Blog 06-05-23

Turf Zone – DobbysSock

Turfing local this morning, around Bonnyrigg and it was very strange. At first, I could not put my finger on what it was, then after a few zones, I realised there was no people about just the odd dog running wild. Very odd indeed. I continued turfing as you do, grabbed a few more zones and still no people and hardly a car either, just the one ambulance on blues and twos, screaming past in the distance.

To be honest, I was getting rather worried that I’d slept through the zombie apocalypse last night or we’d been invaded by Martians from Mars and everyone had been whisked away or something of that ilk. Anyway, I wasn’t going to let any of those unlikely catastrophes get in the way of grabbing a few more zones, seeing as there a new round starting tomorrow. Mind you, I do recall hearing something about some King chap doing something important in London today. Perhaps they are all watching that?

In fact, I was on a mission this morning. As well as grabbing all the zones lost in Bonnyrigg to my darling wife Cathryn/ChoccyMuffin, I wanted to try turfing with a single speed bicycle. That’s a bicycle with a single gear. Unfortunately, I don’t at present own a single speed bicycle but would use my trusty Surly Ogre instead. A very simple process really. No need to buy expensive parts just for a test, all I need do it select a suitable gear and leave it at that. Actually, that was the most challenging part, not changing gear.

So, I started off in 5th gear while running a 20T rear sprocket and a 32T chainring on the front. At first it felt very odd not changing down on the hills or up on the long run down the old railway cycleway. It’s the same when I jump on the Swifty kick scooter after having been cycling, I find myself trying to change gear when there aren’t any. Then, after taking about 20 zones it was soon apparent that single speed was okay for turfing Bonnyrigg. Yes, I had to get the legs working harder on the hills and was unable to get up any speed on the downs but it was strangely relaxing, even enjoyable. There’s something strangely attractive about the simplicity of a single speed bike.

As readers may be aware I’m working on a new bicycle project and one decision I have to make is whether to go single speed or fit an 8-speed hub gear, the Shimano Alfine, same as the Surly Ogre and also the Surly Pugsley fat bike. Now, in light of this morning’s experience I’m definitely going single speed. I’ve even ordered the parts. Yes, Bonnyrigg is not all that hilly and turfing the likes of Gorebridge or Mayfield or the top end of Dalkeith is another story entirely and will no doubt involve some walking but I’m happy with that.

Back home, next issue I have is how to work out how to convert the gearing on the Surly Ogre, i.e., Shimano Alfine hub gear in 5th, 20T sprocket, 32T chainring, into an equivalent single speed setup for the new bike build. Easier said than done. In fact, almost quantum physics or rocket science stuff. I must have spent hours trying online calculators but eventually gave up and contacted Scott, turfer MuttsCycles at Mutts Cycles in Newtongrange, for advice. He offered up some good suggestions. Also looked online for the ideal single speed gear set up and found the usual million or so, often contradictory, suggestions. But what I did find was there is not ideal starting point. Too many factors involved. Surly Bikes suggest a 2:1 ratio, so I’ll start there.

In the end, I discovered a forgotten 16T rear freewheel in the shed, brand new and never used. And while looking for parts online came across a nicely priced Shimano 32T crank set, so will start with that setup. This will give me a 2:1 ratio which is often recommended as a good starting point and also one I’ve used in the past. Easy enough to swap out freewheel/chain/chainring to adjust higher or lower as required.

So, as this is more than likely going to be a turfing bike, I’ve had to ask myself what about all the other components? Well, it will be flat handlebars like my other bikes, much better for control than drop bars. Brakes will be my usual Avid BB7 cable disc brakes as I have a used set I can recondition. Tyre choice is important, so I’ve gone for Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 700 x 35mm, essentially touring tyres with a chunkier tread pattern but not so extreme as mountain bike knobbles. I want this bike for getting those off-road zones in Dalkeith country park, around Dalhousie and Newbattle. Should be fun. Back soon.

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