Let’s put our money where our minds are.

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of cyclists want a clean planet and less pollution. We are out in the open, we’re exercising our lungs, and we don’t like breathing in smog. So it makes sense that we don’t want to support companies that are making the world a dirtier, more contaminated place to live.

Personally, I have long been a supporter of green issues, and I get very angry at the lack of support from the government and establishment in general for a non-carbon based economy. There is a lack of serious investment in a sustainable economy and renewable energies; it just seems like not nearly enough is being done. But you know what, sometimes it’s too easy to point the finger at others. Sure, other people, especially the powerful, could and should do more… but what about me? Well, up until yesterday I was buying both my energy and gas from e.on. Yes, you read that correctly – e.on. Not the most ecologically progressive company. So what the hell was I doing, handing over about a £1,000 each year to a company that is harming the “environment“, and the “environment” is not just some woolly thing you read about in the Guardian, it is our home, let’s face it. Well I can only put it down to inertia, laziness, and an unfounded worry about the cost of switching to another company.

What finally spurred me into action was reading a Friends of the Earth article asking people to post their horror stories about the big energy companies. Now I don’t have any horror stories about my time with e.on – the truth is that I have experienced no issues whatsoever, and their staff are always very polite on the phone – but it just made me think “what the *&%$ and I doing? I should be with a renewables energy provider.” So I finally pulled my proverbial finger out of my proverbial ass and checked out Ecotricity. The feedback about the company seemed to be good, so I emailed their customer service and exchanged 2 or 3 emails with a helpful employee called Stacey and now I’m in the process of switching over. I don’t expect I’ll have any regrets – in fact right now, my only regret is not having done it sooner!

So – don’t be a slouch like I was – if you think green, then act green, and get on over to either Ecotricity or Good Energy and start putting your money where your mind is.

Ecotricity and Good Energy are UK energy providers. Do you know any others? What about in other countries, who are your green energy suppliers?

Deciding when and where to ride

I consider myself pretty fortunate in that I live in an area of the country that has a good number of quiet roads suitable for cycling for leisure purposes. Luckily I work from home so I can choose any route I wish for my cycle rides and am not limited to retreading the same route day after day.

However I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there are a number of considerations that come into play everytime I think about going out for a ride. Do I choose the route that starts off uphill, going along an A-road that is the continuation of the town by-pass, and therefore carries traffic that is heavier and faster than on other roads? The plus side of this road is that it is slightly wider than others so allows vehicles more room to pass. Or do I risk going into town and westwards along a B-road that dips and then follows a steep incline at the summit of which is a house where the owner often allows his dogs to roam around the road? Despite having spoken to both the owner and the police the problem of the untethered dogs and inadequately enclosed property perimeter does not seem to have been resolved. So I have to decide whether I want to risk having several dogs biting at my feet and chasing me along the road (I’ll probably post a fuller article about this at a later date).

Other considerations involve the difficulty and length of the ride, and whether I start off going uphill or downhill. And whether the end of the route is uphill or downhill (unsurprisingly, downhill is my preference at the end of the ride!)

My usual inclination is to use quiet roads as much as possible. No matter how often I tell myself that I have the right to cycle on any road I wish, the reality of wondering how close the next car is going to come when overtaking always puts a dampener on proceedings – although the thought of it is not usually as bad as the reality of it. So generally speaking – the fewer cars there are around, the better.

And talking of the car numbers – this is a factor that is very dependent on the time of day. There was a month or two I was going out at 6 a.m. The roads were predictably quiet, and it is a great time to go out. But if I leave it until after 7 and it’s a week day it can mean I catch more of the rush hour traffic (such as it is) on the latter part of the ride. So it’s almost better going out after 9 a.m. There is traffic but it’s quieter than the 8 to 9 rush.

As a cyclist, factors like these that affect your journey are thought about much more than a driver would think about them. I say this because I am both a driver and a cyclist and I don’t usually think twice about these kinds of things before I get into the car. Maybe it’s just me. I suppose that these things become less and less of a consideration the more experience you have, but certainly for someone who in recent years has not spent a lot of time cycling on the road, they are things that are taken into consideration.

KTM Life Sprint: The “sensible” option?

I bought a KTM Life Sprint around 3 years ago. The Life Sprint is a hybrid bike, with 700c wheels, 38mm width tyres and an aluminium frame. It is great on forest tracks and very stable and speedy on roads. One of the reasons I chose a Lifesprint, rather than a dropped handlebar road bike, was that the sitting position is more upright. Due to having had a sedentary day job for several years my lower back lost some strength and this began to have knock-on effects, for example with the ciatic nerve in my leg. The last thing I wanted to do was to exacerbate my back problems by assuming a posture that was going to cause my condition to deteriorate further. An off-road/MTB was not for me either; all those bumps and thumps would have put me out of action in no time. So the sensible option seemed to be some kind of hybrid bike. The problem with hybrid bikes was that they did have the image of being just that – sensible – and the last thing a guy who’s about to hit 40 wants is something sensible to remind him of how his body isn’t quite what it used to be. But if you think hybrid bikes are for fuddy-duddies who like a 3 mile leisurely ride on a Sunday afternoon… check out the KTM Life Sprint. It really does look great. My version is matt black although the most recent version is lighter in colour.

The Life Sprint is made with pretty good quality components – I won’t go into full listing mode, but it includes an aluminium 6061 frame, Suntour SF10 NEX4610 suspension forks and Shimano Deore Derailleur and weighs in at just over 14kg without the pedals and kickstand. It’s now retailing for 800€ but mine was 700€. KTM is known more for motorbikes, and I’m not a motorcyclist, but I understand they have a solid reputation, so this is something that KTM are hoping to transpose and maintain with their pushbikes.

The fact that KTM bicycles are not really a big name brand (even less so three years ago) was something else that attracted me to them. Being a bit of a snob, I liked the idea of having something that was a little unusual. I’m not going to be buying a fancy car any time soon – so why not get a bike that might turn a head or two?

Anyway… the bottom line with this bike is that it’s good fun, it’s nippy, looks good, is a comfortable ride and doesn’t cost the Earth. An all-round good buy and a purchase I’m very glad I made.

KTM Life Sprint

KTM Life Sprint