*tap tap* Is this thing on?

Contrary to appearances, I have not disappeared off the face of the planet. I have, however, been in training to be a nursing assistant. For two weeks I had classes every weekday and homework pretty much every night, and now I’m getting my clinical experience at a local nursing home–I mean, er, long-term care facility. Which is exhausting. Lots of physical labor, and I’m nervous all the time because I’m still unsure of myself.

Plus, for the first two weeks, I was walking to classes, as the school is just a few hundred yards from our apartment. Some of my classmates came out from far-flung suburbs, so I feel lucky. I also feel lucky that my clinical site was so close–it’s only about five miles, tops, from the apartment, and it’s almost all on official bike boulevards! The CNA (certified nursing assistant) I’m working with is also a cyclist, one of just a couple in the building. Being paired up with a cyclist was just dumb luck. (He rides a Centurion. Someone else in the building rides a red Linus Dutchi!)

So of course the first day I rode out to the site was the day it snowed:

snowyraleigh

That’s not at the site (which has a rack tucked away behind the building), that’s in front of the school. It wasn’t until later that day that I remembered I had a plastic bag tucked away under the saddle. D’oh!

Riding in the snow that morning was magical! I wish I’d had a chance to take good pictures with a real camera, I knew my inexpensive cell phone wasn’t really up to the job. I mean, it was a hassle to bike in the snow too–it was near impossible to keep the scarf over my face, and snow got behind my glasses, and when the scarf did stay up I fogged up my glasses. But the view! And because most of Portland shuts down at the sign of snow, there were very few cars out, and they were going slow. So it was just a lovely ride. And since it was just snow, no ice, it wasn’t slippery at all! At least, not at the speeds I was going.

Despite the snow last week, spring is starting around here. The crocuses are all open, the daffodils are opening, and, oh yes!, the daphne is starting to open. (A crappy picture of daphne.) I’d never noticed it until a few years ago, and now I don’t know how I missed it. You have to get right up to them to smell them right now, but on the next sunny day, there will be parts of Portland where daphne just perfumes all the air. It’s such a lovely citrusy floral smell! Last year I had a ride, just running an errand, where it smelled so lovely that I wanted to hug every person in SE Portland who had a daphne bush in their yard. In the last couple of days, twice I’ve squealed to a sudden stop (ah, wet steel rims) to get off my bike and walk into people’s front yards to sniff their daphne.

In Other News: I love the internet sometimes, and the connections you can make with total strangers. After my last post about my dissatisfaction with my handlebar/stem setup on my Novara, Janice in Georgia got in touch and offered to send me Rivendell’s stem riser, which she’d previously purchased only to find it didn’t work with her bicycle. I saw her message just as I was about to buy it from Rivendell, so it was perfect timing! And last night I got around to taking the bike to Oregon Bike Shop and having it put in, and here it is:

novarawithstemriser

I’ll be the first to admit that it looks…odd. In an entertaining kind of way. But to quote Shawn: “If it works, who cares?” I think I’ve just decided that I have to have my handlebars at or above my saddle. I have no idea how people enjoy riding with their handlebars lower than their saddle! When I try, I get a terrible crick in my neck and my arms get tired really fast.

But with the riser, the height and reach are just peachy–this is the first time I’ve been able to comfortably brake from the hoods of my brakes on drop bars. Not sure about the handlebars though. *sigh* The “ergonomic” drop just isn’t doing anything for me. So I’m looking into two recommendations: The FSA Compact, and the Soma Junebug.

The FSA Compact was recommended to me by a friend who does touring and racing. I like how the drops extend back pretty far, and they look like they’re comfy to ride in the drops!

I’ve seen a bike set up with the Soma Junebug bars, the first time I saw them I had to find out what those handlebars were! They’re meant to be drop bars for mountain biking, and they just look so comfy to me. When you’re on the hoods, your wrists are in a nice neutral position. (Interestingly, the woman who had those handlebars, whom I met outside yoga class, has met Shawn–they were in the same town at the same time in Eastern Oregon on part of the Transamerica route. Small world! And I only discovered this because she pulled up as I was leaving and I exclaimed over her handlebars and then we started talking about handlebar choices for touring.)

Both handlebars are specifically meant to help people feel like they can brake better in the drops. That’s one of the things that scares me about drop bars–it seems so hard to get a good grip on the brakes! I am a cautious descender (aka I ride my brakes downhill), so being able to reach the brake levers from a comfy angle is super-important, dammit. I should be able to go from zero to “death grip” without working too hard/reaching too far. (Note: I rarely brake that way, of course.)

Part of me is tired of thinking about my effing handlebars. But if I want to comfortably do long tours, I have to be picky.

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5 Responses to *tap tap* Is this thing on?

  1. Janice in GA says:

    Yay! I’m another one in the “function is as important (or MORE important) than looks” department. Glad you can try out the stem riser to see if it’ll work well for you.

  2. revdarkwater says:

    How good of you to share, Janice! And ride on, write on, April! Stem risers do look a little, er, inelegant to me. But we have one on our tandem, and I’ve installed one on Marie de France, the Peugeot I’m converting for Nimue. New, tall stems would have cost ten times as much (arithmetic you’ve done too, no doubt). I’d rather fund adventures with that green!

  3. Matthew says:

    Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog, and I am THRILLED to see another Blue Novara Randonee of the 1990’s! I have the EXACT same bike! I bought it new from REI years ago, and every year I think about getting a new bike and then decide this one is perfect for me.

    I, too, have struggled a bit with the handlebar height/position. I’m not sure I have any answers… Mine is further compounded because I switched to an “easy-seat” which I love. I may look into the extension you posted about.

    Any idea what year this bike was made? I can’t quite remember when I bought it. I think it was around ’94.

    • I’ve been told mine’s a 1995, and that the way to tell is to flip it over and look at the serial number–either the first or last digit (I can’t remember which) is the last number of the year it was made. This bike was clearly from some point in the 1990’s and the number was 5, so we figured 1995. I had guessed early-to-mid 1990’s based on the visual design–nobody uses that particular kind of fake handwriting font anymore, for instance.

      I’ve been told those kinds of saddles put more weight on your wrists. I know they make it nearly impossible to bike no-handed. I don’t bike no-handed very often (my balance just isn’t all that great), but I do have fun trying now and then. I have a Specialized saddle that I got measured for–they had me sit on this pressure-sensitive pad to measure how far apart my sit bones were, and then asked me what my riding position was. It has a nice cut-out down the middle that I love. (I have an old leather saddle on my Raleigh Sports, but I have a really upright posture on that and I’ve never ridden it more than 20-something miles in a day.)

      You’re lucky to have a bike that feels perfect! I don’t know what “perfect” is supposed to feel like, and I know that postures that other people find perfectly comfy, I hate. (If it were practical to do modern touring on Dutch-style bikes, I probably would.) One day I hope to be able to afford a custom touring bike. I know that Sweetpea (a local custom framebuilder that specializes in women) has a physical therapist help with their fittings…that just sounds perfect. In the meantime I mess around with things here and there trying to make things work, and I’ve started trying to get my body stronger too, ’cause the perfect bike will still put me in pain if I’m not strong enough!

  4. Matthew says:

    Hi, ’95 would make sense. I looked for the serial number, but in the location where it would be, it seems to have faded away. I’ll look closer to see if it is stamped.

    You’re right, the saddle does put more pressure on my wrists. That is the source of my discomfort, but that soreness is SO much better than what was associated with my other saddles, even with padded shorts.

    Yes, I have some discomfort in biking, so maybe it doesn’t feel perfect. I just meant that the bike has been very suitable for me, so I haven’t needed to replace it.

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