Products

Angry Lane Motorcycle Workshop - Hong Kong

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Building your own motorcycle grants access to a worldwide club of fellow like-minded fools. There’s an unseen bond, brokered in sleepless nights, bloody knuckles, and the torment of looking for that one elusive gasket. I’m going to continue to explore this world and write about the people I meet. In a previous post I talked of visiting Deus in Sydney. On this trip to Hong Kong, I reached out and asked to meet with brothers Ben and G that own Angry Lane Motorcycles. I love exploring.

I erroneously assumed the address of “19F” was a unit number. Thoroughly lost and wandering down an alley looking for a number 19, I found an old man who simply pointed up in the sky when I showed him the address. The 19th floor. A motorcycle workshop on the 19th floor? No way.

Exiting the elevator, (the second elevator that I tried, because of course the first one only had floor 18 and 20) I was further convinced that someone was screwing with me. There was nothing. That was until G, with a huge smile on his face, opened a completely nondescript white door and welcomed me to Angry Lane Motorcycles. Stealthy doesn’t even begin to describe their setup; it puts all those NYC speakeasies to shame.

Clarification: Motorcycles go in the elevator with people when it’s time to ride. G and Ben think that is normal. I approve.

I walked into a bikers dream. I actually giggled, clapped and sort of danced an awkward jig. Ruby helmets, rare Japanese parts, screen-printing, bikes in progress, finished bikes, apparel, prototype parts, vintage race parts… a wonderland!

G explained that amongst other careers that took him around the world, he worked for a Japanese leather race suit manufacturer and built bikes in his spare time. One day, frustrated that a top Japanese supplier only sold to registered companies, he decided that the simple solution was to become a company. It seems easy when you put it like that! Angry Lane was soon born.

There are not a lot of top quality bike builders in Hong Kong (parts are a pain to get – something us in the US take for granted), but there’s wealth paired with style – a rare combination. Subsequently, Angry Lane have benefited from fun clients that are helping push some really cool builds. With the foundation set by building great bikes, G’s background in leather and Ben’s design skills have naturally pushed them toward the booming motorcycle apparel and accessories market. They have been working hard and I saw prototypes of some droolworthy upcoming products. Just look at that jacket.

What Hong Kong lacks in parts availability, it more than makes up for with the nearby mecca of manufacturing that is Shenzhen / Guangzhou – everything you could ever dream of can be manufactured 45 minutes from Angry Lane.

Leaving G and Ben, I pondered this thought for a while. It’s quite a unique position the guys are in. I tend to focus my efforts to stay Made In USA, but the reality is that we all look for affordable parts as well. A $700 CB350 simply can’t always justify billet USA parts. G and Ben have the possibility to innovate some one-off parts for customer builds, but then jump to production pieces very easily in the future. In fact, the biggest hurdle for successful Asia manufacturing is the necessity to be there at some point in time to find a reliable partner for what you need. It’s a little left field, but I think Angry Lane could fund some future projects by working to help some of their bigger peers with local knowledge paired to built-in passion for the motorcycle culture. It was a great day learning from more members of the bloody knuckle club and further fueled my enthusiasm for what’s happening with motorcycles right now. Next on deck for Angry Lane is a BMW R80 café with full fairing. I can’t wait for the e-mail from G telling me it has rolled into the elevator for the first time.

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Titanium Trigger Case - iPhone 5

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The world of iPhone accessories is a minefield. I have often thought about entering the space with designs talked about with everyone from my wife (she still has a killer idea that I have never seen yet) to most of the guys I drink whisky with.  I still have not ventured that way becasue honestly it's just so daunting. Titanium-Trigger-iPhone-5-Case-by-4th-Design-2

For a while I have had a bit of an allegiance to Rokform cases and accessories. From my first one, I have never been disappointed in anything that they have done. I still adore their work, but it's a big world and seeing this case today from 4th Design stopped me dead in my tracks.

Rugged look but still retaining clean lines. Intricate detailing, but driven by simple and smart functionality. I'm a fan. Plus it's machined titanium - I love machining and titanium,  it's the male equivalent to wooing a lady lady with fancy wine and roses.

Adios $99.

All images from www.4thdesign.com

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Deus Ex Machina Headquarters Visit

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If you've visited the Discommon Blog before, you'll know that I'm in deep (possibly drowning... but I'm kicking hard) with a 1970 Honda 350 motorcycle build. When I take on a new project, I tend to try and absorb as much of the world that surrounds the project as possible, it broadens my horizons, teaches me and gives me the opportunity to find new fascinations. Deus_Ex_Art

The custom vintage bike scene is such fun. The price of entry can be what you want to make of it - $200? Dive in! $20,000? You're welcome too! There are talented builders popping up around the world and a thoroughly astonishing support structure of forums and parts companies out there for the weekend garage crusader.

