Tag Archives: bicycle

Friday Linkage 5/3/2019

A while ago I permanently deleted my Facebook account because I felt that the company was a blight on this planet.  Now, Facebook is trying to improve its image by partnering with fact checking organizations to conduct reviews of the news that it features.  Too bad Facebook chose to work with a partisan hack factory funded by the Koch Brothers.

Seriously, this is how Facebook thinks it is going to repair its image.  Good luck with that Zuck.

On to the links…

Iowa State Board Allows Sale of Electric Vehicle Energy by the Kilowatt-Hour—One of the impediments to more publicly available chargers and a reasonable scheme to charge for power is going to be removed in the state of Iowa.  Granted, our retrograde legislature that is a Fox News wet dream right now is going to charge fees on solar power and EVs because…reasons.

Renewables Set To Top Coal Power In The U.S.—The worm has turned.  It is now cheaper to build new solar and wind than it is to operate coal and some natural gas.  Imagine a world where the price of energy increases because of a global shock.  If people are already flocking to renewables what will that future look like?

Solar Power Doubled In Most American Cities In Last 6 Years—I believe it.  In my little slice of the world there were no visible solar systems on anyone’s roof a few years ago.  Now there are several within view of my driveway.  Every time I drive somewhere in town I notice a new system.  Bring it on.

$13.6B Record-Breaking Solar Park Rises from Dubai Desert—This project is just massive.

Japanese Utilities Turn Away from Coal Plans Amid Green Energy Boom—Where is all the coal going to go that Trump wants to dig?

RWE Abandons All Present & Future Coal Plans—It is not going to Germany.

‘Wonder Material’ Phosphorene Could Revolutionize Batteries—I have read about more so called wonder materials than I want to remember.  I am holding out hope that one of these pans out and we get lower cost batteries with excellent range.

New Type of Plastic is a Recycling Dream—Maybe the answer is less plastic as opposed to a better kind of plastic.  Sure, we need to use plastic in some use cases.

Want a Happy Commute? Researchers Point to Travel by Bicycle—It’s better than going by car, but I would not say that all of my days commuting via bicycle are happy.

‘It’s a groundswell’: The Farmers Fighting to Save the Earth’s Soil—We have the solutions.  We just need the will to implement the solutions on a broad scale.

The Case for Carbon Farming in California—What if we looked at the land we use for agriculture as a giant opportunity to capture carbon?  It is my contention that this would be a better paradigm for rural communities than the current economic model of industrial agriculture.

Why You Should Turn Your Lawn into a Meadow—Lawns are the worst.  This is why I have decided to just mow a lot less this summer.

The Surprising Science of Fighting Crime With…Trees—You mean to tell me that if people are not living in a brutalist landscape dominated by concrete and steel that people might actually act more civilized?  Wow, mind blown.  Or not.

Burger King Plans to Roll Out Impossible Whopper across the United States—Well that was quick.  It seems like only yesterday that this was just a test in the St. Louis metro.  Now it is going to be nationwide.

Mission Actually Impossible—People really like the Impossible Burger.  Now, the company just needs to be able to dramatically increase production without sacrificing quality or alienating customers.  I am scared that this is the moment when Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, which is going public, are going to run into a lot of trouble.  Fingers crossed.

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First Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

