Tag Archives: travel

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.

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Friday Linkage 6/8/2018

Can we begin to say the words “dictatorial” when speaking about Donald Trump?  He is not a dictator, but he sure would like to be one.  It’s not surprising given his personality, his history, or the sycophants who surround him.  The man believes that winning an election through the technicality of the Electoral College has given him the mandate to reshape America in his orange image.

However, every vote can be an opportunity to offer rebuke.  The midterm elections coming in November offer the best opportunity to gut punch the efforts to gut our democracy.  I may not like Nancy Pelosi, but can you imagine Trump having to deal with a woman on daily basis to get anything through Congress.  The steam is already coming out his ears and his thumbs are ready for a tweet.

On to the links…

New Disclosures Contradict Pruitt’s Claims about Lobbyist Connected to his Fancy Condo—Scott Pruitt is the whack-a-rat of political scandals and corruption.  He just keeps on popping up no matter how many times he gets smacked in his smug face.

Noted Competent Man Scott Pruitt’s Latest Scandal Involves Chick-fil-A—Nothing says “drain the swamp” like trying to use your position as Trump’s poisoner in chief to strong arm a religious extremist chicken chain into giving your wife a franchise despite her lack of experience in the industry.

How Does Scott Pruitt Survive?—I will give you one reason: his actions enrich corporate America at the expense of the American people.  It’s not too hard to figure out.

Rick Perry’s Premium Class Travel Cost Taxpayers $63,500 Last Year in First 7 Months Alone—This administration is giving out a master class in grift, if not outright theft.  The corruption is so pervasive that garden variety corruption just does not cut it as headline making news anymore.

Trump orders Department of Energy to look into propping up failing coal plants—This is the beach that the Trump administration wants to die on.  In an effort to line the pockets of coal barons who backed Trump early and often the administration is going to go against the advice of everyone except Rick Perry and the coal barons.  Good luck with this.

All Of US Could Be Powered By Solar Alone?—This does not even beg the question of do we need to produce as much power as we use today.  What if we used dramatically less power at home and at work?

Nevada Utility Is Putting $2 Billion into Solar Power and Storage—$2 billion is a lot of money.  The better part is that energy storage is part of the equation.  Nevada should be a great test case for solar plus storage because the state gets a good amount of sunshine, the population is relatively concentrated, and utilities finally seem ready to embrace the future.

How California is Bringing Solar Energy to Low-Income Renters—Unfortunately, solar photovoltaic systems are generally something deployed by the affluent on homes that they own.  Renters or low income households have not been able to take advantage.

What Does it Mean to be Frugal?—No word in our lexicon has a more troubled meaning than frugal.  Something that should be celebrated is generally regarded as a bad thing.  Frugal is more often than not associated with being cheap.  It is not, however, a synonym for cheap.

How to Use Less Plastic Without Fully Going “Zero Waste”—No one ever comes out and says the best way to make less waste is to buy less stuff?  Oh right, advertisers are not down with that message.

Bangkok’s Hidden Train Repair Yard Keeps Thailand on its Rails—The transformation of these rail cars from dilapidated to functional is amazing.  It makes me wonder how much usable life we leave in the things we junk.

In Our Overworked Society, Take Time to Do Nothing—We work too much and relax too little.  Is it a wonder that our brains are fried, our focus gone, and our sleep is troubled?

This Weed-Killing AI Robot can Tell Crops Apart—What if you could deploy a similar technology that does not use herbicides at all?  Imagine a solar powered robot running along the rows of plants with an armature using a pair of snips or cutting wheel to trim weeds.

Not Everyone Loves the Museum of Ice Cream and Its Instagram-Famous Sprinkle Pool—Who would have thought that having people frolic in a pool of plastic sprinkles would be a problem when those sprinkles inevitably ended up outside?  Oh wait, anyone with half a brain.  Do we really need a pool of faux ice cream sprinkles in a faux museum dedicated to ice cream that really only serves as a backdrop for people’s Instagram photos?

The Last (Hopefully) Scott Pruitt Linkage 4/12/2018

Now that Trump is on to firing missiles at Syria after he fired his mouth off on Twitter—because nothing says surprise like broadcasting military action on a social media platform—we are probably stuck with Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA through the weekend.

On the other hand, the great cheese puff may decide to alleviate some of the pressure in Washington D.C. by jettisoning Pruitt.  When everything is a dumpster fire I am not sure that firing the most corrupt official in your administration qualifies as progress, but I digress.

