Monday, June 23, 2008

Going Downhill Fast: Gas Prices and Riding Big Bikes

As downhillers and freeriders, we're met with a problem that many other cyclists don't have to face. In general, we need to drive to ride. Unless we live at the base of Whistler, or happen to have some freeride trails in our backyards, it's inevitable that the big bike has to go on (or in) the car in order to ride downhill. With gas prices reaching an national average of $4.10 this week, it's becoming tougher to justify the drive. Or at least, it is for me.

Don't get me wrong, I still want to ride my downhill bike, but I'm reconsidering my priorities. At the beginning of the season, I had big plans to travel all summer and race as much as possible. After driving on fumes to get back to NorCal from Angel Fire, NM, I had to re-evaluate my plan.

At that point, gas was just below $4.00 per gallon nationally, but closer to $4.39 around California. (Now it's hard to find anything under $4.57.) Using a gas calculator on MapQuest, I estimated the cash I'd need for gas if I paid that $4.00 average for the 1,530-mile round-trip drive from Marin to Park City for the Deer Valley, UT NMBS races later this week. My Subaru Outback Sport gets about 25mpg with the bike inside and a full load. The cost would be about $245.00. That may not sound so bad, especially if I were able to find a road trip partner, but in reality, the gas cost would be closer to $300.00 due to the increased prices and the fact that most of the drive goes through the middle-of-nowhere-Nevada, where it's definitely going to be really expensive to fill up.

So, I made the executive decision that I simply couldn't spend the cash to make the trip (especially because I'd like to buy some more sweet clothes for Freeride Foundation). Since I still have to drive to ride the bike I love, I'm more focused on riding more locally and I'm paying a bit more attention to how I drive. I've been thinking about ways to reduce the amount of gas I buy on a weekly basis so I can afford some more road trips later in the summer.

Here are a list of things I've been working on personally. Do you have some ideas too? Definitely feel free to comment!

-Put the bike in the car.
It's kind of a PITA to take the front and rear wheels off my downhill bike, but I know I get far better gas mileage when the bike is IN the car as opposed to ON the car. Of course, I have a small car, so if yours is bigger, you might not have to spend the time with the wrench. I'm sure using a rear rack must be more efficient than a roof rack too.

-Ride to rides.
This option doesn't apply to most downhill outings, but when I'm on my cross country bike, I'm refusing to drive to rides that are less than 10 miles away. This weekend in Downieville, I parked in town and road up to Sierra City to ride the cross country course. It was actually pretty tough, but I saved 24 miles of driving (round-trip), which is essentially a gallon of gas, which is about $4.60 up there. And, I hopefully got a little fitter too.

-Save speed for the trails.
I have a lead foot. Every year I get a fat ticket for hauling across a highway in the desert. Every year it's a different highway. We get better gas mileage when we drive more slowly. In the past, I've just cared about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible so I can ride. Now, I'm trying to keep things under control. I'm trying not to drive faster than 75 ever, and not more than 70 in a 65 zone. I'm sure that's not very exciting for most of you, but it's actually really hard for me. I have noticed that I do get more miles per gallon this way, and surprisingly, I'm not totally stressed out when I roll into the parking lot.

-Choose your battles.
Make it worthwhile to drive to your rides. If you're going to the mountains, camp and get two days of riding out of it. Or, ride all day to make the trip worthwhile. When I was skiing all the time, I'd drive a total of 80 minutes to ski for 2-3 hours. That's nearly as much driving as playing. Now, if I'm going to drive 80 minutes, I'd better get at least 5 hours of quality fun out of it.

I'm sure this seems like a no-brainer for most people. Like with the ski thing, though, I'm a bit of a brat. I like to ride when I want to ride, where I want to ride, and leave when I choose. I'm trying to get better at carpooling, and ultimately, it makes takes care of the "Choose your battles" option. Carpooling reduces everyone's cost and it's way more fun to drive and ride with your friends. Duh.


Durtgurl said...

Yeah, the price of gas has really affected the way I think about riding these days. For the first time in my life I can't just go whereever I want whenever I want without spending a small fortune. However it would be nice that when you're carpooling with someone to give them a few bucks for petrol if they're driving thier rig, this idea doesn't always occur to everyone but it should.

Freeride Foundation said...

I agree, durtgurl. One should always contribute to the carpool, whether it's buying gas or lunch or something else. There's nothing worse than an inconsiderate carpooler!