Beware the Drop Bar Mafia

I tried.  I really tried.

First, I tried to find a level of comfort or rather less discomfort with the compact bend drop bar that came stock on my cyclocross bike many years ago.  Ugh.  It was nothing less than an exercise in shifting my hands constantly to find a position where something did not ache.

Next, following the advice of many fellow riders in the area I went with a Salsa Cowchipper.  The flared drops and increased width seemed to do the trick along with some generous bar tape and gel padding underneath that bar tape.

I thought this was the ticket.  Riding in the drops was much more comfortable with the flare and the extra cushy bar tape/gel padding combo seemed to dull the pain of long rides on the tops.  Over time—as in thousands of miles the past couple of summers—several problems reared their ugly heads.

I was never comfortable in the drops for anything other than a moment or two.  I was never comfortable with the drops or hoods being the only place to grab a handful of lever.  This is not a big deal on wide open country roads or trails, but in town surprises are many and if you are not in the drops you might not be able to brake in time.  At least that was the problem for me.

Riding on the tops was okay, never truly comfortable but better than being in the drops.  However, with no accessible brake levers I always felt like was riding somewhere between secure and without hands.  Call it the mountain biker in me.

With a handful of scavenged parts from my garage and those of a friend I went all-in on a flat bar conversion:

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The Answer Protaper Expert bar is 685mm in width and has a nice brown finish.  Does anyone else remember when bars came in black or silver only?  Maybe that is just me.  The bar has an eight degree sweep to the back.  The bar ends are some cheap Titecs that would have cost an arm and a leg in the 1990s because of the carbon fiber construction.  Grips are repurposed Ergons from another mountain bike build that has been languishing in my garage for the better part of two years.

The result looks a little odd.  It is almost like the gawky half-brother of a NORBA cross country rig from the early days of mountain bike racing.

The drop bar mafia is coming for me.  I can feel it.  Around here fellow riders have already looked somewhat askew at my dirt wagon—the half-kidding nickname given to me well-loved and well-worn bike—as if it were some unwelcome chimera among the carbon fiber matchy matchy set that seems to dominate the weekend population.  The best part is that I just do not give a flying f*ck.  For the first time in at least three years I am comfortable in the saddle.  That is all that matters.

Friday Linkage 8/11/2017

Heading out on vacation in a few hours because nothing says relaxing like Orlando in August with your extended family.  There is absolutely nothing quite like late summer Florida heat and humidity to really bring people together.  At least there will be Dole Whip.

On to the links…

Utah Commission: Keep “Negro Bill Canyon” the Same—Between the zealots who cannot stop fighting the Civil War by idiotically flying what they assume is the flag of the Confederacy—when in truth it is bastardization of a battle flag flown by either the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of Tennessee—to maintaining symbols of hate like this we will never grow as a nation.

How Midwestern Farmers Could Help Save the Gulf of Mexico—It will never happen with the current White House and most of the governors being Republicans, but there should be a national program to pay farmers to deploy cover crops.  No single action would be better for the health of the Gulf of Mexico and our nation’s water quality.  It is a proven solution.

How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God—Be wary of the man who claims to be godly, but spends his time talking about earthly matters.  It usually means that he is hiding an agenda and using a veneer of piety as a shield against criticism.  As I tell people all the time, “I do not remember a single passage in the bible where Jesus talks about the rights of oil companies to drill on public lands.”

Americans Are Using Less Electricity Today Than A Decade Ago—The key caveat here is per capita.  There are more people, but we are using less electricity per each person.

Thanks To Co-op, Small Iowa Town Goes Big On Solar—I went to a wedding this summer just outside of Kalona and the solar panels were all over the place.  Ground mount arrays were at almost every farm that was not owned by an older order Amish or Mennonite family.  If everyone could embrace solar like the customers of Farmers Electric Cooperative the world would be a better place.

