I bought a Cricut Maker. I now have magnet numbers. I recreated the font from the car numbers in MF Ghost.

Magnet numbers!

Magnet numbers how-to.

You will need a Cricut Maker (the $400 one), magnet vinyl (available from Michael’s and/or Amazon), software that can output .jpgs or .pngs, and the Cricut app. You can add colored vinyl to laminate with for an extra challenge.

1. Prepare the magnet vinyl by magnetting it to your washing machine, fridge, steel door, or any other flat surface. It comes in rolls and needs to be flat to go through the Cricut nicely. Leave it there for two days. If you are laminating vinyl on, then unroll the vinyl and hang that up to flatten, too.

2. Design your numbers. Use your graphics software or whatever. Output a graphics file that the Cricut app can read (.jpg seems to work better than .png).

3. If you are so inclined and really want hot pink numbers, laminate the colored vinyl to the magnet vinyl. This is not easy and it took me to the third go before I could make it look decent without a million bubbles. Don’t hate yourself. 

4. Load up the Cricut app and set your design. I found that using the whole 12×24 sheet of magnet vinyl on the 12×24 grip pad worked better, but then you have to drop the $$ on the big pad. 

5. Stick the magnet vinyl to the grip pad. Make sure it is exactly in the lines because the positioning rollers will push it around if you are running the full 12″ width sheet. This will cause cuts within 0.5″ of the edges to not be just so. 

6. Set the material to 0.5mm magnet sheet. 0.6mm also works, but tends to cut through and into the grip pad. DAMHIK. 

7. Cut your numbers. At 0.5mm it will run the pattern twice. This is normal. I think it does three times for 0.6mm.

8. Put your numbers on your car and look awesome at the track/autocross. 

I have been running this material for several track days now, and have left them on by accident (lol) for driving to work (lots of traffic and highway). It stays on well and doesn’t move around. Do make sure your car is very clean before sticking the numbers on as if there is dust, it will get into the paint.

Possibly a strange habit, but I like to take cars as received to a track I know to get a baseline. Also a bit of a baseline for me as I’ve spent my track career in FWD VWs.

Saturday was the day for my bone stock ’18 PP BRZ.

Grattan is a challenging a fun track and is Michigan’s little piece of heaven. If you haven’t been there, imagine those videos of the Nordschleife and cut it down to just over two miles. It is truly a wonderful place to drive. I’ve got a lot of laps there, but the last time out there was about eight years ago. That is a lot of ground to make up.

One thing that helped me was that I was assigned to do the classroom for the novices. I actually love doing this. Club day, so we try to make sure no one gets in the (literal) weeds. No, seriously. The bottom of the track is a swamp, complete with turtles. For a first day out, it was actually really helpful to go through the routine with them and put myself in the novice mindset. I ended up basically driving control (this appears to be a motorcycle thing) and doing lead follow laps with all of the assorted novices. This had the side effect of forcing me to pay strict attention to my lines instead of just screwing around. I found myself able to go much deeper into the turns than I expected and what traction I had was useful for pushing turning.

One new challenge at Grattan is a repave of sections of the track with some very weird tar surface. Grattan is challenging enough dry, but this surface and water did not agree. I experienced something new to me – skittering. I have not experienced a car hopping sideways across the track before. That was rather unsettling, because it was a start-stop behaviour instead of a slide. There was not a whole lot of steering into it as that just caused the traction control (even light) to go nuts. I have not perfected the pedal dance yet, so getting rid of all of it was not an option.

I have to address that being new to RWD (except for about 5 years as a kid) cost me a ton of time. It’s like learning to drive all over again. I have a good feel for pushing the car, but not for sliding it yet. The skittering was really off-putting and once I figured it out, it was a matter of keeping two wheels on the old pavement at all times. I needed a lot of laps to get my reference points back (needed as the track drops away in several places) and I am a lot rustier than I had hoped. I’m pretty good everywhere except turn 3 now. 3 makes the Corkscrew seem like a walk in the park. It’s so blind (downhill and off camber left) that it is now officially the track exit, mostly because people freak out and drive off right there. I think it took me several days to get it the first time, so no crisis. I’m slow, it’s ok. I have the jump, the esses, the bowl, the bus stop, and the valley back in my brain now.