The year is one quarter behind us, which means that we are three months closer to a world where the phrase “President Donald Trump” is not something we have to utter every again save for historical remembrance.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf is in the garage. So far I have driven the little EV ~1584 miles and saved ~1732 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Based on the average price of fuel in my area and the average fuel economy of the vehicle mile I am displacing with the Nissan Leaf I also saved ~$162 in just fuel costs.  This assumes that I am using grid electricity with an average carbon intensity and an average price.  This will drop even further when I add solar panels to my existing array.
  • No more Amazon—Kind of an epic fail. Four days into the new year I ordered something off of Amazon.  In my defense—if such an explanation is allowed—I had a gift card, so not using it would just gift Amazon that money, and I needed a Level 2 charging cable for my Nissan Leaf.  On the plus side that is the only thing I purchased.  In the end, Amazon got about $150 of my money.  On January 4th.  Damn it.
  • No more Walmart—Nothing illustrates the difficulty of avoiding Walmart than my spring break trip. Somehow, someone forgot our bag of toiletries at home and did not notice until we were unpacking in Avon, Colorado for a week of spring break skiing at Beaver Creek.  What to do?  Spend $100 at Walmart replacing toothbrushes, shampoo, and what not.  Do not bring the kids with you into a grocery store after spending more than 13 hours in the car.  They are like locusts looking for crops.  Damn it.
  • Read twenty five books—13 down, 12 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—It may not be warmer yet, but my gravel ride is all kitted up for the new season.

So far, so good I think.

It’s Time for New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a tradition in America like no other.  When the year turns over we spend a lot of time agonizing over the things we want to improve about ourselves.  Quit smoking.  Lose weight.  Be a better human.

By March most of those resolutions are forgotten as we fall into old habits.  Now, I am lucky that I do not smoke, I am not about to quick drinking, and I do not really worry about my weight so most of the traditional resolutions are off the table come January 1st.

However, there are things that I want to get done every year.  These are less resolutions in the traditional sense and more goals for the coming year.  Here we go:

  • No more Amazon—Amazon has become the default online store for millions of people. It is, however, a company that engages in horrible labor practices, utilizes its platform to screw over small businesses, and is generally just a shit operator like so many other big companies.  I used to be a subscriber to Amazon Prime, but I killed that extravagant luxury more than a year ago.  Plus, shipping several items in single boxes is just a ridiculous waste of resources.
  • No more Walmart—Seems pretty self-explanatory, but it is difficult to avoid the Bentonville beast during the course of a year. Here’s a hearty toast to trying in 2019.
  • Decarbonize transportation—Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are now the largest source of gasses that are wreaking havoc with our climate. My goal for the year is to supplant my current driving with a used Nissan Leaf powered by solar panels on top of my garage.
  • Declutter my home—Clutter messes with your mind. Don’t believe me?  Believe the New York Times.  Apparently consumption, which is the driving force behind clutter, is also causing us to be less creative.  Get rid of the extra stuff people!
  • Drink local—Everyone is familiar with eating local, but drinking local is equally important. It’s not just about beer.  It’s about forsaking bottled water for tap water.  It’s about finding the local coffee shop instead of mindlessly trudging to the green mermaid.
  • Read twenty five books—Why twenty five? The number is a nice figure that the brain can wrap its head around like historians love to use decades as lines of demarcation despite events running over the imaginary date line.  It also corresponds to about two per month, which seems doable given life’s way of getting in the way of just sitting down to read.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—There is a two part rationale for this goal. First, saving water is something we should all be trying to do given the realities of climate change.  Second, the toilets in my home do not work very well and become clogged frequently.  Having to flush multiple times and use a plunger is not an efficient use of resources.
  • Plant at least five trees—In my suburban neighborhood I am the “tree guy.” Most people have the builder plant a single tree in the front yard as required by city code and leave it at that.  Not me.  Going into the spring my yard has thirteen trees representing six different cultivars across both deciduous and coniferous trees.  I have had plans to add trees to some specimen plantings in order to create more “mass” in my landscaping.  This is the year that I get cracking.
  • Reduce lawn coverage—This goal goes hand in hand with planting trees, but it is so much more. It’s about reducing the monoculture of turf grass and planting native shrubs that require little or no maintenance while providing much needed habitat for animals.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Last year I totaled a little more than 2,250 miles on the trails and gravel roads of Iowa and Nebraska. I am looking to eclipse that total in 2019 with a concerted effort to execute some big day rides.

In the coming weeks and months I will expand on these goals and provide updates on my progress.  Or, my lack of progress as the case often tends to be when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  Welcome to 2018 everyone!

