Will the post-oil future be bicycle-free?

This is guest post by Kurt Cobb.

U. S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood may soon be nominated for heresy-of-the-year award for an impromptu speech at the 2010 National Bike Summit in March. In that speech he said federal transportation policy will no longer favor automobiles over bicyclists and walkers.

As anyone who regularly rides a bicycle knows, this change is big precisely because automobiles and bicycles share much of the same infrastructure. But this very fact may bode ill for the bicycle in a post-oil future.

This distressing line of thought occurred to me recently as I was finishing James Howard Kunstler's beautifully written post-oil novel, A World Made by Hand. I spotted not a single bicycle in its 317 pages. Why? Because in the novel the roads upon which one might ride are crumbling beyond passable. These roads are navigable on foot or by horse, but not particularly by anything on wheels.

But, wait, you may say, bicycles don't need good roads! We'll use trail bikes instead. All well and good. Still, where will the rubber for the tires come from? What we use now is synthetic rubber made from oil. Perhaps we'll get latex from such places as Brazil and Malaysia, that is, unless world trade has broken down. And, the way in which bicycles are made today, we'll need aluminum smelting operations for all the aluminum parts, even if only for repairs.

As simple as a bicycle is compared to a car, there is much that ties it to the energy-intensive, global logistics chain. No doubt we could make bicycle frames out of something other than aluminum. But again, we must ultimately come back to the question of right-of-way. If we assume that there will not be sufficient resources to run a nationwide fleet of private automobiles and therefore neither the political will nor the financial capability to pay for the upkeep of our road system, then we must also assume that the bicycle as a widespread form of transportation will not be practical. Some locales may maintain a few bike trails. But it is hard to see highways being maintained just so bicycles can ride on them.

Let's go back a bit in history to understand why. Bicycles came of age in the latter half of the 19th century. As such they were manufactured on the industrial model. Bicycle owners became a potent force for the paving of roads upon which they could then ride. Ironically, the industrial methods for the manufacture of bicycles and the paved roads which bicycle owners championed became the basis for mass-produced automobiles--automobiles which ultimately usurped the roads from bicycles.

Now, my apprehension about the future of the bicycle posits that industrial society has sunk into a pretty sorry state and that no forms of motorized land transport for which it is worth maintaining roads survive. But even if we maintain main roads for, say, intercity buses, that would still leave all the side roads--roads ideal for bicycle riding--without maintenance.

I'm ashamed to say that until reading Kunstler's novel it had never occurred to me just how dependent my bicycle is on the automotive infrastructure. Could it be true that the bicycle's viability is linked to that of the automobile? Having said all this, I'm hoping someone will talk me down and explain how we might be able to have a future filled with bicycling no matter what the fate of the automobile.

Links to a few related posts:

Peak asphalt: the return of gravel roads - Ugo Bardi, April 2010

Cycle-touring: a vision of post-peak holidays? - Guest post by Robin Lovelace, April 2010

Extreme Human-Powered Delivery Joules Burn, May 2010

How Big is Your Bicycle? - Phil Hart, December 2007


1. Why do roads get so little discussion in planning for the future?

2. Can you see a way to make a version of bicycles work with a version of roads, long term?

3. What do people do in lesser developed countries do now with respect to bicycles and roads?

4. What role do you expect bicycles to play long-term?

I agree that roads and rubber may present challenges, but there are folks who are starting to manufacture bicycles out of wood, which wouldn't require as much industrial production.


Roads aren't a big challenge, as there are countless miles of easily maintained gravel and dirt trail that are ridden on daily. Smooth pavement is nice, but unless you're on racing-skinny tires, hardly essential. I commute in all weathers myself - heat, snow, rain, whatever, so I tend to see bicycling as an easy and current solution to many things.

I'd worry about rubber tires the same as I worry about footwear. In an oil-free future, we may be screwed on both counts, but small things of large utility may have a solution we can't see yet.

I'm less worried about the machinery itself, as there is a massive surplus of underutilized bicycles all around the world, and all that metal lasts a very long time. In two or three hundred years, maybe frames and off bits become a problem, but every generation has its problem to solve.

I worry more about the tassels that stream out from my handlebars. No tassels and thats it...end of world as I know it.

WTF are you all talking about?

Bikes? Wheelbarrows? rickshaws? hand cranked icecream makers? Come on!!!!!!!!!!!!

How in the HELL does anyone think we get from where we are now to some cartoon fantasy future where this subject is relevant in the slightest. Don't get me wrong, I have more and different bikes than pretty much anyone here but this is like talking about what kind of antifouling paint we have on the bottom of the Titanic as we sink.


less than one tenth of one percent of the population of the developed world uses a bike in a utilitarian manner. A non-issue. A non-solution for the other 99.99%.

A non-solution for the other 99.99%.

...perhaps 90%, to be fair, but I do get your perspective. Looking at population growth vs shrinking resources, utter poverty and the ability to find food are likely to be greater issues to the majority of the species, while only the very fortunate will be complaining about the price of bicycle tires.

But at the moment it is a "solution" in that I can maintain a decent standard of living at a low pay-rate because I don't have to support a car. Most people who depend on cars could similarly improve their standards of living and greatly reduce their petroleum dependence, though of course circumstances will continue to change.

In answer to the OP "will the future be bicycle free?" - it depends on how far out you want to look. In 20-50 years, replacement tires may be a more difficult proposition, but I think cycling will still be a useful thing for a long time. In 200-300 years, maybe the metal technologies needed will be less viable than beasts of burden or our own two feet. In 5 billion years, the sun goes red-giant, and maybe we should be working out a solution for that too, so our descendants don't have to.

In the 'records' section on this guy in wikipedia...


what it doesn't mention is that he did the last quarter of the 2,900 odd miles on tyres stuffed with rags after he had run out of repairable tubes.
We are probably not as soft as we think we are.

I am one of the lucky 1% then---but I`m not sure your statistics are correct. I see a lot more than 1% of people on bikes here (OK it`s not the US) Not exercising, but commuting....

I have a 12 year old bike that as far as I can tell could easily last another 12. 3 speed Miyata with a belt, not a chain. I ride about 12 km a day, sometimes less on the weekends, when I don`t commute.

I think it doesn`t take much to keep this bike going except tires (that is all I have to ever replace on it, about every 3 years or so.)

It is aluminium, light, sturdy. What a helpful device it is! And I can cycle on muddy paths if I have to, or walk and use the bike for goods transport. Makes my car-free life a pleasure.

How could something like this not be replicated by many? Will the future really be so bleak that people can`t make a simple, sturdy bicycle that lasts for years.....make tires out of old car tires maybe....I hope the future has bicycles in it.

See! I knew I would regret hauling off the 3.5 tons of old tires I found when I bought this farm. Luckily, I still have one ton of old tires left, including some huge tractor tires. Shoe soles and bike rubber for generations.

I still have one ton of old tires left, including some huge tractor tires. Shoe soles and bike rubber for generations.

Shoes soles maybe, new tires not. Tire "rubber" is thermosetting i.e. you can't melt it down and remould it into something different

Ultrasound recycling can be used to break up the rubber cross links so the tire rubber turned into a gum raw material that can then be re-crosslinked to form rubber products again.


Is that a process you can do with local materials in your garage?

Is personal garages all we'll have left? Maybe it'll be the smithy or the Barber/Dentist who'll set up the local Ultrasound Rubber De-Crosslinking Tanks..

Gail.. this really gets too extreme sometimes.

I don't think its too extreme, given that there are literally billions of junk tires out there...the economics suggest that there is no simple way to break down tires, and no simple way to reconstitute rubber. The amount of time and money that tire dealers spend just getting someone to haul away old tires speaks volumes.

What I'm saying is 'too extreme' is this neverending prediction that the only means we'll have available to tool our world will be the lightweight handtools in our workshops and crumbling garages. I'm afraid it's a subtler variation on Darwinian's occasional protest that 'all we can do is help our immediate family', presupposing that larger groups of people cannot and will not coordinate efforts to develop larger scale solutions to problems such as 'The Southern Maine Reclaimed Tire Company' or some such thing. We have developed a level of materials science knowledge that will make a wide number of options available to us without needing a massive industrial system overhead. The ability to reprint old textbooks will be sufficient to keep a considerable arsenal of choices available to individuals AND broader communities.

Yes, hauling away waste tires is a monumental task.. but that's not because we don't have this tool for Rubber Reclamation, but because we haven't even started asking if such a thing is possible. Those tires are simply seen as "Waste" by most people at this point.

'Ultrasonics' on its own doesn't necessarily mean that such a process can only be completed in a multimillion-dollar clean room made of Brent-Derived Polymer Shielded Walls.. It's what my dentist used to clean a couple of Stainless Steel toothpicks in a tiny office above a diner in Bethel Maine. It describes a sonic Frequency Range that is not immediately dependent upon a ready oil supply.

I didn't look at the rest of the requirements in that article, and perhaps it would be above the efforts that a few to a few dozen people could pull together when they decided that they still wanted to have, or sell, rubber products.. but those people would NOT be limited to their own little garages and their old Stanley Eggbeater Drills, either.

When tshtf everyone living where domestic heat is needed will discover that tires burn very well-and at that time nobody will give a hooy about the black oily smoke.

They are a real bxxxh to cut into small pieces but given the supply I'm sure somebody will figure out a good simple way , or else build stoves designed to to take them whole.

I can think of a few ways to build such a stove that should work ok right off the top of my head, but building one would be a lot of work.

I do like these type of childrens parties. In which kids take gifts and seems very happy. The party planning starts from a week, and all the party supplies taking place a day before the birthday. These are the happiest moments for the kids.

Kurt, don't be dashed by Eeyore. He's just doing what Eeyore's do.

In fact the bike/trike heavy-duty workhorse is still very widely in use in China and Africa, to mention just two of the many places where it's still common. As the Synergising Global Crises of this new era kick the bejasus out of hitech, high-cost industrial civilisation, I see the current upsurge in bike use that's happening +everywhere+ continuing steadily, necessarily, because the workhorse bike/trike will more and more represent a peak efficiency combination of modest constructional/infrastructural investment and durable serviceability. This was massively the case in China until very recently, hence their huge usage of workhorse bi/trikes. And after their brief, mad, self-destructive infatuation with consumerist-growth economics has crashed, burned and vanished, the survivors will -- with luck -- pick up their loyal marriage to the pedals again. Their bikes will forgive them and take them back.

As for roads: Humans have wanted, and spontaneously made, tracks of some kind for millennia. Can you see that changing, unless we crash down really deep? The real question is: surface quality. Regarding this, consider that Kirkpatrick MacMillan (or whoever it really was; it's now controversial) had a bike which allegedly was -- and certainly could have been -- made in an artisan's smithy, with hand tools and stock-steel. On this famous boneshaker model, KM and a growing band of other enthusiasts faced the fearsome road surfaces of Scotland of that time and made some heroic journeys. Those riders would have regarded modern mountain-bike trails as softy-tracks for sissies.

I was in Norge (Norway) in my teens (1950s), on a mountain expedition, and I got hitched lifts with various truckers and motorists. They explained to me that the gravel-surfaced roads which were the norm there, outside the towns, were -- as they always put it -- perfectly adequate for their transport needs, and quite possible to maintain by normal municipal fiscal resources of that time (very modest by modern standards). There was never any shortage of bikers on those roads, on big balloon tyres, even outside the town. The Norsk are a very outdoors sort of people.

Regarding rubber. The Amazonian rubber tree isn't the only source. Following a school-kids' educational programme on the BBC here, I tried harvesting a tiny amount of raw rubber latex from the squeezed-out milky sap of dandelion plants. Sure, it was the size of a peanut. But then, I only used a handful of dandelion foliage. And it only took minutes.

Me and Kirkpatrick together could knock you up a pneumatic-tyred workhorse bike anytime we had a smithy and a field of dandelions, I reckon. And as long as I had a good padded, sprung saddle, I wouldn't need no sissy suspension to face the gravel tracks. (Never used any suspension other than the pneumatic tyre anyway, all my cycling life)

OTOH, I'm just about to roll out my own home-made Python centre-steer recumbent bike, sometime this upcoming week, for a second attempt at an extended ride, after initial modifications. And just about everything on that bike is cannibalised from existing bikes and parts, all made in the industrial mode. So, I'm open to both approaches. Whatever works. I'm a member of the worldwide Python self-build fraternity. (You can't buy commercially made models; no-one's doing it) See here for more about Pythons:


So come on Kurt! No need to be pessimistic about the future of the bike, or of roads that rugged worker bikes can manage easily. It's the future of life on Earth that's the real worry.......

So, according to this post, will we no longer have wheels and paths? What will the horse be pulling and on what will it be walking I wonder?

As I am fond of noting, we had many of these things before oil, we have them now, we won't suddenly forget they exist should the oil run out.

I've noticed a black-or white, all-or-nothing fatalism on the part of many. The real world doesn't work like that. People improvise, adapt, and keep on going as best as they can.


Bicycles were around before cars, they will be around after cars.
Folks use utility bikes all over the world where the 'transportation infrastructure' don't
even exist.

and they have for a very long time,and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

This seems to be a non-sequitur to me.

Thomas Edison was working on producing rubber from plants other than rubber trees in the late 1920's with funding from Firestone and Ford. The plant he found most suitable is commonly considered a wild flower, Goldenrod. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldenrod ) Through hybridization techniques and refining of his process, he improved his process to the point where he was getting a 12% yield of natural rubber from a 12 ft tall plant as opposed to 5% yield from a 4 ft tall plant. ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,881890,00.html ) He was still improving his yields when he finally shut down his operations due to not being cost competitive with petroleum based rubber. ( http://www.sciway.net/facts/goldenrod-sc-state-wildflower.html ) His laboratory is still on display at the Ford Edison Winter Estate in Ft. Myers, FL. ( http://www.efwefla.org/lab.asp )

I state all of this to show that alternative domestic sources to petroleum based rubber are available, and the research could be dusted off and reviewed through the lens of modern botany and chemistry to see if any further improvements could be made. Will this happen? Probably not.

Smooth pavement is nice, but unless you're on racing-skinny tires, hardly essential

Strada Bianche gravel roads being ridden by skinny tyred race bikes. IME People over estimate the specs of a bike for anything other than smooth tarmac. Gravel roads devoid of sharped edged potholes are often easier on wheels than some tarmac roads which when they break up produce rim damaging surfaces compared to compacted (or even loose) gravel but do ware tyres (and legs) out more...

Great pic - and that is one epic road for racing on (also see the last section of the 7th stage of the 2010 Giro)...but I have done enough off-road riding on my road bike to say that tire size makes a huge difference. Last weekend I did 20 miles of dirt and gravel on 23c tires, and its a big exercise in focus - you have to continually steer the bike by the millimetre in avoiding rocks and holes and edges. On big mountain bikes tires I could have just rolled right through instead of picking my way, and though the ride went well (no punctures) I am replacing the rear tire today for casing tears.

The gravel roads in italy are very well made producing some surprisingly smooth roads.. stage 7 roads you mention while producing a chalky mud slime in the wet are quite ride-able at speed.. and somewhat less taxing on tyres than some would think..

personally 25's for me most of the time anyway

I do think higher end lightweight kevlar tyres will become increasingly expensive..they all ready are

i think tyres rather than roads may suffer somewhat more in a resource constrained economy... as others have mentioned a lot of off road parking is recyclable.

not like it hasn't been done before..

the Roman flagstones from Appennine way are to be found in medieval roads in Verona

Hi Doc,

personally 25's for me most of the time anyway

I agree that 25c is a good all-around choice. Unfortunately, my bike will not take anything bigger than 23c. However, I've toured western rural Ireland for a few thousand miles and not had any serious tire problems (one flat). I find the biggest wear factor in Ireland/France is the sharp gravel topping they use on the roads - the newer the road surface the worse the tire wear.

As few people are probably following this thread any longer, I'll indulge in a bit of band width consumption to show my touring setup - with the 23c tires (top of County Mayo)(notice road surface):

Panniers hung on center racks provide for excellent stability even at 40 mph downhill run.

Certain road races in Europe always go over cobblestones. The Paris-Roubaix race is the most notorious. The winner gets a cobblestone as a prize.

Limestone gravel bike paths will shred a road bike tire pretty quickly though.

So I think the roughness is more important than the bumpiness.

The best bicycling book I've ever read is MILES FROM NOWHERE. It contains a vivid description of biking over cobblestones. No thank you--I'll stay away from them.

My Brompton is equipped with armor-reinforced puncture-resistant Marathon tires. Have not had a flat in 3,000 miles of riding, and there is still a good deal of wear left on the treads. The tires are advertised as "puncture proof," but I find it hard to believe that claim.

For some reason, certain tires are extremely prone to punctures. During the twenty plus years of riding my Schwinn Cruiser about 15,000 miles I never had a puncture.

Do you expect to get 15,000 miles out of any of your $2,000 bikes?

No major issues on Felicity Street in New Orleans (2 blocks from me (or others left over).

Perhaps better done or more well worn than others ?


You win. I don't know. All I know is that I have put more mileage on my bikes than on my cars.

Hi Don,

Have you read Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy?


Best cycling book in my book!

Thanks. I'll order it. Let me know if you read and like MILES FROM NOWHERE.

Added to my Amazon wish list - reader comments are quite interesting!

Did somebody say gross under utilization for bicycles. 15k is no problem for any good quality bike. The wearing and bearing gear is pretty good. Cr-mo is forever, but we had a cheap alloy Kent tandem that we did over 5k on and it's still going strong with new owners and a few upgrades. I have done 3115 mi. so far this year on the Co-motion and the road bike, should get 7k total by Nov. Most of the daily workhorse frames I saw in China looked 50 years old. I worry a LOT more about me wearing out before the bikes do.

I'm hoping someone will talk me down and explain how we might be able to have a future filled with bicycling no matter what the fate of the automobile.

I don't think Kunstler was particularly interested in having bicycles in his dystopia. But if it makes you feel better... we can re-purpose a bazillion acres of asphalt to repair our roads for bicycling.

We can do this literally forever... where will this asphalt come from?

From the parking lots that cover everything. Look around. How many millions of potholes can you fill and tamp with the stuff that surrounds every strip mall, lifestyle center, office park in our country?

The amount of asphalt we have available, once cars stop parking on it, is simply mind boggling.

Kunstler's POV is that we've made massive mis-allocations...but you could also argue: we've simply staged material where it will become useful. The suburban infrastructure he hates will be a lot easier to dismantle and reuse than a forest, quarry, or oil reservoir several hundred miles away.

Like Will, I've started to see this ludicrously over-paved country (Britain) as having lots of ready-to-hand asphalt widely distributed, to remake roads and paths on sensibly narrow scales, with plenty to spare. Same with the millions of tons of quarried roadstone that lies under the asphalt. All ready distributed, close to hand, and in an instantly-reuseable form.

How do you re-work them? Well the asphalt is easy. Any sunny day a large enough fresnel lens (not very large) will soften the asphalt to re-useable consistency. Fresnel died in 1827, so you can see that his lens is easy enough to produce simply, in a skilled artisan's workshop -- made by hand, you might say. And both the asphalt and the stone can be raised, moved and reset by the same method with which we made the first canals and railways: Mumford's mega-machine; teams of skilled and disciplined men and horses, working mainly with hand tools.

Decent working conditions, the dignity of useful labour, and adequate pay and peripheral benefits are another issue, of course, to do with social justice. And that seems to be simply beyond human competence most of the time, in most mass societies; like, as another instance, population control. We can do both in gatherer-hunter bands, it seems, but not in any much larger community. However, remaking sensibly-sized roads should be a doddle. We're as good at practical technics as we're bad at large-scale social justice.

Yeah but oil won't disappear overnight. Even 40 years after the US peak in oil production, the US is still producing 5 million barrels per day, (closer to 4 million in lower 48). This means that even in 50 years, our cars may not burn gasoline, but the plastics may still be made by oil.

My point is this. Oil won't just disappear, it will take a long time for peak oil to really gather foot, of which our society may be able to adapt.

Also, rubber may be made by oil, but there are alternatives to oil in producing bicycles. Can anybody give me a reason why a bicycle today cannot be made with non-renewable resources? (Rubber can be made naturally and so can plastics. The steel/aluminum could be recycled using renewable energy).

The existing roads also won't disappear overnight, and with fewer heavy vehicles major maintenance will be required less often. Finally, nearly any path which can accommodate a pedestrian can also fit a bicyclist.

As a kid I rode a bike that cost 39.95 new from Sears.It was made out of thick iron tubing, had only one speed, and wieghed at least twice what a modern bike wieghs but it lasted thru three or four kids using it on farm paths which can hardly be described as real roads.The pubic roads were dirt and gravel, poorly graded and generally rough.

Somebody finally threw it away because it needed new tires and looked shabby.Except for the tires, it was not worn out.A bicycle that is perfectly functional can be built to last indefinitely simply by adding a little wieght and leaving off the bells and whistles.

Such a bicycle will take its rider where ever a two grand status symbol bike will , the only difference being probably an extra minute or two will be needed for a fifteen minute ride.

Maintaining a steep mountian road that crosses streams and ravines will be hard but not impossible,excepting perhaps the bridges, with hand labor.Most other roads can be easily kept up to bicycle standards with hand labor and locally sourced materials indefinitely, probably forever.

Maintaining roads up to a standard suitable for heavy duty bicycles will not be a problem at all in a world flush with people short of work, where there is adequate traffic to justify the labor; lightly traveled roads and some intercity roads may degenerate all the way to footpaths.

As far as tires are concerned, bike tires are very cheaply and lightly made for the most part.A tire made out of twice as much rubber and fabric will probably last ten times as long.

I just can't see society falling so far into the pit as not being able to build bicycles so long as law and order prevail and some very modest level of trade is still conducted.

Kunstler is great as a visionary and I have a great deal of respect for him in that role.But as to as getting the details right in a post apocolypse novel , he needs to run the next one by a few real criminals, mechanics, farmers, and construction people before the editor even sees it.

I read World Made by Hand and while it works rather well as a novel and is an enjoyable read, it sucks from the technical reality pov in many respects.

[Yes, I actually have practiced all these trades, in addition to several others that I will not mention out of consideration of the delicate sensibilities of the audience and the possibility of getting arrested.;)]

Actually I haven't seen anything that doesn't, in some every day respect.Somebody posted a link to a video a week or two back describing the reality of a killer plague which featured some geniune heavy wieght scientists and public health specialists as participants. The acting was terrible but the science was on the money, at least so far as my own very limited knowledge of such things extends.

But they blew it by having a twelve year old telling his dad how to hot wire a late model car as if the job were as simple as making toast.

Furthermore the the makers studiously avoided discussing the desirability of owning a weapon.Considering the mayhem the hero and his family had to deal with, such as being shot at on several occasions and having an organized and armed crew of looters come to thier block,this was simply pathetic..

That ain't reality when the vehicle has a locking steering column;even if you have considerable stock of tools, you still need experience to use them.There is no standardized wiring code,and even a semipro such as yours truly generally finds it necessary to consult a shop manual when determining which wire is which on late model cars, meaning anything less than maybe forty to fifty years old...A nice middle class suburban twelve year old is about as likely to possess such skills and knowledge as I am to have an extended affair with an Italian supermodel.

Yeah, I think most people make the mistake of seeing 'peak oil' as 'everything involving hydrocarbons suddenly disappears.' What you're looking at is oil becoming too expensive for more and more applications. Still, there are limits to how expensive hydrocarbons can get. Eventually it becomes cost effective to make them from scratch.

