Green mountain biking

In the past mountain bikers have received a bad rap for damaging the environment and in all honesty, our reputation hasn’t been entirely undeserved. Trails were often constructed with little consideration for erosion, trashed bike parts could be found “decorating” the surroundings, and wet trail riding created potholed trails with puddles that never seemed to dry. For the most part we’ve been enlightened and changed our ways thanks to groups like IMBA but there’s one more thing to consider when planning your next bike trip: carbon emissions.

No, this isn’t a joke about flatulence; I’m talking about the emissions you generate when you drive to your favorite trailhead for an afternoon of mountain biking. Unlike other fitness activities like jogging or even road cycling, mountain biking almost always involves putting the bikes on/in the car and driving somewhere to find dirt. For a lot of us good trails are becoming harder to find locally and development is driving trails further and further from city centers.

Here’s a quick emissions calculation to put all that driving in perspective: assuming you drive an average of 15 miles each way to the trail and you go riding twice a week that’s more than 3,000 miles of driving just to ride your bike! I personally don’t get to ride quite that often but when I do I generally take day trips of up to 100 miles from my home so 3,000 annual miles isn’t much of a stretch for me. Anyway, 3,000 miles of driving releases over 1 ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which you will promptly breathe back in when you finally get on the trail 😉

I’m really not the tree hugging type myself but I did come up with 3 ideas for ways we can reduce our mountain biking carbon footprints (trendy eh?). Here they are, from easy to more difficult:

1. Carpool. Maybe you already do this, and if so, good for you. All it takes is a little extra planning to coordinate with your buddies so you can all ride to the trail together. Maybe this will finally give you the excuse you need to upgrade to a swanky roof rack system to haul all those bikes.

2. Use carbon offsets. Did you know you can actually pay someone to dispose of your carbon emission guilt for you? I did a little research and offsetting 1 ton of carbon emissions will only set you back around $15. While you have your checkbook out you could also show some love to IMBA as well, they’re good for the environment too you know 😉

3. Get involved in creating and improving local trails. This won’t happen overnight but having more sustainable urban and suburban trails is great for everyone. There are plenty of ways to help: volunteering at a local workday, petitioning your local politicians, donating $$, organizing local riders, etc. Just imagine how sweet it would be to have a killer trail within riding distance from you house!

So there you go – 3 ways to reduce your environmental impact from mountain biking in 2008. Al Gore would be so proud.