Tag Archives: bicycle

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.

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It’s Ok to Wear Cotton

Cotton kills.

If you spend any time performing an activity outdoors someone has said that to you in the past year.  It might have even been you, which in that case you are “that guy.”

Here’s the thing.  Cotton is actually pretty damn comfortable, it doesn’t end up with those funky synthetic fabric odors, and I do not look like Dwayne Johnson when I am riding the three miles to work on my bicycle.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  Heck, I even prefer cotton t-shirts to performance wicking t-shirts on any bike ride save my long days in the saddle when the mileage creeps up around the fifty mark.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  We all do not need to be kitted up like pseudo-Tour de France racers for a quick pedal around town with the kids.  Sure, your jersey, shorts, socks, and handlebar tape are all color coordinated but you still look like a tool when you are following behind tottering children struggling to finish the ride.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  When we step off the bike and stop in for a beer no one wants to look like a pack of MAMILs (Middle Aged Man In Lycra).  It’s a thing and it is not pretty.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  We all probably have several cotton t-shirts sitting in a dresser drawer waiting to be worn.  There is no need to head out to the shop and buy a special shirt just to ride a bike.  Dig into the dark recesses of your forgotten cloths, pull out that t-shirt from vacation a few years ago, and wear it with non-ironic pride on your next ride into work.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  If we want cycling to be anything other than a niche activity pursued by enthusiasts we need to stop telling people that it is wrong to wear a simple t-shirt. We want people out of their cars and on bikes.  People are healthier, the air is cleaner, and our communities are more resilient when people drop the keys and start pedaling.  Too often the people who should be helping get others onto saddles are the same ones who are scaring people away with their mantras about cotton.

Join me this summer in putting away the wicking fabric for just a moment and taking a ride in a simple cotton t-shirt.  You might actually feel like a human being again.

First Order Effects are Only the Beginning

Do you want to spot someone who has zero understanding of an issue?  Ask them about second order effects.

What are second order effects?  These are the impacts of an action that occur because of the aforementioned action but are not the direct intent of the aforementioned action.

What is a good example of a second order effect?  Suppose for a minute that you decide to commute to work via bicycle several days a week.  The first order effect is that you have replaced a certain amount of miles driven with a similar amount of miles ridden.  Attendant to this first order effect is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, less income directed toward fueling an automobile, increase in physical activity, and just a general sense of doing good.

A second order effect, if the number of people replacing car trips with bicycle trips reaches a critical mass, is the reduced need for infrastructure maintenance, repair, or construction.  Another second order effect, again dependent upon the number of people making the switch, is a reduced need for outlets dispensing gasoline so perhaps the number of gas stations decline.  A further second order effect is that workplaces and housing would not need to devote so much space to the transient storage of automobiles.  This would open up a more diverse array of development opportunities since less space would be covered in striped concrete. And so on down the line…

The thing with moving beyond first order effects is that it widens the potential impact of any decision.

Take organic produce as an example.  Most arguments about organic produce fall into a cost benefit analysis vis a vis its potentially greater health benefits, whether from reduced pesticide exposure on the part of the consumer or increased nutrition.  However, there are a myriad of second order effects that may impact the decision to choose organic produce.  By buying organic produce you reduce the potential for synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to pollute the ground, water, and air.  By buying organic produce you reduce the chance that farmworkers are exposed to the same synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.  All of a sudden the argument that organic produce is “just not worth it” takes on a whole new dimension.

There is an element of nuance to this approach and nuance is somewhat out of favor in a world dominated by people like Donald Trump and Fox News.  It falls into the same category as externalities, which are economic costs borne by society at large as opposed to the entity that is directly responsible for them.  Think about carbon pollution.  Coal fired power plants do not pay anything for the cost of carbon pollution yet we all bear the costs.  It’s another concept that makes most dotards heads explode.

We need to move the discussion of most issues past just the first order effects.  If we capable of enumerating all of the ways a choice can be beneficial down the line through even the most minor of second order effects the impact might be transformative.

