Sunday, August 17, 2008

My 'Fixie' Answer to Carbon Footprint Reduction

In my attempt to join force and be part of "Going Green" initiative, I have a mission to reduce my carbon footprint by incorporating several "Green" activities in my daily life.

Since I drive my car around for living, I made it my goal NOT to drive my car as much as possible in my off days. Oh yes, I do have several bicycles that I use to train and ride charity century events. However, the thought of parking my prized bikes outside while doing my chores left me very unsettling.

I need something ride able, cheap, old, and unattractive to thieves but cool looking ... Then came the idea! UJ has this old Trek that as far as my research could come up with, it's an old Trek 600 series made around 1982 using Reynolds 531 frame.

I decided and went on to convert this machine to a solid "fixie". With new tires, replacing rotten saddle with a cheap Selle San Marco and a few radical hack-n-saws of a few other parts, the result is as attached pictures show.

My first ride impressions before my “post-conversion” modifications were:

1) Man, it's a lot harder to climb the hill than my 20-speed bike!
2) Holy crap! It's even harder to go down hill because you can NOT coast on a fixie. I had to learn to use my Biceps Femoris & Gastrocnemius muscles to stop me and my bike from rolling down uncontrollably..
3) Contrary to the "hip" fixie culture, I decided to install a front brake. Man, was I glad I did that.
4) The placement of the brake at the end of the converted bullhorn bar hindered my ability to apply proper grip to pull and climb.
5) I also think I need a handlebar tape to offer me more grip as the bare aluminum is slippery when dry but I hate to think how it reacts when it is wet.
6) The aluminum toe clip pedal has to go!! It's too scary at least for me to worry and spend the time trying to clip in when I have to constantly pedaling while trying to clip in at the same time.

Since I know that the hill I could barely climb out immediately to the right of my house is about 4% grade and the actual hill going up to my house is about 8% grade, I knew that I had no chance of practically using it to do what I wanted to do. So, back to the drawing board again. I went and asked Jordan, my bike mechanic from Marty's Bicycle Shop to change the current rear cog setup from 15 tooth to 18 tooth ring. The result is a resounding success!!

With my simple cargo shorts, t-shirt, solid sneakers and a helmet (mandatory...people!!), I hopped on and pedaled to my coffee shop to have lunch and back. The bike rides like a charm. All the mechanics at the shop said the same thing that they could see why this bike would be at the top of line in it's days.

The conversion cost? Since this bike was initially deemed too old to convert up to a full blown 18 or 20 speed bike and was better be donated, I think my 'fixie' conversion prolongs the life of this bike for at least another 20 years! Anyway, here's the cost of the parts & labor for the conversion.

- plastic pedal: Found in some old parts box for 'FREE'
- a half chain link: $1.70
- Selle San Marco saddle: $30
- Bontrager Cork bar tape: $12
- Surly 18 tooth cog: $31.59
- Front 42 tooth chainring: $25
- Lock ring: $10
- Michelin Pro3 Tires - 1 pair: $80
- Giant inner tubes - 1 pair: $24
- Labor: $75

So, roughly about ~$290, I have myself a wicked cool, functional, unattractive to thieves and practical bike to ride around town to fulfill my goal of reducing my carbon footprint.

I plan to use this bike to:

- Go grocery shopping.
- Go to the gym.
- Go to “my” coffee shop.
- Everything else reachable practically within 20-mile radius.

Like I said, walking is too slow … running is too tiring … driving pollutes the world. Let’s all go back to the basic and ride a bike for simple chores!

Ride on!