Monday, December 10, 2012

must be Italian

Take a few minutes and watch Chris Harris not driving cars. Instead, a few famous rally drivers do it for him. In bonkers Lancias. It's readily apparent which driver is true-blood Italian as he beats the snot out of the 037. There's also bonus commentary on why the Delta S4 is one of the most dangerous machines best racing cars ever.

While we're at it, how about some more Delta S4 supercharger whine:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

making bike parking sexy

Ok, this pushes all the right buttons: overkill amazing use of engineering, user-friendliness, and efficient use of valuable urban spaces. Two hundred bikes take up a lot of space. This is an uber-compact, and secure, solution. They are likely not cheap and much of the US is a ways off from seeing the benefit of such structures, but places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, with multistory bicycle parking decks, would be excellent sites. In an ideal world where these were common in bustling (thief-ridden) city centers, taking the Colnago out to the bar seems more viable. Oh, and it's also weatherproof for people using their bikes for honest-to-goodness transportation. 

Check out this video detailing the design and operation of the underground bike parking tube.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

door rings

In an attempt to make our generic brick house more unique and better reflect its occupants, we decided to decorate the front door. Our neighbors have some pretty bright doors: blue, signal yellow, and we love the look. Particularly cool is a bright yellow door with flowers painted in silhouette on the glass storm door. 

As neat as that is, bicycles are our bag. So, after painting the door a nice green, several worn chainrings were fished from the crank bin and painted black. This gives good contrast and visibility from the street. I think it turned out great. We have a sketch to turn the rings into psuedo-flowers with stalks connecting them. We'll see how it looks are a week or two before hitting it up with the paintbrush. I'm on the hunt for more dead rings, too. I can't bring myself to paint the useful (130BCD road rings) or rare (NOS Campy) rings in the spares bin.

The rings are held on with black coated sheet metal screws and finish washers. The door face is steel and was pre-drilled in the appropriate bolt patterns.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

looking good SON!

I discovered that my commuter had several cracks at the rim eyelets and decided to retire the wheel. It was a nice nine speed Campy wheel, a Barcelona clincher rim. I got it well used but true and I guess it finally gave up the ghost. Given that I just fitted a rack and tend on carrying heavy poultry and the like, I didn't want to risk a suspect rim.

The 32 spoke wheelset previously hanging on the Cinelli went to work on the Trek along with the nine speed cassette. They ride a bit more harshly than the old wheels but brake better, more evenly. With 28mm tires it's still comfy. I can't go on enough about the great, tiny difference that going from 23mm to 28mm makes in tires. If you ride in the city or on winter-battered roads, you need 28mm tires. Or bigger. Go with something pricier and lighter and you won't pay much in the weight category.

Something had to replace the missing pair on the Cinelli and it was a great time to check out the new rims from H Plus Son. The hard anodized finish offered on some is a great match of the Cinelli gray and is also a great retro touch. The braking surface, however, is modern, machined, and promises to be way more reliable than the hard ano rims of old. The H+S rims also have the best seam I have ever seen. Almost invisible, completely smooth, and with little hop during build. The rims built really, really easily. I previously used Velocity rims exclusively due to the great mix of price, weight, and reliable building. These are better (but more expensive). It would be fantastic if H+S expand their lineup in the future. I dig the eyletted TB14 and would totally snatch some up if tubular. Hint hint.

The front is a 24 hole radial, my first radially laced wheel. It wasn't too bad. I made sure the tension was on the high side of normal due to the lower spoke count. Getting the early hops out of the rim was a bit tricky, due more to the 24 spokes than the short, radial pattern. The rear is 28 spoke and was almost effortless. I'm looking forward to using more H+S rims in the future. Color me impressed.

I also want to praise my new Bicycle Research nipple driver. (hehehe) It allows for faster assembly and more accurate tensioning. If you build wheels, even one or two every few seasons, it's worth it. Here's to the right tool for the right job!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


If you haven't seen it already, cruise over to Multi-Modal in Raleigh to see a brief synopsis of our Liver Legs social bike ride series. It's a great monthly event with a new route and destination each time.

fixed fun

Hard to believe this used to be monthly occurrence. #workingatabikeshop

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Requisite 531 decal lookin' good against the candyapple red.

Friday, November 16, 2012

this is how I feel, often

everyone loves stickers

I received my decals for my 3Rensho rebuild as well as a nifty 531 decal for the lady's shiny, powdercoated Trek 770. They look fantastic and will be even better on a pearl white track bike. Peruse Velocals for more, there are so many neat sets in there, including the epic Cannondale Track set!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

getting out

Just some great fall colors in Raleigh, NC. Sporting a shiny new Thomson post courtesy of Oak City Cycling Project.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

the great pannier hunt

I'm not sure how many of you out there use your bicycle (or motorcycle) to run errands. If you do, then you know that the size but more often the shape of the bag/pannier/sidecase is often more important than the total volume. Same for closure method. A great everyday pannier should not only be voluminous but also possess a large, rigid opening and a quick-and-easy closure. Those fab leather straps on your Gilles Ber-Brooks? Trying fiddling with them at each store on your shopping run. And getting them wet. There's only so much Proofide in the world.

