Category: Uncategorized

“Don’t Buy Upgrades…

Ride Up Grades.” Eddie Mercx

That quote has been rattling around in my brain for a few weeks. Today I did something about it. I’ve had a week of beasting myself on the Sufferfest, and I’ve about got all the niggles with my turbo trainer worked out. I still have trouble grinding out low revs, high power (for simulated hill climbs) though. I may try turning the computer control off for those rides. I digress, today I did my first non-commute ride in ages. If you’re going for a bit of ride, there’s only one testing ground on my doorstep, Frodsham hill. A mile straight up, with a 16% gradient at the top.

I remember, as a teenager, my mate and I rode up there in 10th gear for a challenge. Stood on the pedals the whole way, but we did it. We passed a cycling club, wobbling their way up, some of them off and pushing.

This new bike has three gear rings at the front. Your normal large ring for high gears, and the middle one for shameful hill fails. And the unspeakable, tiny, ring of shame, that no-one would ever use. By the time I hit the 16% at the top of the hill I was stood up, in the ring of shame, in the first gear on the back cog, wishing I had a lower gear. My legs were screaming. I got to the top and my legs were so battered I didn’t think I’d be able to ride up the hills on the way home.

I managed to do 40 miles, but most of it was along the canal. As you can see from the graph, all the hills were in Frodsham.

You can see our house from here.

You can see to infinity on the way down, and your life flashing before your eyes on the ride up.

Bike looking ready for business.

The positives I took from the ride are: I did it, and didn’t die. I didn’t get felled by plague weakness. Road riding (which I’ve been avoiding as too dangerous) is actually OK. And my first ride out in a year or so, and, looking at the stats, I managed over a third of the miles and more than a quarter of the elevation of the Ironman Bolton ride.

The not so good is that it wiped my legs out. I couldn’t have done another ascent of the hill. And even with the rest of it on the flat, I was too slow for the time cut-off. But it’s a base upon which to build. I’m going to make Frodsham hill a weekly event now. Build up to hill repeats. I used to be able to do it. Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades! The lad knew what he was talking about.

The fact that I was out riding today is another cause for celebration. I looked at my payslip and I’m down to 6 day’s holiday for the year. *sad face* That’s still a long time if I want, as I’m currently still on that 4 day contract. I’ve worked one bank holiday that I know about this year so I asked how many lieu days I had accrued. 9! GET IN!

That was last Thursday, so I booked this week off. Why not? Use ’em or lose ’em.

As I’ve battered my legs so thoroughly today I’m going to have a rest day tomorrow and set to stripping the donor engine, finally. I’m hoping, now I have an idea what I’m doing, and the tools to do it right, it won’t take me too long.

The other thing that’s new and exciting, is I’ve found a free language app (Duolingo) that operates on a game basis. You have to earn points to level up, where you earn rewards. If you run out of hearts (get questions wrong) you have to complete revision exercises to win more. It’s fun. And focusing as it’s not all the same format. They give you a sentence in Russian and the English words beneath and you have to click on the right ones. Then just the Russian audio and you have to pick out the English words. Then a sentence in English and you have to type out, in the Cyrillic alphabet, the Russian translation. That’s hard!

The best thing about it is the maximum you sign up for is 20 minutes a day. So far I’ve been doing that and then trying for more hearts to level up. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s not long enough to put you off (so far), and it’s done on a game basis, so you want to beat it, which works for me.

They have a load of languages if you want to learn one. Including Klingon. No, really. Klingon. Surprisingly, Wendy hasn’t signed up. Yet.

….

Next day.

The big surprise today is my legs feel fine. I wasn’t expecting that.

