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  1. #1
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    The Right Base Bike for an Xtracycle

    Hey guys. I'm getting close to Xtracycle time, but I'm now trying to decide what to use as a base. I generally ride road bikes, but given that I'm 240 pounds, I don't think skinny 700c wheels are gonna hold me, my girlyfiend, and all our groceries! So, I guess that I need a 26"er, probably a rigid steel framed MTB. What I think is that I could find a Specialized HardRock pretty cheaply, and they seem pretty solid. What are the realistic options for tyres though? I don't want to run huge knobbly soft tires that're going to eat all my pedalling energy. I guess that something like moustache bars of maybe North Roads will be good, and perhaps a nice sprung Brooks, like the B66.

    Anybody got any thoughts on what works well?

  2. #2
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I second the MTB or at least a 700c rim that can take a 38mm tire. For the 26" rims you could run high pressure 1.5 slicks or inverted tread tires. Ritchey Tom-t slicks come to mind. I used to use an Avocet inverted tread with good results.

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  3. #3
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    Here's a question then. I'm going to pick up whatever bike it'll be, cheap, on eBay. I'm 6'3, and I ride a 24-25 road bike (non-compact geometry). How do I know what frame size I need in MTBworld?

  4. #4
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    Bike: Look to the touring forums for suggestions on strong bikes that are meant to handle a load but that aren't necessarily built specifically for climbing wilderness trails like that Specialized is - if your primary use is to tool about town and get groceries on flat or light gravel roads, that is.

    Loaded tourers are specifically meant to put tons of gear on and still take abuse, and to have every braze-on or eyelet imaginable for panniers, mudguards, etcetera, while still retaining road bike qualities in terms of overall ride feel. Usually the thing with a tourer versus a road bike is that it will have relaxed geometry for comfort, longer wheelbase (plus longer chainstays to prevent your heel from hitting panniers), and higher handlebar height, again for comfort.

    Probably the Surly Long Haul Trucker (<---clicky) frame would be a great choice as a middling solution between a road bike and a MTB if price is a factor, but then you'd have to decide every component that goes on it, since unless you buy it from Surly directly it is only sold as a frame right now. Know though that the wheel size on these frames is determined entirely by frame size (54 cm and below have 26"), ala the Rivendell Atlantis.

    Since you're in the UK, it might be harder to get a Surly (though I've seen them on the net at £325 [<---clicky], slightly above some US prices, but still not a bad price) and it might also be worth it to look at UK builders Thorn, Dawes (specifically the Galaxy), Mercian, or Bob Jackson. All of these might be above your budget if you're considering the Hardrock though.

    Wheel size: Both 700c wheels and 26" can be built tough, though you're right that a 26"er is generally going to be stronger because the spokes are shorter. These days, though, a 36 or 40-spoke wheel built with DT Swiss Alpine spokes to something like Mavic A719 rims will be just fine, even in 700c size. My loaded Mercian uses 700c wheels and I load the thing to the brim with 4 panniers and camping stuff with no problems, though I've never put a girlfriend on it.

    Tires: I'm partial to Schwalbe Marathons for overall road use when I do loaded touring, but all of this is like asking people what their favorite pizza is. Conti Top Touring and Panaracer Paselas seem to be highly regarded too among my fellow loadsters. In the past I've used Specialized Armadillos, but they felt awfully sluggish, and my Bianchi originally came with Vittoria Randonneurs, which were excellent, but they changed the design on them after 2004 and they just aren't the same.

    Saddle: Yea, Brooks are the way to go, and a B66 is a fine saddle.

    Bars: I'm partial to drop bars because of all the hand positions, but H-bars, moustache bars, etcetera all look to be fine.

    EDIT: Yea, you're tall. At 6'3", go with 700c wheels, or else you're going to end up with a bike whose geometry is all wonky, with the head tube being ridiculously long. Like Wahoo said, look for a bike that has clearances for wider tires though, which means either a MTB or a heavy loaded tourer - it will almost certainly require a rear hub spacing of 135 mm (ala MTBs).