So, the next time your Uncle Carl has one too many wine coolers at Thanksgiving dinner and wants to debate the merits of bicycle commuting, organic food, solar panels, or whatever is on his Fox News hit list spend a minute to explain first and second order effects.

A Few Hundred Miles on a Redshift Sports Shockstop Stem

In the 1990s I did not think that there was a better mountain biker than Thomas Frischknecht.  I tried mightily to emulate his riding style and kit.  At the time, the most notable difference in how Frischknecht set up his bike versus the rest of the field was with regard to suspension:

THOMAS FRISCHKNECHT CLINCHED THE OVERALL TITLE AT VAIL USA GRUNDIG WORLD CUP 1992

His bike did not have a suspension fork, which was then the height of mountain bike techno wizardry.  Oh my how things have changed.  Instead, Frischknecht used a suspension stem from Softride.  I wanted one of those very bad, but in the pre-Internet shopping days finding the right steam was not so easy.  It was probably for the best since everyone I know who owned one has nothing but negative things to report back.  Damn memories!

Well, it’s like a blast from the past.  As gravel or adventure bikes have proliferated so have the solutions to tamp down shock and vibration from crappy roads, rutted gravel, and whatever happens to dirt tracks from winter to spring.  Full on suspension forks seem like overkill and wider tires run at lower pressure do a yeoman’s job in making the ride more comfortable but everyone is looking for just a little more cush.  Enter Redshift Sports Shockstop Stem:

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It may be a suspension stem, but it is not trying to compete with suspension forks like the Softride stems of yore.  The goal is to provide a limited amount of travel in a simple package for riders looking to take the edge off of gravel, adventure, or touring rigs.

To accomplish this goal it uses elastomers:

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A lot of people have bad memories of elastomers from forks like the Rock Shox Quadra series or various Manitou forks before dampeners helped mitigate the pogo stock effect.  Here is the deal: elastomers are a lightweight and simple way to provide shock absorption.  In a limited travel application, as opposed to trying to provide multiple inches of travel, an elastomer can work very well because the perceived or actual rapid rebound is less noticeable.  Springing back from full compression on my Q21 was never any fun.

The installation of the elastomers on the Shockstop Stem is a little tricky because it is unlike any other product.  You could say it is tricky because it is specific.  Read the instructions people.  It is really not that hard.  Here is where the magic happens:

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Ride quality is adjusted by mixing and matching various elastomers to your preference.  I began with the combination suggested for my weight, which is shown in the combination above, and found it to be a little stiff for my typical rides here in eastern Iowa.

The thing with the Shockstop Stem is that is imperceptible.  The travel is limited, but it is working to smooth out the bumps.  If you lighten the elastomers to such a degree that the travel is perceptible it ends up blowing through its arc without really tamping down any of the big bumps.  Look, I am riding a bicycle on trails, gravel roads, and unmaintained farm access roads that might see a road grader once a year.  I do not expect to be riding in a leather recliner.  The Shockstop Stem does not make your rig a leather recliner.  It does make things more comfortable and when you are staring at fifty miles plus into a headwind on crushed limestone every bit of comfort counts.

Granted, I am only a few hundred miles in and a lot of that has been on pavement now that the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is paved all the way into Center Point.  I do, however, feel that the Shockstop Stem is worth a look for anyone who puts a lot of miles in on gravel or trails as a way to increase comfort which will hopefully lead to more enjoyable rides.

Does anyone out there own a Shockstop Stem who would like to provide their impression?

 

Note: I spent my own money to actually buy this stem.  No one from Redshift Sports has ever contacted me about the product.  That is to say, I am not some internet shill “influencer” posting photos on Instagram in exchange for bags of chips.  I actually use this stuff.

Friday Linkage 6/1/2018

June…where did spring and May go?

On to the links…

New Documents Show Why Scott Pruitt Wanted a “Campaign-Style” Media Operation—It would not be a week without some good ol’ Scott Pruitt corruption.

