Turf Blog 30-03-21

Most of the time, when I wake at silly o’clock, and that’s 3.15 am on this occasion, I can jump out of bed keen to get out turfing, eager for another Eager and raring to go. That was not the case this morning, far from it. It was a real challenge to get myself out of a warm cosy bed, get dressed, drag the bike from the shed, turn those pedals and take those points. I felt tired and lethargic, my muscles were aching and just didn’t want to work. Why do we feel like this I asked myself?

I’m sure we all feel like this sometimes, and that’s not unexpected at 3.15 am when we should really be asleep. Perhaps it’s just a wee bug running through the body, a touch of flu perhaps or was I abducted by aliens last night and experimented on? Probably watching too many episodes of the X-Files, I suspect, for the latter. Having said all that, I do have a medical condition which I often wonder might be part of the story.

Some years ago I felt like I had the flu, constantly, for months at a time. On occasions I was struggling to walk along the street, having to stop to rest before I could continue. So, a visit to the doctors, then over an 18-month period, yes 18 months of long waits for hospital appointments, and loads of bloods tests, chest x-rays, MRI brain scans, bone density scans and heart ultrasounds, I was eventually diagnosed with seriously low testosterone levels. When the consultant says he is seriously concerned, you sit up, take notice and listen.

Testosterone manages a lot more than the usual reproduction stuff – which was not a problem, I must point out and everything was just fine, thank you very much – it also plays important roles with bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells. Which may also explain why I was losing muscle mass and gaining fat. Anyway, I started testosterone replacement therapy, basically getting an injection – in the butt cheek, if you want a good laugh – every 12 weeks which tops up my levels to something like normal, which is all and good. It works pretty well but I don’t think it’s constant and perhaps that’s why I sometimes feel like this.

Anyway, I did get out of bed, I did rouse Ogre from the shed and did start taking some lost zone in and around Bonnyrigg, Eskbank and Dalkeith. Managed to take 41 zones over two hours of cycling, which I must admit was a struggle, slower than normal for me and a strong head wind in places didn’t help matters. But afterwards I did feel much better, still tired but it was worth the effort of getting out of bed. And nice to know I was the only turfer out in the UK at 3.15 am this morning, at least as far as the Turf app revealed.

I followed my usual circuit around Bonnyrigg & Eskbank, trying to fine-tune the routes between zones for optimum efficiency – I have an idea that I might just be able to complete the Darkest Ninja medal here in Bonnyrigg. It will be tough and might not even be possible but I intend to have a go anyway. For the Darkest Ninja I need to take 30 zones between the hours of 2.00 am and 3.00 am. My planned zones, in order, are as follows:

WayOfBaird, Pittendriech, Brixwold, LadyMarion, GroovyFarm, ChesterGarden, BurnbraePoint, Bannockrigg, AuldCoal, Skeltiemuir, CockpenBypass, Poltonhall, Flash, ArgylePlaza, FreeKick, CatSchool, RobinAndTuck, Bonnyrigg, GeorgeWarMem, TongueSpatula, LothianSquare, NotFencedIn, WaverleyPath, WaverleyPark, Wishart, Slytherin, A7View, Eskbank, CollegeZone and finally, BikeSlooowly.

My main aim this morning was to try slightly different approaches to some of the zones. Testing ideas out, for example, is using the main street quicker than the hidden back alleyways and footpaths. I was also on the lookout for drop kerbs to help make the flow of the run easier. Hills was also something else I was looking at. Which is better, a short steeper climb or a longer gentler climb? The sequence of the zones is also under constant review. Other factors such as wind direction will need considered on the day.

Fitness is easily addressed by simply getting out there as often as possible on the bike and turfing. Bike weight could also be looked at. With the route so close to home, I could strip the Ogre down to bare essentials. No need for bike tools, spare tubes, frame bag, mudguards, water bottles, rear rack and so on. All this will reduce weight considerably. Clothing can also be looked at. A nice warm night would mean only shorts and t-shirt required – I suppose stripping myself down totally naked would also save weight but probably not a good idea. An interesting and fun idea, but probably not sensible, even at two o’clock in the morning. Mind you, that would save at least a kilogram of weight, and if I shave and have a hair cut as well. Might make all the difference.