Dirty Energy’s Quiet War on Solar Panels—They can try and stem the tide but solar panels will win in the end.  The guys who put the panels on my house this week were booked solid with jobs for the rest of the summer and fall.  Solar power is real and it is here.

To Solve ‘Duck Curve,’ Missouri Utility to Pay Bonus for West-Facing Solar Panels—It’s not just about south facing roofs anymore.  As someone who has installed a west facing array—270 degree azimuth baby—I cannot wait to see how my peak production lines up with the duck curve.

Shell Oil CEO Stunner: ‘My Next Car will be Electric’—The worm has turned.

More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane—Bikes are amazing and can be a major component of the mobility solutions puzzle we, as a nation and species, are trying to solve.  Seriously, if people are willing to bike in New York City you should be willing to bike in Cedar Rapids.

A Perfect Illustration of the Spatial Inefficiency of the Automobile—Remember, if you work in a cubicle your parking space is bigger than your office.  What do we truly value?

Pedal Power: How Denver Bike Crews are Rescuing Food from Landfills One Ride at a Time—I love this business model.  Collect scraps—for a fee—with a no-emissions bicycle and create wonderful compost to nourish the soil.

Here’s Proof the Average U.S. Household Isn’t the ‘Dumb Money’—I spent twenty one months in business school listening to the icons of “smart money” tell aspiring investment bankers how they were the masters of the universe and what not.  The financial crisis in 2008 was a total nut punch to these guys, but it obviously did not make them humble.

Papa John’s has Made a Gluten-Free Pizza that Gluten-Intolerant Diners can’t Eat—Here is proof that the gluten free trend is not about people with celiac disease and more about marketing.

Impossible Burger’s ‘Secret Sauce’ Highlights Challenges of Food Tech—Soy leghemoglobin may be an allergen, but I love the government’s concern.  I also find it stunning that the FDA has acted so quickly when other problems in our food system are persistent and pernicious going on for years and decades without any government intervention.  Do you think big meat is behind this?  Oh yeah…

What’s in the Box: Nomadik August 2017

This month’s theme may be “summer adventure” but I am going to go with flashback.  Seriously, the stuff that came in this month’s box takes me back to an earlier time in my life.  How so?

Consider the Mountainsmith Cooler Tube:

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Do you remember when these were all over your college campus in the 1990s?  Granted, the earlier versions were usually made of black nylon as opposed to eco-friendly hemp but the idea was the same.  Load a six pack of cold beer into a tube, sling it over your shoulder, and enjoy the great outdoors with a few beers.

For me this meant spending the better part of a lazy weekend afternoon playing ultimate and sharing cold Pabst Blue Ribbons—before that beer became the choice of flannel clad hipsters—with my fellow disc chuckers.  Now we have better options.  Soft sided coolers hold more beer at a colder temperature for longer for not much of a penalty in weight or comfort.  Other than hiding a six pack in a golf bag what purpose does the cooler tube serve anymore?

You want another flashback?  Check out the Chums:

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I thought these were only used by river guides and people at theme parks.  Now, the good folks at Nomadik do admit that these are the choice of water sports enthusiasts for retaining glasses in all conditions.

Combined with the final item of Surface Face Stick I cannot help but tell a few river guide jokes:

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What do you call a river guide who just broke up with his girlfriend?  Homeless.

How do you find a river guide in the dark?  It’s hard.

What is the difference between a river guide and god?  God does not think that he is a river guide.

Sorry, river guide jokes just tend to roll off the tongue this time of year.  You could substitute ski instructor for river guide and get about the same impact.

I said in prior posts that Nomadik was going to have to come on strong to get me to consider renewing my gift subscription.  I am just not feeling the need.  The problem is that I am not exposed to new things as much as I get things in the mail that I just do not care about.  It is kind of the same problem I see whenever I visit an REI or Sierra Trading Post.  People seem enamored with buying stuff that seems cool in the store, but that they will rarely if ever use once they get home.  Come on, how many of those cool shaped bottle openers by the cash registers do people every actually use to open a bottle of beer?