On to the Scott Pruitt themed links…

Why Trump Has Scott Pruitt’s Back—Trump likes Pruitt because he is like mini-me at the EPA.  Once Pruitt begins to take any spotlight from the head cantaloupe than heads will roll.

Scott Pruitt is the Face of America’s Big Problem—The uber rich have corrupted our government by buying and paying for soulless toadies like Scott Pruitt to plunder America for the gain of a few.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Has Met With Dozens Of Campaign Donors—Do you need proof about who “owns” Scott Pruitt?  Just peruse the list of campaign donors he has met with and tie that to specific actions taken by the prince of payola.

Did Scott Pruitt’s EPA Lie About Death Threats Against Him?—The justification for the first class travel, bulletproof desks, and around the clock security detail was that Scott Pruitt received death threats.  Was that a lie all along?  Sure looks like it.

Scott Pruitt’s Lie about Pay Raises Unravels, Emails Reveal he was Behind Scheme All Along—Is anyone really surprised that Scott Pruitt lied about the pay raises for his cronies?

EPA Chief Of Staff Takes Fall For Raises, Claims Pruitt Unaware Despite Emails—There is always a fall guy or gal if you are powerful enough to have top cover.  Too bad the scandals are deeper than just pay raises.

Even the EPA Can’t Defend Scott Pruitt’s Expensive Travel and Security—You know it’s bad when staffers just sort of shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know, reasons?”

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s Sleaze is Pitiful and Disgusting, but his Lies on Climate Change are Lethal—There are real consequences of just the past year or so of Scott Pruitt’s reign as America’s fossil fuel toady in chief.  Pruitt lied and people will die.

Administrator Pruitt Opened the Door to Making Houston’s Air Toxics Problem Worse—If you pollute the air and water you have no better friend in the world right now than Scott Pruitt.  He does not even care about making it appear like he is trying to protect anything other than his paymasters’ pocketbooks.

Scott Pruitt’s Guiding Philosophy is ‘Cooperative Corporatism,’ Per Senator—The idea here is simple.  Push enforcement down to the state level because states like Oklahoma and Louisiana will do little to actually police industry.  Unless, of course, the state might have an adversarial relationship with industry, like say California—which in that case calls for federal primacy of enforcement.

If Scott Pruitt Gets Fired From the EPA, This Coal Lobbyist Will Take His Place—Could Andrew Wheeler be worse than Scott Pruitt?  Sure, but he probably does not have the lifelong boner to gut the EPA quite like the corrupt Pruitt does.  On the other hand, what are the odds that he is more incompetent and/or corrupt than Pruitt?  This is the Trump administration after all.

Right back at ya’ buddy!

Buddy Pruitt.jpg

Friday Linkage 3/23/2018

Back in the saddle, so to speak.  Coming back to work after more than a week off is hard.  It seems to be getting harder and harder to come back to work after anytime off, however, which leads me to believe that I am due for a life change.  Maybe I will embrace the ski bum life in my 40s?

On to the links…

Documents Show Ryan Zinke Ignored Public Support for Bears Ears in Favor of Oil and Gas—This is going to be an interesting race over the next few months: Between Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt, who will be the most corrupt member of President Trump’s cabinet?  My money used to be on Pruitt, but now I am not so sure.

Ryan Zinke Claims Wind Energy Contributes to Global Warming—I know that the next line is, “I’m not a scientist.”  But, WTF?

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Held ‘Courtesy Call’ Meeting with Big Trump Donor—In any other administration this is called corruption, but in Trump’s America it is standard operating procedure.  Pay for access?  You betcha!

A Whopping 86% of RNC Venue Rental and Catering Expenditures Last Month went to Trump Properties—The Republican Party is now the party of Trump, grifters, and con men.  Corruption is the order of the day.

The World Added Nearly 30 Percent More Solar Energy Capacity in 2017—Yes, the growth rate is down from the prior years.  However, this is still a big number.

Ireland will Phase out Coal by 2025—Another one bites the dust.

20% of US Population Produces 46% of Food-Based Emissions—My dad used to be a fanatic for the 80-20 rule.  That is to say you can get 80% of the benefit of something with 20% of the effort.  Or, if you are a business professor, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.  This is not quite as severed, but it goes to show that relatively small percentages of the population are responsible for an outsize volume of emissions.

Large-Scale Animal Agriculture Is Threatening Rural Communities. Congress Is About to Make it Worse.—Here is a thought exercise.  What has Congress made better over the last few years?  Name one thing.

How Millennials are Changing Home Design—Maybe the headline should read, “How Millennials are Realizing that Most Homes are Just too damn Big!”