Overall, a very enjoyable morning with four different fox sightings, lots of blackbird, wren and robin signing their hearts out, rabbits all over the places and not a single person on the streets, a few cars and delivery lorries and one police van but very quiet. As far a points go; my round total is sitting at 184,200 bringing my grand total to 544,000. Rank still the same, Rank 33 – Advancer Zoner.

“… some time later…lunchtime actually…”

I am yet again Bicycle Repairman – the Monty Python enthusiasts out there will know what I’m on about – undertaking some further essential maintenance on my trusty Surly Ogre bicycle. Followers of Planet Gary will be aware of the ongoing saga of Ogre and his skipping gears which has been largely solved with a new gear cable inner and outer casing, lubricating the hub gear and also by yours truly being more positive when changing gear. Today I’m looking at replacing the chain and bottom bracket.

Ogre’s drive chain hasn’t been running as smooth as I would like and I suspect it’s either the chain or bottom bracket that’s at fault, or even both. Both components have been on the bike a while and as I have both parts in the spares cupboard, seems a good idea to swap them out. For those of you who are not Bicycle Repairpersons, the bottom bracket is the bearing unit low down in the frame where the pedal shaft runs though the frame. The chain, well, it’s that oily affair at the back that’s gets oil on the bottom of your trousers, and just about everywhere else, for that matter. I’m sure you will have heard a comment from your partner, along the lines of, is that oil on the livingroom carpet?

Both components are fairly easy to replace if you are mechanically minded. If not either have a go anyway or visit your local bike shop. However, it does help considerably if you have the proper bike tools for the job. Over the years I’ve bought dedicated bike tools and they make life so much simpler. For example, to remove the bottom bracket I have a – yes, a bottom bracket removal tool. Actually a great big spanner. The alternative is a hammer and screwdriver, which will do the job but always at some risk of damage. A crank removal tool is essential to remove the cranks and a chain link tool makes it easy to separate the chain links. I really hate so-called professional mechanics who say you don’t need that special tool and bring out the heavy hammer. Grrr!

First job was to mount the bike on the work stand, then remove the pedals. Next, slacken the rear wheel and use the chain tool to remove the chain. Then the crank removal tool is used to remove the crank set. Finally, the bottom bracket spanner is used to remove the bottom bracket, carefully noting which way the shells unscrew. The chain will be binned and inspection of the bottom bracket bearings revealed some roughness when turning in the hand. A sure sign of wear or damage from water ingress. A good point to note here is that power washers and bicycle bearings, either wheel hubs, headsets or bottom brackets, are mortal enemies and should not meet.

Cleaning next, first inside the bottom bracket, then the chain ring and rear sprocket. No point putting a nice shiny new chain on manky components. Fitting the bottom bracket is easy. First match up the new parts same as those removed, noting any spacer locations and quantities. Then simply thread them on by hand. Be careful which way they rotate. Markings on the parts should indicate this. Finally, tighten with the bottom bracket spanner. Re-installing the crank set is easier than removing it. Lubricate the shaft and carefully push through the bottom bracket. Next, attach the chain ring part, aligning them up correctly. Finally, tighten with an Allen key. All very straight forward. The final task is fitting the new chain.

The new chain is longer than required and I find the best way to match the two up is to lay them out lengthwise on some newspaper on the bench, matching the chain links side-by-side. Then note where the cut is required with a marker pen and use a chain splitter to remove the excess links. Always double, or even triple check, the length before cutting. Fitting the chain is also easy, as it’s joined with a two-part chain link. The chain tool I mentioned above is used to finally click the link together. All that’s needed now is to tension the chain by pulling the rear wheel back and tightening the wheel bolts. One final check that everything is secure is always a good idea. Oh, and remember to fit the pedals. Note that both pedals always tighten by turning towards the front of the bike.

The last task is always a road test – before you need to actually use the bike. No point finding out something is a-miss when heading off late for work. And the test result is… wait for it…excellent. All smooth and quiet as it should be. Purfect for silent, stealthy turfing in the wee small hours.

Link to Monty Python’s Bicycle Repairman sketch.

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