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  1. #1
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Madsen Bucket Revue

    Hot cha. Something that can hold both the boys, just in time-- they were outgrowing the trailer, and the 5 year old needs to be taken to day camp this summer, and the topeak kiddie seat is out of the question.



    Today was the big first shakedown cruise beyond our own block. The course and cargo: 16 miles r/t, with one kid in the bucket on the way, and two on the way back.



    Some beachside riding, and a 35mph tertiary thoroughfare-- a third option between the towns after I-95 and US-1.



    One good sized hill, once the home of a cold war nike missile radar site.

    I am well used to long commutes, often carrying one of the kids. I'm not a sidewalk rider, and bought the Madsen over an Xtracycle upgrade chiefly because I wanted the buckled security of the bucket rather than trusting my absent minded nose-in-a-book five year old to hang onto a stoker bar for 16 miles.

    The new Madsen did at least as well in traffic as my former kid carrying setup, a Dahon 26" folder, taken off the train and to daycare. And the Madsen carries both of the guys! I would not, however, load the Madsen up to its four tot capacity and run it in any sort of real traffic. Two kids is a manageable amount of weight and wiggling for an experienced rider. Four kids might happen down on the boardwalk at the beach, but not on New Haven Avenue!


    So I should talk about the bike, too.

    First, it is certainly a heavy bicycle, all Hi-ten steel and built to last. It is balanced well and easy to pedal, push, and maneuver, but trying to lift the back end around by the seat is tough-- I can't get the back end off the ground more than an inch or so to swing it round

    The tube that runs from the bottom of the seat tube to the rear wheel is a serious oval beam-o-steel. Nothing felt flexy or squirrely. The hills were negotiable. I didn't really even need the lowest gears until the last hill up to my home, after a full hour on the bike. Mostly I found myself in 4th-8th gears.

    First gear made noise-- my first thought was "spokes!" but I think that it is a matter of the chain hitting the chain guard when on the largest cog. I wonder if I can get the thing up onto my workstand to check it out...

    The buckle straps are something like three inches wide, and supple enough to be comfortable cinched around the kiddoes. They're arranged for 2+2 seating, and I quickly found it convenient to use all four buckles, two per kid. Note that the heavier kid or a solo rider is best placed rear-facing for better handling.


    Construction is solid and inexpensive, but nowhere do I see cheap corners cut as with my also Chinese made Schwinn Tango Tandem. That tandem has cheapo seatposts and clamps that eat into the steel of the seatposts, among other issues. The Madsen, on the other hand, has clearly inexpensive components and fittings. This amounts to an overall impression of economy on close inspection, but nowhere are there any glaring disappointments.

    One of my concerns with construction was that the chain runs over a piece of steel covered in velcro rather than a tension wheel doodad. I'm sure that this velcro will wear over time. This seems to be a simple design fix for the problem of the long chainline. I have nothing against a simple cheap design fix-- there have to be some reasons that this bike is as affordable as it is. I raised the money for it by trading in one of my folders and selling off some stuff on Craigslist.

    The only thing I do not like about the bike is how low to the ground the derailler and chain are. The derailler cage is low enough to drag in the grass of my benignly neglected front lawn.



    Negotiating curbs with that could prove problematic. I don't know if a shorter cage derailleur might be fitted and still be able to take on the substantial gearing range of the SRAM 8 speed setup. I will ask my LBS about this possibility. (I was lucky enough to be able to purchase the bike from my shop.) I don't think that any internal hubs could withstand the loading involved with the Madsen.

    The SRAM X-5 8 speed trigger setup worked fine, even fully loaded and shifting actively to deal with terrain, traffic signals, and my cautious-but-assertive-VC-tinged riding style. I think that the access to the upshifter under the larger downshift lever isn't the best, but I got used to it quickly. You kind of have to reach under the other shifter in a bit of a funky way. My hands are very long fingered (only ever met one soul with larger hands then mine) so YMMV for better or worse.

    Tires/Saddle/Grips : All not up to the needs of someone who's going to be putting 20 loaded miles/day on the bike. All fine if you are going to ride it around the neighborhood or down to get ice cream.

    The ride was a pleasure and a challenge, just what I'm looking for in a bicycle. The challenges were only due to hills. The pleasure covered everything else. Most importantly, perhaps, the bike handled well and tracked well.

    Braking has been panned in other reviews that I've seen, and I can see why. But when I would squeeze the levers harder, I found more braking power there. As a double bass player, I have strong hands though-- a slighter rider might not have the same umph to put into the brakes. Nonetheless, the braking power is there to be had.

