Sep 02 2017

Notice to Mariners: We’re Back In the Same Boat!

New articles are posted below this Notice to Mariners, which is a “sticky.” It will remain at the top of the TNO home page for a while yet.

15 November 2017.  You’ve come to the right place for news about In the Same Boat, the weekly column by Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest. After 18 years at Paddling.net, we picked up a new mooring. We’re now Back in the Same Boat, having set sail in late October. Thanks to everyone who helped us launch afresh. And welcome aboard!

Nov 17 2017

The Other Ten Essentials, Part 2: From Patience to Joy by Farwell Forrest

When, in an earlier column devoted to the Ten Essentials, Tamia made reference to a couple of pieces that Farwell wrote for In the Same Boat back in 2006, he figured he ought to revisit them, making whatever tweaks and tucks he thought warranted. This he has now done, and you see the result before you. (Are you looking for Part 1? It’s here.)

Many years ago, the Seattle Mountaineers hit upon a clever way to remind ounce‑paring climbers that there were some things they simply couldn’t afford to leave behind: The Mountaineers compiled a list of must‑have gear, the aptly named “Ten Essentials.” It was a very good list, too, containing — in an accolade borrowed from an early 19th‑century seaman’s handbook — nothing that was superfluous, yet including all things that were useful. Not surprisingly, then, this list remains as valuable today as it was when first published, for climbers and paddlers alike. But it has its limitations. As important as the Ten Essentials are, there are other things even more vital. And you won’t find them on the Mountaineers’ list.

What are these mysterious essentials? Nothing you’ll see offered for sale in any store, that’s for certain. They’re intangible assets, you see — qualities of mind and body, not things you can put in a pack. But they’re no less important for all that. I call them the Other Ten Essentials, and I listed five of them earlier in the week. Now it’s time to round off the roster.

In a hurry? Want me to cut to the chase? Then you may need more of the first Essential on this week’s list: Patience… Read more…

Nov 15 2017

Swapping Stock Surly LHT Handlebars for Nitto Noodles: Why and How I Did It by Tamia Nelson

One of the very many benefits of bicycles is that most of the mechanical work can be done by you, the owner. And as DIY jobs go, swapping handlebars is pretty straight forward. Which is good, because Tamia realized early in her ownership of the Surly Long Haul Trucker that the stock bars didn’t fit her comfortably. In this article, she describes why she swapped the stock handlebars and shows you how it’s done.

How often do YOU think about handlebars? Not often, I’d wager. Unless you ride a bike a bicycle with handlebars that don’t fit. THEN you think about them a lot. Because the longer the ride, the more your body will suffer.

When I bought my stock-build Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike, it was outfitted with good basic bars, but they just didn’t suit me. They were narrower than I liked, which makes steering a tad nervous. I also couldn’t find a grip position which was comfortable for more than a few minutes at a time. And another thing was wrong. I like a handlebar bag, and the one I like best was a tight fit. My thumbs were pinched by the bag, making them go numb.

Pinched Thumbs (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

After asking the opinions of more experienced cyclists and with a bit of shopping around I decided to swap out the stock handlebars with a pair of 44 cm-wide Nitto Noodle handlebars.

WHAT SOLD ME ON NITTO NOODLE HANDLEBARS?

Carpel tunnel syndrome and too many episodes of frostbite have left my hands prone to numbness and nerve damage if I don’t move them frequently while on the bike. So a wide expanse of “real estate” seemed a good idea, which is one reason why I wanted wide handlebars. Not only that, but the Noodles have a geometry that would appear to lead to less strain and pain from neck right to the fingertips.

Nitto Noodle geometry seemed just what the doctor ordered. The upper grip region is level, extending from the clamp area in the center all the way along the ramps. A backward-sweep to either side of the clamp brings the Noodles’ grip closer to the rider — beneficial for cyclists with shorter arms or torsos. The slight flare of the drops — the lower part of the bar — make riding “in the drops” less stressful on shoulders and neck, too. Most of the time, I ride on the ramps and hoods — the rubber cover over the brake levers — and in this position, the ramp angle to the drops seemed just right for positioning my wrists to avoid strain and aggravating a flare-up of carpel tunnel pain. Additionally, the wider width of my new handlebars would permit me more “thumb room” between the bars and my bar bag, as well as better steering control. But the only way I could be sure the Noodles would suit me was to put them on the bike. So that’s what I did.

