THE MINION, MAGNETIC LIGHT MOUNT
Actual conversation between Tim of Michigan Built fame and your illustrious Kustomized Bicycle Magazine Editor….
“Tim…” I texted. “I need a tail light for my square tube frame. I want it to mount to the frame but my frame is already powder coated. And it has to look cool”
Tim from Michigan Built replied within minutes, “Give me a day and I’ll see what I can do”.
Tim replied late the next day, “Got something to show you. I’ll bring it to OBC”
I rolled into OBC on Thursday afternoon, after unloading and checking in grabbed my ride, headed downstairs. Tim caught me outside and showed me this milled piece of aluminum with a Cat Eye tail light fastened to it.
“Here it is”, he said.
“What am I supposed to do with that”, I replied.
Tim walked up to my bike and turned the flashing LED on with his thumb. He then stuck the piece of milled aluminum to my handlebars and walked back to me. Like magic, the aluminum stuck to the steel 1” square tube of my handlebars.
I thought to myself, “Magic”. I snatched the piece off my bars realizing that it took a good amount of effort to pull the aluminum slug away. I flipped it over and realized that this piece of metal was not of Insane Clown Posse stupidity but Tim had milled a counter bore into the bottom of the aluminum and had permanently placed three high power magnets into the void.
“Ride with it for the week and tell me what you think”, Tim replied.
I did just that. I stuck the light mount to the upper section of my non-drive chain stay for a night. I popped off curbs and hit every speed bump I could always looking back to make sure the light was still mounted. The next night I stuck the light and mount upside-down under my seat, just to the side of the tire and rode in a not so smooth fashion hitting every pothole I could find (worrying about my 29” polished rims). I kept feeling under the seat to see if it was there. Yup, there it is.
It lasted the entire week and made it through every ride without flaw or fail.
So here it is ladies and gentleman; The MINION….straight from Tim Sanders at Michigan Built. Tim has started production of the light mounts so they are ready for purchase. The Cat Eye tail light is not included but you can purchase a Cat Eye Nima 2 Rear Bicycle Safety Light SL-LD135-R from practically anywhere for $15.00.
The mount is milled from 6061-T6 Aluminum.
The MINION will mount to anything a normal magnet will.
The MINION will come with a fresh milled finish and ready to be mounted as is or you can run through the polisher first.
Time milled the MINION so that the magnets will contact the frame before the aluminum will. Since the magnets are polished smooth and have radiused edges we have had no problems with the MINION scratching the finish on anything we have stuck it to. Personally if I was really afraid of scratching a multi-million dollar paint job I just might not be sticking anything to it or maybe take a small piece of packing tape and stick it to the magnet area then trim off the excess.
The really cool thing about the MINION is that you can stick it anywhere, for any reason. Of course, it was created to stick to a square tube frame bicycle that was already painted for a tail light. But, if you are changing a flat in the wee hours of the morning on the sidewalk…..no problem, stick it to the metal light pole or bus bench and turn on the light (we did it) . Want to freak out your baby brother? Turn the light on strobe and stick it to the bird feeder pole so the light shines into his bedroom window (we did it).
Since we have polished everything on the Kustomized Bicycle Magazine build bike known as “The Gut Punch” we also did a quick polish job on the Minion Michigan Built gave us. Tim’s machine work is so smooth it was a literal five minute job to get it this far. It could use another five minutes or so but time was short.
We tested the Minion for four solid days of hard riding. Michigan Built designed and fabricated a great product that is virtually full proof. Kustomized Bicycle Magazine gives it Five out of Five stars.
You can get ahold of Tim at Michigan Built and pick up a MINION of your own at: https://www.facebook.com/Michigan-Built
MILLER MULTIMATIC 215
I think I got the phone call not so much as a friend telling me we should do a review of his new toy; but more of a friend bragging about his new toy by telling me we should review it. My friends are like that. However, when there is an excuse to go to someone else’s shop, play with their new toys and relieve their shop fridge of tasty beverages on a sunny afternoon, I will be there with bells on.
The Miller Electric Manufacturing Company has been producing welding machines for years and have a great reputation. Their newest machine is the Miller Multimatic 215. The advertising says this machine will do it all. It can MIG, TIG and Stick weld. If these are truths, this sounds like a heck of a machine. It also says it can weld as thin as 24.Ga and as thick as 3/8”.
