Monday, November 30, 2015

Events: 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

Thanksgiving guarantees two things each year to us here at EWBG: eating way too much and a trip to the Los Angeles Auto Show. Over the last few years, the LA Auto Show has started to become one of the large auto shows that people actually pay attention to with manufacturers revealing new concept models and production ready cars in one of the largest automotive markets in the US. With each year, the number of new reveals increased along with the popularity of the test drives that manufacturers offer to attendees. With each successive year, more and more manufacturers set up tents and booths outside the LA Convention Center to allow show goers a chance to sample their latest wares. Let us take a look at some of the cars that we saw at the show this year, as well as some of the cars we test drove.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Long Term Test: 1984 Shogun 600 post #2

Second update

I feel bad that my poor Shogun has largely been neglected the last few months. It serves mostly around town riding I simply haven't needed to go farther than walking distance lately. In fact, the biggest role it has played lately is serving as the tester for the new bike rack for the Focus EV (review coming soon). Of course, the fact that it sits by the door to my apartment means that I cannot help but gaze upon it every time I pass and it honestly is a pretty bike to just look at. From the slender frame to the complicated head badge, the perfectly true wheels to the still gleaming Shimano Golden Arrow group set, the bike is a stunner in its own right even if it is a bit worn in. Certainly, it appeals to the bike enthusiast in the know, as a colleague took note of it the very last time I rode it to a meeting.

So rather than babbling on, this month, I am going to just present some of my favorite photos of the bike so that we can all admire it together.

On a side note, this post marks the 400th post we have published here on East-West Brothers Garage. We are thankful for everyone who has supported us with their views and have shared our content with others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Long Term Test: 2012 Orbea Orca Bronze post #2

Second update
Current mileage: 365.6 

I launch away from the stop sign, sprinting hard to race up the short hill. Standing on the pedals, every stroke translating into more speed as I try to beat the cars to the light at the top. The road levels off just before the red light comes into view and I squeeze the brakes gently to bring the bike to a stop. Looking back, I can't help but smile as the first car only just pops into view after I catch my breath.

The Orca continues to prove itself a perfect complement to where I am in my evolution as a rider. It is far and away the lightest bike I have ever ridden, coming in at a scant 18.6 lbs, and that translates into fantastic acceleration. The smoother shifting of the Ultegra components means quicker transitions in cadence and allows me to manage my energy consumption much better as I no longer cringe at the thought of shifting and dealing with the jolt and stutter that I used to get from the components on my old K2. Handling feels fantastic as the bike turns in much more willingly than I ever remember the K2 being and with less weight to move around, I am able to toss it around at will and be confident that I am in complete control. Best of all, despite being stiffer all around, the bike actually delivers a more compliant ride than the aluminum frame it replaced. The layup of the carbon in the seat stays and the use of a carbon seat post seems to damp the ride much better than the aluminum K2.

Of course, one clear thing to keep in mind is that this is a significantly more expensive bike than the one it replaced. It was nearly four times the cost in price paid and over four times the MSRP. It is not hard to see where the extra expense went as the bike is just all around a better ride. While I have not gone out riding nearly as much as I had hoped I would this year, every ride on it proves to me that it was worth every single penny.

As the miles rack up, I expect the bike to reveal ever more of its character to me and to become ever more enjoyable to ride.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Innovation: Honda Power Exporter

In our modern society, electricity is an almost absolute necessity. Or lives have become incredibly dependent upon our electronics and when something happens to the local electrical grid, as happened earlier this year in my town, the loss of electricity can prove particularly inconvenient, especially for someone who works remotely from home. Thinking back, it could have been great to have the power stored in the high voltage battery of my Ford Focus Electric. Honda has come up with a solution for that very problem. The Power Exporter is able to convert the DC power stored in the high voltage battery of an EV and turn it into usable AC power for household electronics.

Using the increasingly more ubiquitous Chademo charging port, the system is able to supply up to 9kWh of power a day, more than enough to keep most basic necessities running in most homes. For my purposes, where my average daily usage is more like 5kWh per day, the battery of my Focus Electric can supply almost a full work week's worth of power. If I reduce a few less necessary items, I could probably go a full week assuming the battery on the car was fully charged. Even on a partial charge, the car would have gotten me through a few days, which would have worked out perfectly for the few days we were without power. Unfortunately, the Focus Electric does not support Chademo.

Still, the idea is a good one and would have been a great alternative to the noisy generators that many of my neighbors had. With the likelihood that electric vehicles will become increasingly prevalent in the future, systems such as these might offer an increased incentive to consider joining the electric revolution.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Editorial: How Hard is it For a Brand to Change Its Image?

Once a company establishes an image with consumers, it tends to stick. Car manufacturers all have different images associated with them. For example, Toyota has been known for building reasonably priced, reliable, but boring vehicles. Volvo is known as a lead innovator in automotive safety technologies. Subaru is often regarded as the manufacturer for enthusiasts. However, not all manufacturers have had the good fortune of having a positive image attached to their name. How difficult is it for a manufacturer to shed their image?

Image courtesy of Logopedia
This question comes to mind because of a certain vehicle I encountered on the way to work one morning. That vehicle was the Cadillac CTS V-Sport, which is one step down from the full on CTS-V. Even though it is not powered by a rip-roaring supercharged V8, it is certainly no slouch. With a twin turbo V6 under its hood pumping 420 horsepower to its rear wheels, it is definitely not slow. This particular CTS V-Sport had a certain flair though. On its hindquarters was a D3 badge. For those unfamiliar with the name, D3 is a noted Cadillac tuner, known specifically for working on Cadillac's "V" line of cars. If the badge was any indication, it meant that this CTS V-Sport must have had some work done to it. As I pulled up next to it, I expected to maybe find a man in their 30s, possibly 40s, face adorned with aviator sunglasses. Instead, I found a man who was at least in his 60s, hunched over the steering wheel, looking like he was struggling to drive the car. The first thought that came to my mind was, "is all that effort Cadillac is putting into re-branding itself not working?"