Latest gym project was an offer on Facebook Marketplace for a scrap exercise bike. Advertised as free, and likely only use as scrap metal. So I went for it as a fun project with the boy.
When I picked it up the previous owner advised it had been well used but eventually the chain broke. He replaced it but never got it to run right and it sat in pieces awaiting inspiration, was eventually replaced with a new one and then offered up for scrap with some bolts lost along the way.
It’s a decent bike, a NordicTrack GX2 Sport Bike. Weighs about 50kg, takes riders up to 120kg and is chain rather than cheaper belt so almost gym quality.
We got it home and with some bolts from the pile of junk in garage we got it assembled. Only missing item was pedals so stuck on some from the spares pile.
Then to find the issue. The boy correctly diagnosed the chain seemed to be sticking on the sprocket and pinging off with every link. A rough comparison with a spare scrap bike chain showed it seemed to be too narrow.
We split the chain and it was a job to pull it off the sprocket. Even with copious grease put on previously it was being pulled on so tight it didn’t want to come off.
We counted the links and chain needed to be about 105 links. Popped to Decathlon and for £9 got a 110 link one. Checked in store and it was the same width as the scrap chain.
New chain test fitted at end of video and comes on and off the sprocket easily.
It was a little long at 110 links so needed shortening by 3 links.
Once shortened we tensioned the chain using the adjustment on the flywheel. It’s a little trial and error but should have a small amount of vertical play in the middle.
Reassembled and tested and worked well. Time for a clean up and final check. Saved a £400 spin bike from the scrap for £9. Good days work.
Foreign travel is a slightly more confusing undertaking in these days. The combined effects of Covid and Brexit make it a lot less simple.
Hopefully some of the below is useful if you’re planning to head to the sun this summer.
This was all valid for a trip taken from U.K. to Gran Canaria (Spanish island) leaving July 2021 and returning August 2021. Check the latest requirements as they’re prone to changing both our end and theirs.
Most airlines will want confirmation that your travel insurance covers Covid claims. Most policies now do, but worth checking. Some countries seem happy to foot the bill for hotel stay if you contract Covid over there and need to isolate, others will expect you to pay and it can be £1000s. If hospital fees are needed on top this could all add up.
If kids are 12 and over, or adult unvaccinated or not double vaccinated sufficiently long ago to be deemed to be effective you need a negative Covid test before flight – or fit-to-fly.
The normal NHS Covid drop in test you’d have if you thought you’d been exposed is not valid, it needs to be from a laboratory with a test certificate issued. The test needs to be done before but close to the time of flight – this varies from 48 to 72 hours before the time of your arrival in the destination country (again check). This can make it tight on time as there aren’t many in person test laboratories in U.K. so you need to allow for tests to be posted or couriered to labs and them to issue the certificate. There were a few horror stories before we left about tests lost in post and people unable to fly so we went to an in person test facility run by Project Screen (https://www.projectscreen.co.uk/ ) at Regus Offices in Milton Keynes for £99 with the samples taken direct to the lab at the end of the day and results back by 5pm the following day. We only needed one done for our daughter.
Before you go – 2 Day tests booked for everyone:
You all need to have ordered your day 2 tests for the return and potentially day 7 depending on where you’re travelling. The day you return to UK is day 0 so for a Monday landing it’s a Wednesday day 2 test. For Gran Canaria it was day 2 only and again the NHS tests are not sufficient so you need to order separately. We went for Randox that posted them to us. List price is £43 each but Ryanair had a link from their system that saved a few pounds.
They are do at home tests that you post back for a result. Your receipt should show individual reference numbers per test kit that you will need for the U.K. passenger locator form upon return. You don’t need the tests with you on holiday, just access to these reference numbers for the form.
Check In & Spanish Entry Requirements –
For our Ryanair flights we needed to upload PDFs for each passenger.
This was either the NHS Covid Pass Letter or a negative Covid test for anyone 12 or over, and a Spanish health control form (FCS) for entry. https://www.spth.gob.es/
These FCS are generated online much like an ESTA to enter America except simpler, quicker and free. Essentially confirm details, where you’re staying and how long for, and then confirm if you are fully vaccinated or have a negative test. You can do individual or group/family application. The Spanish system doesn’t require you to upload the proof of vaccine or test just have them available. Once all finish you’ll get a PDF per passenger with a QR code to upload to the Ryanair system and you should be able to complete check in and print boarding passes. NOTE – The FCS system won’t let you complete all the final details until 48hrs before flight but you can set it up and be ready to add the final items.
