Build Bikes to Quality, not Price

I’ve written about cheap bikes before several times, but today I want to talk about why it makes no sense to build bikes down to a price which compromises quality.

A rusty old cheap bike in Worthing.

One of the reasons I love companies such as Riese & Muller is because they build the bikes they themselves want to ride. They use the best components they can find that will create the best bike possible, and whatever that amounts to, that’s the price you pay. That’s not to say you can’t make quality bikes for an affordable amount, but what people consider affordable needs to change.

For example, my Dutch bike from Batavus cost me about £600. For that amount of money, you get a workhorse of a bike that you can ride every day, and you don’t have to worry about it. Barely any maintenance is required and it’s the perfect short distance commuter for a flat area. You can get bikes that look similar for around half the price, and they come with derailleurs, lower quality metal components that will rust quickly, and things like tyres will be cheaper and more puncture prone.

You will be a slave to your local bike shop if you buy one of those type of imitation Dutch bikes, and you won’t enjoy your riding as much either. In the grand scheme of things, that extra £300 is not much, and most likely you will save yourself at least that amount because you probably won’t get punctures and you won’t need to replace drivetrain parts. I certainly haven’t done any maintenance on my Batavus in the 2 years I’ve owned it, and I’m not expecting to do much any time soon.

But beyond just the financial and ownership aspects, simply put, cheap bikes are not sustainable. The bike industry, and society would be so much better off if we increase the minimum cost of a bike significantly. You could still sell single speed bikes for less, because they’re so simple. But other types of bikes should really start at around that £600 mark if we’re going to have a sustainable cycling system.

It would also be very helpful for shops to have less cheap bikes coming back for parts and service. We have lost a lot of bike shops in the last several years and more quality bikes going out the door will help give these businesses a bit of extra breathing room to cope with the increased demand we need to see. It would also allow time to scale bike retail up to the kind of levels we see in The Netherlands and Denmark.

Eventually, we’ll get to where the Dutch are now. Average bike sale prices in The Netherlands are about 3 times higher than countries like the UK, and that’s no coincidence. It’s a result of treating bicycles as vehicles. The more respect is shown for cycling, the more money people spend on bikes. That’s the future we want, but we have to start by cutting out the unsustainable junk.

I Don’t Feel Like I Identify With Anyone

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Recently I’ve felt very alone in my views on the world. When I look at other people who I agree with on certain things, there are other things about them that bother me. Sometimes a lot. One of the only people I can think of who I agree with on pretty much everything is Greta Thunberg. She understands the immediate danger of the climate crisis, and she understands everything that is required to create a sustainable future. She understands social issues, and she understands economic issues including the fallacy of eternal economic growth.

Perhaps I’m on the autism spectrum as well. It would explain a lot about me and my uncompromising mentality. When she said that hope comes from action, it resonated with me strongly. When I don’t see action I feel deeply depressed and angry with the world. When I see corruption or apathy I despair at what we still are not as a global society.

I’m not one of those eternal optimists who always see the positives. Sometimes there are no positives. You have to have the ability to acknowledge that and take action to make the situation better. If you’re an optimist perhaps you don’t see the problem at all and therefore don’t take any action. Maybe eternal optimists are a big part of the reason we’re in the middle a climate disaster, and all of these far right wannabe dictators are running so many countries into the ground.

I’ve had people complain to me about how the country is or how the world is etc. But they told me that they believe whatever will be will be. It’s all fate. I would obviously counter that by saying if that’s what you’re resigned to, then that’s what you’ll get if you don’t engage with democracy. The bad people keep winning. And maybe stop complaining about how much Brexit sucks now too.

There are so many examples of times where I get frustrated when I’m dealing with people I broadly agree with. On the local Facebook cycling group, people are happy about the council doing next to nothing about cycling, and I come across as really negative, because I know what needs to be done and how fast. People don’t understand where I’m coming from and I just appear to be rude to them.

I commented on a YouTube video about sustainability talking about electric pick up trucks. It’s a channel I’ve subscribed to for years and really enjoy. I used to love electric cars. But because I’m always challenging myself and changing my mind on things, I’m now anti private car ownership (especially large cars). Most EV fans haven’t had the realization that cycling, Micromobility and autonomy are the future, and so I don’t get a lot of support.