CO2, H2O. Add enough energy, chemistry, and the right industrial machinery, and we can create what ever hydrocarbon we want, in limitless quantities. Los Alamos did a study that said combining the right process with a nuclear plant to provide heat and electricity for it, gasoline could be produced at $5 to $6 a gallon final pump price. That's cheap enough to burn. It might change the housing dynamic, make moving to the exurbs less profitable, but they say it's possible.

Well, say you're not a fan of nuclear. Nuclear would be the cheapest because it provides huge amounts of heat and electric power, both of which you need for complicated hydrocarbon production. If you're willing to pay more, you could use whatever energy source you want: wind, solar, hyrdo, etc. The hydrocarbons produced would be too expensive to burn or make disposable plastic drink cups, but something durable like a bicycle tire would certainly be effective.

As far as aluminum, aluminum can be refined and delivered to cities without any gasoline. Aluminum smelting takes an ungodly amount of power. It's something like the power to make one coke can could run a tv for 5 hours. As such, the electric bill is a huge issue for aluminum smelters. Traditionally, aluminum smelters went to the places with cheap electricity. Even today, there's nothing cheaper than hydro power. Aluminum is often made with hydro power, and that's not going to stop any time soon. So I wouldn't worry about the bike frames either.

Hi Mac,

As a kid I rode a bike ...made out of thick iron tubing, had only one speed, and weighed at least twice what a modern bike .....A bicycle that is perfectly functional can be built to last indefinitely simply by adding a little weight and leaving off the bells and whistles.....
Such a bicycle will take its rider where ever a two grand status symbol bike will....

Although I agree that your old bike could still provide utility - this old body (and maybe yours ;-) might not like the ride. I have a bike that I call my Grocery Store Bike that is somewhat like what you describe but with a nice set of gears. I use it to pull a bike trailer and would not get overly upset if it was stolen while I was in the store (but, I'd miss my trailer a lot). With your old bike I could never make it up the big hill on the way home without pushing the darn thing. Bicycle gearing is one of the most important inventions of modern times - and no need to give it up. If you still have the technology to build bike chains, you can easily make a derailleur, freewheel and cluster of chain rings.

Also, $2,000 can be a fair price for a decent bike/trike. $10,000 gets one a very nice bike (bells and whistles not included - nor pedals/seats either: these are very personal items). Very basic utility bikes generally cost around $300 to $400. The problem with cheaper bikes is that they often fall apart or require excessive maintenance - these bikes tend to frustrate new users and discourage folks from biking.

I rode my bike 55 miles today because I wanted to visit some folks. If I used your old bike I would be lucky if they had a computer for me in the hospital to carry on this discussion. For any distance riding, I need a well built recumbent bike or trike as my old body just has too many problems for an upright bike.

Road surface is a separate issue. I suspect you and I are around the same age (I might be a bit older) and we both remember the days when most of the roads were not paved and we rode our bikes quite a lot. So, yes, I suppose future generations could bike on those kinds of roads again. But, a nicely paved road and an elegant bike/trike are a magical combination that makes it possible for people to travel a hundred miles a day - day after day.

Its all about the scenarios that unfold in the years to come. Barring the 4 horseman or black swan scenarios (which is a big leap of faith) we could easily insure excellent surfaces for fast biking for a very long time. We could do lots of intelligent things to insure a decent quality of life for future generations. However, I see little evidence of rational planning. I guess biking will muddle along with all other aspects of life and take various twists and turns as humanity struggles through the bottleneck.

The only expensive bike I own is my Brompton folding bike. After the rebate of the VAT tax in England it cost only five hundred pounds back in 2001. I'll ride it as long as I ride on two wheels instead of three. Usually I buy used bicycles for fifty dollars or less and have gotten some fantastic bargains by going to garage sales. I see no reason why anybody should have to pay over fifty dollars for a good old used steel-frame bike made more than thirty years ago, when bikes were sturdier than the modern light bikes that get cracks in the frame after a certain number of miles.

Hi Dave,

I'm sure that first class modern bikes are worth every dime ,if you have plenty of dimes, and actually ride them regularly, as you do.

Good tools are invariably woth the price premuim to those who use them on a regular long term basis.

I was thinking in terms of "just getting by" and the mass of people in a future when purchasing power is very limited.In such a situation, any old bike would be priceless, compared to having to walk everywhere.

Given such purchasing power problems a family might find it more practical to buy four or five basic bikes for the price of one REALLY good bike.

I do understand the way things can get out of hand monetarily when they are custom made, but ten grand for a bicycle seems like either insanity or conspicious consumption with no middle ground to me.

Incidentally I have read about an American military cross country trip on bicycles which was organized and executed previous to WWII, possibly previous to WWI, for the express purpose of finding out the practical limits of the use of bicycles under" in the field" conditions.

The experiment was judged to be a success but I cannot find a link to it.

Hi Mac,

but ten grand for a bicycle seems like either insanity or conspicious consumption with no middle ground to me.

We need to have an easy way for the "tongue in cheek" thing. A single bike for $10K doesn't (IMHO) buy much more than a $2-$3K bike. But, they do sell these things:


The "Starting Point" for this bike is: MSRP $8609.99 and you can add many more "dimes" to this baby.

Actually, I don't personally know anyone with one of these - but I do see them on the road.

Expensive bikes increase exponentially in price. You are right that above $2000 to $3000 doesn't buy a lot of additional improvements.

I was in a ski shop last year and noticed a pair of La Croix downhill skis. I asked the salesman who bought these things and he said mostly people who could afford to throw away money. He said he tried them and they weren't any better than the other skis. Just a status symbol.

This is not the exact one I saw, but here is a $68,000 ski set.

I wonder what a $68,000 bike looks like.

I don't know about a $68k bike, but here's a $114k bike:

Complete Waste Of Money

The only thing missing is the 18 karat gold plated dildo sticking up (pun intended) from the seat. Sheesh! Of course it's nothing compared to a $25 million watch...


That looks uncomfortable to say the least.


This article have not have the reference to the exact event you mention, but it is interesting nonetheless.


"As a kid I rode a bike that cost 39.95 new from Sears.It was made out of thick iron tubing, had only one speed, and wieghed at least twice what a modern bike wieghs but it lasted thru three or four kids using it on farm paths which can hardly be described as real roads.The pubic roads were dirt and gravel, poorly graded and generally rough."

I had a three-speed Murray. It did fine on gravel roads, just had to slow down over the loose stuff. The tires were 26" X 1 3/8". On the other hand, a friend with a "road bike" with 27" wheels and those curled over handlebars did have lots of trouble on gravel.

For what it's worth, I have a 60s vintage Raleigh (by another name) with a Sturmey-Archer three speed. It still works.

Lack of inner tubes is what will stop the bikes, as long as enough of the economy keeps going to make tubes they will keep working.

Would you be interested in selling your vintage Raleigh? It sounds just like the kind of bike I rode with great pleasure when I was in grad school. Send me an e-mail if you are interested in selling.

There are thousands of plant species that produce latex. Bicycle racers are familiar with using latex inner tubes, as they're very lightweight in comparison to neoprene.

Coal will continue to be a mainstay of industrial production, used to make iron and other metals from their ores.

Compared to a 4,000 lb. passenger auto, a bicycle uses a tiny portion of the metals and plastics.

Compared to a 4,000 lb. passenger auto, a bicycle uses a tiny portion of the metals and plastics.

That's the key point. One car tire probably uses about ten times as much rubber as a bicycle tire, and a car needs four tires rather than a bicycle's two.

And in most post-industrial scenarios, motor vehicles will never entirely disappear. They will just become too expensive for ordinary people to buy.

If human civilization gets to the point where we can no longer produce bicycles in quantity, I don't think there will be enough of us alive to need very many of them anyway. The few hardy survivors will build their own bikes, and pretty much everything else they need, using muscle and water power to re-fashion the vast quantities of surplus stuff left lying around by the billions of people who no longer live here.

Don't forget that there was plenty of human life even before coal and oil were first extracted from the earth. Some number of people would be able to survive and live using similar techniques.

But I don't even think we will have to go that far back. Humans are just too clever. Once the population is down to, say, one-tenth or one-twentieth of what it is now, the remaining people might actually live reasonably well. They will have access to a wealth of tools, materials and techniques they can salvage. Eventually they will reconstitute some technologies.

What we mainly need is fewer people. It's hard for me to imagine that the human herd won't get involuntarily thinned over the next few generations. And then things will be in some respects much better, even though the remaining people will probably live much more difficult lives than we coddled beings do now.

Yeah but oil won't disappear overnight.

And by the time is does we would have been terribly remiss not to look into the viability of plant based chemical feedstocks. Clearly plat based stuff won't scale up to the scale of todays usage. But if we only use oil for feedstock, and don't try to keep a billion rubber-tired cars/trucks on the road, the limited sustainable volume of bio-hydrocarbon feedstocks ought to be sufficient. Same goes for aluminum. How much does it take to make a bicycle (a few pounds). Actually steel is a better bicycle material if you are into sustainability, I'm still riding a 20year old steelframe bike. High end bikes use aluminum or other fancy low weight materials because enthusiast are willing to pay big bucks to save a pound or two (and don't mind the limited frame lifetime of aluminum).

At least for the hardcore mountain bike rider, I was one for 17years, the more and larger the chuckholes, rocks, fallen logs etc. the better. But, if we want bike to be transport for the other 99%, we'll have to do a lot better than that trailwise. But anything, mostly smooth that isn't too soft like beachsand or mud or unpacked snow can really be negotiated pretty efficiently by bike.

About twenty years ago I bought a Schwinn crossover bike for my son. It was an excellent bike, and I adopted it after he got a car and was no longer interested in riding bikes: We had dual use tires on it, and it was good in the dirt and outstanding on the road. A few years ago I gave it away to an active (six foot tall female) bike rider, and it is still going strong.

One also has to consider that bikes may be transport mechanisms for goods as well as people. It's hard to be transporting goods over potholes and rocks.

Actually steel is a better bicycle material if you are into sustainability, I'm still riding a 20year old steelframe bike.

Particularly in an environment with an emphasis on "repair not replace" and any question at all about the availability of technology, steel is almost certainly the better choice. You can straighten bent tubing more often than not, and welding is less demanding of equipment and skill. Not that welding thin-walled tubing is ever particularly easy, mind you.

The issue isn't the oil in the ground disappearing. The issue is whether our complex system that allows us to pull the oil out of the ground, refine it, and transport it to the needed location stays in operation.

My big concern is debt defaults leading to a major reduction in international trade. (Countries may not want to trade with countries that have defaulted in the past, and don't appear now to have exports to trade for what they want to import.) There are a lot of repair parts that are sourced internationally, and complex equipment, like computers, requires high grade inputs from around the world. If we lose a big part of international trade, we may need to make do with goods that can be made with recycled materials, and these will likely be much simpler things. Without robust international trade, it is not clear that we can keep our electrical system operating, for example.


I had promised myself I was not going to comment on this thread because the initial premise is beyond the realm of reason, but then you come along and say some entirely reasonable things, and draw me in!

Your first point...your right, oil is not going to disappear overnight, or in a decade, or two or three. It is astounding how much effort the peak oil intellectuals made in the early days of awareness of the concept in pointing out that "peak does not mean 'running out' of oil, and have since then thrown that investment in the dumpster by spinning constant horror scenarios of "running out". It makes the whole cause appear as nutty as a sack of cats!

Your second point...tires can be made from something other than oil. Yes, and really without huge difficulty. Heavy oil and tar sand oil would actually be better for this than trying to burn in engines that require the champagne of all petroleum products, high octane clean and almost bottled water pure gasoline. Gail herself has referenced many charts showing how little oil as a percentage of total consumption is used to make such things as tires or asphalt. There is almost certainly enough high quality hydrocarbon energy in methane alone that we could make all the bike tires and asphalt we would ever need by capturing renewable waste methane (and every living thing must die and produce it)

Let's say it once more folks, most of the oil burned in the developed world GOES OUT THE TAILPIPE OF MOTOR VEHICLES! We don't make stuff with most oil consumed, we BURN IT! Most industrial and chemical production relies much more on natural gas than oil. Why is that so hard to understand? I understand it, and I am a confessed fan of the art form called the motor vehicle, why can't folks who hate the motor vehicle with every bone in their body understand that burning it in motors is where most oil goes?

You guys are the math wizards, so tell us, how much energy as a percent of all energy consumed is consumed by aluminum smelting or tire making? How much of that energy can be produced from already existing hydro-electric and nuclear power plants, never mind using renewable heat and energy from such well tested sources as concentrating solar mirror plants?

Of course, let us play the illogic out to its illogical conclusion...if there is not enough energy in the world to provide even bicycles and paved roads, we really won't have to worry about it because we will already be DEAD. There sure wouldn't be enough energy to provide heating/air conditioning (and without air conditioning in hot climates people die, ask the French,and without heat in the winter people anywhere north of central Georgia U.S. die) There sure wouldn't be enough energy to provide pharmacy drugs for diabetics (there are millions of them) heart medication or blood pressure medication for a rapidly aging population...I know of NO SCENARIO I have ever seen (with the exception of the absolutely hysterical) which foresees a future anytime in the next century or two with that little energy available. But if it were true, again, we would mostly all be DEAD. And of course, such a scenario is so far in the future and beyond all probability that we almost certainly will be.


while I agree with the sentiment that roads will not disappear due to constrained oil supply the post is titled Post oil and not Post peak oil

Oil won't just disappear

US net oil imports fell at about 4.5%/year from 2005 to 2008, while "Chindia's" net oil imports rose at about 9%/year from 2005 to 2008. I expect to see this pattern continuing--basically the US is on its way to becoming free of our dependence on foreign sources of oil, just not in the way that most people expected.

What do you think of Skrebowski's megaprojects approach that causes him to expect Peak Oil in 2014? If he is wrong, where did he make errors?

I found this site refering to megaprojects. It was last updated on the 18th Jan.
I extracted this Graphic.
Not much cheer there.

Thank you for the link. Unfortunately, it is not up to date and fails to include Skrebowski's latest estimates--which are for Peak Oil in 2014.

Any link to the latest ?

Things (other than GoM) should not have changed that much in last 5.5 months.


If memory serves, the link was posted by another commentator about a week ago, but I can't find it. Maybe no link was given to the latest from Skrebowski but only a quote.

A key issue with this graph is lead times.

If a megaproject is going to come on-line in, say, 2016, what year will it be announced ?

Tar sands projects have 7 to 10 year lead time (all per my understanding, would LOVE correction).

Major offshore in new areas (Brazil) 5 to 7 years lead time.

BP disaster - 3 to 4 years (drill some extra wells, hook up with nearby existing pipelines, design and install subsea oil/gas separation) if BP had not cut so many corners.

So, if BP had done it's job correctly, on the next revision of Megaprojects, 2014 would have shown, say, 115,000 b/day more production.

This explains the lack of blue lines after 2016 (7 years out from January 2010).


We rode bicycles on the roads of 1910 (and even back to 1880 or thereabouts). My guess is that it will take roads about a hundred years to decay back to what they were in 1910--which wasn't much.

The roads were so bad during the First World War that when a young Eisenhower led a convoy of trucks from West Coast to East Coast it took several weeks. My recollection is that it took them 59 days, but that can't be right. Maybe it was only 39 days, but it was such a prolonged period of time that Ike began to visualize the Interstate Highway System, which was largely built during his terms as president--1952-60.

Bonus points for anyone who knows Google well enough to find out the exact number of days the convoy took.

I know that states and counties are broke. But mending roads with low technology is labor intensive; it will create a lot of jobs and be very popular politically. Remember the good old days when chain gangs paved roads? (See "Cool Hand Luke.")

Tires for bicycles and automobiles used to be made from natural rubber.
The only limiting factor that I see is growing enough rubber tree plants to produce large amounts of rubber.

Steel requires limestone and coal to make coke for refining. Aluminum smelting requires large amounts of electricity to heat the furnace.

The bottom line is for a technology based culture you need abundant, cheap energy to run all of the machinery. Otherwise you are back to an agrarian culture with no real support for technology.

On a side note, I see one of the submarines was just now involved in lowering what looks like another manifold to the sea floor. The subtitle on the sub's video read "glycol bladder installation". Does anyone have a clue what this is ?

How about this new idea called the tweel? Could it help?

What about if we used a smaller quantity of machinery? If we could make things less dependent on machinery overall, that might leave some room for some in other areas. Expensive energy is not a problem if the demand for it is sufficiently small.

In addition, why do roads for bikes need to be built the same way as those for cars? And don't cars wear roads more than bikes? Wouldn't this help reduce maintenance requirements?

Also, for within towns at least, if we could rein in the "sprawl" of suburbia, we could have a smaller quantity of roads there simply by virtue of there being less area to cover. Though it might not eliminate the majority of the roads, it could nevertheless make some impact. And it's a good idea anyway since getting off the car-centered culture certainly should involve getting away from its building patterns.

In addition, bikes are more compact than cars, so you can fit more of them on a road. Could this help reduce the number of long roads that are required?

I'm a highway design engineer with 26+ years of experience, for an introduction on this subject.

The SecTrans comments are disturbing to me, but not really unexpected. For the last 15 years or so, our policy (I work with a state DOT in the highway design section) has been to include bicycle lanes/dual use lanes on all projects that allow such things, and sidewalks (or provision for adding them later) on all urban projects with curb and gutter. The costs were not much; a typical bike lane is 4-6' wide, if dual use lanes are recommended we used 14' instead of 12'. Sidewalk construction costs were shared with the municipality requesting them, up to 50% of the cost depending on population.

However, rising construction costs and a lack of political willpower to raise gasoline taxes (the bulk of which goes to highway construction) meant a steadily decreasing ability to get anything built. Our infrastructure is falling apart; in NC alone we have 8000 bridges that will need replacement in the next 20 years, and nowhere near enough money to do it. The SecTrans' comments sound to me like we'll soon by asked by FHWA to cut back on when and where we add bike lanes and/or sidewalk, in an attempt to put the money where the need is greatest. I think that is misguided and definitely short sighted, but since FHWA disburses the bulk of construction funds, if that's what they want then that's what we'll end up doing. As I said earlier, a bike lane is a minimal increase in most cases; in rural settings a 4' paved shoulder is enough to allow a safe location for cyclists and provides many advantages to the road itself (safety, reduced water intrusion, less shoulder rutting, etc).

No policy changes have come down the pipeline to us design engineers yet, but his comment may be the first warning sign that something's headed our way.

You know, sometimes I need to read more carefully. My initial reading gave me the impression he wasn't going to be emphasizing cyclists and pedestrians any longer, giving preference back to motor vehicles.

However, his comments are disingenuous; it's been FHWA policy for many years to emphasize cyclist and pedestrian needs, in conjunction with motor vehicles. It's called "multimodal" and we've been doing it for at least a decade if not longer. Maybe he's talking about providing more funding for the bicycle/pedestrian projects, adding those facilities to existing roads; that would be a good investment and would not cost much in a relative sense. Adding a paved shoulder to a rural route is cheap, as is adding sidewalks to an urban road already set up for one. A few dollars goes far in those situations; where it gets expensive is when curb and gutter has to be added prior to the sidewalk construction, or widening a road to add a bike lane.

in rural settings a 4' paved shoulder is enough...

Wow - just imagining what it would be like to have a 4' shoulder...In my entire rural county I don't think a 4' shoulder exists, except incidental to road widenings for turn-offs and so forth. I'm happy with two feet, and if I only have 6 inches I still don't complain, but then we have a lot of good low-traffic country roads.

We put those on designated bicycle routes in rural areas; all other 2 lane roads get an unpaved shoulder that varies from 3'-10', unless the traffic is heavy enough. Then the road could get a 2'-4' paved shoulder where cyclists can ride, but it's not there specifically for them.

The bottom line is for a technology based culture you need abundant, cheap energy to run all of the machinery. Otherwise you are back to an agrarian culture with no real support for technology.

Yes, and if it is not black, then surely it must be white, for there is no gray...

Wiki entry on Eisenhower's convoy:


62 days

Apparently, the first Transcontinental Motor Convoy, said to have taken 62 days; a few pix at link, one complete with a sarcastic handwritten caption. The roads were terrible, as some still are in remote areas of, say, the Intermountain West. The cars and trucks were probably breaking down constantly too.

But with respect to the doomer porn, if things get so bad that we can't find a little bit of some sort of rubber for bicycle tires or a little bit of steel for bicycle frames - both of those things being 1880s or 1890s technology - then I submit that bicycles would be the least of our problems. That many centuries or even millennia back, being dead would be by far a bigger problem. This goes double for TOD commenter-types, many of whom are over 40. Over-40s were especially likely to be dead back in the good old old days.

Later in the keypost, after the retreat from hardcore doom, "intercity buses" - plus roads and bridges strong enough to drive them on - are posited. If there's enough materials for that, then there's a surplus with respect to bicycles; the rubber in the tires on one bus would make a bazillion bicycle tires. And bicycles can be ridden on graveled roads. True, thickly bedded loose gravel is no fun, but under such penurious conditions nobody could afford to waste it like that. I remember a road like that, years ago; a lot of gravel wound up in the ditch.

But enough of this doomer porn, before our European readers are yet again falling over laughing at our quintessentially American folly.

I agree Paul. If things get to the point where we can't even keep bikes on the road, Maintaining them will be the least of our problems. However, by that time I'll have one of these:

Donkey extra.

Canopy, cargo trailer and gun mounts optional.

It turns out that you can get an entire donkey or pony rig for about the cost of a nice bike. If things get really bad, good luck eating your bike.

Hi Ghung,

I am happy to be able to smugly announce that in at least one respect I am ahead of you in the race to sustainability-we already have a pony sized sulky.

But to be honest I don't even know where it came from.

I suppose I should go ahead and gert a donkey now, while they are still cheap.

Nobody I know has ever worked a donkey, other than to ride it.

Are they easily trained to a small plow or cultivator or wagon?

But enough of this doomer porn, before our European readers are yet again falling over laughing at our quintessentially American folly.

Too late!

Btw here is a large PDF with the bicyle lanes in my home town Linköping.

Red lines are main lanes, blue are local ones and dotted lines are mixed
traffic, the balck circles are tunnels or bridges. The busiest bicyle lanes
are between Ryd where most of the students live and Universitetet and the
second busiest bicycle lanes are those to Saab AB who builds the Gripen fighter.
Myself I live in Skäggetorp and I do of course bicycle a lot, every time it
saves me about a dollar in gasolene and wear on my car.

At least we Americans have amusement value !


Too late!

Yeah, I kinda knew that. <Eyes Roll>

Wikipedia says Eisenhower and his convoy of trucks took sixty-two days to go from Washington, DC to San Francisco, so my original memory was not far off. Almost nine weeks to go coast to coast! I can bicycle coast to coast in less time than that these days.

Ditto for the Eisenhower archive that I linked. What I really enjoyed was the snarky scrawl on a picture of a rather awful little bridge: "Another fine example of modern engineering." I understand much better now why he wanted the Interstates so much.

62 days by road but less than a week by the coal fueled trains of the same time period. Ike made the trip in the days before diesel engined trucks were common. There were also no good road maps for the western states and a lot of time was spent figuring out how to get from one town to the next. In order to keep the convoy together when one truck broke down the whole fleet waited for repairs to be done. That is if they had stocked the right parts.

