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The power of the bicycle

This weekend, I completed the Death Ride for the second year in a row. For the uninitiated, the Death Ride is a grueling 129 mile bicycle tour through the high-sierra landscape of Alpine County, complete with 16,000 ft of climbing. For Lance, this is a normal training day, but for the rest of us mortals, this is a big ride.

On the 11.5 hours it took to complete the ride, I spent a little time thinking about what a marvelously efficient invention the bicycle is. Consider this brief mathematical summary. 2,750 riders take part in the tour. Let’s say that most spend about 12 hours on the bike, burning an average of 600kcal per hour. That’s a total energy output of 19.8 million “calories”. Convert that to kilowatt hours, and the number is pretty astounding – 23,012 kwh. That’s enough energy to power 460 homes for an entire day (about 6 riders per house).

Now think about exactly the same sightseeing trip in cars. Optimistically, let’s assume 4 riders per car. The Death Ride would need 688 cars. At 20 mpg (optimistic) we would burn 4,434 gallons of gas, and cause 87,000 pounds of CO2 pollution.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you ask Team Discovery Channel to come train in your front lawn. But, think about these facts next time you are thinking about taking your car for a short trip around the block.

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