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11 Incredible Bike Mods

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Cyclists love their bikes—and many of them are all too happy to cut them up to create something new and awesome.

1. The Tallest Bike On Earth

Tall bikes are a fringe trend, but one DIYer took his tall bike to the extreme: The current Guinness Record holder for tallest rideable bicycle is Terry Goertzen of Canada, whose bike stands an impressive 18 feet and 2.5 inches.

Goertzen might not have that record long, though: Los Angeles resident Richie Trimble recently constructed a new version of his Stoopid Tall bike that measures a full two feet taller, sitting over 20 feet above the ground.

2. The Rail Bike

The golden age of railways is long gone, but some abandoned railroad tracks are having a second life as pedestrian and bike paths. Bike Hacks reader Will built a bike specially designed for use on the railroad. His first prototype derailed and crashed when he hit about 16 miles per hour, but his newer design is much safer (although it still experiences problems at rail switches).

3. The Jet Powered Bike

Here’s another fun ride you’re probably better off leaving to the professionals. Robert Maddox designed this bad boy to accelerate with the help of a pulsejet, which allows the bike to go more than 70 miles per hour.

4. The Sea Nymph

Flickr user Megulon5; cc

Flickr user Megulon5 participated in Aquachopper Expidition 2011, which involved creating bikes that could be used on water or land. The Sea Nymph, created by Jay and Jessica of San Francisco, has unique canoe-cycle style and steers the same on both land and water.

5. The Snowplow

This pedal-powered snowplow by Firefly Workshops makes cleaning up after light storms quite fun (though its creator does note that it’s totally useless after heavy snowfalls).

6. The Lawnmower

Flickr user Fahrrad Rasenmäher; cc

This cool tool allows its user to trim their lawn while enjoying a leisurely bike ride in the backyard.

7. The Galloping Horse Bike

If you’re looking for a bike mod that’s more about fun than function, you’ll appreciate this piece by Smitty Regula, which incorporates two plastic horses that appear to gallop on each side of the bike as the wheels turn.

8. The Nimbus 2000

Until we have some sort of new, crazy aerial technology, you won't be able to fly on a Nimbus like Harry Potter—so this broom-based bike, which allows the rider to lean forward and steer with the broom handle, is the next best thing. The creator, Ben, was a Maker Faire attendee, while the photo was taken by Will O'Brien of Engadget.

9. Office Chair Bike

When it comes to comfort, it’s pretty hard to beat this office chair recumbent bike by Instructables user Woodenbikes. It features a 35-pound office chair and was built in celebration of Bike to Work Day.

10. Sidecar

If motorcycles can have sidecars, why can’t bicycles? This Instructable by stevebod can show you how to make your own, complete with a safety harness and guard.

11. Windshield

Though bike riders face bugs and bad weather just like motorcyclists, you rarely see a windshield on a bike. Bike Hacks reader George from New Hampshire constructed a custom windscreen that uses a wire basket as the base and a removable wire frame and plastic cardboard cover to provide protection from the wind. The Plexiglas window at the front can be shifted up or down based on the rider’s needs. In all, George says his design is quite effective at protecting his hands and face from the cold.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]