Friday Linkage 10/2/2015

The Tesla Model X came out this week and I want one. But, at a starting price of $80K I might be better off looking at used Nissan Leafs costing under $10K. When will the Model 3 come out?

Note, there will be no Friday Linkage next week since I will be spending the week in Los Angeles evaluating suppliers for my job.

On to the links…

Coal Mine Starts Continue To Decline—This is the second step on the journey to the death of coal. If fewer mines are opening than fewer mines will be operating further eroding the ability of the fuel to be effectively and efficiently pulled from the ground. Let’s kick coal while it is down.

Is Cargill Backsliding on its Promise to End Deforestation?—Few large corporations are as hard to pin down on issues than Cargill. As a privately-held firm it is not beholden to the same reporting rules that allow shareholders to extract information from publicly-held firms. Perhaps public pressure can take some of the slack and get Cargill to be a good corporate citizen. I am not holding my breath.

Nearly Half of U.S. Seafood Is Wasted Annually, New Study Shows—Food waste is the single biggest environmental issue that we have control of in our own homes and through our consumption patterns. Every piece of food that we throw away is a wasted opportunity to reduce our impact on the world.

Batteries May Curb Sales by Power Companies, Moody’s Says—If the large scale deployment of energy storage technology is truly able to reduce peak demand power companies may lose a major source of profit. Power becomes very expensive and profitable for power companies when it comes at peak times.

Solar Hit ~7% Of Spain’s Electricity This Summer—Damn, 7% from solar is impressive any way you slice it.

Brazil Doubles Its Solar PV Target To 7 GW By 2024—What is the target in the good ol’ U.S.A.? Right, we do not have a national target for solar.

North Carolina Passes 1 GW Of Installed Solar—That seems like a lot of solar for one state that is not known as a particularly sunny locale.

Fracking has a Big Water Footprint, but That’s Not the Whole Story—The extraction of fossil fuels is a story about water. Without a lot of water it would not be possible.

Electric Buses Could Lead to Significant Savings Even for Smaller Cities—Why the government is not pushing electric buses and garbage trucks I will never understand. These vehicles seem like perfect candidates for conversion.

Saving Electricity—Spend a few minutes going through the various categories to see where you could be saving a lot of watts. Since I cannot get solar panels in the near term—thanks homeowner’s insurance—I am going to try and reduce my rolling twelve month usage below 300 kWh.

‘Thirsty’ Concrete Absorbs 880 Gallons of Water a Minute to Minimize Urban Floods—Why is this stuff not replacing hard concrete and asphalt in southern climes affected by heavy seasonal rains?

Building a Better Gravel Grinder Part II

I addressed the drivetrain issues I was having in Part I of this process. Now I am moving on to the cockpit of my gravel grinder.

Since I was going to be removing the shift wire for the front derailleur I took the opportunity to change out my OE drop bar for something different. Depending on who you ask around here the most popular drop style handlebars come from Salsa. Almost to a person they recommend the Cowbell or the Woodchipper.

What makes these bars special? It has to do with flare. Unlike traditional drop bars, which have zero flare on the drops, the Cowbell and Woodchipper flare 12 degrees and 26 degrees respectively. The Woodchipper takes things a measure further by canting the flat part of the drops out to the sides. How to decide? Thankfully the good folks at World of Bikes in Iowa City, which is a designated Salsa Adventure Center, had these bars and the newest entry from Salsa, the Cowchipper, in stock for me to take a look at.

Like Goldilocks I found the Cowbell and Woodchipper to be off just slightly from what I wanted, but the handlebar positioned in the middle of the lineup—the Cowchipper—was just right. It has a more traditional drop shape, but the flare is 24 degrees. I also upsized my handlebar from the stock 42cm to a 44cm bar in order to “open up” my shoulders and hopefully reduce some of the back fatigue I was experiencing on longer rides.

Below you can see what my stock handlebar:


Notice the awesome bar wrapping that is coming undone? Yeah, I suck. Below is what the cockpit looks like with the Cowchipper installed:


Normally, I could care less about the difference in weight between two components given that I am carrying approximately 20 extra pounds myself. However, I was kind of surprised that the stock compact road bar weighed in at 430 grams and the Salsa Cowchipper weighed in at 290 grams. Remember, the Cowchipper was a 44cm versus the stock bar’s 42 cm size. Sometimes OE stuff is really heavy junk.

