Vlad the Impaler

Enter Vlad the Impaler. A brooding dark monster roaming the streets at night searching for its latest victim. You hear nothing but a tiny audible click from the rear hub and some gravel under the spinning rubber. With its dagger like profile that glistens under each steet light it finally pounces without warning. Just as fast as it appeared it disappears once again into the night.
Sounds like the opener the next schlock horror film (which I say with much love as I am a huge fan of bad horror movies) doesn't it? Fortunately this isn't the placefor articles about such things. This is a place for Kustomized Bicycles and we have one for you. So lets us introduce you to Vlad the Impaler.
Rolling into OBC2015 from the far away lands called Vero Beach Florida is a bike builder that is already well known across the country. Joe Cavaliere owns Lowtide Customs and is the owner / builder of this beauty (or beast). The profile is full of spear like angles while still being low and long. Some custom built bikes have all the right partsbut are missing the flow to make it a piece of art. Vlad has flow in spades.

At nine feet long this bike puts most Cadillacs to shame. It is still a bicycle though and Kustomized Bicycle Magazine can attest that this bike rides as well as any Cadillac on the market. Forward pedaling is never that easy but when backed by a Shimano Nexus three speed hub you can ride for days without your legs turning in to Jello. Rolling on 26x80mm wheels it soaks up the roughness of the road like your riding on air. You still got your grip to stick to the streets since the hoops are wearing 26" BOA G tires. Need to shift through the eight speed just grab on to the hand carved Porky's shifter handle attached to the one off Bastards Garage shifter and slide it effortlessly into another gear. The drivetrain consists of three DK chains (you read that correctly.....3 chains...I told you it was long) that connect the rear hub to the front sprocket and are driven by FSA cranks.

To be a real custom it has to have "the look". Joe built the custom frame and one piece bar / fork combination in his shop. If you haven't tried it we can tell you that it isn't not the easiest thing in the world to do. After it was all smoothed out Matt Zimmerman from Low Tide Art Studios hosed it down with a large ponds worth of Brandy Wine paint with an on black fade. For creature comforts it has hand tooled leather grips and a super suave leather seat featuring none other than Vlad the Impaler.

All in all the fans were all over Vlad for the entire OBC weekend and having ridden next to eat I can guarantee it rides just as good as it looks. 
The devil is in the details. Check out the hand carved valve stem caps the shifter assembly.
If you are in the market for something Vlad like from Lowtide Customs you can drop Joe a line at lowtidecustoms@gmail.com or hit him up on the Facebooks at https://www.facebook.com/LowtideCustoms.

Peek Cycles

When you write for Kustomized Bicycle Magazine you get to hang out with the best people in the customized bicycle world. Seriously, the best people ever. Want me to prove it? Let me drop a few names. So Joe from Lowtide Customs and I are standing in the OBC 2015 Show setup and Gary from LowLife stops in for a few. While standing there we all help Whacko’s Garage move around his bikes when John Brain walks up for quick introductions and handshakes. I help Joe set the EZ-up in his space next to Jimmy Peek of Peek Cycles when we start chatting as we tie our canopies together. There were so many builders within 50 square feet I could have hit any three of them with a 42” Sissy bar at any given moment not that I would of course. 
Just the very night before Peek Cycles had unveiled his Young Gun Challenge 2015 entry to the masses inside the Golden Nugget Casino. It went over very well with the public and sitting next to the rest of the entries everyone knew it was going to be a toss-up for a winner. By the end of the OBC bike show the following day Jimmy Peek had been announced the winner of the battle. If you haven’t seen Peek Cycles around, what the hell have you been doing with your life? If you want a custom frame he has the skills. If you want custom bars he probably has a few in stock or can whip you out a set to your specs within days.

KBM had a chance to talk to Jimmy Peek following OBC to ask him the “Big 11”. (11 questions asked to customized bicycle builders around the world).

 (KBM): When did Peek Cycles form and what is your background pertaining to fabrication and design? 
(Jimmy Peek): I’ve been building bikes since I was 9 years old, but this upcoming August will be 2 years since I started fabricating. It all started with an online build off put on by Gary of Lowlife Bikes and I haven’t looked back since. As for my background pertaining to design, I’ve been an artist all my life. Everything from pencil drawing, drafting, powdered charcoal, oil painting and modern day media of Photoshop. So now frame and handlebar designs just come to mind like any other art. 

