Category Nice Products

Details

Some new things:

  1. 44rn’s new, very limited-edition track chainring
    Dude Aaron Panone likes bikes, decides he wants to design/ a track chainring. Does so, has them manufactured locally out of 6061-T6 aluminum. 50 were available in two anodization options: black or clear. I can’t speak to performance, yet, but I’m looking forward to including this in my upcoming single-speed build. It’s worth noting that he’s made me very jealous by doing this; what a wonderfully cool passion project.
  2. Il Bisonte C233 wallet
    Unfinished edges, 6 card slots, incredible texture and smell. After months of looking around for something perfect, I think I found it. Made by hand in Florence. Should develop an incredible patina over time. 4″x4″ square.
  3. Delvaux for Monocle Passport Cover
    Having not renewed my California drivers’ license, I’ve been using my passport as my primary ID for something like 5 years now. And it’s gotten pretty beat up. I didn’t need a passport cover, necessarily, but sometimes you just really want something. By the way, if you look at/read Monocle, you have to go to their stores. They’re adorable and maybe a little silly.
  4. County Comm Embassy Pens
    I’ve become a bit obsessive about these. Available in copper (!?), titanium, stainless, and aluminum, and they take Fisher space-pen refills. Also potentially useful as a weapon, especially in the case of the stainless version, which is so heavy that it’s nearly uncomfortable to use. Love the interchangeable parts.

Nothing else to see here, move along.

Microsoft Courier Interface: Awesome

It hurts somehow to admit, but I love the Courier interface.

It feels important to me to somehow attempt to mimic a journal for something that will be used as one. Certainly, this could be duplicated on an iPad using an app, but I think the idea of two screens and a functioning spine is a major differentiator.

We’ll see. Via Engadget.

Bike Porn 5

I love the bike industry. I grew up around bikes—my aunt and uncle(s) own a bike shop in the town where I grew up—and I continue to love them to this day. But as someone who tinkers with marketing, I have to say the leaders in the industry (small and large companies alike) really understand how to use their resources to make an impact.

Case in point: the Specialized Shiv Tandem concept, pictured above and below. It’s like someone took a time-trial bike and a Ferrari F1 car and mashed them together.

Check out that fairing over the head tube – it normally provides an aero shroud for the front brakes, but in this case, they’re discs.

It’s a work of really, really fast art. Hydraulic disc brakes, shaft drive connecting the stoker and the pilot (not that I’ve had good experiences with shaft drives before), and amazing aerodynamics. Clearly this thing is for show—concept bikes are rarely rideable—but at least it’s a good show.

And then there’s the belt-drive single-speed Corvid that Independent Fabrication brought to the National American Handmade Bike Show (NAHBS) this weekend, which is gorgeous in a different way.

See how the wheel paint matches up with the paint on the fork? Rad.

That’s a Gates Belt Drive, which requires no lubrication, is reportedly silent, and will last for 10,000 miles without maintenance. You can see that the seatstay is bolted to the dropout. So…don’t get a rear flat. According to IF, Chris King supplied a set of one-off hubs just for this application. Pretty dope.

Zero-Gravity brakes actuated by SRAM carbon-fiber levers made specifically for single-speeds. Hot.

But if you’re not into bikes, you’re probably missing out on some of the subtle things that make this bike so sexy. For me, it’s all in the construction: it’s lugged carbon fiber, meaning that the tubes are bonded to lugs (bike jargon for “joints”), rather than the bike being made in one piece. That gives the bike builder more flexibility to do fun things, or to customize a bike to a particular rider by changing the geometry of the bike. And in handmade bicycle culture, the lugs are where the art happens, and are an important call back to the older ways of making a bike.

So look again at the picture above, at the lugs: IF has used their logo—a crown—to bring some style to what is ostensibly a functional piece of the bike. So cool.

Just in case you’re curious, these are lugs. Portland-based bike-builder Jordan Hufnagel posts pictures of his lugs on Flickr, and I’m always stupefied by their beauty.

In the opinion of this writer, the coolest thing a company can do is to share of itself, to let people see how things are made and to use products to put the culture of the company on display. Both of these examples—Specialized’s crazy tandem and IF’s gorgeous single speed—are extreme, conceptual artifacts that help me understand what each of the companies are about.