Yeah, the orange tape on a red bike is butt ugly. But I always know where my bike is and no one can forget that it is mine. Okay, the color is not what I was expecting. Considering that I suck at bar wrapping it will not last overly long and can be replaced with something less garish.

But how does it ride? Like the 1x drivetrain I do not have a lot of miles, but in a couple of rides I notice that my hands and back are less fatigued. The flare in the drops puts my wrists in a very neutral position when I am riding on the brake hoods and I actually spend some more time in the drops than before when trying to cheat the wind. I am sure that I am sacrificing some top end aerodynamics by going with the flared bar, but comfort over the long haul seems to be worth the price of admission. For anyone who spends a lot of time on gravel the Cowchipper might be the answer to your handlebar prayers.

Note: I paid retail for everything in this post. That means I spent ~$75 on the bar at my LBS and do not need to send kind words to anyone regarding their product.

Building a Better Gravel Grinder Part I

I should probably have considered the new wheels and tires that I put on my bike a month or so back to be part I, but I had not yet decided on what path this transformation was going to take so I punted.

The two things that I am trying to achieve with this transformation are simplicity, e.g. reducing the number of failure points, and comfort. Unlike a lot of riders who crank out a twenty mile ride at a twenty mile per hour clip I find myself in the saddle for three hours or more on the weekends and about two hours per ride on the weekdays. That is a lot of saddle time for someone who works in an office job full time. Comfort is critical and I do not want something to fail twenty miles from my start point because it is a long way back. Trust me, I found out the hard way that I had not replaced the twenty six inch tube with a 700c tube until I was looking down at a slow leak sixteen miles from my house. Whoops.

The first change that I wanted to make was to get rid of the front derailleur. Several times this season I had to clean out masses of limestone dust, sweat, and grime from the pulley mounted on my seat tube in order to regain the ability to shift the front derailleur. Considering how little I used the second chainring I deemed the entire front shifting regime to be expendable.

Thankfully, the world of single chainring drivetrains has taken the road world by storm in the last year or so. Okay, maybe not the road world but definitely the sub-segment of riders who spend a majority of their time on less than ideal surfaces like gravel, crushed limestone trails, or straight up dirt. Full-up OE crankset solutions exist, but I am cheap. I wanted to go with an aftermarket conversion that replaced my two OE chainrings with a single aftermarket chainring.

Dropped chains you ask? Yes, if you just removed the front derailleur and went on your merry way with the original chainrings there would likely be a lot of dropped chains in your future. This new breed of chainrings takes care of that problem by using a “narrow wide” tooth configuration. This helps prevent dropped chains and removes the need for a chainkeeper. A lot of 1x riders are also using so-called “clutched” rear derailleurs that restrict chain movement to only the times when a shift is activated. It is a bomb proof solution, but I am going with the down and dirty solution for now to see if I enjoy the single chainring experience.

Two manufacturers of narrow wide chainrings caught my eye in preparation for this project: Race Face and Wolf Tooth Components. Both offered a 110 BCD chainring to fit my OE FSA Gossamer Compact crankset. Initially I considered the Wolf Tooth option to be preferred—small company making their stuff in the U.S.A.—but a trusted rider of the gravel who also rides a converted single chainring rig swayed me to the Race Face chainring. I am sure that the Wolf Tooth is a quality component and there are a lot of online reviews that attest to the fact, but I was convinced by the opinion of someone I consider trustworthy that I would not go wrong with the Race Face chainring. It was a judgment call.

In terms of tooth count a range of options were available, but I settled on a 42 tooth chainring. Using the Sheldon Brown “Gear Calculator” I figured on the following gear inches:

Gear Inch Table

You can see the two original chainrings on the left and right with the chosen narrow wide chainring in the middle. With the narrow wide 42 tooth chainring I am losing a little on the top and bottom end, but I am keeping a pretty good amount of the overall range. Unlike a lot of group riders who are worried about cadence I ride mostly by myself so the difference in steps is not a critical issue for me. The calculations are based on 700c wheels with 35mm wide tires and 170mm crankarms.