    As far as sizing for any bike, there are a bunch of things to consider (saddle height, standover height, etcetera), but with modern up-sloping top tubes, things like seattube height/standover become less relevant because there is so much more compensation with the seatpost now. Google it though. I don't want to give poor advice on this, but my philosophy of sizing is generally old school, where the frame isn't miniaturized like they tend to be in the modern TdF.
    Last edited by Alekhine; 02-01-07 at 04:06 AM.
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  5. #5
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    Hmm. My current cargo bike is a Raleigh Royal tourer (see below), which is sweet, and only cost me £22. I'm in the habit of doing things on the super-cheap, and I was expecting to pick up my donor bike for around £50, which means that £300 is well out of the question. There's a part of me which thinks a loaded tourer would be the answer, and a part of me that thinks actually, an MTB, with everything overbuilt like they are, might be still better for what could amount to 375 pounds just of people sometimes, never mind the groceries. I guess my aim is to combine nice wide rims with tyres that run reasonably smooth, and though I'm normally a guy who climbs in high gears, I can see that on a bike like this will be, grannies will be the order of the day.


  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammyboy
    Here's a question then. I'm going to pick up whatever bike it'll be, cheap, on eBay. I'm 6'3, and I ride a 24-25 road bike (non-compact geometry). How do I know what frame size I need in MTBworld?
    Sammy,
    You are in my and my son's size range. I am 6'2 200# my son is 6'5" and around 260# (and still growing!) I ride a 21" mtb my son has a gargantuan Haro in a 23" frame. I like Alekhine's suggestion for a fully loaded tour bike. Another possibility would be an urban style bike. Take a look at the extra cycle website at some of their "off the shelf" bikes. One that I really like is the Breezer version. I would keep the frame a tad on the smaller side to make mounting and dismounting easier.

    Aaron
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  7. #7
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    You're going to need 700c wheels or 29" MTB wheels, due to your height. 700c tandem wheels might be right.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammyboy
    Hey guys. I'm getting close to Xtracycle time, but I'm now trying to decide what to use as a base.
    Maybe wait for the Surly Big Dummy? Seems reasonable to conclude that a frame purposefully built as an Xtracycle would be stronger and handle better than a conversion.

  9. #9
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    I think the Big Dummy will blow my budget by a mile. Bear in mind I'm looking to spend around $100 for a complete bike here. Kf5nd - I believe you can't build an X with 29"ers at present, although I may be wrong. If you can, then that would be favourite, but again, finding one cheap won't be easy. Most MTB'ers ride 26", whatever their height, so I'm not sure that'll be a big issue.

  10. #10
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammyboy
    Hmm. My current cargo bike is a Raleigh Royal tourer (see below), which is sweet, and only cost me £22. I'm in the habit of doing things on the super-cheap, and I was expecting to pick up my donor bike for around £50, which means that £300 is well out of the question. There's a part of me which thinks a loaded tourer would be the answer, and a part of me that thinks actually, an MTB, with everything overbuilt like they are, might be still better for what could amount to 375 pounds just of people sometimes, never mind the groceries. I guess my aim is to combine nice wide rims with tyres that run reasonably smooth, and though I'm normally a guy who climbs in high gears, I can see that on a bike like this will be, grannies will be the order of the day.

    That Raleigh looks like it would work just fine, although it looks like it has clearances for 700c x 32s and that's about it. These would still be okay. The problem is the wheel itself that may have to be overbuilt for the kind of weight that you're talking about. On most tandems (built for two, of course), the wheels are built with 40 or 48 spokes. Your 36-spokers might not cut it for 375+ pounds of weight, I'm afraid - particularly the rear because of the dish required for the offset of the cassette.

    I would personally spend the money that you intend to spend on new wheels, but if your budget is £50, you're going to have a tough time doing a possible wheel re-build, buying an Xtracycle, getting new tires of any quality, and getting a Brooks B66, the latter two of which I wouldn't suggest getting used - tires because used means worn tread, and Brooks because used means it has conformed to someone else's butt and may not have been treated or conditioned properly; although they can reconform to your shape, compromising the integrity of the saddle a little bit. I would also investigate using bar-end shifters, but that's just me.