What’s Quelling the Anxiety of Electric-Car Drivers?—Charging corridors, increasingly common vehicles on the road, actual experience with an EV…these are the things that tipping points are made from and we are seeing reality on the road.  I actually saw a Tesla Model 3 in western Nebraska off I-80 on the way to Colorado over spring break.  It had Illinois plates and was heading west.  Road tripping in an EV.

The Last Male Northern White Rhino in the World has Died—Shit, that sucks.

What’s in the Box: Nomadik March 2017

This month’s box from Nomadik came a few days later than usual due to a “supplier issue.”  It does not really matter that my box came in March or the first day of April, but it does change the publishing schedule slightly.

A bottle of ReviveX Durable Water Repellent:

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This is like the safe entrée at your go-to weeknight restaurant.  What person who spends more than a couple of days per year outdoors does not have some article of gear or clothing in need of a weatherproofing plus up?  Like the carabiner from last month’s box this stuff is just useful for those of us engaged in outdoor pursuits.  It might not even last until the second week of April if the rains in Iowa keep up and my daily raincoat starts lacking in repellency.

A Wild Hedgehog Tactical Ouch Pouch:

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Bonus points for an awesome name.  I do not know if a wild hedgehog is any more capable than a domesticated hedgehog.  Heck, I do not know the first thing about hedgehogs save for some cute pictures I have seen on Buzzfeed.

This little plastic pouch of first aid items is already in my outdoor go bag.  You know, the backpack that you grab for a short hike or day outside.  The one with the well-worn Nalgene bottles in mesh side pockets, a Leatherman, flashlight, and questionably aged Clif Bars.  Would I have spent $15 on one these pouches?  Probably not considering that I fall into the “rub some dirt on it” school of first aid practiced by sadistic Little League coaches from time immemorial.  However, I like having some of the options in case someone takes a spill on the next day of hiking at Palisades Kepler.

An Epic Wipe:

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It’s big.  Like the size of a wall poster big.  It’s a wet wipe.  Like the ones I used to have bags of floating around my house when my kids were in diapers.  If there is one thing I miss about my kids being in diapers it was being prepared for everything with the contents of a diaper bag.  The first time you realize you no longer have the diaper bag is a terrifying moment.  Why did I let me kids get tomato soup if I did not have the diaper bag?  Damn…

Like the aforementioned Ouch Pouch this thing is going into my outdoor go bag.  The odds it gets used before April is out is high.  Unlike the Ouch Pouch I can see myself purchasing a half dozen of these to have ready in case of messy disasters like tomato soup or another incident with a blue raspberry gas station slushy.

The GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug:

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It’s a mug.  It’s has a top.  It’s light.  What more is there to say really?

Made of polypropylene and wrapped in an insulating sleeve the Infinity Backpacker Mug is meant to be an alternative to heavier stainless or enameled mugs.  However, I think it will have a hard time competing with my RTIC Lowball.

Oddly, a copy of Rova was included in the bottom of the box:

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The magazine claims to be about the “adventure lifestyle,” but it looked more like a slick sheet for RV manufacturers.  Nothing about an RV park says adventure or lifestyle to me, but I may be jaded by passing so many sad looking RV parks on the way to Colorado.

What’s in the Box: Nomadik February 2017

Apparently I am a difficult person to buy gifts for owing to my general lack of things that I “need” and a vehement insistence that people do not need to buy me things to celebrate milestones like birthdays.  In the absence of direction a family member went out and purchased a six month “subscription” to Nomadik.

I am a little late to the entire subscription box idea.  What started as a way for makeup aficionados to have new products delivered to their door for a nominal price relative to the retail price of the goods in the box has morphed into an entire industry.  This industry caters to every possible niche imaginable.  Nomadik is the subscription box that centers its offering around adventurers.  The target market is the type of person who travels, reads Outside, considers a ski pass to be a good investment…oh shit, that sounds like me.

So, what is in the box:

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The Parks Project “Park Watcher” beanie is a comfortable, if somewhat standard, knit beanie for those cold mornings:

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The idea here, in my estimation, is that I am being exposed to the Parks Project brand.  It’s interesting.  Parks Project sells items—usually clothing—for which the proceeds will benefit projects within a particular national park or generically the national parks in general.  Love Rocky Mountain National Park?  Buy the t-shirt and support habitat restoration.  Maybe in an era when Donald Trump is directing the federal budget such private support will become more critical than ever before.

Plus, the beanie is “Made in the U.S.A.”  In these times of Trumpian bloviating and blustering it is good to find something that would meet with the approval of the Donald.

