Category Archives: Bikes and autos

Bicycle projects, car projects, motorcycles too

Harbor Freight 25% Off Coupon

Use coupon code at checkout online or print to use in store. Click for printable version.

Tomorrow, April 24, 2011, Harbor Freight offers up a one-day, one-use only coupon for 25 percent off any one item. I already know what I’m getting with it. How about you?

Use this coupon to save 25% off any item when you shop Online or at a Harbor Freight Tools store. *Cannot be used with any other discount or coupon. Coupon not valid on any of the following: gift cards, Inside Track Club membership, extended service plans, Compressors, Generators, Tool Cabinets, Welders, Floor Jacks, Campbell Hausfeld products, open box items. Coupon not valid on prior purchases after 30 days from original purchase date with original receipt. Coupon cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Original coupon must be presented in-store to receive the offer.
Valid One Day Only. 4/24/11. Limit one coupon per customer.

1958 Land Rover Series II and Defender 90 Rebuild Timelapse Videos – Two of the Best 4x4s Ever Getting Assembled

My Series III, somewhere in the southeastern California desert (with my Land Rover guru Steve).

In case you didn’t know, I’m a classic Land Rover nut. Their rugged, no-frills style matches everything I like in life. Go-anywhere badassery, marching through deserts and over mountains. Or even better, desert mountains.

After my brother-in-law Steve got me bit by the LR bug, I found and bought a 1973 Series III in need of a little TLC and promptly dismantled it to get it back into “safe” running condition. That truck took me through the Baja desert, into the Arizona highlands, and on a very amazing slow-paced cross-country trek (a max range of less than 200 miles per tank combined with cruising speeds around 50mph kept me connected with small-town locals for a couple weeks).

Nowadays, my Land Rover is our beach vehicle in Rhode Island. Not being able to tinker on it regularly, I find myself watching videos of other people working on their trucks. Here are two batches of timelapse rebuilds and assemblies – the first, a 1958 Series II, the second, a Defender 90 built ground up, done by one dude alone! Enjoy.

Continue reading 1958 Land Rover Series II and Defender 90 Rebuild Timelapse Videos – Two of the Best 4x4s Ever Getting Assembled

Video: From Steel – Custom Steel Bicycle Fabrication

Another great documentary from Michael Evans (who shot the awesome video “Naturally Risen,” about Una Pizza Napoletana’s Anthony Mangieri). Watch as master bicycle maker Sean Walling expertly glides from machine to machine, cutting, grinding, and welding his way towards a gorgeous, custom steel frame beauty. I took some notes from this – especially the way he uses those hole saws to mate up the tubes.

Sean Walling, owner of Soulcraft, builds top notch custom steel bicycle frames. This short film documents Sean’s fabrication methods: a well choreographed dance of experience and muscle memory producing a seemingly effortless ode to process.
From Steel: invites the viewer into Sean’s machine shop for an up close and personal look at the work that results in yet another awesome Soulcraft.
Musical score provided by the internationally praised duo, Mattson 2. Courtesy of Galaxia Records.
Directed by: Michael John Evans:
Starring: Sean Walling:
Music by: The Mattson 2:

How to Fix A Dent On Your Car: Hairdryer and A Can Of Compressed Air

Backed into a pole? Someone open their door into your car in the parking lot? Errant football throw bang your hood during a tailgate party? Now you have a dent in your brand new car. Pricey to fix, ugly to see. But before you hire an expert, try this fast and cheap solution.

You need:
– a hair dryer
– a can of compressed air
– about 5 minutes of time

Step 1. Heat the dent with the hairdryer for 3 or 4 minutes.
Step 2. Hold the can of compressed air upside down. Spray the propellant on the heated dent area.

POP, the dent snaps back into place.

As the metal heats up it expands, and when it cools down it rapidly contracts — which helps force it into the original shape.

That’s it!

Note: For this to work, the dent has to be an indentation – if the metal is creased, it won’t be able to pop out.

An interesting thing I discovered while researching this for myself — it’s hard to find compressed air sold and fulfilled directly by Amazon (aka, “Prime eligible”) — perhaps due to the laws regarding propellants. But of the ones sold via Amazon, this one was the cheapest I found, if you’re looking to try this yourself.

Here are a few videos of people using this technique successfully. Good luck.

