How do automobiles work? What are the core principles of automobiles? Why haven't I owned one until recently? Why do I own one? The answer to these questions and probably more may appear in this blog post.
Let's start with a bicycle, my preferred mechanism of transportation. Despite slander that occurs against it, bicycling is one of the most efficient forms of transportation that exists. I'll get to why below. Why would anyone need anything else? Well, bicycles are terrible modes of transportation for long distances. I live far enough away from work to make cycling a bad commute. I can do it, but not 5 days a week, not even 3 days a week. Bicycles are light and provide significant advantage over walking, running, swimming, kayaking, driving, and bussing, but in a very short range. Anyone who says they bicycle to and from work everyday lives a short distance from work or can cycle for a significant amount of time. How far is the furthest I've heard someone commute by bicycle? 17 or so miles up hill both ways is about the furthest and the cyclist was in terrific shape. The furthest I've cycled daily is 5 miles each way. It was so difficult that I could only ride 4 times per week, leaving me at home 1 day per week.
Efficient? If you are limited to only cycling 50 miles per week, your carbon footprint is almost non-existent. Remember that your footprint is eating and then breathing, something that all drivers must also do. If you eat more than a driver (which is silly to consider), it won't be much. Then where does all that energy (kinetic: ½mv² and potential: mgh) come from? Well, it's pretty clear that it's the pedaling you do. But everyone should exercise. Cyclists just do it on their way to work instead of at a gym or running in a circle. Have you ever exercised before? So let's compare a car and driver to a cyclist.
Random carbon footprint calculator says a car emits 1.03 metric tons of CO2 driving 2500 miles.
Another random carbon footprint says that the average American emits 20 metric tons of CO2 in a year.
But these are not good comparisons because the average American drives to work. The average person in the Netherlands rides a bicycle to work and emits 10 metrics tons of CO2 in a year. So the amount of carbon emission between a cyclist and a driver can vary by 10 metric tons per year. A car driving just 5 miles each way only emits 1.03 metric tons, so we're talking about an order of magnitude difference in carbon footprint. Alas, this doesn't solve the problem of whether bicycles are more efficient than cars, but it does provide us with some scale.
I just bought a beautiful new bicycle. I've been riding my previous bike for nearly a decade. It's seen some tough time and I've tried to replace it more than once but it has been the only one to survive. Perhaps it's sunny disposition has turned potential thieves hearts or perhaps its resale value (less than scrap) has never attracted them. Of course wheels, brakes, and seats have been stolen from my old bike, mostly while parked outside Kinokuniya overnight which have made the bicycle fairly expensive to keep running while I lived in the International district in Seattle. I spent a small fortune on tubes when I accidentally put presta tubes in a rim sized for schrader. Anyway, the bicycle was on the heavy side (35 lbs, 77 kg), the shocks never really worked properly besides lightening the blow from some road features, and the bottom bracket is making a terrible noise despite replacing it. If I didn't buy a new bike I suspect that it would outlast me, but since I am prepared to the point of paranoia to prevent theft of this new bicycle, I am going to recycle the old bicycle. Perhaps someone can make odds or ends of the pieces or maybe the bottom bracket problem is not as bad as it seemed. This bicycle proves that cheap bicycles can survive a long time, but also that they are as expensive as expensive bicycles when you factor in maintenance and theft. The obvious benefit of a new bicycle is weight. This bicycle is 28 lbs (62 kg), a savings of 7 lbs (15 kg). Along with the bicycle I bought clipless pedals and shoes to go with them. While this adds a few pounds (since I'll have to carry shoes) it makes up for that in spades by delivering effective power to the pedal. There is some some dispute about the value of clipless pedals but certainly practically every serious cyclist can't be wrong (and yet still we test).
So what bicycle, what mods, and what changes will I plan to make? I bought the Black Kona Dew, which is a hybrid, has no suspension, v brakes, and stock everything. I added Shimano PD-M520 clipless pedals and I plan to switch out the quick release for allen and add a nice bike computer to track my progress. I'm going to add a front light when I start riding in the dark. For now I'll just jerry-rig a flashlight if I find myself out too late or too early. No other modifications? I plan to add a few dozen grams of paint so that is isn't just black. That's right, I'm going to make it three colors. One of my favorite bicycle colors was a purple/green pearlescent but I don't want my bike to stand out as much as that. Instead, I will be trying to make it a little less flat. I'm normally fine with matte black but there's something about a black bicycle. You can track the bicycle's progress here: Bike index link. Unless something bad happens, the page should just be a brief description of the bike with maybe a photo.
Cycling is for many people a recreation but for me it is a mode of transportation from one place to another. This bicycle isn't supposed to get me in shape, but I suppose it will. This bicycle isn't supposed to be a fast mode of transport in case of emergency, but it can be that. This bicycle isn't supposed to make it so I can spend time with friends away from civilization because getting away from civilization without a car isn't something a person can do very easily. Not just here, anywhere. The furthest from civilization you can get without a car anywhere is how far you can ride minus your current depth in civilization, so a place like Seattle which is very deep in civilization might not be possible to reach nature. For example, riding from Seattle Ferry Terminal to Falls View Campground in Olympic National Forest is a 42.6 mile ride with a huge elevation change. Though it would probably take 10 hours, it would be possible for me in my current shape. Without the elevation change, this was cake for 16-year-old me, riding 80 miles per day for 4 days in a row on a well-tuned mountain bike (yes, with shocks) was not a big problem.Read more »