Deus_Ex_Hot_GirlOne of the stalwarts of the custom cafe and brat scene, is the Australian company Deus Ex Machina. I say company, but at this stage in their adventure, it is more appropriate to call them a brand. With a comprehensive clothing and accessories line, shops in California, Indonesia and the headquarters in Sydney, they are a long way from the grease and grime "authentic" 3 man shop that people like stand behind, champion and push as "the real deal". I have heard derogatory remarks directed at Deus..."Oh yeah, Doos, that hipster shop in Venice, right? They make a bunch of t-shirts and stuff?". T-shirt company? I hope not, their custom bikes can draw upwards of $20,000, on a bike that stock might set you back $4000 if it was very clean. I hope this brand I think is cool has some sustenance and isn't just a facade of style...

Authenticity in any environment is really important to me, so on a recent trip to Australia, I contacted Dues and was invited for a good old fashioned poke around their HQ. Walking in, I have to say I was a little taken aback. I was greeted by a store that wouldn't be out of place as a flagship in NYC's hot Meatpacking district. Espresso bar, pretty girls, rockabilly boys, and a FULL helping of clothing.. jeans, jackets, shirts, dresses, the gamut. Shiny bikes, too - the kind that you walk around but don't get within a foot of, because you are not quite sure if you are allowed to.

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So... umm... where's like, the authentic bike stuff? Where's the welding and the oil and the hard work? Where do you guys earn your cool? Luckily, Mike's face lit up when I challenged him and I was whisked off into the back where I arrived at what I wholeheartedly call a shop. Everyone take a breath, these guys REALLY build bikes, right there, in back of this fancy store. Reassuringly, Mike had greasy hands to prove it and walked me extremely knowledgeably through the current projects, sure to eventually end up on the posters for sale out in the store. We chatted about design lines, tricks to hiding batteries, elusive vintage parts, jetting carbs with those troublesome velocity stacks, scouring Japan for that one halo piece and indeed, simple geek stuff like clocking the screws to all line up.

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I was then taken to the second shop, accessed through a maze of storage containers and housed in a false back to a warehouse. In here lives a brain bending volume of parts, ready to be picked through for the next build. Walking back, I saw the parking lot where the locals meet for group rides, where Deus host swap meets and where they plan to have build teaching days in the future.

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Conclusions? Honestly, I was just plain impressed by everything they achieved. Sure, their bikes are expensive, as are their clothes, and well, everything is.. but I'm wearing their chinos right now and don't have a single complaint. They are my go-to travel pant and come from a motorcycle company. So why some of the hate? People like to bitch, it's a universal fact, so it's just too easy for people to question Dues's authenticity because they have grown bigger than the cafe culture wants to allow them to. They have become successful in other avenues, so some might see them as sell-outs. Bullshit, it's just bloody good business. Would I have them build me a bike? No, I'd rather build my own, but if I had no time and enough money, I know I'd be guaranteed a classic if I dove in with Deus. When you are supporting your local shop and wishing them every success and hoping you'll be part of them growing bigger, are you also planning to ditch them when the owner decides he wants to grow and build his brand?

The authenticity was sealed for me, when sitting in a restaurant nearby, Mike roared down an alley on one of their bikes, kicked the tail out with the rear brake, rode the slide and pulled it into a wheelie round the corner he was taking.

I wear my t-shirt proudly.

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Things I Love: Great Knifemaking

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We know the guys at Strider well, Duane, the owner is a master metallurgist and the effort he puts into blade making is right in line with the effort we put into eyewear. There are a lot of flamboyant knife makers out there, crazy handles with weird and wild shapes. I understand the value of these, in fact I love many of them, but step back and think about the core purpose of a knife – to cut something. The best possible knife in the world is sharp and stays sharp. Simple? No way, sorry. To stay sharp, it needs to be hard, but if it’s hard, typically it’s brittle, therefore it needs to be ductile, but that makes it difficult for it to be hard… see the problem? Vicious circle. Duane is a master at sourcing these hard to achieve qualities.

Great knife makers are not really known for their shapes, they are known for the quality of their blade. A great blade is like a perfectly balanced car – one that absorbs all the bumps on a rough road but magically has “razor sharp” firm handling on a track. Incredibly hard to achieve and only mastered by a few.