HOW TO SWAP HANDLEBARS

Here’s where it helps to get the advice of others who know more than you do. After asking for assistance on the Surly Long Haul Trucker and Cross Check group online, I felt confident that the swap would be well within my abilities. It’s not hard, but it is a bit involved. First, and before buying new handlebars, determine the clamp diameter of your chosen bars. If they’re not the same size as the stem clamp on your bike, you may need a new stem, though some mechanics fit a shim if the ‘bar is narrower than the stem clamp.

The stock handlebar on my LHT had a smaller clamp diameter than the Noodles. That meant that the stem (the “neck” which extends forward to clamp the handlebar) had to be replaced with one which would clamp tightly to the Noodles. So because the original stem fitted my reach perfectly, I bought a new stem with the same length and angle of rise as the original, yet with a different clamp diameter.

Is this sounding like a project? You’re right, and there’s more.

Brake levers have to be removed, too, but only after unwrapping the handlebar tape. And then the biggie was to remove the bar end shifters (“barcons”) from one bar to another. (Read how in “Bar-End Shifters: How to Remove and Install Them.”)

I made a list of the steps, then laid out my tools and new parts and went to work.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars New from Box (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

I unwrapped the bar tape and set it aside, being sure to keep left and right separated so they could be smoothly re-wrapped on the new bars. I removed the bar-end shifters from the bar ends and left them dangling on their cables and out of the way. The brake levers came off next, and then the handlebars were removed from the clamp, which was removed after that.

On went the new stem, then the Noodles were clamped snug but not tightly in the stem’s clamp. I fiddled with the bars by rotating them to get what seemed the right position, then clamped the stem faceplate snugly to prevent handlebar movement. Brake levers go on next, and then the bar-end shifters. Don’t put the bar-end shifters on first like I did originally, or you’ll realize your mistake in a hurry. I re-wrapped the bar tape last.

After two hours and a few wrong turns, the job was done. The old bars could be nested between the brake hoods on the new Noodles, indicating that I’d have plenty of room for my thumbs with the new set-up, but the proof would be in the, er, cycling.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars versus Stock Handlebars (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

A few test rides later, I professed myself happy. As you can see in the pictures below, I had plenty of room for getting a grip.I returned home from each ride without the tingly numbness and pain I’d become accustomed to.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars versus Stock Handlebars (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

THE BOTTOM LINE

If riding your bike causes pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands, arms, or shoulders, maybe swapping handlebars and/or the stem could make riding more enjoyable. Get some advice from experienced cyclists and do some shopping. If you have basic tools, a place to work, and can get the components you need, consider doing the job yourself. DIY bike maintenance is satisfying, it saves you money, and educates you on how your bicycle goes together abd functions. But if you can’t tackle it yourself, ask a friend who is mechanically adept, or take it to a reliable bike shop. However you get the job done, your body will thank you for the improved fit, and you’ll enjoy longer rides again.

This article is an update of one originally published on 8 June 2008.


Further Reading

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Nov 14 2017

The Other Ten Essentials, Part 1: From Curiosity to Confidence by Farwell Forrest

Tuesday is the day reserved for new articles, but when, in an earlier column devoted to the Ten Essentials, Tamia made reference to a couple of pieces that Farwell wrote for In the Same Boat back in 2006, he figured he ought to revisit them, making whatever tweaks and tucks he thought warranted. This he has now done, with the result you see before you. (The second of Farwell’s two columns will appear in this space on Friday.)

Paddlers — most of the paddlers I know, at any rate — are gearheads. We memorize whole sections of outfitters’ catalogs. We devour pages of Web copy describing whatever is newest, lightest, fastest, or coolest. We read accounts of other paddlers’ trips from back to front, beginning with their equipment lists. And this makes sense. Despite the lip service we give to the traditional aspects of our sport, its evolution is driven by advances in technology. It always has been, right from its beginnings in the well‑publicized adventures of John “Rob Roy” MacGregor and Nessmuk. After all, the molded paper canoes that made headlines in the sporting press a century and a half ago were no less revolutionary in their day than the latest carbon‑fiber confections are in our own.

