Tag Archives: bicycle

Friday Linkage 5/19/2017

At what point do we begin to point the finger for this entire Donald Trump mess at the people who enabled him.  Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe is partially to blame for giving Donald Trump a national platform for free in exchange for ratings in the early days of the campaign.  The entire Republican establishment is on notice for allowing this charlatan in orange to assume the Oval Office because they felt that it would be beneficial for their agenda.  Paul Ryan and the rest of his elected Republican cronies need to get in line and get behind the real investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection.

Furthermore, the American people need to demand that all of our elected representatives act as the Constitutionally mandated check to Trump’s deranged ambition.  I am sure of the fact that Donald Trump feels he has the ultimate authority regardless of law and will do anything to facilitate this delusion.

On to the links…

Under Trump, Inconvenient Data that was Previously Public is Being Sidelined—You don’t think that people like Scott Pruitt are loving this action.  This is an administration and a Republican party that is allergic to facts in general and almost violently reactive to anything that even hints at an opposing viewpoint.  It’s like your drunk Uncle Carl who yells about the “lamestream media” is in charge of the country.

Why Trump Will Make the Wrong Decision on Paris—I do not think this really needed a long explanation.  Donald Trump is an under informed reactionary decision maker who loathes anyone with more expertise or knowledge on a topic than himself thus he is prone to making bone headed decisions.  Furthermore, he surrounds himself with family and sycophants utterly dependent upon his wealth thus the toadies are always telling him how great he is doing.  Is it any wonder we are doomed?

Trump’s EPA Greenlights a Nasty Chemical. A Month Later, It Poisons a Bunch of Farmworkers.—Color me surprised, but I am not.  Chlorpyrifos is nasty stuff, but Trump’s corporate allies wanted it allowed so it was made so under the guise of…profits and screw everything else.  Only profits matter now.

The EPA Asked the Public which Rules to Scrap and Got Chewed Out—People like clean air and water.  People like it when toxins are not prevalent in their food.  People like health.  It must have been a real surprise to Trump’s denizens of death that people prefer to keep regulations that prevent profit seeking companies from polluting.

The Surprising Story of the Decline of Electricity use in American Households—It all comes down to LED lighting based on back of the envelope calculations.  Those are the same LEDs that talking heads like Sarah Palin derided as some liberal conspiracy.  Granted, most of those talking heads are nitwits who supported Trump.  And you thought those pictures of your high school fashion choices were embarrassing.

Three Reasons to Believe in China’s Renewable Energy Boom—China is all in on renewable energy because the leadership of that country believes it is critical to their staying in power.

By 2020, Every Chinese Coal Plant will be More Efficient than Every US Coal Plant—However, a coal plant still produces a lot more pollution than a solar panel.

Terawatts of Solar Power are Within our Reach—Solar power will soon reach a tipping point where it is like a large snowball going downhill picking up speed and gaining in size.  The victims of its destructive path will be old line fossil fuels and maybe your drunk Uncle Carl who hates hippies, Volkswagens, and solar panels.

New US Residential Solar Capacity Additions Drop 17% In First Quarter—So goes California…as California is responsible for almost 50% of residential solar installations the golden state has an outsize impact on the aggregate numbers for the U.S.  Other states saw smaller declines and it may be due to major installers pursuing more profitable installations over heady growth figures.

Coal and Natural Gas Are Foes, Not Natural Allies—This is the real inconvenient truth for Trump and his coal cronies.  Natural gas and coal compete directly with each other so any policy that favors both fuels—relaxed emissions targets, etc.—also favors the fuel that directly replaces coal.

Trump Coal Obsession Largely Irrelevant To Electric Utility CEOs—Those darned market forces just get in the way of a good campaign speech.

Stanford Study says Fossil-Fueled Cars will Vanish in 8 years as ‘Big Oil’ Collapses—I doubt it will happen in eight years, but I think there is a time in my lifetime when my truck will be a classic because of its fuel choice.

You May Live Longer if You Bike to Work—Let us count all of the ways that bicycles rule.