Solar Power To Become 4th Largest Electric Power Capacity In The World (Passing Up Wind)—There was a time when naysayers told us that solar power would never amount to more than a fraction of the world’s electrical generating capacity.  Of course, a lot of people also said that there was no way Donald Trump could actually become president.

US Offshore Wind Revolution Sets 5 Gigawatt Target In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, & New Jersey—Offshore wind in the United States might be nearing its snowball rolling downhill moment.  Once these projects are underway and the costs are booked a lot of people are going to realize that it is very economical to deploy these projects.

The Repowering Mission: Breathing New Life into Our Aging Wind Turbine Fleet—This is the untapped potential that no one is really talking about.  As old turbines hit the end of their usable and reliable life, say twenty years, new turbines can go up on these sites that make more power.

320 GW Of Non-Traditional, Untapped Rooftop Solar Potential In USA—A lot of roofs and other surfaces have not been exploited for solar photovoltaics.  Imagine if every warehouse, apartment building, and parking lot were covered with solar panels?

Europe is Building More Wind and Solar — Without any Subsidies—So the price is now competitive and future fuel is free.  That is going to be pretty tough to beat for coal going forward.

Oil-Rich Saudi Arabia is Turning to Another Resource to Power the Kingdom — Sunshine—The old saw is that X country will be the “Saudi Arabia of wind” or solar or whatever.  What is Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar?

The Oil Industry Is Finally Being Affected By Norway’s Electric Vehicle Adoption—This demand destruction is occurring with a relatively small number of EVs on the road and relatively low oil prices worldwide.  What would happen if gasoline goes to $5 a gallon in the U.S. and people start beating the street for Chevy Bolts?

Your Recycling Gets Recycled, Right? Maybe, or Maybe Not—When we put our stuff in a bin for collection each week it is not recycling.  It is harvesting.  The actual recycling takes place somewhere else where the trash is either actually sent to be turned into something else or just thrown away.  It now looks like China is not taking our garbage anymore, so all of our harvesting is really just taking out the trash.

Commutes on Foot or Bike Tied to Lowered Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke—You mean to tell me that if people get out and move that the likely health outcomes are improved?  Stunning.

How to Rewild your Garden: Ditch Chemicals and Decorate the Concrete—What if we all took the time to make our yards and garden a little more wild?

Saving Africa’s Wildlife—We killed the animals, so it is only right that we try and repopulate the landscape.

Homestead and Jamaica North Trails Ride Report

This past weekend in Lincoln was a blast…okay, spending two days in a garage driving nearly 500 2” pan head screws for a slat wall in near 100 degree heat was not a blast but I did get to ride.  Specifically, I spent a morning on large chunks of the Homestead Trail and Jamaica North Trail southwest of the city.

For a lot of people this is the Homestead Trail:

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Look it up “Homestead Trail” on Google and this is likely to be in almost all of the images.  Yes, bridges and century old ironworks are cool but this bridge is about a mile south of the trailhead.  It is not like people are really getting deep into the trail to get their shots for Instagram.

The trail runs thirty miles almost due south from the trailhead on Saltillo Road in Lincoln to Beatrice.  I rode about halfway to Beatrice before a headwind really picked up and I started to get concerned about the rising temperature.  It was already in the low 80s by mid-morning.

The ride reminded me a lot of what the Cedar Valley Nature Trail used to be like before it was paved all the way into Center Point.  It’s not good or bad that the trail is paved.  It is just different.  The surface is a thin layer of crushed limestone—yay, limestone dust in every crevice—over packed dirt.  There were very few ruts and it did not seem like anyone had been out when the trail was wet to cause any trouble, which is more than I can say for some of the unpaved sections of the CVNT north of Center Point.  Whoever rode their fat bike on the trail and put a wandering two inch wide rut in the trail for about three miles can suck a fat one.  I digress…

At about the mid-point of my ride the Homestead Trail ran parallel to Highway 77 which is a four lane divided highway from Lincoln to Beatrice.  You will find yourself exposed to some serious wind in this section.  Be advised.