Demand Destruction from Home

Demand destruction is what coal mining companies, utilities, and anyone who benefits from a centrally controlled power grid dreads.  Why?  Demand destruction represents an existential threat to the entire business model of these entities.

Consider the state of Iowa’s electricity generation mix and my recently installed solar photovoltaic system.  Iowa’s electricity generation mix breaks down like this for April of 2017:

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In Iowa non-hydroelectric renewables usually equals wind given the relatively low penetration of solar photovoltaic generation.  Another caveat is that the wind tends to blow strongly in the spring and demand for electricity has not spiked with the onset of the summer air conditioning season.

Now consider the impact of a solar photovoltaic system, mine or someone else’s.  When that demand leaves the grid, so to speak, what generation sources do you think will be curtailed?  In order I think it would be coal, nuclear, natural gas, and finally wind.  Why?  Wind turbines do not have a recurring fuel cost, so the cost to retire them does not include a perpetuity of fuel cost baked in which can be a significant driver for an asset with a long life.

In other terms, do you keep generating power by paying to burn a fuel or just harvest the wind for free?  In business school the number one lesson I learned in marketing was to not compete with free.  You will lose every time.

So, as demand disappears from the grid as a result of distributed residential solar the traditional fossil fuel sources are forced to compete with installed and cheap wind power for a dwindling number of customers.  I exaggerate to some degree to get the point across, but in Iowa this may not be such a moot point given the plans for wind power development in the next three years.

Depending upon how you measure it Iowa has more than 6,900 megawatts of wind power providing anywhere from 35% to 40% of the state’s electricity.  This is great news in and of itself, but the state’s two major utilities—MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy—have announced investments for an additional 3,000 megawatts or more by 2020.  Just with these additions—barring any additional activity by other energy players—would bring Iowa nearly 10,000 megawatts of wind power and give the state the capacity to produce more than 50% of its electricity from the wind.  This is without a significant portion of the state’s electricity demand being displaced by distributed residential solar or energy efficiency.

As you can see from the chart that when the wind blows heavily, which it tends to do in the spring, wind is already the largest source of electricity generation in the state.  That trend was true for February, March, and April of 2017. This is only going to grow in the future.

Our homes can be the drivers of change for a cleaner and greener world.

Friday Linkage 8/4/2017

I am trying to be positive as I work on several things regarding the homefront—trying to get my solar panels installed, reducing my electricity usage to below 300 kWh per month on average, etc.—but this world is really depressing.

On to the links…

If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef—One change—not giving up our cars, not giving up our 70” LCD televisions—could almost get us to the targets agreed to in the now-abandoned Paris Climate Accord.  If we just gave up beef for beans.  Not chicken or pork or fish.  Just beef.  Let that sink in for a moment when people whine that there is nothing we can do to prevent catastrophic climate change.

New Florida Law Lets Residents Challenge School Textbooks—Florida is an amazing septic system for America’s worst ideas.  It seems like things just slide down into that state and never really go away.  Somehow I see this working out really well.

Department Of Energy Boosts Perry: ‘Winning’ Fight Against Climate Scientists—The propaganda is real and it is pervasive.  Rick Perry has not “won” anything except a public perception that he is incompetent.  The only thing keeping people from laughing at him more is that he serves in a government full of incompetent people who are significantly more offensive.

The Interior Secretary Gave a Closed-Door Speech to ALEC—This administration is possibly the most corrupt in American history and it is certainly the most corrupt since the administration of Warren G. Harding.  When all is said and done we are looking at a government run by thugs and thieves for the benefit of a few.

Congress Is Still Fighting Over Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs—This ship has sailed and energy efficiency won.  However, Republicans in Congress are nothing if not dogged and bitter in their fight to…well, I do not really understand what the problem is here.  Oh right, this is something that they associate with former President Barack Obama so it must be bad.

