APRIL 2017

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. 

Score:

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 *
* Lightweight

* 2.30
** all black, black w/ orange stripe, black w/ white sidewall & red stripe

 

March 2017

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.

NeededFeatures:

·         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.

 

Features and Benefits:

Wireless Bluetooth Streaming Wirelessly connect up to 3 smartphones or tablets to the speaker and take turns playing surprisingly powerful, room-fi lling stereo sound.

3000mAH Rechargeable Battery Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery supports up to 10 hours of playtime.

Speakerphone Take crystal clear calls from your speaker with the touch of a button thanks to the noise and echo cancelling speakerphone.

Splashproof Splashproof means no more worrying about rain or spills; you can even clean it with running tap water. Just don’t submerge it.

JBL Connect Build your own ecosystem by connecting multiple JBL Connect enabled speakers together to amplify the listening experience.

Lifestyle Material The durable fabric material and rugged rubber housing allows your speaker to outlast all of your adventures.

JBL Bass Radiator Hear the bass, feel the bass, see the bass. Dual external passive radiators demonstrate just how powerful your speakers are.

What’s in the box:

1 x JBL Flip 3 1 x Micro USB Cable 1 x Quick Start Guide 1 x Safety Sheet 1 x Warranty Card Product specifi cations

Bluetooth version: 4.1 Support: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.5, HFP V1.6, HSP V1.2

Transducer: 2 x 40mm Output power: 2 x 8W

Frequency response: 85Hz – 20kHz

Signal-to-noise ratio: ≥80dB

Battery type: Lithium-ion polymer (3.7V, 3000mAh)

Battery charge time: 3.5 hours @ 5V1A

Music playing time: up to 10 hours (varies by volume level and audio content)

Dimensions (H x W x D): 64 x 169 x 64 (mm) Weight: 450g

 

 

 

 

 

February 2017

Jing Yi Speedometer

Having a muscle bike fetish is one thing. Having a muscle bike accessory fetish is probably more time consuming and harder on the wallet. I was going through a large box of vintage speedometers I realized several things. The first is that I may have a speedometer problem. Secondly is that I have a lot of speedometer heads but am greatly lacking in the rest of the pieces.

I proceeded to my favorite online retailer and found a speedo unit for very cheap. Cheap enough that though the head looked pretty generic I could really use some new cables and handle bar mounts. Looking at the pictures online the purchase looked promising as all the components looked like the vintage models I am so accustom to. I purchased a single Jing Yi unit and waited to see what would come in the mail.

My favorite guy wearing all brown dropped off a package a few days later. In the shop, I opened the box and found…..a speedometer.

Instantly I started thinking that my purchase may have been a bust. The head doesn’t nearly have the style that the originals have. For some reason, there was a “kMh” where the “Mph” should have been. D’oh. I didn’t notice that in the online pictures. Putting this speedo on a restored American muscle bike would be laughable as it measures distance in metric rather than American standard. Otherwise the head seems solid though significantly lighter than the vintage Stewart Warner I was weighing it against. It is 3/8” taller than the SW head and the tapped male connector on the back of the head is ¼” taller than the SW model. The Male connector is also a different smaller thread size than the original. This is turning bad very quickly. With the different size and thread count I now know that the cable isn’t going to fit the vintage models.

“In for a penny, in for a pound” they say so I kept going through the components. The cable is a much smaller diameter than original cables. As mentioned above, the connections are not the same size as the vintage models.

The drive gear is probably the most worthless piece in the box. The plastic house is molded around a “bronze” bushing then the drive gear is pressed in place with the black plastic round piece. There is no real structure for it to fit against so it just flops around. I popped off the plastic cap off the male end. the black plastic internal worm gear fell out of the housing. Not only are the drive parts all plastic but there was no lube on the gears. Knowing that not all plastics are created equal we realized that this in a hard fragile plastic instead of a nylon type that would actually hold up. If this unit worked at all, it most likely would have locked up the plastic gears and destroyed itself within the first block or so.

I had one last hope from this entire fiasco. The handle bar mount should be ok. It is a stamped piece of metal. How bad could it be? Well Yes, it is a stamped piece of metal but it is out of 20 ga. sheet. The mount is extremely flimsy and one would be lucky to bare the weight of the speedo head. Notice the spots on the back side of the mount. That is rust stating to pit the sheet metal. It must have been a pretty slow boat or a humid cargo container to get the rust to show through fresh from the box.

Watch the slide show below that shows the comparison pictures between the vintage speedometer parts vs. the Jing Yi Speedometer

 

So I assembled all the parts and decided to give it a spin so at least the speedo head could be proven as useful. The needle never moved and after about 15 seconds a crunchy noise emanated from the gear drive. Pulling the drive apart again I pulled out the worm gear that showed it was now missing several teeth. Catastrophic failure.

 All in all the Jing Yi Speedometer is a pretty tragic hunk of excrement. After writing this article I threw the entire package into the waste can. The parts are visibly cheap and poorly built from even poorer materials. Only use this if you have a show bike that never moves and can only be viewed from 50 yards away.

DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT purchase this for any reason. I would rather send the money to an anti-biking support group than purchase this item. Well, maybe not an anti-biking support group.

 

 

 

 

January 2017

No School Choppers Lens

Taste: These taste like absolutely nothing…but maybe the ghost pepper hot sauce from the tacos I ate while waiting for the mail man.

Smell: Like resin….A little fiberglass like but not overpowering like liquid resin.

Touch:  200 grit sand paperish. 

Look: Not clear as glass but my lit up Storm Trooper looks very cool with the lights shining through him.

We stumbled across No School Choppers a few years ago from a friend of a friend. He told me that this crazy dude was pouring resin and making some really cool sculpted tail light lenses for choppers. Granted, I no longer own a “chopper”. My motorcycle days are far behind me at this point in life. But I do build my own custom bikes from scratch (more than most motorcycle builders do) and like very cool taillights so I tracked them down to check out what they were doing. Luckily they are located in my city so I tracked them down, was very impressed with their lenses and since then have purchased at least four different ones for various builds.

First off, these lenses only fit 1933-1936 Ford Tail light assemblies. If these tail lights aren’t the look you are going for then move along now. Next issue; you can search the bone yards from here to Maine looking for an OEM Ford housing without ever finding one. Luckily, Speedway Motors in Nebraska has you covered so this is a non-issue. You can buy both polished and painted assemblies in either incandescent or LED for a pretty good price. I have used several LED version in the last few years without issue. Shown is part number 91137028.

Back to the lenses…They are hand poured so they aren’t glass smooth or clear. But they are a very thick resin hand poured into molds. The resin is more than translucent enough to really let those lights shine. Both LED and incandescent bulbs shine through the lenses perfectly. They were designed for motorcycle use so visibility and safety is a key. These lenses are more than adequate for use on your pedal powered machine. They fit tightly in the repopped 33-36 assemblies and with the cork gasket that comes with the assemblies could be called water resistant. I even had one infuriating night where my bike was hit hard enough to put a nice dent in the side of the tail light housing enough that I had to pry the lens mounting ring off with a screwdriver. I am positive that no glass lens would have survived whereas my No School Choppers Praying Hands lens came out unscathed.

To get a custom tail light lens in some cool molds (unicorns, sugar skulls, praying hands, storm troopers and even Easy-E) then the price per lens is very reasonable. Even the LED tail light assembly from Speedway Motors is priced to sell at $44.99.

So if this is a style that will fit your ride then contact No School Choppers at www.noschoolchoppers.com and place your order. Don’t forget to tell them that Kustomized Bicycle Magazine sent you their way.

Be sure to read next month’s Tech feature where we use the No School Choppers tail light lens, Speedway Motors LED tail light and do some creative wiring to install the whole assembly on the rear of a custom bicycle.   

 

 

 

December 2016

Taste: Rubbery.

Smell: Very rubbery, like when you walk into the tire store.

Touch: clean, stretchy.

Look: Nice black design, part number stamps and seams from days gone by.

We have reviewed a myriad of parts and pieces, all bike related, in the past year and a half. When I went to the Kustomized Bicycle Magazine Editor and asked to do his review he initially scoffed at the idea. He is a lot like John Jonah Jameson portrayed in the Spider-Man in the Marvel Comics Universe with the naysaying, yelling and sometimes cigar chomping…

My argument was:

 It makes your bike easier to work on….because your pants aren’t falling down.

It is bike related and Custom…You are taking bike parts and chopping them up to create something else.

Refusing to see fault in his very own definition of what this magazine is about he agreed to the feature with a lone grunt.

Alchemy Goods top-selling Ballard belt is made from reclaimed bike tubes and starts with one tube wrapped around another to create four layers of rubber. The highlight stitching allows the belt to stretch just enough for comfort, but the rubber construction ensures the belt won't stretch out permanently over time. The solid metal buckle is held in with a sturdy twin snap fold over.

Specs are:

Cost: $42.00

Sizes: 24”-28”, 28”-32”, 32”-36”, 36”-40”, 40”-44”, 44”-48”

Stitching Color: Yellow, Marine (Blue), Silver

Review: Having purchased a Ballard belt over three years ago and have worn it almost daily. The belt has held up amazingly well and only started to have some delamination around the holes and have had some breaking stitching in the last few months. Having been abused by telephone cases, tool pouches and camera bags for these years didn’t help either. Being made from reclaimed bicycle tubes is part of the coolness factor. Not only is the coolness factor important but since it is made from the tubes there is a certain amount of give so the belt doesn’t bind to your hips when pedaling.

3 years old and still holding it up

In all this is one of the most impressive bicycle related products I have purchased. It has outlived several other belts that last only a quarter of the time. For the price and lifespan, it is without a doubt the strongest and best purchase someone can make. Do yourself a favor and pick one up for yourself and those on your Christmas list.

November 2016

Minoura Pro-2 Truing Stand

Taste: Aluminum and Molded Nylon

Smell: Like plastic packaging

Touch: weighty base and very light legs

Look: Looks pretty high tech and the color combo is very nice.

