• Dirk De Marelle

2021 Challenge - wrap up

Updated: Apr 7

Drive less - Ride more




During most of our cycle holidays, there are so many places and regions where we want to come back and spend more time.

For some years now, we have been toying with the idea of buying a light commercial van and convert it to a campervan, but replacing our family car with a van also comes with some extra challenges. Campervans usually do not fit in standard parking spots, they consume a lot more petrol, they are certainly not an ecological ideal solution for your standard commutes, they usually only have 2 or 3 approved seatings, etc...


Our challenge for 2021 was simply to gradually reduce our need for personal motorised transport to a level where we would feel comfortable to do it with the campervan only.



We started our challenge sometime in march 2021 when Covid and the resulting regulations were changing most of normal live. This made our start a lot easier as non-essential travel or shopping was very much restricted, restaurants and entertainment spots were all closed, even visiting friends was difficult as there were restrictions on how many different people you could meet, etc... With other words, there were not many reasons to get in your car and the main type of pastime was cycling in the neighbourhood green areas, which are beautiful anyhow.



Thinking it all over, we concluded that there were a few things which could help us to reduce our car usage to an absolute minimum.


eBike

We are living in an urban area and most of our daily shopping and commutes were already done by bicycle. Whenever the distance of a trip increased, we have to admit that we automatically got into our car. Also for visiting friends or family, it always seemed the easiest way to go by car as you do not want to arrive somewhere all sweatty. While going somewhere by bike is mostly OK, the return trip by normal pushbike always seemed a stretch.

Santos bikes offered us the use of 2 eBikes and this really helped in changing our mindset. We now would always take the eBike if the same day total trip is not exceeding an average of 50 km's. If we are now planning a trip with an overnight stay, we always take the eBike as long as the expected single distance can be covered with our batteries.


Don’t think an Ebike is for old or lazy people only. Our Santos eBikes have different support levels and we have set the lowest level to only compensate for the fact that the eBike is heavier than a normal bike. While we can still have a decent workout, we can also use it to commute without sweating or to help us to easily get up the hill or to keep our speed at 25 km/hour when there's a strong headwind.



Trailer

Listing up everything we were using the car for, there were a lot of things where the main reason was carrying volume or weight. Certain things just do not fit in bike panniers or in a backpack. Just think of all the trips to the local container park, bulky grocery shopping like rolls of toiletpaper, washing liquids, etc..or just all the things where supermarkets usually give discounts if you buy in bulk (like -15% for 12 bricks of milk).

We opted for the Burley flatbed trailer and we made a removable wooden crate on it for our bulky shopping.




Good rain clothing

Because we are used to go on holiday by bicycle, we obviously already have good clothing for when it’s cold or when it’s raining. On a holiday trip, we prepare for all types of weather so we always have all what's required in our panniers. The story changes when using the bicycle on a daily basis without checking the weather forecast continuously.

We got ourselves a handy rain overall by Raijn (by tex-lock) which can be packed very small and is big enough to wear over our normal clothing when it suddenly starts raining.



From the start, we were able to limit driving our car to an average of once a week and this mainly when we needed to do long distances or when we had extra passengers.

Pitfalls. The biggest one being that we have a car, readily available, a lot easier and faster than any other type of transport.

We needed to realise that using our bicycle requires more planning and most of all requires the conviction that it’s a lot healthier than sitting in a car.

While it’s also more economical, better for the climate, the environment, etc.. this really was not going to make the difference unless there is a real change of mind.

What certainly helped was that during the first months, we kept a log of our car use. We did not want to fail so writing it all up was a good thing. We stopped the log a few months ago when “not using the car” became part of our life.


The second biggest hurdle is that everyone else knows that we have a car. Whenever events are planned, others will not take in consideration that we now suddenly want to reduce using our car. Whenever possible, we still used our bicycles but we also did not mind picking up a passenger if this seemed more convenient. Once we'l change to a campervan, this will not be an issue anymore as everyone will be able to see the obvious.



The future : still unknown.

We know that we can get rid of our family car and buy a light commercial van instead. Our current thinking is that we want something like a VW transporter or a Mercedes Sprinter.

What is still holding us back is the unclear future about what type of engine we should go for. Many cities and regions are planning to limit entrance for vehicles with standard combustion engines and unfortunately, no good alternative for the larger vehicles is available.

The only thing which we now can do is "wait and see" and that's fine, we are not in a hurry.