"We rode bicycles on the roads of 1910 (and even back to 1880 or thereabouts)."

Don... you DID? Tell us more! \o/

Seriously though, here's a video of what he's talking about. It's San Francisco, supposedly in 1905. Some of those methods still appear to be sane. Now that we know the result of that transition, maybe we can do it better this time. It's at least a possibility.


Don and Everyone,

Here is a PDF with some references to the Ike trek you mention...on pages 19 and 20:


This is a decent article here:


From the Ike Presidential library online, as referenced by the Wikipedia article above (scroll down a little when the page opens):


From the National Archives, with some scans of original documents from the journey:


A ~ 3.5 MB scan of Ike's report from the trans-continental journey:


One last, different topic, some examples of external peer reviews of Wikipedia, posted on: Wikipedia (is this recursive?):


I will agree that Wikipedia needs to be read with a critical eye and a skeptical attitude...but I would say as much for magazine articles and books as well...and many Wikipedia articles have links to authoritative sources, such as The National Archives, Presidential Libraries, etc.

Thank you. For me, nothing except sex is more fascinating than history.

To judge by the typos, D.D. Eisenhower himself wrote the report. Most of the delays were caused by bad roads, not by mechanical problems. They had an engineer truck go ahead to fix roads and bridges! I was also interested to note that some trucks were much better than others, e.g. the Packards and GMC trucks. Finally, I was intrigued to discover the usefulness of motorcycles in scouting to find best roads and to report on road and bridge conditions.

We've come a long way since 1919. And just as the Romans built their great roads primarily for military purposes, Eisenhower designed the Interstate system with military needs foremost in his mind. I doubt that he ever dreamed in his worst nightmare about White flight from the cities and the unending increase in suburban sprawl: They were unintended consequences of the Interstate system.

A dirt bike with a soft long travel suspension, knobbies, and good 4 stroke engine (plenty of torque at low speeds)and the right gearing will go almost anywhere you can get with a horse and some places a horse will not go.

An older Honda trail bike -one of the smaller ones-will go up to a hundred miles over very rough ground on a gallon of gas.

A bigger one will pull a small cart easily so long as you are careful to not overheat the motor.

Hi Mac,

About 30 years ago, we had a couple of Honda Trail 90s because a friend of ours was the head forest ranger in Gardiner MT (gateway to Yellowstone). He was very big on trail bikes. It was pretty amazing how those little machines could traverse steep, rough mountain trails.

We only had them for a short time as back here in WI I felt a bicycle was a much better way to get around - we have some hills but no 10,000 foot mountains to worry about.

There is a huge scaling factor to bicycle infrastructure. You need much narrower roads to support the same human throughput and these roads need to support much less weight, making their foundations less thick. They don't necessarily need to be paved to function well. Compared to cars, bicycles require 1/200th of the materials, fewer/no precious metals (they're even making them out of bamboo now), less rubber, less maintenance infrastructure, and a lot less of things I'm not thinking of right now. If there is anything that is part of our energy scarce future, it is the bicycle. Every mile we do by bike now is a teaspoon of oil that gives us more breathing room down the road. Scale that by a billion people in industrialized countries and it gives more lives a fighting chance down the road to feed themselves and soften the blow of agricultural contraction. Pushing bicycling now also pushes infrastructure toward walkable distances in North America.

I'll be curious to read other posts. If the bicycle isn't a key bridge technology (if for nothing else other than giving North American oil consumption a haircut) then I think there is almost no reasonable hope for non-apocalyptic scenarios. Then again, I enjoy cycling, and I've commuted by bicycle (when not living in a city) for 10 years. Is commuting by bicycle that inconceivable to the average person---even on The Oil Drum?

Is commuting by bicycle that inconceivable to the average person---even on The Oil Drum?

To be honest I no longer give a rat's ass about the average person! Let them break rocks... Oh, yeah, I know that solar doesn't work and that we can't afford it.


Hi Fred,

You always amaze me with the neat links you find!

Greenspeed also makes a comparable looking trike but it is not electrified and the price is nuts:

Of course, velo-mobiles have been used for some time in a few European locations.

I find the issue is not the exact technical feasibility/configuration of such machines, but the simple fact that your "average" person thinks the whole concept is stupid.

Yeah, those are pretty nice too!

...but the simple fact that your "average" person thinks the whole concept is stupid.

We need to find a way to convince the average person that this kind of transportation option is not only smart but that only really cool people have them.

In my post down thread I talk about Trail blazing, and breaking rocks is a thing you have to do at times, as well as moving them, cutting up fallen trees, and doing a lot of other hard labor with little power tools available.

So Let them Break rocks, kinda hit home, smiles. I used to use a metaphor of being on a 1,000 year rock breaking trip between visits to my most favorite restaurant. The Head Waiter used to get a kick out of asking me how my rock breaking days were going. The place is not cheap, and they bought local for almost everything they served except the drink lists. Another slice of heaven I don't partake of very often.

Gets his rock hammer and chisel ready, and 6 foot pry bar, Ready to Break Rocks, Sir!

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.
Hugs from Arkansas trails.

Gets his rock hammer and chisel ready, and 6 foot pry bar, Ready to Break Rocks, Sir!

Charles, I'm with you brother! If you or anyone else are ever down in my neck of the woods I highly recommend visiting the Coral Castle. It is a fascinating example of what one smallish man was able to do with a chisel, hammer, pry bar and a set of pulleys and chains.

Pseudo Science Warning! There are people who try to say this guy used magic and tapped into secret powers of the ancients. That's BS, his tools are all there in his shed for anyone to see and that makes his feat all the more amazing!


I had a friend in Huntsville an elderly lady who has a health food store in town. She is about 90 pounds or less, thin as a bone. One day while over at her house she asked me to unload her van which she had stuffed with wood cuttings she had picked up from people's annual tree triming and storm damage.

I am a big guy, able to pick up about 200 pounds and carry it on my shoulder. But how she got some of those logs in her van amazed me, some of them weighted more than she did.

There was easily 1,500 pounds of wood in there, some branches taller than me. As she said, you just have to know how to leverage things.

A lot of the tools that the Coral Castle guy had, is in the blocks he used as wedges, and I have seen my dad use them to move showcases that weight a ton, just using prybars and rollers and wedges.

Mankind was not dumb brutes, they knew things that we have forgotten with our big machines and TV time sitting fests.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world, the future is now.
Hugs from Arkansas.

I would love to commute the 8 miles or so each way from my home to my place of work, except for:

1) I am up to the challenge, but I would have to pre-position a week or two's worth of business clothes at my workplace, since I sweat like a pig. I work in a 6' x 5' cubicle and have zero storage space for that, and my work place does not have a locker room/showers/etc.

2) I frequently have to travel about 5 miles from my job-site to my home office, often with the only notice being a phone call saying 'get over here pronto'. The boss-men would not cotton to the time a bike transit takes...I am a contractor, and all my time is chargeable to some task/entity, and neither the customer nor the company (overhead) will pay for the 'luxury' of my choice to take much more time in order to save the planet.

3) By far the most important: I won't bike commute because I don't want to die. Many roads in my city do not have bike lanes...even the ones that do don't offer a force field to ward off the careless idiots who drive while putting on makeup, talking/texting on the cell phone, fooling with the radio, minding their rug rats, who are under the influence of some drug, are senile, are prone to road rage and/or have a hostile attitude towards cyclists, or just plain don't have the proper coordination and/or maturity to drive. I also, given the amount of time it would take and my increased respiration rate, would be inhaling quite a bit more exhaust fumes...

When and vehicle traffic greatly decreases, and/or vehicle speeds greatly decrease, and/or dedicated bicycle paths are built which have over and/or under-passes at road crossings, I will not risk death or crippling injuries to bike commute...

I would love to reduce my carbon footprint and get in great shape to boot, but the obstacles enumerated above are too formidable...

Likewise- I telecommute from farm to state capitol. But I am starting to plan a "commute" one summer week by bike- 400 miles round trip. Kinda to make a point- mostly to myself. But having young kids I also get the "don't want to risk death or crippling injuries" as about 40 miles of that trip is true harsh urban traffic.

I have a mule now, ala Kunstler, and perhaps could ride my mule from farm to campus. There is a barn right on the edge of my assigned parking lot. Hmmmm....

As I stated above, a real commitment to bicycling will cause infrastructure to scale to walking distances. I wouldn't commute by bike 20 miles either, nor would I risk my life either on dangerous roads. However, I do plan where I live with commuting by bicycle (or walking or public transport) as the second priority behind affordability. My home must be no more than 5 miles from my work with access to side streets and with groceries on the way. This way I can commute and do daily grocery shopping rather than use a car. Yes, I am lucky in that I have an office big enough to keep a bike, and I have access to a shower at work. I know not everyone can just up and move today or change jobs, but this is exactly why I feel that bikes are the solution. They drive a shift to a better scale of infrastructure in parallel with automobiles.

Solutions to peak oil are not convincing each other on a blog that the problem is serious. I think most if not all the followers of this blog are convinced to varying degrees. We need to discuss and mutually encourage taking real steps forward that are 1) provably beneficial and 2) realistic. Cycling is both.

We need as a group to understand why cycling is not one of the top priorities of society, especially in the southern half of the country (although in defense of cold climates Minneapolis is a bike commuting mecca). We need to understand why bike lanes are not mandatory as part of road development and why companies are not required by law to supply secure bicycle storage, showers, and lockers for their employees. These affordable changes are one immediately achievable ingredient of sustainable north american cities.

On this blog I see posts by engineers, professors, small business owners---presumably potential leaders of their communities. We need this blog to promote unified social/political objectives in addition to being a high signal to noise ratio exchange of technical ideas.

I would love to commute the 8 miles or so each way from my home to my place of work, except

I would venture to say that these "formidable" obstacles are largely in your minds...

I regularly hear how sweat and dirt and extra clothes and showers are a big issue - except from anyone who exercises regularly. Your body gets accustomed to heat, cold, work, etc, and five minutes to warm down (which is easy enough to work into the ride itself) and a change of clothes on hot days is about as bad as it gets.

I have an 8 mile commute each way, which I can do in just a few more minutes than it takes to drive. On a bicycle you commonly have many more options than on a car, and when traffic is bad I can often match or beat driving time. I often also have to dash out 5 miles or so to pick up vehicles or parts; that it might take 12 minutes rather than 10 is no issue at all to my boss, given that he saves vehicle expenses.

That you don't want to die is also a common worry of people who haven't tried it. It mostly seems scary from the metal-and-glass cage of the driver's seat, not from the saddle. On a bike you actually have much better manueverability and better options than are available to cars. In my beer-drinking truck-driving redneck area of idiot drivers as bad as anywhere I safely log about 9,000 mile a year on every kind of road. I have friends who do the same, and while no one wants to get hit, I feel much safer bicycling than I do driving. I've been accident free for 30 years, and (while I am careful) getting inconvenienced by flat tires is much more of a worry.

Hi daxr,

That you don't want to die is also a common worry of people who haven't tried it.

Real or perceived, I think this is a big deal. When I was a youngster in my 30s and 40s, I felt much as you do and dealt with moron drivers as just another facet of bike commuting - like the weather. Now, I don't want the stress of dealing with these folks and the old body is not quite as nimble either. But, the real question is: why should a person who chooses to commute by bicycle have to develop a personal survival strategy? Most folks "from the metal-and-glass cage of the driver's seat" conclude that cycling is a form of a death wish.

We have some cyclists killed by motorists here every year - and the motorists seldom suffer any serious legal consequences. I have become more reluctant about encouraging new riders to get into this mix - I don't want a tragedy on my conscience.

Today, my wife and I did our typical 20 mile ride for coffee-lunch-visiting-shopping (nice to be retired) but we go several miles out-of-the-way to avoid any major roads. We make a number of compromises that I would never consider if we were driving a car. Where we live, fear of cars is a very real factor that one ignores at one's own peril.

When I ride on roads I am paranoid about cars. The only question in my mind is: Am I paranoid enough?

Another hazard is big dogs who chase you. I was bitten by a German Shepard while riding a bike on California suburban streets back when I was nine years old. Scared the crap out of me, and the wound did bleed some. I hate uncontrolled dogs. A water pistol filled with ammonia is a good defense tool to have--squirt it at the dog's eyes.

I live on a corner of Coliseum Square Park (although it is shaped like a pork chop). I am on the dog park end (by long standing community accord). LOTS of dogs, day and night, off lease in the park, running around. Usually (not always) on lease walking to and from the park.

I have never seen one bark at a bicyclist. Just too common and non-threatening. Cats and other dogs, THAT is another story.

Best Hopes for TOO many bicyclists,


I was bitten by a German Shepard

Bitten delivering newspapers. Ten stitches.

I ride to work 5 days a week. It's only a 6km trip, but if I drive it's only maybe 5 minutes shorter, because of all the traffic lights. On the bike, I can just roll up to the lights. 5 miles at 20mph (which any adult should be able to do) is only 15 minutes. For faster travel times, get a hub motor.

-Is commuting by bicycle that inconceivable to the average person---even on The Oil Drum?-

Biking still seems to be seen as a weekend "fun" pursuit. Not "serious" travelling (like going half a mile to the shops :). That and the unholy fear of being run over, out of all proportion usually to the risks and health benefits. Such is the scope of the terror that anybody mentioning commuting by bike (in England/America) will instantly be warned by everybody and their grandma that you'll be dead within the week.

I've been doing "serious" biking since I was eight years old. In fact, my first date--at age eight--was with a girl who also had a bike, and we rode to the drug store for cherry Cokes. They cost six cents, but I had saved up from my 5 cent weekly allowance for the big event. And of course then I rode with the girl to her place, where as a bonus we got her mother's freshly baked cookies. Truly, 1948 was a different world--and I think a better one than we now have, except for the bad treatment of minorities and women.

At the time I was riding a women's 24" wheel bike that I had just adopted from my older sister. For years I rode hand-me-down girls' bikes, and it never bothered me. Back in those days, practically all younger siblings rode hand-me-downs from elder siblings.

It might be a challenge to define the 'Average' Oil Drum reader.. while there are some common traits, this is as much a herd of Cats as I've ever seen.

Clearly there are a lot of Biking advocates busy on this thread, and I count myself among them.. But if this option (bike commuting) is being called out as inconceivable and frequently dangerous, coming out of this 'Thrall of Car Crazies' and cheap gasoline as we are.. it's not all that wrong either, is it?

There is a lot of work to do before I'd want my aging parents to subject themselves to the driving culture in this town, riding on an unprotected cycle, or god forbid my daughter. I'm more afraid of drivers who are overworked, underpaid, impatient and always on the phones now, than I am about direct antibike hostility or alchoholism.. while both of those are still real issues for cyclists as well.

Here Down Under it varies a lot in safety. You have to use your common sense.

When I was studying in the city, I rode 24km each way. About 18 of those kilometres were along a dedicated bike path that ran beside the highway for most of its length, and along a river for the rest. The other 6km were either side of the bike path trip, getting from my house to it, and then through the city. I faced traffic at peak hour in the short suburban streets and in the inner city. This traffic moved pretty slowly, so I felt relatively secure.

I'm looking at a job in another suburb, it's 15km, but 4/5 the trip would be on major roads with no dedicated bike path. I could detour to get a bike path for about 1/2 the trip, but that'd bring it to 18-20km. Again, peak hour would actually be relatively safe since the traffic is slow, but it'd be a bit nerve-wracking navigating among all the trucks and impatient drivers

You're supposed be 1.5m from the side of each vehicle, but it's simply not possible on roads without a dedicated bike lane - and the drivers will from time to time decide to abandon the main road and turn off into side roads, crossing the bike lane, without bothering to indicate first.

If I've a shift outside the peak hours, it's actually more dangerous since the drivers aren't held back in speed by lots of other vehicles around. Many are inattentive, focusing on a text message on their mobile phone.

So most likely if I get the job I'll take the bus, and if I've the early shift (0600 onwards) that's before the buses start, so I'd have to drive.

Safety is a concern not to be dismissed lightly. Worldwide, car accidents claim the lives of a couple of million people annually, and around a quarter of those killed are pedestrians or cyclists. A collision which would merely damage the car and cause minor injuries to the vehicle driver - 40-60km/hr or so - can cause major or lethal injuries to a pedestrian or cyclist. Collisions at combined speeds of even 100+km/hr are usually survived by vehicle drivers, they're unlikely to be survived by cyclists or pedestrians.

We simply need more provision made on roads for cyclists. Cycling is a mode of transport, not leisure, and needs to be treated as such. Anyway as others have pointed out, the roadwork you need for pedestrians and cyclists is heaps less than you need for cars and trucks. So it's cheap to do.

And don't forget the constant - and often deliberately formented by the MSM - rage from motorists that cyclists are using their roads! And they're not insured! And they don't stop at red lights! And, and, and!

I'd be quite happy to register and insure my bike. Given that road damage is the 4th power of axle weight, what should a 100kg bicycle and rider pay in rego, considering a 1.5T mid-sized 6-cyl car pays $800 in Rego (inc CTP insurance)? :D

I will say it again and again.... this is not a technical problem, we have everything we need to move beyond oil as the dominant factor, ( and as the latest Jon Stewart video so aptly suggests we HAVE had everything we need for 20,30,40,50+ years) and still can not, will not do it.

What we don't have is a way to get from here****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************** to there.

AKA!!! "the bottleneck"

What needs to be focused on is the bottleneck as that, and only that, is what will determine the future of humanity.

Everything else is internet based circle jerking.

Around here, dirt track does not bother people on ordinary bicycles. I must get mine fixed and get using it. As for supplies from overseas the world had a system before oil, it was called sail. Perhaps Tony is working on a new, post oil project.


Cobblestones, brick, wood, etc are all locally-sourced road surfacing solutions that have been used in the past. As someone else here noted, a bicycle weighs vastly less than a car (and outrageously less than a loaded semi) and the roads need not be built to withstand extreme weight & stress.

Brick-paved roads were used as early as 3000 BC according to the Wiki.

A person pedaling a bicycle travels more efficiently in terms of calories expended per distance traveled when compared to a person walking.

Just because present-era bicycle (and bike component) manufacture makes use of horribly integrated global supply chains doesn't mean it must necessarily do so in the future, or fail outright.

You're correct that a road doesn't need to be nearly as thick for a bicycle than it does for a car, but that's misleading. Roads aren't designed the way they are for cars, they're designed that way for the commercial trucks that use them. One commercial semi has the same impact on a road that 100,000 cars do, so the cars' impact on the pavement thickness is very small. The cars' effect on a road involves the # of lanes, and to a lesser extent the width of the lanes. Many rural two lane roads are just fine with 9-10' lanes, but as more and more cars use it the width goes up to 12', mainly for safety reasons.

Bike routes, defined as independent paved or unpaved roads for bicycle use only, typically only have 1-1.5" of asphalt on top of 6" aggregate, about what a normal driveway may have. This isn't because a bicycle needs that much pavement, but because that's about as thin an asphalt layer you can put down without it breaking up in a month or two from just normal weather conditions. Asphalt is also a lot less maintenance intensive than an unpaved trail, especially if it's used by a lot of cyclists.

One commercial semi has the same impact on a road that 100,000 cars do

That multiplier is in the right ballpark, but a little high. Road damage goes up with the 4th power of speed and 3rd power of weight. So a fully loaded semi (legal limits on weight comes in at 80,000#), compared with sedans & SUVs that average just under 4,000# (for example, a Ford Taurus comes in at 3300#, add in a 250# driver, while a Ford Explorer comes in at just over 4,000# empty), does about 10,000x more damage just from weight alone.

Could you provide a link ?

A couple of years ago I did a literature survey and found 4th and 5th power of axle weight but no mention of speed.



I came across it during 2 different searches: one on dirt road washboarding and the other on railroad damage (which was part of my research into why high speed rail is so much more expensive than non-high speed rail).

Yes, I agree my original # was a bit high. Went back and looked up one of our pavement engineer's comments he emailed to me. He told me a fully loaded truck was the equivalent of 71,000 2000 lb cars when it came to the loading and damage done to the pavement. Also, higher speeds aren't really the problem; the slower the speed, the longer the heavy weight has on any particular pavement location, and the greater the loading/damage. I've seen asphalt ramps where the pavement "scooted" at the bottom, where a traffic signal was located. The trucks would come to a stop at the bottom for the signal, and each one would push the asphalt pavement forward a tiny bit. Eventually a 'washboard' effect was created.

I've had interstate projects where the pavement design was over 24" thick, due to the high truck percentage and overall traffic volume. When you've got 130,000 vpd and 20% heavy trucks, you've got a lot of big trucks pounding that pavement.

Here's a website that describes the equivalent loading process:


We need better bikeways. A Class 1 bikeway is defined as an eight foot wide path that is separated from motor vehicles. In my mind, a Class 1 bikeway is a flat, glass enclosed, path with a nice view, that slopes gently in the direction that I want to go. With bikeways like this, many people would ride bikes. This could be the local transportation system, shared with pedestrians and skaters, connecting with a multi-modal public transit.
http://www.fpdcc.com/tier3.php?content_id=68 [class 1 bikeway]

I would be ecstatic to be removed from sharing roads with motor vehicles....the differences in weight and speed/acceleration are too dangerous for me to deal with. Glass enclosures and downhill each way are icing on that cake :)

The opportunity to see a lot of fit specimens of the opposite sex with well-toned bodies would be a very nice fringe benefit to boot!

Glass enclosures in July, not so much icing on the cake, more like stew pots, like those glass bus shelters.

This highlights the difference between anti-technological and technological post peak visions. It is possible to imagine that the resources needed for manufacturing bike level technologies can be procured in a society with a much lower level of energy expenditure. Bikes seem something possible in a solar/wind/hydro economy. I suspect the embodied energy in a bike is much lower than a car.

But it's a good question to think about.

Agreed! see link in my comment above. http://campfire.theoildrum.com/node/6622#comment-655105

Either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!

Ride a bike or take a hike

This is a good link for analyzing speed versus power for different modes of transportataion

Also by same author, and relevant to topic at hand:

Why are people not flocking to bikes? Habit is a large part of it. Rationally, one can't defend a car over a bike, the economics are incredibly lopsided in favor of the bike. Yet, here in an urban area where everything is withing easy biking distance (2 miles or less for most people) it is little done.

Physically, the great majority of people can ride a bike and for convenience riding right to the door of your destination is far better than hunting for parking and then paying for it.

But, I can say from personal experience that it is hard to mentally put oneself on a bike when all one has ever done is drive. I only did it after a friend I considered a bike nut nagged me into it and I was converted. Barring very high gas prices, I don't see the automotive herd moving to two wheels no matter how many nice bike routes, lanes and parking bars are created.

As anyone who has spent time in another country can attest, people do what they see others around them doing. It's only when Americans can see how others live that they open their eyes to how exceptional (I mean extravagant) the United States is when it comes to transportation.

Roads so bad they cannot be used are a very long way off because folks have shown already how very much they are willing to spend to drive. Expect tolls to be charged long before any roads become unusable.

I used to bike from St. Paul to the U. of MN to use their library facilities. Not a bad ride at all, and it was quite safe.

From the University south along the river to Minnehaha Falls, then west along Minnehaha Parkway, up the chain of lakes, and back across the city was a favorite ride.