    Fit: I'm 6'4" with extra long arms, and with the adjustable stem totally forward and flat and the seat post raised and the saddle back, I was good to go. The BB is high on the bike, so the fully extended seatpost left me stretching to get a toe down at the lights-- even compared to my 66cm Panasonic. It's particularly noticeable with a wiggling and leaning load in the back. I'm not sure how this would affect shorter riders, but there is always the simple solution of coming down off the saddle at stoplights. But I have too much of a commuter-bred impulse to be fast off the line at the lights, so it's tippy toe for me.

    I'll probably switch to a flat bar to get a little more extension and a more comfortable angle for my grip. I'm definitely not comfortable sitting up "comfort" bike/hybrid-style.

    I think that my requirements for the bike's performance may be above those of the average buyer due to the distances over which I plan to regularly use the bike. Or maybe I'm a lot less hard core than I think, who knows. But even with those requirements, I'm very happy with the bike. I threw an inexpensive computer on and it looks like I averaged 12.9 miles per hour on the Madsen today, which is fast enough to be practical for my lifestyle. It took on the long loaded in-traffic ride just great, and has me looking forward to the next.

    My suggestions to Madsen would include a lower BB and a derailleur with a shorter cage.

    Choosing a utility bike solution takes a lot of thought, especially when kids are a part of the equation. The Madsen is certainly going to work for us, in our budget and covering our needs.

    Next step: convincing my wife to replace a few drives with it!
    Last edited by Standalone; 07-20-10 at 08:30 PM. Reason: bb comment
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  2. #2
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    check out the 4 pairs of braze ons on the top and down tubes. future front rack add on possibilities? bmx racing number mounts? sidewinder missile attachment points?
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  3. #3
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    that chain looks awfully slack.

  4. #4
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    It looks fabulous on you guys! Glad it's a good ride, and thanks for such a detailed review.

  5. #5
    The wizard of ...
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    Because of the small rear wheel, an internal gear hub should actually be a pretty reasonable option. A Nexus or similar would give you a sensible set of gears without having to put unreasonably small chainrings on it. You wouldn't be putting ridiculous torque loads on the hub (the cause of most geared hub failures). You would need a chain tensioner.

  6. #6
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coldbike View Post
    You wouldn't be putting ridiculous torque loads on the hub (the cause of most geared hub failures).
    I'm not so sure about that. I put a lot of watts down. With the current hipness of IGH builds, I think you'd see a lot more cargo bikes with them. But they don't seem to be out there.

    This bike is 90-100 pounds easy if not more. I'm 176-185 depending on whether I'm training for a century. My kids are both tall for their age and pretty heavy, so add another 100 lbs. or so.

    As a commuter, off the line is where my speed is. Riding in traffic will do that to ya! I'm catching cars light to light on the thing. On yesterdays ride a cop aggressively passed me and my two boys from the left turn lane in the middle of a busy and accident prone intersection . I caught him at the next light a half mile down the road to give him a dirty look.

    400+/- pounds of bike and passenger moving out at 13 mph averages probably counts as ridiculous torque.
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  7. #7
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    that chain looks awfully slack.
    I kind of agree. I should take a photo of the drive side of the rear wheel in first gear so that you can see what the setup is. I think I'd be happier with converting the whole setup to a double up front with a cassette that had a narrower range to allow for a shorter caged derailleur.

    In fact, I should post photos of a lot of the details for reference.

    Quote Originally Posted by bikeymama View Post
    It looks fabulous on you guys! Glad it's a good ride, and thanks for such a detailed review.
    Thanks, bikeymama. I think the black looks much "cooler," and they had one of each color ready to build up at the shop. But I decided that the cream would indeed be "cooler" for my boys after sitting in the sun! That and possibly more visibility. So I got the "girly" color!
    Last edited by Standalone; 07-22-10 at 06:20 AM.
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  8. #8
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    I ride an Bike Friday NWT a lot and it of course has 20" wheels using an 8 speed cassette with 34 teeth as low gear, the distance from the long cage derailleur to the ground scared me a lot but after several thousand miles it has never caused a problem, I think it could if used off road but I don't use it that way. Before I spent money changing the rear gearing I would wait until it caused a problem. The 20 wheel with 36 spokes is incredibly strong and seems like a great idea on the rear of a cargo bike.
    Good luck with your new bike it looks like a very useful tool.

    Allen
    Last edited by Baboo; 07-22-10 at 06:53 AM.

  9. #9
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baboo View Post
    I ride an Bike Friday NWT a lot and it of course has 20" wheels using an 8 speed cassette with 34 teeth as low gear, the distance from the long cage derailleur to the ground scared me a lot but after several thousand miles it has never caused a problem, I think it could if used off road but I don't use it that way. Before I spent money changing the rear gearing I would wait until it caused a problem. The 20 wheel with 36 spokes is incredibly strong and seems like a great idea on the rear of a cargo bike.
    Good luck with your new bike it looks like a very useful tool.

    Allen
    Great to hear. I'm definitely not going to go putting money into changing things around unless it becomes a real rather than hypothetical problem.

