Many of us who regularly take to the mountains and wildernesses of the planet will be familiar with the Leave No Trace ethos – basically respect the landscape, take your rubbish home, don’t go to the toilet near water sources, and bury your poop (or pack it out). However like household recycling this only represents a very small part of my environmental footprint as a bikepacker and outdoor lover – what about the travel to and from our trips?
This manifesto will propose a more holistic Leave No Trace approach to the whole trip, from the moment I leave my front door to the moment I step back in.
We don’t own a car, we haven’t had a car in our household since March 2012. Before that I ran my photography business with business travel using public transport and folding bike. We still use vehicles, hiring cars or vans for trips, moving house, the odd holiday, it’s just not something we need to own any more. We are not city dwellers now either, living far from the city centre up a country road that is a walk even to the nearest bus stop.
I wouldn’t say I was against personal vehicles, some people definetely need them for the whole or part of their lives. Hoewever the whole concept of an internal combustion engine that damages the environment driven by people who are fallible and likely to cause accidents, often with a single occupant, is just very last century. Plus driving is a total waste of time. Negatives aside what I want to do is have more fun, more adventure, more free time whilst minimising my impact on the planet.
The train riaders manifesto
A train riader (sic) is someone who goes adventure raiding on their bike using a train to get to the main ride. This is the personal manifesto that I follow to further reduce the impact of my adventures on the planet.
- Ride to the train station. This gives me a last chance to check everything is working and packed properly before hitting the wilderness. It builds my fitness as I will ride more miles. And it can be a mini adventure in itself taking in singletrack or trails.
- Use trains to the start of the main bike ride. Now I have lots of free time to do what I want – sleep, music, film, last minute route planning, chat to my riding buddies …. My carbon footprint is about 1/3 of driving [CO2 emissions from cycling, environmental impact of cycling]. I am statistically safer by travelling by train (before doing a dangerous activity 😉 [comparing fatality risks, understanding uncertainty]. As for the cost. Running a car isn’t cheap if you cost it per mile covering all the expenses including depreciation (£0.30 / mile for a small car), train travel in the UK is approximately £0.15 per mile, even cheaper if I book tickets in advance or get a railcard (e.g. a Two Together railcard for use with a regular adventure partner.)
- Get off the train and ride from the station for the adventure to start right away. Follow the Leave No Trace principles.
- For the journey home repeat the steps above in reverse with the same benefits. Plus, there is something inherently satisfying about riding back to my own house, even if it were only half a mile from the train station.
- Use or hire a car/van/truck/pickup only when I really need it.
I’ve been running this train raid and ride strategy for many years using a combination of bikes dependent on the trip. Folding bike with trailer, mtb/fat with the newer bikepacking luggage, commuter with a rucsac. I’ve never been disappointed with the outcome. It’s sometimes harder at the time, it’s always paid dividents longer term improving my fitness and skills. My furthest ride from house to a train station was 16miles or about 1 hours ride on a loaded bike.
That’s it! More fun, more time, more adventure, less money spent, more fitness, better bike skills, less to go wrong on the Big Adventure, less harm to Gaia!