Stuff I Like: Wolf Tooth Components B-RAD 2 and Morse Cage

If there is one development in the world of cycling that has been a positive it has to be the evolution of the sport away from the duality of road cyclist versus mountain biker.  In the halcyon days of the 1990s this was the only distinction that mattered.

Fast forward to whatever we call these years and there is a proliferation of cycling “genres.”  Sure, the traditional roadie still exists but that rider shares space with the bikepacker, gravel cyclist, fat biker, fondo enthusiast, and so on.  These new or rediscovered styles of riding suit a lot more people and a lot more fun than spending your afternoons in a group ride staring at someone’s lycra clad rear end.

My preferred riding style falls into the big day ride camp.  I do not bike camp—yet—but I may spend an entire day in the saddle over mixed terrain pretty far from home.  As such, there is a decent amount of stuff I want to carry with me including enough water to complete the ride or at least make it between widely spaced trusted sources.

The problem that I have discovered is that my new bike’s frame triangle was quite small.  There were two bottle locations in the main triangle, but the one mounted on the seat tube did not allow for the insertion of a Zefal 164 water bottle.  These bottles are a favorite of long distance riders here in eastern Iowa because each one holds 33 ounces of water.  Two of these give you more than a half-gallon of water for any given ride.

Enter Wolf Tooth Components.  Probably best known as one of the original aftermarket specialists making narrow wide chainrings.  The geniuses at this Minnesota company have branched out into all sorts of solutions for those of us looking to tweak our rides into some semblance of personal perfection.  In my case it was the combination of a B-RAD 2 and Morse Cage.

The B-RAD “system” is a series of mounts and accessories to maximize your on bike storage.  What the B-RAD 2 allowed me to do was shift the mounting holes for my seat tube bottle cage down a few inches.

I also paired this with the most excellent Morse Cage.  Made by Durango, Colorado based King Cage for Wolf Tooth the Morse Cage features holes and slots for the perfect positioning of a water bottle cage.  Witness:

MorseCageShift_400_large.gif

Made of bent hollow stainless steel tubing—titanium is available for you crazies out there—these cages are a thing of beauty.  Okay, I geek out a little about small things like cages.  Just wait until you hear me opine about the cable housing that I have eyed up.  Bike bling is a real thing.

The end result is a main triangle that looks like this:

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This setup give me two bottles within arm’s reach when in the saddle.  It also puts the spigots up higher than if I used the underside of the downtube.  I cannot imagine how much limestone dust would be caked on the spigot after ten miles off of pavement.  It all seems like small ball stuff until you realize that after spending hours in the saddle on a ride the last thing you want to be dealing with is a water bottle that is strangely out of your reach.

Note: I bought both the B-RAD 2 and Morse Cages with my own funds.  I receive no compensation from Wolf Tooth Components for my endorsement of their products.  I just happen to really like the stuff these guys make.

What Impact Does a Single Aluminum Can Make?

About once a week, sometimes more, I pick up a discarded aluminum can on the side of the road in the last few miles of my usual thirty mile out and back.  Cyclists are not the source of these cans, I believe, since most of them are on a stretch of road well-travelled by garbage trucks, work vehicles, and jackasses who litter.

Aluminum, as we all learned in elementary school when Earth Day was new and shiny, is easily recyclable.  The problem is that less than half of the estimated 100 billion aluminum cans per year are recycled.  Now, a 50% recovery rate is pretty good compared to plastic or paper but considering the ecological impact of turning bauxite into aluminum it is unacceptable.

