29 May 2023

Off-Road Bicycling

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 36

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Cheapest bike shipping

EBike Shipper

This is the cheapest way to ship a bike in the US. Most airlines have hefty charges for your bicycle as accompanied luggage, so this compact box and subsidized FedEx ground rates are the best deal I’ve found. It will cost about $100 when you are done if you use their full service. While it is the cheapest way, it is not the most convenient way. Here is how it works.

ShipBikes.com will ship you a box, called an Ebike Shipper, to your sending address.

Inside the box is a much larger box folded up. You unfold that box into two parts (top and bottom), and then you disassemble your bike and tie it in.

You need to remove both wheels, pedals, handlebar, seat, fenders, racks, and maybe the front fork.

It will take a hour or more, and can be done with two common tools. (And of course you need to rebuild it at the other end.) Then you tape up the box, print out a label from an email they send you, and then call FedEx who will come to your address to pick it up, and then deliver to the address you designate. This delivery and pick up is really fantastic at the end of a bike trip when you are shipping a bike back home from a far destination.

The shipping box is very cleverly designed to arrive in the mail folded up and to just squeak under a pricing threshold when unfolded. Thus the tight fit and the need to strip the bike down. By coming under the FedEx price threshold the box will ship in the US for about $53. The cost of the box and shipping it to you is $48. You can stuff some gear like a sleeping bag and pad into the box for padding but it won’t hold much beside the bike.

The alternative is to use an AirCaddy from the same company, which is a triangular shaped box that takes the bike with almost no disassembly. (The AirCaddy box is also reusable.) You can load it in 10 minutes. But it costs $99 to reach you, and about $96 to ship because of its larger size. That extra simplicity will cost about double the ebike box option. But this is by far the most convenient way to ship a bike: Box comes, you unfold it, pop bike in, they come to get it, then deliver it its destination. Done for $200.

Of course if you have use of a car you can find a free used box from a bike shop, drag it home, and ship it yourself, but you’ll pay higher rates, close to $100. ShipBikes has some kind of deal with FedEx that gives you a discount on the freight. Or you can get a free bike box at a shop and then haul the packed bike-in-box to the airport (and then out of the arriving airport), but for most airlines this will still cost you about $90- $100+, and it requires a car, which you may not have a the end of a long tour.

There are still a few airlines that will ship a boxed bike for $50 as accompanied luggage, but they are rare, and you still have the problem of getting the box and then getting the bike to the airport and back. Lastly, the ebike box is so well designed that there are four layers of cardboard around the perimeter, everything is tied in with straps, the wheel axels protected with rubber bumpers, and the whole thing much more protected and secure than a free bike-shop box, which has been used and is not meant to be shipped in luggage. I recently received a bike shipped this casual way and the front wheel was so damaged it had to be rebuilt. The bike we shipped via ebike was intact.

Any way you do it, it will cost you about $100 to ship a bike in the US. (ShipBikes will ship overseas but the costs vary so much I can’t summarize.) But if you count the hassles of the alternatives, the hassles of disassembling your bike into a provided box and having them pick it up to deliver works out to be the cheapest way to do it. — KK

Ultimate mountain bike tutorial

Mountain Bike!: A Manual of Beginning and Advance Technique

A few weeks ago while rushing down a trail on my bike I wiped-out and broke a rib. I wished I had read this book earlier. Its completely hand-drawn tutorial of mountain bike techniques and skills would have cured my mistake. Each page is hand drawn, full of humor, packed with experience, and conveys memorable lessons. Author Nealy’s hilarious one page cartoons are more effective in teaching crucial things than either text or video. Although it was written — I mean drawn — in 1992 it’s still amazingly valid. The bikes have changed but the skills and challenges are the same. It’s a really great how-to. — KK

  • Before you begin a self-training session RELAX, this ain’t Wall Street. You can’t lose riding a mountain bike. If you are working on a technique and you fail two or three times in a row, STOP!! Do something else and try again later. This is called “Training To Failure” (positive progressive training; pushing the envelope). If you push a training session beyond three successive failures you are “Training To Fail” (negative regressive training; more pain than fun). As you become more adept at self-teaching and pushing yourself appropriately you’ll be able to discern where good (beneficial) training ends and bad (regressive) training begins. [Hint: lack of fun marks the spot.]
  • Cone of Movement – The amount of lean a rider can exert on his/her bike is determined by the focus of his/her stance: in a seated position, the cone of movement is focused on the seat and is relatively small. The greater the obstacle, the larger the cone of movement must be to surmount it.
  • From a standing position the cone of movement is huge compared to sitting. This gives the rider an exponentially greater number of options in terms of leans, weight shifts and control.On level or down-sloping trails you can keep your pedals and cranks clear of ground clutter by keeping your cranks more or less level and pumping the pedals up and down.
  • Another excellent reason to hang onto your bike in any fall is a loose bike’s proclivity to become a very gnarly projectile during a wipe-out!

