Value Proposition: BMW OEM Performance Intake:

 

With E46’s majorly coming down in price, we’re starting to see performance products made for the car do the same.  From overstocked items that need moving to used items coming off old e46s, now is the prime time to make a bid on certain parts that used to cost much more when the e46 was in its prime popularity.

For example, take this awesome oem performance intake made for the M54 engine.  10 years ago it would have cost $1,000 and that’s for some extra noise and 3 more horsepower.  Hardly worth the $1000, but I was able to score one for only $300 off of a used 3 series that was being converted back to stock in preparation to be sold.  For this low amount, the extra grunt the engine made and the smoothness and extra refinement in throttle response was well worth the price.

For anyone who is interested in this modification.  GET IT.  You will not regret it.  The car now has a very mean and deep growl to it especially from 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear.  There is a very slight woosh! noise that sounds really cool and very different from the high pitched whining noise that come from cheaper after market cold air intakes.  Usually it’s pretty vague what kind of power aftermarket intakes produce, but the oem BMW one makes a verifiable 3 horsepower which, of course, can’t be felt at all but it’s nice to know that it’s an actual quantifiable result. 187hp > 184hp am I right?  Add some headers, an exhaust, a larger Dinan throttle body and this car could produce just about 200hp which would basically make it keep up with modern day entry level sport sedans.  The difference is that this engine actually sounds good, and not like a turbo 4 cylinder 😉

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Newish Ride. 325i 5-spd MT. No options.

A pure driving machine. I’ve always wanted one of these and found a bare bones no option 2003 model with only 85,000 miles on the clock.  One requirement though, it had to be a stick shift.

The E46 chassis of the 3-series is by far and will always be my favorite iteration of the famed sports sedan.  One doesn’t need a ton of power to how fun in a 3er.  The engine, despite only being a 2.5 liter putting out 185 horsepower and 176 lb ft of torque, sings as it screams towards red line in each gear.  Making trips to the gas station more frequent unfortunately.

Compared to the 4 cylinder turbocharged models of today, which sounds like listening to Taylor Swift on a pair of shitty Jawbone bluetooth speakers, the snarl of the M54 inline 6 sounds like a tube amp producing the warm, thick but raucous guitar notes of a Rolling Stones anthem.  Sure the 4 cylinders produce power, but it’s not all about power.  Sure you might get to the next stop light or on ramp 1 second faster than me, but it’s not about the destination.  It’s about the journey.

It’s 1am in the morning as I write this, but I think I’ll go take it for a spin one more time before having to think about all the preventative maintenance I’ll have to do on it to keep in tip top shape.

Cycle Centric

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My Bianchi Pista enjoying a beautiful Carolina sunset

I used to have a 10 mile round trip commute from apt to school.  I was in great shape, I mashed up and spun down hills all with a single speed with a ratio of 47×15, which was a pretty tall gear.

It built my calves, my quads and my glutes without the need for really going to gym and kept me in trim shape.  I miss those days.  My studio is too far for me to bike to and Charlotte just doesn’t have the infrastructure to support it at the moment.

Writing it down enables action.  Writing down that I will begin to bike again will jump start it.  Not to work or school, but around town, on purposeless trips from point A to point B just to soak up the views of the city and gain inspiration.  Your brain is working faster, your adrenaline is going and you’ll see things that wouldn’t have been seen otherwise without having to find a parking spot.  You can just go directly to it.  I for see discovering a lot of new locations for test shoots using this method.

 

Seiko SKX007

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Isn’t this one of the most beautiful watches you’ve ever seen?  At a sub $200 price tag, it is a bargain for the features and quality it possesses.  Shot with a Canon 6D, 50mm f2.5 Macro and 2 softboxes left and right.

The Wonders of Tritium Gas Tube Lume

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I wish more watches would incorporate this type of lume in their dials and bezels.  I love the soft warm glow of the gas tube that can do this without the need for charging.  I was shooting an opera performance in a very dark venue and while moving up and down behind the stage and along the pitch black peripheral hallways on the side of the theatre, it really helped to be able to tell time and the remaining time of the piece by using the watch.  This allowed me to time different angles during different parts of the performance.  Tritium gas tubes make a truly functional time piece.  Although they don’t glow as brightly as a fully charged Super-Luminova dial marker, they glow much longer a lower intensity which allows the eyes to adjust much quicker to them at night versus being blinded by Super-Luminova (which only lasts a couple hours anyways when charged).