I made a flying start on the donor engine, nonetheless. I’ve stripped one cylinder head down and whaddayaknow? One goddamm bolt on the second cylinder head has got stuck. It’s an Allen bolt, and it just rounded straight off. Super. Back to drilling it out to make a hole big enough to get a left handed thread extractor to turn it out. I was drilling away, and not making an impression. Again. I took the engine off the bench so I could stand over it and get more force. Still nothing. This is what happened with the last bolt, and I ended up sawing that off. This Allen bolt isn’t accessible so I can’t even do that this time. I have to keep drilling. I think my drill bit is blunt so I’ve ordered some new ones. I went back to have another go when I noticed a little lever by the trigger on the drill. Which changes the direction of the drill.

I’d had it running anti-clockwise.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

So all that time I spent drilling, the two or three drill bits I snapped by leaning on them so hard, sawing off a bolt and scratching engine bits….

Well, put it this way; I will never again pick up a drill without testing which way the head is turning.

I didn’t even know they turned the other way. I do now. I decided to watch a few videos on “bolt extraction for morons” and it seems you can actually get left handed (anti clockwise bite) drill bits. So I’ve ordered some of those as well.

This is one of those basic skills I wanted to learn. I’m hoping when the kit arrives this will be an easy job.

After that debacle I started feeling weak again, so I’ve not really done anything else today. A bit more Russian on Duolingo, lay on the sofa, and eaten my bodyweight in an attempt to feel right again. It doesn’t work, but I can’t help but try. Wendy managed to diet through the worst of it, so it’s just me being a wuss, but if you’re feeling lousy weak your body’s response is to eat. Which is why I’m currently the size of a whale. A fat whale. With big bones.

If I had anything else I wanted to record I’ve forgotten, the weakness saps your concentration and enthusiasm, so I’ll leave you with some Twitter.

I got my new cycling tights reviewed:

Everyone’s a critic.

I mused arboreal:

Also while I was sorting stuff out, I found my helmet cover from nearly 30 years ago. I’ve checked my diary and I’m not doing any wars any time soon, so I’ve thrown it out.

I can’t remember if I’ve already posted this, but it’s a brutal poster from one of my collections at work.

We had the wheels fall off Bozo’s clowncar as we went crashing into another lockdown.

And the winner is:

Then Bozo decided to force a lockdown onto Manchester without paying for the poor people it was going to destroy financially, and Andy Burnham wasn’t having it.

Meanwhile Sir Keir was holding Bozo’s feet to the flames. Well, somebody’s feet to the flames. Him being the “Effective Opposition” leader and a human rights lawyer an’ all.

Away from the dire state of our dire state, there was other whimsy:

Later,

Buck.

Thanks for that, Dave!

In the space of 3 weeks I’ve gone from not having cycled in months, to reluctantly forcing myself to commute to maintain my fitness while I rest my foot, to new (second hand) faster bike, and now I’m on to getting a turbo trainer (the indoors trainer thing you stick your bike on and can connect to training programmes online.)

Obviously, because I’m me, I picked the worst possible time. The shops are all sold out of cheap ones due to everyone panic buying fitness equipment for lockdown. We are heading into the second wave/ new lockdowns and winter, which is the traditional time for buying indoor kit anyway. So even the second hand stuff on eBay is selling for nearly new price. I managed to track down a really good trainer at Decathlon through a strange advert link. If you search directly on their site they say they don’t have any and you have to buy dearer ones. Through this advert, which presumably Decathlon bought, you can still get the trainer though. Odd. I have been scouring the adverts at every opportunity but due to all of the above, but the only cheap one I saw said “Heavily used. Would suit a beginner or someone with turbo trainer repair experience.” Err, no thanks.

There was a sale on eBay for the model I eventually got, it was “Ex display”, scuff marks, no box, presumably no warranty. That went for £30 more than the brand new one, with 2 year’s warranty, I’ve just scored!

If you imagine a fat bloke on a cheap bike, it would look like this:

Quite why he’s wearing a crash helmet on a static, indoor, bike is another question. Or sunglasses.

…Next day.

Decathlon emailed me to say my trainer was ready for collection so here is the actual set up.

It’s not ideal, but until my uber-shed arrives that’s where it will have to live.