The first thing I noticed is the size of this machine. The box measures approx. 26”x11”x11” and weighs is at only 38 pounds. The second thing is the new plug. Miller is calling this the Multi-Voltage Plug. The end of the power cord can be fitted with either a 240V or standard 120V plug. Magically (probably not magic), the machine knows what plug is attached and will make its own internal adjustment per the voltage. This is a lot better than the re-wire I have to do on my old machine every time I need to change voltage. With this plug, you can weld wherever you have electrical service.
I have always like Miller welders because of their “Auto-Set” feature. It has always provided easy machine setup no matter what materials you are working with. Miller has changed the name of this feature to “Auto-Set Elite”. This is a more fine-tuned optimize process algorithm for welding that makes the perfect tuning all the time without having to have manual adjustments.
The basic machine comes with the welder, a stinger for stick welding, a spool of wire and a MIG gun. We easily attached the MIG gun by pushing the cable through the hole in the front panel and tightening a screw clamp behind the side door. We attached the control lead behind the side door as well. We placed the spool of welding wire on the driver roll. There is enough room for everything from a 1 lb to a 10 lb roll of wore. A new device within the machine is the drive roller. It has three different slots milled into it. This allows the roller to run 0.024, 0.030-0.035 solid core and 0.030-0.035 flux core wire. This is a great design and will allow for a smooth wire feed instead of constant adjustments to avoid slipping. We ran through the pressure lever and into the MIG gun feed. We removed the end of the MIG gun and pulled to trigger which quickly fed the wire through the feed. We double checked the tip sizing for .030 solid wire and replaced it on the end of the gun then screwed on the shield.
We said earlier that the machine has several welding processes. Miller was nice enough to put the power terminals on the welders face with quick releases. If you are switching from solid wire to flux core you can swap the terminal in a matter of seconds. You also know what the machine is set to by simply looking at the face. In the upper left corner, all the settings are shown with a bright LED.
There is no difference as far as connecting gas to the machine. We rolled a bottle of C-25 over and attached the regulator.
I grabbed a few pieces of angle and flat steel plate from the scrap barrel and threw them onto the welding table. Ready to glue some steel together with electricity….time to set up the machine. The first step was to set the machines process. Using the Up/Down arrow on the left side of the face panel we selected the MIG STEEL C25 assignment. The LCD display screen showed the setting we chose. There is a button in the center of the panel that turns the Auto-Set Elite function on or off. We left it on then used the plus and minus buttons to select the welding wire diameter and material thickness. The machine automatically set the voltage (V) and Wire Feed Speed (WFS) both shown on the LCD as well. The LCD shows exactly where you are and shows the “Plateau”. The Plateau is where the machine is set to Auto-Set Elite but still will allow the user to make changes to the variables. If you make changes, the LCD will show you if you are going outside the plateau. However, what if you know what settings you want and don’t need some machine telling you want to do. Well, A) your kind of a goon and B) turn the Auto-Set Elite off and open the side door. A vast array of settings are shown inside the door for a wide range of uses. You can use this chart as your guide.
We are welding all sorts of stuff. I did a few beads on a 20-gauge panel then some 1” x .080 tube. I changed the settings with welding gloves on without a problem and both the welds were hot, arced quickly and splatter free. One thing I noticed is that the fan hadn’t come on for the first10-15 minutes of welding. After doing some research, I found that the fan power is based on internal temperatures. It only comes on when it is needed.
(Note: I am a hobby welder. I definitely don’t have the skills as other bike builders. My first welds coming out of this machine were just as good if not better than my welds using the machine I have been on for ten years.)
On to the TIG-
The Miller MultiMatic 215 doesn’t come with a TIG setup. You can purchase the TIG Contractor kit P/N#301337 that comes with the torch, pedal, regulator, hose, spare tips and points. My friend had purchased the kit and also had a bottle of Tri/Mix so we gave it a go. The setup was as easy as it was for MIG welding. We connected the foot pedal through the side door. We changed the cable connections to go from C-25 MIG to TIG and hooked up the Argon bottle.
(Note: The paperwork says that this machine is set up for DC TIG welding only. It won’t weld Aluminum or Magnesium.)