28 May 2023

QR art/Pills on the go/GigaBrain

Recomendo - issue #359

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QR art

A lot of the dots in a QR code are superfluous, meaning that they can be arranged into a picture, and not just randomly. Thus you can make the QR code into a picture. This neat little free website called QArt Coder will generate a QR for a website you give it (say your homepage) using an image you give it (say your portrait), yielding a QR code with a stylized image of you (or say a logo, or totem). Short urls and small high contrast images work best. I’m making stickers from my impressionist QR self-portrait. Hold a phone to it, and it takes you to my home page. — KK

Pills on the go

This pill organizer is perfect for travel, but I also use it at home to organize my pills. It comes with seven boxes marked with the days of the week. Each box has two compartments for AM and PM. I take all my supplements in the morning, which allows me to organize my pills two weeks in advance. The seven boxes fit in a clear plastic case. On trips, I just bring the boxes I need. — MF

Find the most useful comments on Reddit

Reddit’s search function is not pleasant to navigate, so whenever I discover a better search engine for it, I always get excited to share it widely. GigaBrain is the newest and best search engine for finding product recommendations and experience-based answers from actual people. Whatever your question is, GigaBrain will extract from billions of Reddit comments and provide you with summarized results. — CD

A better way to take photos on your smartphone

This is something my daughter told me about. On Android and Apple phones, you can take a picture by pressing the volume up key. It’s more convenient than touching the software button on the phone’s display. I find it especially useful for taking street photography. — MF

The best things people have learned in therapy

Girls’ Night In is a newsletter I’ve read for years and they recently solicited advice and learnings from therapy and shared it here: The Best Things We Learned in Therapy (scroll down). In anxious or volatile moments, I like the reminder that “I can’t stop the waves, but I can learn how to surf.” Or asking yourself, “What are you doing to contribute to your own unhappiness?” — my mind automatically flips the question to, “What can I do in this moment to contribute to my own happiness?” I hope this is a reoccurring feature. — CD

Fashionable sci-fi

The movie I have rewatched the most often is the sci-fi classic The Fifth Element. Directed by Frenchman Luc Besson, it is sublime in most ways, especially its worldbuilding, and design style, which are influenced by French comic book artists rather than Hollywood. I somehow completely missed that Besson released another sci-fi film in 2017, this one based on a legendary French comic book series: Valerian. I only recently discovered Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on Amazon Prime and have already rewatched it. Its plot is forgettable, but like the The Fifth Element, it’s all about a playful, whimsical, baroque high-fashion future, a style not seen in Hollywood science fiction movies. (Valerian is the most expensive indie film ever made.) This exuberant future seems to be more plausible than the sleek streamlined future we usually expect. — KK


26 May 2023

Michael Basista, Prop Builder

Show and Tell #367: Michael Basista

Mike Basista is a prop builder and general maker. He’s willing to try building or making just about anything. He currently lives in Pittsburgh after stops in Michigan and Southern California. You can find him on Instagram @evilgeniusprops and on YouTube @mikeandsheilamakestuff

0:00 – Intro
0:53 – KAKURI Kiridashi Knife Right Hand 24mm
4:42 – Leatherman Style PS
8:43 – Grizzly Benchtop band saw
11:53 – Gridfinity Storage system
19:46 – Evil Genius Props

To sign up to be a guest on the show, please fill out this form.


25 May 2023

Murky Turkey/Negotiating Hotel Prices/Free Stays at Wyndham

Nomadico issue #53

A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations. See past editions here, where your like-minded friends can subscribe and join you.

Still Murky in Turkey

Will the country of Turkey (Turkiye) continue down its current spiral or turn things around? That’s still up in the air as neither presidential candidate got above 50% in this month’s election and a run-off is coming. With the prospect of Erdogan remaining in office a possibility, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Investors are betting the lira will lose another half of its value in the next year” with no change in leadership.

