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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-13-06, 09:44 AM   #1
nicomachus
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xtracycle review

http://www.nicomachus.net/2006/09/wh...s_a_car_1.html

who needs a car?

Not me. I've got a truck. A two-wheeled pick-up truck.

I sold my car this spring after realizing that I'd put gas in the tank a handful of times within the previous year. Then a friend reminded me of the Xtracycle -- a bolt-on rear triangle that moves your rear-wheel back about 15 inches and supports their proprietary huge panniers. I remembered seeing one in action in Massachusetts and that I had wanted to try it out just to see how it handles.

In June, I added the free radical to my 1980's (my very first) mountain bike, and its carrying capacity has convinced me that I really don't need a car.



Three months into riding it, here are some thoughts --

First, since I mounted the free radical to a chromoly frame, I expected a lot of frame flex. While it does flex, it's not as much as I had anticipated. In fact, it's hard to tell precisely whether some of the fluidity of movement is frame-flex or the front suspension. Either way, it makes for a comfortable ride.

Second, the bike "tracks" like nothing I've ridden before. Maybe it's due to the length of the wheel-base or maybe there's some frame flex/sag in the middle that causes it. Whatever the cause, the bike likes to ride in a straight line. Turning requires a little more effort than the bike did before the extension. The "tracking" is great for commuting -- I hop on the rail-trail I take to work and cruise.

I've even ridden it off-road and, as long as you get lined up right, riding over skinnies and teeter-totters is pretty easy. You have to be conscious of the new front-to-back center or gravity for teeters, but other than that, the bike handles singletrack real well. Over all, it's a lot easier to control than I originally thought it would be.

Third, (and probably most obvious) the turning radius is increased. This makes it difficult to turn around in driveways without putting a foot down. It also requires you to be a little more conscious of the rear when taking corners. I've clipped the panniers more than once on rocks and curbs by leaning too soon into curves.

Fourth, since the seat and cranks are closer to the middle of the wheel-base than a regular upright bike (on which the seat and cranks are closer to the rear wheel), the rider's weight is more evenly distributed throughout the frame. For a bike with a suspension fork, this means that the fork carries more of the rider's weight at all times than would a "normal" bike. If you have a sophisticated fork, just crank down the pre-load and it all evens out. If you have a crappy one like me, then just learn to accept more squish in the fork. So far, the additional squish hasn't affected handling. It's just something to be aware of.


Even when I'm not carrying a giant package or cases of bulk-ordered groceries, the bike attracts attention. Patrons of bars, seated outdoors, have called out how much they like the look of the bike as I ride past. While walking through the local farmers' market, more than a few people have stopped me to ask about it. I feel like it attracts even drivers' attention while I'm on the road, though I still ride assuming that drivers are blind and I'm invisible -- aggressively defensive.

There's no denying that the Xtracycle is well thought-out. It performs as well loaded down as when the panniers are empty, the free radical is strong and lightweight, and it's even elegantly designed.

I'll say one more thing about the Xtracycle. The founders recognize that privileged, pro-bike activists like myself are not the only market of need for their creations.

On the Xtracycle website, the owners state that profits from sales of Xtracycle products "support Worldbike Foundation (formerly X-Access Foundation), a non-profit organization that seeks to make our technology available to all who need it. We are committed to creating a new model of business that adds to the natural wealth of humanity and the planet." Rock on; that's the kind of business I want to support.
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Old 09-14-06, 09:52 AM   #2
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Excellent review. I haven't made the jump yet since I have a bob trailer, but I hope to get one in the next few years. I hear only positive things about the xtracycle.

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Old 09-14-06, 01:49 PM   #3
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I wonder if the top of the Xtra Cycle can be fitted with a large Army Duffle bag? I think that would fit more groceries than the four open slots
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Old 09-14-06, 03:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicomachus
On the Xtracycle website, the owners state that profits from sales of Xtracycle products "support Worldbike Foundation (formerly X-Access Foundation), a non-profit organization that seeks to make our technology available to all who need it. We are committed to creating a new model of business that adds to the natural wealth of humanity and the planet." Rock on; that's the kind of business I want to support.
I would suggest caution wrt this statement. Even if they do, which they may or may not, the effective capabilities of many non-profits are dwarfed by operational costs, and ultimately become very wasteful. Furthermore, if the xtracycle is really non-profit and patented, why aren't there plans/part lists for someone who wants to build their own on the site? Maybe there are, but I haven't found them.

Last edited by lyeinyoureye; 09-14-06 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 09-14-06, 04:35 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
I would suggest caution wrt this statement. Even if they do, which they may or may not, the effective capabilities of many non-profits are dwarfed by operational costs, and ultimately become very wasteful. Furthermore, if the xtracycle is really non-profit and patented, why aren't there plans/part lists for someone who wants to build their own on the site? Maybe there are, but I haven't found them.
Hmmm. I'm not sure what you're talking about. Read it more closely... what they're saying is that Worldbike is the non-profit (not Xtracycle, which is a different company -- the one that developed the design and, I would think, holds the patent). More, it says they support Worldbike... it doesn't say that Xtracycle gives all their profits to Worldbike.