You're so beautiful

Let's face it, if you're going to be using your bike as true transportation, it's going to get wet. It's also likely to get rather soiled. All that magic oil and dirt mixture gets flung from the road upwards onto your rear rack and panniers, if not from the rear wheel (because you've already fitted sensible fender, yes?) but from the front. That spray gets everywhere. We must admit that as pretty as they are, we really don't want any leather on our bags. And we probably don't want the luggage to cost more than the bike.

Everyone is quick to point to Ortlieb. Yes, they make rockin' touring panniers. They are the best in the biz and absolutely weatherproof. They're also super-bright and frankly overkill unless your Harris Teeter in on Mount Rainier. I also find the roll-top closures a bit putzy for everyday use.

We know that we've spent a lot of time making our bike look good. I know you have. So we can't put on some black plastic tumor of a pannier. We need something with a wee bit of good-lookin. There's also the theft factor. I really like to leave the bags on the bike while shopping. In this case, large, double-bags are great because they seem to be a permanent part of the bike.

The Dutch have this all figured out. They have a plethora of functional, stylish double-panniers (the holy grail: connected boxy panniers that never leave the bike). After an expensive, unsuccessful attempt to import some, I started looking at made-in-USA models.

She doesn't know how good she has it

There are a lot of great bags made here. There are a bunch of fabulous, custom, and spendy bags from Swift Industries. All the panels, trim, and straps can be custom-colored. They're super-functional and I especially like the front bag built for the VO porteur rack. They also make some options with shoulder straps, adding more function to the bag (possibly great for the office-commuter types).

Colors! (from Swift's blog)

Banjo Brothers' Minnehaha bags are also swell and unique looking. Banjo also does some more standard black utility panniers that are very well put together, sturdy, and black. Also super-duper if you like black are Timbuk2's bags. Apparently only the custom bags are made in San Fran but I've been using a Timbuk2 messenger bag for years and love it. It's too bad that their custom program doesn't include the panniers.

Ironweed's two models, from their site

Ultimately, I think that Ironweed out of Iowa City has the best blend of style and function. They only make two models but both are pretty much big rectangles, the perfect shape for swallowing groceries. They come in only a few colors but at least they're not all black! I hope they'll fit well on my Trek; I need to check heel clearance once the Tubus rack is installed.

Finally, I want to also mention Axoim's "Dutch" panniers. They're a connected double-bag that comes in a cool rust-red, if you can find it in stock somewhere.  They're also a bunch less expensive that the custom/made in the USA bags. 

I hope this is helpful to others searching for great panniers.

Finally, a bunch of pretty bag pics courtesy of Ironweed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

never meet your heroes

They say to never meet your heroes lest you leave disappointed. It's true that reality can often shatter years of dreaming about impossible greatness. I remember being terrified after finally securing a ride in my then-favorite car, the Lamborghini  Countach. It was loud; you couldn't see out the back, sides, or much of the front; and it was a seventies-shakiness about it. It was a scary car. But man it was a looker. 

Luckily Ferrari has never disappointed me so. I think there's something to all the racetrack success (which Lambo has conspicuously never had). Ducati has also had a dominance over Superbike racing rather akin to Ferrari in Formula One in the last nineties and early twenty-first century. I certainly hoped there was a connection there beyond sharing a hometown.

I was still very, very scared to try a Ducati. I imagined trying to drive a Ferrari when 16, except a Ducati superbike is mathematically more frightening. There was a good chance it would be intimidating, cranky, and dangerous. If it wasn't, there was the equally terrible possibility that the rest of the world would be suddenly vanilla. Be careful what you wish for, because if you get it you may never be able to live without it. 

This brings me to wandering around in the not-yet-opened Ducati of Raleigh. They had a mint 2000 996 sitting between a streetfighter and a Panigale demo bike (!!). Some chatting and the owner of the shop offered me a ride. A scary choice. Do I risk shattering my image of my favorite motorcycle of all time? (I supposed in honesty I'd prefer the near-identical 998) What if I drop it? Or what if it's every bit as good as they say? 

Needless to say when someone offers you something fast and Italian for an afternoon you don't say no, despite any reservations. Deal with your fear later. 

So there I was with a piece of racing history literally shaking the ground under my feet. It felt special. It had a delicacy to it; a real sense of purpose. This was no compromised machine. It was built for one thing. It was apparently intolerant of anyone trying to do anything else. So I stalled it, immediately. Not a good start to this first date. It took about ten minutes of slow and medium speed riding to "get it." No half-assery here. Lots of revs, weighty controls, and a determination are needed to unlock the greatness. Anything under about 4500 rpm has the bike shaking and rattling something fierce. Roll on more throttle and the world is right. There's power, so much power, all over the rev range. Following you is one of the great motor soundtracks of all time. Barking, booming, thunder, whatever you want to call it. The Ferraci pipes helped, certainly, and I thought I was going to scare every bird out of Umstead. 