 

Normal bike people don’t build a lot of wheels. If you are fairly careful with your bike and the wheel set was built pretty well they should outlast most other parts without a need for adjustment. If you only have to do it once every few years, there really is no harm in taking them to the LBS (local bike shop) for adjustment.

But then there are the readers of Kustomized Bicycle Magazine…hardcore people that live to ride and spend their sleeping hours dreaming of frame designs and custom paint jobs. We will be damned if any hipster bike shop monkey will touch out bike in between sips of the quadruple latte. God forbid they get their moustache wax or beard balm covered fingers on our three layer powder coat job with custom laced polished aluminum 29” x 80mm hoops with anodized nipples and stainless spokes.

But, with the cost of those custom parks makes our bill folds a little skinny…like fitting a 700cc V-rim skinny.

We started looking for a truing stand a few months ago and checked prices and availability. Unfortunately, our wallets were dead set on us not ever owning a Park TS-2 like we dreamed of. The cheapest and most available unit that is from a well know company was the Minoura Pro-2 Truing Stand. So we called one of our distributors and two days later there was a box on the bench in the shop. These stands run around $89.99 but you can get them cheaper if you watch for sales and coupons.

The manufactures propaganda says this stand has:

Stand is self centering, no dishing tool necessary

Accurate to 0.2mm for trueness and roundness

Accommodates all wheel sizes

Foldable for easy storage

We pulled the truing stand from its packaging and put it on the workbench. Initial impressions were that it looked like a quality unit. Everything seemed to be tight and clean and with the black steel base, red Nylon components and brushed aluminum legs it definitely wasn’t ugly to look at. The overall size of the stand is pretty thin when folded up and will be easy to store out of the way when not being used.

Let’s Get a Wheel True:

We had a perfect guinea pig of a wheel that needed to be trued. It was the wheel from the October 2016 issue where we laced a 26” wheel after changing a single speed hub to a 3-Speed Nexus hub. The wheel was assembled and tight and probably pretty close to being ready to go so we put the axle in the truing stand and put the nuts back on hand tight. The mounts are nylon so we didn’t want to overtighten the nuts. The stand is pretty solid once of the weight of the wheel is installed and with the 5” steel strap slid pointing forward and tightened down.

The wheel arms are “self centering”. They do not move independently. Once the axle nuts are tightened down the wheel should be centered. There is no way to manually center the wheel in the stand. We did some measurements and the “Accommodates All Wheel Sizes” isn’t really true. Depending on how your wheel is dished you may or may not be able to fir an 80mm hoop inside the calipers. 100mm is defiantly a no go.

There are two caliper gauges…one for each side and one for radial truing. The two caliper gauges really didn’t help in this situation since we dished the wheel to the non-drive side a bit to offer more chain clearance to keep it from rubbing the wider than normal tire. We loosened the arm radius knob and rotated the arms into place then retightened the knob. It held firm so we used the caliper knob to tighten the calipers until the left side lightly rubbed the left side of the hoop.

 

One cool feature we noticed is that you can remove the metal pieces at the end of the calipers to keep from scratching the wheel. So if you have painted, powdered, anodized, or carbon wheels these can be easily removed.

We trued the rim to within a millimeter which is exactly what we wanted to do. We noticed that there is some movement in the wheel legs when spinning the wheel with any amount of side load. We tightened the arm bolts with acorn nuts a little but it made no change. Is it annoying? A little but it definitely didn’t let us true the wheel.

We radially trued the wheel next. We used the caliper knob to open the calipers all the way then rotated the radial gauge up until it almost touched the wheel. The radial gauge wasn’t tight enough to hold its own weight so we had to grab a tri-wrench and tighten it. This could be a pain in the future so if you do a lot of wheels I would either put a longer bolt in with a wing nut or fab up a knob to loosen and tighten the radial arm when needed.

We used the knob on the radial arm to slowly move it towards the hoop while the hoop was slowly spinning. We trued the wheel radially within a millimeter then rechecked the lateral trueness. With everything within the one millimeter spec we officially called the wheel true and took it out of the stand and installed the rim strip, tube and tire. Back on the bike it went.

We then chucked a 29” x 48mm, a 700cc and a 20” x 2.125 wheel into the stand without any issue.

Pros:

·         Wallet friendly price

·         Small footprint for easy storage

·         Good looks

·         Did the job with no problems

Cons:

·         Not the sturdiest on the bench. We will end up drilling two holes in the base and bolting it to the bench permanently.

·         Replace the Radial Arm adjustment bolt with something that doesn’t require a tool to tighten.

·         About a millimeter of movement in the fork legs with any side pressure like when you are spinning the wheel. No real way to fix it but it doesn’t hurt

         the overall function.

We rate the Minoura Pro-2 Truing Stand a with 3 out of 4 stars. There are things they could have designed better to make a better truing stand but for the price it works very well. It will defeintly do the job you need it to do and is worth the purchase even for us custom bike people that will use it several times a year. If we were building wheel every day or at least once a week we would have called Park for their $300.00 pro stand.