Fat Bikes Go Electric

Fat_TireWhen I first heard someone refer to a ‘fat bike’ a couple of years ago, the first thing that popped into my mind, as I’m sure it did for many beer drinkers, was Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Boy, was I mistaken.

As it turned out, fat bikes, ‘fatbikes’, or ‘fatties’, are a type of bicycle originally designed for the ultimate in off-road cycling, sporting fat, knobby tires as wide as four or more inches, allowing the bike to seemingly float on loose sand and snow. They are typically much heavier than mountain bikes, and the tires can be under-inflated in order to absorb shock on bumpy terrain.

Fat-Bikes-Blog-Wide-Tire-Shot-2

But, I described them as “originally designed for off-road”, because a fair number of people have simply found fat bikes to be super cool-looking, they’re increasingly showing up on city streets underneath people using them as commuter bicycles, and even Walmart sells them now.

And, while it doesn’t make me angry, like one blogger I came across, who published a post titled Fat Bikes Are Not for City Riding, You Trendy Asshole You, it does baffle me.

I used to own a mountain bike, with the knobbiest tires I could find, but once I found out that I didn’t have the guts to be a single-track mountain biker, zooming down hills dodging VERY large immovable trees, I retreated to using the bike as commuter transportation to and from work.

In some ways, a mountain bike is a great choice for a commuter. With wheels meant to take a pounding, and mine had front shocks, hopping curbs and dealing with the occasional unavoidable pothole is a cinch. Likewise, here in rainy Bellingham, Washington, the wide, knobby tires offer good traction and less chance of dangerous slippin’-and-a-slidin’.

But, when it came time to replace my bike, I test drove a hybrid commuter bicycle, sporting a mountain bike frame with road bike wheels, the wheels had a larger circumference and the tires were half as wide as the mountain bike, with some tread but nowhere near knobby, they were built to roll, and from the moment I took off on the thing I was blown away!

It.Felt.Effortless! With so much less rubber on the road there was WAY less resistance, and while I occasionally did jump curbs and ride on packed gravel and dirt interurban trails, most of my riding is on asphalt, and this hybrid was a revelation.

I simply couldn’t fathom riding a fat bike in the city … until now.

In the past two days, I’ve come across two new fat bikes, both of them electric, and these could be game-changers for folks who like the fat bike looks and want one as a commuter.

Introducing the radrover and the Sondors eBike:

rad-power-bikesSondors-eBike

Those electric motors could go along way toward compensating for the extra resistance from the extra-wide tires, but it still seems odd to ride a bicycle, intended for sand and snow, in the city.

Whatever floats your bicycle, I guess!

Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

The best satire makes you laugh at a serious issue and then you quickly realize that it’s absolutely no laughing matter.

This tweet from The Onion, ostensibly about the gender wage gap, is a great example:

Video Fridays: Rock&Roll Is In A Coma, And Rhett Miller Should Be HUGE!

Rhett_Miller_2013Two weeks ago tonight, while I was in Los Angeles for my mini-vacation, I had the great pleasure to see a music performance that both totally satisfied and baffled at the same time.

Rhett Miller is the frontman and primary songwriter for a band I love a lot, Old 97’s, and he appeared at Largo, a very intimate space, for a show he called Wheels Off: The Rhett Miller Show, described thusly:

Modeled after an old-school variety show, Wheels Off will feature music, comedy, a little bit of discussion, and maybe even a skit here and there.

It.Was.A.Blast!

Rhett started off playing a handful of solo-acoustic songs, a fiddler joined him for a few songs, a comedian did a brief set, Rhett and the fiddler did a few more songs, Rhett and some gal did a humorous skit based off Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, with Rhett as Charlie Brown and the gal as Lucy, Rhett returned by himself for a few songs, the bass player from Old 97’s, Murry Hammond, joined him for a handful of songs, and finally they were both joined by the fiddler and Largo fixture, songwriter and film score composer Jon Brion.

So, like I said, the show was totally satisfying, but the baffling part can be summed up by what my friend said to me when the lights came up for intermission:

How the HELL is this guy not HUGE?!!

It’s a valid question.

On paper, Rhett Miller seems to have it all. He’s a natural frontman, a highly charismatic, likeable entertainer; he’s got killer, youthful good looks; he’s a rock-solid rhythm guitarist; his voice is strong, with good range; he can summon quintessential Rock&Roll snarls, shouts, and screams; his lyrics are loaded with witty wordplay and vivid visuals, with themes running the Rock&Roll gamut, from sweet and romantic to rowdy and raunchy.