Setting it up was an ordeal. I had to fit the cassette (gears) to the trainer 3 times. In the end I had to read the instructions. For shame! Then the bike was wrong. The chain was all gunked up and stiff, so I had to clean and oil it, then the front gear derailleur wasn’t working. It’s just been sat there, pampered, indoors. How can it have stopped working? Anyway. Then I had to set the trainer calibration and link all the software. It took me 3 hours just to get it set up.

I had trouble collecting it as well. As it’s my day off I’d taken Wendy’s car into the garage so had no means of getting the dirty great lump home. Typical. The car was only in for a bulb. I’d tried everything and couldn’t get it out. The garage guy had tried and failed. I had to take it back today. He was going to strip the headlight unit out and then get the bulb out. I was a bit gutted about home much that was going to cost, just for a bulb. But it had to be done. Anyway, I rang them, upon Wendy’s insistence, (she didn’t want to get a bus home) at 1pm, they hadn’t even started on it. At 2pm I got a call, all done! They’d put it up on the ramp and managed to get at it. £10. That will do nicely.

The guy said the fog lamp is filling with water (I’ve already drained it once) and it’s pretty much shot. I was thinking it would be hundreds for a full headlight assembly, but apparently they can price an aftermarket fog lamp for £46, fitting 15 minutes. No rush, it’s working for now, but that’s a whole lot cheaper than I was anticipating.

Car digressions aside, I was whining on Twitter about being forced into buying dear kit, which I was thinking would be of no use to me when I get back to running.

Someone replied:

Which made me question myself. My first thought was, “no, that’s not the point”. Then I had to work out why.

I remembered having a dumb trainer, staring at the shed wall, and grinding out half an hour, or an hour. It was boring, hard and ultimately kind of pointless. Then I got the trainer connected to the internet, got on The Sufferfest (cycling thing) and they would say 5 minutes at X (hard) revs, and X (hard) power, until you are dying, then suddenly 30 seconds Y (EXTREMELY HARD!) revs and power. (That was within a 40 to 90 minute session, you don’t just do 5½ minutes.) You are wearing your lungs externally, beasting yourself, and you can see your effort in realtime. Also you can do the overall fitness test periodically. So you are being pushed, trained, and measured on every effort and are charting progress over time. It’s not just grinding the pedals around for however long.

So for me, it’s not the “sweaty mess”, (though that’s a given), it’s pushing myself to my limit and always trying to improve. Trying to be better.

And in that moment I knew what I have to do.

Bolton Ironman.

The bike course was so tough last year they had massive DNF (Did Not Finish. You knew that, right?) numbers. 7,700 feet of elevation changes over the 112 miles. Then a hilly marathon to finish.

There is no point to me jumping on a turbo trainer just for the sake of it. I can make massive gains but I don’t like road riding, so what’s the point?

Now I have a point.

I’ll train for as long as it takes to get my foot run ready, then see where I am. If I’m really making progress on the bike I’ll look at Bolton 2022. Assuming everything is getting back to normal by then.

So, thanks a lot, Dave. You suck. I’ve quit triathlon 3 times already. And there’s a reason for that. But without an end goal, even if I’m improving, it’s basically staring at the shed wall and sweating.

Other bike news is the longer stem has arrived from China. It’s spot on! For the sake of £11 I’ve fixed my bike. compare the positions (the angle of my back).

Just as chunky, but a lot lower down.

I’ve finished stripping and cleaning my old motorbike engine.

And cleaned and drained the the oil and removed the filter from the donor engine.

I’m about caught up on everything else and this is my fourth straight day without plague weakness, so after I’ve beasted myself on the bike tomorrow, I’ll see if I can crack on with stripping the donor.

As soon as it goes off you kind of forget about the plague, and sort of wonder if it was really so bad. Did you just imagine it? Then it smacks you again and all you want to do is eat and lie down. We’ve both carried on working through the bouts, so it’s not too terrible, but it so not fun. As I’ve already said, if we had an end date it would be tolerable, but it’s been six months and it’s still going on.

