So You Think Your Bike is Eco-Friendly? You Might Need to Recheck It

So You Think Your Bike is Eco-Friendly? You Might Need to Recheck It

Compared to other forms of transportation, bike is one of the most eco-friendly alternatives that you can easily find and get. Without a doubt, biking gives a win-win solution to your health and the environment. But the truth is, those bikes (including yours right now) are not always eco-friendly.

To start with, do you know where the bike company manufactures the frame? If it travels far to the bike shop where you buy one, then it wouldn’t be so eco-friendly, right? And how do you get to bike trails that you usually go to?

If you drive to your favorite bike trails using a car which are not energy-efficient and you only bike once you’ve arrived, then it’s not exactly environmentally friendly. If you’re really committed to making the environment happy, then use your bike to go there.

when you want to go mountain biking, don't drive but ride
when you want to go mountain biking, don’t drive but ride

Also, pay attention to where you’re riding. It’s important to stay on the trail rather than taking shortcuts that makes you end up breaking or disturbing wildflowers (because some might be rare).

It’s wise to not damage the track or take corners too lightly as well. So before we begin, it’s necessary to acknowledge that having eco-friendly bike does not mean that you can be an irresponsible biker.

Now let’s say that you commute everywhere by biking and your choice of bicycle is e-bike. Logically, you leave very small carbon footprint than cars or motorcycles. However, you need to pay attention to the battery. If it’s Lithium-ion 36v, just know that the manufacturing process for those batteries involve cobalt and nickel compounds. Those are nasty stuff for the environment.

Those batteries might need to be recharged with electricity derived from fuel. And not only that, the battery manufacturer could also have a potential to have problems with ethical labor practices.

So when you think buying an e-bike will make you eco-friendly, that’s not always the case. It makes commuting and pedaling easier, sure, but it’s not entirely good for environment.

lightweight aluminium bike
lightweight aluminium bike by ell brown wikimedia commons

Okay, e-bikes are probably not the best solution. What about the usual bikes with aluminium frame? It’s not totally great, but it’s better. Aluminium is undeniably light and strong, and you want those qualities in your bike. And lighter bikes are indeed the best.

However, this material doesn’t have the nicest excavation because it involves open-pit mining as well as machines that takes a lot of energy for processing. But the truth is that a good steel frame bikes doesn’t have significant weight differences. It’s just that aluminium tubes are easier to work with and thicker, but this actually doesn’t give you outstanding benefit.

Another thing that makes aluminium not so great is that they only last for 5 to 10 years (only if you really take care of it well). You’ll find wear and tear sooner, but you don’t really have the option to repair it. Why? Because aluminium bike is low-cost to begin with, so that repairing it won’t be cost-effective.

What about recycle? It is true that you can recycle aluminium anywhere. But there are structural reasons that make recycled material unfit for creating a new bike. Even if there are recycled aluminium bikes, they’re very rare. In the end, bike manufacturers get the materials from mines again and the cycle continues.

titanium bike
titanium bike by Keanu wikimedia commons

If aluminium is not the answer, would titanium be it? Titanium frames are light as well, top bikers or top names have endorsed them, and they’re expensive. Usually those three means that your green effort is on the right track, but not actually.

Compared to aluminium, titanium doesn’t fatigue easily. They won’t rust or corrode and they’ll last a lot lot longer than aluminium if you treat it well. But the drawback is that this material is not easy to extract and so hard to be forged or fused. Imagine the amount of energy you need to build one bike.

“No worries, there’s carbon fibre!” Yes. Despite being light, this type of frame’s quality is great strength. It’s usually the choice of pro bikers and if you have one, boasting this bicycle to your biking friends is just worth it.

It’s just that carbon fibre isn’t always stable and the manufacturing process releases a great amount of emission. And it’s also unrecyclable, so once it’s terribly broken or crashed, it means you have to buy a new one.

even though it looks old and not nice, you can still use old steel bikes
even though it looks old and not nice, you can still use old steel bikes

As I have sort of foreshadowed earlier, the metal sort of materials which is the most eco-friendly is steel. Does your grandma or grandpa have an old steel bike that doesn’t look like today’s bicycles? Rejuvenate it and take it out for a sweet ride.

The production process of making steel-framed bikes only releases a third of CO2 emissions of aluminium manufacturing. And not only that, this material is 100% recyclable and reusable. Sustainable material for bikes, how about that?

Steel frame also lasts so long, probably forever even if you don’t take care of it well enough. In fact, these bikes are the ones which will take care of you as long as you could possibly want.

And if something goes wrong, you can easily repair it without spending a lot of money. Basically, It’s so durable and long lasting, so even though your grannies’ old bike might not look cool or straight up ugly, it still does the job very well. Talk about being faithful!

cycling in the mountains
wooden bike can take you to high places like the mountains without a problem

You might be thinking, “Well, let’s forget about metal and go for the more organic ones like wood.” Fortunately, technology is one of humanity’s great civilization booster now that you can find wooden frame bikes in this era.

If you can get one, then great. It’s not only eco-friendly and sustainable, wood surprisingly has amazing shock and vibration damping properties. It’s also tough and even more durable than metal. Wooden bikes won’t disappoint you like carbon fibre bikes when you take them to mountains, as well. If you want negative carbon footprint, bamboo bikes are also available out there.

So now you know about the variety of materials that your bikes are made of. Do you think your bikes are eco-friendly? Tell us in the comments below and don’t forget to check out this article for related reading. Happy riding!



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