Riding a bike - positive impact on the environment, right?
Putting on a bike race? Not so much.
Last year we noticed we were getting through a fair bit of single-use plastic, so over the winter we've been thinking about ways we can change that.
We already re-use all our number boards and really appreciate everyone making sure we get them back and not cutting or damaging them, so we can use them at the next round.
But we use quite a lot of race tape. Regular race tape can be re-used, but it doesn't always roll up nicely and setting out tape that's been used before can really slow down course-building, something we're often trying to do in poor weather with cold hands and not much time.
So we had a few chats with other organisers and found other people thinking the same - there's got to be a better way. You can buy hemp-based race tape, which straight away struck everyone as a great idea... until someone explained that deer see it as a tasty snack!
Our tape is provided by Shimano, our headline series sponsor, so we spoke to them. Funnily enough, they've also seen plastic tape as an issue and from this season are making a switch to using biodegradable tape. We don't have too much detail about the new tape's environmental footprint yet, but we're delighted that Shimano are taking this approach and we're looking forward to marking out courses with the new tape this season. It might not be a perfect solution, but it has to be a step in the right direction at least.
Another considerable single-use plastic culprit is the humble plastic zip tie - if you race, then you probably use two or three of them to fix a number board to the front of your bike each time. At the end of the race, we're left with a bucket full of snipped zip ties that go straight in the bin.
We thought about trying the re-usable ties, but they can be tricky to release with cold, wet fingers, and we figured a lot of riders would probably trim off the excess length after attaching the number board - marginal gains and all that!
Then someone directed us to these:
Paper-covered wire twist ties - completely biodegradable!
You'll get three of these in the envelope you pick up at sign-on, containing your timing chip and number board. (We'll also have some spares at the sign-on desk).
They're dead easy to use - put a tie through each hole on the board:
Twist the two ends together - the more you twist, the tighter it gets:
Nice tidy finish - no need to cut any excess off, you can simply fold it out of the way:
The ties in the photos are from our test batch - they're slightly shorter than the ones we'll be using at the races. The ones you'll get are 200mm long, which should be plenty long enough.
They're not quite as strong as PVC zip ties, but it takes a fair bit of force to break them so we reckon they're up to the job of holding your number board firmly in place and reducing the amount of single-use plastic involved in our events. They also weigh less than a plastic tie - so your race bike's lighter now!
We're really hopeful these work out - we're treating round 1 as a trial for them, so please let us know what you think of them!
Your SXC team