At this stage, gas tube lume technology is still not advanced enough for them to create non-linear tubes so from a design perspective, using this as lume is very limiting as there cannot be curved or rounded markers which is requisite for many different styles of dial markers.

I would love to see this technology used in the Speedmaster’s though as it has a linear dial markers anyways.  Maybe in the future Omega?

Chrome Industries 37L Rolltop Excursion Backpack

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An Excellent Urban Alternative to Your Standard Dry Bag

I wanted a dry bag that looked a little more sleek than your average sports outlet offerings.  I’m glad Chrome came out with a the Rolltop Excursion because it’s a hell of a bag.  The materials are top notch, it’s lighter weight than a lot of the laminated and plasticky feeling bags out there on the market and it looks so sleek.  You can kayak in style with one these, this isn’t just a waterproof bag to get you through those downpours on your bike.  Let’s take a look some of this bag’s features.

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The main weight saving feature this bag has is the knurled Welded seams which truly makes the bag water tight even at the seams where most bags suffer from water penetration.  With Knurl Welded seams, it looks like the sides and edges of the bag aren’t sewed together, but pressed together extremely tightly with an interlocking pattern which utilizes the 50% more surface area between the 2 meeting fabrics.  This saves material which saves weight, but also creates a bong between the two fabrics that’s 1.5x stronger than your usual seams.  I guess the saying “becoming undone at the seams” will never apply to this bag.  As Chrome says, this bag is bombproof, waterproof and overall, life proof.  I would have no qualms taking this bag to go kayaking and even dropping it in the water because I know nothing inside will get wet.  Additionally, the inside of the bag is lined with a rubbery material.

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Here’s a closer look at what Knurled Welding looks like.  There are 2 types of fabric used to create this bag.  One is your standard 600 Denier Cordura fabric that is also TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) coated.  This treatment makes the back more abrasion and heat resistant than non-TPU treated bags.  In other words, you can drag it across the ground and it will be really hard to to tear this type of fabric.  The Cordura makes up the upper half of the bag.  As you can see from the photo, the bottom of the bag is made with a different type of material with slightly more sheen to it.  This is Hypalon which is a really cool water proof, heat proof and UV resistant material that is used in US Coast Guard life rafts, kayaks and even in roofing.  It stays a deep black no matter how much you’ve used it or exposed it to sun.  You can let the bottom sit in water for years and water will never get through.  I really like the feel of Hypalon because its texture is smooth with just the right amount of roughness to give your finger some resistance if you slide it along the fabric.  It’s a little bit tacky to the touch.  I can’t really explain it, you’ll just have to try out the bag yourself.  In a way I wish the entire bag was made out of Hypalon, that’s how cool the material is.

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We’ve got the iconic Chrome logo at the bottom for good measure the white on black is a very sharp and gives a the bag a nice edgy look to it.  It’s a lot cooler than some dry bags out there that have really bright colors and the name and logo of the company splashed across the entire bag.  Chrome Industries is subtle and understated, giving it just the right amount of cool.

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The back of the bag is padded and it seems like there is a sheet on the back which keeps the bag flat and items from poking into you.  The padding on the back is comfortable and the raised areas on the padding I assume are for airflow to prevent my back from getting too sweaty.  I hiked a few miles to the location I needed to be with the bag fully loaded and the straps were relatively easy on my shoulders.  I wish the straps were slightly more wide, they just seem a little bit narrow for a bag this wide and large.  The miniature seat belt buckle for the chest stabilizer works like a charm as well and adds a really cool artistic touch to the entire set up.  Even the adjusters for the shoulder straps are metal.  I forgot to take a picture of them, but they sort of resemble a metal claw clamp that bites down onto the fabric in order to prevent it from moving at all.

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I think the only gripe I have about this bag are these wannabe “MOLLE” loops in the front.  I’ve used real military MOLLE loop bags before and I don’t know how this even resembles one of those legitimate tactical MOLLE systems.  A true MOLLE system has interlocking straps that let you cross weave other MOLLE system bags very securely together with the existing bag.  I don’t know how these supposed MOLLE loops on the Chrome Roll Top Excursion are to work with existing MOLLE bags.  These are just some random loops where you can put a bike look through or something.  There is no way to attach another bag onto the Rolltop Excursion via these loops.  They do seem pretty strong though so putting a bike like into between them and perhaps a carabiner with your keys is an effective way of using them on this bag.  Other than that, they are just for show.  I guess they needed some texture in the front to break up the front of the bag a little bit.  If Chrome is planning to develop some smaller bags that will allow you to use the Roll Top Excursion like a modular bag, that would be awesome!

