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Cycling is one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable ways to travel. It also offers numerous health benefits, both physical and mental.
And the popularity of cycling continues to grow. It’s estimated that around 6.5 million people cycle each year in England alone, for work, leisure or sport. But whatever your reason for opting for two wheels, it’s impossible nowadays not to be aware that it’s a green activity.
With growing consciousness around the climate emergency, at least some manufacturers of cycling accessories are responding. It’s possible now to own a sustainable helmet – traditional bike helmets being difficult to recycle. You can even clean your bike with eco-friendly cleaning products.
In spite of all this, the production of most bicycles still has a significant carbon footprint. But some manufacturers are leading the way in creating bikes that are as eco-friendly as possible.
Carbon Footprint of Bicycle Manufacturing
The manufacture of an average bicycle emits approximately 100kg of CO2e, around 55 times less than that produced by the manufacture of a small car. Riding a bicycle has a carbon footprint of around 20g of CO2 per kilometre, which is less than a tenth of those produced by a car.
The materials that make up most bikes, such as aluminium, carbon, rubber and steel, have a negative impact on the environment in terms of how they’re obtained and how they’re transported – using fossil fuels to fly or ship them from abroad.
Once you’re travelling by bike, you’ll offset the carbon footprint of its manufacture after cycling around 430 miles (according to the Trek Sustainability Report released in 2021).
But with over 100 million bicycles being manufactured globally each year, the environmental impact of producing bikes is still a cause for concern.
Most Sustainable Materials for Bicycles
Bamboo and wood are highly sustainable materials for bicycles, and the manufacture of these types of bikes is slowly increasing. There are also manufacturers who use recycled parts to make their bikes, both metal and plastic.
Bamboo bikes are incredibly strong, and the bamboo itself, if sustainably sourced, has a negative carbon footprint.
Wooden bikes are also extremely tough and durable, competing easily with their metal counterparts. Wood grows far more slowly than bamboo, but if sourced and managed properly it is both sustainable and renewable.
Out of the traditional materials used for bike frames, steel is more environmentally friendly than aluminium. Not only does the manufacture of steel frames produce two thirds less CO2 emissions than aluminium, but it’s also fully recyclable.
And there are some bike manufactures now sourcing virtually all of their parts from the same country that the bikes are manufactured in, greatly reducing the environmental impact of transportation.
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Eco-Friendly Bikes [Top 4]
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With its bamboo frame and sleek design, this is a beautiful and versatile bike suitable for riding on all types of surfaces, on road and off. You can choose between three build setups, and mechanical disc brakes or V brakes. And if you want a rear rack? That can be provided in bamboo, too.
Bamboocycles started in 2008 as a small but inspiring project to help create bikes out of natural and renewable materials. It’s grown substantially since then, but their raw materials are still sourced locally. Not only is bamboo completely renewable, taking only three years to grow, it also generates 30% more oxygen than trees.
And for those still wavering over whether bamboo is strong enough? Bamboo is in fact one of the strongest materials in nature, with twice the tolerance of steel, and far lighter. This is a seriously durable bike.
As well as the Texcoco Gravel, Bamboocycles also offer an impressive range of 11 different models, including a hybrid, single-speed, road bike, and even a BMX.
Prices are approximate
Ash wood grown in UK
Wooden bicycles are on the increase, although some do have fairly quirky designs that may not always be to everyone’s taste.
And then there are Twmpa Cycles. Twmpa design and manufacture high-performance gravel bikes that are tough and lightweight with hand-built wooden frames. Be warned, they are not a budget option, but they are bespoke, incredibly durable and stunning to look at.
The Rival 1 Build is one of the less expensive options, coming with a carbon fork, Hope Technology headset, wheelset and bracket, and Easton handlebar. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s built for performance and longevity. And it’s environmentally friendly.
The ash wood used in Twmpa’s frames is grown in the UK under a sustainable forestry program. This wood has a higher strength to weight ratio than steel or aluminium along with unique vibration damping properties, resulting in a smooth ride. The frames are also treated inwardly and outwardly to ensure they are completely weather-resistant.
3. Bjorn Bikes
Prices are approximate
Made from 60% recycled steel
Plastic-free, recycled cardboard packaging
Bjorn offer sustainably-produced frames as a starting point, from which customers can build a bike to suit their individual needs. It’s versatile and strong, designed to handle a variety of different riding styles and suitable for rough and smooth terrains.
The team at Bjorn Bikes are as passionate about producing environmentally-friendly bikes as they are about riding. Their frames are made using 60% recycled stainless steel, and even the alloy forks are painted with eco-friendly paint.
As well as their signature frames, they also offer T-shirts and rubber grips, both of which are 100% recycled.
The frames are packaged in 100% recycled cardboard, with no plastic whatsoever, and are shipped by sea in order to reduce carbon emissions. Sustainability is a key priority, and Bjorn offset all carbon emissions from their manufacturing and shipping.
Prices are approximate
Made from ethically sustainable steel
Sourced locally to reduce transportation
For those wanting an elegant, classic bicycle for relaxed riding, the Pashley Princess Classic offers just that. This is one of a range of Pashley bicycles reflecting traditional English design. All of their bicycles are hand-built by a small team of experienced craftsmen.
The Princess Classic, with its timeless design, fuses practicality and beauty. Equipped with a full chaincase, mudguards and rear skirtguards, you can cycle in style with minimal grime ever reaching your clothes.
Available in black or green, the Classic model has a step-through frame and 3 speed hub gears for simple leisure riding. It also comes with a Brooks leather saddle, classic wicker basket and dynamo light. A perfect bike for those who prefer a more comfortable riding experience.
Pashley bikes are made ethically with sustainable steel. If components cannot be made in-house, they are first sourced locally (in the Midlands, where the company is based), and then more widely in the UK. This ethos reduces the carbon footprint of transportation, and they will only source parts from overseas if absolutely necessary.