The cassette was considered for replacement, but considering that I spent 90% of my time riding on one of the cogs I figured that there was another season of life if I spent more time in cogs with 11, 12, and 13 teeth.

Installation was a snap. If this is something that you want to do make sure that you get the correct chainring bolts otherwise you will end up making another trip to the LBS in anger. I had a set from a single speed build I put together years ago.

All told the look is a lot cleaner:


But how does it ride? Stay tuned for a long term report.

Note: I paid retail for everything mentioned in the above post. No one sent me anything to test nor does anyone expect any kind words in return for the use of their products. I would love to be one of those lucky people, but instead I just ride what I think will work best.

The Joni Ernst Watch 9/28/2015

When it comes to Joni “Make ‘em squeal” Ernst or Steve King it’s clown shoes all day, every day. Recently, the conversation in Iowa has turned away from our homegrown whack-a-doos and focused on the nutcase circus that will be the Republican caucus.

Joni Ernst has been quiet lately, but maybe she has just been drowned out by the circus that is the Republican party these days. It looks like she is going to take a stab at rolling back clean water rules.

Does Steve King think he is “man-splaining” to Pope Francis:

I think that it would be better for the Vatican to focus more on theology, and less on this thing that they’ve now had to have a name change from global warming to climate change.

Then again, King just seems to hate on everybody:

The people on our side who pay any attention to this at all understand sharia is incompatible with the Constitution and that a sincerely devout Muslim — I might say, a devout Islamist — cannot seriously give an oath to support the Constitution, because it’s incompatible with his faith.

So, John Boehner just up and quit. No seriously, he behaved just like everybody’s fat, racist friend on South Park Eric Cartman:


Jeb! does not like multiculturalism very much:

We should not have a multicultural society.

Well, that was emphatic.

God damn, Sarah Palin is a moron.

BTW, who hasn’t confused Leonardo da Vinci with Leonardo DiCaprio?

Friday Linkage 9/25/2015

The rides the past couple of weeks have been perfect. Just perfect. The temps are in the 70s to low 80s, the winds have not been too bad, and the crowds are gone. Especially on Saturdays when people are busy tailgating and watching college football, I have the trails and gravel all to myself. Unheard of in July.

On to the links…

Ban on Microbeads Offers Best Chance to Protect Oceans, Aquatic Species—The U.S. needs to enact a nationwide ban on plastic microbeads. Exfoliation is not worth the health of the oceans.

How Strict California Rules on Emissions led to Lower Cancer Risk—Regulation works. Plain and simple. Without emissions reductions California would still be blanketed in a horrible stew of smog and death.

Taxpayers Lose Billions to Coal Subsidies—Stories like this cannot get enough press. As taxpayers we pay billions to coal companies in order for them foul our air, dirty the water, and generally behave badly.

Balls of DNA Could Fix Geothermal Energy’s Biggest Problem—Geothermal is a great renewable energy resource because it is dependable enough to be considered “base load” like coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Unlike hydropower, the other base load renewable, large dams are not required and drought will not impact production. It looks like one of the thorniest problems may now be solved as well.

Obama Sets Up Cost Of US Solar Energy For Another Freefall—Fundamental research is being paid for that will drive down the entire system cost for solar. Remember when solar panels were only something you saw in Mother Earth News or on the lot of some burnt out hippie? Yeah, it’s mainstream now and will be more so in a few years.

Beyond Sprawl: A New Vision of The Solar Suburbs of the Future—We have a lot of development tied up in suburbs. This infrastructure is not going to go away and be replaced by dense, urban communities. How can we reform the suburb to make sense in a new era?

Tesla Gigafactory & Battery Improvements Could Cut Battery Costs 50%–A reduction of this magnitude would make some serious waves.

UK To Remain Offshore Wind Giant With Forecasted 23.2 GW By 2025, GlobalData—I keep wondering when offshore wind is going to explode. Maybe that time is now.

China’s Wind Energy Capacity To Triple By 2020, Says GlobalData—For all of the bad things China does—pollution out of control, corruption, political repression—they sure are going after this whole renewable energy thing with gusto.

