As a long-time paraglider pilot and environmentally conscious person, I have always wondered about how green our sport is. We can fly for hours and hundreds of km without any fuel, just powered by the sun. This is the coolest thing on earth for me, but when we look at how it starts and ends, it is a completely different picture. We use airplanes, trucks, buses, cable cars and everything civilization has to offer, and which runs mostly on fossil fuel, to get to the takeoff and get back after landing. This is cheating for me, so I have been searching for greener alternatives in the last few years.
The most natural setup for zero-emission paragliding is using a bicycle when not flying. Sounds great, but it creates a huge amount of technical challenges: how to take a bike with you for the flight in a comfortable and safe manner; how to manage safe takeoffs and landings with a lot of metal close to your body; how to turn from biking mode to paragliding mode quickly and easily; how to carry the paragliding gear and possibly all bivouac gear on the bike; how to climb steep mountains in bike mode.
Recumbent bicycles are a great starting point to solve all these issues because they are pretty close to a paragliding harness in terms of pilot body posture. They offer a lot of opportunities in repurposing bike parts for flying. So after four years of dreaming, flying and tinkering at the workshop, I have come up with a neat solution to all the above issues: the bike rides great; I can take all my equipment and camping gear with me on land and in the air without repacking at takeoff and landing; turning the bike into a paragliding harness and back takes under a minute; it is easy and safe to take off and land on foot and it also flies pretty well; pushing the bike uphill is easier than carrying the normal paragliding backpack on my back.
What’s next? Well, flying and riding it as much as possible. And touring. With a few rules. One: every journey starts at the door of my apartment. No support car to get me anywhere. Planes, buses excluded. Getting a lift in a remote mountain region? Maybe, depending on the circumstances. As life gives it to me. But going definitely unsupported. A 4WD in the background ignored by the camera would be the most embarrassing cheat of all. So lots of rules, but they are flexible. The idea and the spirit of the journey matter most. Like the Gliderforecast Facebook page to get the news.