27 February, 2008

Vegan Cycling and Wooden Frames

Like many cyclists I have an interest in nutrition. In fact, I've even made feeble attempts at being vegetarian. Though I rarely eat meat, I've realized that I simply don't have the constitution for total vegetarianism. There is too much temptation. My French friend's mother sends him foie gras which he serves at one of our regular joint family feasts. My heart may go out to those tortured French geese, but I cannot resist. My favorite Washington DC bistro has cassoulet on the menu and my willpower melts like a rosette of herb butter on an entrecout. A little hotel in Tuscany serves a plate of local cheeses and cured meats at breakfast. The Osteria down the hill has handmade pici with boar sauce....

So I have nothing but admiration -- well, perhaps with just a pinch of jealousy -- for Team Vegan. This is from Cycling News:

Organic Athlete, the first vegan cycling team, is partnering with Calfee Design to ride, co-promote and help develop their bamboo bikes. The team's message of personal health and social change now manifests in the form of a green, renewable bicycle. The elite team, started in 2007, consists of athletes who focus their diets on whole, plant foods and eschew animal products.
It seems that they plan to offset their carbon use through planting trees.

Perhaps some of these trees will eventually be used to make bike frames. One of the most interesting displays at NAHBS was the Renovo wooden frame. Check out their web site. The bikes are fascinating.

Writing this made me hungry; it's time for lunch!


franklyn said...

both my partner and I are vegan cyclists! I have been a vegetarian most of my life and when I started dating my partner, switched to become a vegan. We can't be more different in body-type; she is 5'9" and 120lbs with small bones, where I am 5'10" and close to 200 lbs with a large frame. Consuming a mostly chinese-styled cuisine helps, since basic chinese diet (that normal folks eat before westernization) is fairly devoid of big chunk of meat, and tofu, grains, and vegetables are standard faires on any chinese table. Living in california also makes it easy, as we have access to many selection of local and organic produces all year long.

Vegan/vegetarian food can be really tasty and varied, too. Chris, next time you are in Taiwan for business trip, I can try to gather a list of vegan food places for you to try. Taiwan has the best chinese food in the world, and best vegetarian food in the world, period.

C said...

Meat is murder...tasty, tasty murder! ;)

Anonymous said...

Might as well use steel frames. Steel is recyclable, carbon fiber is not. The bamboo bicycle has some carbon fiber parts.

Reduce your carbon footprint, ride steel....


Glenn said...

That Calfee looks to be sportin' a Brooks saddle, not very vegan.

nv said...

I've been vegan for 13 years - and it's been positively easy and a pleasure the entire time for me. While I've come to realize over the years that my main reason for being vegan is ethics - absolutely not nutrition, it's icing on the [vegan] cake for me that it's a healthy diet.
I mentioned it has been easy for me only because I understand that it would be very hard if I were tempted to eat animal products. I've always enjoyed vegan food - and have always been turned off by meat and dairy. I've worked in a professional, omnivorous kitchen for 5 years and this has only reinforced my feelings about my diet/lifestyle.
Congratulations Chris for making efforts to eat a healthy and lower impact diet. I do believe making the effort does make a difference.

lamplightsg said...

I have lots of respect for those of you who can manage to maintain such a diet. I'm not much of a meat eater, though I do eat a little on a regular basis, but I have a very hard time eating enough vegetables. I don't dislike them, but I have such a weakness for cheese and various wheat and grain products that vegetables often take a back seat. So my problem isn't giving up meat, but rather eating more than just cheese and bread! :D

TomCat said...

I just say I avoid meat at all costs.

and fish isn't meat.

it's fish.

Anonymous said...

If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?!
Seriously, though, what's the vegan equivalent of a Brooks B17?


nordic_68 said...

What a marketing gimmick. Get all the Veges arguing with all the Meaties. Then next thing you know a Calfee is featured in the NYTimes Food section and another hangs on a peg in the Moosewood restaurant. Immortality achieved?

What's "worse" - a saddle cut from animal hide or a saddle mainly fabricated of hydrocarbon products? Don't answer... just RIDE.

Anonymous said...

The leap many vegans make is equating factory farming with eating meat. While factory farming may be bad for the environment, and may be inhumane, that does not mean that eating meat is either. If eitther of these issues bother you, switch to meat from a local producer, who raises the animals as they were bred to be. We buy our chicken from a farm my family bought milk from as a boy--the birds graze a field, are healthy and 'happy' and the organic meat is really tasty.

In another avenue, I have also found it hard to stomach many of the vegan arguments I have heard in my time about 'moving past' eating meat. That sort of attitude is cultural arrogance of the worst kind.

