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 21 2017

SameBoat Shorts: Are You Ready to Seek a Newer World? by Tamia nelson

The holiday season is well and truly begun, and that means many of us are pressed for time. Whether you’re prepping for finals, trying to get the last shingle on the roof before the snow flies, rushing to draft an end‑of‑the‑year report, or just girding your loins to fight your way through the crowds in the local HyperMart, you probably don’t have much leisure for reading. So this seemed a good time to launch SameBoat Shorts, a series of, yes, short, practical articles for beginning boaters — or for veterans who are thinking about coming back to the sport after a lapse of many years. Got three minutes? Then you’ve got time for SameBoat Shorts.

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows….
— Tennyson, Ulysses

It happens to many of us, at one time or another, and maybe it’s happened to you. You visit a friend’s Facebook Wall and notice she’s posted dozens of photos from her last kayaking holiday. She obviously had a great time, and you can’t help feeling a little jealous. What’s that? You say your friends haven’t yet surrendered to the siren song of Facebook? Then maybe you just can’t take your eyes off the cover photo on your new wall calendar — the one you bought for the new year that will soon be upon us. It shows an emerald‑green canoe on a glassy lake. Mom’s in the bow. Dad’s in the stern. And two kids and a dog are nestled between them. There are mountains in the distance, too, and you can almost hear the fish jumping. Everyone’s smiling. Even the dog.

I could go on, but you get the point, I’m sure. The urge to take to the water begins, in the words of one old sailor, “like a little cloud on a serene horizon.” But before long, it covers the whole sky, and you can think of nothing else. Soon you fall to day‑dreaming, putting yourself in the picture, as it were. You see yourself gliding across a wilderness lake at dawn, following the new‑risen sun’s golden road to adventure. Or kayaking on a broad, brown tropical river, as the cries of scores of unknown birds ring in your ears. Or paddling headlong down a steep mountain torrent, its icy water turned milk‑white by glacial silt. Or maybe just hanging out on a nearby beaver pond with a fishing rod.

Whatever dream you dream, it draws you onward, toward the water… Read more…

Nov 18 2017

Getting a Grip on Handlebars: Why I Like ’em Wide by Tamia Nelson

Unless you buy a bespoke bicycle built to your exact requirements, chances are that the off-the-hook bike you buy will not fit quite as you like. If the misfit is little more than an inconvenience, you can live with it. But if the bike’s components cause pain, chances are you can put that to rights by swapping for a different part. When Tamia bought a stock-built Surly Long Haul Trucker, it fit pretty well right out of the box. Except for the handlebars. They were too narrow. How’s that? Read on and you’ll find out.

Several years ago I bought a complete-build 42-cm Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike by mail from JensonUSA. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible because as of November 2011, Surly prohibited the sale of its complete-build bikes by mail. All fine and dandy if you live near a bike shop that carries the model you want, in the size you want. But not such a good policy for those, like me, who live in the sticks, hours away from the nearest bike shop.

Be that as it may, I have my complete-build, and from the start it was a perfect choice. Right out of the box I knew I’d swap out the saddle with a model I knew worked well for me, and I supplied the pedals. (Despite the “complete build” description, pedals are not usually included with better bikes.) But it wasn’t until I’d ridden the LHT a couple times that I realized the stock handlebars would have to go. They were too narrow, and the geometry led to numbness and tingling in my hands and wrists. (From nerve damage due to too many episodes of frostbite from ice-climbing and skiing.)

Some cyclists prefer narrow bars, but not me. I like them wide, whether they’re straight bars on my utility/mountain bike, or they’re drop bars on my road bikes. So when I chose new handlebars for my LHT — Nitto Noodles, as it happens — I wanted them wide, quite a lot wider than the stock bars. Here’s a photo showing the difference in width between the original handlebars and the Noodles, shot (with a flash, unfortunately) after I’d made the swap:

Handlebar Comparison (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

The original handlebars are the bare ones, and the hooks fit between the brakes on the Nittos. The wider Nittos allowed my thumbs more room between the handlebars and the handlebar bag, thus avoiding the pinching my thumbs experienced with the stock bars.

Nitto Noodle Handlebars and LG Handlebar Bag (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

Wide handlebars might not be as aerodynamic as narrower ones, but unless you’re a racer, will you notice? My handlebars are at least as wide as my shoulders, and this offers several advantages:

  • Better steering control
  • More stable for riding out of the saddle
  • Improved breathing
  • Improved comfort in wrists, shoulders, and neck
  • More real estate for hand positions and accessories
  • Offers protection in sideways falls

Wider handlebars provide more leverage and therefore better control when steering, and this control also makes riding out of the saddle less twitchy. I don’t climb out of the saddle for long periods of time, but I do stand on the pedals when I take off from a dead stop at traffic lights and stop signs, and when I climb short steep hills. To further improve control, I’ve mounted bar-ends on my mountain bike’s straight bars.

Wide handlebars (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop

There’s more. With hands more widely spaced on the handlebars, it’s easier to breathe, because the wider stance opens up the thorax. Widely spaced hands also mean less strain on my wrists, shoulders, and neck. And the increased amount of real estate allows more positions to grip the bars, reducing the risk of hand and wrist tingling, numbness, and fatigue. As a side benefit, there’s also more room on both straight and drop bars for accessories like my cyclometer, a bell, a GPS, and a canister of HALT! in its bracket.

One last benefit of wider bars isn’t apparent unless you’ve hit pavement. Wide handlebars can help break the force of a sideways fall, and this can prevent serious injury to the shoulders and hips, elbow and wrists — as long as you keep hold of the bars and don’t stick your hand out to break a fall, that is. That doesn’t mean that wide bars will always (or even often) prevent injury, but it’s possible, and that’s a welcome bonus, don’t you think?

This article is an update of one originally published on 13 February 2010.


Further Reading

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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!

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