What do you have against non-profits anyway?
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Old 09-14-06, 05:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by nicomachus
Hmmm. I'm not sure what you're talking about. Read it more closely... what they're saying is that Worldbike is the non-profit (not Xtracycle, which is a different company -- the one that developed the design and, I would think, holds the patent). More, it says they support Worldbike... it doesn't say that Xtracycle gives all their profits to Worldbike.

What do you have against non-profits anyway?
Oh god you're right, I thought it was all Xtracycle profits. A portion of the Xtracycle profits could be god knows what... Seems like marketing more than anything else. Generally, I think there are two things wrong with most non-profit organizations
-Operating costs compared to how much they actually influence their cause. If a large porportion of the donated resources goes towards running the organization, it may be that the impact is minimal, or not even worth the implementation versus other methods of helping whatever cause.
-Marginalization. Giving to non-profits results in an individual "feeling" they've done something. lets say the charity is dedicated to helping out third world families, so as a nation we give however much, and depending on implementation, those families get some fraction of this. Now, if there are corporations who we buy crap from down there exploiting the worker, we may be causing more harm by buying products that promote crappy/maginal living conditions than we are by donating a bit of cash. If an individual feels strongly about an issue then they should research it thoroughly so they can determine the best course of action wrt influencing the issue in a positive manner. Non-profits are generaly not the most effective way to influence issues.

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Old 09-14-06, 06:30 PM   #7
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Nice review and pics. For the diyer, you can just get the frame for about $220 or $240 or something. If you want to diy the rest, it's pretty obvious from the pics. You'd of course need some skilz.
i'd get the whole package, though, if I were to take the plunge.
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Old 09-14-06, 06:46 PM   #8
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Oh man I want one of those! But the wife would have my head on a plate... maybe if the tax return is big enough next year
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Old 09-14-06, 07:29 PM   #9
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If I had some money to throw around, it would absolutely be on my list. but with drop bars.
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Old 09-15-06, 09:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
I would suggest caution wrt this statement. Even if they do, which they may or may not, the effective capabilities of many non-profits are dwarfed by operational costs, and ultimately become very wasteful. Furthermore, if the xtracycle is really non-profit and patented, why aren't there plans/part lists for someone who wants to build their own on the site? Maybe there are, but I haven't found them.
Umm, you do realize that if it is patented, then to build the same thing for yourself even if you were not selling it but only building it for your own use, would be infringing on patent protection afforded. Therefore your arguement really doesn't make sense.
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Old 09-15-06, 11:44 AM   #11
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How much?
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Old 09-15-06, 12:45 PM   #12
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How much?
$400 for everything you need to convert an existing bike.
http://www.xtracycle.com/freeradical...-bike-p-2.html
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Old 09-15-06, 02:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fuerein
Umm, you do realize that if it is patented, then to build the same thing for yourself even if you were not selling it but only building it for your own use, would be infringing on patent protection afforded. Therefore your arguement really doesn't make sense.
Read my next post, my assumption was that all the profits went to whatever non-profit, so why not host the plans for it? But I was wrong... Only a portion goes to that non-profit, which could be whatever, and is most likely nothing more than marketing. As for building something for personal use...
At the very worst the infringer could claim they built the same thing seperately and it would be up to the patent holder to prove they stole their idea, which is next to impossible. I'm guessing the individual being sued would be forced to dissassemble the device? In any event, the bad press that may result is probably not worth the hassle for most business'.

It's also illegal to jaywalk, or ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, but we still get away with it daily. Oh noes.

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Old 09-15-06, 06:21 PM   #14
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Thank you for the review. That item is on my shopping list, but the list is long and the money is short.
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Old 09-17-06, 06:17 PM   #15
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I would never get that, I would lose too much cargo space. With my back painniers. With my burly nomad and cargo rack, I have a lot more space. Sides they are not that great in the winter time.
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Old 09-17-06, 06:36 PM   #16
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Sides they are not that great in the winter time.
why not?
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Old 09-18-06, 06:55 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by geeklpc1985
I would never get that, I would lose too much cargo space. With my back painniers. With my burly nomad and cargo rack, I have a lot more space. Sides they are not that great in the winter time.
With your set up Iíll agree that itís nice leaving all your cargo space at home when you donít need it, but I like having all that cargo space around with the Xtracycle in case I need it with minimal penalty of extra weight and drag. But I donít agree that youíll lose cargo space; the Burley Nomad has 4.6 cubic feet and panniers have about 1.5 cubic feet per pair; the Xtracycle has 10.4 cubic feet within the side straps and you can load additional stuff up on top for even more capacity. Here are some pics of a shopping run and note the sides are not full and that I have two more duffle bags that I could use to store stuff on top.