(KBM): Who originally got you into bicycles and can take credit for your hands-on interest?
(Jimmy Peek): My parents bought me my first bike when I was around 6 years old, it was a used Schwinn Pea Picker. Little did I know what I was riding, but all my friends were riding BMX and I ended up with a banana seat tall sissy bar bike. Did it stop me from jumping curbs and doing power slides with my friends? No way, I jumped that Schwinn like it was Redline with Tuff Wheels. A few years later I got into building Lowrider bikes from scratch. All my friends had older brothers who drove and built Lowrider cars which influenced us as kids. So I like to think I was part of the Lowrider bicycle evolution of the 1970’s. As for inspiration in my adult years, there’s no doubt that the God Fathers of custom fabrication and building had a big influence on me, who would include Greg Roth, Gary from Lowlife Bikes, Bastard out of Florida and the great John Brain. 

(KBM): What is your favorite bike you have built to date?
(Jimmy Peek): It seems every time you build a new bike it becomes your favorite. I try not to be bias for those reasons, but there’s no doubt The "EZ Rider" is my favorite build to date. 

(KBM): There was a steady flow of people around your display at OBC this year and we saw you up in the winner’s circle for the Young Gun Challenge award.   How was that whole OBC weekend for you and what did it mean for Peek Cycles to win the Young Gun Award?
(Jimmy Peek): Like every year OBC is nothing but epic times with awesome people, great friends old and new. It is naturally important for many to show off their new builds and all the hard work put into it. For me it is an environment where I can learn and see concepts I’ve never seen before. Winning the Young Guns challenge was truly an honor. I made new friends with fellow builders, learned a ton throughout the whole experience and came out with a bike I may have never built if not being pushed to a level beyond my own expectations. The importance of Peek Cycles winning the Young Guns challenge is being able to expose what I can offer and continue to share my creations with everyone else.  I thank everyone involved.

(KBM): If someone hasn't seen a Peek Cycles frame how would you describe its style?
(Jimmy Peek): My first build off bike has what is being referred to as the “double backbone”, which are dual top tubes that work their way into the seat stays. For the record I did not invent the dual top tube concept, it’s been done years ago largely in the BMX world. But I was trying to think outside the box and bring it to the modern custom cruiser world. Since then I haven’t built a frame that doesn’t have it. In general I think my frames provide a feel of both the chopper and stretch cruiser with a twist of Peek Cycles double backbone. 

(KBM): Is Peek Cycle a one stop shop? Do you build custom bikes that are ready to ride or a series of pieces that can be purchased together? 
(Jimmy Peek): So far Peek Cycles has been a one off shop when it comes to frames, and a one stop shop when it comes to handlebars. I haven’t repeated a frame design yet. As for bars, we offer around 10 different styles, all one off designs which include everything from low comfort cruiser styles to tall Ape Hangers. All products are sold raw giving the customer an opportunity to powder coat, paint or chrome to their liking. 

(KBM): What is your favorite style of bike to build: chopper, bobber, stretched cruiser?
(Jimmy Peek): I like them all! Tall, short, fat, skinny, you name it, I’ll build it.

(KBM): When not in the shop building bikes what do you spend your time doing?
(Jimmy Peek): Cooking. I like to eat, and I like to eat good food. So what better way than to make it fresh from home. I call my kitchen the other shop.

(KBM): What is your favorite tool in the shop and what is usually playing on the stereo?
(Jimmy Peek): My favorite and most used tool is my hand grinder, used for both cutting and grinding. In fact I use it so much I’m going to get another one just so I don’t have to switch back and forth from grind flap to cutoff wheel. As for what’s usually playing on the stereo…  Johnny Cash. I like all types of music and grew up a “Metal Head” listening to Priest, Maiden and all the 80’s Metal. That’s where the Peek Cycles logo comes in. But for whatever reason when I put on Cash, it gives me that feeling of being in a shop. Don’t ask me why? No matter how much Van Halen I like to listen to, that Pandora station just keeps going back to Cash.

(KBM): If a person hasn't had access to the settings, tools, and skills like welding, fabrication, paint, etc. What is a good first step to take in learning what it takes to build a project bike?
(Jimmy Peek): To learn from your mistakes. Accept the fact that you will make mistakes and try not to dwell on it as a setback or negative. The only way to get better is to keep doing it.  I look back at just the past year and can’t get over the way I used to do things and how I’ve simplified so many procedures by just doing it over and over and over again. 