So what can it carry?  This thing is a beast and will swallow your kitchen sink and a couple small children.  The bag can hold a whopping 37-43 liters worth of gear.  There is also a slot inside where you can fit a 13inch laptop, a notebook and some pens/calculator.  The top of the bag rolls down and on the sides of the top, there are 2 plastic fasteners that let you pull the top tight once you’ve rolled it down to ensure maximum waterproofness.  So what did I decide to put in it?

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An entire reflecting telescope system that weighed 35lbs.  The Chrome Roll Top Excursion was able to hold the tripod, counterweights and the main telescope easily.  That’s how incredible this bag is.  I only wish they made a size that was in between the only 2 sizes they currently offer which is a 18L and a 37L.  The one that I bought for this review is much to big for my daily purposes.  It’s not like I go camping in the woods every single month or need to carry this much gear on a weekly basis.  Perhaps this bag is good for someone who does that, but until then and for the price, I’d be better suited to the cheaper 18L version, which I’ll be returning this one for!  I hope this review helps you make a decision in your quest for a dry bag.  Give the Chrome Roll Top Excursion a try, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Fast Rubber: The Continental Grand Prix 4000s II

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The Quickest and Stickiest Rubber You Can Buy for the Road

You can just keep moving on, we’ve seen all the reviews about how great this tire is, but hey, if you have a couple minutes, stay on my page and read my experiences with it too.  This is coming from an avid commuter and lay-man bicyclist that just enjoys going as fast as I can or as slow as I want.  I’m a city cyclist with an occasional taste for the finer things in life, sometimes I like to use what the pros use and the Continental GP4000s ii is one of those items.  Now that they supposedly fixed the “1000 mile blow out” problem of the version I, this is even more reason for me to use them.  The version 2’s are exactly the same the version 1’s.  The only difference now are the new color options and sizes.  With the version 1’s, the tires had to be all black.  It was the only way Continental could get the black chili compound in there.  But now they’ve figured out how to include Black Chili and make the tires in different colored trims.  This isn’t a big deal for me, but for people who wanted a 700×28 tire, they have that option now.

Is this tire overkill for my needs? Probably, but if I’m going to be biking over a thousand miles on my bike a year, I think safety and comfort are worth the $100.  I’d rather buy the best that I can afford when it comes to tires.  Like cars, you can’t skimp on tires because they’re the only things touching the road.

The GP4000s ii is the 2nd version of the acclaimed GP4000s I.  Both tires have the special black chili compound mixed in which gives the rubber a really soft and tacky feel to it.  This tire throws up all sorts of debris when it goes over small rocks or when I’m riding in the gutter, the rubber just latches onto whatever touches.  I have ridden through heavy rains without fail for over 800 miles so far except for a flat in the rear tire.  That was mainly my fault caused by riding through an awfully large mound of broken glass just to see how well these tires would hold up in wet conditions.  As great as the GP4000s II is, it’s not quite up to snuff as the Gatorskins or 4Seasons when it comes to rear puncture protection.  Because of that I changed my rear tire to a Gatorskin Ultra to withstand the extra weight since I usually ride with about 15 lbs of stuff on my back.

I have leaned heavily into corners on slick cement (as far as a Bianchi Pista can let me lean, which is a a lot since it has a really high bottom bracket) without fail or feeling skiddish in the rear.  The tires roll very smoothly and I can definitely feel a difference when starting from a stop.  As far as the bike feeling faster overall, I doubt there is much difference.  You’d have to get much lighter wheels or just work up your cadence and muscles if you want to go faster.

The GP4000s ii on the front holds up very through extremely poor road conditions, light pavement gravel, small rocks, pebbles, craters, bumps and the occasional piece of glass and metal.  I would be extra careful on the rear if you using these.  There’s a nice amount of protection in the middle of the tire with Conti’s Vectran belt and I’ve ridden 800 miles before i got a flat in the rear, but still this tire should last a lot more than 800 miles.  I am also quite light at only 155lbs.  If you’re over 200lbs and riding with back full of gear than perhaps some 700x28s would be in order instead or at least a tire with a bit more protection.  If you’re heavier and want to stay with the 23 or 25s, then you should be a a litte cautious going over too much debris and try to the stay on the smoother parts of the road.  If you’re using this mainly on bike trails then you should be ok either way.

People have complained that the rubber is softer and that it wears a bit faster in the GP4000s i & ii, but for the performance, it’s something that I can live with.  If you’re a “i don’t need your opinion, I need hard facts” kind of guy, than check out Slowtwitch’s in depth data analysis of the GP4000s ii’s rolling resistance and power needed to propel, compared to other tires.