Your Body Immediately After Drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte—It’s that time of year when the pumpkin spice comes out and everyone wearing Ugg boots seems to have one in their hands. Here is what that concoction from satan’s belly does to your body.

I Ate a Bunch of Vegan Cheese, and It Was Actually Quite Tasty—As someone who has a child who is lactose intolerant and loves cheese all of these products are going to be on my next shopping list.

If You Never Knew You Needed It, Don’t Buy It—This is a rule we all should live by when shopping. How do you think Costco works? How many times have you ended up with something that was not on your list because it seemed so cool and useful?

Imagine a World without Waste: It’s Possible with a Circular Economy—Would this even fly in the west anymore? The minute someone would talk about these concepts in a political space the cries of “socialist!” and “communist!” would ring out.

The Horror of the Open Bar

There is one last frontier remaining for the craft beers of the world…the wedding.   Imagine my horror this past weekend when I went to the open bar—featuring what some would call top-shelf liquor—for a beer only to discover that my options were limited to Budweiser, Bud Light, and Heineken.

Of note is that the couple getting married are craft beer drinkers and the groom even spent some time working in the tap room at Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, so these are people who are known to drink an IPA or two.

The willingness of wedding caterers to offer craft beer is something that will have to overcome their fear of failure. They are operating under the principle of not failing versus succeeding wildly. People go to weddings and remember seeing a couple get married, visiting with family, watching some middle age men dance quite awkwardly, and waking up the next morning with a trip staring them in the face. Having a truly memorable culinary experience is pretty far down the list, so the caterer just tries not to be a failure.

It is a shame because these events represent a great opportunity to increase craft beer’s reach into the marketplace. One, people spend a lot of money on weddings. Two, the cost of failure for a consumer at a wedding is low so they are apt to try something new. Three, who wants to be limited to choices like Budweiser, Bud Light, and Heineken? Especially after you have spent the afternoon before the wedding enjoying a Burning River IPA.

The only place where I have seen craft beer crack the wedding bar is in Wisconsin where the wedding organizers feel it is a patriotic duty to have a keg of New Glarus’ Spotted Cow on tap for all of the out of town guests to enjoy.

The Joni Ernst Watch 9/21/2015

When it comes to Joni “Make ‘em squeal” Ernst or Steve King it’s clown shoes all day, every day. Recently, the conversation in Iowa has turned away from our homegrown whack-a-doos and focused on the nutcase circus that will be the Republican caucus.

Consitution Day came and went on September 17th…what, you did not throw a party? Steve King was not going to let the day go by without issuing a statement. Naturally, it was full of Republican word soup like founding fathers, God, Constitution, God, history, God…you get the idea.

Steve King apparently wants America to look like it did when the Constitution was signed over two hundred years ago. On a talk show with a host known for advocating the modern enslavement of refugees King said this on the demographics of immigration:

Tell me how you want America to look, because America’s being transformed because of immigration policy and I’m like Ann Coulter, I like the America we had.

What he is really saying is Republican code for “I want to see a white America.”

I wish that I could pull something positive out of Wednesday night’s Republican debate in California. Maybe Rand Paul’s surprisingly accurate statement that the Iraq War was a major mistake and the ramifications of that war are directly tied to the rise of ISIL…ISIS…whatever.

Donald Trump is a bully and a blowhard…and he is exactly who the Republicans deserve after years of coded phrases about liberals being “weak” or “European” or “kind of like the French.” You want a manly man? You got him now and it is a joy to watch. Never mind that this “manly man” has declared bankruptcy several times, is from New York City, and never served in the military. Just saying.

Someone let Chris Christie on the stage and he continued to lie. His favorite trope right now is to claim that he was appointed U.S. attorney on September 10th, 2001. See, he was on the front lines right before the attacks of September 11th. Oh wait, he was actually appointed U.S. attorney on December 7th, 2001. It’s a few months difference, but isn’t that just a technicality among friends?

Let’s just chalk it up to a yelling match on the playground. It did give us some quality reaction shots though:


Nothing could prepare me for the horror of the post-debate “spin room” where Jezebel’s correspondent was brave enough to tread.