So enough about me and the track, now the car, with a brief weather report.

The day was cold (low to mid 50s) and rainy. Then came the hail. And more hail. Then more rain. Not the best conditions, which contributed mightily to my experience.

Holy hell, the stock tyres are hilariously bad. Forget worrying about brake updates, the first things that need to go are these stupid tyres. I have experience quite a bit of wandering on longitudinally grooved pavement here in MI, and after a few skitters, I was able to associate it with the rain grooves in the tyres themselves. They seem to be folding over and breaking traction, then catching it again. Like slideways ABS? NO. Like driving me batshit crazy. I think a fair amount of this was due to the weather conditions – summer tyres right at the thermal limit of performance. I had one session where the track was dry and this was far different than the rest of the day. The control was there, I was able to avoid ABS, no skitters, etc. That was a good session and instead of learning new ways to avoid engaging TC, I was building speed in the corners. My hope had been to practice entering little slides, but that did not happen.
Brakes never really got tested because I was never going that fast.  ABS is minimally intrusive – I prefer more feedback! It’s useless as a training aid if you can’t feel it. Again, the weather contributed.

Steering was tight and predictable.

The seat (which is outstanding for everyday driving) was ok, but a proper high seat and harness are going to be necessary. I’m spoiled in that all of my VWs have had harnesses, and some have had seats and cages. Trying to track a car without being attached to it is uncomfortable and less fun. I was seriously sore everywhere at the end of the day. Except my legs, which was nice. My upper body was feeling it from being in motion so much. I ordered a CGLock and then forgot to install it. It would not have helped with the upper body movement, though, and might have made things worse.

The best part of the day was that another BRZ driver was among my novices and he improved greatly throughout the day.  The second best was discovering that my old endurance car still lives and is actually the west side track rat for our VW club. I got home and found the title, we are going to plate that sucker. It is a beast – ABA swapped with GTI brakes, and caged with two seats and harnesses. It even has window glass now! It weighs all of 1820#. It is soooooo much fun to drive. Pure point and shoot.

There are no bad days at the track if you can drive home. It wasn’t a great day for me, but it was a great (new) start.

I’ll be browsing TireRack now…. 

emojis courtesy

My old laser pointer alignment trick was a big hit among my suspension tech friends, so I wanted to try a new tool and see if it ups the game.

Some time ago, I acquired a nice Bosch siting laser. This is used to determine if ground is level. You set it up in one location and measure down from the horizontal line to determine relative height of land, floor, whatever. You can also measure off a vertical line, and with a tape out from the laser pole, you can triangulate location.

The siting laser alignment process requires a siting laser, some Post-It notes, a plumb bob, a pen, a notepad (or use one of those Post-It notes), three measuring tapes (or one and some masking tape and a marker to mark your close measurement positions), and a scientific calculator (or access to one online).

The basic setup remains nearly identical to the old string alignment trick. In this variation, you set up the siting laser to throw a line out. Like the laser pointer trick, you can use your garage door as a target. Park so that your axles are about eight feet out from the door.

The siting laser is set up near the rear of the wheel. I found that it is really important to locate the laser so that the vertical is grazing the wheel surface. Any laser that throws a line will throw it in a way that can bend around a bit, so by using the vertical to locate the instrument, you can move it repeatedly and still be getting the same measurement.

Now, just like a regular string alignment, you set up your tape measures so that their zeros are at the center of the hub or the forward point on the tyre. Your choice. Note the distance to the garage door surface on your notepad. Locate a point about 24″ out and position a horizontal tape that is wider than your car. If you don’t have an endless supply of tape measure, put down a piece of tape that you can mark with your position from the next step. Drop your plumb bob, watching to see when the string crosses the laser beam. Take your first measurement of distance from the axle and the position on the side-to-side tape here and note the values on a notepad. Then head to the garage door and plop a Post-It note where the laser is visible (hard to see in direct sun, but it’s there) and make a mark where the laser beam ends. Label this mark A. Note that the mark here is off because I remembered to take the pic after the alignment was complete, not before. dur.

