Tag Archives: bicycle

Friday Linkage 5/22/2020

It’s “furlough Friday” in my household.  Thanks to general economic malaise we get a five day weekend over the Memorial Day holiday.  Too bad it looks like it is going to rain from Saturday through the next week.  May showers bring…oh, that’s not right.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

Coronavirus To Cut U.S. Emissions 11% In 2020, But It’s No Climate Victory—If we return to “business as usual” it will be defeat.  If we can make this an inflection point it will be a victory.

How Will Americans Commute After Lockdowns End?—I hope that one of the things we take away from this crisis is just how silly our commuting culture has become in the modern age.  Maybe we will move to a post-modern commuting culture that actually values the endless hours we used to spend in a steel coffin belching climate change causing emissions.  Just a thought.

‘A New Normal’: How Coronavirus will Transform Transport in Britain’s Cities—It seems like this is one of the questions that everyone is asking as we look toward the end of the first phase of the crisis.

Why We Shouldn’t All Move to Montana after the Pandemic—We should not all move to Montana, but some redistribution of economic development away from the coastal cities would be a good thing.

Big Oil Taking $1.9 Billion in CARES Act Tax Breaks—Imagine what almost two billion dollars could do in a different circumstance.  By my back of the envelope calculations it could reforest ~2,000,000 acres of land in the United States.  Yes, two million acres.

Why U.S. Oil And Natural Gas Demand Will Rebound From Coronavirus—The rebound for demand is going to be one of the more interesting things to watch as this calamity plays out.  If demand comes back to 80% of the prior level can the oil and gas industry survive in its current format?

Renewables Surpass Coal in Both the U.S. and U.K. in Historic Firsts—The nails are being driven into coal’s coffin and one of the few things keeping it from being buried are Trump’s little orange fingers prying back the cover.  2021 is the year to declare victory.

The Nature Conservancy To Unlock Solar Potential On Retired Appalachian Coal Mine Land—There is a path forward after coal.

Unacceptable: Reports Indicate EPA will Refuse to Limit Brain-Damaging Chemical in Water—You have to love an administration that allows known brain damaging chemicals to be released into your water.

Liberal-Leaning States Target EPA In New Lawsuit—Prior to the Trump administration the government tended to win something like 90% of these lawsuits.  True to trend, Trump’s people tend to lose 90% of these cases.  At what point do people realize that this guy is really just a loser who has failed upwards his entire life.

A Plague of Delicious Purple Urchins is Taking Over the California Coast and It’s Our Duty to Eat Them—There should be a better answer to plagues of invasive species, but we are stuck with “eat them” as an answer.  Solution to invasive lionfish?  Eat them.  You get the idea.

Giant Lizards Are Spreading in Georgia—Burmese pythons, killer bees, giant snails that eat stucco, and now giant lizards.  Are these the end times?

Stuff I Like: Oury Bicycle Grips

My bicycle’s cockpit has undergone several evolutionary cycles.  From the original equipment compact drops bar to a Salsa Cowchipper to a flat bar with bar ends to the current configuration:


I spoke about the TOGS in a prior post.  This is about my switch to Oury grips.  Or, rather, a switch back to Oury grips since these were my go-to option back in the go-go mountain bike 1990s.

For the past couple of seasons I have ridden with Ergon GP1 grips.  I liked them well enough and felt that on rides of twenty miles or so there was an increased level of comfort.  Past the twenty mile mark my hands fell victim to the same comfort issues with other grips or bar configurations.  It was better than the discomfort I experienced with drop bars—compact or flared, it did not matter—but it was not good when I was looking to increase the mileage of my weekend rides into the fifty mile realm.

The problem, in my opinion, is that while the Ergon grips were comfortable there was a prescriptive nature to the grip where only a single position was possible for any period of time.  Once that became uncomfortable you were shit out of luck.

With the Oury grips there is no set position for your hand.  You are free to rotate around the circumference of the grip.  Combined with the TOGS you can really switch up for hand/wrist positions in a lot of ways on the fly as you ride.

The Oury grips are also a little thicker, but not fat paw thick, and squishy so a non-glove wearing rider like myself does not feel impaired.  Trust me, some of the grips out there have a texture and hardness that is akin to a rotary grinder disc.  Maybe that is just me.

This setup has been good to go on the thirty mile rides I have been knocking out during coronavirus isolation.  I am very curious to see how things play out when I aim for some fifty mile or more rides in June.  Stay tuned.

Note: I paid for these Oury grips with my own money and received nothing in compensation to recommend the product.  It is just something that I think is a good thing.

