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Green Gear: Product Picks for the Environmentally Minded

From biodegradable lube formulas to thermoplastic wheels and frames, these are our top choices for sustainable gear

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For most of us, this is more than just a hobby; it’s an identity. It’s also somewhat of a rolling dichotomy (pun intended) between a love for riding and our relationship to the places where we do it. Mountain biking, as a consumer-centric industry, has very real impacts on the environment; we love our gear, our upgrades, our tech, and not to be forgotten, our travel (pun also intended). Bikes these days are somehow considered outdated if they’re more than a few years old, and that’s not to mention consumables, gear upgrades and romanticized road trips. Needless to say, our sport affects our environment, the most obvious sources being industrial and consumer waste.

But it’s not all bad, and we’re not here to tell you not to go buy a new bike, not to lube your chain or not to get out for a two-wheel vacation this summer. But, there are ways to do it while supporting our industry’s efforts at addressing its environmental impacts.

To celebrate Earth Day, we’ve sought to highlight a few brands for their efforts around environmental sustainability and impact reduction—and it’s by no means an exhaustive list. Rather, think of it as a stepping-off point.

The Pro’s Closet | Certified Pre-owned Bikes

In many ways, The Pro’s Closet ticks all the boxes for a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle motto. The online vendor is all about buying and reselling used bikes, keeping them in circulation and on the trail instead of gathering dust or becoming an underapreciated townie for its former owner’s college-bound offspring. But this online buy/sell system is more than just an online buy/sell forum. For starters, every bike that comes in the door at The Pro’s Closet gets a 141-point inspection and service—it’s like buying a certified pre-owned vehicle. Every bike gets a nice bath, a full inspection, replacement/repair of damage, fresh perishables like tires or brake pads (if necessary), and then a full tune-up to get things ready for the next happy rider. The Pro’s Closet is so confident with their inspection process that they actually offer a 30-day return service and an 18-month buyback guarantee.

More than a good business model, The Pro’s Closet is an example in redefining the consumerist attitude in our industry. Bikes are rad and have been rad for quite a few years. If your goal is to have the latest and greatest, buy new, but if you just want to have fun on the trail, The Pro’s Closet makes a good case for buying used. In the process, you’ll be prolonging the life of a bike. It takes more resources and produces more waste to build a new bike than to maintain a used one. Your local trails will thank you.

Visit The Pro’s Closet here.

Patagonia | All Things Sustainable Softgoods

No eco-friendly round-up would be complete without Patagonia on the list. The brand has long been a trend-setter for an environmentally conscious business model, incorporating their ethos into every part of the company. Over the last few years, Patagonia has developed a line of pretty dialed mountain-bike-specific clothing and softgoods, complete with hard shells, hip packs, shorts, jerseys and even bib-liners.

To explain everything that Patagonia does to justify its environmentally conscious branding would take more than the 200-ish words allotted to each section of this listicle. So instead, we’ll hit you with some numbers that Patagonia publishes on its website: 100 percent of its electricity needs in the U.S. were met by renewable sources, 64 percent of fabrics used this season were made with recycled fabrics and 56,000 garments were repaired. That last one is pretty neat. Patagonia will repair your gear, saving you from tossing what you have and buying a whole new piece. There’s also a section of their online store for used gear, Worn Wear—according to recent research, buying second-hand does have a positive impact on sustainability and the environment.

Visit Patagonia here.

PNW Components | Refurbished Dropper Posts

If you hadn’t heard, PNW Components makes pretty sweet dropper posts (among quite a few other mountain bike goodies), that you can also buy refurbished. Getting the correct dropper post for your bike can be tricky as sizing isn’t as straightforward as ‘choose the drop you want.’ When a dropper gets returned, PNW refurbishes it and resells it for a hefty discount under its “PNW Cycled” sub-brand. There’s usually pretty limited stock, but you never know if you’re going find just the post you need. PNW also refurbishes its Loam Lever, which seems to usually be in stock and costs $20 less than buying it new.

PNW has also moved to make all customer purchases carbon neutral through Cooler, and puts a portion of the profits toward clean energy. You can read more about that here.

Visit PNW Cycled here.