News Flash: It’s Not the Nomads Driving Up Housing Prices

If you’re an editor trying to formulate a good clickbait article, tying rising housing prices to the remote work trend seems to be a sure bet. But it turns out housing prices in Mexico went up 11.7% last year and many markets that increased the most had nary a nomad in sight. (In case you’re wondering, the average price of a home in Mexico is $90,850.)

In-Person Hotel Prices

I don’t do this often, but when I do it almost always works: negotiating hotel prices in person instead of booking in advance. This week while road-tripping around Greece we showed up in one remote town and immediately paid 90 euros for a waterfront hotel instead of the online price of 110 (including breakfast for two) by asking in person for a room. In the end, the owners probably still came out ahead because they avoided the high fees charged by the likes of Expedia and Booking. This works best with 1) family hotels, 2) outside of high season, and 3) checking in late in the day. Paying cash can sometimes help too…

A Simple Hotel Credit Card

I’ve got a few different hotel credit cards I use to stack up free nights and get upgrades. One of them you don’t hear about much offers a great payoff without complications: the Wyndham Rewards card from Barclays. There’s a $0 annual fee version that gives you 45K sign-up points and a $75 fee one that gives you 75K points and Platinum status. Wyndham only has 3 redemption levels, the highest being 30K for a free night, so no complicated charts or changing levels for cashing in. And no foreign transaction fees.


24 May 2023

What’s in my NOW? — Rob Belk

issue #156

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A new dad on a mission to find the best hot sauces in the world. I work on Call of Duty esports by day and my newsletter which curates top millennial recommendations, Rambull, by night. — Rob Belk


Jambys | A gamechanger for your loungewear and sleep routines. My wife and I have a matching pair and wear them regularly. Incredibly soft but also functional with pockets.

Yellow Bird Blue Agave Sriracha | I consider myself a hot sauce connoisseur. This is my favorite hot sauce at the moment, sitting comfortably atop our fridge’s starting line-up of Cholula, Truff, Crystal, and Trader Joe’s Peri Peri. While I seem to put it on everything, I especially like Yellowbird on Asian dishes.

Shinola Journal | As much as I fight it with Notion and other digital tools, I am a pen and paper guy. I have gone through multiple Shinola journals as I love the brand aesthetic and quality. Throughout the years they have captured everything from my to-do lists, business ideas, and prayers.


Remove.bg | This is a very simple yet very effective digital tool for removing the background on an image. This tool would have saved me hours in my early consulting days working on PowerPoint presentations. Simply drop in an image and it will remove any unnecessary whitespace. It feels like I have a use for it several times a week with my day job and with my newsletter.

Spotify, ‘Productive Work’ Playlist | Over 75 hours of luscious EDM and lo-fi beats that has been my go to playlist for years. It is extremely versatile, I can use it for deep work, decompressing, or workouts. I highly recommend you give it a listen even if EDM isn’t your favorite category.https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/3ZpX7ZhqADKCsMha26gHT6


Ruthless Elimination of Hurry | How many of us find ourselves constantly changing lanes on the road or changing lanes in the grocery store checkout line in order to save a few seconds? To what end. I was recently exposed to the idea of eliminating “hurry” from my life and have been working on its application. Very tough for a type-A personality like myself but also very effective when I realize that I am in a hurry for no reason and I can use that realization to slow down.


23 May 2023

Underbidding and Raising Prices on Freelance Jobs

Gar's Tips & Tools - Issue #156

– Send me a tip or tool recommendation.

Tell me a shop tale.

-Buy my books (Tips and Tales from the Workshop Vol. 1Vol. 2).

Advertise your product, service, newsletter, app, book, tool, or anything you’d like to share with GT&T readers

Underbidding and Raising Prices on Freelance Jobs

On this “Ask Adam” episode of TestedAdam Savage answers questions that many makers doing client work ask themselves. It often feels impossible to figure out how much to charge. Like many creative professions, the fees charged are all over the map and there are few (or divergent) industry standards.

In the video, Adam is asked whether it’s OK to undercharge for a first job and he says, yes, as long as you tell the client when you deliver the work that you undercharged on this one and additional, similar work will likely be more. Adam recounts how he was hired to make a space suit replica and barely broke even on the first one, but now he knows the realistic cost for future, similar jobs. As Jimmy DiResta says, “You go to school on the first one.”