My 1993 Mazda Rx7 had a dent in the rear Quarter Panel that was driving me nuts. 30 Seconds with the Hair dryer and some compressed air fixed the problem for 5 dollars and 2 mins of time.

Build Your Own RC Rock Crawler For Backyard Off-Road Fun – Or Just Watch Videos Of Other People Doing It

Rock crawling is a specialized hobby. Take automotive off-roading and narrow it down to just one specialize part: carefully climbing up craggy hills and over tall boulders at super-slow speeds. Sometimes done with stock trucks, but usually using highly modified vehicles with huge amounts of suspension travel and fully locking axles so all four tires receive power simultaneously.

Awesome, yes. Easy hobby to dive into? Not so much. Not only do you need a tricked-out truck, you also need a location that fits the occasion. Places like southern Utah are a mecca for this type of activity. But those in rural Nebraska have to look hard to find their crawling opportunities.

Fortunately, there’s another fun way to rock crawl, on the micro scale. A segment of the RC car community has moved away from racing their high-powered cars in tight laps at the scale equivalent of 275mph, to recreating an accurate hill-climbing, rock crawling experience at 1/12 size. The cars they use are like the trucks built for the real deal: super customized, one-of-a-kind machines that excel in their field, with gear ratios that move them at a snail’s pace. And for the owners of both full-sized and micro crawlers, the fun lies in the build process, sometimes even more so than driving the vehicle.

How to go about making your own crawler? You can buy a kit designed specifically for this. You can buy an RC truck and modify it. Or you can build the entire thing from scratch.

This Instructable gives you a great starting point to making a custom machine: building the frame. Using metal rods as the tubing and welding it together, this thing will help its tiny passengers survive a rollover from precarious heights.

A few notes to keep in mind as you start working on your project:

1. Suspension – This is the key component when it comes to building a good rc rock crawler.

Suspension articulation is what you are seeking. Independent A-arm type suspension does not provide adequate articulation for climbing over steep rocks.

You will need a rc rock crawling truck with a solid front and rear axle, with 4-link suspension.

You want your spring and shock combination to be as soft as possible to allow for maximum axle articulation.

2. Chassis – A chassis with a low center of gravity is essential.

This may be an obvious point, but moving every ounce as low as possible is going to make a huge difference when faced with a steep incline.

If your weight is too high your rc rock crawler will roll over too easily.

3. Tires – You are going to want large soft tires, with an aggressive tread pattern.

You want your tires to flatten out from the weight of the rc rock crawler, this will give you the maximum traction when rock crawling.

If your tires will not support your crawler without foam inserts, use the softest inserts that will do the job.

If your tires are too hard and need some softening you can spray them WD-40 to soften them.

The large over-sized tires are needed for ground clearance.

4. Bead-lock Rims – Using bead-lock rims make it much easier in tweaking your tires and foam inserts.

It is much easier to add or remove your foam inserts if all you have to do is unbolt the bead-locks.

If you are using rims that need to have the tires glued on, you will need to 3, 4 or 5 sets of tires glued up with different inserts or no inserts.

I find it much easier to use the same rims and change tiers or inserts.

5. Lock the differentials – This is the number one modification you need to do.

In all other types of Rcing differentials are much needed aspect, but not in a rc rock crawler. They are a detriment.

When you are working your way over a rock it is usually done one wheel at a time.

If you do not have your differentials locked, when you start over a rock the differential would send the power to the opposite wheel that is not under load.

When using a locked differential the wheel trying to get over the rock maintains constant power.

There are many different ways to lock your differentials.

You can pack them with JB Weld, modeling clay or purchase lockers.

Using locked differentials will mean that your rc crawler is successful.

6. Stock electric motors – Your rc crawler is not about speed, it is about slow calculated climbing.

You want to gear for torque. The objective is for powerful starts to get over the rocks, high RPMs will just flip your crawler over on its roof.

So, gear your rc crawler low for high torque and it will be a productive crawler.

More good DIY build info can be found here, here, and a series of links found here.

One other shared element is the videos these enthusiasts capture and post of their rides. Usually the real ones are part of a procession, like billy goats climbing a mountain in a line, with the drivers of the other vehicles stepping out to guide each other with shouts and whistles. The RC version are impressively shot, some including details that go way beyond just the trail driving.

Mercedes Unimog:

Toyota Hilux:

Range Rover Classic:
This video is hilariously bizarre, btw.