    There's a youtube video out there of someone riding stairs and curbs and so on on his Madsen.

    I'm a folder fan myself. I was wondering if the ideal cargo bike might actually be an overbuilt folder or break-down bicycle. Cargo bikes are ideal for cities, yet hard to store in cities. I've lived in New York City, and would not have had room for this bike in my apartment. Well, I had 3 pianos in there, so I guess it's all a matter of priority!

    I had considered trying an Xtracycle conversion on my Espresso and seeing if I could still get it on the train in the morning...
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  10. #10
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review. I have my eyes wide open for a Madsen and have for over a year but the new Trek Utility has me thinking too. I did not know the Madsen was such a heavy bike, heavier than a Yuba and almost as heavy as I. One of my main concerns about the bucket is being able to bring it through the front door. Have you tried to do it and if so, did it fit?
    Two Wheels One Love

  11. #11
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Travelmama, the Madsen fits fine through a door. check out the narrow lane splitting it's doing in the youtube video I found.

    Note that I was totally guessing at the weight-- and wrongly at that. I just went out and weighed it when I saw your post and realized that folks might be using my review to make a purchase decision, and found it to weigh around 70 pounds, maybe 68. The old bathroom scale out there in my garage/bike workshop is not the most accurate... but close enough.

    That's actually not so bad, considering it already has all attachments, the bucket, seats, and its substantial and very easy to use double kickstand. Probably among the best things about the bike--- It was easy enough to use that I neglected even to think about it by the time I wrote the review. I think a lot of the utes out there are sold w/o the necessary double kickstand, and the quoted weights are likely not to include it.

    Anyway, the bike's balance and maneuverability really compensate for the weight. I don't really even notice it until fairly serious hills. Around the block or when walking it around, it does not feel all that heavy.

    I would like to see a list out there that directly compares weights, but utility bikes aren't really about weight so much as finding the combination of features that one needs. For taking more than one kid out in real traffic, I haven't seen a better option around the ~$1k price point. More than that gets into luxury land since the kids will be outgrown it in at most like 6 years from the time they might first ride in it at what, age 2?

    The Trek looks very nice, but I don't think I could have come close to affording it. Aluminum would make the whole deal a lot lighter, and the spec'd componentry is much nicer than the generally no-name stuff on the Madsen. That's got to come to $1500-$2000, though. Madsen sells scratch + dent Buckets for under a grand. Each fits a niche. The Trek/GF seems to be a little more about green chic stylishness than practicality. I like that the Madsen is a relatively unique design-- the 20" rear wheel is ideal for a longtail, just as a 20" front works for a bakfiets.

    My boys had books open in the back and little dolphin and shark toys, securely belted in. That's what sold me on it in the end.
    Last edited by Standalone; 07-22-10 at 07:09 PM.
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  12. #12
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    So, a week or so in, how's the bike treating you?

  13. #13
    Super Moderator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Standalone View Post
    I'm not so sure about that. I put a lot of watts down. With the current hipness of IGH builds, I think you'd see a lot more cargo bikes with them. But they don't seem to be out there.

    This bike is 90-100 pounds easy if not more. I'm 176-185 depending on whether I'm training for a century. My kids are both tall for their age and pretty heavy, so add another 100 lbs. or so.

    As a commuter, off the line is where my speed is. Riding in traffic will do that to ya! I'm catching cars light to light on the thing. On yesterdays ride a cop aggressively passed me and my two boys from the left turn lane in the middle of a busy and accident prone intersection . I caught him at the next light a half mile down the road to give him a dirty look.

    400+/- pounds of bike and passenger moving out at 13 mph averages probably counts as ridiculous torque.
    Use a NuVinci hub. They'll handle the torque no problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen
    I believe that in this case "solid meh" means "so 'meh' that it could never be anything more than 'meh', and yet also no less than 'meh' -- in a word, exactly 'meh'"

  14. #14
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    Wow, excellent writeup. Great explanation of the factors you based your judgements on. A lot of folks around here will damn a bike without even understanding why it doesn't suit their needs. Anyway, a refreshingly thoughtful thread...with pics! Very cool! Thanks, and enjoy the ride!
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  15. #15
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Thanks, Chaadster.
    Quote Originally Posted by bikeymama View Post
    So, a week or so in, how's the bike treating you?
    We are still loving it! Sure, I'm probably in the honeymoon period still, but I've put a lot of miles on it (for a ute, at least) I should note again that it's about 70-75 pounds rather than my random guess of 90.

    We've put about 60 miles on it so far, and are riding it 1-2 times/day, so it really is functioning well as a car replacement. We went out to cocktail hour at a friend's house last night and had a blast. A quick ride, a hop in their pool, eats, and

    As I noticed before, there are a few places where cost saving is pretty apparent. The chain guard is a bit chintzy. I might find another at some point. At present it's rubbing the chain in first gear. I think some of this is due to a bend from shop wear, but it's pretty flimsy.