You’re all set to go. You’ll note the only organisation that has copies of your vaccine proof or Covid test is your airline. We presume the Spanish authority trusts Ryanair to check these.
Arriving at airport to leave –
Have copies of your boarding cards for out and return fights.
NOTE – now we’ve left the EU you should in theory have printed boarding cards, not on your phone. Ryanair seemed OK but it’s worth taking paper copies just in case. It’s one of the many Brexit bonuses. Like a deminished economy.
Have copies of your Covid Pass Letter or negative Covid tests (ones on your phone should suffice).
Have copies of your ordered day 2 test for the return isolation period in the U.K. They have a unique reference per test (ones on your phone should suffice).
Have copies of your Spanish FCS form with the QR code (ones on your phone should suffice).
Passports – NOTE – another Brexit bonus is needing 6 months validity from date of return flight, not 3 months as before.
Leaving the U.K. should be much as before. Check in, board plane, wonder why the inflight food tastes like cardboard.
Arrival in Gran Canaria –
You need to go through passport control. This will be a little slower than before as now they do a few more checks and also a post Brexit stamp on your passport. If you’re lucky enough to have an Irish passport then waltz through the quick queue and enjoy unfettered travel to live and work in all EU countries. Maybe strike up a tariff free trade deal.
After passport control there will be another queue where they scan your Spanish FCS code. Either paper or electronic versions were accepted. If all scanned OK then congratulations you made it on holiday. Your hotel will also likely want to see your Spanish FCS and negative Covid test/Covid Pass Letter. It seems a little random who they check.
Worth remembering some mobile networks are already applying roaming charges in EU and eventually most will so logging on to to your email to download any of these forms could cost you. Hey another Brexit bonus!
For the journey home –
For most countries you need a clear Covid antigen test to return, dated 48-72hrs before your landing back in U.K. depending on where from. This is for all passengers even if vaccinated.
In Gran Canaria we booked tests for Saturday afternoon for a Monday morning flight (everywhere seemed closed Sunday). Originally we booked at the local hospital https://hospiten.com/en/hospitals-and-centers/hospiten-estepona for €35 each but found a doctor operating out of a pharmacy (Farmacia Juan Francisco Araña Galván) that did test certs emailed through to you in an hour for €25. Both options much cheaper than U.K.
It’s a relatively easy form but worth setting some time to do it, not try doing it in the queue. The form basically has your details, where you’ve been, dates of travel and where you will be isolating at home along with contact details. The form is set up to cover all eventualities including people needing to undertaken the full 7 day quarantine at home or those coming back from countries where it isn’t required.
To complete the forms online you need passport number, flight number, seat number, and your Covid day 2 test references. You can add kids to your locator form so only need one per adult.
At the airport –
Unlike the flight out you’ve probably been unable to upload all paperwork to your booking so it needs to be checked.
In the queue for check in Ryanair had staff going up and down the line who want to see boarding cards, Covid Pass Letter for adults if you have them, your negative Covid tests from Spain, and your U.K. passenger locator forms. If you have all these you got a piece of paper to show they’ve been checked and don’t need to be checked again. Hang onto it and present at the gate at departure.
Only the boarding cards should in theory be physical items but Ryanair seemed fine with electronic again.
Then fly back as usual except with an exit stamp on your passport thanks to Brexit. I quite like a stamped passport so it’s the first tangible benefit. Definitely a fair price to pay for inability to retire to Spain.
Arriving back in UK –
Only real difference at passport control was them wanting to see copies of the negative Covid tests we had in Spain, electronic copies were fine. We presume the UK Passenger Locator Form took care of everything else.