New American Study Confirms: Physically Separated Bike Lanes are Crucial for Safety—Add this to the list of things that seem obvious but that someone felt a study was needed to confirm.  As someone who rides both types of bike lanes I can assure you that the protected and/or separated bike lanes are the better option for a cyclist.

Denver’s Bike-Friendly Plans Seem To Be Panning Out—People actually like biking to work and play.  It’s a proven fact.

Friday Linkage 5/12/2017

Is this how it ends?  With a complicit Congress, an ineffective opposition party, and an egomaniac in the White House do we end up miles down the road to tyranny in just a few years?  Or does America pull its collective head out of its ass and do something about the ridiculous state of affairs?

Considering how well things went during the prelude to the Civil War I do not have the highest hopes for a peaceful decade.  Maybe Dwayne Johnson really will be our next president.  Or Michelle Obama.

On to the links…

EPA Dismisses 5 Scientists from Key Review Panel—Let me guess what the industry panel members are going to recommend…regulation bad…oil and gas good…EPA bad…emissions are good for you…money is even better…and so on.  Your government is owned by fossil fuels and Russians.

Here’s How Easy It Is to Get Trump Officials to Click on a Fake Link in Email—I imagined that it would be as easy as saying “Click here to support Bill O’Reilly against all those evil women.”

Watch Anderson Cooper Roll His Eyes at Kellyanne Conway As She Tries to Defend Trump—And the Oscar goes to Anderson Cooper:

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A New Book Ranks the Top 100 Solutions to Climate Change. The Results are Surprising.—Maybe the solutions are within our grasp.  Drawdown is on my reading list at the library.  I just happen to be about ten people back in the queue.

Remorseless Coal Baron Gets Out Of Prison, Has Twitter Meltdown Over Mine Disaster—Do you notice a trend with Donald Trump and other narcissists like Don Blankenship?  In their mind’s eye he or she is never wrong.  Even when convicted in a court of law and sent to prison he is going back to the well that he did nothing wrong.

With a Letter a Day, West Virginian Tried to Remind Coal Executive of his Role in 29 Deaths—Don Blankenship was complicit in the conditions that directly led to the death of 29 people.  He does not care nor did he ever care about actual human beings in his employ as long as the coal kept coming out of the mountains and the profits kept flowing to bank accounts.

California’s Drought May Be Over, But Its Water Troubles Aren’t—Judging long term climatic conditions based on a single season is a bad idea.  Climate scientists, hydrologists, and anyone with half a brain has always said that but as California “exits” the recent drought it needs saying even more.

California Set an Ambitious Goal for Fighting Global Warming. Now Comes the Hard Part—The goals are ambitious.  We have to hope that California can be the model for the rest of the states because there will be no guidance from the capital.

Could Trump Dismantle the American West?—Why don’t we just come out and say that Donald Trump is bad for America?  Who stands to benefit from anything that has happened in Washington D.C. recently?  Jared Kushner maybe.

The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Just Shut Down a Diesel Plant—It’s not a huge victory, but every dirty power generation source that we can shut down is a victory.  In the age of Trump and Pruitt I will take what I can get.

Iceland’s “Thor” Volcano Power Plant can Generate 10X More Energy than Oil or Gas Wells—Geothermal is the odd cousin who comes to your wedding who turns out to be a pretty cool guy that makes the weekend all the more fun.  This geothermal plant is the rock star cousin who owns the weekend.

Germany Breaks A Solar Record — Gets 85% Of Electricity From Renewables—These headlines are a little misleading, but generating this much renewable energy for this large an economy is a big deal.

Arrogance of Space—People ask me why I think bikes are such a great way to get around.  If I had to pick one photo to illustrate many of the reasons it would be this:

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Imagine what our infrastructure costs would look like if we were managing a world of cyclists instead of a world of single occupancy automobiles.  Believe it!

Dan Barber on the Future of Food—Dan Barber can get a little preachy, but so can Michael Pollan and Anthony Bourdain but I still listen to what they have to say about food.  Dan Barber is no different.  His thoughts on food matter because he is an influencer of chefs and what not the world over.