So, what has been happening on Twitter?

A certain orange, poundshop Hitler was a hot topic.

The “poor” thing was after they finally leaked his tax returns. One standout figure from the leak was that he’d payed $750 dollars of tax for a year.

In “huge if true” news:

Another theme was how bad 2020 has been.

And general whimsy. Man Who Has It All is an account that exposes everyday sexism by inverting it.

We found out that a bald guinea pig is actually a micro hippo

Some canine confusion.

Right, enough of this, it’s bedtime.

Later,

Buck.

PS Forgot to say it’s monsoon season over here now, so that’s nice for cycling. I got a new front mudguard to match the slim one on the back, it lacks street cred having mudguards but it’s so much better than being sprayed and soaked. The first day I fitted the new one I was riding to work through the park, there is a dip on the path, on a bend, next to a pond. It was flooded, so I thought I’d test out my new mudguards. I rode into the puddle, it quickly dropped to well over a foot deep, and as I turned the corner I realised it was about 30 feet long. I was riding with my feet underwater. Totally soaked. Rubbish mudguards. 2/10.

Also, just tried out my new turbo trainer. I got the 14 day free trial of The Sufferfest and did the fitness test as my first ride. It is a grueller. It warms you up, then you do a flat out sprint for 30 seconds (twice) then 5 minutes at max power, then 20 minutes, then a minute, with low power rests in between. In total the test takes just over an hour. Being a smart trainer there are two modes, ERG (don’t know what that stands for) and Levels. For everything else I’ll be using ERG, which is where the computer controls the resistance on the bike, so if you are going up a 16% incline, it will make it realistically harder.

For this test alone, you have to use the other mode, Levels. This trainer hates it. I thought it was broken. As you’re pedaling the resistance fluctuates from really stiff to almost freewheeling every few seconds.

I finished the test. It near killed me, so good effort, but rubbish stats, due to not being able to maintain a steady resistance.

I really tried!

As soon as I’d had a shower I did a search to see if my trainer was broken.

Nope. It’s a known effect. It seems I can smooth it out by overriding the built in pedaling cadence estimation software. Just get it to go off the readings of the sensor I have on crank arm. Then maintain a steady cadence and it *should* smooth it out. The best answer I found was this:

The good news is it seems to be an issue specific to that mode (which I won’t be using for anything else), in that test, on that app (The Sufferfest). It’s not broken and all my other training should be fine.

Fingers crossed.

Nothing Left.

It’s been a funny old couple of weeks.

I started cycling to work to try and maintain some fitness and avoid having to have the front door widened. It was begrudgingly, unwillingly, and ungraciously done. But necessary, so I set to it.

It wasn’t as terrible as I remembered. Obviously the weather turned cold immediately. Because of course it did.

Bracing

Within a few days of cycling I was going for commute Personal Bests, then, following my usual, somewhat exhausting, obsessive pattern, I had a whim for a faster bike. The next day I wanted a faster bike. Then I spent a week constantly searching the internet because I *HAD TO HAVE* a faster bike. I was looking at second hand bikes in my (budget) price bracket, reading the reviews, checking the brand sizes, the equipment spec, etc, etc. The curse of the internet is as soon as you start researching anything the reviews always say “that’s OK, but this one (3 times the price) is way better. And what you really want is the this one (over a grand dearer)”

I am thinking of maybe getting back on a turbo trainer and renewing my torture sessions on the Sufferfest (the online cycling thing) so I wanted a bike with a 9 speed minimum back cog. Basically the only game in town was the Decathlon (sports store) own brand Btwin Triban range. They are not as low a riding position as dedicated road/ racer bikes, but they are good spec and cheap.