So it’s easy to see why we’re infatuated with gear. It’s important to us. To our safety. To our comfort. To our sport. Anyone who’s ever found himself up a creek without a paddle understands this. But our infatuation also has a downside. (What infatuation doesn’t?) It confuses means with ends. Canoeing is something we do for fun, and you don’t need the newest gear — let alone the lightest, the fastest, or the coolest — in order to have fun on the water. You just need a boat, a paddle, and a life jacket. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to have a great time maneuvering a caulked wooden crate around a flooded city street, with only a stub of one by six for a paddle. How do I know? Easy. I’ve done it. Admittedly, it was a while back (60 years ago, give or take), and it’s true that I didn’t bother with a life jacket. Even if I’d known that such things existed at the time, I couldn’t have afforded one. Then again, the water under my homemade boat’s keel was only about a foot deep, so I really wasn’t running much of a risk. And I had a wonderful time. For as long as my leaky barge held together (and it lasted longer than I’d thought possible), every summer thunderstorm transformed the street fronting my tenement block into a waterway that rivaled the canals of Venice, at least in my imagination. Best of all, I was free to explore that waterway at will.

The conclusion is obvious: There’s something more important than having the latest gear. More important than any gear, come to that, even the aptly named Ten Essentials. And what is this mysterious something? The answer isn’t simple. To begin with, it’s not just one thing. It’s several things. And you won’t find them on any outfitter’s shelves. None of them costs you as much as a penny of your hard‑earned cash — that’s a plus, surely — but none is exactly free, either. All of them have to be paid for, one way or another. With sweat, perhaps. Or time. Or simply by heeding the still, small voice that speaks to everyone who bothers to listen. So the price can be high, even if your wallet stays in your pocket. The good news? Taken all together, these vital “somethings” don’t weigh more than an butterfly’s wing, nor do they take up any more space in your pack than a grain of sand. Call them a paddler’s intangible assets, if you must. Or call them the Other Ten Essentials. I do.

And what are these intangible essentials? Let’s begin at the beginning, with Curiosity… Read more…

Nov 10 2017

A Lust for Lists: Is the Ultimate Obtainable? by Tamia Nelson

Earlier this week, Tamia described her take on the Ten Essentials, those vital items of gear that no paddler should leave home without. And it will come as no surprise that a list lay at the heart of her article. Now she’s revisiting an article from the earliest days of In the Same Boat. The subject? Lists, of course — and the curious delight to be had in perusing them.

I have a confession to make. I love lists. When I pick up any book of traveler’s tales, the first thing I look for is the author’s gear list, and if I don’t find one, I feel let down. But whenever my search is rewarded, the effect is magical. I’m immediately transported from the here and now to somewhere else — somewhere remote in time or place.

Many years ago, on a visit to my local library in a predictably futile search for a technical monograph, I made a serendipitous discovery, a book that would carry me a very long way from my home in the Adirondack foothills, at least in spirit. The faded cover bore the one‑word title South, and the author was Ernest Shackleton, perhaps the hardest of all the hard men who headed for the high latitudes during the “heroic age” of polar exploration. Intrigued, I took the book down from the shelf and started to read. It proved to be Shackleton’s account of his ill‑fated attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in the years between 1914 and 1917. That expedition — it was styled “The Imperial Trans‑Antarctic Expedition” — failed in its objective, but it was indeed a heroic failure, accurately described by Shackleton himself as “a story … unique in the history of Antarctic exploration.” So compelling was the tale, in fact, that the expedition was the subject of a 1998 best‑seller, Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance.

I was sorely tempted to settle down in one of the library’s comfortable wing‑backed chairs and continue reading (those chairs have now been replaced by computer kiosks, I’m sorry to say), but I had work to do, and I was just about to put the book back when my eyes fell on — you guessed it — The List.… Read more…

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