IRO Rob Roy

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“Rob Roy” was Tony Portera’s old ham radio handle and I have to say, it is an apt name. It is a tank compared to my aluminum beater and my Merckx, but its still a total blast to ride. I picked it up from Baumann last year and took quite a bit of time to collect the group. Its quick and sharp, but still feels strong enough to take on Boston’s potholes and traffic. I tried to balance out the all black frame and components with some flashes of silver and gumwalls, and topped it off with a little bit of PinP inspired pink in the Cadence bottles. I recently put on some fenders and some 28c road tires (Resist Nomads) to make it into a more realistic daily commuter.

The Rob Roy frame is a 58cm square steel single speed cross bike with a tall standover, cable routing on the top of the top tube, and track drops in the back. Its built with bombproof IRO HT tubing and has the iconic curved seatstays that identify its cachet to the initiated. Tony Portera called it his “bad-weather bike,” but after a few hundred miles, this is quickly turning into my “all-weather bike.”

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Framebuilding

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There are three main phases in the bike building process.

To confuse things, I think I will begin with the middle phase. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes filing down fillet brazing knows the challenge of brazing a bike frame. Filing is painful, never-ending, and unglamorous work (much like the architecture profession at times). Your hands often come away from the shop black and blistered. It rarely looks quite the way you want to and the whole time you are thinking that you are just going to cover it up with paint anyways. It is quite laborious work. Secretly, I love it.

Thankfully, there is a first phase and a last phase.

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3BMC Bottle Labels

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In May of 2012, Chris and I bottled around 150 bottles of wine. It may be a modest number for the established enologist, but it was quite the achievement for two budding amateurs like us. The process was competent at best and the results were just about drinkable. I like to think of it as a learning process and in the end I take comfort in the fact that we made a “respectable table wine.”

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2012 Riding Mapped

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This is my first year riding with Strava and I simply couldn’t bear to see all that good data go to waste. It gives you your speeds and communal ranking, but more importantly, it also records the map of each ride. Partway through the season, I realized that it would be great to see how much coverage of the Boston area I had ridden during the course of a year, so I mapped it as I went.

My total training miles for the year will probably end up around 620, and if you include my city riding and my daily commute, it should end up somewhere in the ball park of 3000.

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Cold Weather Biking Gear

The List:

60°s    Sweatshirt, finger gloves
50°s    Light jacket, finger gloves
40°s    Softshell jacket, finger gloves, hat
30°s    Softshell jacket, mittens, hat, winter collar
20°s    Softshell jacket, mittens, merino hat, winter collar, long underwear bottoms
10°s    Softshell jacket, mittens, glove liners, merino hat, winter collar, long underwear top and bottoms
0°        Every piece of clothing you own.

Raleigh Technium

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I was recently telling a story about how my old Puch commuting bike had gotten so worn out that when crossing over the Mass Ave bridge every morning, the combined orchestra of clicks and clanks reached a crescendo that culminated into something resembling the drum beat to the Pirates of The Caribbean theme song. As cool as this was, it was the dying song of an old bike. It may sound calloused, but when a 60cm Raleigh Technium 480 popped up on Craigslist for $90, I took no time in snatching it up.

Rebuilding it was quick job and after a few weeks of collecting parts and a full day of building, she was out on the road. Even though I do miss the sweet songs of my old Puch, you can’t argue with modern brakes, a track crankset, and a Fyxation saddle, coupled with classic non-aero brake levers and some old school internal cable routing!

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Merckx Caloi

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Last month I trekked over to Porter Square one evening to investigate a recent Craigslist ad describing a partially assembled 60cm “Caloi Merxck” [sic]. It was my size and if it was a real Merckx, I was certainly interested in at least going to check it out. I met the guy in his studio, which was deep in the bowels of an old converted mill building, and ended up chatting for a while with him and his girlfriend about all kinds of stuff before finally settling down to look at the bike. It was a Merckx, but not an official Caloi team frame as I thought it might be (it was missing the number hanger/decals found on those bikes). But it was in good condition, it came with a full Ultegra 6500 groupset, and the price was right. So I jumped.

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Absinthe

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Absinthe is a spirit steeped in history. Writers, poets, philosophers, and bohemians have been inspired by its high potency and hallucinogenic tendencies for over 200 years. Known for its high proof and strong flavor, absinthe is made from a variety of bases with countless ingredients, but is always centered around the “holy trinity”: grand wormwood, green anise, and fennel. Five years ago, the US legalized the sale and consumption of absinthe and since then Three Blind Mice Craft Co has been itching to make a batch.

Production of quality absinthe hinges on two main things. First, you need a good reflux still (which we did not have) and second you need a few slightly obscure spices (which we had no idea where to get). But we were undeterred, and with our forefathers in mind, we persevered. Thankfully, acquiring spices is a bit simpler than it was one hundred years ago. The spices we needed in bulk (green anise and fennel) were bought at the market, and the rest I was lucky enough to find at Christina’s, my local spice shop in Boston. The reflux still was a whole other issue entirely, and resulted in us building a modular column attachment to one of our current pot stills.

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Still Building

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Three Blind Mice Craft Co has been talking about re-building one of its stills for a while now. Previously, we had two pot stills: one larger one with a condensing head on it and a smaller one without a head,  both which connected into a vapor basket and a condenser. The problem was that neither of which could produce the level of purity that we wanted for some more difficult runs. So, we decided to upgrade the smaller one by soldering a reflux column on to it.

The parts list was basic: one 2’, 1 ½” copper tube, two NPSH to NPT copper fittings, two NPT to copper tube fittings, and 1lb of ceramic raschig rings. The intent was for the fittings to screw directly into the two parts of the head, but of course, nothing we do is that easy. I will admit, we did suspect that we would run into problems with the threading since our still is from the 1920s and was homemade by my fireman/plumber great grandfather, who probably “borrowed” all his fittings from who knows where. The existing threading could have been anything from NPSH to NPT to NST to NYFD threading to NHFD threading to a custom made fitting. So of course we were not surprised when the new fittings showed up and they did not fit. We moved right on to plan B, which involved soldering the fittings directly to the original head. The result was, like all of our projects, a bit of a debacle but largely successful. The result wasn’t the prettiest thing we have built, but it worked and went on to produce some beautiful absinthe!

Daccordi Turbo

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A few months ago I had a momentary lapse in self control and bought a bike frame on eBay. It was beautiful, Italian, and cheap. The decision may have been a bit hasty, but not without warning. My move to Boston had meant that I could finally get back on my bike, and I guess I did not realize how much I missed it. It was shortly thereafter that I decided I wanted to properly build a bike and it was only a matter of time before I found a frame and took a leap of faith.

The following months became a plunge into a full on restoration project that at times threatened to take over my life. I scoured bike forums and Sheldon Brown’s texts and pieced together opinions and bits of information. This was of course happening simultaneously alongside a fierce binge of bidding, buying, losing, and winning on eBay and Craigslist. The result however, was worth it. Four months later and a chunk of my salary gone, I had built something beautiful; a vintage 1985 Daccordi Turbo with the full original Campagnolo gruppo.

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