Now, relocate the laser to the other side and repeat. Same label, too. Measure the distance between the marks on the garage door and the distance from the door marks to your first mark. Now, measure the distance between the marks on the garage door.

Once you have the four measurements, the math is the same basic trig as the string alignment. You need to know the distance between your close mark and the garage door (should be about six feet or 72 inches) and the two measurements from side to side. Subtract the close measurement from the door measurement. If it is negative, you have toe-in, if it is positive, you have toe-out. Take that value and divide it by the distance between the close and door measurements and run an inverse tangent (tan-1) on a calculator. This will give you the degrees of toe in decimal. Once you know that, you can figure out where to go to set it.

Once you are done, repeat the process. Note that you will have to check both sides to get the fnal numbers. Because you labeled your first marks, you will know what is what.

What I didn’t do, mostly because it is nigh impossible without jacking this car, is a camber adjustment. However, the vertical beam of the laser makes camber measurement very easy, and if you have camber plates up top, super easy to adjust. You will need a really fine caliper to do the measurement, though.

To measure camber, set the laser out from the wheel a bit, about an inch or two. Positioning is critical, again, so you can repeat measurements. The whole thing benefits from having a level surface, too. Otherwise you will find that all of your camber is on one side of the vehicle, which is probably entirely false. I recommend switching to metric here, or at least using a caliper for the distance out values.

Check the distance from the outermost point of the wheel/tyre at the front and back of the wheel edge and adjust the laser until they are even. Using the horizontal beam, find the tallest and shortest points on the wheel edge and mark them. Now, measure to the laser line at the top and bottom of the wheel where you marked. Also measure the exact distance between the points you took the first two measurements. If you can access a hard point on the suspension, take a measurement to the laser vertical there, also. Do not use a spring, use a shock shaft/tube, the spindle upper, or something that is also equally spaced on both sides. This will enable you to split the camber as you will now know exactly how far off vertical you are from side to side.

The math is the same, top minus bottom (adjust for off-vertical here), divided by diameter of wheel and inverse tan. Adjust away.

This is a great way to do a one-person laser alignment. It’s a real alignment, and you used a laser. It’s primary value is that you reduce the number of things you need two hands or a second person to do.

A kid at the college autocross had this beat-to-crap old gen2 Supra that had these awful Chinese decals all over it. He said he was thinking of removing them, but kind of liked how silly they were. I said no, leave them, because they add character.


The LA Times recently reported on a study prepared by a focus group of motorcycle industry long-timers named Give A Shift – Motorcycle Sales in the Slow Lane. The Times piece is a well-written review of what we already know: motorcycling is not growing in the US. The study documentation was well-prepared and the reports available from the group were clear. What wasn’t clear from either the Times piece or the study documentation is why the group of experts remain so firmly trapped in the 1970s.

Motorcycling in the United States is a victim of itself in several ways. First, the rebel culture crafted by US manufacturer(s) following WWII transformed motorcycling into a means of acting out for gang-like outside-the-law bad boys. This is not limited to black-vest cruiser clubs, it also rears its ugly head (and front wheel) in the modern stunter culture that shuts down freeways and results in ugly confrontations with Land Rover owners. Dirtbike and ATV gangs in Baltimore and other large cities are a further offshoot that also trace their heritage to the outlaw MC culture of the Vietnam era. None of this is good for motorcycling as a whole and it continues to repercuss through the US.

The outlaw trope is bad, but the toy trope (“transportainment”) is worse. The US is very unique in the fact that most motorcycles are not used for general transportation, rather for pleasure. Motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers are considered basic transportation in nearly every other country in the world. Riders in the ROW start with 50cc scooters and work up to 500cc-class motorcycles. Cars may never be an option for most people in less affluent and warmer areas – they take up too much space, money, and time. Litre-class bikes are rare in most of the world for similar reasons. The EU is a unique market where both size classes coexist – the countries of the EU espouse both the basic transportation concept of smaller machines and the luxury (toy) concept of larger machines. The EU perspective is nuanced in that motorcycles are purchased with distinct purposes in mind and the owner of a larger touring machine (toy concept) is likely to also own a smaller, more city-focused bike for local riding (basic transportation concept). The authors of the study come immediately to the question of desirability in the US (bigger is better), but remain mired in the idea that fun has to be a part of the equation. The very concept of “transportainment” needs to die a fiery death.