Wind Power Supplied 124% of Household Electricity Needs in Scotland from January through June—There are a few caveats here in that it “just” supplied residential electricity demand, but take a moment to read that wind power provided 57% of the country’s total electricity demand.

Europe Adds 6.1 Gigawatts Of New Wind Capacity In 1st Half Of 2017—2017 may not set a record for wind installations, but if big year follows big year and electricity demand does not rise in lockstep the result will be a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

Despite Minimal Installations, US Wind Development Surges Second Quarter—The U.S. wind industry typically goes through these odd cycles where installations lag until a breakout quarter, which is partly a function of how the financing works and the drive to maximize tax benefit without impacting capital costs.

Michigan Program Finances First Megawatt of Solar, With Ambitious Goals Ahead—Republicans won’t say it, but this is a great example of using public funds to leverage a greater degree of private investment.  Granted, it’s for clean energy so the right wing just puked a little in their mouth.  If it had been for a community coal mine maybe our dear leader would be tweeting about it.

Swapping Cars for Bikes, not Diesel for Electric, is the Best Route to Clean Air—Bicycles are the future.  EVs are nice and all, but bicycles trump EVs.  Do not even get me started on diesel.  Unless it is a veggie van.  I love SVO vehicles.

Bollinger B1 Electric Truck Debuts In Manhattan—I love older Land Rovers and Toyota FJ40s.  This truck shares those lines and updates the powertrain.  Granted, this company will probably disappear in the next year without actually producing a single truck but it’s a pretty truck.

Shopping, The Secret To Saving The Planet—I am unwilling to say that shopping is the secret.  However, when you must buy something do it with the utmost regard to the impact on the planet.

Friday Linkage 7/28/2017

I have been a little lax on posting some things lately and I have no excuse other than work, children, life in general…you get the idea.  My hope is to have an update on my upcoming solar photovoltaic system soon and some thoughts on other ways to really embrace a lower carbon life here in middle America.

On to the links…

Vail Resorts Promises to Eliminate Emissions, Waste and Offset Forest Impact by 2030—Welcome to the party Vail Resorts.

Trump Nominates Sam Clovis, a Dude Who Is Not a Scientist, to Be Department of Agriculture’s Top Scientist—This is what happens when you elect people who profess to hate government and expertise in general to run the government.  You get people who are unqualified for the job screwing up and then claiming afterwards, “I told you government does not work.  See?”

The Quieter Monument Battles to Watch—Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke’s assault on our national monuments is, to put it mildly, monumentally unpopular.  Remember, this is a man who can lose the popular vote  by nearly three million votes and claim with a straight face that he had the most lopsided electoral victory in history.  Nothing is beyond the pale for these people.

As Outdoor Retailer Show Packs up for Colorado, Industry Flexes Political Muscle in U.S. Land Fight—The people who love the outdoors are being heard.  The companies who make money off the people who love the outdoors are making their voices heard.  This is no small change and it represents a viable path forward to protect our access to public lands.

Are Renewables Set to Displace Natural Gas?—Europe and the U.S. are very different places, so extrapolating upon trends from on to the other is dangerous.  However, I wonder what will happen if natural gas experiences price spikes like it has in the past.  Will renewables rush to fill the void left by coal as the second choice when natural gas gets pricey?

Seven Charts Show Why the IEA Thinks Coal Investment Has Already Peaked—Coal is in all kinds of death spirals right now.  The decline in investment is a long term impediment to their being any revival in coal’s fortunes.

“Clean Coal” Is A Political Myth, Says Coal Company Owner—Robert Murray is the gift that keeps on giving.  After John Oliver went after him using public statements and other records that were readily available he just keeps on opening his mouth.  Gotta’ love a rich man with no filter…oh wait, that is the clown we have in the White House.

Peeling Back the Red Tape to Go Solar—The run around and red tape dance has been the most frustrating part of getting my solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof.  Yet, I still have more hoops to jump through once the system is actually installed.  None of it is value added and all of it costs either money or time.  Ugh.