New Wheels for my Ride

It was not planned this way, but I ended up equipping my cyclocross bike turned gravel grinder with new wheels a little early.

An online store that shall remain nameless, so that my LBS does not shame me forever, had a major sale on wheelsets and I was able to pick up a set of Vuelta Corsa Lites for less than $150. This is a screaming deal on a good set of wheels. Sure, I could have spent a lot more on wheels but I am putting these on a bike with Shimano 105 components that is going to get beat up on some gravel roads and trails here in Eastern Iowa. Exotic is not the name of the game.

The wheelset sat in my garage for a few weeks because I was planning on doing a complete rebuild of my current bike to make some major changes based on my riding this summer—don’t worry details on the major changes to come later. However, circumstances changed on a ride last week when something—probably a strip of flashing metal or something similar—ripped a hole through the tread section of my well-worn Kenda Kwicks. How well-worn? The front tire—switched from the rear about halfway through the season—was bald and ready to die. The piece of metal just hastened its burial.

Tire choice was probably the biggest decision. If you look up “good tire for gravel” on the Internet be prepared for a lot of opinions and no definitive answers. One theme that seemed to be constant was the love for Clement’s X’PLOR series of tires. These are the USH and MSO, named for the airport codes for Ushuaia, Argentina and Missoula, Montana respectively. The USH comes in 35mm width and the MSO comes in 32mm or 40mm width.

Trying to decide between the tires came down to the center ridge. The USH has a more solid center ridge that seems like it would offer a smoother ride on the pavement sections of my usual rides:

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If the county ends up paving more of the Cedar Valley Nature trail than I will be riding on even more pavement. Plus, the 35mm width seemed to strike a balance between the 32mm and 40mm width of the MSO. I went with the 60 TPI version versus the high zoot 120 TPI version because I could not justify the difference in cost for a tire I did not know if I would enjoy. BTW, I changed out my old Tektro Oryx cantilevers for Tektro CR720 cantilevers. Big improvement, huge!

How do things look:

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All up—including skewer and cassette—the wheelset weighed in at 3380 grams. This is compared to my prior no-name stock wheelset weight of 3925 grams. The stock wheelset included tires that were 5mm thinner and lacking a lot of tread after almost 3000 miles. Doing the whole conversion math thing—thanks Google—the difference of 545 grams works out to approximately 1.2 pounds of weight saved. For those of you who slept through physics, this weight is even more important than cutting frame weight because it is rotational. It’s not the two or three to one delta that cyclists have used for years to justify spending a lot of money on wheels but it matters.

The true measure of a new set of wheels is not how much they weigh, necessarily, but how well they ride. The Corsa Lites and Clement USH tires are light years better than the prior wheelset. The ride is noticeably smoother because of the tires, especially when the pavement ends and the gravel begins. Also, out of the saddle sprints seem a lot more fun which I am going to attribute to the lighter weight and “springiness” of the new wheelset. The bike just seems to pop when I start mashing.

The other big improvement was the aforementioned brake swap. The Tektro CR720s are a big jump in stopping power versus the stock Tektro Oryx brakes. For about $20 per set there are few better bargains for improvement in performance. Plus, the new brakes look “old school” cyclocross. Sometimes it is about how something looks when all else is equal.

In terms of “big changes” or transformations coming to my bike I am considering ditching the front derailleur and small chainring in favor of a single chainring setup. I rarely use the small chainring and I do not use the smallest cogs in my cassette, so I feel that a smaller big chainring with my existing cassette would meet all of my local riding needs. The Wolftooth “narrow-wide” chainrings look like a sweet option. Anyone have any experience?

Witness the Horror

Approaching mile 16 of my ride, which was supposed to be a nearly 19 mile ride out before turning back, the rear tire of my trusty steel steed went pillowy soft. Not flat, mind you, but so soft that it was all squirrely.

Nothing that five minutes with some tire levers and a mini pump could not fix. That is when I was witness to the horror.