It takes a lot of raw bauxite ore and energy to make aluminum.  Recycling the aluminum flips that equation on its head.  The old saw that we learned as kids was that the energy saved from recycling one can could save enough energy to run your television for three hours.  When you are concerned about the environment and love watching Thundercats on Saturday morning this is a big deal.  Now?  Not so much.  Here’s the deal.  It takes twenty times the energy to produce an aluminum can from raw ore versus recycling said can.  Put in kilowatt hour terms it takes ~4.2 kWh to make an aluminum can from scratch. So, every can you pull from the waste stream and put into the recycling stream saves about 4 kWh of electricity and, by extension, about 4 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

That is for a single can.  If I pick up a single can across the 25 or so weeks of “prime” riding season here in eastern Iowa the end result is a savings of about 100 kWh of electricity or 4 to 5 days of solar photovoltaic production from my rooftop array.  Start multiplying that over all of the people taking a ride and it adds up to some real electricity savings.  Think about getting closer to 100% recovery of the 100 billion aluminum cans manufactured in the U.S. every year.  Those are big numbers.

How big?  For every one billion cans or four billion pounds of carbon dioxide not emitted that is like doing any one of the following:

  • Over 388,000 of the average car driven for a year or
  • Almost 196,000 homes energy use for one year or
  • About 460 wind turbines production for a year
  • And a whole lot more…play with the numbers, it’s fun.

This is why it is important, in my mind, to pick up the cans I see littering the road and trail when I am on my bike.  A few seconds every ride is all it takes.  Heck, in Iowa we have a freaking deposit law so every can also nets you a nickel.  Do it for the nickels!

In Praise of the Sick Ride

I have come to praise the sick ride.  No, not the kind of “sick” ride where you need to make sure to capture some footy for the boys.  This is about the ride you take after a sick day.

It is that time of year when the kids go back to school, so after a summer of days out in the open everyone is crammed back together in a single building.  Inevitably this begins the cycle of germ transmission that makes these places the equivalent of a low level biohazard zone.  I only half kid.

This is about the ride you take the day after you spend a day consuming Sudafed and Mucinex while wiping your nose with the equivalent of the boreal forest of Kleenex.  After a night of Nyquil induced sleep you wake up to a beautiful near fall day of full sunshine, no discernible wind, and temps hovering in the low 60s.

The leaves are starting to turn on the edges of that one tree in the neighborhood that always blazes red earlier than any other tree.  It is the harbinger of fall and the dreaded day when you hang up your bicycle until spring.  You cannot pass up days like this just because you spend the last thirty six hours binging on Netflix, mainlining herbal tea, and slipping off into fitful sleep.

So, you clip in and head for a ride.  The weather may be perfect and your bike is finally dialed in after an entire season of riding, but you are a mess.  Your cadence is jacked.  The hills you normally whiz up become grinds.  At the turn your legs are somehow managing to feel like Jello and be tight at the same time.  Your sinuses are torched and your skin has an oddly prickly feel to it.

Heading home you have gulped more than twice as much water as normal and your clothes are soaked.  The backs of your gloves are covered in an odd combination of grime, sweat, and snot.  Your teeth itch.

You unclip and slump onto the steps in your garage.  Your water bottle is empty, but you try and coax the last few drops out of the cap.  There is more liquid inside, just a few steps away, yet you remain glued to the second step.

A hot shower is a miraculous thing.  A few minutes with hot water and a bar of lemon scented soap makes a new person emerge from the other side.  All of the grinding of the past couple hours is forgotten.  The sickness of the past few days is forgotten.  Something magical happened over the course of thirty miles that no day on the couch could ever replicate.

You went on the sick ride.  Praise the sick ride!

Going 1x a Little Sooner than Expected

Well, this happened on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail today:

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I do not know how to describe my front derailleur being bent ninety degrees the wrong way, the chain being pinned against the large chainring, and the large chainring being bent about half an inch out of true.  Oh, look at what the front derailleur did when pinned against my bottle cage:

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It’s hard to tell from this picture, but you can see just how out of true the large chainring is as a result:

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No bending back a few teeth with a pair of pliers for this repair.

I have some of the components for the switch to a 1x drivetrain like I did on the dirtwagon a couple of seasons back, but most of the stuff is going to have to be acquired in the near term.  And to think that I was trying to make it the whole riding season before deciding what path to take with the drivetrain.