Inaugural trip!

So I finally took the Novara out for a real ride!

(That’s not the permanent setup: I still need to get a front rack and panniers, and a smaller sleeping bag, and I’m not sure I like how that handlebar bag sits on this bike. It also needs different pedals plus my toe cages.)

Nine of us (including one gentleman on a tall bike!) met up and rode the 25 miles to Battleground Lake in Washington. The ride out was fun, and included a stop early on for a small glass of wine and some snacks at Niche in Vancouver, where we also picked up another rider. We did have a few jerks on the road, but whatever. The weather cooperated, and we set up camp and got a fire going and had plenty more wine and conversations and just generally had a good time.

It started raining in the night, though, and was still going the next morning. People split up and left at different times, and the way back was cold showers mixed with periods of warm sunshine. My rain jacket works okay, but I don’t have rain pants or booties, so my bottom half was soaked to the skin, and my shoes were like buckets of water for my feet to sit in. Thankfully it wasn’t really cold!

So, the Novara!

I love the new setup. My right bar-end shifter is indexed, and I find myself shifting the rear more often than I used to, with an easy “click.” It also slips right into the granny gear in front with no problems, even if I’m already going uphill and pushing, which is wonderful.

The handlebars: So far, I love them. I spent a lot of time moving my hands around to all the different possible positions, and I’m amazed at how the tiniest differences in hand position can feel very different. The process reminds me of when people learn to knit: the motions only come in a couple of variations, really; but everyone soon finds that their hands find, sort of on their own, the most comfortable way of doing the motions and holding the yarn. So it is with my hands on these bars, as I experiment with tiny shifts in hand position and posture. And oh man, it’s so easy to brake! Even from the hoods! Yes!

But the most amazing thing, and the biggest vote in favor of these handlebars, was after I got home. I was really tired and my legs were sore, but my shoulders were fine! I don’t think I’ve ever not had sore shoulders after 25 miles on a bicycle! This has me so happy, you can’t even imagine. Shoulder pain has been my off-and-on companion ever since I was a grocery store cashier for five years, ending in 2003. As much as I love touring, I’ve always ended up taking ibuprofen all day every day to help with the pain, which varied from “slightly stiff and sore” to “oh god, someone’s stabbing me between the shoulder blades.” I’ve made jokes about how maybe I should switch to a recumbent. I wondered if I should get a custom bicycle, or a professional fitting, or did I need physical therapy? Was bicycling long distances always going to hurt?

My shoulders and arms were tired when I got home, certainly, but they didn’t hurt!

Now that was only 50 miles in two days, and that’s definitely not the same as 80 miles in one day. But I feel a lot more confident about it now, especially as my arms and shoulders get stronger.

Lastly, I got a really sweet text on Saturday from the man who bought the Miyata: “Thanks again all good. Fixed brakes work perfectly. May keep it for myself. She has a good home and a bright future!” which just made me all kinds of happy.

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8 Responses to Inaugural trip!

  1. MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

    Do those handle bars flare out in the drops or am I hallucinating? I hope the bike works really good for you because you’re going to be on it a lot.

    • Oh, they flare out all right, that’s why I got them! They’re Salsa Woodchippers, a kind of mountain-bike drop bar.

      • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

        Wow. Part of the reason I want mustache bars is because drop bars make me nervous. I think I’d still want brake levers up where my hands were most likely to be during around town riding.

      • See, and that’s why I got mountain bike drop bars (aka dirt drops). They’re designed to make it easy and comfy to basically ride the brakes, which is something I do a lot. It’s so easy to brake from the drops, as well as the “hoods” of the brake levers, and I seem to ride equally in both.

        I am an absolute pansy going downhill, and if I don’t feel like I could death-grip my brakes whenever I feel like it, I’m even slower downhill. I have to feel totally in control. When I was riding the mustache bars, I found myself more and more comfortable going downhill fast, because the brakes were right there in my hand. I never got to be the speed demon that many of my friends (or Shawn, really) are, but I likely never will be, and that’s fine. It’s not a race. I just want to be able to go downhill and not be scared. I want it to be exhilarating and fun and a reward after climbing, instead of being afraid that I’m going to lose control of the bike and crash.

        When riding dirt drops with your hands in the drops, you have a nice wide stance and the brakes are easy to reach, which are the two biggest things that make me more comfortable and stable when descending. I also have the handlebars really high, so that even in the drops I’m not leaning over very far, which also makes me more comfortable descending–I don’t feel like I’m going to go over my handlebars if I brake too hard, and I can be in the drops for a while without leaning over uncomfortably.

  2. MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

    I might mention that to my LBS.

    If I’m riding my mountain bike I have no fear of hills. I’m just like, “Weeeeeeeee!” I’m still getting used to Miss Surly though… plus she is capable of a lot more speed.

  3. Darin says:

    1 on everything you said about the woodchippers. I’ve been riding in the drops a lot more since I got mine. The only drawback I see is a little more potential to damage the bar end shutters if the bike should fall. That, and its a little harder to squeeze through tight spaces.
    That is one huge sleeping bag you’ve got there. That things gotta be warm.

    • It’s warm-ish. It’s eleven years old and synthetic fill. I sold it to a secondhand outdoor store today.

      Just today I bought a secondhand down bag, only to get it home and find that it has a different zipper than Shawn’s. We’re on the snuggly side, so finding sleeping bags that zip together is really important to us. Plus it definitely helps you both stay warmer! But oh, the limitations we have on top of that: I only buy down bags secondhand, never new (I don’t like the way they get the down off the poor birds). I get cold easier than Shawn. I would like it to fit IN a pannier. Oh, and my budget is really really tight. *sigh*

      I do worry about the bar ends, in terms of them getting bumped. The “getting through tight spaces” thing isn’t a problem, because I’m pretty sure they’re still narrower than the mustache bars I was using before!

      I’ve changed the tilt on the bars so that the ends are closer to flat, but it makes it less comfy to ride the hoods. I’m not sure what to do about that, ’cause if I move the brake levers up, I won’t be able to reach them that well from the drops! Gah!

  4. hack says:

    Can’t wait to follow your trip!

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