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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Boston

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I’m back. After a productive two year hiatus, I have returned to Boston and to the field of Architecture. This reunion is the result of becoming an employed architect, which is something of a feat these days.

The move has meant that I have had to put a few projects on hold for the time being. In particular, my motorcycle will have to sit in a sad almost-finished state until I can find a few weekends at home to finish it up. But it also means that I will be able to start a few more productive projects. In the works currently are some architectural narratives and investigations, as well as the building of a new bicycle. Stay tuned.

What Makes a Design(er) Good?

What makes a design(er) good? It is a question that plagued me while in school and has not let up since. It is the kind of question that pops up when you want it least and disappear just when you think you have it. Why are we taught about the work of Corbusier or Man Ray instead of the architect that designed my house? What makes them better designers?

Maybe great designers have a particular characteristic that makes them the best. Maybe it is being mindful. Or maybe being acutely aware of the world around them. Or maybe a good designer has a particular taste that just appeals to a wide range of people. But I don’t think this quite captures it – we are not really getting at the essence of what makes a good designer. These all describe a great designer, but they are not what makes a designer great. They are good descriptions, not driving forces.

Perhaps it’s genetics. Perhaps the great designers were simply born with something rare; they all have extra neuron connections in just the right place or a certain mole on their left leg. This could be it, but then why do we even bother to go to school? Why are we being taught architecture when there are already some people who are just gifted? Is it not just a fruitless endeavor for the moleless kids? Are there some people who will never be great, who will never have even one flash of inspiration no matter how much they try? That is pretty hard for me to believe.

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Cider

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With apple picking season in full swing across the northeast, I knew it was only a matter of time before Chris would stop by and let me know that we were going to make some cider. This visit always makes me a little bit anxious because, to be perfectly honest, my relationship with cider is at best, shaky. Don’t get me wrong, I love cider dearly. I often have a gallon in the fridge and I am known for my mulled cider recipe. But when it comes to making it, things just seem to fall apart.

It just never seem to go as planned. Our first time ended in everyone getting a bit sick after drinking it, but that was only after we started out with a few totally failed attempts at fermenting pasteurized cider with bread yeast. There was also the time in under my bed in my old dorm room that I try not to talk about. But this time, we hoped things would be different. Firstly, we were considerably more experienced, and second, I was not in charge of it this time, Chris was.

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Mt. Kineo in Film

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A hike up to the fire tower, Mt. Kineo, Moosehead Lake, Maine.

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