Guerrilla Gravity | Revved Carbon

No doubt most of you have heard about the new-fangled carbon bikes being produced by Guerrilla Gravity (GG). The brand once synonymous with brawler-worthy alloy shred sleds took the industry by storm a few years back with its introduction of Revved carbon, a new kind of carbon fiber (to the bike industry) that isn’t made by traditional methods, or using traditional materials. There’s a lot to unpack about Revved, but here are some main takeaways. First, it’s a claimed 300-percent stronger than ‘regular’ carbon fiber, so in theory, you’re less likely to damage your frame and need to replace it. But if that does happen, Revved is economically viable to recycle–meaning it’s cost-effective to recycle, as is the excess material left over during the frame’s manufacturing process. Mull that one over, carbon fiber that is recyclable—rad!

GG touts quite a few other ecological benefits, including reduced air pollution (minimal sanding required for finish work) and a shortened supply chain (frames are made and raw materials sourced in the U.S.). Across its lineup of bikes, GG reuses the same front triangles across the line, swapping shocks, links and rear triangles to differentiate between models. This reduces upfront manufacturing costs while also allowing customers to swap bikes, or effectively have two bikes, with less effort and waste than buying a whole new or second bike.

Visit Guerilla Gravity and Revved carbon here.

Bjorn | Recycled Grips

It might seem like a small fry when compared to some of the big-ticket items in this list, but Bjorn’s pair of ODI-collab grips are made from 100-percent recycled rubber. We’re not even talking percentages, really, the grips have no virgin rubber in them. Even better is where that rubber comes from—the waste from ODI’s grip factory. The post-industrial TPE rubber waste from ODI is collected and re-molded into Bjorn’s grips.

Bjorn’s grips are made in the U.S., at ODI’s headquarters, as a bonus for the North American folks here, and Bjorn goes the extra mile of purchasing carbon offsets for unavoidable waste or emissions produced in the process of making the grips.

Visit Bjorn here.

Vaude | Softgoods, shoes, sustainability and more

If you’re looking for a brand that puts sustainability and ecological impact first and foremost, look no further than Vaude (pronounced FOW-day). The German brand has been in the business of outdoor gear since the ’80s and puts emphasis on their environmental impact. So much so, in fact, that one might spend a whole afternoon (or more) diving deep into their 2019 Sustainability Report, found here. Most recently, they’ve been developing ways to increase their upcycling practices during manufacturing. Similar to Bjorn, Vaude is working toward recycling their industrial waste—think using the extra material around fabric patterns in waterproof material to make other products, instead of just throwing the material away.

Additionally, Vaude has developed its own standards for its products, dubbed Green Shape, These rigorous standards for equipment start in material sourcing and end with disposal at the end of the equipment lifecycle. From what we can tell, the Green Shape label goes a head above what many other brands are doing—you can see the specific criteria here.

Vaude makes a range of outdoor products, but they have an extensive mountain bike gear lineup. See it all here.

Chris King | Hubs and Hardgoods

We’ve all heard the buzz, that swarm of angry bees coming down the trail that, upon sight, magically turns into a mountain bike with a loud hub. But the hub isn’t really what’s important about Chris King, rather it’s how that hub was made and what that process proved.

In manufacturing and milling, there needs to be a coolant for the machine bits. Usually, it’s water, not oil, due to water’s higher specific heat and better cooling ability. But there’s a big environmental concern with using water in machining. Water gets foul with bacteria and eventually becomes hazardous waste. Oil, on the other hand, has a lesser capacity for heat but can be reused and recycled—if you can get it separated from the alloy chips that are also a waste product of milling and machining. Chris King not only has managed to efficiently make that separation, but they also managed to make it profitable and more sustainable. They crush the oil-covered chips in what’s essentially an industrial trash compactor, forcing out remaining oil for collection. At the same time, the now crushed-chip block of metal is superior to loose chips in that more of it is retained during smelting for recycling, which means Chris King can sell it for a higher price. The reclaimed oil can be filtered and reused in the machines over and over. The whole process is a win/win, not a zero sum game that most associate with ‘green practices’ in industrial applications.