(KBM): What is next for Peek Cycles? Upcoming projects? Lines of parts?
(Jimmy Peek): Diamond tubing. There seems to be a certain demand for diamond tube frames and forks alike. Custom forks are another new item on the horizon for Peek Cycles.  Keep it tuned to my Facebook page “Peek Cycles” for more information and soon to come website. Thanks again to all who have supported Peek Cycles!  Much appreciated!  \m/

Surly fat tire Rim Strips

I have been looking for rim strips to fit a set of 80mm hoops for a wheel set I am getting ready to build. To make things more difficult the hoops have square cut windows between the spokes of the wheel.
The problem I was having:
1) The standard rubber tube strips (I cut a 26” tube down the middle) let too much tube through the window when the tube was at full pressure.
2) Since the wheels have windows the good ol’ “half a roll of electrical tape” fix just isn’t going to fly.
3) The 26”x80mm rim strips made of Nylon were nearly impossible to get onto the wheel without tearing or permanently distorting them.
4) All the Nylon rim strips that I could actually get to work with the wheel / tube combination looked pretty terrible through the windows. The strips would buckle under pressure and either wrinkle or tear at the windows.
5) All the manufactured rim strips for fat tire bikes are extremely expensive. Just because your product fits on some overpriced fad bike doesn’t mean you can shoot for an 800% price mark-up.
Not happy with all the strips I have tried to date I did some internet searching and stumbled across the Surly rim strips. If you don’t know Surly Bikes, they make a series of fat tire bikes along the commuter / cross country / mountain bike realm and also offer parts for that line. Surly has several different widths of rim strips to fit different rim widths. I decided on two 64mm wide strips to fit the 80mm hoops. Though I went with the standard black Surly offers four other colors to choose from (red, blue, orange, or white).

After pulling these new rim strips from the box the first thing I noticed is that lengthwise these rim strips are more stretchable than the nylon ones I have previously tried but not nearly as much as the standard rubber ones. Widthwise there is no stretch I can feel. Secondly is that there is a woven texture molded into these strips. As we know, tubes tend to like to move around inside a tire while rotating but the standard rubber rim strip holds the tube in place with the rubber on rubber contact. The Surly rims strip being made of PVC may use the texture may hold the tube in place. Note that the nylon rim strips that I tried earlier were very smooth and slick. Hey, it’s a plausible theory.
Wheel Width                         Surly Rim Strip Width
50mm                                          38mm
65mm                                         46mm
82mm                                          64mm
100mm                                         75mm
Conclusion: If you are rolling a solid hoop you can use any rubber rim strip that fits without issue. Stay away from Nylon rim strips. They have no elasticity and are nearly impossible to work with on a wider rim (I assume a thinner strip would be easier to install). If you have a windowed hoop the Surly rim strips do their job well and with the different colors also look good doing it. At $5.00 a piece online they are worth the price and with the limited options you don’t have much of a choice.

Park Tool TL6

For years I have had several sets of Park Tool #TL-1 levers around the shop and in my ride bag. I have also broken more than several sets that ended up in the trash. The #TL-1’s just aren’t strong enough to force a wire bead over a very wide rim easily. I end up snapping the blade end off more often than not. I’m not saying they aren’t a good tool (nor other manufacturers that produce something like Park’s tire lever. Awhile back Park Tool came out with the #TL-5 Heavy Duty Steel Tire Lever Set which I picked up. Unfortunately, they are used to pop more beer bottles open then tire beads on wheels. There is no way a metal lever will ever get near a set of polished, powder coated, painted, or dipped hoops in my shop.
Park Tool must have heard my under-breath curses and/or prayers to the bike gods to make the tire mounting process easier when trying to slip a wire bead 2.125” onto an 80mm wide wheel. As if reading my mind they released the #TL-6 tire lever which is the #TL-5 lever but molded in a Nylon type material.

There are several PRO’s about these levers. The come in at almost 6” compared to the standard 3 ½”. More length means a longer fulcrum which equals more pressure with less force. They have a steel core. No flexing and more importantly no snapping the blade end off. They are coated so no marring, scraping, or ruining the finish on those custom wheels.
Sure, I am a fan boy of Park Tool. I even use the #SPK-1 Spork to eat my lunch. But I can admit when something misses the mark. The Park Tool #TL-1 (and newer versions) have the spoke hook on the back side of the lever. It makes it much easier when dismounting tires with wire beads because the lever holds itself in place when under the bead while hooked to a spoke (See Below). This allows both hands and another lever to pull the bead over another section of rim. If Park tool would have designed a spoke hoop on the back of the #TL-6 lever steel and had the whole piece coated it would be without a doubt the perfect tire lever.