Oh, and he’s constantly writing new music and touring! Old 97’s have released 10 full-length LPs since their debut in 1994, and Rhett has four solo albums under his belt.

The only explanation I can come up with for why Rhett and Old 97’s are not HUGELY successful is a sad one that impacts me personally.

Straightforward, guitar-centric, American roots-based Rock&Roll, I’m afraid, is in a coma. I’m not prepared to declare it dead, because there’s no telling whether or not there will be any significant renaissance in the future, but right now Pop and Hip-Hop rule, and right here in Bellingham, Washington the most popular genres in the bars and other music venues are Funk, Classic Rock, and acoustic Americana.

The band in which I play rhythm guitar and sing lead vocals has a hard time getting gigs, because we play straightforward, guitar-centric, American roots-based Rock&Roll covers, and we intentionally do NOT play radio hits. It’s a matter of principles. Many of the bands we cover can be heard on the radio, but I, personally, can’t bear to listen to Classic Rock radio, where the same hits are played over and over and over again. You’d never know that these bands put out albums with 10-12 songs on them!

I hear over and over again that bar patrons like bands to play songs that they know well and can sing along with, but I don’t want to be a human jukebox! Why pay me and my band to play when you could just turn on the radio or play a Pandora station? What happened to going out to see music performed that you may have never heard before?!

Anyway, fortunately, Rhett and Old 97’s have a devoted cult following, I proudly count myself among their numbers, and I’ll wrap things up here singing their praises and presenting two clips for this week’s Video Fridays installment. The first has Rhett performing a solo-acoustic version of a song, Out of Love, from his 2012 album The Dreamer, and the second features Old 97’s playing a song that my band covers, Barrier Reef, from their 1997 album, Too Far To Care.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Cognitive Dissonance: Trader Joe’s Edition

cheese-foodYesterday, while browsing the sizable cheese selection at Trader Joe’s, scanning for any organic choices available to me, the product you see in the photo here caught my eye. (click on the photo to enlarge)

Now, I’m a HUGE proponent of buying organic products, but the questions this one inspires are many, important, and even funny. Here are just a few:

Sushi Tuna’s Disgusting Secret: UPDATE

TunaJust a quick update to my post from this morning about how most tuna sold in the U.S. is not actually tuna, and that 84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, again!

In that post I joked that, rather than giving up on tuna altogether, one could choose to carry around a DNA analyzer, knowing full well that no such consumer device actually exists, much less one that’s portable enough.

And yet, a mere hour later, I read that a device, aimed at grouper fish fraud, which is apparently a thing, will soon be available for the low, low introductory price of $2,000, and that devices for identifying other fish are on the way.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

Scientists develop sensor to sniff out fish fraud

…scientists at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science have come up with a handy little portable gadget that can identify exactly what kind of fish you’re eating — even if it’s cooked and smothered in sauce.

Go figure!

Sushi Tuna’s Disgusting Secret

TunaBoy, tuna really can’t get a break!

First we learned, years ago, that because dolphins and tuna often swim together, and tuna are harvested with humongous nets, dolphin are often caught in these nets. The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that over 6 million dolphin have been killed since the late 1950s, in the eastern tropical Pacific, from the use of purse-seine nets.

Then, we were told that there are dangerous levels of mercury in tuna.

Well, last week, in a post about our locally-owned natural and organic grocers here in Bellingham, I mentioned Terra and how much they contribute to the community.

One way they do this is by posting links on Facebook to informative articles related to food and health, today they shared an alarming article from The Atlantic on yet another blemish on tuna’s already tainted reputation, the article is nearly two years old, and it’s hard to believe I’d not heard about this.

59% of the ‘Tuna’ Americans Eat Is Not Tuna

Nonprofit ocean protection group Oceana took 1,215 samples of fish from across the United States and genetically tested them in order to bring us the following astonishing facts:

  • 59% of the fish labeled “tuna” sold at restaurants and grocery stores in the US is not tuna.
  • Sushi restaurants were far more likely to mislabel their fish than grocery stores or other restaurants.
  • In Chicago, Austin, New York, and Washington DC, every single sushi restaurant sampled sold mislabeled tuna.

AND…believe it or not, that’s not even the most alarming bit!

  • 84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

Listen folks, at some point you gotta draw the line. This definitely feels like a 3-strikes-and-you’re-out situation to me.

Unless you happen to own a portable DNA analyzer, just say no to tuna!

Tweet of the Day: @pattonoswalt

Even though some reply tweeters rush to point out that Time Warner likely does not make money from the sale of ALL Guy Fawkes masks, I think a valid point is made about the need to thoroughly think through the symbols we use.