The Miller machine is programed with what they call the “Lift-Arc” feature. The arc will start by touching the electrode to the work piece then pulling it away a short distance. It starts with a lower current and ramps up. We all know that scratch starting at full current is a great way to contaminate electrodes.
The Lift-Arc took a few passes to get used to but in the end we felt that is was great technology and much better than the scratch and burn process we have all done for so long. The arc was steady and smooth. Heat was very easily controlled through the pedal and not ratchety like other machines I have used. We were able to adjust to get full penetration in varied thicknesses and were ha[[y with the stock torch (though we will be replacing the cup with a clear one in the near future.
All in all this is a beautiful machine that would be a great asset to anyone’s custom bike building shop. Though it is on the more expensive side there is no reason this couldn’t be the last machine you ever buy. I even told my friend that if he wants me to review more tools like this at his shop I would start stocking his fridge with tasty beverages.
Vans / Cult 26” Tire
Taste: Unfortunately, tires really don’t taste like much when they are new. They don’t taste very good when they are used either.
Smell: I’m not saying I stuffed my head in the box, but I do really like the smell enough to get the tires on the KBM truck rotated weekly at the tire store.
Touch: Fresh tire…how we love fresh tires.
Look: Great, no excess flash on the mold edges or sprues and the colors are cool.
Having been a long-time user of Van /Cult waffle sole grips I was pleasantly surprised when Vans / Cult suddenly released their waffle tread patterned tire in a 26”. I instantly made a call and had two sets on their way.
I’ll admit to being a Vans fanboy. Three of my custom bikes have Vans /Cult grips, which I have found to work extremely well. I own maybe 15 pairs of Vans shoes. Even my wallet is a Vans checkerboard model. However, I am willing to put my fandom to the back for a while so we can get an honest review of these tires.
When looking for a tire to put on a full custom cruiser I look at:
· Fit: It better come in the size I need
· Style: I didn’t spend months in the shop building a custom machine just to throw ugly rollers on it.
· Function: I put some mileage on my bikes so they need to roll well and wear well.
· Price: I don’t mind coughing up my hard earned cash for quality parts.
FIT: the new Vans /Cult cruiser tires come in both 20” and 26”. The 20” models have been out for some time, but the 26” x 2.30” is new. Since a majority of cruiser bikes roll on 26” X 2.125” tires the new Vans / Cult tires should fit most everything that is out there. (I only wish they were available in 29” since this size is my new favorite.)
STYLE: The Vans /Cult tires come in black, black with an orange pinstripe and black with a whitewall and red stripe. The waffle grip pattern is symmetrical with straight waffles running down the center 2” then the sides have them rotated. The whole tire has a very radiused crown not unlike its 20” brethren. It is a very nice looking tire that would fit on most custom bikes very well.
Function: Doing the tire swap on a 26” X 3” wheel was easy enough. The bead isn’t overly tight and allows for a pretty simple assembly. (Remember to pull the tire lightly against the side of the wheel wall when fitting standard tires to extra wide wheels.) While filling the tube, the tires expanded evenly and caught the bead on the wheel easily. Vans / Cult says that these tires have high pressure sidewalls. We gassed the tires up to 40 psi (our normal pressure) without issue.
After several ride the tires are wearing evenly and not too quickly. The traction is better than most “stock” tires and are not nearly as loud as Thik Slik tires I normally run on this bike.
Price: $34.99 per tire. Not really cheap but comparable to higher end cruiser tires.
Overall the Vans / Cult tires get a 4.0 out of 5. They don’t do anything that every other tire doesn’t do. They are made well, wear well and look very nice. With the three different colored models there is something there to fit every bike.
The only reason it didn’t get a better score is that they don’t have a 29” available and they don’t have the checkerboard sidewall like they have in the 20” tire in 26”.
* All over tread pattern based off the classic VANS WAFFLE pattern *
* Grippy in all situations *
* High pressure sidewalls *
** all black, black w/ orange stripe, black w/ white sidewall & red stripe
JBL FLIP 3
There is nothing like cruising with your buddies. A pack of custom bikes hitting town, riding down the boulevard, with warm sun glimmering off custom paint and tunes blasting. The problem is the tunes part. Some of us have used cheap speakers stashed in cup holders while others go all out and are pulling a sixty-pound trailer filled with speakers, electronics and batteries. Both work but aren’t really the greatest way to enjoy the ride. You either must listen to your favorite tunes filled with treble or you are pulling so much extra weight your legs are spent in the first mile.