I was looking at the basic Triban 5, which is about a year 2000 or so bike, so there’s a risk of stuff being worn out. I actually had one lined up but the guy who was selling it was taking at least a day to reply to each of my questions, and couldn’t arrange a viewing. While that was all happening I came across a Triban 520, which is a much better bike and they only started making them in 2016 (I think) so a lot newer. The Triban 5 was going for £150, the 520 was going for £270 but it had an option for offers. I put in an offer for £240 and got it! Yay! When I was looking on eBay the other 520s were over £100 dearer. Also, it’s hard to get a bike in my size. I take a small or XS, they are definitely the exception to the norm.

Anyway, I got it. It took me an hour to sort out the slack brakes, adjust the seat and handlebars, reposition the gear lever/ brake and pump up the tyres. I noticed a bit of a buckle in the back wheel and the handlebar tape was a bit of a shoddy job on one side. I got the wheel straightened and bars re-taped the next day for £17. Job’s a good ‘un.

Actually, that was before I had the handlebars rewrapped. He’s done it all in black, but at least it’s a decent job now. The thing I don’t like is it still feels too upright.

That was the compromise. Buy the cheaper Triban and get a “comfortable” riding position bike. I’ve ordered a longer stem which will push the handlebars another two inches forward. That should sort it. That’s the bike with the new tape, by the way.

To clarify, the reason I didn’t want to buy the much better bikes is I still only want to commute, and at some point get on the Sufferfest, a super-duper road bike would be overkill for that. And, let’s face it, bicycles are all about the engine. And mine ain’t worth a carrot. I had a £2.3K full-on triathlon bike and I was still slow and rubbish. A decent bike can’t fix that. As Eddie Mercx said, “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.” Also, this is just me obsessing while I’m trying to recover from running injury. As soon as I’m running I won’t have the time or the inclination for pushbiking.

Another expense and hassle this week was the washer dying. I had to go and get a new one from Argos. The guy had a sack barrow so wheeled it out to the car and helped me lift it in. I had to get it out, drag it through the house, shove it in it’s hole, then drag the old one out, lift it into the car and get it out at the tip all on my own. The tip guy had a sack barrow, so he got rid of it really easy. I am *so* getting a sack barrow before I next hump some awkward big lump.

To add to the unnecessary expenses (OK, necessary, but not fun) I was getting out of my truck the other day and dropped my ‘phone from about 8’ up. Onto concrete. It has a rubber back thing on it, which saved it from smashing to pieces, but it has shattered my screen. On the bright side, I dropped it a few weeks earlier as well and cracked the bottom of the screen. At least I didn’t replace it then. I would have been a bit miffed paying twice. I need to tie it round my neck on a piece of string, like a kid’s mittens.

The big news though, is I’ve finally got there. There is nothing left to strip!

It was a massive faff, but I’ve split the cases and removed the gears and crank. As you can see I’ve found all the bits of smashed piston.

When I started cleaning up the crankcases prior to rebuild I noticed this.

That looks like a serious crack to me, but I’ve asked some of my Twitter engineer people and they say it could be a casting imperfection, don’t sweat it. I’ve got to strip my spares engine down so I’ll compare. I might just use the spares engine crankcase.

The only other news is the plague weakness is back again. Not sustained like the fortnight bout, but less than great. It makes you think you’ll never get properly better. Worse, Wendy has had a bad recurrence. We thought she was over it. Meh. Some virologist on Twitter was saying he’s had the plague, but he also had some other foul bug, and the effects of that wasted him for 9 months. Which: A, gives me hope this could end, at some point. And B, makes me wonder if virology was actually the ideal career choice.

Talking of Twitter, here’s a few tweets:

Boris Johnson announced that people were to be restricted to meetings of groups of six as, inexplicably, the governments policy of pubs and restaurants being opened with no need for masks, forcing people back to work, and sending kids into enforced covid death camps didn’t stop the plague. Then they held an emergency cabinet meeting to exclude toffs shooting animals from the ruling.

And the usual twitter whimsy.

And finally, a motivational sign for 2020.

Later,

Buck.