Posted August 8, 2017
If you’re a fan of competitive cycling – on display this week at the first-ever Colorado Classic cycling race – it’s hard to miss the point we’ve been making all summer, that natural gas and oil not only make lots of entertainment and activities possible, they make them better – and our lives along with them.
Energy fuels, yes. At the same time, natural gas and oil and the chemicals and products derived from them are interwoven in modern life: making things lighter, yet stronger; durable, yet more comfortable. And more. Cycling illustrates – whether it’s a big-time event like the Colorado Classic or a summer family ride in the park.
In Colorado, there are plenty of outdoor activities that get the blood pumping. In winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding at any number of resorts in the Rockies. In the summer, with the sun warming the peaks and the valleys, many love to hit the road on bicycles. From the bicycle’s tires and frame to the bicyclist’s helmet, oil and natural gas make the ride smooth, comfortable and as safe as possible.
Speed and safety will be on the minds of the racers in the Colorado Classic, which has scheduled stops in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver. Competitors will cycle past breathtaking mountain vistas and the urban heart of the state capital. Serious racing requires physical ability and skill, but it also requires the right bicycle.
Competitive cyclers are looking for a bicycle frame that’s light and easy to handle, yet also strong. Frames are made from a variety of materials, including steel and titanium, yet frames made from aluminum currently are the most popular because of they’re affordable, easy to manufacture and have a good strength-to-weight ratio. Natural gas is involved in making aluminum – in ore conversion, smelting and molding. There’s also carbon fiber frames, whose popularity is growing. Carbon fiber often is made of polyacrylonitrile, a petroleum product.
Rubber to the Road
A bicycle goes nowhere without a good set of tires. Again, energy helps make them. All the main components of bicycle racing tires typically use petroleum-based products, which help provide a safe and comfortable ride:
- Casing – Usually made of petroleum-based nylon, the internal casing cloth provides resistance against stretching, allowing the tire to hold pressure while remaining flexible.
- Bead – The bead runs along the edge of the tire where it fits inside the wheel rim. Kevlar, a petroleum product used in almost all mid- to high-quality racing and training tires, is light and makes it possible to fold the deflated tire into a small package.
- Puncture Protection – This rigid layer between the casing and the thread often consists of refined petroleum products like polyester, nylon, Kevlar or Vectran.
- Tread – The external and most visible part of the tire is made of rubber, and most of the rubber currently used for tires is a blend of natural and petroleum-based synthetic rubber.
Energy on the Move
Beyond the structural pieces like the frame and tires, energy is at play in numerous other ways to help cyclists reach their destination, whether that’s the finish line at the end of a race, along Colorado’s scenic byways, or a daily commute to work .
Petroleum-based lubricants keep a bicycle’s drivetrains properly oiled, enabling cyclists to efficiently use their bodies to keep moving. Grease is an important ally for bike mechanics, as it allows for the careful tightening of threaded screws and bolts. It is especially important for fragile aluminum and titanium screws, which can be destroyed by over-tightening.
Energy also is at work in the pedals, hand grips and seats. Clipless pedals, typically made of petroleum-produced plastics, allow riders easy control when riding. Hand grips made of petroleum-based injection molded plastics and foams provide a safe and secure hold for maximum control. Seats often include a closed-cell foam for padding, an extruded polystyrene made from petroleum. For the seat cover, a variety of materials are used , including petroleum and natural gas products like spandex/lycra and vinyl.
Energy also contributes to cycling safety. Helmets typically include multiple layers, each using some form of energy – from liners made of expanded polystyrene foam to shells made from plastics like polycarbonate or polyethelene terephthalate.
Feel inspired? Hop on a bike for some great exercise and a different perspective on life. Energy will take you there.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.