It took Chris King decades to land on this method, but it is a method that not only makes its business more profitable but also helps the environment. It’s an example of a positive melding of smart business and environmentalism in a forum where the two are usually mutually exclusive. Chris King proved that’s not always the case, and last year the company was recognized for their efforts with a B-corp certification. You can read more about what that means here.

To see their product range, including the classic buzzing hub, visit Chis King here.

Revel Bikes | Recycled Carbon Wheels

While Guerrilla Gravity holds status for making recyclable carbon frames, Revel rolls around on its own recyclable carbon wheels. The processes both companies use are similar in that they use thermoplastics instead of a traditional resin in curing the carbon strands together. Note: That explanation is grossly oversimplified, used to highlight the major differences in the processes when compared to traditional carbon layup.

The benefits of the process Revel uses, Fiber-Fusion, are clear. Wheels require less labor and time to make and they’re actually more durable and compliant than if they were made from regular carbon fiber. See also: fewer broken rims. More importantly, though, when the rim does reach the end of its life, it won’t break down into tiny little eco-harmful pieces. Rather, the “thermoplastics” can be reheated and the rim broken down in a material that can be forged into a new carbon fiber creation. It probably won’t be a wheel, but it won’t be modern art in a landfill either.

Want to hear more? Visit Revel Bikes here.

Pembree | Recyclable Pedals

Why include a small U.K.-based company that only makes two products, both pedals, into this article? Pembree sets itself apart as an example, like the rest of these brands, in putting as much emphasis on their environmental impact as they do their products. Pembree warranties their pedals for five years (two years on bearings) and, after that, offers store credit for your beat-to-sh*t pedals when they eventually do reach the end of their lives. Pembree wants the pedals back for recycling purposes, since they have the ability to recycle parts of the pedals, like seals, that normally would just get tossed in the bin. What other company offers that sort of service?

Pembree is 100-percent carbon-balanced, through TEMWA, as well as 100-percent run on renewable energy sources. It has also taken steps to render all shipping carbon-neutral and packaging 100-percent made from recycled materials—also plastic-free. The downside? Supporting all that will cost you around $200 pair.

Still enticed? Head over here to check Pembree out.

Mountain Flow | Biodegradable Lubes

Remember when we used to lube our chains with petroleum-based oils that would stick around in the soil for, well, ever? We do too, just like it was yesterday. In fact, it was yesterday—but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow. Mountain Flow, and actually quite a few companies like it, makes a line of biodegradable, plant-based lubes and grease that you can feel good about spreading all over your local loam. They make three lubes, an all-weather, wet and wax lube, as well as a general prep-type grease that are all plant-based and enviro-friendly. Other brands tend to stop here, putting those great products in not-so-great plastic containers, but Mountain Flow goes a bit further in producing all their bottles from post-consumer recycled plastic. It is still plastic, but just better plastic. But their bike-wash and degreaser bottle goes even a step further by being made of recycled cardboard.

Visit Mountain Flow here to sample their goods, which also features a ski wax line for those wintery folks among us.

Honorary mentions in the bio-lube department include Muc-Off, Squirt and Peaty’s Sealant, all of which went the extra mile to make biodegradable consumables that eventually end up on the trail (or garage floor).

Redwood Material | Battery Recycling

We won’t blame you if you haven’t heard of this brand, heck, we hadn’t until recently. Redwood Materials is a Nevada-based company that specializes in the disposal and recycling of lithium-based batteries—think e-bike batteries. It has worked with some pretty big names in the past, like Tesla, Amazon and Nissan, in developing methods for recycling lithium batteries, which we’d wager is a growing concern for the cycling industry’s e-bike sector. What happens to an e-bike battery when it doesn’t hold a charge anymore? Usually, it’s sent overseas for smelting, not specifically recycling. Redwood seeks to process used batteries with recycling first and foremost—see the difference? One major brand that sees the benefits of recycling is Specialized, which, by the end of this year, is looking to process all its reclaimed batteries from e-bike customers through Redwood. Looking into the future of our sport, which will include e-bikes, having such a prominent company commit to a U.S.-based recycling program is quite promising.

Want to learn more about Redwood Materials? Maybe you have a dead battery that needs disposal? Visit it here.