life in the so called space age

Friday, August 19, 2011

ideas out of context.. and a rant.

So I saw this motorcycle on Yanko Design today. I love it, but I hate it. I love it because of the railed canopy. I hate it because the designer framed it as a race bike, which I don't think the design supports. I think designers have a general preoccupation with making everything "sexy" and "fast". Perhaps rightly so, sexy and fast sell. At the same time, I feel that they should have the knowledge or at least do the research to see what is practical for a sexy/fast piece, especially if it's something to be used for competitive racing. My main qualms are the far fetched "flexible" frame idea and the ridiculously wide tires. The former is a little more sci-fi than I'd like to see in a concept and the latter is inappropriate from an unsprung weight perspective.

All that said, this design is very inspiring to me, but in an entirely different context. I've long kicked around the idea of a two or three wheeled urban vehicle that is more car than motorcycle; combining the small footprint of a bike with the shelter of a car. Most of my ideas end up with the ubiquitous glass dome cockpit. The two rail design above gives me some new ideas for a canopy to put the driver under. Also, the super wide tires could potentially drastically improve vertical stability. Neither of these two concepts completely solve all the problems, but they sure do open some doors.

And now for the rant.. Can we please be done with hubless wheels? I understand that it's interesting looking, and it is doable, but it's still not practical, and it's become so pedestrian in car/bike/motorcycle design.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Track attack

In the past weeks I've been working on track racing. I'd never done any of it before, but I decided to give it a go both because our team will be doing track events this year, and also because the cadence style is more like BMX, which I enjoy. For those not in the know, the difference between track riding and road riding is fairly substantial. The bikes are similar to road bikes in shape, with slightly different geometry and one, fixed gear ratio.


Our home track is Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis, as seen above. As a rule, beginning riders have to go through three hours of track training that the velodrome is offering as "Track 101" classes. I did the classes in two Thursday night sessions. The first was mostly terminology and technology, with a little riding to get used to the track and the bikes. The second was all riding, practicing pacelines and moving around on the track.

After my classes, I am now legal to ride some of the track events. I decided to do a time trial saturday, figuring it would be good for experience, and a good baseline for training. I went with Mendoza and rode a bike he loaned me. It's a custom made Landshark. It's not carbon, aluminum or anything fancy, but it's super light and fits me well. It's also got a pretty sweet paint job - red with green metallic scaled dragons. His coach and team were there so we hung out with them. I think the first real life lesson I learned about track racing is that there is no shade at the velodrome, although I didn't realize it until later. The Pista Elite/Glacial Energy team had a pop-up tent, but it really wasn't big enough. I am quite red today.

For races, I tried to select a variety, since I didn't know what I would like or be competent at. I went with the 200m, 1k, and 3k. At the end we decided to try a team sprint. My times all sucked, which is to be expected since this was my first real track outing, however, I am feeling better about the shorter events. At the same time, I prefer the held start of the longer events.. Go figure. I think it's all mental. I feel a lot stronger taking off from a stop than I do trying to gauge my speed in a flying start. Trying to find a consistent steady state is going to be vital. In the Kilo, I felt like I had a good start, and a good first lap but after the first lap, I was dead tired. I never really thought about how hard it is to push a big gear for any distance. The 3k was much the same, except I paced myself a little better, going easier on the start. I think I liked the team sprint the best of all. I started, so I just had to go one lap with a held start. I screwed up a little because I wasn't sure what to expect, but overall, I think I did ok, and liked the length.

Here are some video examples of what a 200m and Kilo time trials look like. Probably incredibly boring looking to most.

I'll probably be back at the track on the 28th for training night, which will be my first time racing against other people. Should be interesting. In the mean time, I suppose it makes sense to start building. I'd been putting it off to try and get a good base, but since I more or less have to start weight training to get my speed up for the track, I'm going to try and add in intervals and other higher intensity stuff to my other rides.. which also means I need to ditch the diet and start eating a little more.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gettin' my paper straight.