(thanks to Sizod for the video links!)

My Chevy Volt Q&A and Engineer Interview – Watch Here

EDIT: Here’s the video for those that missed it. Things begin at about the 7 minute mark.

The Chevy Volt is a very exciting car, just named both Motor Trend’s and Automobile Magazine’s 2011 Car Of The Year.

After a few years of excited anticipation, the Volt has arrived and Chevrolet is taking its new electric car on a nationwide tour to celebrate. One of the final stops on the tour is happening at the Craftsman Experience workspace in downtown Chicago on November 18th – and I will be leading a discussion with Chevy engineer Valarie Boatman about the car’s design, features, and capabilities.

You’ll be able to watch live via Craftsman’s live-streaming enabled Facebook page. Make sure to click the “Watch Live” tab on the top of the page. The event happens from 6-9pm Chicago time (4-7pm Pacfic), and the Q&A will be from about 7-8pm. Check it out!

DIY Folding Plywood Rack for Tacoma Pickups

Small pickups have advantages over their larger brothers, and in the case of Mike in Missouri, he decided to trade the cargo space of his big truck for the efficiency of a Toyota Tacoma. Unfortunately, the Tacoma’s wheel wells cramp the bed space and don’t allow for full sheets of plywood to fit inside.

A mechanical engineer by trade, he quickly sorted out a solution: a foldable plywood rack that slots in and out of the existing space as needed. With a minute’s notice, he can assemble the rig to carry 4×8 stock, complete with hooks for tiedowns and space below for other items.

Check out his entry and writeup on the project on – no specifics about the plans are listed, but some tips are available in the comments section.

Put a rear wall (hinged door with lock) on the bottom of this and you’ve got a DIY tonneau cover.

iPhone 4 vs Ducati Superbike at 100 mph

My friend Michael rides motorcycles, and races them on the weekends. He’s a Ducati guy. He’s also a big techie, one of the earliest adapters I know (he had an Archos player WAY before anyone else – and used it regularly). Still, I was pretty surprised by the photo he showed me of his iPhone after a recent mishap at the track. The chat transcript has the details.

What bike were you on?
Ducati Superbike Xerox replica – track bike.

Racetrack? Which one?
Infineon Raceway at Sears Point, Sonoma, CA.

How fast were you going at that point?
~100mph at the beginning of the straight were it was picked up.

Your pocket wasn’t closed?
It was stuffed in my racing boot.

When did you realize it fell?
When one of the track Marshall approached me with it asking if I owned an iPhone 4.

Did it skid and collide with something?
Did not see feel it come out of my boot. At ~100mph I’m concentrating on what’s ahead not what’s happened behind :).

Were you able to retrieve any data/pics?
All was recovered thru iTunes “Restore backup.” Hence it is very important to do a complete sync once awhile in an event that this may occur.

Michael's Ducati and his non-iPhone-compatible riding boots
Accelerating through the turn, doing 100mph as he straightens up, and BAM – iPhone goes flying
Snapped this photo of Michael on his Ducati Hypermotard, passing me on the 101 somewhere in the middle of California, on his way back to SF from Phoenix


Although I suspect a case wouldn’t have mattered much at 100 mph, a recent and pretty intense accident that I dealt with was nicely handled by my bumper-and-bestskinsever-wearing iPhone. I replaced the skin after the accident; the phone was flawless underneath.

My phone, after a substantial car wreck. Underneath the scratched up bumper and wrapper, a perfect iPhone.

What could protect a phone dropped onto the pavement at 100mph? One funny thought is something similar to a build I did on Rock and Roll Acid Test: each of the hosts had to build a guitar case that would be able to protect the axe from a series of catastrophic accidents. Mine used partially deflated kickballs as air-ride suspension, a frame that flexed and bent at specific points similar to a car’s crumple-zones, and automotive airbags mounted on the exterior with a triggering system that set them off when a strong jolt occurred. Maybe a bit much for an iPhone, but guitar-wise, it functioned flawlessly. I suppose it depends on how important your phone is…

You can catch part of that segment on my RRAT highlight clips.

How To Re-Key a Lock. How to Pick a Lock. How to Break a Kryptonite Lock

I have a bin full of keyless locks – probably a couple hundred dollars’ worth of them. One in particular, a bicycle cable lock made by Master Lock, would be perfect to help keep any potential barbeque thieves from stealing my new Weber from the side porch. Remembering how a locksmith once used just a blank key and a file to make a key for my old Land Rover’s car door, I decided to research how to create a new key for this lock. Found this video – it doesn’t look too hard… that is, if I can get the cylinder out.

