at least six pots of chamois cream on my nether regions, lathered my face, arms and legs with litres of sunscreen, cut myself with more than one hundred disposable razors, consumed thousands of gels, bars, lollies and bananas, guzzled several inflatable pools worth of water, energy drinks, protein shakes and coffee, worked my way through four different bicycle computers constantly in need of recharging, considerably more bike lights, and purchased a mind-bending array of tools, cleaning products and drivetrain lubricants. I’ve also hauled my fully laden bike box everywhere from Brisbane, Geelong and Adelaide to Tamworth, Devonport and Mt Buller. I can only imagine how many hours I’ve spent analysing ride data on my laptop and smartphone.

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Bicycling Australia is packed with interesting and useful information that will enhance your cycling experience. Our expert writers specialise in providing detailed information on training, positioning, health and nutrition, designed to help you ride better. There’s also unbiased, critical analysis of new products—from parts, and accessories, to clothing and nutrition, to full bike reviews—all with detailed photography to help you buy better. You'll also find Where to Ride suggestions in every issue, for destinations both in Australia and overseas. Download your copy now!
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