There are many fine rides in the Twin Cities area; I'm lucky to live here for many reasons--including the cold weather which tends to drive away the feeble, the wimps, and the rifraf. We also have one of the cleanest and most effective state governments around. (And it doesn't matter whether they are Republicans or Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. They both tend to be good, compared to the state government you find in California or most other states. And every year we get more bike trails, even during this time of budget crunch.)

Don, when I attended the U, I used to ride my bike from Dinkytown where I lived to go swimming every morning at Cook 15 (or was it 10). No matter how cold it was, and we are talking sub below zero temps, there were always a few bikes locked on the bicycle rack. I used IRC blizzards on my bike with extra studs installed. Still fell a lot though.

CB, you asked, "Why are people not flocking to bikes?"

Good question. I live out in suburbia now, and work in the typical office park a few miles in one direction, with the grocery stores & such being a few miles in another direction .. yet I have fond memories of using a bicycle as my primary transportation from age 10 up through my mid-20s. This, plus developing a real dislike for what cars do to your health if you depend on them, is what's motivating me to try the bicycle again. I'm just getting heavier every year .. not fun :(

Another motivator is that undersea oil volcano (thanks BP!) busy turning the Gulf of Mexico into a diluted version of the La Brea tar pits. 60 days by 60K barrels/day gives us 3.6 millions barrels of the stuff let loose into the Gulf. And to think, that's just a fraction of the 85 million barrels of that particular poison needed to keep the world running the way it is every single day.

Oh, and there's this peak oil thingie that's going to whack us oil-addicted societies about like a hockey puck during the last plays of a Canada-Russia tie game.

Are you thinking about getting a bicycle sometime as the Long Emergency unfolds? If so, ask yourself how expensive a good bicycle will be when gasoline goes past $8/gallon here in the States.

Re: why don't more people bicycle - not only do people have to get past the idea of expending some energy, 'round these parts I expect they fear getting smashed flat. Our city is building bike trails (and has quite a nice network completed) but it's the exception in the metro area. High-volume car commuter roads aren't too bike-friendly.

Another problem in convincing folks to get back on the bike is the weather. With the heat and humidity, we will all be wringing wet by the time we reach our destination.

That being said, when I was a poor student back in the seventies, a bicycle was my only transportation (public transportation being nonexistent in my college town). I believe I could go back to it; it would take some getting used to.

A new bike trail is being constructed near us and I am looking forward to being able to ride my bike to the post office instead of taking my car. I bet I'll even get there faster. ;-)

Regarding the upkeep of roads: here, I'd worry about the bicycle traffic being enough to keep vegetation from taking over the road.

Heat is not nearly the problem you'd think it would be. Most people go to work at the coolest time of the day. On really hot days, I take my time on the way in and it's not a problem.

The biggest problem for bikes is car traffic. It's a serious problem and we need to start planning our cities better. If anyone is really interested in biking to work, I highly recommend "Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips" by Dave Glowacz.

Obviously the heat never stopped me in my college days. The one day which I remember not being able to get to class on my bike was actually a winter day when a previous snowfall had partially melted and frozen again (had a 10-speed with those skinny tires).

I just think people here (I'm in Mississippi) balk at bicycle riding because of it. I'm sure we could get used to it.

Heat for a lot of people is indeed a problem. For example, NC in the summer has dew points in the 70's even early in the morning, with 78 degrees the low temperature. If you don't have shower facilities at your place of work, that is already a nonstarter unless you work somewhere where you'll be sweating anyway. Riding home is even worse; 60% humidity coupled with hours of 90+ temperatures means the heat is suffocating; if you're riding more than a few miles you're looking at some serious heat stress. A few people in my office do commute with bikes but they live so close to the office they carry new clothes or just 'wipe off' when they get there.

The other problem for a lot of people is the fear factor. They don't want to ride on the same roads that motorists use, or they don't want to take a longer route to avoid most of them. That's why I found the SecTrans' comments upsetting; we should be adding more, not less bicycle and pedestrian facilities to existing roads, and making sure new/widened facilities include them. Around here people who don't like riding on our roads use the sidewalks, which is dangerous for a new group of people, the pedestrians. It's technically illegal (in NC a bike is a vehicle and has the right to use a road, whether it has bike facilities or not) but no one enforces it.

Speaking from New Orleans (day before summer, 84 F @ 8:55 AM, 75 F dewpoint (translation: air one can chew), high today forecast 95 F), street trees make a real difference.

Trees keep the pavement cool(er), shade is welcome when it does not rain, and trees filter the rain, taking the sting out, when it does rain.

Bicycling continues at somewhat lower pace (both speed and numbers) but it continues all summer long. Perhaps one bicyclist for every 15 cars/SUVs by my house.

25 mph speed limit on most streets (35 mph on divided streets) and a "live and let live" attitude towards bicyclists.

Best Hopes,


Your last statement is probably the one that's the most important when it comes to getting people to cycle. Around here there's the "I paid for the road, you cyclists stay off!" attitude from many motorists, opposed by the "we have the right to ride on it even if we block everyone else" attitude from the cyclists. It's not a pretty sight with us highway engineers caught in the middle.

How many New Orleans businesses have showers to let people clean up after riding to work? Our office has one (1!) shower stall for the entire workforce, roughly 500 people, and it's clearly an afterthought (no door, no place for a change of clothing or towels). I've lived in NC for 25 years and the heat/humidity is even now tough to get used to. TN was never this bad, but of course I was a lot younger when I was growing up over there.

The 'at work" showers are slowly coming along. City Hall, Medical Center, don't know about new WW II Museum (a half mile from here).

Other wise pretty positive post-Katrina. More bike paths and bicycle parking. Law requiring 3' passing distance when cars go by bicycles (billboards up noting this law after saying it is courteous and right thing to do#). Texas Gov. Perry vetoed comparable law in Texas.

Best Hopes for Comity,


# I think this is what the billboard company puts up when they cannot rent space.

"Riding home is even worse."

I'd argue that we're creatures of habit. I'm in Illinois... highs in the 90s and high humidity. I ride in those conditions all the time, and I don't suffer from heat stress as long as I'm hydrated. When I was a kid, nobody had central air conditioning. We dealt with it by saying "Sure is hot" and "Yep, sure is." Then you'd go on with your life.

Safety is definitely an issue. Earlier, I mentioned a book that helped me a lot. You quickly learn that it's safer to be just a bit aggressive. The trick about making eye contact doesn't work when you're on a bike.

I also posted a link earlier to a film of San Francisco in 1905. It shows pedestrians, bikes, streetcars, cars, horses and wagons all competing for the same space. It's 100 years later and we're hardly any better at this thing. We can do this... we just choose not to.

Heat is not nearly the problem you'd think it would be.

Generally if you are on flat ground heat is much less of a problem on a bike than walking. On a bike without a huge expenditure of energy you are going 12-20mph, which generates a pretty decent cooling breeze. I can remember doing mountain biking during a month long business trip to Arizona, starting out at sunrise 90F every day (and these had some pretty steep hills). You may be comfortably bicycling in heat that would be very stressful otherwise.

The worst weather hazard on a bike is lightning. One good bolt and you are literally toast. Thats the one weather where a cars metal Faraday cage can save your butt. Otherwise with some training and the right clothing you can bike in just about any weather ( snow over 6-8 inches gets pretty tough).

To add something to the heat issue. Its usually not an issue while you are actually moving on the bike, because you have your own selfmade wind. But, having to stop, your high metabolism continues for perhaps another 15-20minutes, and you will start sweating within about a minute. I do an execise bike ride from work, up/down a thousand foot hill. Soon as I get into my office, I close the door, strip and turn on the fan. After maybe ten minutes or so I've cooled off enough to get dressed etc.

IMO there is not one futurist, Greer, Kunstler, or anyone else who has even a tiny grasp of what it might be like.

Please people...I know there is increased traffic here on TOD so I think it is important to stress. Just because these people were the first to write on this subject do not give them ANY credibility. They have no clue, no track record beyond the fact that, yes it is the end of this paradigm. They are as clueless as the next guy, and the next guy is also trying to make a buck off all this $hit going down just like everyone else.

What is most likely to happen is the worst of what has historically happened if we don'r stop wishing upon some fantastical future scenario that these people have pulled out of their a$$. I'm talking full out war....no holds barred...ugly beyond anything we have seen because we now have...............................HIGH TECH WEAPONS>>>>>>>> WooHooo!!!! TECH RULES!

Oh, never mind this inconvenient little fact. Lets contemplate a world of gardening, raising goats, sewing leather, suckling our sweet little young 'uns. Bull $hit! We might never get to that point if we don't demand a stop to all the madness.

The bottle neck will decide whether or not there even IS a future so lets focus on the bottle neck and make sure we at least have the options that we love to discuss here on the internets.

i basically agree eeyores; but a bike might be very utilitarian in a small walled off---literally-- village, or protected/isolated area.

the key to survival will be small group relationships/dynamics.

40 guys and gals out in a parking lot with sheilds and swords and all riding bikes, attacking each other back and forth, until one side wins. MPOPRGs and RLRPGs (Real Life Role Playing Games, ala SCA and such).

A lifetime of wars and battles in human history, not something most people think about when they do their retirement planning these days, just something people that I know do for the fun of it, even though war was never fun really.

I don't try to sell books, but I do try to not get head over heels down in the dumps about the future.

Knowing the future is as misty as the next cloud forming over your location right now.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.
Hugs from Arkansas,

Aside from the hollering, you've mentioned this 'Bottleneck' at least a couple times today, and how we should focus there.

I don't disagree.. but I'd ask you to take a first swing at it by saying more about where you see the bottleneck. It sounded earlier like you were talking about it as the challenge of raising this as an issue for 'the other 90%' or something.

Believe me, that's what I chew over the most. How to say it so the message actually communicates.. But hell, I'm having enough trouble trying to get my wife to understand just how important I think this issue is. We've got some challenging family jobs to take on this summer, and as I brought up energy just a little bit, she actually said 'we've got to put blinders on and just get through it right now..' Now, I don't really fault her position there.. she does get much of the practical stuff moving in this household, (assuming our pending energy issues are merely 'impractical' to focus on..) but I did get up in arms about it tonight, just reminding her of the 8 presidents who had helped us give lip service to these issues, but otherwise keep our blinders on.

She wants to know that the girl will be fed and the bills paid, before we spend too much time on these
seemingly distant problems.. and that's it. It doesn't hurt right now.. there are other fires we're putting out, how can you worry about 'Solar' or that 'E-trike' wish again?

Tell me about the bottleneck you are on about, if you would.

well said bob; & i have the same struggles with my wife as i insist on preparing for a 'very bad time', that i don't know have a timeframe for shorter than a guess of within 2 decades.

speaking of bikes i'm taking a load--5 or 6 to the place we bought--which my wife has an aversion to--in a small village 80 miles from here.

i figure we get a serious $ problem within 2 yrs; maybe very soon. the question is will this lead soon to serious food problems, etc. But i think eeyore is right at least in part & the war folks are unleashed

edit to add...
& 'let loose the dogs of war'

rather than an outright [stand alone] $ & financial collapse. actually then i think if the wars are 'limited' things might stabilize some, & then grind along even slower for a while....

Why do I feel so busted? Perhaps because my choice of bicycle is akin to choosing a Hummer. Big tires and lots of resources. On the other hand I have almost 3500 miles on the bicycle, with no signs of letup. I do not know if I ever had to replace a bike tire due to even wear. How many miles can they go? I do not know what is worse, my resource wasting bike or a van posing as a helicopter.

90% of my photos were taken on bike runs.

From today's bucket- Lucky guess.
First bike pictures @ http://s892.photobucket.com/albums/ac126/tinfoilhatguy/Gulf%20Shores%206...

My 1985 Schwinn Cruiser had about fifteen thousand miles on it when I finally got rid of it last year. It had fat low-pressure road tires and would do fine on gravel or macadam. Do just twenty miles a day, and your miles quickly add up. That was the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. And except for a new chain and sprocket wheel I never put any money (other than on tires) into the bike.

"Comfort" in bike terms is very subjective.

A Schwinn Cruiser to me would be akin to polling a barge. Yes, it is comfortable in the sense that you can sit on it and it would feel comfortable, but putting on miles and that comfort factor disappears.

I bike carbon and titanium road frames and these define comfort in my subjective opinion. I don't get too excited about techy gadgets, but get me near anything made of carbon-fiber and I usually end up getting it because the EROEI (Efficiency Returned on Energy Invested) factor is huge. Expecting blowback on that last statement, BTW.

Duplicate deleted

Everybody rides different. You worry about EROEI. I worry about TSIS (tire stuck in sand) and EOU (ease of use). Wide tires take care of TSIS and my internal hub 8 speed with coaster brake takes care of EOU. Since it is less efficient than my road bike, I get a workout from much less distance. Yes, the seat hurts my rump after 25 miles, but I soon plan to get a Brooks so I can go up to 75 miles. No metal/plastic pan under the leather. In Gulf Shores the road bike guys miss the scenery and look out of place. Especially in those funny pants.

Good riding to you.

A typical steel bike frame weighs between 4 and 5 pounds. We could recycle the steel in our current car fleet for centuries and not reach peak bicycle steel. That 4 or 5 pound frame will last decades with appropriate care. The bike I ride daily is 40 years old. It shows modest wear. It still has the original wheels and most of the original drive train. You break the bearings out (hubs, crank, pedals, headset) once a season, clean and re-grease the races. It's not a big deal. Servicing requires 2 or 3 wrenches. The wrenches are older than the bike.

There is no shortage of these machines. Every garage or backyard shed in the country has one sitting in the corner. Many garages have several bikes. The older bikes are usually as good as the newer ones, in fact, they tend to be lighter and have better commuting geometry.

What has changed is the electronics. The LED light (dynamo powered) that I've added has a 100,000 hour life span.

In my view, you make a modest transportation investment once and you're done.

The older bikes are usually as good as the newer ones, in fact, they tend to be lighter and have better commuting geometry.

Older bikes were rarely made out of carbon, titanium or aluminum. The first two materials in particular have made a big difference.

Older bikes are not as good as newer bikes in just about every category I can think of. A good recent-vintage road bike feels like a second skin. Older bikes feel like a weighty appendage.

Did you make that claim to simply encourage people to get out and ride?

I like old-fashioned heavy steel bikes with wide saddles. Three speeds is plenty for me, though I had five on the Cruiser. If I could buy brand new another 1985 Schwinn Cruiser, I would. But now they are made in China and are crap.

Newer bikes crack in the frames. One of my best friends had this happen to him. He had over 25,000 miles on the bike, but that is no excuse for a frame failure. In the good old days, Schwinn had a lifetime guarantee on the frame. One of the best bikes I ever had was a three speed Raleigh that I bought in 1963 for only $15 and rode during seven of my years in graduate school in Berkeley. (I entered graduate school in 1959 in sociology and quit in 1970 after changing my major a few times.) Hard to say how many miles I put on it, but is was lots. I sold the bike for $25 in 1970. Those old three-speed Raleighs--the ones made in England--were some of the most practical bikes ever made. The new ones are junk.

Having watched biking discussion on TOD, I definitely feel in the minority. Most people are fans of utilitarian bikes, recumbents, commuter bikes, or even trikes.

I go for the road bike and take my chances. Yes I realize that almost all the frames are made in the same factory in Taiwan, but that means you can get some great deals as well from no-name-o bike "manufacturers". I only admit to using a single-speed road bike for commuting to work so that I don't have to worry about it getting stolen. I never worry about frame failure ... unless I get hit by a car.


Even though I ride a recumbent (Volae - dual 650) and my wife and I have a tandem recumbent trike (Greenspeed), I fully appreciate your position. I think there is a lot of very fond nostalgia going on here about college days and such.

IMHO, great bikes are the height of engineering and technical achievement (maybe a little bias showing here). I suspect you are a lot younger than I am - but, I had one of the first mass produced carbon fiber bikes (Giant) and loved it until my back problems forced me to recumbents (which I truly love also).

I'll be riding the MS 150 (150 miles in 2 days) and I expect to see lots of folks that agree with you and very few (none) riding a 30 year old clunker.

BTW, it is always interesting to see the bias pop up over cycling clothes.

Sorry about your back problems. A recumbent sounds like a perfect choice for you.

As far as cycling clothes, I am a "Fred". (I bet you know what that means)

Along with an old, tough steel bike, I usually just wear my ordinary clothes when biking--even for twenty miles or more. T-shirt and jeans and walking shoes (New Balance 810s). IMHO, fancy biking clothes are for rich people who want to be stylish. (I do admit that I look better in modern bike clothing; I have some from REI.)

Hi Don,

IMHO, fancy biking clothes are for rich people who want to be stylish.

I realize this is a common opinion among non-bikers, basic utility bikers, and Sunday casual bikers. But, I often wonder where this sentiment comes from?

I'm not sure what is the annual gross revenue of Pearl Izumi (major sport clothing supplier) - but, I know it is one heck of a lot of dollars! Is this all due to rich folks wanting "fancy biking clothes...to be stylish"?

I don't think so. I have a ton of bike specific clothing both to meet changing weather conditions, and to feel comfortable. Yes, I wear "regular" clothes for a 5 mile shopping trip. But, for anything longer I want to wear my bike clothes. Trust me - at my age no one looks at me and has thoughts about "stylish". I choose my bike clothes for purely practical reasons. And, lots of other people of modest financial means feel the same way. I'll be riding a Fund-Raiser ride in a few weeks with another 1,500 or so cyclists - 90+ percent will be wearing "fancy biking clothes" and I doubt that even 10% of them are "rich people".

Most of the people I know buy bike clothes on sale (often huge discounts available) or from places like http://www.aerotechdesigns.com/

What fascinates me about this is the question: why do bike specific clothes seem to evoke this kind of judgemental comment? Don't mean to single out Don - I hear this lots of times - even a comment up thread about "fancy pants". People wear lots of different clothes for work and play. A dairy farmer dresses differently from a Wall Street broker. A duck/deer hunter does not wear a tennis outfit. I lady fire fighter does not dress like a pole dancer. What is it than seems to get under the skin of so many people when a guy goes by on a bike with shorts and jersey that have evolved over many years to be the most efficient for cycling?

I ALWAYS wear bicycle pants when I ride any kind of appreciable distance. Anyone who has experienced bad crotch rash on a long ride will tell you why. I often wear my racing pants under cargo shorts. I go back far enough to have used the old type with natural chamois which you had to condition with a lotion.

I've never had crotch rash or other ill effects from wearing jeans while biking, with cotton boxer shorts underneath.

I do admit to going to the big Fall clear-out sale of bike clothes at REI, usually when I have extra money. I do have REI rain jacket for biking and also their biking shorts. The shorts are all right, and there is no doubt that I do look better in them. But, alas, I've reached the age where I'm no longer interested in attracting hot bicycling chicks. I'm convinced that some young women join bicycle clubs to attract vigorous young men--who look sharp in their bike gear. Probably some men join the clubs in search of fit and cute young women, too. Men, IMO, are just as bad as women when it comes to spending to much on bike outfits.

Although I have to admit, after my wife gave me a pair of step-in pedals and shoes with corresponding clips, that having your feet attached to the bike makes for a very different experience. I had not realized, even with toe clips, how much of my attention was previously spent keeping my feet squarely on the pedals.

OTOH, there also comes the moment part-way through a fall that you realize you are not going to get your feet loose before you land :^)

Did you see my Electra Hellbilly? Two companies make the best mass produced mid-grade beach cruisers. Electra and Phat. Electra is bigger and has cool bikes especially women's and city bikes. Phat has cool choppers and a little more comfortable riding position, though Electra is VERY comfortable.
Check it out. www.electrabike.com and www.phatcycles.com. I love this, something I know just a tiny bit about. Not much, but it gets technical here.

Edit: Fixed typo in first hyperlink. My bad. Try again.

My Electra's welds look great. Aluminum frame. Hit by 2 cars and still true. 3500 miles and counting.

Older bikes are not as good as newer bikes in just about every category I can think of.

No. I make the claim because it is true. Ride a Raleigh Sport, that venerable old 3-5 speed from the 60s, or an old Peugeot, or one of the early Treks... compare any of them to the modern mass produced aluminum unit that typically has a suspension fork, or worse: a sprung rear wheel assembly that, of course, comes with at least 30 gear combinations...(25 of which are redundant)

Ride any of the older bikes with well engineered double butted steel tube sets. Titanium and, particularly carbon, are not better, and the design/engineering is typically worse. Can you put fenders or tires wider than 26mm on the typical high end carbon/titanium unit? Can you (gasp!) put a rack on it? If you rack and load it... will the bike shimmy? If you dump it, can you fix it?

The issue with composites is marketing hype. (I am in marketing). We know that 99% of those riders could easily lose 5-6 pounds, and save that marginal $1500 that it takes to get to 15 pound unit...

But what the heck... smoke them with the carbon bars and carbon seat post, put them on a wheel with 8 spokes... They will ride faster... won't they? :-)


Hi Will,

Ride a Raleigh Sport, that venerable old 3-5 speed from the 60s

Got one in the attic - more than happy to sell it. Send me email.

My point entirely. Everyone has these bikes stashed away.

Although I am sure it is a pristine example, I've got 8 bikes in the garage already. But I'd encourage you to overhaul it, rack it for beer runs, and give it a new life. You might be surprised at how well it performs... if you're worried about what your bikie friends think, slap a Serotta decal on it. They will appreciate the inside humor.

If Will doesn't want it, please send me an e-mail.

OK, then it must really be a situation of you get what you pay for.

I spend on average $2000 for each bike I buy.

Just the wheel sets are incredible. Do you know anything about these new lightweight deep-rimmed wheels made by companies like Mavic? They have these aerodynamic bladed spokes that never seem to break and are so much stiffer than the old-timey spokes of a few years ago. The deep-rimmed wheels mean that they rarely get out of true, you just may have to throw away your reserve of short-stemmed inner tubes you have.

Have you ever seen these new thorn-resistant road bike inner tubes? A little bit heavier, which you actually notice because the bikes themselves are so light, but you never get flats with these tubes. BTW, they cost $6 instead of $3. Always pump the tires to capacity so you avoid pinch flats.

The shifting on Shimano Ultegra is really good; they stay perfectly indexed and I can be climbing a 500 meter ascent in the Swiss Alps without worrying about a shift going haywire. These crank shafts made out of carbon seem to work really good once tightened down good.

Frames made out of different material all feel a bit different. With titanium you can crank on the frame and it may feel a little bit springy but it will never give out (everyone loves their titanium rimmed eyeglass frames for the same reason). With carbon you get this feeling like you are riding a sailboat and it is straining against the wind-sails and the dagger-board trying to transfer that last bit of energy. Get the drop down handle-bars made of carbon and they also give as you crank up that hill.

Then I have my clipless pedals with carbon-fiber shoes that enable you to gain energy on the up as well as down stroke. I went so many years without these which I really can't explain.

I don't cares much about the seat. In my opinion most people complain about a seat has more to do with the adjustment. If you are riding efficiently, you want to be hovering over the seat anyways. If you want to make good time, your energy is going into an up and down motion which is constantly fighting against gravity, so your entire weight shouldn't be on your seat in any case.

Chains and gearing are amazing deals. The teeth on the sprockets look like they have busted off, but no, it turns out that they were machined that way to promote smooth gear shifting.

Breaks on a good bike stop on a dime. You actually have to be careful about skidding, which will take a chunk off your rubber tire if you do that. If you get a really bad flat or blow-out you pack along these foldable tires, which work just as good as the stiff variety.