Bike stuff 003.jpg Bike stuff 004.jpg Bike stuff 005.jpg


Now if you really want a lot of cargo capacity this is a nice setup:
triple-bike-trailers.jpghttp://www.bikesatwork.com/

The only winter issue I have with the Xtracycle is going down a steep icy grade unloaded (going up is fine) as too much weight gets transferred off the back wheel.
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Old 09-19-06, 10:21 AM   #18
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geeklpc, one of my most common 'cargos' is my wife. Can't carry her in a Burley Nomad. :-) I've loaded a full shopping cart of groceries with wife in tow, I've carried shop vacs, and I can go anywhere in the city with my tabla, djembe, and fire spinning gear. Heck, last weekend, I picked up a date to go to my wife's show, then put my wife on the back, dropped off the date and went home. Helps that my city is kinda flat, but I can do a couple miles with two smaller folk on the back. Xtracycles are fantastic...oh, and I don't even have Wideloaders, which up the capacity substantially.

I haven't had my Xtracycle through the winter, but I do know that I'd rather have brakes on all my wheels in the wintertime than be pushed around by a cargo trailer, which sounds like a recipe for jacknifing in low-traction conditions. I have nothing against cargo trailers, I just don't know of anything anyone actually does with one that an Xtracycle can't do, and trailers can't carry cute girls around, or much of anyone else out of elementary school. The notion that you would be giving up cargo capacity is simply misplaced.
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Old 09-19-06, 10:31 AM   #19
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There's a really nice xtracycle build on bikehugger
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Old 09-24-06, 04:07 PM   #20
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I think if you wanted to go berzerk, you could keep your panniers, attach the trailer to the xtracycle, and end up with 18 cubic feet of storage plus a wife with her backpack! Then you could add front panniers, a big basket on the handlebars, sidecar....

I got an old specialized I'll be converting into an xtracycle soon, I'll probably put aside 50 bucks a week, and go cruising in Salem on Halloween.

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Old 09-24-06, 04:51 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philatio
why not?
With the longer wheel base it's harder to control then a standard wheel base bike. Also with the back wheel farther back there is less weight on it, then a standard bike. Also, then you have to have waterproof bags.
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Old 09-24-06, 05:01 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atman
geeklpc, one of my most common 'cargos' is my wife. Can't carry her in a Burley Nomad. :-) I've loaded a full shopping cart of groceries with wife in tow, I've carried shop vacs, and I can go anywhere in the city with my tabla, djembe, and fire spinning gear. Heck, last weekend, I picked up a date to go to my wife's show, then put my wife on the back, dropped off the date and went home. Helps that my city is kinda flat, but I can do a couple miles with two smaller folk on the back. Xtracycles are fantastic...oh, and I don't even have Wideloaders, which up the capacity substantially.

I haven't had my Xtracycle through the winter, but I do know that I'd rather have brakes on all my wheels in the wintertime than be pushed around by a cargo trailer, which sounds like a recipe for jacknifing in low-traction conditions. I have nothing against cargo trailers, I just don't know of anything anyone actually does with one that an Xtracycle can't do, and trailers can't carry cute girls around, or much of anyone else out of elementary school. The notion that you would be giving up cargo capacity is simply misplaced.
With the burly cargo rack, you can whole a full figured girl without a problem. I have never jackknifed my bike while riding. Trying to back the bike and trailer yes. Still working on that. With disk brakes and a fully loaded bike and trailer no stopping problems, but I have studded tires in the winter time.
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Old 09-24-06, 08:59 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by atman
Heck, last weekend, I picked up a date to go to my wife's show, then put my wife on the back, dropped off the date and went home.
Wait a minute - you had a date AND your wife?

I gotta get an Xtracycle!!
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Old 10-03-06, 02:35 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geeklpc1985
With the burly cargo rack, you can whole a full figured girl without a problem. I have never jackknifed my bike while riding. Trying to back the bike and trailer yes. Still working on that. With disk brakes and a fully loaded bike and trailer no stopping problems, but I have studded tires in the winter time.
I propose a burly/xtracycle load duel! My money is on the xtracycle.
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Old 10-03-06, 08:39 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geeklpc1985
With the longer wheel base it's harder to control then a standard wheel base bike. Also with the back wheel farther back there is less weight on it, then a standard bike. Also, then you have to have waterproof bags.
This is an assumption made by a non-xtracycle user, and is not true. The longer wheel base means that the xtracycle handles with more stability at low speeds, and having more of your weight on the front wheel makes it easier to recover from skids. The turning radius, of course, is higher, and this takes some getting used to, but a well installed xtracycle tracks excellently.

Rather than less weight on the back wheel, think of it as more weight on the front wheel, making it less likely to skid and dump you over the front handlebars.

As for waterproof bags...well, yes. I was going to pick up a couple of those IKEA yellow bags that are huge and cost a buck for wrapping anything that I can't load into, say, my waterproof dry sack. The FreeRadical is not designed to protect anything, it's like a rack not a pannier.
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