The pictures here are of a piece we co-designed with Strider. It has a ridiculously good (and EXPENSIVE) Damascus steel blade that blends these properties perfectly. For the handle, we brought a little 3 dimensionality to it that is not common in normal handles. The shape is machined out of a 90 layer billet of carbon fiber. The back plate is aerospace titanium. Bells and whistles galore J

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Croft House Guest Post

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As a big fan of the hard work and creativity that Croft House are putting into building their furniture empire, I asked Alex and his partner Riley if they would give me a little insight into their thoughts when I showed up with a bottle of Macallan 18 and a Mini Cooper full of whisky barrel.... Alex:

A few months back Neil came to Riley and I asking us if we had any interest in building a coffee table with wood salvaged from a whisky barrel that was used at the Macallan distillery. He really admired our work and we really admired whiskey, so we set right to it in an attempt to work something out.

Neil dropped by the Croft House showroom and left us with a heap of beautiful oak, the only problem being the oak had the same curvature as the cask, not really an ideal coffee table surface .  We knew we were going to incorporate the lid of the cask, but weren't sure how exactly to utilize the sides of the barrel.  Over a couple of drinks(scotch no doubt) we came up with our ideal design, placing the wood within a steel frame.

Oak isn't exactly the most malleable material, so bending the curved sides to the cask was out. Instead, we put each piece to our bandsaw, essentially skinning the wood of it's outermost surface.  Once slimmed down to a lesser thickness, the wood became much more flexible and allowed us to mold it to a flat surface.  We added a natural wax finish and wa la.  

All of our Croft House pieces are built with wood that has a story, but few stories have been as popular with our patrons as the cask pieces.  The material is a lot of fun to work with and has a killer look to it, only downside is having to tell everyone it's not for sale.

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Croft House Macallan Table

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Croft House Table

Somewhere hidden in a storage unit, I have all the parts for a 1934 Ford Pickup Hot Rod. It has all the promise of being a wickedly cool rat rod, but none of the love to get it there. Back when the project was fresh in our minds, it was going to be a true old school moonshine runner. I enlisted the help of the team at The Macallan back in Scotland and by some form of black magic, they sent me an entire shipping crate of used whisky barrel staves.

Side note: Unwrapping the crate gave a smell I’ll never forget – it made our whole warehouse smell like glorious 18 year old Macallan for about a week. Ridiculous.

Well…the rod is still on hold and there was a LOT of wood, so it was only natural that I’d ponder another kind of project for some of it. Enter our new house and the large area where a coffee table should be.

My wife was searching on craigslist for reclaimed wood furniture at that point in time and found a couple of guys in LA making some gorgeous pieces at really reasonable prices.  I called them and found out they were growing to become the store that is now Croft House on La Brea in LA.  Riley, one of the owners was intrigued by the inherently bent barrel wood and was sold on the project once he heard it was from a whisky barrel – The gang at Croft House have a soft spot for the wonderful stuff – see their in store bar. His vision and mine were identical. We sketched a lot, piled wood all over the place in patterns and finally decided on a plan.

Fast-forward to the results below. I was blown away. Everything I hoped in my head was achieved; I wanted it to be a mix of the clean smooth cask end and the incredibly rough (but now straight!) cask staves. The finish is a simple wax and when I inevitably scratch or ding the table, I just wax over it. Perfect.

More Croft House projects to come…we had fun.

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Espresso Fanatic: The Mypressi Twist

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Men like toys. That’s just a simple fact of life. Unfortunately, working in the design team at Oakley, that “like” expands, contorts and morphs into a horrific disease of toys.  Cars, gadgets, guns, bikes, boards, speakers… it’s an ugly spiral, but boy is it fun. Coffee machines are toys I like. Espresso is one of my many loves. My uncle back in Scotland is an eclectic chap. An incredibly gifted musician, cook and photographer. I learnt the magnificent taste of a great espresso from him. He’s quite adept at “Tickling Miss Silvia” (great Gizmodo article ). I’m hopeless at describing tastes, but the right one has a huge fruity punch to it that is like nothing else. No sugar, milk or water is needed.

This espresso love grew as my dad became talented at it and I was finally ruined for life when Oakley was bought by an Italian company. To keep a long gush short, Italian gas station espresso is made with passion that shames almost any coffee shop in the US.