As far as comfort, the positioning of brake hoods makes a difference for climbing hills. Just the amount of hand positions you can get on the new handlebars is an eye opener. The drop downs all have this new position that has a 45% angle that really feels good when in a tuck. The front fork made out of carbon absorbs lots of the road shock and seems to be a universal choice as my titanum bike also has a carbon fork.

Sealed bottom bearings. No fuss, no muss.

Road bike tires are about the only thing to complain about as they always seem to wear out or dry out. The kevlar reinforcement works but they are not indestructable.

These bike are so aerodynamic that you notice the cross wind. The deep rims and bladed spokes actually catch a cross wind and you can feel it. Anyone that is into sailing and not into a good aerodynamic road bike has to be schizophrenic. Because it really does feel like you are sailing along.

About weight, not quite true. Weight in the wheel-set translates directly into centripetal energy which you eventually pay for. Remember what I said about the thorn resistant tires? That may be why you can only keep a pace of 19 MPH instead of 23 MPH on a long ride.

I have run out of things to say because these bikes are very simple yet they have improved every aspect that you can imagine over the years. Astounding good job if you want to invest at least a thousand dollars in a new one. I have seen discounts of several hundred dollars because of the recession this year.

And then you have your mountain bikes, which you can get hard-tail if you don't want all the suspension. Or you can get a cyclo-cross.

To me this argument reminds me of the cross-country skier that would rather use his old wood skis instead of getting a pair of carbon fiber skies that weigh a couple of pounds total. I have the same skis that the world champ uses for a few hundred dollars. Or maybe go back to the old roller-skates instead of going to an inline models.

About riding faster, it is true. About skiing faster, it is true. About rollerblading, it is true. All the technology enables you to get from point A and B faster.

You get what you pay for. It is all scaled quality. If its cheaper it is crappier. And when it is more expensive they may put in a few dubious enhancements. Shimano Dura-Ace is not that much better than Ultegra but it is lighter. You complain about composites but what is ChromeMoly but a composite alloy added to the steel. Call it marketing if you wish but steel alloys it did make the way for
aluminum, carbon, and titanium. These are not marketing gimmicks IMO.

If you want to pack a tent and your worldly belongings I suppose you could go a different route.

You can probably tell that using lightweight gear is my favorite pasttime and I will go the distance defending it.

Again, we all ride different. You probably roll on 700 x 23 tires. I roll on 24 by 3 inch. You have 30 or so speeds. I have 8. I can pop wheelies and slide on my bike all day long. You can fly on your bike. I cruise at 15 mph. You cruise at 25-30 mph. I regularly submerge my wheels. I would not even think about it in your bike or any $2000 bike. I run in the sand, sidewalks, and rough paved bike trails. You run on roads and shoulders. Maybe road oriented trails. I ride in flops and shorts. You probably get dressed up. I did add a $200 air shock seat post. It helps smooth out the bumps in the trails. My bike is rigid, but with 3" tires and low pressure, I do not need suspension.

I am not making fun of you by any means. It is just our styles are so different. I do not even lock my bike when I stop. Too much of a PIA and I would get a new one. I am careful where I park it.

You framed your argument funny. I also have a Titanium mountain bike that is loads better than the first ones that came out. I can go into a long spiel about that as well if you want. The discussion was about improvements in technology. This spans many types of bicycles.

By "dressed up" I know what you mean but you are not a mind reader. Some people like to put on tribal garb and others put on anti-tribal garb, which is actually just tribal garb but we don't know it. You see it is all about an "us" vs "them" mentality. If you think I have 30 gears, go ahead and think that. If you think I can cruise at 25-30 MPH...

Ok what is your cruise speed and gear set? It was a WAG based upon my road bike an old Trek 5000. I cruise at about 25 mph on smooth road no wind for a workout pace. I never ride it. I would sell it, but now I am moving and might need it. I enjoy riding it, it just takes more speed and distance to get the same workout.

The question was one of whether new technology makes riding better and more efficient. I say yes, based on my experiences.

I can also get a workout by walking around in concrete boots.

Well sure. My frame is 40% lighter than the previous steel frame model. The original was available in three speed or single speed. I have 8 speeds. In any case, yes, technology increases comfort and efficiency, but fun increases miles ridden. If I rode on your paths, I might use my Trek. If you came here, I would loan you an Electra or rent you Phat. You can come anytime and ride on our paths. Your mountain bike would work well except for the beach part. Of course you might get petroleum lungs. It has not bothered me yet. My pictures for today has many bike trail shots. I have three bike videos. I want a camera mount for my bike.

Start of my favorite trail. http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=320+Fort+Mor...

seriously my bike and biking style is way better than either yours or WHT's so you should all listen to me.

just joshing kids ;-)

BTW I don't believe the speeds you both quote for any of your bikes

When I said 23 MPH, note I said that it is "your" speed and not mine, and used in the context of a comparison.
This is a hypothetical speed for something like a prime Ironman athlete using lightweight tires over a 100 mile flat distance.
No way would those guys use thorn-resistant tubes.

I recall doing 23 MPH over a sprint triathlon course, which is about 4 times shorter that an ironman course.

not a bad time at all

Hi doc,

I think some of these guys should be on racing teams.

My average is usually around 13 mph for a 50 mile ride. Certainly, I can hit 40+ mph on a good downhill - but, I think non-racers should refrain from going over 40 for safety reasons.

I work very hard to get in shape for our annual MS fund raiser ride in August - 150 miles in 2 days. I have usually done this with a 15-16 mph average (and it takes couple of days to recover). The young hardcore folks (who usually do the 200 mile option) average in the low 20s - but these guys/gals really haul ass!

Folks who cruise at 25+ mph should seriously think about winning some of that prize money in racing.

I think I see the differentiating factor. My average workout runs are 5 miles. For 50 miles, I would think around 12 or 13 would be more reasonable for my cruiser. On my road bike 10 miles at 25 mph would kick my ass, but I think I can do it. I have not trained on my road bike for a while. Speeds I give are non wind aided, and it is flat around here. I think you would have no problem keeping up with me. When I hold good form and zone out, my average speeds often surprise me.

I will video my speedometer for you when I next ride. I guess I could have put in the wrong tire size and cheat but it is not necessary. I back this up because I use the cop speed display robot all the time. My record is 29 MPH flat on my cruiser and 49 MPH going down the GS bridge. 15 mph is nothing.

My video of 15 mph on my cruiser with no hands. No big deal.

going all Nate Hagens on the subject...

the thing that intrigues me about these cruiser bikes is there pimp-mobile quality... the way they can be blinged up..

sustainable bling?

this one was actually posted on a custom car cruise zone web site for cars...one those places where people hang out doing the peacock thing with there latest custom car..

I saw one of these low riders in hackney the other day

how necessary is the ICE for this sort of end use.. which is obliviously important to some people especially the male sex..and has been for along time

The sudden appearance of this use of bicycles as sexual displays in recent years in parallel with increased bike use is interesting as it suggests to me this arbitrary status display thing is easily subsumed into whatever the culture of the day dictates by transport choices?

the small french car fad in the UK with ridiculous "pimpige" was based around the affordability of a cheap but highly customizable renualt hatchback..turning something low-end into a grand display.

I think a lot of resistance to change is tied up in peoples fear of losing status or identity they have emotionally invested in these displays..what ever they are?

this posting forum while far more serious and adult than many internet chats is not immune to this sort of thing..and why should it be?

I would argue some posting or part of the motivation to post is an attempt at status demarcation..

despite myself I find i rather like this cruiser bike thing

Read all of your post. Who in the hell told you I was Asian?


I don't mind the extra exercise I get from riding a heavy old bike. Exercise is good; more exercise is better.

don't cares much about the seat. In my opinion most people complain about a seat has more to do with the adjustment. If you are riding efficiently, you want to be hovering over the seat anyways. If you want to make good time, your energy is going into an up and down motion which is constantly fighting against gravity, so your entire weight shouldn't be on your seat in any case

as an ex pro I'm pulling rank

you really don't want to be lifting you weight up and down off the seat if you are pedaling efficiently..

the power stroke is not just up and down anyway... unless your a novice

adjustment is very important but you should feel planted on the saddle

I think that racing has played a significant role in improving biking technology.

I still believe that not even close to 100% of your weight is on your seat.
Try an experiment and sit on a road bike seat and splay your legs out and balance with one finger on a table next to the bike. Does that feel unconfortable or what. No way can anyone sit like that for an extended period of time. Unfortunately that is what the novice thinks that a narrow seat will feel like when they ride a road bike. You quickly learn to spread your weight around to your hands and most definitely to your legs when you ride. 40% of the weight is on the front wheel usually so I would guess that only about 30% of your weight is on your cheekbones. And that disappears when you occasionally ride off the seat when going uphills. That's why people can ride for hours on a roadbike and why I don't care about the seat so much other than it being in a good position.

On a recumbent, all your weight is on your seat and you are using an isometric kind of force primarily and not always working against gravity.

So its all about fighting gravity, which is what I meant by the up motion.

I’d agree that adjustment is the most important factor in a comfortably and efficiently riding bike. Most people ride on a bike that has not been properly fitted. In the better bicycle shops I’ve been to in the Chicago area they have a fitting jig to determine seating height, saddle angle and forward and aft adjustment, stem length and height, along with riding style ( I spin fast - when I was younger I pushed a big gear) for the most efficient and comfortable position in which to start adjustments. However, saddle type is important. I have a bunch of saddles I have tried and don’t use. My two favorites are an older Pear Izumi Flolite, and the newer Brooks Swift with titanium rails. As you get older seat comfort becomes much more important. When I was younger I could just about ride on anything . Not now in my mid-fifties.

I probably use my hands only 50% of time when I ride. My bike pretty much leaves you on your ass.

I think the greatest failing of technological innovations surrounding race bikes are they are not recumbents.. the biggest single innovation in cycle design since the invention of the safety bike in the late 19th cent is effectively blocked by conservatism and car traffic (i dont ride one btw I think the position is dangerous)

the upright position is an arbitrary one dictated by tradition and to a significant degree safety.. and the inability to scale hills is a some what bogus argument when you have ridden one..they are not that bad uphill.. they are way way faster

you can buy sub 10kg recumbents that are blisteringly fast compared to an equal weight road machine.. there is also an aesthetic consideration.. road bikes are more of a joy to ride and your physically interaction with them is more of a dynamic ballet... compared to a recumbent which is more an embedded feel with you acting as a motor. there is no changing position though your hands are freer to do all sorts of head scratching/iphone type(dangerously) distracting hokum

the psycho sexual chemistry of it all plays a part in these preferences.. a snazzy road bike has a steed or stallionesque quality that helps the consumer express his/hers identity especially "his"...

a lot of bike marketing plays on that role model... the introduction of "fast looking" bikes with sportive geometry? wtf is that all about?
Some of the riding positions guys who buy theses 2 grand mounts ride around in are not flattering..they are buying into an image that is not supported by the un-aerodynamics town shopper riding posture they end up in.. might as well be riding a flat bar bike a lot of them or just calling it a audax bike and be done with it.

the creaming curve on what adds to performance on a road bike falls off pretty rapidly after £1000 ($1500) IMO by the time you have mid section rims 105/rival/veloce groupset stuck on a allu/carbon frame there isn't a significant increase in performance that wouldn't be far cheaper looking at the rider instead.. perhaps $2000 as you say these days as there has been significant increases in prices recently.

gears wheels and brakes have all improved a lot in the last 20 years with a massive improvement in factory built wheels in the last 10...

a good steel frame is still capable of being a decent ride though

another area that has improved a lot is cycle clothing..

the actual position of crunching yourself up and sticking your head on the stem is a pretty old technology...its not a natural position for power generation and probably owes a lot to the world of horse riding..

itself a somewhat unlikely combination...who first invented that?

The bicycle keeps cropping up again and again at TOD..odd to think the first real bikes were invented roughly the same time as the car.

I don't see roads, road haulage, farming, industrial or utility vehicles disappearing even in a post nuclear western beyond thunderdome scenario

there will be bicycles and pedal power for along time to come

I think the saddle is the almost as important as the brakes on a bike. Except for an old Schwinn Collegiate 3-speed (a great bike, got maybe 20,000 miles on it before I sold it just before getting my Brompton), I usually replace the original saddle with a much better one. My current saddle is an adjustable model with a space between two rails, which I need to accommodate my wide bottom--cost $150 and worth every penny.

Hi Don,

I think most novice riders have a basic misconception about bike seats (non-recumbent). In theory, the ideal seat would be as thin as a knife blade - your legs would be in the most natural position with zero friction. Unfortunately, this idea has some obvious drawbacks.

So, the trick is to compromise between the narrowest seat that still provides support with the least amount of long term bodily damage (lots written about this for the guys).

When we still rode wedgies, we liked the Selle Italia - today that would probably be their Prolink Gel Flow model http://www.selleitalia.com/eng/index.html 20 years ago we paid $120 for a seat, but it was well worth it.

Of course, anyone with any sense at all would ride a recumbent bike with an M5 type of Seat


I can see your point but disagree with your conclusion. If you were to say most people buy more bike than they need then you'd be correct. But to say that today's bike aren't better than ones made 30 or 40 yrs. ago is absurd.

As with anything you buy there are varying degrees of quality and the better the quality the higher the price tag. Bikes or no different. I wish I could spend the 1960's equivalent of $15 ($110.00) on a bike today and get something that wouldn't fall apart, but that's not going to happen. I could also go out and pay $3000.00 for a new bike but it wouldn't fit my needs, but plenty of people do just that. Instead I buy the parts individually and assemble the bike myself. By shopping sales at multiple internet sights I'm able to buy higher quality parts at lower prices and end up with more bike for less money.

New bikes are lighter, stronger and technologically more advanced and that's the truth. And I'm not talking about your box store bikes, I'm talking quality frames and parts. Titanium is lighter and just as strong as steel. More expensive, but it will last you a lifetime. Disc brakes vs. coaster brakes.....no contest. As for derailleurs, I'd have to agree they're pretty much worthless. That's why I run an 8 speed internal on one bike and my other two, including the one I commute 36m a day on, are fixed gears. Remember fixed geared bikes? They run in any weather, require very little maintenance and are a blast to ride. Are they for everyone? No, but that's the great thing about bikes, no two have to be exactly the same and can be tailored to the individuals needs.

I realize also that you were referring to full suspension Mt. Bikes with some of your comparisons, but for the purpose of the original post those wouldn't have much application anyway. They're great off road bikes but require too much maintenance to make them the majority of bikes in a post oil world. Comparing them to 1960s Raleigh is apples to oranges. They are built for a specific purpose and it's generally not commuting, though I know people who do use theirs for that also.

Bottom line is the bottom line, if the bikes of yesteryear were really better the consumer would be demanding them, and they're not, so they're not being produced.

Sorry for the rant I just really like bikes.

Different Spokes for different folks, Webbie.

I think the point is that even a GREAT MANY older ones have seen years and years of good service.. yes, there are some fine advances today, but depending on your needs and your budget, a CBA will give good marks to any number of older cycles.

Sorry you don't like them, but others really do.

Not a matter of not liking, but I sense that people do not want to admit that bikes have improved over the years. It's true that many people have gotten turned off from first impressions of some product, not realizing that alternatives exist. So instead of full suspension mountain bikes, you can get hard-tails or cyclo-cross variants.

I am not really rabid in my outlook. Go to a cycling forum and you will see the true connoisseurs.

The point is whether it meets the need, and the bikes you're talking about have gone far beyond the needs of someone who may be riding to the store with a tagalong for the kid, or maybe 3/4 mile to work.

I'm not saying these advancements aren't better in many ways, but they wouldn't make many riders lives ANY different, but would cost far more, and be more prone to theft, among other detriments.

I'm not against connoiseurs and the avant garde that brings a technology forward.. but there is still a place for filet mignon, and a much bigger place for rice and beans, I have to say.


I'm not saying these advancements aren't better in many ways, but they wouldn't make many riders lives ANY different

But they do make the lives of lots of riders not fitting into your categories different. The technological advancement of the jockstrap or the nut-cup automatically does not apply to half the human population, either. Doesn't make it non-useful though.

Red Herring, Web.
The point has been made several times, that a basic, old bike is completely adequate for a great number of people.

Describing a Jockstrap creates a false equivalence, suggesting that the proportions (half/half) might be relevant to this subject, whereas I think it might be more akin to offering jockstraps to a chess team. Except for a handful of 'Thrash Chessers', the difference would be nil.

A good bike is only adequate to a huge number of people as well; and the population that thinks this is equivalent to the number of good bikes you see on the market. That was my point about bringing up the jockstrap analogy -- lots and lots of jocks want to maintain an active lifestyle, and this includes women too.

Time is money and money is time. Take a chance on a used bike if you want because you may end up spending time repairing it. You can't buy brand new "old" bikes any longer.

You are SO wrong about used bikes. A bike is one of the simplest machines to check for abuse or excessive ware--about 5% as difficult as a car. If you cannot accurately judge the quality of a used bike from a ten-minute inspection, then you don't know much about bikes.

OK, I give up. It looks as if no one will ever need to buy a new bike again.


Don't give up!

I understand and appreciate the concept of a simple utility bike - I have my Grocery Store bike just for that reason.

Without intending to criticize the "old bikes good for utility" folks, I think they mostly just don't understand why we love modern bikes. I'm over 70 and have my share of health issues (lots of arthritis problems) but a 50 to 80 mile bike ride is joy I look forward to. There is no way that I could do this on an old clunker (the old Raleigh, Schwinn Paramount, or such being exceptions). That old Sears bike would kill me.

People see me hobble in someplace with my bad knee and assume I'm lucky to still get out of the house. When I happen to mention a 50 mile bike ride in less than 4 hours, I can only guess what they are thinking (something that starts with BS probably). The average (especially older) person generally has zero concept of the efficiency of a well designed/built modern bike/trike.

Every ride on my "good" bike is a wondrous thing (well, rain has a dampening effect). It is just such a joy to roll down road with such little effort. And, a little plug for recumbent bikes, I really get to enjoy the scenery even at 20+ mph (no heads down to break the wind issue).

When our kids were young, I was the Bicycle Merit Badge Counselor and taught kids and dads how to get up to a 50 mile bike ride (yes, they were old style bikes). The trick is to simply condition your body in small increments - a few more miles each week. The progress was always very rewarding to witness.

All of this talk of bikes and conditioning, of course, ignores the 800 lb gorilla - cars make cycling very dangerous in most US cities. I find this is the biggest impediment to getting cycling converts - especially among the more senior folks that I talk to most often these days.

So, WHT, don't give up but lets tell folks about the sheer pleasure of our kind of cycling.

I hope YOU at least appreciate that this back and forth, at my end at least, was to say that EVEN old bikes can have an enormous amount of value to them, and can provide very beneficial transit for a broad swath of people.

It's hard to think that it could have been taken as a total sleight against the developments in the newest and hottest bikes, but that these advancements are a good bit more exclusive than a very functional and cheap secondhand ride that you can get and easily maintain for simple, but still enormously helpful local moving about.

When we keep hearing just how great and unmatchable these $2000 marvels are, while many of us have been completely served by a $50 Huffy (a local bike store exclaimed proudly to me 'We don't carry anything with a Huffy label..') .. then it starts playing as an elitism that won't quit.

Try to remember what it's like to be broke, busting your butt to merely survive, and yet to be able to enjoy the great benefits of a bicycle that someone else had left to rust somewhere. To me, that's already Heaven! Sorry if it still sounds disparaging towards the experiences you and WHT are sharing with us, but remember how real scarcity is, and what a boon just a CHEAP bike can be in that condition.


You will be much better off with a cheap and old Schwinn or Raleigh than you will be with any new bike that Huffy or Murray ever made.

Hi Bob,

Yes, I certainly do understand and appreciate your comment. My personal history has more basic survival periods than I care to recall. I clearly understand not only struggling for basic survival needs, but also doing it in the frozen north-lands of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Fortunately, I was able to get beyond these periods - but, I never forget them.

My basic message is to take advantage of modern bike technology to the extent you can - don't just assume that your bike experience of 30 years ago is still valid. With the exception of those outstanding bikes of bygone times, newer bikes will provide great advantages (IMHO).

I've helped a number of people buy great bikes at tremendously discounted prices. Use bikes (as Don and others have suggested) can be great bargains. The trick is to understand the difference between a great bike and a piece of discount store junk. I suggest finding someone like WHT or myself to provide that knowledge if you are unsure about the technical details.

Many bikes are purchased by affluent folks who have very unrealistic expectations - the result is a great bike with 50 or 100 miles on it hanging in a garage for all eternity. I suggest running an ad or posting your desire to buy a bike on various bulletin boards (physical or virtual). My experience is that good bikes can lose 50 to 60 percent of the original purchase price in a couple of years - if you look around a bit.

Regarding the $50 Huffy - I have been able to keep bikes like this going for a very long time (what I call my grocery-store bike). But, in my experience it really does take a fair bit of knowledge regarding proper maintenance. I learned from books and the help of a few friends.

I worry about people becoming frustrated with cycling if they get a poorly build bike that falls apart after a few months. Like most things - a little knowledge can go a long way.

Although I was startled at the concept of a $100,000 bicycle, I am not enough of "Hair Shirts for One and All" to be against a refocus of conspicuous consumption on sustainable transportation.

I have noted quite a bit of "one-up-manship" between French cities on their new trams. (A standard "French" design underneath that all manufacturers adapt). Amusing from afar, but if it generates enthusiasm, pride and desire for more, go for the most stylish look that you can !

There has been an enduring status and self definition related to the car one owns. Transferring that to bicycles can only be positive IMHO.

Best Hopes for Good Bicycles,


I admit that bikes have improved over the years. My oldest and best friend (71 years old) just got a new road bike, and he says it moves like a rocket.

But I don't want to move like a rocket. I do a steady twelve miles an hour and can keep that up without resting for two and a half hours. That is thirty miles, which will usually get me where I want to go.

I admit that bikes have improved over the years. My oldest and best friend (71 years old) just got a new road bike, and he says it moves like a rocket.

Yet, before Don said:

Newer bikes crack in the frames. One of my best friends had this happen to him.

So you admit they have improved over the years, but the newer bikes crack in the frame? That's what provoked me to reply in the first place.

Here is an interesting video that I remember from a couple of years ago
"Truck crushes bicycle frame tubes but fails to destroy Litespeed titanium one"

I don't think the $10,000 bikes crack in the frame, but some of the $2,000 do, as I know from the experiences of my biking friends. The old Schwinns never had cracks in the frame, and if by chance one did come apart (normally from abuse) they would replace the whole frame for your whole lifetime, free of charge. If they didn't have an old frame in stock, they would give you a whole new bike; I've known this to happen to some people who habitually rode over and off curbs. I've known many riders of old Raleighs, but to the best of my knowledge not a single one of them ever had any frame problems.

The newer and more expensive brakes are much better than the old ones. But since I only ride at twelve miles per hour, I don't need these newer brakes. Since I was six years old I have ridden bicycles, and I have never had an accident. Usually I ride without a helmet, because I have not dumped my bike on the ground since 1987, when I foolishly tried to ride over a trench. I come to a full stop at all stop signs, something that many bikers do not do. You can be an old rider or you can be a bold rider. There are no old bold riders.