Dive into the howstuffworks entry on the pin and tumbler setup, and a good overview on how lockpicking works.

The process of re-keying a lock is very simple. The locksmith removes all of the pins from the cylinder. Then, drawing from a collection of replacement pins of various sizes, the locksmith selects new lower pins that fit perfectly between the notches of the key and the shear line. This way, when you insert the new key, the lower pins will push all the upper pins just above the shear line, allowing the cylinder to turn freely. (This process may vary depending on the particular design of the lock.)

Lock-picking skills are not particularly common among burglars, mainly because there are so many other, simpler ways of breaking into a house (throwing a brick through a back window, for example). For the most part, only intruders who need to cover their tracks, such as spies and detectives, will bother to pick a lock.

So let’s assume that you’re not a burglar and you are interested in picking a lock solely for recreational purposes. A good site with plenty of basic info is the wikihow page on lockpicking. The general centerpiece is the tension wrench, an L-shaped clip that lets you put some rotational force onto the cylinder. As the pins are lined up with the picks, the tension generated by the tension wrench holds them in place, until all the pieces are lined up and the lock rotates open.

Lock picking is really all about the tension wrench. You will constantly need to find and hold just the right amount of torque to allow you to push the upper pins out of the cylinder while ensuring that pins set and stay set.

Looks easy, but from experience I an vouch that it is indeed tricky at first.

Finesse is good if you want to preserve the lock or need to remove the cylinder for rekeying. If you just need to get your bike free because you lost the key to your kryptonite down the sewer, there are a few ways to go about it. Just make sure to bring some proof of ownership so you don’t get hassled by someone thinking you’re stealing bikes. Don’t steal bikes!!!

Angle grinder:

Hydraulic car jack (this is a floor jack, although people use bottle jacks too):

Freeze it with compressed air, or use liquid nitrogen. The times I’ve experimented with using a bottle of compressed air (flip it over to spray the super-cold propellant out the nozzle), I didn’t have much luck – I don’t know for sure that it gets cold enough to truly affect a kryptonite lock. These guys show that it’s possible to do so with a small combination lock though.

What does work, however, is liquid nitrogen. Submerge the lock as best you can into the liquid until the boiling mostly stops (meaning the temperature of the lock has gotten close to that of the liquid). The metal will now be brittle enough to crack apart with a few good hits from a hammer.

Five Tips For Long Bike Rides, and The Rosarito to Ensenada Bike Ride (including Tijuana)

About ten years ago, during a brief residence in San Diego, I partook in a fun local tradition that dates back to 1971: The Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride, a 50 mile trek through northern Baja California. I snapped photos throughout the ride on a very rudimentary digital camera and posted them along with a writeup on one of my old sites (now available here). It was such a fun experience that I’ve decided to share it on the DOIT blog.

This bike ride is actually quite easy and well organized. I highly encourage everyone who has the chance to do it. But first…

Five simple but important tips for anyone embarking on a long bike ride:

  1. Map. Bring one. One of the great things about riding a bike is the freedom to take any path that catches your eye – but when you find yourself headed off the main road, you should make sure you know how to get back.
  2. Phone/charger. Amazing that cellphones weren’t very common little more than ten years ago. Keep it handy for emergencies. I keep mine switched off and tucked into the furthest part of my bag so I can enjoy the ride with that unplugged feeling.
  3. Food. A few Powerbars can make a huge distance when you realize you still have a couple hours before the next gas station.
  4. Water. Even riding at a slow pace is physical work. Keeping hydrated can not be overstated.
  5. Jacket. Shifting weather, setting sun, even entering a forested area can cause a big temperature drop. A lightweight biking jacket or windbreaker can be your best friend to keep you warm and dry.

And one bonus one:

  1. Training. If you know you have a ride coming up, even a few sessions around town can be a big help. If you can’t ride outside, use the exercise bike at the gym. You don’t have to go to Armstrong-esque levels, but being conditioned can make your ride much more enjoyable and is not that hard to do.

Continue reading Five Tips For Long Bike Rides, and The Rosarito to Ensenada Bike Ride (including Tijuana)