Tag Archives: salsa

Beware the Drop Bar Mafia

I tried.  I really tried.

First, I tried to find a level of comfort or rather less discomfort with the compact bend drop bar that came stock on my cyclocross bike many years ago.  Ugh.  It was nothing less than an exercise in shifting my hands constantly to find a position where something did not ache.

Next, following the advice of many fellow riders in the area I went with a Salsa Cowchipper.  The flared drops and increased width seemed to do the trick along with some generous bar tape and gel padding underneath that bar tape.

I thought this was the ticket.  Riding in the drops was much more comfortable with the flare and the extra cushy bar tape/gel padding combo seemed to dull the pain of long rides on the tops.  Over time—as in thousands of miles the past couple of summers—several problems reared their ugly heads.

I was never comfortable in the drops for anything other than a moment or two.  I was never comfortable with the drops or hoods being the only place to grab a handful of lever.  This is not a big deal on wide open country roads or trails, but in town surprises are many and if you are not in the drops you might not be able to brake in time.  At least that was the problem for me.

Riding on the tops was okay, never truly comfortable but better than being in the drops.  However, with no accessible brake levers I always felt like was riding somewhere between secure and without hands.  Call it the mountain biker in me.

With a handful of scavenged parts from my garage and those of a friend I went all-in on a flat bar conversion:

IMG_1128

The Answer Protaper Expert bar is 685mm in width and has a nice brown finish.  Does anyone else remember when bars came in black or silver only?  Maybe that is just me.  The bar has an eight degree sweep to the back.  The bar ends are some cheap Titecs that would have cost an arm and a leg in the 1990s because of the carbon fiber construction.  Grips are repurposed Ergons from another mountain bike build that has been languishing in my garage for the better part of two years.

The result looks a little odd.  It is almost like the gawky half-brother of a NORBA cross country rig from the early days of mountain bike racing.

The drop bar mafia is coming for me.  I can feel it.  Around here fellow riders have already looked somewhat askew at my dirt wagon—the half-kidding nickname given to me well-loved and well-worn bike—as if it were some unwelcome chimera among the carbon fiber matchy matchy set that seems to dominate the weekend population.  The best part is that I just do not give a flying f*ck.  For the first time in at least three years I am comfortable in the saddle.  That is all that matters.

Building a Better Gravel Grinder Part II

I addressed the drivetrain issues I was having in Part I of this process. Now I am moving on to the cockpit of my gravel grinder.

Since I was going to be removing the shift wire for the front derailleur I took the opportunity to change out my OE drop bar for something different. Depending on who you ask around here the most popular drop style handlebars come from Salsa. Almost to a person they recommend the Cowbell or the Woodchipper.

What makes these bars special? It has to do with flare. Unlike traditional drop bars, which have zero flare on the drops, the Cowbell and Woodchipper flare 12 degrees and 26 degrees respectively. The Woodchipper takes things a measure further by canting the flat part of the drops out to the sides. How to decide? Thankfully the good folks at World of Bikes in Iowa City, which is a designated Salsa Adventure Center, had these bars and the newest entry from Salsa, the Cowchipper, in stock for me to take a look at.

Like Goldilocks I found the Cowbell and Woodchipper to be off just slightly from what I wanted, but the handlebar positioned in the middle of the lineup—the Cowchipper—was just right. It has a more traditional drop shape, but the flare is 24 degrees. I also upsized my handlebar from the stock 42cm to a 44cm bar in order to “open up” my shoulders and hopefully reduce some of the back fatigue I was experiencing on longer rides.

Below you can see what my stock handlebar:

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Notice the awesome bar wrapping that is coming undone? Yeah, I suck. Below is what the cockpit looks like with the Cowchipper installed:

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Normally, I could care less about the difference in weight between two components given that I am carrying approximately 20 extra pounds myself. However, I was kind of surprised that the stock compact road bar weighed in at 430 grams and the Salsa Cowchipper weighed in at 290 grams. Remember, the Cowchipper was a 44cm versus the stock bar’s 42 cm size. Sometimes OE stuff is really heavy junk.

Yeah, the orange tape on a red bike is butt ugly. But I always know where my bike is and no one can forget that it is mine. Okay, the color is not what I was expecting. Considering that I suck at bar wrapping it will not last overly long and can be replaced with something less garish.

But how does it ride? Like the 1x drivetrain I do not have a lot of miles, but in a couple of rides I notice that my hands and back are less fatigued. The flare in the drops puts my wrists in a very neutral position when I am riding on the brake hoods and I actually spend some more time in the drops than before when trying to cheat the wind. I am sure that I am sacrificing some top end aerodynamics by going with the flared bar, but comfort over the long haul seems to be worth the price of admission. For anyone who spends a lot of time on gravel the Cowchipper might be the answer to your handlebar prayers.