And, as Wendell Berry points out, all agriculture (even fruititarianism) involves through the displacement of wild places the deaths of animals.

Nothing wrong with eating meat, properly sourced.
M Burdge

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't anybody asked the purpose of the empty bowl in the photo?

Where I come from, such is usually meant to collect bones or shells after the diner has gnawed or gobbled the meat.

I suspect there is a hidden meaning to all this.

Could not a B-17 be crafted from treated and prestretched hemp? It seems to last a long time on the docks.


nv said...

M Burdge,
"Nothing wrong with eating meat, properly sourced."
I respectfully and totally disagree. Eating meat is always inhumane. If people were being euthanized painlessly (not that animals die a painless death at the local, family farm) for actions they weren't responsible for, would you call this humane because they had a decent life up until that point and their death was relatively quick?
Also, the ethics of eating meat and dairy aren't as black and white as agribusiness vs. local, small scale farming. I would recommend reading books such as the Omnivores Dilemma, the China Study and probably more importantly, a book along the lines of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus if you want to hear a comprehensive reasoning for a vegan diet.

Chris Kulczycki said...

I second NV's recommendation of "The China Study". It's an amazing work that gets it's name from the largest study of nutrition ever undertaken and involving doctors and researchers from the US, UK, and China.

Anonymous said...

Why is killing animals for food inhumane? I find it amazing that some people think that we need to treat animals as cuddly, untouchable saints. Does a shark give a rat's ass about the feelings of the seal he's devouring? Does a Bengal tiger give a damn about YOUR feelings as he sinks his claws and teeth into you? Does a chimpanzee care about the small animals he squeezes and slams to death against a tree trunk so he can have dinner?

Please, get real and grow up. We are omnivorous predators--always have been and always will be. Furthermore, a mixed diet that includes both animal and plant material is better than a solely plant or animal one.

C said...

A pal of mine said it best:
"I'm not a vegetarian because I like animals - it's because I hate plants!"

Anonymous said...

O.K. Vegan-ism, except in rare circumstances, is a first world notion. The vast majority of people on this planet are really very hungry all the time, right now in fact. Most of them would be happy to eat ANYTHING. I understand the urge explore to new ways to stay fit and healthy. Let's not forget how lucky we are to have choices, especially hair shirt, I'm not a corporate wheel sucker choices. No matter what you eat, it comes by truck and you get to have it because someone else DID NOT. I love your site and your blog, Chris, just had to get that off my chest.

john k novack said...

china study. bottom line is that animal protein is to be avoided. when i "eliminated" dairy and meats, my flexibility, endurance and freedom from pain all increased. no one can take my parmesan away, and i enjoy pho soup (small amount of meats) on a weekly basis. i do this in an informed way, and am willing to assume the small risks!

reverend dick said...

Anon 9:11...be nice, man. "Get Real and grow up" is not a reasoned argument, brother. And it's laughable coming on the heels of the comparison of human beings to chimps slamming small animals against tree trunks, etc. Get real and evolve. Any diet is a product of 1st-availability, and 2nd any other concerns. We are extremely fortunate to have a choice, and it is a choice that's what omnivorous capacity does for us,so let's all treat it like one. I'm a vegan and what you eat is none of my damn business. Choices are complicated, too- a compelling reason to eat lower on the food chain exists in the allocation of food resources to produce meat, not just it's own impact. A heck of a lot of folks worldwide would be better served (dinner) by eating more grains than converting those grains into hormone/antibiotic/pestcide laden fatted calfs. Information is enlightenment. Riding bikes is Fun.

Anonymous said...

Most folks would be better served by having more choices and fewer babies, but reality is now. Do your thing and dig it. None of it takes any of us out of the cycle of greed, ignorance and indifferance which most people suffer. Dig? We are not just lucky. We take more, use more, waste more. Wanna get real? Start living off the Lambsquarters and groundsquirrels which are free for the taking in every city accross this continent. Oatsy Groatsy Co-Op food is the same suffering in a happier package. D. Snyder

TomCat said...

wow- what a thread- devolving from bamboo shoot bikes to bashing anothers food choices. In my experience the only people who really care what others eat are those who have a preponderance of red meat in their diet. Maybe it's a masculine/ testosterone thing.
I've been verbally insulted at resturaunts by my waiter because I asked if the entree I was about to order had any chicken or pork or beef in it. dude- back off- it's my meal, I'll put what I want in it.

Anonymous said...

Geez guys, enough already. Don't you know not to antagonize other people over their religion, politics, pelvic affiliation, or nutritional mode?