The Homestead Trail is connected to the rest of Lincoln’s trail via the Jamaica North Trail.  The Jamaica North Trail runs a little more than 6 miles north and south on the west side of Lincoln.  The southern portion is crushed limestone like the Homestead Trail and the northern section is paved.  I did not ride on any pavement for the portion I rode.

On a hot day this was a nice ride because it was shaded by thick vegetation.  The gnats were not even that bad on the day that I rode.  It was even too hot to eat a Runza.

Right now the biggest issue with this great trail pair is that most of the southern portion of Lincoln is isolated from the trail via active railroad tracks.  There is a fundraising effort underway to build a link connecting these trails to the existing Rock Island Trail near Densmore Park.  One can never have enough trails.

If you find yourself heading to Lincoln grab your adventure bike and get out on the trails.  The Great Plains Trails Network has some excellent maps to guide you on your way.

Remember, where the pavement ends is where unlimited possibility begins.

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A Quick Change of Tires Makes a World of Difference

Somewhere in Minnesota a long time ago a friend who worked at several bike shops around the Twin Cities told me, “Don’t buy the bike with the top flight component group.  Pick a similar bike with the next step down and spend the difference on a kick ass set of wheels.”

His contention was the even the best OEM wheelsets were essentially boat anchors and a lot of OEM tire choices were mediocre at best.  Over the course of the following twenty or so years—damn I am getting old—this advice has proven itself time and time again.

At the present moment, I am not quite ready to upgrade the entire wheelset and tire package on my new-ish Breezer Radar.  It is a combination of cost and indecision that is delaying any move to make a major upgrade.

While the metal may stay the same the rubber is in for a change.  The Breezer came with WTB All Terrain 700c x 37c meats:

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These tires are so non-descript as to be almost invisible.  I put about two hundred miles of mixed pavement and crushed limestone/early season sand riding on them before deciding that it was time for a change.  The motivation was mostly that the bike felt

My preferred tire of choice over the past few seasons was the Clement X’Plor USH.  Apparently, no one informed me that the company that used the Clement name—an old cycling brand owned by Italian tire giant Pirelli—was switching to its own brand Donnelly.  The good news is that the tread remains the same:

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Weight is a big deal here.  I am no weight weenie as an overweight middle aged white male, but reducing rotating mass is the one place where you can notice a difference.  The WTB All Terrains were wire bead and had an average weight of 18.5 ounces as measured on my own scale.  The Donnelly X’Plor USH are aramid folding bead and has an average weight of 13.3 ounces.  Of note is that there was a half an ounce discrepancy between the two X’Plor USH tires.  I do not know what that was about.  Over ten ounces of weight reduction at the outermost portion of the wheel is a big deal.

My prior set of Clement X’Plor USH 700c x 35c has thousands of miles on the odometer.  I found the tire to be durable and great riding for a variety of conditions that I find here frequently in eastern Iowa.

I am already over fifty miles into the new tires and loving the change.  Weight is one part of the equation when it comes to tire choice, but there is an overall quality of ride that also matters greatly even if it is highly subjective.  That is why there are so many tire choices from so many companies.  What I love to ride and what you love to ride may be totally different, but neither of us is wrong in our choice.  The minute we start making absolute assertions about what is the correct way to do anything on a bike other than ride as much as possible we become the worst characters in the sub-culture.  No one wants to be like the roadies of yore who would stare in disdain at anyone who came to a group ride in mismatched kit.

Interestingly, Donnelly has a slightly different version of this tire: Strada USH 700c x 40c.  The trade is a little more pavement focused with less aggressive lugs along the sides, but the smooth center track remains and with a wider casing this might make an excellent tires for those days when you spend a lot of time on pavement just getting to the untracked gravel.

Things are finally starting to get dialed in on the Breezer and the rest of the riding season looks bright.