Lately I've been in a bit of a budget crunch. I'm basically on a fixed income, and incidental college expenses have caught up with me at about the same time that my roof started leaking, which is far from an ideal situation. I've been at the end of my means for a while, which means I can't really pay anything down to increase my available cashflow. Since picking up a second job is pretty much not possible, I've set out to make some budget cuts that will free up cash on a monthly basis and allow me to pay down some debt. These are not new ideas, but sometimes I just forget that there are options. Maybe some of these could be helpful for others.

1. Cable bill - I actually haven't had cable for a while, but I'm still a slave to Comcast for Internet service, which I really don't think I could do without. I generally feel like the price is a rip off, but since they're really the only show in town, I'm stuck. I did remember though that I'm eligible for promotional pricing. Comcast promo pricing generally lasts 6 months, but once your 6 months is up, you have to wait 3 months before getting the same package again. I think their hope is that in that 3 months, you will forget about it; and i did! This was good for about $20 off a month.

2. Cell phone - My iPhone bill is stupid expensive. A few months ago I added a higher level of text messages because I was going over, mostly from texting with just one person. I'm no longer texting that person nearly as much, so I thought I could grab back the $10 or $15 it was costing me. Sadly, AT&T changed my options. This is one of my biggest qualms with AT&T - I rarely look at my rate plan, but everytime I do, I find out that I'm in some now obsolete plan. Regardless, I downgraded from 1500 texts to 1000, (an option I never previously had) and got $5 a month back.

$5 wasn't much of a savings since my bill is about $80 a month. While I've come to depend on the iPhone for mobile e-mail reading, I don't use a lot of texts, and I rarely make phone calls. When a friend told me that Virgin Mobile has a $25/mo, unlimited data, unlimited text plan. The shortcoming is that it only has 300 talk minutes, but I actually use less than that. So pending a few questions, I think I'm dumping AT&T and the iPhone in favor of Virgin mobile and the Motorola Triumph. It looks like I will have almost all the functionality that I did with the iPhone for a fraction of the price.

3. Credit Card - I've been watching for a while for a credit card ad that had some 0% interest time and a low post-introductory APR. Sadly, they all seem to have crappy rates. my current cards are the best I've been seeing at 10.99%. However, I did get an offer for a Citibank "Diamond Preferred" card, which boasted 21 months interest free on balance transfers. You always have to check the numbers on these deals, because sometimes the cost of doing the transfer is more than what you would save in interest. In this case it was 3%, not terrible. Plus, this card has a high-ish limit, so I was able to transfer all of one credit and part of another to it. The savings was enough that I will have smaller payments, freeing up cash to pay down the existing cards, and there will be less interest in the long run.

Overall I haven't freed up a _ton_ of money, but I've opened up enough to make a difference. Now if I can just keep from buying stuff!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Weird bicycle brakes.

While googling for dimensions of cantilever brake bosses, I encountered this oddball, found on this page of strange brakes. It's ABS for bikes! When engaged the wheels contact the rim and the rotation turns a cam which moves the brake pads in and out, "pulsing" them as in the automotive equivalent.

I can't say that I see much need for this, however, the engage-able rollers could be a novel way of transferring energy to dynamos and the like.

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Friday, June 10, 2011


I have a real weakness in my creative endeavors.. It's originality. It's not that I'm unoriginal, it's that I feel like I have to be entirely original. My mind tells me that an idea that's been done isn't worth touching. Realistically, I know this isn't true; almost anything can be improved upon. Regardless, I struggle with this.

Along these lines, I'm currently trying to decide what to do about my IBDC project. I spent a few weeks developing an idea, and have been slowly modeling it and working out details only to find that someone has already done something very similar.

So I've been working on a design for the International Bicycle Design Competition for the past few weeks. My idea targets 3rd world and developing countries by 1. allowing individuals/communities the ability to use this bike to pump/transport water and 2. charge cell phones, as they are becoming more important in lesser developed countries where many people don't have electricity in their homes.

So I work up this idea. It's a regular bike, with a rack on the back to hold a water tank. the rack can rotate down to form a stand (like a bike trainer) so the bike can be pedaled while stationary. The drive system for the pump and generator run off of a hub mounted disk, not dissimilar to a disk brake.