OK, here is the bicycle content: as you all know, there are lots of people in other parts of the world who struggle to get enough of anything to eat. Moreover, their systems of production, transportation, and communication and often terribly ineffective.

Their are some bicycle companies and individuals who are helping people in some lesser developed countries meet some basic needs of their societies. Tom Ritchey, and Kona, to name two, have been providing bicycles to serve the needs of these people.

In a recent posting on VeloNews' site, they talk about a program that Calfee has gotten involved with, in which local/regional materials are used to build bikes--sort of a local constructeur movement.

Sorry for being anonymous, I am not blog/tech savy I guess.

Regards regardless,

franklyn said...

most everyone has some good points; global capitalism has made our lives complicated invisibly; even as a vegan, I could be eating organic soba transported from Japan, and veggie burger processed with machineries run on petroleum. The key for me is always to try my best to lower my impact on the environment and on other beings. Predatory animals consume their preys for survival, and consume no more than what they need; if one depends on eating animal flesh (including fish) for survival, then one has to. That's not an excuse for me, though, living in california where more than 1/4 of food consumed in the US is produced. Reading the Omnivores Dilemma, I see the point of consuming locally grown food (including meat) and if everyone who eats meat can adhere to that, we certainly will be in a better position, environmentally, at least. I find NV's argument, using human as an example convincing (but I am vegan already); for those of us who feel their omnivorous predatory instinct calling, go hunt some animals and eat them. People who buy meat off the shelf are just consumers digging a certain tastes. I am also a consumer (although i do plan some of my vegetables and fruits) when I buy mostly local-grown organic produce from the farmers' market, though I like to think that I am eating in the lower part of the food chain (as Reverend Dick commented eariler) and it's a more efficient way of using our limited resources.

Just an anecdote: Tony Gonzales, the two-sport star from Cal who went on to become an all-pro tight-end in the National Football League, changed to a vegan diet before the 2007-2008 season after sustaining some form of facial palsy and reading the China Study. He grew up eating hamburgers but felt the book was compelling enough to make a lifestyle switch. He was still among the leaders in NFL in receiving and made the pro-bowl again, despite being on a vegan diet.

reverend dick said...

Dee Snyder...Whatta you wanna do with your life? I don't wanna eat squirrels, but that's an option, I suppose. The wild veggies growing all around is a nicer choice. Careful with saying "we": most of us might take,use and waste, but not all. And "we" are fortunate. Say yes to that and go from there. It is nice to see your words about concern for others.

The cargo bike programs are inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Dick, I think you know where I'm coming from. If you are happy doing what you are doing, you don't need a pat on the back for it. You mostly don't talk about stuff you take for granted. I try to live as simply as possible. Veggies and free range from the farmers market from the people who grow it, Co-Op for the rest. Only because I am blessed with the choice. I daily avail myself of the fruits of a prosperous, wasteful nation. I have to eat. Maybe not mangy city squirrels, but then I'm not trying to impress with my authenticity,ethical superiority or hipness. I'm a cheap farm boy in the big city. As far as "we" are concerned, most folks living in North America between Mexico and the Arctic Circle don't have much of a choice in the complicit nature of our personal relationships to the "Big Machine" and most of us know this. D.(Dee)Snyder

Sprocketboy said...

It is interesting: any time the terms vegan and vegetarianism come up there is a lively debate. I myself became a vegetarian a decade ago and found it pretty easy. For other people it seems much harder but everyone has to make their own choices.

Turning to the environmental aspect of cycling, it is nice that Team Vegan will use bamboo bicycles, albeit with carbon gussets, but I think the big environmental impact comes from all those cars rolling around after racers. Can there be many sporting events less environmentally-sound than the Tour de France. The publicity caravan alone is 25 km long!

Anonymous said...


Maybe not "vegan" but certainly these folks race and have the records to prove it.

Zigzornif said...

Cassoulet > all

Jack said...

Hi Chris,
You can resist meat, of course. Just suplement diet based on plants with B12 vitamin. That's all you need to do.

Chris Kulczycki said...


I've spent literally hundreds of hours in the past few months reading about nutrition, my latest jag. It is now pretty well established that the human digestive tract and metabolism is designed to get a significant percentage of calories from meat.

Vegetarianism is appealing to me, but the healthiest populations on earth eat a fair bit of meat and/or fish. The latest science behind all this is very very convincing. BTW, the China Study looks very different if you see the raw data.

David said...

How would one go about starting a vegan cycling team. I set a goal, about a month ago, to start one in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Why veg...ism? Just for the fifth commandment.