Where am I going with this? My new toy! It’s not a huge challenge to spend $10k on an espresso machine and don’t even get me started on those crazy all in one pop out a pre-frothed, multi-layered, espressinoachiato (Ok I digress, they are kinda awesome, but espresso should be an art!). However, my new toy is arguably the least expensive legitimate espresso maker out there. It was a Christmas present from my dad after some well placed hints. We’re talking about the mypressi TWIST Handheld Espresso Maker, a gas cartridge powered, trigger operated espresso “machine”.[gallery link="file" columns="5" orderby="rand"]

There are some great reviews out there on the machine and the process of pulling a shot, but I just wanted to add my comments to the mix. I’m a design Engineer and my product expectations are high to say the least.  The Mypressi was just SUCH a great idea by someone and is executed to perfection…simple, ergonomic, aesthetically pleasing and best – effective.  Get the right grind of a great bean and the TWIST will knock out a shot that will blow your mind. Every morning I have one, I sneak a little smile to myself, it is genius and gives me my little piece of Italy every day.  Class work Mr. TWIST.

Rokform Accessories

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What's a little funny about Rokform is that they are literally headquartered a solid 3 iron from my work at Oakley, but my love for their goods has little to do with their proximity to me, I don't know any of the guys there...yet. My introduction to their heavily industrialized design and glorious use of a milling machine came from my all-things-apple addicted father in the UK. I'm convinced he's doing his best to re-shape our economy, or at least spend as much as he can before I inherit anything. Either way, he likes "nice" things and I rarely complain as he has killer taste.

Rokform's philosophy must be somewhat similar to mine. There is no way they set about their projects with a price goal. These guys decided to make exactly what they (a bunch of gearheads, engineers and designers) wanted and the price is simply a byproduct of making what you want. In this instance they took their skillset in machining aluminum and applied it to apple accessories. I just LOVE 'em, they ooze "man" and are detailed immaculately. The Rokstand for my ipad would be deemed unnecessary by many, yet now it would just seem insulting to my ipad to place it in anything else, like "Sorry little buddy, I can't believe I used molded plastic before. Here is your new throne".

Anyway, Rokform: you're kicking ass. Keep making what you'd like to own as I'm pretty sure I'd like to own it too.

Leatherman OHT (One Hand Tool)

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I always love going to SHOT show (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show) in Vegas, a large number of my industry friends go and I tend to geek out on everything I see there. Often I get stuck on amazing new rifles, some random grenade launcher or a crazy lifesaving tech I’ve never heard of, but every now and then I find a great wee gem that I’m surprised by.

One of these products is an initially unassuming new multi-tool from Leatherman.  Sitting amongst a few other releases, it took someone there to show me the awesomeness. Check out the video – COMPLETELY one handed use – every tool can be deployed while holding the tool in one hand.  Think about that and if it doesn’t intrigue you just a little, you’re clearly not a tinkerer.  Yeahhhhh you… the one that takes the car to the shop for a strange rattle, calls an electrician to install a ceiling fan and unclogs a toilet by calling 1-800-hairyplumber?  The rest of us DO stuff, and it is way easier to do stuff with one hand free.

I recently changed fuel lines on my VW underneath the car. This tool would have been brilliant for the cutting, crimping, snipping and pulling going on while my hand was up inside the engine bay. Each tool even has a stamped relief on the case so you can remember what it is when you can’t see. The tool is available in the two color options shown and the finish on them is not simply a black oxide, it's a kick-ass gun coating called Cerakote, that we love.

Classy work, Leatherman (www.leatherman.com)

Specs below.

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  • Spring-action combination needlenose and regular pliers
  • Replaceable 154CM soft and hard-wire cutters (pliers)
  • 420HC straight edge knife blade (2.37″)
  • 420HC serrated knife blade
  • Aggressive-toothed wood saw
  • Strap cutter (v-notch)
  • Oxygen wrench
  • Can & bottle opener
  • Small, medium and large slotted screwdrivers
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Integrated lanyard attachment
  • Stainless steel body
  • Gloved-hand accessibility
  • #8-32 cleaning rod attachment
  • Closed length of 4.5″ and 9.9oz weight
  • MOLLE sheath

Rough Sketches - How Projects Begin

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They sure as heck are not all pretty! I love Note Taker HD on the iPad. Believe it or not, this doodle is a drawing that went out to quote for a presentation box to hold 6 apocalypse-ready .45acp silver bullets.

You never know when the werewolves are coming, but your silver bullets better be ready. A friend is putting a lot of time into silver ammunition and I felt that it needed presentation worthy of the effort (and MASSIVE cost!). We'll see how it all pans out...