    As for spending it on a MTB on eBay, I reckon you would run into the same problems with the spoke-to-wheel ratio when trying to cart around 375+ pounds of anything, but I could be wrong as I've never tried to pull that kind of weight on any bike other than a tandem. I have been able to do the entire loaded camping thing with about 75 extra pounds on my Bianchi San Remo, which had 700c x 28 x 36-spokes, and it handled it just fine despite being poorly geared, but the total weight we're talking about there was still sub-300 pounds (Edit: later on, the Mavic MA-3 rims had a spoke rip right through, taking a portion of the rim wall with it, so rims would be important here). The Specialized you're talking about is Aluminum, and generally I think your steel Reynolds 531 Raleigh (nice bike, btw) would actually be an even stronger frame despite its not being meant for rock-hopping.

    EDIT Number 2: Maybe get a B.O.B. trailer and buy your girlfriend a cheap bike?
    Last edited by Alekhine; 02-01-07 at 07:22 AM.
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  11. #11
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    Heheheh. I have a trailer, and my g/f has a bike, but I want to be able to pick my son up from school, and various other activities, which make the X worthwhile.

    The £50 is for the base bike, which I'll upgrade with things like a Brooks as and when I can afford it, and if I pay £50 for it, that normally means it's something which would typically go for £100. I'm a bit of an eBay hawk! I think what I'll do is look for something with nice wide 26's, but as close to a regular geometry, steel frame as I can. I plan to learn wheelbuilding this year, so I can always knock up an overbuild rear wheel, if it turns out trick - get myself a tandem hub or something.

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    Actually, I've built both a 700c and 26" xtracycle. 700c is not worth the hassle. You can definitely build the wheel as strong as a 26" but the xtracycle frame can only accommodate 700x35 or 37 at the maximum. If you want fender coverage (and you really should, even on the rear wheel -- skunk trails are a reality even with the wheel a foot aft and even more a problem for your passenger), you are even more limited.

    My latest xtracycle was inspired by cleverchimp's super monkeys and it is absolutely incredible. The frame is a Surly Karate Monkey with 26" wheels (mine are 36 holes XT Disc hubs and Velocity Cliffhanger rims). I run Big Apple tyres (2") and it still has tons of clearance for fenders (or even fatter tyres).

    Hope this helps...

  13. #13
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    It does. Pretty much confirms what I thought (no 29"ers, and problems with wide 700's).

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    Another thing... As far as handle bars are concerned, I've had drops on my first xtracycle for the first 5 months. It works but it is far from being comfortable when the bike is loaded, particularly with a passenger.

    To help stabilizing a loaded bike, wider handle bars are better. I love my Nitto Albatros bars. They are perfect and you can really pull on them when needed.

    An Xrtacycle is an amazing bike. It is a life changing device. You even get cocky about what you can carry on your bike. But, the bike will never be a speed demon and will definitely handle differently than even your longset touring bike. Welcome to the world of utility biking

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iorek
    But, the bike will never be a speed demon and will definitely handle differently than even your longset touring bike. Welcome to the world of utility biking
    This is definitely true. I've found that when you're weighted with people or cargo, speed is the least of your concerns; in fact, this is even true if you're not weighted–no one really speeds to work with an Xtracycle conversion (well, maybe some do). The tires that I use are Michelin Country Rock tires (26x1.75) chosen for both it's max pressure, width, and terrain specification. I wouldn't recommend anything skinnier (anything less than 1.5") as the thinner tires make the rig feel tippy when weighted, especially if you're loaded down on one side.

    The size mountain bike you're looking for is between 23" - 25". You might also want to pick up a stoker stem so you can attach a handlebar on your seat post. Because my Xtracycle is built on a 1993 Bridgestone MB-6 (old college bike), my seat post is the ~26mm variety and I had no shims, so I found an old 0 degree 130mm stem and used it to attach handlebars. I also use a version of North Road bars and have a B17N Brooks. Altogether it's a pretty fantastic combination.

  16. #16
    Fissato Italiano Aldone's Avatar
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    I'm in the same situation

    I think I'll go with a steel 26" MTB with Swhalbe Big Apple 2.35" tires.

    You're going to need BIG tires with lots of "inside" suspension so 700c is out of question unless you find a bike that can use 700 x 35 or something like that (quite difficult on an old frame)

    I'm using Big apples on my fixed MTB beated and I love 'em, the rolling resistance is not very high and they eat any bump/hole in the road quite easily.