The thought of how long it will take before everyone does get on the same page is terrifying to consider. Every day we waste is compounding the situation when we’re already facing a rapidly accelerating increase in temperatures, ice loss, sea level rise, extreme weather disasters etc. I spent 5 minutes this evening just looking out the window at the busy road which is basically back to the usual insane traffic level. The noise of every car just pisses me off at this point. I saw one Model 3 and one BMW i3, and even the two EVs I saw out of the hundreds of cars overall still made almost the same amount of noise due to the tyres. And then one girl on a bike rode past on the pavement, and there was no noise at all. One single cyclist. And not even one pedestrian.

When everywhere you look you see people who think net zero 2050 is a reasonable time frame for action and that we need to replace every single fossil car with an EV, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone. I feel fortunate that there are at least a handful of people out there who truly get it and help me to stay somewhat sane in an utterly mad world. I keep thinking the worst must be over by now, but it keeps surprising me again and again. I just have to pin my hopes on the way back down from the summit of stupidity being immensely faster than the long and arduous climb the last half century has been.

The Average U.K. Train is Twice as Old as the Average Car

How can it be that the average car on our roads is about 8 years old, while the average train has spent around 19 years on the tracks. Trains will travel many times the distance of a car during its lifetime, and because they’re used by so many people, it makes sense to replace them at regular intervals of around 10 years. It keeps the experience fresh and enjoyable for passengers and keeps the railways relevant to the world changing around it. In many cases, they can keep on going, and that allows you to send older rolling stock to other lines. Especially if it allows you to replace old diesel trains with newer electric ones. You routinely see this kind of thing in Asia when old Japanese trains often find their way to less developed nations in the region for example.

If the old carriages are not needed on other lines, they can of course also be refurbished or recycled. We’ve seen an example of up-cycling recently when some old tube trains were refurbished for use on a national rail line. Vivarail have even been turning some of them into battery electric trains, which for me is how they all should be. It’s the easiest way to electrify old lines and make rail travel even more sustainable.

It’s important to remember that it’s ok to replace new trains every 10 years. You can see it as wasteful when you can keep running old trains for decades. But on lines where Pacers are still used for example, you won’t find many people who love that service or those trains, apart from the rare fanatical enthusiast. Even if we were to do the worst possible thing and just scrap the trains after 10 years, that would be nothing compared to the insane levels of waste that the car industry creates. We need huge and sustained investment and we need it to be spent in the right places. It must provide the best bang for the buck. So, in other words, everything other than HS2.

How do you live sustainably as a Billionaire?

If you were a billionaire and you chose to live a sustainable life from this point forward, what could you actually spend your money on? It’s a pretty interesting question.

Living sustainably means creating the lowest impact you possibly can in every area of your life. Your home, transport, food and drink and everything in between. I’m certainly not an expert on this. I just think it’s an interesting topic to speculate about. And it may not be long at all before the age of Jeff Bezos buying the biggest house in LA without a second thought is over with. So why not prepare ourselves for that day now?

I imagine that for housing, you’d be limited to either a tiny house of some description, or the smallest flat that could meet your living requirements with no excessive space. The only real difference between the rich and the poor would be the area the building is located, and the materials used in the construction.

Transport is quite a simple one as I see it. We will have autonomous cars pretty soon, and I imagine that as part of this transition, you will no longer be allowed to own a car for your own use exclusively. And you certainly won’t be able to accumulate giant garages of exotic fossil fueled sports cars. Money will certainly give you access to more luxurious autonomous vehicles, but it will still be a far cry from the private jet lifestyle we see today. We will likely also see Hyperloop emerge as a replacement for flying and this will likely offer private pods for the wealthy in a similar way as we see today. But you won’t own them as the billionaires of today own their jets. So again, another area where more money won’t give you the huge difference in experience which is currently the case.

When it comes to clothing and general stuff, we will all be living in these small homes, and any stuff you buy will need to be useful and not excessive. You’ll still be able to use your wealth to buy the nicest clothes out of the most exclusive sustainable materials, but you’ll be limited in how much you can own. We will all have smaller wardrobes, filled with much higher quality stuff that we will actually wear. This will be a huge improvement over the current situation, and will massively narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

I could go on but I think this makes the situation quite clear. The future that we know is coming requires us to live smaller, more locally, with less (albeit higher quality stuff). There will be no mansions, giant yachts, private jets or supercar collections to spend your billions on. So perhaps this has something to do with the fierce resistance to the ideas of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and anyone else who dares spout just a tiny amount of this thing called common sense which has been long forgotten in world society.

The end of capitalism is required in order to make a better world, and they will fight us all the way. Which doesn’t really make a lot of sense considering we want a better world. It’s not like we’re threatening to blow everything up like a villain in a blockbuster movie after all.