Both bikes tell me that the companies are willing to spend time and money on things that have no use in the real world. Both tell me that the companies care about the spirit of bicycling. The tandem is a ridiculous foray into technology; the Shiv single-person bike is purpose-built for winning Tour de France time-trial stages, with a design that’s been honed in a wind tunnel, and the tandem incorporates bleeding-edge bike tech into the mix, including shaft drives, disc brakes, integrated electronics, and star-flange hubs. And the IF bike is a seamless blend of old-timey craftsmanship and philosophy with newfangled materials and tech. It clearly articulates that IF knows what the f*ck they’re doing when it comes to making bikes by hand.

If you’re reading this and have a company that makes things, do this for me: spend some time making things that show me how you think. I’d much rather figure out your positioning for myself than hear about it from an ad.

References:

F*ck Yeah German Products!

I recently bought two German-built products that made me intensely happy.

One is this pen, the Kaweco AL Sport. $70.

The other is this safety razor, from Merkur Solingen. $35.

Both exhibit qualities that I appreciate in items.

  • You can take them apart. In fact, in the case of the razor, it must be taken apart in order to be used. This makes me feel like a sniper in a very specific way: the careful assemblage of parts in order to build a tool that helps me complete a task feels particularly Bourne-esque.
  • They both feel very German, in the same way that German car doors close in a particular way, and even how their cars’ Oh Jesus handles fold up without a snap, but rather with with a slow glide. The snap of the pen’s push-button-bit is particularly pleasant.
  • They are both composed almost entirely of metal. The pen is made from aluminum, and the razor from chromed steel.
  • Their design is considered, but simple. I did not choose the alternative, better-promoted safety razor—from Baxter of California—because it wasn’t designed with the user in mind. The handle was longer (bad in a safety razor, where maneuverability is key), and the head was designed in a way that made it very easy to cut oneself while changing a blade.
  • They both have odd names that are fun to say. Mer • kur  So • lin • gen. Ka • we • co.
  • They’re both from old companies that are hard to find on the internet. Merkur (Dovo) has been making razors since 1906, and Kaweco’s been in the pen business since 1883.
  • They are effective, if non-standard items. There’s nothing I like more than doing things differently from the rest of the world, especially if that way is clearly better. Having a pen—a pen that you use, that goes with you from place to place, that isn’t some standard Bic or Uni-Ball—means you never have to buy another pen. Refills are all you need, and they’re cheap. And they’d seem to be better for the environment. Razor refills are astonishingly cheaper than Gillette refills, and the packaging is at least 100 times less intense. Again, better for the environment, and better for the pocketbook. Also, I can attest to this: the shave is WAY better with this razor than I ever achieved with a Gillette Mach 3.
  • Both have somewhat nutty, ugly packaging. Especially in the case of the razor, which comes in a cardboard box. It did feel a bit like I was getting a tiny Harry Potter wand, however, when I opened the box upon returning home. But both of them are proof positive that you shouldn’t always pay attention to the pack.

See why I feel like a sniper with this thing?

Seriously, though, I appreciate that they don’t spend time or money on the box. And while we’re talking about the environment, this is way more friendly than your normal razor packaging, right?

Creed Original Vetiver

My favorite thing in the world came in the mail today. It’s a bottle of Creed Original Vetiver.

From the first time I smelled this stuff in a Nieman Marcus in Orange County, I was hooked. It smells like grass, summer, and awesome. I highly recommend you check it out.

Creed’s definitely an interesting brand, too. It’s still run by the original folks (the Creed family), which to me is one of the most important factors in maintaining a strong culture within an organization. Further, they’ve successfully blended old-world perfumery techniques with responsible manufacturing practices. At least, as far as I can tell. Vetiver, interestingly enough, is grown primarily in Haiti. Hopefully some of my purchase went toward their relief efforts there.

Thanks!

Awesome, Mom & Dad

It’s my birthday on Friday. The big quarter-century…

In advance of that, my wonderful parents have sent me the bench/drawer/divan above. The upholstered top folds up to reveal a compartment separate from the drawer below. It arrived via FedEx Ground (thanks, guys for not ruining it!) today. It’s perfect.

And get this: my parents made it. By hand. So yes, the above is definitive evidence that my parents are cooler than yours.

So I take that back about the brownies being the Product of the Week. This handmade beauty now takes the, er…cake.