Straus Family Creamery Powered by Cow Gas—Why don’t we have a government program to install one of these systems at every dairy farm or other large livestock operation in the United States?

This Beautiful but Toxic Weed Could Make you go Blind—Giant hogweed is no joke.  I have friends with the burn scars from the sap to prove it.

Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy—I have always found it ironic that people buy books or attend seminars about minimalism.  Shouldn’t the idea be somewhat self-apparent with a little reflection?

Debunking What the Health, the Buzzy New Documentary that Wants You to be Vegan—Veganism has become the new snake oil for a lot of people.  It will not cure all that ails us and to pretend otherwise is to traffic in the same dreck that has gotten us into this mess.

Beer Sales are Down…Especially Among the Millennials—Millennials are trying to wreck everything.

A Cut Above: Two Axe-Throwing Venues Carve Out a Niche in Denver—Axe throwing venue?  Peak hipster?

Friday Linkage 7/21/2017

Can we just have someone organize a “touch a truck” event every week on the White House lawn so that our dear leader can have some fun:

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Can you imagine the crude jokes he is making with this bat in his hands:

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All hat, no cattle…never were truer words spoken:

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On to the links…

Bill Nye on the Terrifying Ascendancy of American ‘dingbatitude’—When did it become ok for people to basically act like an idiot, claim that they were an idiot as a defense for the behavior, and then go on their merry way to keep being an idiot?

The Best Way to Reduce your Personal Carbon Emissions: Don’t be Rich—Right wingers will never like to hear this, but the richest members of society are the ones who are causing the most damage to the environment:

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Scott Pruitt Desperately Wants to Be Loved—During the 2016 election we got to know alt-right terms like snowflake all too well.  It looks like the actual snowflakes are the people working for Donald Trump up to and including the dear leader himself.  These people have created an echo chamber of praise so that they do not have to deal with the reality that their only true defining characteristic is historic incompetence.

Callista Gingrich: Trump Wants US To Be Environmental Leader—The surrogates are getting more surreal as anyone with a pulse and hopes for a future in Washington D.C. head for cover.  Callista Gingrich saying that Trump wants to lead on the environment is laughable on so many levels.  Soak in the insanity.

Coal and Nuclear are Uneconomic — More Bombshells from Perry’s Draft Grid Study—Be careful what you wish for Rick Perry.

A Texas Company Wants to Spread Wind Power Across the U.S.—Wind energy is big business in Texas and big business usually wins in Texas.  What happens when renewable energy becomes big energy?  We are about to find out as established players with viable business models spread their wings.

States Can Recharge Rooftop Solar—Solar needs rules stability.  At the current prices rooftop solar can be competitive without heavy government incentives but a chaotic rules and regulations environment is hurting long term planning.

A Pipeline that Would Cut through the Iconic Appalachian Trail Sparks a Fight over Natural Gas Expansion—Pipelines are everywhere and the government is just a rubber stamp for industry regardless of who sits in the White House or controls Congress.

$2 Billion Energy Investment goes Bust in Rare Complete Failure of Private Equity Fund—This failure might not be an indictment of an entire sector or it may be a harbinger of hard times to come for fossil fuel investors.

Coal Baron Don Blankenship Jumping Straight From Jail To Senate Race?—First Kid Rock and now Don Blankenship…the right wing is going to be loving their candidates over the next couple of years as the Trump influence on the party metastasizes.

Flip-Flops: Fun in the Sun, but Tough on Feet—Can we just kill flip-flops for anything other than a quick jaunt to the beach or trip through the locker room?  The sound of cheap flip-flops dragging and slapping is the official sound that summer has begun.

Denver Startup To Install Flatscreens In Chairlift Safety Bars and Advertise—God help us.  Now Vail Resorts can advertise to us on the chairlift, which was one of the few screen free places left anywhere.