    Plus it is not difficult to find an old steel rigid MTB for cheap

  17. #17
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    I JUST bulit up my own Xtracycle. I put it on a 62cm Cross-Check with 700 x 38's (48 spoke touring rims). I loved my bike before I put it on. Now I'm not so sure. I'm frankly a little disappointed with the Xtracycle. It's quite a bit heavier than I expected (totally unloaded) and it makes my bike SUPER flexie - I feel like I can't get nearly the power transitioning from my pedals to the back wheel that I could before I put on the Xtracycle. Also, because of the long chain, when I back pedal, the chain just sags instead of rotating my freewheel backwards, so I end up falling forward when I go to pedal sometimes because my chain has to catch back up with it's position before I back-pedalled. It's also big and bulky (I have a little apartment), and I realized this was going to be true before I bought it, and I totally wouldn't care if I felt like the Xtracycle's pros way-outweighed its cons, but it's just another reason I'm having a bit of buyer's regret.

    I also don't necessarily like the way it looks - my Cross-Check was so pretty before I put it on .

    That being said, once I make a few adjustments I think it'll be better. I'm going to try to fix the back-pedal-chain-slack issue by taking out a few links. Hopefully my rear derailleur will then tension it a bit better. I'm also going to try to reinforce the connection where the tongue meets the frame (the Xtracycle doesn't fit my large frame as well as I'd like and I think that that's whats causing so much flex.)

    Anyway, I didn't intend a possible hijack, I just wanted to share my current experience with my Xtracycle. I hope yours works out the way you hope it will (the 26" might prove to be a little better).

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    Hi turtle77,

    Indeed, there is a fair amount of flex with the xtracycle frame on, specially when the bike is really loaded. I can understand why you are a little disappointed. You converted a very nimble bike to an utility bike. They don't and will never ride the same.

    It does sound like your chain is a bit to long. I have added on my bicycle a chain tensioner/chain roller on the frame's chain stay. It vastly improved shifting. The only thing is that it adds some noise to the drive train. I can live with that.

    The bike is definitely heavier with the freeradical frame on. No questions about it.

    My xtracycle is my primary ride. We are a carfree family in Seattle and I must admit that there is not a day when I don't use the loading capacity of the bicycle. Prior to the xtracycle, I rode a touring bike with often a trailer in tow. The touring bike was a hoot to ride. A weekly ride for me is the run to the laundromat. I used to put my family's laundry in two large duffle bags and load the trailer. In the trailer, I definitely felt the load of the laundry fighting me. With the same load on the xtracycle, I almost forget it is there.

    My backup ride is a Dahon foldable. Moving from a long tail bike to the small 20" bike is like getting off a truck and drive a compact sportier car. Both are fun and both have a reason to be.

    Don't give up on your xtracycle yet. But it might be overkill for your needs or your day-to-day rides.

    HTH

  19. #19
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    The older Hardrocks are a good choice if you can find one in good (like-new) condition. The wheels are good, as they carried my 250 lbs, (at the time) for 3 1/2 years before the rear rim cracked. Newer Hardrocks are, as somebody mentioned, a more specialized (no pun) bike for off-road riding. I would also go with 2 inch slicks for strength and pretty good street riding.

    However, if you're really sold on road bikes, you might be happier with the touring setup. Can you afford to buy a MTB and try it for a while before you decide? If you decide against putting the xtra on it, you'll still have the MTB and riding offroad is a hell of a lot of fun, if you've never tried it.


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    Senior Member pmseattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammyboy
    Hey guys. I'm getting close to Xtracycle time, but I'm now trying to decide what to use as a base. I generally ride road bikes, but given that I'm 240 pounds, I don't think skinny 700c wheels are gonna hold me, my girlyfiend, and all our groceries! So, I guess that I need a 26"er, probably a rigid steel framed MTB. What I think is that I could find a Specialized HardRock pretty cheaply, and they seem pretty solid. What are the realistic options for tyres though? I don't want to run huge knobbly soft tires that're going to eat all my pedalling energy. I guess that something like moustache bars of maybe North Roads will be good, and perhaps a nice sprung Brooks, like the B66.