Stuff I Like: Thumb Over Grip System (TOGS)

The one bonus to the current lack of travel options is that I have been spending a lot of time in the early part of the cycling season actually on my bicycle.  If the weather is even slightly favorable I will clip in and head out for a ride.  It is just about the only thing keeping me sane right now as everyone in my house is going a little stir crazy after more than six weeks of isolation.

For the current cycling season I changed up a lot of things on my bicycle.  New wheels.  New drivetrain.  New cockpit.

Anyone familiar with my struggles over the years—compact drop bar to flared drop bar to flat bar—will not be surprised that I am trying again to find the combination that feels right.

Previously, I set my handlebars up with a carbon flat bar, Ergon grips, and stubby bar ends.  This was a cockpit very similar to my mountain bikes in the late-1990s.  I enjoyed the different hand positions afforded by bar ends and I did spend a lot of time with my hands “splayed out” to combat the dreaded numbness that comes with spending hours in the saddle.  However, it was never quite “right.”

Enter the Thumb Over Grip System (TOGS):


It is hard to see from the image but the TOGS are a little stub that extends out from the handlebar to give you a place to rest or hook your thumb.  Doing so allows you to unwrap your hands from the grips and achieve a different grip position without sacrificing a measure of control.  Sure, you could do something similar without TOGS, but you risk your hands slipping fairly easily.  Trust me, I have had it happen.

Installation of the “flexible” version is a snap.  You do not even need to remove your grips because the TOGS can be slipped over your bars and screwed in place.  It’s a no risk installation, although with most grips being of the lock-on variety anymore I do not know how much this helps.  Reposition your controls and off you go.

After about three hundred miles of early season riding I consider myself a fan of TOGS.  As someone who does not ride with padded gloves or gloves of any sort unless it is cold outside I appreciate the multiplicity of positions I can grasp without sacrificing control.

A bonus is that by forgoing bar ends I can add a set of pogies for cold season riding and still maintain a lot of different and positions.  Remember, I dislike gloves.  Win, win baby!

NOTE: I bought the TOGS with my own money, installed them myself, and use them every ride.  I received nothing from the manufacturer to write this piece.  I am not pimping products like a B-grade influencer on Instagram.

Friday Linkage 4/17/2020

Can you imagine how much Trumplican heads would have exploded if Presidents Obama or Clinton had a press briefing where either of those men claimed, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total.”

Granted, the most incompetent President in the history of the United States has already backpedaled.  This is not because he does not believe what he said earlier, but rather he does not want to take responsibility for any possible surge in COVID-19 infections that may occur as states “reopen.”

This is the Trump doctrine in full display.  Claim absolute hegemony, take credit for any positive trend over the course of the last decade, deflect blame for any negative trend onto your predecessor, and figure out a way to milk a buck out of the office.  Anything else is just noise.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

Chart Shows Rise in Wind, Solar; Overall Drop in Energy Use—The so-called Sankey diagram is one of those pieces of information that gets used in just about every presentation about power consumption and generation.  The number that always gets me is the wasted energy under the title “rejected energy.” If we could just waste less it would be a massive improvement.

How Coronavirus is Changing Electricity Usage, in 3 Charts—So we are using less electricity, in total, and using it more evenly across the day.  This shows us that changes in our behavior can help accelerate the renewable energy future.

Carbon Emissions from Fossil Fuels could Fall by 2.5bn Tonnes in 2020—Maybe this will the moment when we realize that we can reconfigure modern civilization to accommodate a dramatically lower amount of fossil fuel use.  Myabe…

COVID-19 Pollution Cut Is Not A World Without Cars: It’s Without Oil—The air is cleaner.  Cities are more livable.  This is a world without both traffic and oil.

Gasoline Demand Collapses To A 50-Year Low—This is turning into a real life version of The World Without Us.

This Is the “Most Economically Important” Fern on Earth—There are solutions to climate change in the natural world.  We just need to have an open mind and look around.

Another Record Year For Low-Cost U.S. Natural Gas – And Why That’s Good News—Natural gas kills coal.  When natural gas prices spike in the future—and anyone who has ever watched natural gas for any period of time know this will happen—cheap renewables will kill natural gas.  Survival of the fittest, baby.

Why 30 Million Solar Rooftops Should Be In The Next Relief Bill—Just imagine all of those rooftops generating clean, green electricity from the funky yellow sun.

Inside Clean Energy: Rooftop Solar Wins Big in Kansas Court Ruling—When solar can get a win in Kansas you know things are going your way.