The authors do not address the failure of rider training in the US. The efforts of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and organizations like Total Control are admirable, but do little to grow the market. They reinforce the toy concept by setting the barrier to entry very low – no significant investment in rider training is required, so motorcycles are not taken seriously. The state DMVs are complicit in this with low level licensing requirements. A tiered licensing structure with additional training at increasing power levels would reinforce the idea that motorcycling is more than simply a hobby. This is one area in which the dealership experience could improve significantly and have a very measurable impact on the acceptability of motorcycling in the current cotton-ball culture. Addition of private instruction hours with the purchase of bikes would build confidence and acceptability in today’s risk-averse environment. The 20-hour individual training minimum of the EU is unlikely to be realized in the US due to sheer cost, however it is a good goal.

The future of autonomy is described as a risk instead of an opportunity. This is and outdated and uninformed attitude. ABS system data – speed, direction, yaw, lean – forms the backbone of the information stream that is used for vehicle-to-vehicle communication and ABS is now required on new motorcycles in many markets. RADAR cruise control on bikes has been realized in the lab. Motorcycles move at traffic speeds, unlike bicyclists and pedestrians, which cannot share any data and are wildly unpredictable. This presence of so-called dumb vehicles (those that do not broadcast data, including bicycles, older motos, and older cars) cannot be avoided at this time, which forces autonomy discussions to include them. Motorcycles are fortunately large enough to register as other traffic participants, “dumb” or otherwise.

The authors have correctly identified the need to participate in the autonomy discussion, but incorrectly assess the threat. The real threat is not that autonomous cars will squeeze motorcycles out of the traffic equation, it is that autonomy will squeeze all forms of self-directed transportation off the road. This is because vehicular autonomy is purely focused on the basic transportation concept. The industry’s refusal (aside from BMW) to engage in the autonomy discussion is a deep shame and shows profound lack of foresight. I look for future efforts from Ducati to explore this through their association with Audi and VolkswagenAG, and from Honda, who share BMW’s one-house integration. Sadly, in the US, the Harley-Davidson/Ford arrangement seems to be a simple branding affair, with no technical exchange.

The authors rightly call to the carpet the entire “shrink&pink” attitude of all motorcycle industry manufacturers. The difference between any motorcycle shop in the EU and one in the US is the amount of floor space given to technical riding apparel for women. Kids’ apparel is non-existent in the US and women’s gear tends toward fashion. Women generally approach motorcycling in a more pragmatic manner than men, and not only from a safety perspective. Firstly, rebel culture and tribe-seeking are less of a draw – women are not seeking rebellion against society, they are seeking freedom within it. Secondly, basic transportation is a greater factor – women are far more likely to see their motorcycle as a means to explore the world and their place in it rather than as a simple weekend toy. Dealerships are a huge part of the problem – until the generation of sales reps that see women as part of the toy equation rather than as disbursers of money is retired, women will continue to be turned off.

The authors return many times to the need for potential buyers to want a motorcycle, but never make it past the desire to have fun. We need to change the reasons for wanting a motorcycle from the “transportainment” culture of previous generations to the basic transportation concept of today’s future owners and drive the manufacturers to participate in the technical growth of the general transportation industry. Only then will the industry be able to connect with today’s potential riders.

Recent trips to Ohio have confused me. The road has more stripes on it than it should, and I was struggling to figure out why.

Look at the road! Many many stripes. What could cause that?

It took a while and a discussion with my older son. We eventually settled on something related to snow removal. Turns out we were right.

The distinctive stripes on Ohio roads are due to an interesting deicing method used by the state to prevent ice from forming in the first place. The roads are coated with a solution of calcium chloride sprayed from a multi-point spray bar on the back of a truck, giving rise to the white lines that form on the surface. The calcium chloride residue stays on the surface, forming a conformal coating that stays put prior to snow fall. Rock salt, the typical means of controlling icing, is often scrubbed from the road if it is placed before about 1/2″ of snow has fallen. As the snow falls on the liquid-treated road, the calcium chloride (sometimes even garden-variety brine, too) goes to work immediately, reducing the risk of black ice formation.

