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.
Posted in Challenges, Uncategorized
Tagged Amazon, beer, bicycle, books, declutter, drink local, efficiency, electric vehicle, EV, gravel, Household, improvement, lawn, Leaf, library, Marie Kondo, New Year’s, Nissan, plumbing, resolutions, toilet, trees, Walmart, water
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!
Posted in Challenges, Household, Uncategorized
Tagged Amazon, better, bicycle, books, change, climate change, clutter, consumption, declutter, electrify, EV, fitness, gravel, greenhouse gas, improve, konmarie, Marie Kondo, New Year’s, Nissan Leaf, personal, resolutions, toilet, transportation, Walmart
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:
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:
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.
Posted in Stuff I Like, Uncategorized
Tagged B-RAD, bicycle, big day ride, Colorado, Durango, gravel, King Cage, Minnesota, Morse Cage, stainless steel, Stuff I like, titanium, Wolf Tooth Components
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!
Posted in bikes, Uncategorized
Tagged bicycle, effort, fall, gravel, grind, grit, illness, Iowa, recovery, sick
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:
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.
Posted in bikes, Mobility, Uncategorized
Tagged adventure, Beatrice, bicycle, bridges, Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Densmore Park, gravel, heat, Homestead Trail, ironwork, Jamaica North Trail, Lincoln, Nebraska, Runza, trail, wind
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:
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:
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.
Posted in bikes, Uncategorized
Tagged 700C, All-Terrain, aramid, bicycle, Breezer, Clement, Donnelly, folding bead, gravel, Iowa, Radar, tires, wheelset, wire bead, WTB, X’PLOR USH
After much deliberation and the uncovering of a sweet deal at a Performance Bike retail location I have a new bike in my garage:
It’s a Breezer Radar Expert. All in, I picked it up for a little over $600 which seems like a steal compared to bikes I have bought in the past. If you are a cyclist from the 1990s, especially a mountain biker, spending just north of six hundred dollars for a bicycle that is reliable and competent seems amazing. I remember there being component groups that were cobbled together and barely worked when new let alone a few months down the road.
Also, if you are a historian of the bicycle industry the name Breezer should be familiar. Joe Breeze, the name behind Breezer, was one of the founding fathers of mountain biking along with other luminaries like Gary Fisher. The company that makes Breezer bikes today is not the same bespoke operation from the 1970s through 1990s, but it retains some of the mystique.
It checks off almost every criteria I had for a new bicycle:
- Steel frame—This is a personal preference. I ride steel bicycles.
- Disc brakes—One nod to modernity. One ride on a friend’s disc equipped bike converted me in an instant. One ride in inclement weather with finicky cantilevers made me actively seek out a replacement for the dirt wagon.
- External headset—Chris King had a famous online post about why integrated headsets were essentially the devil reincarnated as a bicycle design trend. The world seems to be going to integrated and zero stack systems despite the proven longevity and maintainability of good ol’ external headsets. Plus, is there a cooler looking component than a Chris King headset?
- Threaded bottom bracket shell—You can take your creaky press fit bottom bracket and enjoy the disharmonious symphony on group rides. I will take my old school threaded bottom bracket shell and its quiet labor any day of the week.
- Non-integrated seatpost binder—This seems like a trivial bit of frame design, but dealing with problems related to integrated binder bolts will drive even the most patient person to question the very nature of their existence. If the non-integrated seatpost binder starts giving you trouble just replace the damn thing. Five minutes of work and no frustration.
The components are nothing special—Shimano Sora all the way around with some OEM wheels, WTB tires, SRAM crank, etc. However, for a little more than $600 I am on the road riding which is in the neighborhood of what I was looking at spending on a frame and fork combo. Sure, the frame is not as good as the model I was considering purchasing. How great of a difference would it have been and would I have noticed?
Now I am able to upgrade the bits on the bike on my schedule. This equates to buying the upgrades when I find them on sale and replacing components piece meal. Thankfully most bikes these days do not spec pedals because it is such a personal choice. I usually go with Shimano M520s. I think that for an average price of around $30 you cannot go wrong. However, for Christmas I was gifted a pair of Shimano PD-M8020s which are normally outside of my price range. I am fairly stoked about the stainless axle and bearings that can be replaced because I have chewed through bearings on the M520s.
One change that I made immediately was to swap out the stock bar for a Salsa Cowchipper 44cm from my previous gravel bike. The stock bar was quite narrow owing to the smaller frame size and not compatible with my broad shoulders. I am giving the drop bar a second chance since the geometry of this bike is much less aggressive and I feel that it will put less stress of my hands. Also, I put gel vibration pads under a cushy EVA bar tape to hopefully help out with some of the hand pain issues that I was having on longer rides.
Today was the first day that I have gotten out to ride and…it hurt. I also forgot how much work it is to dial in a new bike. It is going to take a few rides just to feel comfortable on the new bike but it is close as is right now. A more comprehensive report is forthcoming.
Get out there and ride!
Posted in bikes, Mobility, Uncategorized
Tagged back roads, bicycle, bottom bracket, Breezer, Cowchipper 2, cyclocross, disc brake, drop bar, frame, geometry, gravel, Iowa, M520, PD-M8020, Radar Expert, salsa, Shimano, Sora, SPD, square taper, steel, threaded bottom bracket shell