The Eco-Cyclist’s Guide: How To Embark On Sustainable Bike Travel

By Jake Lakes

The writing is on the wall: Human-caused climate change is real. And according to the scientific community, we’re quickly running out of time. People are increasingly aware of this, changing their habits to limit emissions. Considering cars and airplanes account for a significant percentage of fossil fuel emissions, many are opting for eco-friendly ways to travel. Train journeys, for example, emit just 10% of the equivalent flight. But the clear winner is bike travel: here’s how to do it sustainably.

Pick the Right Bike 

The mistake most beginners make is focusing on the brand and price of the bike, rather than going for something tailored to individual needs. The best bike for you won’t tick the boxes for everyone, so you must spend a fair amount of time getting it right. 

We recommend going to a specialist bike store, where they will know exactly what works for your height and other individual requirements. Department stores will not have this knowledge, and any advice you get will be general or pulled out of thin air. 

Remember, it’s not all about the ticket price. You can get a model that fits you perfectly, without needing to spend a fortune. Don’t compromise, or the bike will end up gathering dust! 

If you’re unsure about cycling, you can always rent first. See whether you like it in the first place. The last thing you want is to buy a new bike (which also has a carbon footprint!), and then never use it. 

Look After Your Bike 

When you take care of a bike properly, it’ll outlive you. Ignore it, and it may be ready for the scrap heap in just a couple of years. Look after your bike regularly, and you’ll avoid replacing parts. 

If you aren’t confident, ask your local bike store and get checkups. They’ll be happy to give you some pointers on how to keep your bike in tip-top shape. Remember, it’s far cheaper to prevent issues than having to deal with a severely damaged bike. 

Eco-Friendly Cleaning 

Bike travel can get dirty. If you’re out during the rain, snow, sleet, mud will be a common enemy. When you get home, you’ll want to completely clean your bike to ensure it remains in good condition. 

However, many cleaning products are not very friendly to the environment. It’s extra harmful when cleaning bikes, as you’re often doing it outdoors (which causes the chemicals to damage soil, for example). 

Instead, use products that are PTFE-free. Polytetrafluoroethylene is something you want to avoid at all costs. Companies like Muc Off, for example, cater specifically to bike enthusiasts, and you can rest easy knowing the environment won’t suffer.  

Leave No Trace 

When you spend time outdoors, stick to this golden rule: leave no trace. This can be a little tricky when you’re out on your bike, as it requires a little bit of planning. 

We recommend taking an extra bag to pack any trash you can’t get rid of right away. When you wash any dishes (or yourself!), do so at least 200 feet away from bodies of water (e.g. streams, lakes, rivers, etc.). Use biodegradable products. If you want to go the extra mile, pick up trash that others have left behind. 

Stick to Sustainable Cycling Brands 

Eco-friendly cycling products go beyond ‘just’ your bike. You also need the rest of your kit, and there’s a wide range here. You should try and be careful here, sticking with brands that make the environment a priority

In the first instance, try and get second-hand cycling gear. This is the most eco-friendly option, but some of your kit will inevitably need to be brand new. Opt for sustainable brands like Vaude, Endura, and Patagonia in these scenarios. 

Daily Bike Use for the Win! 

Try and use your bike as much as possible, not just for long journeys or holidays. Those daily bike rides will add up over time and will make a significant impact on your household emissions. 

Check if your place of work has a Cycle to Work Scheme or similar. If not, see whether you can push its implementation. Cycling daily isn’t just a positive for the environment; it will also have a major effect on your physical health and overall well-being. 

Every Journey Counts 

Using your bike for every possible journey is a noble aim, but the reality is that it’s complicated, especially in our modern world, where everything revolves around fossil-backed travel options. 

But don’t let guilt take over, as it can often lead to an exasperated end to your sustainable travel journey. Instead, take it one trip at a time. Try and use your bike as much as possible; the fitter you get, the easier it is to fit it into your daily life. 


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