I question the need for a $10,000 bike. Everyone recognizes that there is a sweetspot in quality. If you gauged this like the price of a sedan, you would multiply the high-performance road bike price by 10x. So a $2000 bike would be like getting a $20,000 car and a $10,000 bike like getting a $100,000 car. You also may be purchasing a more brittle racing bike, where they tweaked it to get the weight down, so I don't know if a $10,000 bike or $100,000 car is worth it. If you want to pay $500 for a bike, that is like getting a passable $5000 car.

Used bike prices depreciate at the exact same rate as cars. It starts at 40% the first year, and 10% every year thereafter. E-bay is littered with people trying to sell vintage bikes from the 1970's and 1980's and priced like they were antiques. A week ago I saw someone trying to sell the first aluminum frame Motobecane for $1500!

Another interesting thing is if you try to build a bike by buying the individual components. It will usually cost twice as much because no supplier one ever discounts components. Same reason no one ever builds their own PC anymore.

The last three new bikes I purchased were discount mail-order and partially disassembled, and I had never tried them out before.

My current car is a $4,000 car that has 237,000 trouble free miles on it. My previous car was a 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis station wagon that I purchased for $5,000 for my daughter to have it at college. After she was done with her I drove it, and between the two of us we got more than 100,000 relatively trouble free miles on it. The car is still running, now owned by an elderly farmer who doesn't put too many miles on it, but current mileage is over 250,000.

Why buy a new car when used cars are so cheap? Of course, you must have the knowledge of how to get a high-quality used one-owner car with all maintenance records. Well, I know how to do that.

OK, I give up. We will never have to get anything new because we will always have something used laying around.

You got that right:-)


Personally I think the idea that peak oil will permanently do in civilization as we know it is absurd. Personally I would be quite pleased if it pushed us
from cars back to public transit & bikes, the auto is just a plain waste of resources (not just energy) for much of what its used for. But doubt even this will happen. Electricity can replace oil for the vast majority of its uses, for the remainder there are bio-fuels and hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen may make
an excellent airliner fuel due to its low weight.

It seems to be political "common knowledge" since the 1970s that solar, wind and batteries can never replace oil. Yet despite utter lack of energy policy for 30 years, we now have very efficient solar panels, windmills the size of jumbo jets, batteries and motors so good that they completely bury gasoline race cars. Not only will oil be replaced, its replacement will be an anti-climax.

Thats not to say the end of the oil age won't be messy. Price shocks will likely cause multiple waves of recession, but eventually oil power will give way to electric. People will ask one thing when its over, "Why did we wait so long?".

Started a facebook group for "The Electric Age"

Just to repeat from others.

Roads - The sidewalks of today are generally good enough. If not, then any of a variety of materials (brick, concrete, cobblestones (2 blocks from me), coarse sand in some areas, manure & clay mixed, gravel) can be used. Look a light duty 2' wide path (one way) separated from another 2' wide path (other way) is all that is really needed. 1% of the materials of the average residential street.

The impact on the road from traffic is the 4th or 5th power (sources vary) of the axle weight. Bikes have no axles so x2 to compare to cars and trucks. Then square and square again. Even heavy weight riders plus bicycle weight (say 300 lb) have effectively zero impact on the road compared to even a Prius. A Prius without groceries plus a bike = the impact of a Prius with groceries. (that 4th power thing).

Bike traffic has *NO* impact on road durability ! Even 1990 Chinese levels of bicycles have NO impact. One garbage truck would have more impact than 100,000 bicycles.

Tires - Natural rubber. A US university had breed a variety of milkweed that can produce natural rubber commercially. They are trying to start the industry. During WW II, occupied Europe used wood and cloth at times.

Metal fabrication - Small electric arc furnaces can recycle steel and aluminum as needed. See SUVs as source of centuries of raw material. Bicycles are all "hand scale". One man shops makes custom frames today.

I think titanium may find an increasing role in bicycles post-Peak Oil. Pretty durable, strong and light.


Bicycles need not be made out of metal or carbon fiber. See

Even with narrow touring tires, its amazing where you can go on a bicycle. Old roads that are reverting to weeds aren't that impassible - as long as the path isn't covered with fallen trees, etc. Mountain bikes can go almost anywhere - gravel roads are no problem!

In terms of keeping these running - its amazing how long you can keep a bicycle tube going with patch kits when necessary. I suspect that tires will remain available. Bikes themselves can be kept running for years. Certain items such as chainrings, etc. lend themselves to small scale manufacturing scenarios. Bikes were built by hand in small shops (such as the Wright Brothers of airplane fame) long before the Schwinns and Raleighs evolved. Trek started in the late 70s as a small shop in a red barn making an affordable hand made frames of various types and sizes - long before they became the multinational Honda of bicycles. There are still hundreds of small scale manufacturers offering custom bicycles.

Biggest impediment to bicycling in western Washington is sharing the road with cars - especially the ones with texting drivers! The shoulders are narrow. Personally I'd like to see fewer big cars and trucks on the road - and was hopeful when gas went to $4 a gallon. Just a few more years.....

This is a non problem for all the reasons stated by all the respondents. If bicycles become a problem we might as well just commit suicide. A casual visitor to this site might conclude that the writer of the main post has gone off the deep end.

The Tour de France (started 1903) was ridden for years on steel bikes with wooden rims and one gear, on unpaved roads.

Bicycles can be made with steel frames and steel components. Aluminum and other materials are common on modern bikes, but no aluminum is required to make a bike. Remember that bikes predate cars, and the widespread availability of paved roads, by decades.

There is a place where, just a few decades ago, the streets looked like this:

Sort of.

A different set of constraints (e.g. "no, you can't buy a car"), but maintaining some means of getting around by bicycle might be possible in an oil-constrained society.

I don't believe that bikes will be general transportation in northern climates. Snow, ice, rain, wind, cold, heat and exertion required will stop the majority of people from using bikes for regular everyday transportation.
On the other hand, as long as it is possible to convert crops to ethanol and biodiesel ON THE FARM the rural communities will continue to use internal combustion engines to power their cars and trucks.
The only real problem we have is too many city people - And NO, we do NOT need them on the farm. Farm work will continue to be done with internal combustion engines using liquid fuel (see above for transportation).
I expect that nature will deal with the large excess of city people in her own unpleasant way regardless of what governments do.

Every winter I see people biking through snow in Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is legal to put studs on bike tires, though it is expensive. Dress warm, learn to ride a bike on ice (not that difficult) and you too can ride through Minnesota winters. University students in particular ride through the winter; at UM in Minneapolis several hundred (maybe a thousand--I don't know.) students each year ride through the winter, except in blizzards.

I lived in Missoula through one winter and all the bikers there made their own studded tires, using roofing nails and "thornless" tubes. Usually another tire with the beads removed was inserted between the tube and the nails. Once you got this thorny combination on the rim and pumped it up, you used bolt cutters to trim the nails to studs. These worked great - even on glare ice, which was common as every day got just above the melting point. Riding on studs beat walking on this stuff!

Commercially available studded tires are very expensive, but I can afford them. The kind of homemade studded tires you describe would be great for low-income people or in the future when studded tires of the size you want are no longer available.

Prof. Egill Hreinsson (Electrical Engineering, University of Iceland) bikes year round to campus. He swears by a German winter tire for icy conditions. (Forgot name).


Those German tires (I forget the name.) can be purchased from a U.S. distributor (I also forgot that name.) will get you any foreign tire or studded tire that is made anywhere in the world. Probably the German and the Swedish or Finnish studded tires are the best in the world. Not cheap but worth the high price.

With Google it should be easy to find the name of that distributor, who has a good reputation in the biking world.

The name of the German studded tires is Schwalbe. The website I recommend for studded bike tires is

I think it will be reduced Traffic, if it comes through, that will bring out the bikes.. and winter will slow, but not stop that.

People like to go places.. if a bike makes that possible, someone will be using it.

There is a large excess of PEOPLE, period. You seem to be noticing the city folk, but nature may have as many harsh lessons for those out alone in the wilds as for those packed into the streets. We've had cities for thousands of years now. It's an established part of what Humanity is, no less than farming, and not all that much younger, either.

I started biking year-round in a small city in northern British Columbia, and continue to ride year-round in a slightly warmer, more southerly clime east of the Rockies.

Studded tires are great, but quite a few of my brothers-in-ice think they're too slow and just go without. Technique and wool are what keep me going on those snowy evenings. That and replacing the bearing grease with something that doesn't turn brittle at -40.

It can, and is done. The majority will suck it up if necessary, when it becomes the realistic path. There are some logistic challenges - clearing snow is one of them. Luckily the city here clears many of the bicycle paths, and a tire rut in snow on the road is just as good for me. Others like me have experimented with bicycle-mounted plow blades to do our own clearing.

At 40 below, I don't think I would ride in a heated truck if I had a choice about it. Good gosh, frozen eyeballs.

I did tons of winter riding in northern wisconsin about ten winters worth (on that twenty-year old clunker I still use). Although I biked off-road for sport, not commuting. Never had a studded tire, and woulda considered that they were for sissies. Of course if you are gonna mix it up with motor vehicles its better to be a sissy. The absolute worst (by a very long shot) terrain to ice is pavement. Gravel/dirt roads and tracks or even frozen lakes were never as treacherous. I used to do a four mile bike across a frozen lake. When you get to areas where the snow has blown off and the ice is glass smooth balance is really really essential.

Tire ruts are not easy to stay in (at least tire ruts on bumpy forest roads), and once the rut is more than a few inches deep you can't pedal without the pedal scraping. Low pedal clearance is the primary limiter of terrain you can cycle over.

Thanks to everyone for explaining why bikes will definitely be around for a very long time. I'm currently riding a vintage bike that would definitely off road. In fact, many of the streets in NYC can already pass for gravel roads. My mountain bike can take pretty much anything. And you should really check out some of the adult trikes and cargo trikes. Those will be a lot more efficient than setting aside vast acres for growing pasture or food for horses.


1. Why do roads get so little discussion in planning for the future?

Around here (Wisconsin) roads get lots of discussion: Huge freeway widening project even though the state is struggling with a deficit. All kinds of local "road improvements" despite crushing property taxes. We have something like a 20 year road construction plan. Now, if you meant why there is no planning for an oil constrained future? That is simple - little recognition of that potential. Besides, other technology will replace oil long before any shortages occur (they all believe).

2. Can you see a way to make a version of bicycles work with a version of roads, long term?

Certainly. National, mandatory commitment to mass transit and things like neighborhood electric vehicles; 40 mph max speed limit enforced with governors; hugh taxes on ICE personal vehicles; full cost for gasoline plus taxes to fund mass transit; stop all heavy trucking that could go on rail; allow Jitney Cabs everywhere; etc. Then, shut down half the roads or lanes and parking lots and reuse asphalt to maintain ped/bike lanes and trails. Lots of other strategies that we will never do in time.

3. What do people do in lesser developed countries do now with respect to bicycles and roads?

I've biked in Ireland and France. I worked in India and visited lots of other countries. Most of the places I've been to have replaced most biking with cars - a few exceptions. Parents in western Ireland (where I'm most familiar) often will not allow their kids to cycle to school because it is too dangerous. The kids all seem to know the exact date when they will get their drivers license. In India, scooters and motorcycles are ubiquitous and now they will have a super cheap car from Tata. It seems to me that if there are good roads, there are more cars and fewer bikes.

4. What role do you expect bicycles to play long-term?

What I would hope for and what I expect are two totally different things. I would hope that places like the US would begin a meaningful transition away from its car culture and build an infrastructure that supports all kinds of transportation alternatives - see the book "Plan C" for specifics. What I expect is a muddling through the bottleneck with all kinds of unplanned consequences - most of which will not be very bicycle friendly.

One thing we do know is that wheeled modes of transportation are nothing new. With all the people in the world that now know how to use wheels to get from place to place things will never be the same again, even if you have a massive die off of 99.99% of the worlds population which gives you something like 700,000 people left, I'd be willing to bet that all but the babies know what a bicycle is and what could be done with wheels.

The chances of 99.99% of everyone dying off is slim, so we aren't going to worry about loosing the knowledge.

1, Roads are so much of our framework that few people even think twice when thinking about the future, and roads not being there. Knowing a bit about the designs of the past and how we do things, I figure that most people can't really tell you how roads work. I have designed foot paths, and have studied the designs of more complex systems that we call Highways today. Roads are hard to maintain after a certain level of complexity, and almost everyone knows about potholes and washouts, but they rarely have to think about them. So they don't think about them. It is hard for people to get a grasp at how complex a building project most roads and paths really are, they are just too common place for most people to not take for granted that they will be there, far into the future.

A Road has to be planned like you plan anything in Landscaping, with attention to the details of time, and weathering. Once you figure out you want to get from point A to Point B, you have to figure out the best way to get there. I have done a fair amount of trail blazing, walking/hiking in places that had no trails to begin with, you have to scope the lay of the land, know a lot of things about how the future will play into the landscape features. Most people don't plan that far in advance, but the skills can be taught. One thing you have to be careful of is taking what looks like the easy route. Water flows in the easy route, so you have to think that any future path/road has to combat that fact.

I guess I could write several volumes on the subject, so I won't bore you with it all. The key point is that most people aren't trained as planners. Most people use the roads and paths we have today and pay little attention to the details, that those of us who have built the systems they use, do. The details overwhelm people, so why worry about them, they have to pass the buck to someone else.

2, Sure, I can see paths and roads being built into the future very long term. We'd have to go back to the basics that Rome was good at long ago, and anyone who has done any bit of trail Blazing or landscape construction or design will be able to map out for people things that need to be thought about. But most of the roads of the future might not have the benifits of massive machinery to help move and dig and build. Hand labor makes road building a hard job, and scale will be an issue, So will maintaince. You'll have to have a lot of people skilled at how to take care of their sections of the roads nearby. It will be more common knowledge like gardening and sewing and cooking.

ONE thing we will have more of in the future, is people who have vast storehouses of general knowledge, not as many people who know everything about one subject and nothing about anything else. Generalists, people will have a general working knowledge of how to live on their own again, or else they will have more and more failures going on it their lives. That is not to say they can't live around others and might also be experts in certain feilds, but it should be common sense that you'll need to know a lot more than most people know today, about such things.

Maybe I am wrong, I kinda have this need to know a lot about a lot, but then my dad and mom are both that kind of people. But so are almost all of major people in my formative history. People who knew a lot about a lot of different things. Some of them still were experts in certain feilds.

So yeah I can see a long term solution to wheeled self propelled transport and roads/paths.

3, There are a lot of odd contraptions that are wheeled people movers that fall under the classification of bicycle, and up to 3 and 4 wheeled human powered devices. Just look at any city in Asia to see all sorts of things with wheels moving all sorts of loads. In the USA we seem to have used cars so much that we forget that in most places they have to still move goods by hand, and they will do it however they can as best as they can.

Roads are mostly built up from walking paths. If you have to put more and more traffic and weight on the paths you have to change their structure to build in the needs you are adding to them. Foundation building is important when making a road for cars and trucks, you have to fight against wear and tear, and the elements, and lots more planning has to be involved. If you are just moving people by walking or simple wheeled carts or even animal travel, you don't have to build up the foundations as much. So it all depends on where the roads go, as to amount of work needed.

4, Having plant fibers as wheels would be something to think about, I can almost see people going back a few years and having wooden spokes and steel wheels, like old buggies and wagons. But you'll still need to have somesort of chain drive or belt driven system if you want to use human powered bikes in the far distant future, without any oil imputs. So given that man is an inventive creature I figure bikes that we see in the Third world today will be around a long time to come, just using the waste stream of today for a long time in the future. It'll be a while before animal travel will have to be used as our only means of faster than foot travel. I can almost see a sand surfer wheeled cart with wooden wheels and canvas sails 1,000 years from now on the sand dunes between trade cities.

I don't think bicycles will be a washout in the future. We might not have the same numbers as we once did, or will, and roads might not be decked one on top of another and under the oceans and rivers like they are now. But we will be able to bike to farmer X's house to get in a good home cooked meal from time to time.

One reason JHK might not have used bicycles in his book as he wanted to cut off a lot of the ties with the past. And Bikes are seen as an industrial construct, not a made by hand item. Even though all the contraptions of the turn of the century were made by hand. And a lot of the bicycles today can be made by hand.

Somewhere I saw a bamboo bike, maybe a google of it would help people see that man is not limited in materials.

Our high tech world forgets that we started from the low tech world that made stonehenge.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future world, today.
Hugs from a trike owner in Arkansas.

The authour evidently has no experience riding bicycles for transportation or she would know that perfectly smooth roads are not needed, nor any time spent in Third World countries where bicycles (and everything else) are maintained using scraps of this and that with great creativity.

She also seems to imagine that oil will completely disappear, that if we're not burning it, it simply won't be used at all. Which is like imagining that if woodfired stoves become rare, nobody will have wooden furniture or houses any more. It's quite possible for us to have not a drop of oil burned, and yet still have plastics, synthetics, pesticides and so on.

Kunstler's book did not mention bicycles because Kunstler is nostalgic for the days of the Wild West (as he sees them), where men were men, and women were passive sex slaves, and there were no pesky foreigners or that annoying rule of law and democracy.

Yeah, the post is absolutely outrageous. I like how you put it. Also, the author is clearly unaware of the effect of loading on roads and the reason for maintenance of highways. In Ontario there are bicycle paths that go through all seasons and have been around for over 20 years in mint condition. The materials for bicycles are next to nothing. Current automobile scrap could be turned into bicycle parts for the next thousand years I would guess. Oil will not disappear, and even at $5000 oil bicycles are economical to produce because all we need to do is melt the metal, use some graphite lubrication worst-case, and power machining tools.

I agree with you and Kiashu that the level of resources needed for bikes is small, so they will not go away.

One thing I do find intriguing is why it took so long for them to be invented. It seems like they could have been invented centuries earlier than they were.

Metallurgy, Strong enough Steels for bearings, and Pneumatic Tires were key developments.

I would also suggest that interchangable parts and similar aspects of mass production made it possible to produce them profitably, otherwise, the complexity and stresses on a bike frame/wheels made them more of a curiousity than a practical form of transport.

The Wright brothers made excellent and strong bikes before they ever made an airplane. Their airframes owe a lot to bike technology, as did their chain drive to the propelers.

bike chains mated with precision gearing is surprisingly high tech requiring pretty decent engineering tolerances..especially if cheap production is required..

One note: the actual author is Kurt Cobb, who is a he.

This is where I have to step back.

To me it feels alarmist. It assumes such a hard landing that I can't see bikes as being a big worry compared to the other problems we would be having.

I think before something like this happened, it is more likely that we wouldn't need bikes en mass anyway. I can easily picture, before this, a system of travelling merchants and services who finally find a way to trek over the hill. Maybe they will take orders online, or will we not even have communication then?

We are clever bastards. I can't even begin to tell you how clever we are. I'm not speaking of the god in the machine; I'm talking about a smoother transition to a new equalibrium than a jarring lurch that automatically has us helpless and suffering. We may find full employment and a robust economy as we spend years and years transitioning to a new form of stable society.

I am willing to entertain the possibility of a crash landing, but I hope many entertain the possibility of a smoother landing.

I don't often post but I thought I would add my two pence worth to this one.

You know, not everywhere has the same attitude to cycling. I am living (by choice) in a nicely tucked away part of Hungary as part of my own personal Peak Oil preparations. The village has some three hundred souls living in it.

I am guessing ball park figures here but I would reckon that the ratio here of walking:cycling:car use is of the order of about 40:40:20. The local cabinet maker lives about thirty seconds walk from the pub. He cycles it. It is the normal to see all the old girls in the village make the daily trip to the village shop. About half walk and half cycle.

Many of the cycles here are of communist era vintage. They continue to be serviceable. My good friend here has a bike that he bought about five years ago. He just gave it a good makeover - new Bowden cables, etc, etc. It has twenty seven by one and a quarter inch tyres. I have read that the last production bikes made with that size were way back in the 1980s. He does have a problem getting tyres but the ones he has on the bike now have been on it all the five years he has had it.

The local town is ten kilometers away, with a couple of good stiff hills to get out of the village. I try and limit my trips to town to once every four or five weeks and I also try and cycle it whenever I can, depending on what I need to transport, and weather. I'm just coming on sixty three, with an arthritic knee. I don't get off the bike for the hills. With a bit of luck and a fair wind I'll still be doing the same in ten years - might have to go down a couple of gears though :)

As oil depletes it will simply be forced upon particularly the west to reduce the amount of oil used for transportation, both personal and delivery of goods by road. When I was a teenager there was not a single car owner on the street where I lived. Not one. The last time I had occasion to go back there by car there were times when I had to park the car on the next street. So many cars it was impossible to park.

I foresee that the infatuation with car ownership and the car culture will end. On what timescale I do not know. But I agree with commenters here that cycle ownership should be able to continue many, many years into the future.

My original reaction was: "This is ridiculous; if Asian economies were able to get by with just bicycles, why not us?" But Gail is a thoughtful analyst, so I think that this suggestion deserves more than a knee jerk rejection.

First, let me say that I live in Southern California, so the roads and the weather are both generally good. Second, jobs and homes are widely separated, with long commutes being the norm - not necessarily in miles, but definitely in terms of hours at current traffic densities.

Before I was inducted into the American way of car culture, and as a student, I was perfectly content with mass transportation and my 10-speed bicycle. What has changed? Moving from Boulder to LA where distances are farther and bike paths are less convenient; More stuff, requiring more hauling capacity; and less free time, although time saved by using an automobile on a choked freeway can be illusory. And status - I have to confess from having moved slowly up from a Mustang II to a Mercedes 320, and then back down again - I mostly carpool now. I am handicapped, so I don't bicycle anymore; and it is physically dangerous around here.

I am less concerned about highway quality out here. These are mostly concrete and should not degrade significantly under light use. I do not foresee a near term future of crumbling mountainous roads in my neighborhoods. Local roads are asphalt and will require more maintenance.

I will assume that surface transportation is the largest consumer of petroleum, with 55-65% for automotive purposes and 20% for trucks. I won't argue about air transportation or plastics or rubber; these are at the low end of the total petroleum consumption problem.

Automotive use: mostly commuting to and from work and taking care of life's necessities (shopping, kids, etc.) Trucks: heavy hauling of goods to distribution centers and industrial equipment.

Aside from being able to pack an entire family and a crate of goods into an automobile, it's main virtue seems to be the convenience of moving people as a group and in keeping the weather off of all. I used to walk to school; bike to school, and take the school bus to school. It is only relatively recently that I have somehow felt the need to drive to school and then fight for a parking place. A car provides the illusion of speed and convenience and of bulk stowage.

Back to bicycles, I agree with enemy_of_state and bristlecone that scale plays an important role. One is replacing a 4000lb machine with a 20-40lb machine, with proportionally less metal, rubber and plastic. Even a fancy enclosed bicycle with a roof and seats for kids is vastly smaller and lighter than an automobile. In terms of weaning ourselves off of an oil-based economy, this seems like a giant step forward. (And in health too.) Even electrically powered bikes seem like a step forward.

The biggest issue seems like the loss of perceived convenience (and style). But, first, there are tax incentives. Every other industry gets them why not bicycles? Then, there is distance. A few years ago, as we were starting to double-deck the freeways at a cost of billions, I was wondering how much fiber optic cable would have cost, to allow those commuters to stay home. Probably less and I'm sure that it would have resulted in a significant reduction in traffic density. (The double-decked roads and the ride-share lanes are just as crowded as ever.)