The calcium chloride can build up over time, leading to enduring stripes on the road throughout the year.

Mystery solved.

I’ve been trying to get a Veloster as a rental for a while, and Enterprise delivered for me in Altanta this time around. Between the optimistic name and the cool looks, I was looking forward to see what Hyundai brought to the table in the sporty 2+2 segment. Sadly, rental spec is not kind to this silly little coupé. That’s too bad, because the Veloster has some fun elements amid a laundry list of mediocrity usually reserved for lower-budget American cars.

The overriding feeling one gets from the Veloster is “damn, it would be cool if…..” I think the one feature that truly sums up the car is the Veloster logo screened onto the front seat backs: most cars would have embroidery where the little Hyundai has some sort of puffy ink. The entire interior is best described as a hot mess. The front seats are shapely and body-hugging, with solid bolstering, but the lower center cushions are flat and cardboard-y. After a mere half hour, my butt was screaming. And what are great bolsters without adjustable lumbar? Not much. Adjustability was fantastic in all other dimensions, though.

Moving on to the IP, holy underware, Batman. The dash looks like a 2010 Civic got it on with an old Grand Am. It’s actually better in daylight than at night, where the endless array of backlit buttons is also endlessly distracting. The MMI screen is raked back at such an angle that only the lower half is easily reachable. Thankfully Apple CarPlay seemed to work fine. The silver-painted plastic trim is *everywhere*, spilling onto the doors in the form of upper trims and very intrusive grab handles that duplicate the function of the traditional cup pulls set further back and obscure access to the window and lock controls. The controls for the HVAC are decently laid out and took little time to sort. All functions worked, too. The MMI and rear camera setup functioned well and with minimal fussing. I was able to connect my phone via cable and Bluetooth.

The outside of the poor Veloster is part of the problem. It’s overstyled to an artful degree that so overpromises that the car could never really deliver anyway. The rear treatment is, in, my opinion, pretty good. Where the Chrysler Cross(back)fire looked unfinished, the Veloster comes to its conclusion directly and forcefully. The car sits balanced front to back with well-defined haunches and brings to mind some of Renault’s artistry in the Wind. The front end suffers a bit from excessive Canard syndrome, but the whole look is consistent and grew on me over the course of my rental.

Where the outside and inside meet, visibility goes out the proverbial window. Aside from the interesting glass hatch (I like it), there is not much greenhouse in the Veloster, making visibility an afterthough. Particularly bad is the view over the left shoulder, which is simply a wall of black B pillar. The driver’s mirror includes a blindspot viewer in the upper outer corner to help. The right side of the car benefits from the third door, which includes a window that can be opened to relieve wind noise and booming from open front windows.

Rental spec sadly meant that the Veloster I was driving was equipped with the normally-aspirated 1.4l mill and a functional DCT automatic. Oh, man. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this combination. I spent about 80% of my time in the car thinking “damn, this would be pretty fun with a snail and a stick.” The promise spoken by the Veloster name and the hyper-styled exterior fell dead and cold on the stone-deaf ears of the powertrain. It didn’t even sound good.

General driving dynamics were decent. Road grip was good and for as much as you could push the tiny mill, the suspension was not the weak point of the system. Handling was another area where the car would benefit from an upgrade, but I’m not going to say it needs one, because the available power will never get you in trouble that way.

I realize that it sounds like I think the Veloster is a bad car, and that is not true. This is not a penalty box car (even in rental trim), nor is it a modern Mustang II. It’s actually a fun little way to get around that could do with some upgrades and factory performance options to help it live up to its enticing name. To start with, a high output motor and a decent six-speed manual, along with improved seats. Everything else works fine and is not only functional, it’s largely easy to figure out and use. The rest of it is all style points, and truthfully, if you’re a hot mess of a person, the Veloster will be a great fit for you right out of its hot mess box. You’re trying just as hard as Hyundai is.