GP4000s ii Data

Reproofing your Rummy Waxed Canvas the Right Way

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I bought an awesome Mission Workshop Rummy Messenger bag made from waxed canvas last year.  Rode through many rainstorms with it strapped to my back with all my important papers, electronics and a 17 inch Macbook pro inside of it.  The contents inside never got wet.  In the last downpour I rode through, I discovered that it started to leak a little bit on the inside with the inner lining getting a bit damp.  Some of my papers were damp as well.  This was due to water penetration on the outside, through the cotton fabric.  But this wasn’t any type of cotton, this was a nice 10 oz. wax cotton from Mission Workshop.  This means that the cotton is impregnated with a type of parrafin/linseed oil wax that creates a water resistant barrier.  I didn’t quite know what to think of it but soon realized that the wax from the factory was starting to deteriorate and dry out over time.  This was probably due to the fact that the wax cotton fabric was sitting in the factory for a while before it was purchased and turned into a bag, or maybe because I tend to beat up my gear from heavy use.  Either way, I needed to remedy the situation fast because when it rains in the South…it really comes down hard.

Mission Workshop itself does not sell any prodcut for you to rewax their cotton bags so I had to do a little bit of research on the internet.  I came down to 3 choices.  Otter Wax, Barbour Wax or Filson’s Oil Wax.  From what I’ve read about Otter Wax, it comes in a bar and doesn’t go on very well even if you use a blow dryer.  I wasn’t so sure how well things would work by just rubbing a dry bar of wax onto a bag.  I didn’t want my bag to have a light coat of wax, I wanted that stuff to soak through the fabric and really get in there.  Barbour was an excellent choice, but it’s made in Britain, would take a long time to get here because multiple vendors didn’t have it and I just wanted to go with American made.  Filson’s was a bit of an anomaly.  I’ve never heard of Filson’s and the name “Oil Finish Wax” made me a bit reluctant because I was afraid their wax would give my bag a permanent oily touch, you know, like those old school wind jackets that sailors would cover themselves with back in the day that constantly looked wet even when dry.  After more research, I decided to give Filson’s a try just because they’ve been in the business for so long and they’ve been making all sorts of waxed cotton/ water resistant items since the 19th century.  I’m glad I did, Filson’s Oil Finish Wax worked like a charm on my messenger bag.  I would say that it went beyond “water resisting” the fabric, it waterproofed it.

That water stayed there for hours upon hours.  It did not seep through the fabric, that’s how great Filson’s Oil Finish Wax is!

I’m going to run through how you can reproof your waxed cotton once the existing wax has worn off.  It’s a very simple process but a bit time consuming because there are certain steps you must take in order to get the process right.

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Here is the bag, a can of wax and a cotton rag.  If you can, take the strap off the bag in order to make it easier to work with and get into the nooks and crannies of the bag with the wax.  Give yourself a nice flat area to work with either on a floor or a nice big table.

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First, you’re going to want to use some cold water to wipe the bag down and clean off any dirt or caked on gunk from your adventures.  You don’t want any abrasives on the bag while reproof it, the surface needs to be completely free of debris before you start.  Think of it like waxing a car, you always clean your car before you wax it!

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Next you’re going to want to heat the wax in really hot water until it is completely melted.  What I did was place the tin of wax in a plastic bag and placed the entire thing in a pot of boiled water for about 20 minutes.  You want the wax to be completely liquid so that it can absorb itself into the fabric.  Preferably, the fabric should be heated to in order to really open up the pores and microscopic spaces within the cotton for even better absorption.  The pros at Barbour and Belstaff use a heated table heated  but who has one of those at home?   I simply used a hair dryer at semi close range and went over the messenger bag a few times to get it warm and toasty.

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Now, dip your rag into the wax and start rubbing the wax into the messenger bag, a small section at a time in a circular motion.  Be sure to overlap because wax can’t really be spread easily once it’s in the fabric, you’ll have to overlap your sections in order to get every part of the messenger bag to absorb the wax.  This is the most time consuming because you’ll have to get the wax on and then also use a hair dryer to insure that the area you’re around is warm.  Liquid wax begins to harden very quickly.  Even after a few minutes of taking it out of its tin, the wax starts to become a bit creamy.  Even after I took the wax tin out of the bag, I kept it in a shallow bowl with hot water.  If you do this, be sure the water doesn’t get into the wax.  Keeping everything hot and liquid might be overkill, but I wanted the wax to really get in so that I didn’t have re-wax my bag every few months.  The fabric will become significantly darker  and look almost oily because of all the wax that it is absorbing.  This is completely normal and that dark wet finish will eventually go away after a few days of drying.