Along with a reduction in oil usage, we have to work at replacing the convenience that automobiles appeared to bring. Telecommuting to either my home or to a local satellite installation should save a lot of fuel (20-40 gal/week.)

Then there is shopping. I buy a lot of goods over the Internet. Rather than taxing these transactions (the current trend), keeping that financial advantage of 0% sales tax and consolidating the delivery channels seems like a good incentive for keeping me at home and saving the fuel of an incidental trip to some mall.

Infrastructure transformation is a major impediment. There are zip bycles (i.e. Boston: free loaners - exchanged at the end of the ride). Zip electric vehicles seems like a logical extension. Free to use for the duration of the trip keeps my gasoline car off of the local streets and helps to jump start the installation of a battery-based and battery-charging infrastructure. Initially, this will simply exchange oil powered vehicles for coal-electric powered vehicles, but there are lots of alternatives for generating electricity (all of which need consumers and economies of scale) and we have now constrained the replacement problem to a limited number of power plants and tie-in sites.

Finally, back to aluminum and rubber. The bike itself could be anything from bamboo to carbon fiber. One is cheap; one is indestructible. Aluminum, used in reasonable quantities, does not seem all that wasteful. It's light and rust-resistant. (Mining tailings and waste still need to be controlled.) For tires, there are petroleum-based rubbers, natural rubbers, springy metals, and (probably soon), synthetic bio-rubbers.

I'm trying to wrap this up into a nice package, but it won't quite fit into slogans. Increasing the locality of daily life; decreasing the locality of power. Less tidy, we should increase the locality of daily life, contribute modestly to local power needs (wind, photovoltaics, etc); and distribute major power generation across a range of distributed resources. Saving the corresponding petroleum resources for more valuable purposes. In worst case scenarios, in which there are not even enough recycled resources to build bicycles, then not having a bicycle will be the least of our problems.

The author is Kurt Cobb, not me. This happens on every guest post

It might be well to adjust the standard format slightly so that the authorship of guest posts is visually more obvious, especially with more new visitors...

Rickshaws in Bangladesh

Hard to survive on 500 Taka

No streetlights:
Riding a rickshaw in Dhaka, Bangladesh at night

Dhaka Old Town

Interview with Rickshaw puller

Hi all.
Gail know her demographic.
45 years plus male ex-hippies.
Not enough testosterone to get into flame wars.
Reasonably educated, concerned granddaddies scanning the horizon for dark clouds at 3am.
Just like granddaddies have always done.
I feel at home.

Bicycles again.

A footpath is a path made by feet.
It wonders through the bush around a long gone tree. No-body knows why the bend is there. It just is.
You cycle down the path, around the corner and, woopsie, into a herd of elephants.
What to do?? Throw the bike on it's side and pretend to be dead.
The matriarch of the herd comes across and thinks "Mmmm. Pretending to be dead. Better get into the mood."
The herd covers you with branches to show respect for the dead.
True story.
Is'nt real life much better?

Fresh subject.

I stand on Chinese ships loading iron ore.
Chinese crewman invariably asks "What motor car have you got?" (Excited gleam in eye.)
"I don't have a car. I have a bicycle."
Crewman makes embarrassed noises and shuffles off.

1.2 billion of them.
All wanting motor cars.

Don't forget the Indians (900 million and counting), and the Indonesians (1+ billion and counting) either; they all see the quality of life in the West and they want it too. Can we help these people get to our standard of living, or do we get pushed down to theirs, or do we end up with something in the middle? It's a question no one in a decision making position wants to even think of, much less act on.

"It's a question no one in a decision making position wants to even think of, much less act on."

Of course not. As with the oil spill, there's no cost-free zero-risk answer - and as modern Westerners, we simply can't abide that because the very Universe owes us Utopia. Get all those folks cars, and at least in the short to medium run that will take lots of coal (CTL) and oil (leaving feasibility aside for the moment) which would release lots of CO2. There's risk in that, and it's not even quantifiable. Don't get them cars, and there may be social strife (whether the West "sets an example" or not.) So there's risk in that too, and it's likewise not even quantifiable.

So what's a poor schlemozl of a decision-maker, i.e. politician, whose very job is to make starry-eyed promises of cost-free Heaven-on-Earth, to do?

Wait a minute - how long have we had the wheel? Several thousand years ?

The fact that we went from mainly four wheels on carts, pulled by animals, for carrying stuff, to two wheels on bikes, mainly for carrying people, doesn't mean that the wheel is going to leave us.

Maybe we'll bridge the gap back to four-wheeled carts (more stability on bad roads) with tricycles. Maybe some areas will keep paths in pretty good shape - although where there is heavy rainfall, road surfaces of all kinds take it hard.

There are unpaved road surfaces in Namibia, for example, that get graded extremely rarely, since the lack of rainfall doesn't alter the road surface much. It may be dry and dusty, but pretty well-compacted. Unless, of course, there is a flash-flood.

While it may be necessary to use salvaged materials, or materials produced locally, such as bamboo, there will be wheeled vehicles.


Addendum : roads traveled frequently will probably end up being better-maintained than those traveled infrequently, because there is incentive to do so.

Maybe we'll go back to paving with stone or brick. Pavers are better at absorbing rainwater, as they allow rain to percolate into the ground, between the gaps, rather than running off into the sewers from our existing impervious surfaces.


There's much more flexibility in choice of material when one doesn't have to take thousands of pounds of weight in cars and trucks into account.

Addendum II : it would be great to get freight off the road into railcars, as one way of extending road longevity.

One small caveat: not every soil has good permeability. The soils here, for example, are quite heavy. Thus we can't get percolation into the subsoil (when using pavers).

Other places will though.

"One small caveat: not every soil has good permeability. The soils here, for example, are quite heavy."

That's why they use a gravel base......oh, I forgot,,we're at peak gravel too:-(

I'm no road engineer, but I understand this can be managed with a good bedding of sand or small stones.


Another thing about Roman roads was that they used local materials. The basic engineering design was the same everywhere.


Unless you want to either a) move everyone to within a mile or so of a railroad track, or b) greatly expand the existing track system, getting rid of trucks from the roads is very impractical. I agree that trains can and should carry more cargo, but when we're talking about point to point distribution the trucks are more efficient. As long as trucks use roads, the use of something other than concrete or asphalt is equally impractical, for one reason; drainage.

Water is the enemy of a good road. With heavy trucks, water in a road's substructure causes pumping, which erodes the support material out from under the surface and creates potholes. Water in the shoulder creates stability and support problems; I've seen a shoulder slough off because the soil trapped water rather than letting it drain out. A durable, waterproof surface is essential to keeping a road functional long into the future, even with heavy traffic use. The Romans built roads to last, but if you look at one they emphasize the substructure and keeping it free from water intrusion. Their subsurfaces were at times 2' thick; an equivalent thickness for a modern road would be very expensive to build. Basically you're building a maintenance free road by moving your expenses into construction rather than later maintenance. It's a tradeoff.

"Unless you want to either a) move everyone to within a mile or so of a railroad track, or b) greatly expand the existing track system, getting rid of trucks from the roads is very impractical."

a) I think everyone should be planning to live near a railroad track. Supply lines as we know them today are going to contract.

b) trucks will be leaving us as a long distance freight mechanism as soon as Peak Oil really starts to bite. Trucking is very dependent on cheap fuel. Look what happened when oil was $147 a barrel - truckers were going out of business left and right.

Light Duty (say 5 to 7 ton) EV trucks can handle local distribution (replacing what mules did in 1908)#. Fairly dense (i.e. TOD) cities can afford paved roads, especially on the main boulevards##. Outlying suburbs with lower density and lower inherent value may revert to gravel (if they are not totally abandoned) as will some Farm to Market roads.

Think 1920 but with electric trucks for short hauls. Trolley freight for those shops on streetcar lines.

Farmers went to town (local County Seat usually) every other Friday or Saturday (and July 4th) if the weather was good and they were not planting or harvesting. Pavement usually started at the city limits or a couple of miles outside town where a couple of dirt roads came together.

Best Hopes for Seeing the Possible,


BTW, my father (born 1929) remembers walking from the farm to the "doodle bug" EMU and flagging it down to go somewhere. A modern non-oil transportation version, the elektrichka


# Garbage pick-up is an interesting conceptual exercise post-Peak Oil.

## When I moved to Austin, Texas in 1973, the new liberal City Council devoted almost the entire Public Works budget to paving the streets in the minority neighborhoods and they were almost finished. Yes, in 1970 residential neighborhoods in a major American (well Texan) city had dirt roads (for those with darker skin). And the city functioned, the people living there got to work, shops and school, mail was delivered, garbage was picked up, etc.

Thanks for the plethora of excellent ideas and information. I'm convinced that the bicycle probably has a long future ahead, even for intercity transport. Just two points of clarification: First, I wrote this piece as a thought experiment, not a predication of the future. I am asking, "What if...?" My concern is focused on the complex and lengthy logical systems that we rely on for everything bicycle related. Certainly, the know-how and even the materials for building and maintaining bicycles and bikeways aren't going to disappear. But reconfiguring our systems to do all that if we are obliged to do it on a much more local and regional basis won't happen with a snap of the fingers. The transition has the potential to be a very disruptive process.

Second, to those who are wondering about my relationship to a bicycle. I ride nearly every day in all four seasons on a cheap Giant comfort bike that I use to do 90 percent of my errands. For those who think cold weather is an impediment to cycling, I point you to my many fellow Michigan residents who snowboard, ski, and snowmobile in very cold weather with absolutely no complaint about the cold, that is, after they drive to the ski or recreation area in their petroleum-powered cars. Although there are only a few of us cycling in winter, I see no impediment to a vast expansion of winter cycling where I live. One just has to dress properly.

"First, I wrote this piece as a thought experiment..."

Alas, in a context that often attracts very doomish posts, that was not at all clear...

For those of you worried about your bike tires, there are spares available. This bike is really for sale new. You too can cruise urban style for only $649 + shipping and tax.


I think the small steering wheel allows controlled turning with handcuffs on.

It needs a sissy bar and ape-hangars.

Options. So are spinners or 'hydrolics'? I have no idea what hydrolics are.

If methanol is methane with a hydroxyl, hydrol might be hydrogen with a hydroxyl. Or maybe that speculation is all wet...

It is what you think it is. This is why I never say "Now I've seen everything." There's always more.

The obligatory link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyuUrvb0IDg

(For people that don't want to waste a click: it's a low rider hydraulic kit for trikes)

To each his own. IMHO that just made the rest of us cyclists look bad, but funny. I would not mind owning this one.

The black one above with a Shimano Alfine Inter 8 coaster rear/front disc would be really cool.

I'm still stunned that anybody would spend $700 for "hydrolics". You can get a decent Trek for less than that.

You can... This one for instance (a throwback to the Raleigh Sport):


or for a few more $$$, this one, the quintessential errand beast:


Cool, but no spare tire.

This is the problem I have with most oil drum posts/comments. You take peak oil and extrapolate that to doomsday. No science, no evidence -- just arm waving and jumping to conclusions. I think many here sound like a bunch of religious nuts.

Someone makes an off hand comment about prioritizing roads and bikes, and you jump to the conclusion that there won't be any roads. WTF????

Just like you hear the phrase "peak oil" and you suddenly think that means there's no more oil, no more economy, no more money and no more food. Why bother considering how higher prices TRANSITION to different uses and methods?

I think my point is some folks love their bikes. Oil or not, I would ride. It is better than walking and much easier on my legs.

IMO there will always be roads, and there will always be personal motorized vehicles, and there will always be commercial truck transports. All three are too popular and useful to disappear just because the current fuel of choice will one day become too expensive to use for most people.

I am reminded of Edo Period Japan. The Emperor had the only carriage and the only road (a few km long) in all of Japan.

Yes, they will exist, but not in the numbers and social focus of today.

IMO, Export Land Model and Peak Oil will hit too hard and too fast to build 150 million EVs. And maintaining the existing infrastructure will be "problematic".

OTOH, we CAN build 150 million eBikes and rehab xxx million bicycles relatively quickly.

Best Hopes for being prepared,


I don't understand the feeling that "roads won't exist in the future". They aren't going to go anywhere because something will continue using them, whether it is alcohol fueled vehicles, electric ones, animal powered, human powered, solar powered, whatever. They are there and I can't think of any road that exists that could disappear without causing a lot of outcry over its loss.

I am reminded of Edo Period Japan. The Emperor had the only carriage and the only road (a few km long) in all of Japan.

Yes, they will exist, but not in the numbers and social focus of today.

IMO, Export Land Model and Peak Oil will hit too hard and too fast to build 150 million EVs. And maintaining the existing infrastructure will be "problematic".

OTOH, we CAN build 150 million eBikes and rehab xxx million bicycles relatively quickly.

Best Hopes for being prepared,


Lots of places had roads millennia before Edo Japan, so were the emperors in that period just especially nasty tyrants?

I am reminded of Edo Period Japan. The Emperor had the only carriage and the only road (a few km long) in all of Japan.

Yes, they will exist, but not in the numbers and social focus of today.

IMO, Export Land Model and Peak Oil will hit too hard and too fast to build 150 million EVs. And maintaining the existing infrastructure will be "problematic".

OTOH, we CAN build 150 million eBikes and rehab xxx million bicycles relatively quickly.

Best Hopes for being prepared,


Does anyone know why you would want "hydrolics" on your pedal trike? Can you "hop" a pedal trike? Leave it to the Southern Californians. These bikes would get looks anywhere. You might get bike jacked or profiled by bike most cops, but you would get looks.


Once my old $15 three-speed Raleigh was stolen at high noon in front of my apartment on Spruce Street (a good neighborhood, both then and now) in Berkeley by some kid. I got it back from the police department, and the only damage was a blown front tire. My sister had a nicer bike stolen from the front of our house on the south side of Chicago (5525 Woodlawn Ave.) back when she and our father and I were all enrolled at the University of Chicago, back in 1955-56, back when the Blackstone Ranger gang ruled the neighborhood. Police patrolled typically with four officers in a group--two in a car and with trigger fingers on the mike to call for backup when things got nasty. What I'm afraid of now is gangs with automatic assault rifles. The Blackstone Rangers back in the fifties were devoted to switchblade knives and did not habitually carry guns.

You are wasting your time worrying about gangs with long guns. It is relatives and yourself with handguns that is the much bigger threat. I try to be careful but like my SGM used to tell me, who in the hell wants to live forever anyway.

Have you ever lived on the South side of Chicago or in a comparable neighborhood?

Just because I may be paranoid does not mean that they [gangs] will not be out to get me one day in the not too distant future. What you say holds only for now, not in a future when there will be far fewer police due to massive state and local cuts in police budgets.

See THE MODERN SURVIVAL MANUAL: SURVIVING THE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE by Fernando "Ferfal" Aguirre or go to ferfal.blogspot.com for an account of what happened in Argentina during and after its financial and economic collapse.

Handguns don't scare me much, because few people know how to use them effectively. Long guns scare me a helluva lot.

Been to the south side of Chicago, but I was careful.

'Assault weapons are used in about one-fifth of one percent (.20%) of all violent crimes and about one percent in gun crimes.'

Source - http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcassaul.html

Your statement is true for conditions today. I am more concerned about conditions the day after tomorrow. Gangs are upgrading their weaponry. In the hands of most people, handguns are ineffective beyond 6 to 10 feet range. In the actual Old West, it was not uncommon for two gunfighters to ride into town and blaze away with their old single-action Colts and Smith and Wessons and Remington revolvers--only to fire twelve shots between them and miss every time.

How many U.S. soldiers ever mastered the old 1911 Colt automatic, one of the best designs ever from John Moses Browning--a design that still flourishes and is still used in competitions against modern pistols? Read THE PISTOL by James Jones to get some idea of the capabilities of the 1911 Colt.

I'll admit that the modern Glock line of pistols is marginally better than than Browning's old design, but some of them fire relatively ineffective cartridges, such as the 9 mm Parabellum--which cannot compare to the effectiveness of .45 Colt automatic.

With a 100 year old design I'm more comfortable than I am with the modern stuff.

I used to live in Over The Rhine, a neighborhood in Cincinnati that might be roughly comparable to the South Side of Chicago. I'm pretty sure the Crips ran the neighborhood. As a result, the Cincinnati police would not come there after dark (the last time they did, both officers were stripped of everything they had and were forced to run naked out of the neighborhood).

The only cabs that you could get were "bootleg" cabs, which, oddly enough, were vastly superior in service and cleanliness as compared with Yellow Cab, whose vehicles were thrashed-out police cars stinking of vomit and piss.

There was *no* street crime, I could walk home from my post-doc job at the University of Cincinnati and not get messed with, even at 3 in the morning. I went through some kind of "bumping" thing with some of the local gang people within a week of moving in, and apparently I passed muster...

The only shooting I ever heard was a duel between two drug dealers on New Year's Eve; the word was out on the street that this was going to happen and to stay clear. Both of them lost, they cut each other in half with full-auto machine guns at 30 feet, it was pretty much of a bloody mess. The police showed up when the sun came up, 8 hours later.

The number of NRA members in that neighborhood was phenomenal, and the people were pretty conservative about things. BTW, the population was 98% black and 2% white, and the Crips were integrated...

Don I don't know your past, but I do know mine.
The taking of a life is a line not to be crossed.

Note that in self-defense or in the defense of innocent others, the legal verdict on taking a life is "justifiable homicide." I think the legal code follows good morality in that classification--and I taught ethics for more than twenty years.

Not to be crossed lightly. That is why they gave me a uniform and made me swear first. Then they gave me 155 mm bullets.


Like this.

Have you ever lived on the South side of Chicago or in a comparable neighborhood?

Jim Croce Bad bad Leroy Brown live


I get jealous when people cast eyes on my bike... ;^)

In neighborhoods like that my old $15 Raleigh 3-speed with a spoke missing on the front wheel was the ideal bike--so ugly that few would steal it. Yet it was stolen once from a good neighborhood in Berkeley. Some Oakland kids (blacks, I'm sorry to say) had been cruising Berkeley, looking for loot and handouts, and one of them took my bike when I had left it unlocked for about 45 seconds.


Have you ever lived on the South side of Chicago or in a comparable neighborhood?

Most of my life. While riding I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me, people chasing me with baseball bats, cars intentionally swerving my way to add to the discomfort of driving down city streets, etc.. The past ten years living in the area were really bad. I felt safer riding downtown on Wabash dodging the cars and “L” supports. The immigrants (young Eastern Europeans especially) are the worst offenders at bad behavior. Some rules of riding in these neighborhoods: never ride on Friday night. Vary your route, someone might notice you and be waiting with a rude reception party. Have a cell phone and have it turned on. Install puncture proof tires. Use a “beater bike”. My beater bike was a Univega which had a duct taped seat and phony rust painted on the frame. No one bothered it. Glad I’ve been out of there for four years.

Good rules. What do you do to deter theft of your old beater in such neighborhoods?

I try to take my bike indoors whenever possible. If not, then I lock the bike with a wide yoke kryptonite lock with the front wheel removed and locked through the frame and post with the lock. The "New York method", using a long strong pipe to spring the lock with leverage will defeat this if they want it bad enough. Do not use quick release adjusters for your seat - it will be stolen.

When I lived in the city I got an old bike and beat it up even more. Not locked once, and nobody touched it.

That wouldn’t work in Chicago - the Mexican metal scrappers would take it.

This is a great article. I've been a lurker here since 2005. I cannot add any useful input to the petroleum engineering discussions but have certainly learned a lot from them. Comments from posters like AlanFromBigEasy, Westexas and others have helped me to see the need to localize, enconomize, and produce (ELP) and contribute to my local community.

I've taught a number of bike safety classes to local bicyclists and have put together a class to show cyclists how to build their own bike lighting systems http://wbwc.org/bikelighting-workshop/BikeLighting-workshop.pdf. Unlighted cyclists are a big problem here.

A concern of mine is about winter cycling in the northern areas (I'm in Ann Arbor). Winter is no problem for me until the temperature drops below zero (farenheit) and younger riders can do much colder. Clothing can be added in layers as the temperature drops.

The problem is road and pathway snow clearance. If there is limited or no fuel (or money) for big, expensive road clearing equipment it will be very difficult to bicycle. I have to ride paths that aren't cleared: pedestrian and bicycle traffic rapidly packs the snow into humps that make bicycling nearly impossible. I ride 22 miles (11 each way) to work every day. In winter I use studded tires, they do not help on heavily packed snow ruts. If I couldn't ride in bike lanes that are cleared by the road commission I would probably have to walk.

We have several people locally that hand shovel the snow from a 1/4th mile long bike path so that it can remain passable through the winter. I suspect this will be needed more and more as road maintanence budgets are cut. Much like other comments to this article about hand powered road maintanence, I'm certain we will have to work out human powered snow clearing. You really develop an appreciation for how much energy is embodied in gasoline when you try hand clearing 8 inches of new snow from a long path!

This website has helped me transition from despair at the coming events into a position of taking action to do something positive. I work on bicycle advocacy locally, trying to get conditions improved so that people don't have to feel so afraid of being 'flattened' while riding a few miles to work. After a number of years of effort we have managed to move to a 'Silver' level cycling community. It's not a easy task but it gives me a sense of doing something that I believe can actually help. As the quote in the upper right sometimes says: "Every time I see a human on a bicycle I don't feel such despair" or something like that.

As far as bicycle choices go: my 2 cents worth is that I agree that modern bike designs have a number of significant improvements over older units. Lately I tend towards utilitarian bikes that I can ride to work and then pick up 40 lbs of groceries on the way home with. I am concerned that the interchangability of modern bike parts is much lower than older designs. Every year some new component group comes out that is incompatible with any older models. I have about 12 bikes, most are older, and the parts cannot be interchanged between the older and newer models. For example, from 6 speed freewheel up to a 10 speed casette. And the shifters that go with them, all totally non-interchangeable. I think the problem is worst with the ultra-expensive bikes. The lower end models tend to use more basic components that are more interchangeable and remain the same for a number of years.

I offer many thanks to the people that maintain and contribute to this web site. It is an amazing community! I frequently send links to articles from here to my fellow advocacy group members. They often comment that how can such an appropriate link come from a 'petroleum' website. It's kind of fun to see the disbelief. I tell them how many posters here suggest that bicycles are a big part of the coming transition and if the people closest to the petroleum industry think it's time to start riding ("BP= Begin Pedalling" from an article here several years ago...) that we need to get that message out to our local community.


You really develop an appreciation for how much energy is embodied in gasoline when you try hand clearing 8 inches of new snow from a long path!

I was lucky to find a simple device that was (I think) called a snowshu. It was kindof an extra large snow-shovel/scoop. You could slide along the ground with maybe a quarter yard cubed of snow in the scoop (no lifting). So with it one person could clear more than two or three fools with snow blowers. And it only cost about $20. Hardware stores who carried it made sure it was hard to find, they made much more on a $750 snowblower than they could on a snowshu. I also once saw a variant, that had wheels. But if you were willing to leave a half inch layer you could easily slide it along with almost no effort.

I've been sketching out a pedal-powered 4wheel cart that would be a slow moving Snow-tosser for sidewalks and bike-paths.

Instead of the high-powered beam of snow as from a typical blower, this would use a 'bucket-brigade' approach, and you could gear your progress to fit the conditions you find yourself in. The mass of such a little rig might also be able to carry some neat application for ice-chopping, too.