A couple of days ago, I'm googling around for info on pumps and bike parts, and I encounter this project: (or here for more details on the build: ... df&h=fc315 ) Basically, it's the same rotating stand idea. instead of the pump/generator on a ring/pinion drive system, they are run as a traction system from the tire.

My working model:
My preliminary IBDC bike.. not done..

So now I'm left wondering if it's above board for me to continue with my project as planned, or scrap it and start over with 6 days before the submission deadline. I really don't yet understand the social / ethical landscape of design enough to know for sure. I've posted the question over at core77, so hopefully I'll hear back. In the mean time, I'm trying to come up with a new idea that I could knock out quickly.

All that said, definitely check out the link to Some really cool and useful projects made from junk. If I wasn't stuck here, I think it would be a ton of fun to work on this type of stuff for people who could really use it.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting attached to drawing tools

Since I've been involved in Industrial Design, one thing has remained constant: I suck at sketching. Due to my non-standard approach to this area of study, I skipped a lot of classes that would have helped me out here and have been muddling along on my own. Throughout my classes, I've always felt like I've never really found my "voice" visually.

Drawing tools have helped a little in this area; their tactility inspiring me somewhat. I started with ball point pen as mandated by my sketching instructor. Completely hated it. I can't speak for other designers or students, but it seems like the worst sketching utensil to start with. It was very difficult to get levels of darkness.

I then moved to mechanical pencils with red lead. They seemed much more expressive to me and also scanned well.. Unfortunately, red line drawings looked almost universally crappy after markers. I switched to blue, which helped the situation, although they didn't scan well.

Then I found the Papermate Flair pen. It was the first writing instrument I really liked a lot. It's felt tip isn't extremely versatile, but it feels so smooth. I still use them for post-it sketches, and just about any text. The next and most recent discovery was accidental. I grabbed a pencil out of the pile at work to use for sketching up some UI wireframes. It was perfect. It was a Sanford American 2.5F. I searched high and low (and on the internet) for more of them. The only find was one 12 pack left at an Amazon store. I couldn't bring myself to pay $5 in shipping for some pencils, so I gave up. Dixon seems to be the cock of the walk around here, so I got a pack of Ticonderoga Black's and found them to be pretty lousy. They had grainy porous wood that flaked off and the thick paint just felt sticky.

At the same time, I started researching the Sanford American. Interestingly, they are owned by the parent company Newell-Rubbermaid. The lists of N-R subsidiaries is rather disgusting to me, as someone who fears big business and would also like to see pencils made by a pencil company and not a mega-conglomerate. Also interestingly, other subsidiaries included Papermate and Prismacolor. It looks like Prisma still has some pencils in the Sanford name, but I really don't want to pay Prisma prices for a cheap pencil. However, when I was at the drug store yesterday, I noticed a new pencil offering from Papermate along side their crappy Mirada pencils. They are called (not surprisingly) American Classics. I've not spent extended time with them, but at first glance, they are damn near the Sanford American. Cheap, thin paint, and a more solid (and probably cheaper than cedar) wood. Perfect!

I know how lame it sounds, but I really feel more creative when sketching with these things.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Designing bicycles..

So I intend to work up a submission for the International Bicycle Design Competition over the summer. You would think that this might be an easy task given the amount of time I spend on a bike as well as the amount of time I spend keeping up on products and emerging technologies in cycling. Sadly, it is not. I've a bit of "designers-block". You see, it's not enough to simply make a cool looking, functional bicycle; you need to have a gimmick. My experience in Industrial Design remains somewhat limited, but in the year I've been involved in it, it seems like the gimmicks are the fuel that makes things happen in most cases. So-called "green-ness" is a hot topic, as is helping 3rd worlders. (regardless of their thoughts on the matter!)

So I need a gimmick. I initially was on the "3rd worlders" band wagon until I did some research on what they actually need. Turns out it's additional inner tubes and trustworthy mechanics. This is not to say that I haven't considered turning my design eye towards those matters, but I rather feel like I'm reinventing the wheel.. er solid innertube, as it were.

I've got some business/empowerment ideas kicking around, and they might even impress the contest judges, but I really doubt it'd do much for the end users.

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