Note: I paid retail for everything in this post. That means I spent ~$75 on the bar at my LBS and do not need to send kind words to anyone regarding their product.

Is that Salsa Safe to Eat?

You know the tyranny of the sell by date, right? You find a jar of peanut butter, salsa, frosting, etc. in the back of the pantry where it languished for several months or more and the magic date printed in barely legible writing has passed. Into the garbage, right?

Well, if you were a college student who did not subsidize a lavish lifestyle with student loans you are too familiar with eating something “past its date” and wondering the next morning if gastrointestinal distress is going to be your companion for the weekend. Does ramen ever really go bad?

EatByDate is you new handy resource to tell you how much past that expiration date the food in your pantry can be without posing a risk your stomach’s health. Remember, most of the dates on food are “sell by” or “best by” dates, which do not necessarily correlate to a date at which the food is no longer safe to eat. A lot of these dates are figured by the manufacturer for various reasons not related to food safety. Just because that bag of Doritos is stale does not mean that those Doritos are unsafe to consume.

For example, take peanut butter. In my house we buy peanut butter at a warehouse store because my two children sometimes go on binges where peanut butter seems like the only menu item. However, children’s taste buds are fickle and that second jar in a monster size two pack sits for a little bit too long or we somehow doubled up buying peanut butter. If you enter peanut butter into the search tool and clock on the first result a chart like this appears:

EatByDate Peanut Butter

A lot of other information is contained on the page relating to telling if the particular food item in question has spoiled and how long an ingredient can be in a recipe before going rogue.

This seems like a tool for the cost conscious among us, but it is also an important eco-tool considering just how much food we waste in the western world. Estimates vary, but in the middle of the spectrum it is estimated that between a quarter to a third of food is wasted. When you think about the estimates for the increased in food production required to feed a growing human population this inefficiency cannot be ignored.

Homemade Tomato-less Sweet Corn Salsa

Every few months whether on personal or business travel I find myself near a Trader Joe’s and cannot help myself to a few bags of products.  I am sure that some of my TJ’s love is a direct function of the fact that I do not have a store near, so many of the products seem unusual or new to me.  Heck, to a lot of regular customers the rapidity and randomness of items’ arrival and disappearance is a mystery to them as well.

One item in particular—Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa—was a true find.  Not only was this stuff good on chips by itself, but it was a great addition to a bowl of quinoa along with some black beans to make a knockout quick lunch.  Too bad my couple of jars did not last that long.

This is where my desire to bust out the canning supplies comes in handy.  I checked out the ingredients:

corn, sugar, onions, red bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, distilled vinegar, spices, salt, guar gum.

Nothing revelatory or really odd.  Seems like a lot of sugar, but that is easy to take care of when I make my own version at home.  I can axe the guar gum because that is to help the appearance and I could care less.  So, really, we are talking about an ingredient set that I could pretty much rustle up from my pantry.  Why exactly did I buy this stuff again?

The internet delivered lots of recipe variations.  Apparently, people are pretty much obsessed with Trader Joe’s.  My gain.  I combed through the recipes to get the ratios right and added my own “spin” because I like a little more heat.  I also did not know what I was going to do with ½ of a red pepper and jalapeno, so I upped the amount to an entire one of each.  Here’s what I started with for a recipe:

2 cups corn

1 cup onion

½ sweet bell pepper

½ jalapeno pepper

1 Tbsp. salt

¾ tsp. ground mustard

¼ tsp. Pepper

¼ tsp. cumin

Sugar to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pan on the stove, and heat until almost boiling. Let cool and then transfer into a resealable container. Store in fridge for up to a month.

Some recipes called for up to a half cup of sugar, which I felt was a little excessive.  I probably put a quarter cup into this batch to balance out some of the extra heat from the whole jalapeno, but your palate may be different.

Here’s what it looked like in jars:

corn salsa

There is not a lot of liquid in the corn  salsa because you do not add anything extra, so it is just the result of the sugar and released water combining to make a sweet, syrupy binder.  I prefer it this way because it makes for a useful addition to so many recipes and quick meals without watering things down or making everything taste like tomato liquid.

I also chose not to can this batch because I wanted to see how it turned out.  This summer, when I am swimming in fresh corn, I am going to have to can some of this because storage space in the refrigerator will be at a premium.  Oh, I cannot wait for late summer.

Enjoy!