Nomadik included three Ritual Energy peanut butter and chocolate caffeinated energy snacks:

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These little buggers claim to contain the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee, which I have always found to be a problematic unit of measure given the differences in brewing coffee.  My grandmother’s coffee probably had about a tenth the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee because she used so few grounds and what was there was cut with chicory.  My friend makes a pot of coffee with about a half pound of grounds, so I imagine these would not have the same impacts.  As of right now, Ritual Energy only offers these little nuggets of caffeinated goodness in a single flavor.  My intent is to pack these for my upcoming ski trip and use them on mountain.  Risky?  Sure, but so is strapping wooden sticks to your feet and sliding down a mountain covered in frozen water.

What person do you know that spends any times outdoors that cannot find a use for another carabiner:

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The Mizu collapsible shot glass is kind of a throwaway for me:

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I rarely drink anything that would come in a shot glass sized serving preferring drip coffee over shots of espresso and IPAs over shots of Fireball.  It might however make a nice little re-gift option for my friends who do tend to favor the harder stuff.

Overall, a winner with the beanie, a couple of so-so items, and a throwaway in the shot glass.  A bonus is that included in the box were coupon codes for the Parks Project and Ritual Energy, so if you were a fan you could feed your need for a little less money.  I am interested to see what future boxes hold over the next five months, but I am not totally sold on the concept right now.

Stuff I Like: L.L. Bean Ascent Jacket

The weather has turned cold, so the fleece and other winter wear has come out of hiding for the season.  How cold?  On November 11th the mercury was dipping toward single digits in the evening before I went to bed.  Even more than the temperature dropping was the feel of cold weather.  It just feels like winter is coming in your bones.

This year I wanted something to replace my nearly decade old softshell jacket for those days when the full-on winter coat is just too much.  Plus, I wanted it to be stowable for travel.

Down was out of the picture.  The down feather industry just seems pretty nasty.  If viable options existed that could provide warmth without the cruelty I was down.  Pun intended.  Plus, natural down is known for losing its insulation properties when wet because it loses its loft.  Synthetic insulation does not necessarily have this problem.

I first looked at the Nano Puff from Patagonia.  This is usually my first and last stop for casual outdoor clothes.  Something just did not fit.  The large was much too snug and the extra-large felt like it is was roomy in all the wrong places.  Reading reviews it became apparent that the fit had been changed recently.  Oh well.

The new Thermoball jackets from The North Face seemed like it might be the ticket.  There were two problems that I had with the Thermoball.  First, it felt like I was the Michelin man when I wore the jacked because of its puffiness or loft.  This may seem silly given that the loft is one of the reasons why these jackets insulate so well, but I am willing to sacrifice some technical proficiency for a little bit of fit.  Second, the price.  The price tag was ~$200.  Even with my annual fall member coupon from REI I was staring at a $160 jacket to bridge me between the warm fall days and my full on winter coat.  Seemed a little excessive.

Enter the L.L. Bean Ascent Packaway Jacket:

Ascent Jacket

The cut is a little looser than the Nano Puff, but it is not as puffy as the Thermoball.  Filled with 60g PrimaLoft One the jacket is plenty warm, blocks the wind, and packs away into a really small package for stowing somewhere until needed.

The cost hit a nice target for me as well.  I got this jacket for ~$80 using a 20% off coupon and free shipping.  At half the cost of the Thermoball I think the tradeoff in performance for price and fit was a worthy bargain.

Jackets that stuff down into manageable sizes are critical when you’re traveling.  If you’re stuck doing the airline tango you want to carry as little as possible because there is probably some new fee where you have to pay for space to put your feet.  Or, if you’re like me and have kids, space is at a premium when you are packing the car for a trip.  Trust me, by the time you get the gear all loaded up the back of the Outback is pretty jammed.

We tend to travel to places where the weather is a little schizophrenic.  I have been in Colorado Springs visiting family friends and seen the temps swing as much as forty degrees in the days that we are there.  Or, if you end up driving from the Front Range to altitude the temperature drops.  Having a warm jacket that is packed away discretely is a life saver that makes things just that much more comfortable.  I wish I had one of these jackets when I was in Amsterdam in 2008.  My friend and I were at the main train station in mid-March watching snow fall on the massive bike parking area wondering why we did not pack warmer clothes.

As much as I like my Ascent jacket, I do have to point out that L.L. Bean heir Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster eatery is a pretty nasty place for a crustacean to spend its last moments on Earth.

Note: I receive no compensation for writing about this product and actually purchased it with my own money.