Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bike Commuting

After reading the article below, i had to evaluate things a little. The bike trainer i ride at home during the winter plugs into the wall and draws electricity. The TV I watch, or the music i listen to while riding my iondoor bike trainer both draw electricity. I spend many hours a week riding my bike for fitness and then get into my car and drive to and from work.I recently bought a trailer to hook on the back of a bike and have been riding to and from work a few days a week. If i could just figure out how to hook up a generator to my trainer at home, i could save the power i generate during the winter months riding indoors and use the electricity to run the oven so my wife could bake me some cookies.

Oh yea, and it has been a couple weeks since i put gas in my car. I have been debating the cost of gas, which is around $4 a gallon to the cost of Gatorade, which is about the same price per gallon. Environmentally, i think the gatorade is a better choice but i don't know if i am saving money.

It is a little harder for Megan to get the kids around and do the grocery shopping on a bike, but i am thinking of a set-up like this.

Circles: Wasting energy in an energy challenged world
By Rick Crawford
Posted Jun. 27, 2008
First the disclaimer: this is not a typical training article. This is more of a rant that I have been dying to get out there in the public domain. It does involve training, but it’s more of a statement, so please bear with me.

With gas prices so high, I’m looking at the bike quite differently these days. For 32 years now, I have viewed the bike as my sporting medium; my racing tool and speed fix. Rarely have I viewed it as the extremely viable form of transportation that it really is. Now that regular unleaded is more than four bucks a gallon, I don’t take the car for granted. From sheer necessity, the bike has become my primary form of transportation.

This situation has made me wax philosophic on the incredible amount of time I have spent on my bike going nowhere, just riding in big circles. Thousands of times, I have put the bike on the roof-rack, driven to town, done a loop or two with my buddies, and driven home. There were certainly dividends in the form of fitness, recreation, and good times with friends, which is significant. But now I think of the amount of calories vaporizing into nothingness that I myself have been responsible for, it’s mind-boggling. Multiply that by millions of cyclists every day and think of the heat entering the atmosphere, the CO2 we’re expiring, and the sheer amount of energy going nowhere. Yikes.

That line of thinking takes me to another scenario that upon pondering seems somewhat comical. I used to watch Herbie, my dear late pet hamster, run for hours and hours on his treadmill in his little cage. It was entertaining to watch him. My science fair project when I was in seventh grade was to make a tiny little generator out of Herbie's treadmill. It took him a few days, but he eventually stored enough energy to power up a battery and light up a flashlight. Herbie was oblivious. He was going to run no matter what. Think about that. If you put a rodent in a cage, they will run on the treadmill; it’s what they do. The world could be rodent powered!

The funny thing is that people do the same thing. Go to the health club and check out the people on the treadmills, the spin bikes, the elliptical trainers, pumping iron, aerobics classes, lap swimming, and so on. Many of the workout machines are actually plugged in! So there’s the runner (hamster) on the treadmill, sweating profusely, with the machine using even more energy than the runner is producing, air conditioning a-blazin’ to counter all the body heat … all that energy so someone can get a workout. I’m laughing at it now, but I’ve been the proverbial hamster myself so many times.

The health club of the future is going to be a power plant! We don’t need no stinking oil! There are just a few obstacles in the way of this brave new world. Infrastructure is the big one, high energy prices will drive that forward. We need to get rid of business suits, and make sure every facility has showers so that people doing big business feel clean and comfy after they commute to work on their bikes. It should be cool to do big business in casual clothes that can be stuffed into a backpack. And put a laundry room in the office too.

Mindsets need to change. It will be a great day when the guy in the suit looks like a doofus because all the cool, fit, successful people are in their casual clothing after a brisk commute. It takes a lot of energy to iron a shirt you know!

No using elevators either. In this new world, you take the stairs up (storing lots of kinetic energy) and take the elevator down which will capture the kinetic energy to help light up the building. The company provides deodorant and sweat towels. It should be cool to sweat. Imagine how healthy the workforce would be. The healthcare crisis would be addressed along with the energy crisis!

Maybe I’ll start my own utility company. There are a lot of BTUs and watts to be harvested from all those cyclists doing indoor mileage on their trainers. Like Herbie, they are going to get their exercise regardless; they might as well be throwing their energy into the grid. If all the cyclists in the world decided to stop going in circles and were plugged into the grid, it would light up a lot of small villages in third world countries that don’t have electricity. That’s a neat concept.

Transporting myself with the bike has been an amazing experience. I guess I like sticking it to the man. I’m not pumping emissions into the atmosphere, other than the occasional fart now and then. I’m not feeding the demand frenzy for gasoline, and the politics that go with it. I even get the bonus of knowing that I don’t have to pay over four bucks for gas. And of course there are the fitness dividends. I’m going to invest in a trailer for the bike soon so I can haul groceries, which will be no small feat since my rural home is 22 miles from Durango. I would have never thought that I’d be one of those guys, but here I am, and I’m loving it.

It’s okay that I’m not going in circles with my buddies so much anymore. I feel all warm and fuzzy about this quest. I’m really enjoying and I feel like I’m doing the right thing. I do plan on going to Tuesday Worlds every now and then and gauging myself just for grins and the social aspect. In fact, I think once I start pulling this trailer home full of groceries twice per week, I may just get strong as an ox. Watch out Ned Overend; Crawford might come out of retirement!


Ryan said...

about the push ups... hands shoulder width apart, bum down, and make sure your scrotum is about an inch from the ground.

Ryan said...

oh and tell Kevin to stop telling people! Sternum, scrotum...what's the difference anyways! It Sean's fault! I swear he told me scrotum!!

matt b. said...

Holy Cow! for a minute i thought you had really outdone yourself and I was really impressed by how much you had written. Then i realized you only wrote the first two paragraphs (with typos at that), and that the rest is someone else's article.

well, at least your good at drawing.

and why is ryan so obsessed with scrotums?