    Anybody got any thoughts on what works well?
    Stay away from the 700c version of the Xtracycle. The frame is too tight to use a decent size tire with fenders. It's pretty tight even with no fenders. You also need to make sure that whatever frame you choose has a chainstay bridge. An old Hardrock would be OK, but a newer one would work too. Pricepoint has a Redline frame called the Skookum that looks like it would be a good choice. My Xtracycle is based on a Trek Navigator which doesn't have a chainstay bridge and doesn't work very well. I am looking for another frame also.

  21. #21
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iorek
    An Xrtacycle is an amazing bike. It is a life changing device. You even get cocky about what you can carry on your bike. But, the bike will never be a speed demon and will definitely handle differently than even your longset touring bike. Welcome to the world of utility biking
    Heheheh. That's ok, I have a track bike, and some nice roadies - I have my speed demon bikes. I want to be able to carry loads, and people, and I'm quite prepared for it to be unlike anything I have right now. I kinda want it to be. The "flex" question would have me reaching for a Big Dummy, if I could afford it, but I can't. It'll certainly be an old Hard Rock for me, and what people have said here just confirms my feelings. I want something solid, that can pull the loads, and I don't care if it aint nimble.

    To give you a comparison, I own a bus, the bus below. I drove it to India and back. It's not as nimble as the Saab I had as a company car for a couple of years, but it sure as hell has it beat in terms of interior space, and beds! That's what I want from the X - something quite, quite different from my EG Bates trackie, or my Gazelle roadie.




  22. #22
    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    Is that $100 in US currency or in pounds? Either way it seems weird to spend less on the bike than on the Xtracycle.

    My 2 cents - the best bike for an Xtracycle is what are called "urban" bikes in the USA. They are pretty much rigid fork mountain bikes with slick tires. But all the ones I know of cost about $600 US. A couple of examples would be the Scott SUB20 or Novara Buzz (REI in the USA only), and the Cannondale Bad Boy.

  23. #23
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    If you're lucky you can find a 10-20 year old, name brand, rigid mountain bike in like-new condition for about $100 in the USA. Might or might not find similar deals on the used market in the U.K. Extremely similar to an "urban" bike and far cheaper. Those bikes are neither light nor particularly heavy, but they tend to have very durable wheels and frames- particularly if you're willing to tension and true the wheels by hand. But it's a lot harder if you're looking for a bike for someone who's 6'3" than if you're looking for a bike for someone in the 5'6" to 5'10" range
    Some awesome folks who are working to give Haitians the ability to manage their safety and their lives:
    Haiti Partners

  24. #24
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thor29
    Is that $100 in US currency or in pounds? Either way it seems weird to spend less on the bike than on the Xtracycle.

    My 2 cents - the best bike for an Xtracycle is what are called "urban" bikes in the USA. They are pretty much rigid fork mountain bikes with slick tires. But all the ones I know of cost about $600 US. A couple of examples would be the Scott SUB20 or Novara Buzz (REI in the USA only), and the Cannondale Bad Boy.
    That's $100 US. It seems wierd? The Xtracycle costs a fortune! It's difficult enough to scrape together £350 for the FreeRadical, without paying a fortune for the bike, too. I'm talking here about getting a high quality older bike, used, and well below market price. That's what I've done with every other bike I own. The Raleigh tourer above cost me £22, whereas I'd guess a new tourer of equivalent quality would've been £600+. The Raleigh doesn't have brifters, but it's simple, and I can maintain it myself - at that price differential, it would be crazy to buy new. Same applies here - I buy an old hardrock, and put slicks on it, I've spent $100-150, and got the sort of bike that you're talking about paying $600 for.

  25. #25
    Senior Member pmseattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammyboy
    That's $100 US. It seems wierd? The Xtracycle costs a fortune! It's difficult enough to scrape together £350 for the FreeRadical, without paying a fortune for the bike, too. I'm talking here about getting a high quality older bike, used, and well below market price. That's what I've done with every other bike I own. The Raleigh tourer above cost me £22, whereas I'd guess a new tourer of equivalent quality would've been £600+. The Raleigh doesn't have brifters, but it's simple, and I can maintain it myself - at that price differential, it would be crazy to buy new. Same applies here - I buy an old hardrock, and put slicks on it, I've spent $100-150, and got the sort of bike that you're talking about paying $600 for.

    350 quid for the FreeRadical ?! Thats twice as much as here, given the exchange rate. Ouch.

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