Ear to the ground:

“I have a friend who matches his bikes to his outfits.”
– A classic case of someone with too many bikes and too much time 

Road to ruins

If a ride to Silverton isn’t your cup of tea, it’s still possible to take in the sights of Southwest Colorado without lungs and quads of steel. This summer, Mesa Verde National Park is offering a much more leisurely 9-mile bike/hike trek to Wetherill Mesa. The 4.5 hour ranger-guided tour “on the quieter side of Mesa Verde” includes about 5 miles of biking followed by 4 miles of hiking. The payoff is expansive canyon views, spectacular overlooks of remote cliff dwellings, and a tour of the remote Long House ruin. Participants will also be treated to views of Nordenskiold #12 and Double House. The trip concludes after the Long House tour, but participants are free to continue exploring Wetherill Mesa on their own, or bike back to the parking lot with the ranger.

The guided Wetherill tour will be offered Wednesdays and Sundays, from June 1 – Sept. 4.  Tickets cost $18 and group size is limited to 15. And the tour is BYOB – bring your own bike.

A variety of other guided hikes and tours will also be offered this summer. For more info, go to www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm. To sign up, go to www.recreation.gov.

Recycled cycles

If you’re feeling biker’s guilt after your once top-of-the-line steed has worn out its usefulness, there may be cause to cheer up.

CU-Boulder researchers – and apparently remorseful bikers – have come up with a way to recycle carbon-fiber into new, equally strong material. Additionally, both the fabrication of the new material and the recycling are energy-efficient and comparatively fast, making the discovery “unprecedented,” according Wei Zhang, CU-Boulder associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Recycling the carbon fiber simply requires soaking the composite in an organic solution at room temperature. “That’s it,” Zhang said. “It’s really energy-efficient and eco-friendly.”

The findings, published in the journal Advanced Materials address a growing issue with these composites – basically plastic that gets its brawn from embedded carbon fibers. These materials – stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum – are used in everything from planes to fishing poles. Unlike metal, however, they generally are not recyclable. Until now, the glue that binds the fiber could only be broken down using expensive, energy-intensive and potentially toxic processes or the composites could be ground into a fine powder. But the resulting composites were weaker than the original.

It is estimated millions of pounds of carbon-fiber composites are destined for landfills.

Philip Taynton, lead author of the study, is also co-founder of a start-up company working to bring the novel carbon-fiber composite to market. The company’s name – Mallinda – is itself a composite of the words “malleable” and “industries,” Taynton said.

He and Zhang have also discovered a way to make hard but malleable plastics that can be refashioned into new equally strong plastic using just heat or water. In addition, the CU-Boulder team’s composites can be formed in 60 seconds.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Colorado Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant program.