5 QUESTIONS FOR is an interview series with cycling brands that are trying to step up their game when it comes to reducing environmental impact.The series does not set out to present perfect examples, nor does the series intend to favour specific brands. What we do hope to offer is an informative and honest account of the possible challenges, gains and pitfalls of their journey. And to inspire more cycling companies to become part of this shared responsibility. #005: Erik Bronsvoort, co-founder of Circular Cycling
When did your company start addressing its environmental impact, and why?
"Circular Cycling was founded in 2018 with the purpose to experiment with new business models in the cycling industry. New business models that would no longer be based on existing ‘sell more, sell faster’ (and the resulting ‘waste more, waste faster’) linear economic models, but on circular business models.
It would create a win-win-win situation where customers win because they are able to ride more reliable products that require less maintenance. Where the industry wins because it can create equal or more value with less materials. And finally, where the planet wins because there will no longer be any waste or pollution, and nature will get a chance to regenerate.
What we have learned have we written down a book about this topic, ‘From marginal gains to a circular revolution’. It is a practical guide for everyone in the world of cycling how he/she can contribute to the transition between were we are now, and this circular cycling world."
What particular impact within the lifespan of your products do you focus on, and why?
"We experimented with building “new bikes, made from used parts”. Road bikes, ready for serious riding for many years to come. Why? Well, it turns out that almost every cyclist has a box with used or unused bike parts in their shed. A box with parts that are too good to throw away, but deep down inside the cyclist knows he/she will never use again. And shops and distributors turn out to be just the same. Eventually most boxes end up in the bin.
We sourced these parts to build new bikes. Each one unique ready for years of cycling pleasure. And with up to 85% lower environmental impact because we reused so many parts."
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
"We found two important challenges in the world of cycling, and the beauty is; every cyclist, designer, marketeer and even rule maker can do something to contribute to a circular revolution.
No 1. – there is hardly demand for sustainable products from cyclists, nor supply from the cycling industry. Everyone (cyclists and the industry) seems to think we are “sustainable” because we are not burning fossil fuels when cycling. But if you think about the miles we drive and fly to get to the best cycling spots, and the amount of materials we use (and often discard early), we all can make a difference.
No 2. – our business model was aimed at reusing parts from different bikes to build new bikes. This model works on the assumption that parts are interchangeable and compatible. And that parts are easy to (dis)assemble, that it is easy to check the state of parts and, if necessary, that spare parts are available. The industry is currently increasing the speed of ‘innovation’ based on small marginal gains, which destroys the above assumption because part of these gains are ever more different fittings.
While our assumption worked for road bikes from the 2000’s, the latest models come with integrated/custom seat posts and handlebars, integrated disc-brake and shift cables, different axle standards, new cassette body’s, etc. Compatibility? Gone. Easy repairs? Gone. Visit the local bike shop for replacement parts? Little chance they have the right part in stock."
What are your ambitions for both short and long term?
"We wrote our book to help the entire world of cycling, from the UCI rule makers to the cyclists, realise that there is an alternative. In the book we propose to set a goal for the 2028 Olympics: all riders competing in the road race at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics ride a circular bike and wear circular kit.
In line with the UCI principles, this bike and kit will be available for everyone to buy in the shop. The stories we tell and write about these products will make this bike the one consumers want to get their hands on. It will signal the take-off of the circular cycling industry and will change the way we think about bike design for ever."
What do you expect of the cycling community on this journey?
"To get to a circular cycling economy, we need much more than marginal gains, we need a revolution. The truth is, if everyone keeps thinking he or she cannot make a difference, nothing will happen. People have an immense power to create positive change by standing up and making a start, however small. If consumers start to ask questions to dealers, to brands, to teams, designs and business models will change."
Find out more about Circular Cycling and their publication here: www.circularcycling.nl Photo credits: Circular Cycling