Biking for Health of People & Planet

It probably won’t come as a great surprise that cycling is the most efficient means of self-powered transportation. On average, the same energy and time that it takes a person to walk a given distance over an area of flat ground would take her over three times farther if she used that same energy to cycle instead. In other words, cycling is about three times as efficient as walking!
Many factors effect cycling efficiency, chief among them being terrain (climbing steep hills by bicycle requires greater energy expenditures) and air drag (the faster you cycle the more the air around you slows you down). There’s also several tradeoffs to consider in terms of what kind of bicycle you choose to ride and its performance in various situations.
Some of the latest superlight road bicycles weigh in at less than 4.5 kg (10 lbs.), but their aggressive angles, paper-thin tires, lack of shocks, and overall fragility make them inappropriate for many applications… such as the calles empedradas (cobblestone streets) of Puerto Vallarta.
Even Vallarta’s paved streets have enough potholes and other imperfections that a general purpose mountain bike is a much more advisable choice. On the topic of road imperfections, our city’s storm drains are among the most dangerous non-vehicular hazards you can encounter. Keep vigilant for them as you ride and develop a strict habit of steering a course around them instead of crossing them—no matter how thick your tires are.
Cycling isn’t just a very efficient use of energy, it’s a great workout for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In terms of the benefits provided by cycling as an exercise, it’s roughly equivalent to jogging, but without the harsh impacts on weight bearing joints that runners often suffer.
Not only is cycling good for your health, promoting it as a petroleum-free mode of transportation can be part of the answer to developing a more healthy planet.
In addition to bicycles being petro-free, they require just a tiny investment of resources to produce and a well-maintained bicycle can easily last for decades with only minor repairs and replacement of parts.
Consider this: an average bicycle which weighs around 12 kg (about 25 lbs.) and can last a lifetime. Compare that to the average car that weighs about 1300 kg (about 2,900 lbs.) and is replaced about 10 times over the lifetime of an average North American driver for a total amount of static resources weighing about 13,000 kg (29,000 lbs). That’s over a thousand times more resources than a bicycle without factoring in gasoline, oil, replacement parts et cetera.
My favorite reason to bicycle though is because it’s fun. Bicycle can provide a lifetime of enjoyment and is a sport you can share with your entire family.
Some of the only downsides to bicycling versus transportation by motor vehicle are safety and the security of your bicycle when you park it in public areas.
These last two considerations can be easily addressed by designated bicycle friendly infrastructure which most progressive countries are planning for and installing for the health of their residents, the health of their planet, and for promoting recreation which strengthens tourism-based economies.
This all makes the Puerto Vallarta region a prime candidate for urban and rural planning that treats bicycling as a priority, not an afterthought.
Hopefully, we will start moving in that direction as a community sometime soon. In the meantime, I’ll continue writing about some of my favorite bicycle routes in and around Puerto Vallarta.
Are you an avid biker looking for an adventure this fall?
Then mark your calendars for the weekend of November 16 and 17 for the annual Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastián Challenge—a 70 kilometer route climbing from our coast up to a Pueblo Mágico of nearly 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) in elevation. Register today:
Remember: keep Puerto Vallarta safe and friendly by always sharing the road with care and looking out for bicycles.