For $15 bucks you can buy a the Park Tool #TL-6 lever set (come as a pair not a three set like plastic levers) and they will most likely last you forever or you can purchase any one of a dozen brands three pack of plastic style levers every couple years for $6-$10 a pack. What would you grandfather say is the better deal?

Lace Panel Paint on the cheap

I grew up around cars. Whether hot rods, customs, or muscle cars there was always something in the garage getting worked on. I have scant memories of Chargers, Challengers, 30’s Fords and a few lead sleds poking reflections out from under covers while waiting their turn in the bay. Of course having all this madness around with the 60’s – 70’s custom style has a special place in my heart. This would be where the paint jobs roll in. On the top side of my “coolness factor” list are Candy, Lake, tons of Flake, Flames, Murals, and the paint jobs that look like the painter was jacked up on LSD.
Remember something that we say at KBM a lot. There are a thousand ways to skin a cat. This is the way I painted a bike because it works. Other ways work as well if not better. 
When my wife wanted a new cruiser I couldn’t resist in blasting out a paint job. After all, it was “her” bike so there would be no trouble with dumping more time than normal on a pretty paint job. There is no better excuse to get out of rom-com movie nights or dinner with her friends than “I really need to work on YOUR bike”. See where I am going?
Most of the bikes I build get the 2 coat powder treatment. It’s not very often that I spend time and effort on a paint job unless it is a full blown show bike. But, there are things you can do with paint that still can’t be done with powder (though I think those days will be gone soon). I also don’t really like spending a bunch of money on a paint job for a rider….they get stacked against other bikes, knocked over, and just ridden. So when doing a paint job on a rider I try to save as much money as possible by using easily obtained materials.
You need to start with your frame, fenders, and whatever else you are spraying for your project. I started with a no-name frame that I cut apart and gave a little more stretch, a few degrees more head tube angle, tank fill panels, filled top chain stay / seat tube area, and peaked top tube. I also bought two sets of painted fenders then cut them to make a set of street sweeper fenders. Everything was smoothed and a few coats of primer followed by what seemed like days of wet sanding. I followed that up with a liberal coat of semi gloss white followed by a good wet sanding with 1000 grit paper. 

Items needed:
Paint (colors and clear of choice)
1/8” 3M Fine Line tape
1/4” 3M Masking tape
Masking material (standard paper and tape)
1 yard Lace material
Binder Clips (various sizes)
1000 grit sand paper

Planning your paint job is up next. For this project I wanted to go for a bright tropical look. A lace panel job seemed to be in order. I gathered the materials and let me tell you that there is nothing better than a sweaty tattooed guy covered in primer and bondo dust standing in the local fabric store looking at frilly lace. Once the peaked eyebrow looks subsided and I made my purchase (with a little explaining) I was ready to roll. I laid out the panels to be laced following the flow of the frame tank then did standard fender insert panels 1” from all edges with 1” radiused corners.

Taping off everything but the panels I cut chunks out of the yard of lace and started stretching it into place. While doing this keep in mind the angle of the pattern while also making sure there is no gaps between the lace and panel. Slowly pull the lace tighter in each direction and reset the binder clips as necessary until you are happy with the pattern and fit.

A light coat followed by a medium coat within a few minutes is more than enough. Wait the appropriate time for paint, temperature, and humidity for the paint to tack up before pulling all the tape. Allow the paint to dry completely.

Next is the border pinstripe. I laid a 1/8” fine line tape strip around the border of the panel. Then I laid another 1/8” fine line tape strip on either side all the way around before removing the first tape strip. This leaves a 1/8” open area to be painted that will surround the panel in a nice striped border. Mask off the rest of the areas to not be painted and spray a light coat followed by a medium coat like before. Allow the paint to tack up before pulling all the tape. Allow the paint to dry completely.

Once the paint was completely dry I wet sanded the painted area with 1000 grit to knock the paint edge off. Using 1/8” Fine line tape again (yes, there is a lot of taping) I taped off the outer edge of the panel and panel stripe completely. Then I taped off all the panel areas using other various making methods before hitting the rest of the frame with my color of choice (Roth’s Daffodill Killer). Several coats of the colored stuff followed by the shiny stuff and this is what is left.