The Western U.S. Has Some Of America’s Strongest Clean Energy Goals. It Needs More Grid Flexibility To Achieve Them.—It’s not that we cannot get to aggressive renewable energy targets.  It’s that our current infrastructure is not designed to handle more renewable energy.

Coal Companies Want YOU To Pay Their Debts—Late stage capitalism is all about privatizing the gains and socializing the losses.  Corporations will never get “wiped out” the same way that an individual can because Congress would never let that happen.

One Weird Trick To Achieving American Energy Dominance—The more we electrify the less we are beholden to oil and gas.  The transportation sector is now the most important frontier for electrification over the next decade.

To Cut Carbon Emissions, a Movement Grows to ‘Electrify Everything’—Or just electrify everything.

A Shockingly Long List of Corrupt Officials and Political Allies Pardoned by Trump—Grifters are going to grift.  Trump is corrupt as the day is long and he does not care what anyone thinks as long as he can make a buck.  I will give you short odds that he pardons Joe Exotic just to see his face on television a little more.

Fred Singer, a Leading Climate Change Contrarian, Dies at 95—There is a long list of scumbags who have taken industry’s money for years in order to sow doubt about settled science regarding climate change. However, few did more harm than S. Fred Singer.  The world is a better place without him spewing his particular brand of misinformation.

The Rise and Fall of China’s Cycling Empires—Investment hysteria and tech style bubbles came for the bicycle.

This is How America Drinks Now—We are shut in and drinking without social pressures.  Sometimes box wine is the hero we need.

Progress Against 2020 Goals in the First Quarter of the Year

Here is a breakdown by goal of my progress so far in 2020:

  • Deeper decarbonization: An electric lawn mower and weed eater are in the garage ready to go. I cannot wait to report on the run times for the batteries and the overall experience of completely shedding small engines for yard maintenance.  Some other projects, most notably a new electric air source heat pump water heater, are going to have to wait until the restrictions around coronavirus subside.  In a way, all of this restriction on travel, which leads to less shopping and wasteful trips, is decarbonizing my life.  It’s not good to be going through this saga, but the energy diet is a nice side effect.
  • Replace 500 Vehicle Miles with Human Powered Transit: This one is a little hard for me to imagine right now as we are not driving at all. The cars in our garage are basically sitting save for a weekly trip to get groceries.  I will be very curious to see what our mileage totals look like for the month of April as the lockdown continues.
  • Ride 2,500 Miles on my Bicycle: 47.93 miles by the end of March. It’s not much, but it is ahead of last year’s pace.
  • Ride 2 “New to Me” Trails: A goal for warmer weather. Stay tuned.
  • Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer: Check out the details here. A little bit of a misstep as I prepared for coronavirus lockdown by buying up some cans from local breweries.
  • Read 40 Books: 22 books down. Not too shabby for one quarter.
  • Reduce Lawn, Increase Landscape Variety: This is a goal for the spring, so look forward to some progress now that the temperature has gone up and the snow is off the ground. Plus, what else am I going to do in a world where we are sheltering in place.
  • Maximize Local Food: Until about mid-March I was killing it with local food. According to my calculations, local food comprised almost 50% of my grocery spend.  Then coronavirus happened and we decided to stock up.  A couple of big trips to warehouse clubs and weekly grocery pickup have killed my local grocery shopping.  Even so, local groceries make up about 33% of my household grocery spend.  I am hoping to improve upon that in the coming months as we all learn how to navigate a world impacted by coronavirus.

A New Set of Wheels for My Daily Ride

Being stuck at home is the perfect time to conduct a major overhaul of my daily ride.  The Breezer Radar that I bought a couple of years ago has already been through some major changes since the day it arrived on my doorstep.

In keeping with tradition, I felt that it was time to hit the reset switch and improve some things.  This entire process was also caused by some “cabin fever shopping” during the shut-in time over the past two weeks due to COVID-19.

The single biggest change that I undertook was a new wheelset.  The stock wheelset on the Radar was fairly mediocre.  This is to be expected in an OEM wheelset on a bicycle that came with a value build component set.

I went with a wheelset from online retailer Bicycle Wheel Warehouse.  The set that I ordered was BWW Trail Pro 29er Custom Build.  My set was built with the Speed Tuned Super 6 quick release hubs, Shimano freehub for a 10 speed cassette, and DT Competition 2.0/1.8 spokes.  For a little bling, I went with blue alloy nipples:


Yeah, it cost a little more but you only live once.  All in, with a 20% discount coupon, I paid just under $300 for the wheelset.

