Monday, August 1, 2016

Fisker Karma - It's Back?

GT spotted a gorgeous Fisker Karma in downtown Boulder this evening.  

Only 2400 or so of these were produced, making it a very rare vehicle.  The company description: "Karma’s vision is to inspire. To offer timeless design with technology that creates an ecologically sensitive product; so distinct that it forms an emotional connection between buyer and brand."  

According to Car and Driver, "the Fisker Karma is the lewdest wedge of car porn to hit the pavement since the onset of the 5-mph bumper. From one 22-inch wheel to the other, the Fisker is a heartthrob, a design spectacularly unchained from the shackles of practicality and brand identity that enslave other automakers. It is an auto-show concept car before it has been horsewhipped into bland banality by the finance, marketing, and engineering departments. It is a car built by a company started by a designer."  

After the company failed to repay $192MM in loans from the DOE, the company's assets were seized and the automaker declared bankruptcy.   it's assets were later acquired by Chinese investors and supposedly the vehicle will be reintroduced.   We're not sure if this is a new 2016 or an older model, but it remains a rolling work of art. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Size Matters : Dollar Shave Club vs. Gillette

A few months ago, I decided to try Dollar Shave Club.  What can I say? The relentless advertising got to me. Plus, I was on my last Mach3 blade after blowing through another supply from Costco.  

One late night, after a few pints of beer, I clicked over to the Dollar Shave Club website and signed up for an order. 

First - I don't normally review hygiene or beauty products at GearThoughts.  I'm much too busy with my day job.  But the DSC experience, and subsequent let down, is worth sharing. 

You should also know that I don't just shave my face. I usually have a beard, so I shave a portion of my face.  I also regularly shave my entire head.

The Cartridges

The first cartridge I ordered was the DSC Executive.   At $9 for 4 cartridges, it comes out to $2.25/cartridge. This price includes shipping to your door but doesn't include tax.  It's marketed as DSC's premium product with 6 stainless steel blades per cartridge.

The next cartridge I tried was a step down, the DSC 4X.  It costs $6 for 4 cartridges, or $1.50/cartridge.  The 4x refers to 4 stainless steel blades.  It's marketed as DSC's mid-level product.  

I compared the DSC Executive and 4X against my old Mach3 blade, pictured above (at least a month old). At a recent trip to Costco, I paid $32.99 for 14 cartridges, or $2.36 per cartridge before tax - the most expensive of the three cartridges reviewed in this article. 

Note: I did not order or test the DSC Humble Twin, the entry level cartridge.  I also did not test the uber expensive Gillette Fusion ProGlide.  

Forget about the number of stainless steel blades.  Size matters more. 

All cartridges shaved about the same on a relatively flat surface but the experience was very different when it came to tight areas such as beneath the nose or next to the ear. Maneuverability is your friend. The smaller the cartridge, the more easily you can shave hard to reach places. 

Gillette's cartridge is 31% smaller in height (top to bottom measurement) than the DSC Executive and 17% smaller than the DSC 4X. It is far more agile.  This is a critical difference. 

After struggling with both DSC razors for some time, I gave up on shaving the tiny nook above my ear with either DSC product and resorted to using my month old Mach3 to finish the job.  The DSC cartridges are too wide. 

Ease of rinsing was the 2nd biggest factor when it came to shaving performance. Because the blades are so narrowly spaced in the DSC cartridges, hair would frequently jam between the blades.  This happened routinely with the DSC 4X and completely clogged the even tighter spaced blades on the DSC Executive. To keep clear the hair, I needed to run my thumb against the cartridge (downward motion) under running water to dislodge the stuck whiskers. On the Gillette March3, rising the blade under water alone was enough to dislodge all hair from the blade surface. 

It gets old to need to run your thumb down the blades with each and every swipe, dramatically slowing how quickly you can shave. Look carefully at the photo above and you'll see hair still stuck between the blades of the DSC cartridges.  Even a finger rubdown doesn't easily dislodge hair stuck between the blades. 

You'll save only about $20 a year if you switch to the DSC 4X.  It offers a similar shave quality to the Mach3 and you'll also get stuff in the mail, sometimes including a free sample of shave cream or lotions. That's kind of cool, but it doesn't make up for the poor rinsing performance and the difficulty in reaching hard to shave areas. For the $20, I'll gladly spend less time getting ready in the morning.  

