Running Barefoot in a Grass Skirt

Running Barefoot in a Grass Skirt
There is no battery beneath that skirt (Courtesy of

Let he who is without carbon cast the first stone…

But you can’t cast that stone from behind the plastic keyboard of your battery-equipped laptop.  Or from your smartphone.  Or using the desktop at the public library.

If you feel the latest technology will only contribute another dead battery to an overflowing and toxic landfill, you need to find a different way to make your point.  Pull out a typewriter circa 1920, roll in a sheet of post-consumer waste recycled paper, and strike your letters against a fabric ribbon.  Fold that piece of paper in half and walk it to the desk of the editor – wherever in the world that person may be located.

If you can’t do that, quit your bitchin’.

Wait a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself.  While I could be talking about any new technology from the latest smartphone to the newest incarnation of the tablet pc, the particular technology I’m referring to is Shimano’s new Ultegra electronic shifting for bicycles.  It was reviewed today at Bike Radar.  A complaint from one of the online review readers was the atrocity of Shimano creating another device that uses a battery.

Forget about the fact that the battery is guaranteed for 500 cycles and will likely go 1000 km on a single charge.  For those of you that love math, that’s nearly three hundred and eleven thousand miles on a single battery.  For those of you that love to ride, that's one hundred miles per day, every single day, for eight and a half years.  For the average rider, it would take close to one hundred years…

This particular commenter also wonders why the system can’t be powered by a dynamo hub that generates electricity as you pedal.  This sounds plausible until you realize that unless you have a battery to store your power in, you won’t have enough electrical power at any given moment to shift the gears while you’re pedaling.  If that’s the case, the electronic system would effectively be the same as the mechanical system that’s been in use for the past 125 years!

I get it that people don’t want electronic devices co-mingling with the most efficient mechanical conveyance ever invented.  Electronic shifting is about as necessary as HDTV.  It was an answer to a question that no one ever asked.  Technology made it possible and there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

If you believe in the simplicity of the bicycle, its efficient use of human energy, and its complete lack of emissions, you can take pride in knowing that you’re minimizing your carbon footprint every time you throw a leg over your bike.  Just don’t be naïve – every one of the parts, as well as the bike itself, traveled halfway around the world via truck, train, boat, and plane before it got to you.  It’s green, but like everything, there are shades.

If you can’t live with the hypocrisy, if riding your bike with a mileage computer, heart rate monitor, or electronic shifting has you suffering from green man’s guilt, there is one recreation, fitness, and transportation solution that will let you sleep at night.

Try running barefoot in a grass skirt.

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