Inside my bag was not a replacement 700x30C tube, but a 26×1.25 tube. I tried pumping up the tire thinking that the presta valve might have come loose and leaked out some air. It would not hold any more than approximately 25-30 PSI of pressure.

There is nothing quite so nerve racking as babying a rear tire with almost no pressure across almost six miles of fresh gravel and ten miles of pavement. Turns were a real treat as my rear tire would wander and squirm at the slightest provocation.

The moral of the story is check your repair supplies more than once a season. I obviously had not changed over my tubes from my commuting rig to my cyclocross ride. Now you know and knowing is half the battle.

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An Open Letter to RAGBRAI Guy

As the weather warms up here in eastern Iowa the trails and byways are flooded with a certain breed of cyclist not seen in other parts of the world…RAGBRAI guy. From about mid-June until the actual event begins in July travelling packs of cyclists will clog whatever path you are trying to ply and look at you with disdain when you attempt to pass their travelling circus.

Here’s the thing, no matter how much you claim to be advancing the notion of cycling as a mainstream recreational pursuit—something that does not require your assistance by the way—you’re actually a bad actor. Let me count the ways:

  1. A jersey from RAGBRAI does not entitle you to any special benefits from any other rider on the trail. It’s not a magic totem. There are thousands of us who put in just as many miles per year, if not more, and have no desire to spend our summer pretending to be part of a human powered gypsy caravan. Stop acting like you are the be all and end all of two wheeled fun in the Midwest.
  2. Riding three wide a few rows deep on a recreational trail is an asshole move. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I do not care that this is Team Ball Sack or whatever your clever clothing is supposed to indicate. You do not own the trail any more than the Hells Angels own the road.
  3. No one wants to be submitted to the sonic stylings from your modern day ghetto blaster strapped to the handlebars of your bike. You cannot hear me clearly when I am trying to pass you and the Grateful Dead suck. Save the jam band session for when you stop to crush a few Natty Lights.
  4. Don’t throw stones because your behavior leaves you residing in a glass shack. Lecturing other people on the trail about their behavior when you are a horde of locusts is just bad form.

Come the third week of July the trails and byways will be clear of these creatures as they spend the better part of a summer vacation rolling from town to town in search of a shower just above the temperature of a well digger’s ass on the shady side and a cold can of light American swill. Just imagine the collective stink of thousands of people sweating out a twelve pack of Busch Light mixed with the eau de nut cheese.

I cannot wait until July 18th.

Thoughts on the Arrival of New Pioneer Coop

After much hand wringing, on the part of Iowa City residents, and pleading, from Cedar Rapids residents, New Pioneer Coop decided to open a store in Cedar Rapids.

For those of you who do not live in this area there is a tension between the two communities that resembles the “town versus gown” tension in college towns. Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is located, would be the “gown” and Cedar Rapids, where more people live and work, would be the “town.” It’s an imperfect analogy, but it starts to get at how each city generally views the other.

However, not serving a community just thirty minutes up the road seems silly and the membership of New Pi finally saw the light. The new store, in the old Fin & Feather location at 3338 Center Point Road NE, opened in early December 2014. I wanted to wait and give my impressions a moment to ferment.

The location is great. It’s conveniently off of I-380 and near the north side of town where a large chunk of commercial activity, not to mention the city’s two largest employers, resides. The best part is that it’s just a few turns of the crank away from the Cedar River Trail that connects to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and the Hoover Nature Trail. I have spoken at length about the gem that this trail system represents and the more businesses that locate near the trail system the better.

The bread is amazing. Now coming from a centralized bakehouse to meet the demand of three stores and commercial contracts, the bread has maintained its well-known quality. I highly recommend the jalapeno cheddar bread. Trust me, I stalk the 2 PM Saturday delivery like a paparazzo. It barely lasts into the next day. A dry-hopped IPA and a slice of this bread are the perfect evening snack.

The prepared foods are also great. The kitchen staff is headed up by Matt Steigerwald who was the owner/chef of the highly regarded Lincoln Cade in Mount Vernon. He is assisted by former co-worker at the Lincoln Café and former owner of Braise Company Shawn Price. It will be very interesting to see what these two cook up, literally and figuratively, as the store gets its feet underneath itself in the near term. I also tend to have an addiction to the Cashew on a Hot Tin Roof sandwich. I have a problem.