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I was a little shocked at first by how oily the thing looked.  At this point I was thinking…man, maybe I should have gone with Otter Wax, ha!  When you’re done waxing, hang the bag up in a warm room and let the bag naturally air dry over 24 hours.  Immediately after waxing, the bag will be sticky to the touch and just overall, a bit gross but like I said, that is completely natural.  Don’t attempt to take it out immediately into the rain or drag it through the mud.

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This was 24 hours after the bag has dried.  It still has a little bit of sheen to it, but it’s well on its way to drying completely and looking like how I got it from Mission Workshop…only a little better.  Filson’s wax will give your bags a slightly darker look to with a bit of sheen, like leather.

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After a couple days, the bag will basically be back in brand new condition and fully weatherproof as before.

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This is how good Filson’s wax is!  The wax is so strong that if this cotton material were larger, I could use it as a rain tarp for camping.  Before waxing, water soaked into the fabric after a few minutes, but now it just sits there.  These are 2 truly great products used with each other.  Keep in mind that for ultimate water protection, I don’t think anything beats Gore-tex or Cordura, these are just simply fabrics made with newer technology.  But if you have an appreciation for how things were done during days gone by, wax canvas bags and jackets can offer equally good protection as long as it is maintained properly.

Leave any comments if you have any questions about the re-proofing process. Thanks for reading!

 

 

The Truth about Bicycle Commuting

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I’m not quite sure if bicycle commuting was ever about saving money on gas.  Not really.  It’s merely a net transfer of costs from one thing, gas, to another, food.  Let’s be real, everything needs energy to move.  Your car needs gasoline, your body needs food and lots of it if you’re going to be biking 14 miles a day between work/school/home.  All bicycle commuting is, is a net transfer of cost, in the end you’ll be spending money, regardless of what it’s on.  The positive externalities that result from you biking though, that’s what matters.  You’re making yourself less reliant on a scarce resource. You’re saving the environment, you’re being a lot healthier, and you’ll be saving some money on car upkeep.  So in a way, you’re indirectly saving quite a bit of money on other things.  I’m not a gungho bicyclist where I would ever get rid of my car though.  Hell no.  I love driving, the individuality my car gives me and road trips on the weekends way too much for that, but by cutting down on city stop n’ go miles, you’re actually prolonging the life of your engine and transmission with less wear and tear.  Just by bicycling 3-4 days out of the week, you’ll notice that how many miles you’re not racking up on the odometer.  If you’re getting rid of your car all together and don’t have to pay parking cost, then yes, you’d be saving a ton of money.  If you live in Boston, bike and don’t need a car, then yes you’re saving a ton of money but if you’re living in Boston, you have a much higher cost of living anyways.  Sigh, there really is no free lunch except saving the environment and exercise.  Those are definitely things you get for free, if you bike.

There are downsides that I’ve realized.  Some places where it’s always cold and windy as hell such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Maine, Vermont are good for bicycle commuting.  I’m in the South where it’s horrifically humid up to December…well then, I think bicycle commuting only works for a select few.  You’re either a student, where you can just arrive to class sweating your ass off and looking like a wet turd or you’re the boss, and have your own private shower to refresh yourself.  Commuting just doesn’t work in weather like this if you need to arrive somewhere presentable because I guarantee you by the 2nd mile, you will be drenched.  I don’t care if you’re riding fixed gear, single speed, 25 gear etc, you’re gonna get soaked in sweat.  I can do it because I don’t really care how I look when I arrive to class but I guarantee you if I have anyone to meet for an interview, I’ll be driving.  Over the summer while i was interning full time, I was still able to get away with biking because there was a pretty relaxed dress code.  But if I had a full time office job, than commuting would not be a possibility unless I lived a couple blocks away from work.

These are all things that you must decide upon if you decide to commute.  Plan to eat at least 2 extra hearty meals a day if you commute via bike.  Eat breakfast and always get a good night sleep.  When you commute, you really need a routine to stick to and you need to plan very carefully how you will go about your day’s objectives.  Random trips that go out of the way are no longer possible since every extra trip will take longer on a bicycle.

Bicycle commuting isn’t for everyone.  A lot of cities in the United States still don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate bicycle commuters so it’s important to map out routes in potentially dangerous or hilly areas in order to maximize and efficiently use your body’s energy.