It's just in the 'big design folder' .. it's good to have some contingencies to play with.

Where do you put the snow that you push aside with your scooper? I've used scoopers for forty years, but I still have to use a conventional snow shovel to move the snow bank made by the scooper far enough away so that my driveway remains wide. I'm tired of shoveling and scooping now, and soon I'll be moving into an apartment where I shall shovel nevermore.

I see things like that way up north where the snow is dry and fluffy, but not so much further south where the snow is usually wetter and heavier...

Houses are going around here for $60K. Something about an oil spill. Kidding, I think it is serious.

am concerned that the interchangability of modern bike parts is much lower than older designs. Every year some new component group comes out that is incompatible with any older models. I have about 12 bikes, most are older, and the parts cannot be interchanged between the older and newer models. For example, from 6 speed freewheel up to a 10 speed casette. And the shifters that go with them, all totally non-interchangeable. I think the problem is worst with the ultra-expensive bikes. The lower end models tend to use more basic components that are more interchangeable and remain the same for a number of years

Agree with you here.. the tendency towards proprietary components and changing specs that encourages you to buy a new bike rather than repair or replace components started in earnest in the early 90's..

the current trend towards electric shifting while annoying may actually blend into a range of rather classy e bike models for the masses so I am not completely down on this trend... the battery mass/pass has to be less than than electric cars if peak lithium is one's latest nightmare of choice.

I can see a big market for simple to use elegant e bikes even if they are quite pricey... which overcomes most peoples objection to cycling... its hard work

A few things to remember about bikes and roadways.

1. For bike roads to be practical they must be about 8' - 10' wide at a minimum and engineered for 40 mph travel. They cannot allow mixed use, such a roller skates, etc., anymore than public roads do now. It's very unsafe for mixed speeds. I refuse to ride on mixed use bike trails. Scary.

When the roads are free of motor vehicles, the rate of deterioration slows to a crawl. I've seen this first hand on abandoned roads when a new road is constructed around it. After 25 years, the old road is still serviceable.

Bridges are problematical. Corrosion continues. Lighter duty bridges can be made of wood, which is renewable, or stone, which, in some cases, has lasted since Roman times.

2. Roads with bike traffic only will wear out by weathering and unstable roadbeds. Water is the culprit here. Well engineered bike roads could last a very long while. Cobble surfaces can be reused by periodically reworking the surface and repairing the bed. With just bicycle traffic, they can last for centuries.

3. Feedstocks for elasomers are all around us. Anything organic can be reduced to long chain hydrocarbons with a little simple chemistry and adequate heat and pressure. A few tons of these materials can supply a lot of cyclists with good tires. Same with lubricants, paints, seals, and what have you. This technology is here and now. No need to invent something.

4. There is an enormous stock of metal ready for recycling. The tooling for this will not disappear over night. Production will be lower, but it is still perfectly do-able. A small machine shop running on wind or water power could continue to crank out bicycles for quite a long time. And the quantities involved will be consistent with a low-energy future. There's a lot less energy embodied in bicycles and their infrastructure compared to motor vehicles. A 3,000 lb. car represents about 150 bicycles. It will be much cheaper in net energy terms to continue with bikes. Bicycle technology could be with us for centuries in the future.

1. For bike roads to be practical they must be about 8' - 10' wide at a minimum and engineered for 40 mph travel. They cannot allow mixed use, such a roller skates, etc., anymore than public roads do now. It's very unsafe for mixed speeds. I refuse to ride on mixed use bike trails. Scary.

You must be thinking of something suitable for a Tour-de-France style peloton. For one direction of travel 2-3 feet width is adaquate. Most commuter types are probably only doing 10-15mph. Downhills would require wider. But two lanes of 2-3feet would handle decent twoway traffic, although passing might be problematic. If traffic is light, say twenty bikes per hour a single thin lane would suffice, as long as people don't try to go fast around blind corners. I totally agree about the multiuse bike lanes. Roller bladers and bikes don't mix well. The few mixed trails I did try enforced something like a 10mph speed limit, whicj made them worthless for either getting somewhere, or getting a workout. It takes a great deal of effort to keep a bike below 10mph.

1. Why do roads get so little discussion in planning for the future?
You don't need such good roads at all. The roads won't disappear overnight. Roads can be maintained fairly easy by hand.

2. Can you see a way to make a version of bicycles work with a version of roads, long term?
My grandfather used to tell me how they drove bikes on wooden 'tires' during World War 2 when there was no rubber. The roads back then were unpaved and maintained by cheap manual labor. So, yes I do see a long term future in almost any scenario.
I’ve commuted 6,5km one-way daily for over 7 years in any weather on my second hand bicycle. The only repairs I ever had to do on my bike was to patch a flat tire. Never had any major repairs. I haven’t even changed the tires in all those thousands of km (250/year * 7yrs * 6,5km * 2 = 22750km). This is at 52 degrees North, so not even in a very mild climate. The little resources we need to cycle are very sustainable by any means.

3. What do people do in lesser developed countries do now with respect to bicycles and roads?
Travel as little as possible?

4. What role do you expect bicycles to play long-term?
An increased role. Through added technology where electric bikes, such as the one my grandmother of 80 is driving, taking an increased role compounded by large scale application of EV's. But I'm not much of a doomsday scenario kind-a guy.

Hi Kurt, and inspiring open-source forward-thinking global community,

Thank you for asking an important question. Having read through the comments, I'm glad to see that the majority of people seem to think that the answer is no, the 'post oil future' will not be bicycle free. According to the academic literature, bicycle usage is increasing rapidly in many places, notably Bogata, Paris, Barcalona and London. In my own city of Sheffield, the cycling rate has been increasing at about 7% per year, and the recent spell of warm weather has seen more cyclists hit the road than ever before. Main factors seem to be:

1) Recession - People are thinking "do I really want to continue spending x% of my income on a transport system that is fuelled by a finite resource, demand for which has led obvious catastrophes, and many less obvious problems". The bicycle is a cheaper way to get fit, from A-B, or high than gym membership, cars, or drugs/holidays.

2) Cultural shift - It feels like a cultural shift, which encourages lifestyle changes compatible with cycling is underway. This is, of course, subjective.

3) Health/environmental/equality concern. Some people like the idea of shifting to a transport system which is fair - there undeniably remain enough resources on the planet to allow everyone to cycle for at least 100 years. There undeniably do not exist the resources everyone on the planet to own and drive their own car. While for many, moral issues are not important (see 1 and 2), morality is still an important driver for many, especially those who subscribe, consciously or more commonly unconsciously (a sense of fairness) to one of the many incarnations of Kant's categorical imperative.

Bicycles require on the order of 1/100th of the resources of cars, so could therefore provide transport for ~100 times more people than cars could, given the same resource endowment. This is exactly what is happening: planners must make the choice between spending the next decades of fuel supply on powering fleeting car trips, or a more sustainable transport infrastructure. The point made in an earlier comment about rate of road degradation is key.

Bicycling literature:

I regard John Pucher as the king of bicycle statistics and their interpretation.

Making cycling irresistible is an excellent introduction to the field.

Hi Robin,

I enjoyed the essay you posted a while back.

cycling rate has been increasing at about 7% per year

Where I live in a generally affluent county north of Milwaukee, WI, USA - there is little evidence that we enjoy a trend like this. Perhaps some increase in recreational cycling as we have an excellent 30 mile paved trail. But, overall, a very small percent of the general public uses bikes on a regular basis for normal transportation. I do greatly admire the progress of some EU cities.

bicycle is a cheaper way to get fit, from A-B, or high than gym membership, cars, or drugs/holidays

For the most part, people here see those advantages greatly out weighted by the disadvantage of being killed by a car. And, Motorists who kill bikers are often given only a minor traffic violation ticket or fine.

It feels like a cultural shift

I truly wish I could feel that here in Midwest USA - but, I don't. Also, my biking experience in Ireland and France (now 2 years ago for the last trip) does not agree with your feeling.

Health/environmental/equality concern. Some people like the idea of shifting to a transport system which is fair

Lots of people here like those ideas - until they actually try to bike into a supermarket parking lot.

I agree 100% with all of your optimism and rationale for biking. But, where I live I see little evidence that we are progressing in this direction. The city of Milwaukee has some very good folks who have been able to implement some bike friendly measures - I really applaud their work. But, Milwaukee is still a place that requires a fair bit of experience and courage to cycle in without harm if you stray off of the trail systems (there are some very nice trails). A neighboring county got a $25 million federal grant a few years ago to promote ped/cycle activity - most of the money will probably never get used as the proposed projects get cancelled. Congressmen in other states have sent back such funds to demonstrate that they are looking out for tax payers.

Wishful thinking and the recent community-organised Sheffield bike festival probably contribute to my optimism. But so do reports of cycling policy in Beijing and Bogota.

According to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, there is a strong relationship between funding for cycling projects and the cycling rates. This is no suprise, and perhaps grounds for pessimism given the current economic climate. Equally, one could interpret this as grounds for optimism as there are well-established ways of increasing the cycling rate which solve an array of problems for relatively little cost.

Regarding question #4:

Bicycles and especially electrically assisted bicycles will not go away because they make energetic and hence economic sense. As long as resources are available for urban transportation infrastructure, there will be an economic justification for bike paths. The life cycle cost per mile for an electric bicycle is about 1/10th the corresponding cost for automobile operation. Infrastructure costs and emissions will scale similarly, since a bike is so much narrower and lighter than a car.

Another big advantage of electrically assisted bicycles is that they are very accessible. They are very common around here, especially for the elderly. My grandmother of 79 has one and it's just not funny to be cycling with her on a windy day, because she gets along so easily while I struggle with the headwind. Still at this age she peddles her bike many thousands of kilometers per year. Something that would be impossible without electrical assistance and a car would be no solution either, because she never even had a driver’s license.

Only a total "car person" could speculate that bikes require good roads to be useful. I have biked for 3 years at 40-50 miles/week in a rural area on a rigid mountain bike(no front suspension) circa early 1990's. Half my rides are paved but not well maintained, the rest are trails and dirt roads. Even on the very worst tracks it is usually possible to skirt the craters, and it would take many decades for a paved road that is not being pummeled by car traffic to descend to this level. Furthermore, while riding the roughest tracks may not be fun for some riders, it still requires a lot less energy and time per mile then walking. Such personal energy savings would be vital post collapse, especially if you are not eating well, and working hard. Parts availability is problematic but considering the millions of unused bikes in America and assuming a partial die off the situation could be extended a long time.(assuming someone makes tires). Tool up now. Perhaps there will eventually be more bikes in cities as scavenging will be easier. Assuming such scavenging, a bike far exceeds the ridiculously low eroei of horses. Parts last a really long time, if reasonably maintained. Weak point is chain. In my 3 years(7200 miles) have relaced 9 speed chain twice but rear cogs and front chainwheels still perfect. This possible if you keep chain clean/lubed and replace when stetched 1/16-1/8" even though it works fine. Chains are cheap, easy to stockpile. Old rigid simple mt. bikes are the way to go. Remember how the Viet Cong beat us useing bike transport of incredible loads thru incredibly tough terrain. So Kunstler is wrong, I think or hope. Aside from tires, I've heard the only other weak point of bikes is the bottom bracket because there is so much variation between bikes and for last ten tears it's been all non rebuildable cartridges. If there are any pro mechanics out there that could tell me what the most common cartridges were for 1990's and post millenium mountain bikes please tell me so I can stockpile some. Knowing your experience level would help. Keep my rural neighborhood riding post Peak/collapse, perhaps.

The Swiss Army Bicycle


Do you think it needs a smooth paved road ?


My old Raleigh 10 speed (now 12, for an older body) with Reynolds 531 steel tube frame, is 40 years old.

I just noticed the comment counts. Bicycles-220 Oil Spill-250. Maybe there is hope after all.

Originally developed for the U.S. Airforce, the bike has rugged body and folds down to 18″ x 42″ x 36″ (with the front wheel removed).

drop out of a plane on a chute

I loved mine ... till it got stolen


"Will the post-oil future be bicycle-free?"


The classic Roman road would seem eminently suitable for ruggedly built bicycles.

Third try. Bicycles came in on the coat tails of established railways in America, helped move the Electric Street Railways out of the picture, and themselves were shoved aside by Henry Ford's contraption and cheap oil.

Wise bicyclists will divide effort, work on re-established railway footprint to guarantee "Societal & Commercial Cohesion as the oil economy constricts highway transport. A word to the wise.

See Christopher C. Swan's web page "Suntrain Transportation Corporation" and book, "ELECTRIC WATER" (New Society Press, 2007). See also 'tahoevalleylines" postings for other railway subject leads. See ASPO Articles 374 and 1037. It is going to require steady and resolute replacement of railway service links in order to preserve the Union of States. Bicyclists must organize, and establish "Railway Subcommittees" for their respective locales. See spv.co.uk for US Rail Map Atlas, and learn the rail footprint extant & dormant for your respective locale. See also "Official Guide" of the Railways circa 1920-1950.

Reformed Army/Guard railway logistics units will play a part in rehabbing dormant branch lines, beginning with Agricultural traffic lines. American Short Line Rail operators will assume operation as the military units move on to next job on list. Well, what are you waiting for? Everyone has to help, this is an emergency in progress, and it won't fix itself! Talk about the Oil Limits at the Chamber of Commerce, family gatherings, class reunions, etc. Learning rail footprint nearby gives you a talking point when the room is at the panic point -it soon will be- when Federal Executive Emergency Orders for motor fuel rationing come at us.

Good Article

Aw shucks, as a biker for many years, and bike commuter, I really wanted to add something to this thread, but it looks like everything has already been said!

I purchased a steel framed Trek racing bike new in 1985. They said that the campy components would last a lifetime, so I'm still in the process of verifying that claim. In the mean time I've fully invested in all the tools to tear it down to a bare frame, and have a stockpile of spart parts that will probably last two or three lifetimes - things such as bottom brackets, chain rings, freewheel bodies and cogs, etc. You can still get a lot of this stuff on ebay. I haven't seen anyone mention the need to obtain a supply of ball bearings. If you're going to have a degree of self sufficiency you need to find out what size balls are used in the various components, and keep a supply on hand. It is a good practice to replace the balls when you overhaul the bearings. It will help make the components last a lifetime. You can get them online at fastenal.com Some tools that could be overlooked but you should have include a caliper to measure small parts accurately, taps and dies, and various small files. I use these infrequently, but when you need it, there's no substitute.

I'm in no hurry to go carbon. Sure you can save a couple pounds of weight, but most of the people I see buying carbon bikes could stand to lose more than a couple pounds off of their asses! I tell people that I slow this bike down more than it slows me down. A well made vintage steel frame is going to last a long time and will survive some abuse. In some cases if it gets bent, you can just bend it back. Not so with a carbon bike. It doesn't bend, it just breaks.

The biggest drawback to a steel bike is corrosion. If you're going to keep it for many years, you need to have the tools and be able to take it apart and do maintenance. Steel frames will rust from the inside out.

My other bike is a 1987 cannondale mountain bike. The aluminum frame is immune to corrosion, so that becomes my foul weather commuter. I've also worked out the procedures for using it for food shopping, and carrying other moderate loads. One of the most incongruous situations I found myself in was earlier this year, our minivan was broken down and waiting to get repaired. I could really live without a car, but with a wife and kids it aint gonna happen - yet. Anyway, at the same time, we were perilously low on heating oil which would mean no hot water. I carried a 5 gallon steel container in a plastic milk crate mounted on the rack on my trusty cannondale. Two trips by bike got me enough fuel for us to get by for a while. But riding a bike carrying fuel for hot water gave me something to ponder while making the trip.

Green things are starting to become trendy and I see people jumping on the bandwagon in a way that they probably can't sustain. My philosophy about bike commuting is that you're not going to save the world, but you might save yourself. It takes a totally different outlook on life - you can't be in a hurry, you have to adapt to weather and other circumstances you can't control, you have to have a measure of self reliance, you have to be willing to be an outcast in this gas guzzling world, and you have to face your mortality. All these things work together to transform you into a better person. And what's the worst thing that can happen? You get squashed by a truck, and die or get maimed. If you can accept these possible outcomes, nothing else can hurt you! (Thanks to Seneca for that)

Hope this helps

Ever heard of a "rail to trail" ?

I ride 14 miles each way on a dirt path just for exercise.. no need to maintain.. you must not get out much or are one of those road bike snobs who don't bother to wave to someone on a mountain bike..

I don't know how you got that out of what I wrote. I'm on track to get about 2500 miles this year and 25% of them will be on a 20-year-old mountain bike with a rack on it. I wave to anyone. I've been on the receiving end of snobbery and know what if feels like. Sounds like you've had the same experience. I was trying to throw out a couple tidbits here and there, and share my philosophy. If you're doing what you enjoy and it provides benefits, what other people think is the last thing that matters.

He May have been replying to the keypost, not yours.

I have made more bike friends by keeping up with a good road bike on my cruiser for a couple of miles. It kind of blows them away but I know my trick is I get guys that do not ride much or are very fast. When I pull up next to a serious road biker, they leave me in short order. I can burst at about 25 for little while to try and keep up. Many of them burst in the 40's.

When's the last time you made a friend while you were driving your car? There are so many different kinds of riders, but any of them will help you out if you're in a jam. I've met a couple of people just because I carry a pair of pliers.

Hopefully that's what gets us through whatever happens next... smaller groups of people helping each other out. I guess we'll see.

You do not do that around here unless you know the driver. Good way to get shot.

Wow! Very bleak future indeed for bikes you say. That certainly can be argued. I personal think we have a bright future for bicycles, electric bikes scooters and any other form of similar alternative transportation.

The world is changing to new forms of green transportation and the bicycle (an alternative styles of bicycles) are playing and will play an important role for the commuters of the world. Here are some bicycle statistics the show usage, production, sales, imports, exports that you may like to take a look at >>> http://www.ibike.org/library/statistics.htm.

We are NOT going to see the dismal future you forecast. We will move forward with new technologies, we will adapt to change and we will keep our civilization in tack and prospering for many, many, many years to come.

You do make a case for depleting natural resources. And, yes, we do need them for manufacturing purposes for bicycles, but our natural resources are linked to everything that we need to sustain life, and yes they are depleting at an alarming rate. That's the BIG PICTURE!!!

We need solutions and they will come but the bicycle is already a big part of the overall solution for maintaining a balance life as we know it and (know it) into the future. This link will show you new forms of bicycle transportation that are already being introduced into our market place in a big way and will continue to. >>> Electric Bikes Scooters Alternative Transportation.

Wow! Very bleak future indeed for bikes you say. That certainly can be argued. I personal think we have a bright future for bicycles, electric bikes scooters and any other form of similar alternative transportation.

The world is changing to new forms of green transportation and the bicycle (an alternative styles of bicycles) are playing and will play an important role for the commuters of the world. Here are some bicycle statistics the show usage, production, sales, imports, exports that you may like to take a look at >>> http://www.ibike.org/library/statistics.htm.

We are NOT going to see the dismal future you forecast. We will move forward with new technologies, we will adapt to change and we will keep our civilization in tack and prospering for many, many, many years to come.

You do make a case for depleting natural resources. And, yes, we do need them for manufacturing purposes for bicycles, but our natural resources are linked to everything that we need to sustain life, and yes they are depleting at an alarming rate. That's the BIG PICTURE!!!

We need solutions and they will come but the bicycle is already a big part of the overall solution for maintaining a balance life as we know it and (know it) into the future. This link will show you new forms of bicycle transportation that are already being introduced into our market place in a big way and will continue to. >>> Electric Bikes Scooters Alternative Transportation.

"Sufficient" energy solves most of the issues being discussed here.
With sufficient energy and ingenuity humans could probably figure out how to fabricate everything from C02 from the air or sea (or coal etc.) along with hydrogen from water and minerals from rocks.
Build it from the basics.

Enhanced geothermal could be the key.
It's when you drill into hot rocks and pipe the heat from below to a generating plant on the surface.
MIT / Government panel estimates there is 2000 times (yes, that's times) "all" the "primary" energy used in the US (2005) available within the US in enhanced geothermal. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/geothermal.html
http://geothermal.inel.gov/publications/future_of_geothermal_energy.pdf (ref page 18 point 2)

Primary energy is the raw energy inputs to our systems, for instance, the coal used to fire an electric power generation plant is greater than the electric power delivered, so the primary energy is the coal energy in. (Conversion being around 40% at best)

The same MIT / Government panel also concluded more work could move this up to 20,000 times the primary energy use in the US in 2005.

This enhanced geothermal energy is going to last till the earth's core cools, a long long time, probably multiple millions of years.
Geothermal runs day and night, no problems when the wind stops or the sun goes down. Very clean.

Given the oil industry's ability to drill deep into hot areas and then drill sideways to and hit a pipe drilled in the opposite direction, one can could likely avoid fracturing the ground to capture the geothermal heat from many many locations. Fracturing can cause earth quakes and movements, mostly small but disturbing to the locals.

The real danger of getting of back to the desperate situation described by some above could be things like.
1. Major meteor hits Earth, few survive.
2. Viral infection wipes out 99.9% of the population.
3. We nuke ourselves with all the bombs we have.
4. Yellowstone goes off.
5. A black hole the size of the sun streaks through the solar system and screws up our nice orbits.
6. We overpopulate the earth to the point everything breaks down.
8. The Sun decides to get unstable and varies output.
7. We are too dumb to do something sensible like enhanced geothermal.

And more ...

For the above 1. 2. 3. 4. 6. ... some enhanced geothermal plants could perhaps be kept going to give a basis of starting over without loosing everything.

With sufficient power and smarts we could make rubber tires from CO2, water and rocks.


I have just got a bike after 30 odd years of being a driver. Should have done it years ago. The roads and pavements will last long enough for me. However, some of the idea raised here do intrigue me and have made me think. Thank you.
Self hypnosis mp3 downloads

Globalization victimizes bikes and the bicycling industry like everything else. In Davis, Ca (the biggest cycling town in the USA) garbage "bikes" from Walmart/Target/China are displacing the high quality US made bikes, and bike companies, and bike shops. These "bikes" literally fall apart, and are in the landfill in a year. No parts are servicable, repairable, or long lasting. Carbon falls under "disposable," but the worst offenders are the crud kids and teenager sized bikes. Just try to get more than a year from one, and then it's off to Walmart to buy another one.

Don't think you will be able to live in a post-oil world by bike, if don't fight to save quality bikes and companies now! Next/Huffy/Magna/Schwinn(sadly) will serve you as poorly as your disposable razors, iphones (where is your old ipod now?) and plastic furniture.

Go buy some real cycling equipment from an independently owned local bike shop. Support a local bike builder. Artisan bike building is exploding, just in time. Learn to ride, ask advice. Buy some quality items not for light weight, but durablity. You won't be able buy much MadeInUSA anymore, but by helping local shops and builders, those guys stay afloat today, and maybe they will help you outwhen you need a bike to live in the future.

I've got two bikes: a 12-speed MTB of some make I can't remember, and a single-speed Malvern Star road bike. The Malvern Star is going to get a hub motor, and it'll be my 'wet weather' bike, as it has mudguards (can you even buy those anymore?). I currently use the MTB for odd jobs and going to and from work (unless it's raining). For loads heavier than what can go in a backpack, the Malvern has a rack, and I'm going to get The Girl's father to weld me up a trailer that I can insulate, so I can cart groceries.

I barely use the car anymore.