We have tried several speaker systems but they either have poor sound quality, limited battery life, too much money or the inability to take with you on the ride. We decided to start looking into speaker systems that fit our needs.
· Great sound quality
· Long battery life
· Weather resistant
· Good price point
· Bluetooth capabilities
We tested the JBL Flip 2 a while back. We found that the battery life was short and there were issues with the charging connection. (look at this month’s tech feature, we soldered the connection several times)
JBL came out with the Flip 3 late last year. They specifically noted that the battery now had double the life and they reengineered the connections. We thought we would give it a shot.
JBL sent us a unit for testing. Opening the box we found the speaker tube, charging cable and instructions. The first thing we noticed is the rubberized coating of the unit. Weather resistance, easy grip and nonmarring finish looks great. We hit the power switch and the unit makes an audible “ON” charm. The five white LEDs show the battery life per charge of the unit. We had four out of five straight from the box. We selected the Bluetooth button and grabbed our trusty iPhone and headed to the Bluetooth menu. The JBL FLIP 3 connection showed up immediately. We selected the connection and jumped over to the music on the iPhone. We started off with Leo Moracchioli’s cover of Adele’s Hello.
Note: If you like a little metal in your life check out Leo Moracchioli / Frog Leap Studios on YouTube and iTunes. I believe he is from Norway and does some amazing cover. He has several videos a week and can really rock.
We also thumbed through some Willie Nelson, Slayer, The Cramps and many others trying to hit as many different types of music as possible. Sounds quality was great for such a small unit. Having tested several of the high end units, we decided that the sound quality was comparable.
Next we charged the unit with the cable that came in the box. The cable is a bright orange which helps us pick it out of the pile of cables we have in the offices. Charging time was 1.5 hours to go from two LED lights to full charge. We plugged the iPhone into its charger and pulled up the Pandora app. We headed to the 80’s hits station and started playing the station through the speaker at a mid volume. We had music in the office all day and even got to tell the Kustomized Bicycle Magazine Editor that we can’t turn the music down because we were doing a speaker review. Seven hours later we still had one LED light and had noticed no diminished quality in sound or volume.
Weather resistance is a pretty big thing with us. Having been caught in rain storms on rides and even through snow several times we didn’t want to destroy a speaker system with a little water. Rummaging through the magazine’s photographer’s office we found a $0.99 squirt gun. We didn’t ask why. Photographers are weird. We sprayed the speaker while it was running several times. The speaker didn’t miss a beat and we simply dried the unit off with a towel. The paperwork from the manufacturer says do not submerge the unit in water….let’s just hope that never happens on a ride.
Price point on this unit is $74.99. Compared to the Sony SRS-VB3 which is 50% higher or the Bose Soundlink III which is nearly 3X as much we decided the price point was within reason for the unit’s qualities listed above. This unit is much better quality than any Beats by Dr. Dre Pill unit so the price difference wasn’t even discussed.
We already had Bluetooth linked so we sent Crank McChainring out the front doors of the offices with the iPhone. We then realized that this wasn’t a good idea at all so we sent the photographer pout after him hoping that Crank hadn’t already dropped or sold the phone in the 30 seconds he was out of our sight. We watched from the office windows and waited for the system to lose signal. The music was clear until the phone was just under fifty yards when it the system lost signal. 50 yards and through the widows seemed like a pretty great Bluetooth connection.
Decision: The JBL FLIP 3 is indeed much better than the Flip 2 system. It has all features we need in a cruising speak system. For the price and quality, it is a good buy. Note that we have not had the unit long enough to know if the newly engineered charging connection will last the life of the speaker system, but we can hope.
If you are worried about how to get this cool speaker system mounted to your ride, look no further. We happened to have a few of these 12” long Velcro straps with buckles that allowed us to strap the Flip 3 to the handle bars of a muscle bike, the backbone and down tube on a custom and even a shower rod in the shop. It provides excellent strength, easy removal and with the rubberized coating on the speaker no worries about marring your custom finish.