Given that it is winter in eastern Iowa I am going to wait to pass judgment on the produce section. The store seems to be laid out in such a way to add produce as seasonal items become available. The local Honeycrisp apples were delicious.

Two areas that were underwhelming to me were the beer and coffee selection. I am a beer snob, but I had hoped to see something different on the shelves. It really felt like a chopped down version of the craft beer case at any local HyVee. The bulk coffee selection underwhelmed as well. The selection was limited—no bulk decaf option—and there seemed to be a real lack of variety.

Work is not yet completed outside. This is the product of living in Iowa where the winter stalls out construction for months and the legacy of having to remove a pest control office that used to sit in what is now the parking lot. When completed the parking lot is going to feature a bioswale.

The bioswale will slow runoff and allow runoff from the parking lot to filter through vegetation and compost before hitting any streams. This is a key improvement because a critical urban waterway runs along the Cedar River Trail just to the west of the store. Given the city’s history with flooding and the importance of urban waterways, a freakin’ runs right through downtown, I hope that bioswales become more common across the area.

There is a whole lot of positive happening with New Pi’s Cedar Rapids location. I consider the initial store layout and product offerings to be a test case that will evolve over time as local tastes and preferences come into play. Evolution is good.

NOTE: I am a member of New Pi, so my opinion is not totally unbiased.

Stuff I Like: Selle Anatomica Titanico X

Is it possible to purchase a bicycle saddle that is made in the U.S.A.? Yes.

Would you actually want to purchase said saddle? Yes.

This brings me to the saddles from Selle Anatomica:

Selle Anatomica Profile

I own a Selle Anatomica Titanico X. I purchased it with my own money, so there is no friendly bias to the company other than that accrued through the performance of their product relative to the dollars that I spent. Currently, the Titanico X is being replaced by a similar saddle for 2014 so not all of my impressions may be relevant. I also purchased a clearance saddle that may have had defects, although I cannot find any, so the price was reduced by about one-third off normal retail.

There is no more personal choice for a cyclist than his or her saddle. Unlike handlebars with multiple positions a cyclist generally has limited variability upon which to place their rear end. Sure, you can slide fore and aft but those are generally very minor adjustments in position and I find that you end up returning to a sort of equilibrium point quickly.

The key is to find a saddle that fits well and is comfortable over the length of a ride. Too many people end up with overly padded saddles that actually begin to rub the wrong way when the mileage gets high.

For years, I was an ardent fan of the Selle Italia Flite. The shape is classic cycling. If you remember watching cycling in the 1990s, you remember seeing Flites in every color under the sun on almost every bike in the peloton. Over time the shape has seemed to change very little, but I no longer find it the perfect partner in crime for long days on gravel roads.

The Titanico X, like all Selle Anatomica saddles, is made using a suspended leather design. You may be familiar with this design If you have ever seen a Brooks saddle. The Titanico X does however feature a slot in the saddle:

Selle Anatomica Behind

The idea is to allow the differing sides of your body to move somewhat independently. I do not know if that is what the biometrics are but the saddle is uber comfortable in the few long rides I have put in during the early season. Plus, in terms of being able to adjust my fit on the bike the Titanico X’s long rails allowed me to really dial things in. Too often I would find myself wishing I could slide a saddle back just a little more. It’s a personal thing.

Like all leather saddles the material will begin to stretch and sag. Adjustment is super easy using a single hex bolt at the front of the saddle.

Icing on the cake is that the saddle is made in the U.S.A. with a lot of the materials, primarily the leather, being sourced from the U.S.A. as well. I think it is important that we embrace a level of quality manufacturing in this country and that means seeking out makers of goods rather than just blindly purchasing something from a catalog with little consideration given to its origin. It’s a small thing, but I think it is important.

As the miles accumulate this summer I look forward to updating everyone on the new saddle.