The bottom line of this two month experiment?  Unless you enjoy primping in the bathroom, stick with the Gillette Mach3.  Despite being a decades old product, it still shaves cleanly, rinses cleanly, and the cartridges last a surprisingly long time.   If you want to extend the life of the cartridge, rinse the blades in alcohol when you're done shaving.  It's the evaporation of the water that dulls the blades faster, not your whiskers. 

As for the DSC Executive, I recommend you skip it entirely.  It offered no better shave than the 4X.  In fact, it was actually worse because of the huge size and tightly packed blades on the cartridge. 

Note:  Unlike many other product reviews you'll find online, I did not receive any free samples or products from either Dollar Shave Club or Gillette.  This is not a paid endorsement or paid review. If you liked this article, feel free to donate via the button below.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


If you're tall,  this just might the best Miata mod ever.   I'm 6'2" (with a 34" inseam),  and I've always struggled to fit in my NA.  No longer.  

Two words:  game. changer.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Diesel Truck Culture

Since when is it OK to leave your diesel pick-up idling (at a gas pump!) while you sip coffee inside? We finished pumping, paid, parked and bought a coffee.  By the time we left, there was a line 3 cars deep. 

...And we're not even complaining about the fumes.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Abaxo Pannier Initial Review

The last time I bought panniers, George W. Bush was still in office.   I was living in Boston and needed an easy way to haul stuff for my daily commute into Cambridge.    I bought a Blackburn Expedition rack and a set of used Cannondale branded panniers on eBay.

Over the last thirteen years, the bags survived countless trips to grocery stores.   I regularly overstuffed them with six packs of beer and jugs of milk. They endured years of being left outside in the salt air when I lived on Nantucket.   The bags held up to the harsh sunshine of Colorado, although the fluorescent orange faded.   They held up to being towed behind cars, literally thousands of miles of whipping wind gusts.   They've lasted longer than my first marriage. 

Blackburn Expedition EX-1 After 13 Years of Abuse
The bags needed a few repairs along the way.  The built-in elastic bungee fasteners failed, replaced with galvanized fence wire which permanently mounted them to the rack.  When holes in the nylon fabric appeared,  I used a glue gun to patch them together.   But the journey is now reaching an end.   They're falling apart. 

My primary use for panniers is to provide onboard storage on a townie bike.   I mostly haul groceries and sweaty yoga mats, beer and layers of clothing,  and of course water bottles.    Although tempted by nice, highly rated products from Ortlieb (among others), I'm not about to go touring on this machine.  I also don't want bags so expensive that I would be upset if they were stolen.   In this college town, theft is a real possibility.   

Surfing around the web, I found a company called Abaxo selling what looks like decent quality panniers for a very reasonable price.   The description sounded good:  "Waterproof nylon canvas with quick-attach mechanism with highly reflective safety patches on front and back, extra thick heavy duty material and construction, tapers at the bottom for extra heel clearance, handle with rubber grip for easy carrying, and a patented no-rattle attachment system plus bottom spoke protection shield."

At $35.87 each (including shipping), the price was less than half comparably sized Ortliebs.    Abaxo also seems to maintain high quality feedback ratings on eBay and a reasonable return policy.  What did I have to lose?

Initial impressions:  

Still wrapped in original packaging.  

Quick release is intelligent and intuitive.   Pull up on release strap to open fasteners.
The bottom fastener has an adjustable slide to position the bags fore/aft on the rack

Fastener mechanism and locking tabs appear well made.   Rivets might rust.  We'll see. 
Single needle stitching doesn't appear particularly durable but time will tell.  The nylon is heavy material.

Inside:  spoke guard and heavy plastic, riveted. 

Installed and ready for a test ride

You can find the Abaxo panniers on eBay in a choice of three colors.   My initial impressions are that the quality is acceptable, especially for the price.   I'll post an update after I put some miles on these bags. 

p.s. If you're looking for a rack to pair panniers with, I recommend the Blackburn EX-1 Expedition Rack.  It has held up even better than the Cannondale panniers.  I've loaded the rack with almost 3x the 45lb duty rating (buzzed girlfriend) for short rides without any issues.