In short, it was as good as they say when used right. It could turn (far beyond my abilities) but you had to throw it over into a lean. Yes, it's light and the tank is perfectly shaped for proper leverage, but there's no tip-toeing into a corner. Look through the bend, point and lean. Keep leaning. No, don't think about backing off that throttle. Give it more! The shifter also requires a quick, firm jab to not find false neutrals. And the clutch, well, needs a lot of slipping in traffic. Then again, traffic is no place for a Ducati superbike. Which is why they didn't bother making the mirrors functional. At all.

Good thing there wasn't anything behind me. Along the winding Ebenezer Church Road alongside the state forest, I could roll on the power, up the gears, down the gears, creating all manner of racket. It was bliss. All the figgety-ness was gone in waves of sound and torque. I still had the sense that she was laughing at me, saying "Is that it?" But it was good for me, sorry darling.

After returning the bike and waiting for my perma-grin to fade, I got back onto the ZR7 to ride home. I was instantly greeted by a familiar feeling: after spending a weekend at Road America flogging incredible machinery, getting into frankly anything else and trying to drive at highway speeds feels wrong, alien, soft, spongy, and numb. This ZR7, the fastest thing I've ever owned, felt squishy and sleepy. Where's the power? What's up with the brakes? Why can't I hear the motor?

Be careful meeting your heroes. Everyone else might suddenly become boring.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

when a fast wagon isn't

Our TDI has been sick lately. Really sick. It got to the point where we'd lose speed in third gear going up a hill. This was embarrassingly accompanied by lots of smoke. There was also a complete absence of the distinctively loud VNT turbo.

We looked through the vacuum lines running from the silent turbo and found two deteriorated lines. Yep, this little hole killed all the power from the engine.

End result: power is back. She still smokes more than usual, could be a dirt intake manifold or EGR system. For now, it's safe to drive again. Once the garage is built I might have time to address the more subtle issues.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


sometimes things change for the better.

yep, it's fun

Just to report: 75bhp between your legs is about as fun as I expected it to be. More posts later, too busy riding.

Friday, July 27, 2012

more two-wheeled things

So the fastwagons blog is become inaptly named. I haven't had a fast, quick, or reasonably quick wagon in some time. I do now have a fantastically frugal and functional Jetta TDI wagon, capable of hauling all but the biggest bikes (my 29er bigfoot bike) and capable of bladder-bursting distances between fuelings.

I ditched the 911, and the Passat, and was living a car-lite life down here in Raleigh, NC. Things are swell. Fixed up some of my neglected bikes, got a mid-level modern mountain bike (which still blows my mind with its right-now brakes) and enjoyed no car payments and the like.

Unfortunately I returned to Wisconsin for a bit, which is akin to a recovered addict hanging out with his old junkie friends (fiends?). Hearing about everyone's new toys, being back in the land of actual country roads (not the maniac-infested, congested rural highways here in the Triangle) made me want something motorized again. I had taken the MSF basic rider course back in March, and passed, and promptly got my motorcycle endorsement on my minty fresh NC driver's license. The time wasn't right, so I didn't get a bike right away.

Well, now I have one. I'll just say the trade from 320bhp to 78bhp could not have been more fun. Despite being reviewed in the mags as soft, dull, and old-tech, my bike is faster than anything I've owned. I like to translate soft as comfortable, dull as in it-doesn't-want-to-kill-me, and old-tech as bulletproof and reliable.

It's a 2000 Kawasaki ZR7, which I didn't know was a thing a week ago. It's an old air-cooled inline four, 750cc, two cams but only two valve per cylinder, and 78bhp. It's a five-speed, and I wish it was six because I find myself phantom-shifting in fifth. It'll do the quarter mile faster than my 911 could but I don't have 10% the skill to do it. It's just big enough for me and my tall frame and docile enough to putter around town.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

new project?

Time for an update, and a new project.

After having this photo in my screensaver folder for years, I stumbled upon a nearly-free cruiser tandem for sale in Raleigh and renewed my interest in a crazy custom bike.

This bike, called Le Mans, was created by a Ukranian duo called Low Walk Customs (use google translate). It's very cool, won a bunch of awards, and has given me inspiration to create something similar.

Another bike that's been stuck in my brain is the MLS Gravity bike.

I'll have to wait for the shop to get built here in Raleigh before I can get my torch and welder online, but rest assured it will be crazy. Must haves: giant (203mm min) brake discs, Maxxis Hookworms, and Martini livery. Anyone handy with a paintbrush?