The tires are WTB Venture 700×40.  This tread is a little wider than the Donnelly X’Plor USH 700×35 tires that were installed on the previous wheelset.  I went with something wider and a little more aggressive in the tread department because I felt that the tread profile on the USHs was a little squirrely on the rough stuff around here.  Wanting to spend some more time on more remote routes this year led me to a more off-road focused tread pattern.

The bigger change is moving to a tubeless setup. The good people at Goldfinch Cyclery in the NewBo district of Cedar Rapids got me rolling on tubeless rubber.  Sure, I could have done it myself but I was a little intimidated to make the effort.  After more than thirty years of being used to tubes it will take a little bit of time to teach me some new tricks.  Here they are ready to roll:

You will notice that I removed the decals from Bicycle Wheel Warehouse, so now the wheelset looks like a boring old OEM wheelset.  Minus the blue nipples of course.  There are also some other changes to my bicycle that you might notice.  I will explain at a later date.

The wheelset works with quick releases as opposed to thru axles because that is what my frame can accommodate and the disc rotor mounts via the 6 bolt standard as opposed to centerlock.  A lot of people advised me to go with a centerlock hub and use an adapter, but I sort of despise adapters.  Plus, this wheelset is not going to get moved to another bicycle so choosing specifications based on its requirements alone is a safe bet.

All in—wheels, tires, sealant, cassette, skewers, rotors—the new wheelset came in at a total of 3,810 grams (1,630 grams front and 2,180 grams rear).  This compares with an all in weight—including tubes as opposed to sealant—for my old wheelset of 4,495 grams (1,750 grams front and 2,745 grams rear).  That is a ~15% decrease in rotational weight without breaking the bank or doing anything exotic.

So, for less weight I get wider tires on a wider rim without having to deal with tubes.  This might be the biggest win in a long time.

It’s going to be a hard few weeks waiting for things to dry out in eastern Iowa.  I so want to see how this revamp rolls down the trails.


Note: I bought these wheels with my own money and received nothing in return from any of the companies mentioned.

Personal Goals for 2020

Welcome to 2020 folks.

I have always said that I do not do “resolutions.”  Except for the year I told people that I was going to take up smoking, gain weight, and drink more.  Granted, I failed on all three but I made some resolutions. However, I will make some goals.

The reason I publish these goals and cadence them on this blog is that I have found it is hugely effective in getting me to execute.  The power of accountability. What follows does build on what I wanted to achieve in 2019.

Here are my goals for 2020:

  • Deeper decarbonization: It is one thing to put solar panels on your roof and buy an electric vehicle.  That is just the start. As I look at my household energy use holistically I can see several opportunities for deeper decarbonization.  A couple of examples: replacing an aging gasoline powered lawn mower with an electric lawn mower; replacing an existing natural gas fired water heater with an electric air source heat pump “smart” water heater.
  • Replace 500 Vehicle Miles with Human Powered Transit: It is one thing to replace a gasoline powered mile with an electric powered mile, but it is an even better thing to replace all of these miles with human powered miles.  Why? While an EV is orders of magnitude more efficient than an ICE vehicle, both pale in comparison to the efficiency of human powered transit. It is not just about the direct energy costs of delivering a human being to their desired location, but the embodied energy of the infrastructure required for cars.
  • Ride 2,500 Miles on my Bicycle: Last year I rode over 3,000 miles.  I am keeping the goal the same for this year because I am looking to incorporate more commuting into my summer riding and I am going to try and branch out with some different riding.  Maybe I will even get back into mountain biking after almost a decade out of the saddle.
  • Ride 2 “New to Me” Trails: There are so many potentially amazing trails just in my region that I have not ridden.  It is easy to become complacent and ride the “usual.” I am going to try and break out of the rut.
  • Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer: It is one thing to buy local beer, but it is better to buy it directly from the brewery without creating packaging waste.  Combining all three is like the holy grail of beer consumption.
  • Read 40 Books: Last year I read 51 books against a goal of 25 books.  I guess that I was sandbagging a little bit. Moving the goal up to 40 books, but there are a lot of thick and dense tomes on my book list.  Like Capital in the Twenty First Century dense.
  • Reduce Lawn, Increase Landscape Variety: There is too much grass.  Our lawns are giant monocultures that are crying to be diversified.  The goal this year is to take some of that grass out and replace it with diverse plantings that are beneficial for both the environment and wildlife.
  • Maximize Local Food: Month in and month out, food is the second largest expense in my household after a mortgage payment.  Directing as much of this money as possible to local vendors and producers is the single biggest change that I can make in 2020.  I have about three months of detailed information from the end of 2019 when I began thinking about this as a baseline, so I think I will know if I am doing a decent job.