Adam also offers some good advice on thinking about setting your own prices (and a big part of that comes down to gut feeling). He also offers a few industry tips, like in the print industry (and similar services, like 3D printing), a rush job is usually 2-times the normal price. Many years ago, I was asked to do a rush job for a big magazine that paid industry top dollar. It was for a 4-page piece on the latest personal tech. They said: “How about $3,000?” I said: “Can we make it $6K — because it’s a rush?” They paused for a second and said “Sure.” I hung up and thought: “I just got 3000 extra bucks simply for asking for them.”

7 Tools to Consider for Your Workshop

In this “Cool Tools” segment of Stumpy NubsJames runs through seven tools he uses in his shop and highly recommends. As always, these are woodworking-focused recommendations, but most of them apply to any type of shop work. Among other items, he covers diamond floor mats (love those!), rulesknee pads on wheels, and a great, affordable EDC folding knife.

Getting Started in Metal Engraving

One of the many impressive skills that Chris of Clickspring possesses is his engraving talents. In this latest of his “Tools, Glorious Tools!” series, he looks at the basic tools and techniques you need to acquire to get decent at engraving in metal. Amazingly, this is a skill that Chris only recently acquired.

Lucia Builds Her Own Skid-Steering Mini Loader

On Lucia’s Workshop, she’s been building a skid-steering mini loader. Now that’s some impressive DIY! She’s 3 videos into the project. Follow her channel if you want to see the rest of the build and how she’s solving the many complex challenges that arise in tackling something this ambitious.

Talking Trash

When we moved into our new California home in 2021, I set about ordering trash and recycling cans for my garage workshop, kitchen and bathrooms, and my home office. I have to admit, I failed miserably. I made poor design choices and got the sizing wrong in nearly every instance. I have slowly been correcting the error by trading up to appropriate cans. Here are some things to consider when ordering trash cans:

  1. Size and Capacity: Determine how much trash you typically generate and choose a trash can with an appropriate capacity. Consider the dimensions as well to ensure it fits in the desired location. This is where I really messed up. I had a hard time imagining what various gallon sizes might translate to in trash can volume. These ten gallon cans are a decent size and you can use them to judge other smaller or larger sizes.
  2. Material and Durability: Trash cans are available in various materials such as plastic, metal, or stainless steel. Consider the durability required for your specific need. In a home workshop, for example, a more rugged and durable trash can is probably a good idea.
  3. Lid Type: Consider swing lids, step-on lids, flip tops. Choose a lid type that suits your preferences and specific environment. I made the mistake of getting swing lid cans for the bathrooms that are too small and they almost immediately fill up and the lids won’t close. Step-ons are the better choice here.
  4. Ease of Cleaning: Look for trash cans that are easy to clean and maintain. Removable liners or trash bags can make the cleaning process more convenient.
  5. Odor Control: If you want to minimize odors, consider trash cans with features like tight-fitting lids, step-on lids, or odor-blocking materials.
  6. Mobility and Portability: If you need to move the cans frequently, consider models with wheels or handles for easy mobility.
  7. Recycling Options: If you separate recyclables, you may want to consider cans with multiple compartments or color-coded bins to facilitate recycling. I bought a blue recycling can for the kitchen with a flip-down lid. It’s great, but it was much bigger than I expected (at 23 gallons). It didn’t fit in the kitchen, so we have it in the downstairs stairwell. At first we thought it was laughably large, but it still fills up quickly.
  8. Aesthetics: While functionality is crucial, you may also want to consider the overall design and appearance of the trash cans, especially if they will be placed in visible areas of your home.
  9. Budget: Set a budget range and look for trash cans that fit within that range while still meeting your requirements. I was shocked to find out how pricey trash cans are, which is why I started out with Dollar Store bins, IKEA cans, and small flip-tops. They’re all trash and now being replaced.
  10. Reviews and Recommendations: Before making a final decision, read reviews from other customers to get an idea of the quality and performance of the trash cans you are considering.


img 03/3/08

Aladdin Lamps

Bright, oil/kerosene-powered lighting

img 04/17/03


A knife that will get through security

img 10/17/19

A Pattern Language

Design heuristics

img 11/20/12

Stanley Compartment Organizer

Affordable parts organizer

img 03/7/08

Tech Web Belt

Last Chance Heavy Duty Belt * Tech Web Belt

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #367: Michael Basista

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #366: Chris Zukowski

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #365: Joel Rosenberg

Picks and shownotes

24 May 2023


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

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We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

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