Other random notes –
Many countries such as Spain are still mandatory face masks. Much like when we went to Italy in August 2020, they really stick to the rule. In both instances seeing anyone in a shop, supermarket etc without one is as rare as a Unicorn. Even people outside going for a stroll on the beach often wear them. Sometimes in the UK during mandatory masks it seemed like every third person in Tesco had an exemption. There is almost none of that here so if you do have an exemption make sure you bring proof. Based on one airline passenger we were in the queue with you will still need to wear one in the airport and plane even with your lanyard. Probably worth talking to your airline specifically on this if an issue.
Bleeding Nipples. The bane of many runners. Something I’d like to get off my chest.
Some suffer only very occasionally, some never. Some most runs.
After 10 years of running (weird to think that there are people that never met the pre-running me when my blood type was ketchup and I couldn’t run a bath) I’ve suffered regularly.
Combinations of excessive rain, excessive sweat, dodgy running form and certain tops are guaranteed to set me off.
Things I’ve tried –
Every lubricant I could find – Vaseline, Squirrels Nut Butter, Bodyglide, etc
Normal plasters, both fabric and waterproof
Proprietary specialist nipple brands like Nipeaze
Kinesiology Tape / Physiotherapy Tape
Specialist swimmers K-tape designed to work underwater
Specialist weight lifters K-tape
Actual duct/duck tape
Zinc oxide tape
All of them eventually fail. With or without shaving it’s never full proof. I’ve had most luck with a small square of zinc oxide tape that if I get it just right and get a decent brand will last a whole marathon most of the time but never guaranteed.
It was becoming a running gag that my nipple issues were prominent in most race photos, with two bloody wounds down my front. For much of the early Summer this year I’ve finished runs topless with my lack of upper body toning or tan evident for all to see. Sales of eye-bleach have gone up locally. The police were worried my pasty chest might dazzle drivers and cause accidents.
I’ve genuinely Googled medical removal of them, like you would a mole. At times I’ve wondered how badly they’d bleed if you tried a DIY option with garden shears.
Then I was contacted by the lovely people at a new company, based in Canada who sent me some Niptt Gear https://www.nipttgear.com/ to try as they were also trying to get to the bottom of the problem.
What are they?
They’re termed running bands and in the most simplistic terms, it’s a stretchable fabric that goes around your chest at nipple height. The front is smooth (for your sensitive nips) whilst the back is a webbed design to let your back breathe and probably aids good fitment.
How do you put them on?
A good question. For me the easiest way is to pull down over your head like an overly tight vest, and take slightly lower than your chest to smooth out and get it facing the right way (the Niptt logo should be correct way up and on your left) then pull into place. To be honest it’s the same technique your wife would use to pull on a boob tube back in the days of clubbing.
What are they like on?
Once on and in place you mostly forget it’s there, much like a chest strap heart rate monitor. I’ve not had to adjust the Medium much during a run, and never needed to when I used the Small size.
What do they look like?
I’ll be honest, they’re underwear. Much as I wear anti chaff under crackers for runs and wouldn’t wave it in people’s faces, neither would I typically parade around in just this. It’s been dubbed a moob-tube by a mate and it’s not a bad description. You don’t wear it to look good without a top, you wear it so you look good with a top that isn’t stained with blood or makes you cry in the shower.
The website has the sizing chart, S-XL based on chest size. At 37″ I was on cusp of Small and Medium and found the Small was best.
Do they work?
Totally. Stick them on and forget. It’s one less thing to worry about. If I’m wearing a bright coloured top or worst of all white I know I don’t need to worry about finish line photos of a bleeding mess even when doing tempo runs in Spain recently.
It would be an ironic design if the product to stop your nipples chaffing caused chaffing elsewhere. Ask any female runner and they will give you horror stories of rubbing from sports bras. I’m happy to report I’ve had no such issue with Niptt. I stick them straight on, no lubrication or similar, and had zero chaffing up to marathon distance. Haven’t yet used for an ultra and tend to find my race vest and pack on an ultra makes nipple chaffing less of an issue anyway (plus I’m running a lot slower).
Would I recommend it?
Yes. If you suffer from nipple chaffing half as much as I do (I hope nobody suffers more, as that would be cruel and you must have done something awful in a previous life to warrant that) then I would recommend without hesitation. Keep your top on and nobody will know or care. Take your top off and people will ask questions and you can hopefully pass on how good they are to other bleeding runners.