    I'm not into the handlebars. Swept back bars are generally uncomfortable. But I think that flat bars might set it up to be too long of a reach for my wife. We'll see.

    Speaking of her, she's ridden it almost as much as I have. I'm thrilled. She loves to do short rides on her Vintage Schwinn, but is sometimes reluctant to look at a bike as a practical utility type vehicle. But she's been on it, taking the kids to camp and getting a lot of use out of it right off the bat.

    Rambunctious kids in the back still freak her out a bit. For me, it's natural to step into the pedal and goose the speed a bit when I feel them being squirelly, but I think she tends to hit the brakes, which makes their leaning worse. I have not driven an xtracycle, especially not with two kids on the back, but I'm pretty certain that the lower center of gravity and seatbelt arrangement make the Madsen both more stable and safer than an Xtra setup.

    Maybe the best of all is the reaction we get on it. We just rode it all over at the local carnival/festival down at the boardwalk and we were a big hit! People take photos, ask whether I made it myself or bought it like that. Folks in classic cars even check it out at stoplights! I consider myself a progressive cycling advocate, and I think the visibility and remarkable design of the rig makes an impact on my community via the friendly impression that it makes. People drive more nicely around it,(except that one cop I mentioned above!) and it just generally gets high smiles-per-mile!

    We definitely still recommend it!

    Here's a quick video of us...
    Last edited by Standalone; 07-31-10 at 06:52 PM.
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

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    Ha! That is a great video! I am glad you are liking it. And your wife finds it easy to carry the kids' weight for a decent distance? I am finding it fine now with my Xtracycle, but it has taken about two weeks to build up to that. The first few days I thought, oh no! But I'm surprised how quickly it starts to feel easy.

    The Xtracycle is fine for weight distribution unless the big kid leans way out suddenly (as she did the other night when she unexpectedly saw *gasp* rides at a fair!!!). Ha! It doesnt tip us over or anything, but I also don't like the feeling and have told her to try to hold still especially on fast downhills or curvy bits, which she is fine with doing.

    I also don't relate to disliking swept back handlebars. I am all about the upright riding position.

    But so glad you are still enjoying it. It looks like a fabulous bike! Interesting to know about the few chintzy parts, but chainguard etc. are easy enough to replace and it's nice to be able to get a family bike that is not 3000 dollars.

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    thanks for the review, enjoyed it very much. the bucket is such a cool and quirky design. wish we had one. my daughter will happily ride in a milk crate stuck in the freeloaders on my BD (not how she normally rides, but it has happened a couple times). i imagine she and a friend would love to roll in the big bucket. could also fit the dog in there :-)

  18. #18
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeymama View Post
    Ha! That is a great video! I am glad you are liking it. And your wife finds it easy to carry the kids' weight for a decent distance? I am finding it fine now with my Xtracycle, but it has taken about two weeks to build up to that. The first few days I thought, oh no! But I'm surprised how quickly it starts to feel easy.

    The Xtracycle is fine for weight distribution unless the big kid leans way out suddenly (as she did the other night when she unexpectedly saw *gasp* rides at a fair!!!). Ha! It doesnt tip us over or anything, but I also don't like the feeling and have told her to try to hold still especially on fast downhills or curvy bits, which she is fine with doing.

    I also don't relate to disliking swept back handlebars. I am all about the upright riding position.

    But so glad you are still enjoying it. It looks like a fabulous bike! Interesting to know about the few chintzy parts, but chainguard etc. are easy enough to replace and it's nice to be able to get a family bike that is not 3000 dollars.
    My wife's out in it right now, as a matter of fact. She was going to take our 3 year old along with her to pick up our son at camp, but it's 85 and humid, so I told her that she ought to go ahead and take it easy and leave the little guy at home. This morning, however, she took both and then did an extended ride up and down our boardwalk with the 3 year old after dropping off the big guy.

    She's worked up to not needing to walk up the "big hill" on the way to our house with the 3 year old, but still thinks that she couldn't do that with both. A few more weeks, though, and I think she'll be able to do both.

    Bike design and choice is all about trade offs, I think, and this one gives great security and high cuteness/fun factor, while trading away a bit in the weight department. I'm cool with that.

    Good to know that the xtra is good to go, even with leaning kids up to a point. Keep at it, and your legs and lungs will take you guys up any hill out there!
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  19. #19
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xargaun View Post
    thanks for the review, enjoyed it very much. the bucket is such a cool and quirky design. wish we had one. my daughter will happily ride in a milk crate stuck in the freeloaders on my BD (not how she normally rides, but it has happened a couple times). i imagine she and a friend would love to roll in the big bucket. could also fit the dog in there :-)
    If your family expands in the near future, I highly recommend the Madsen. If we only had one, I'd have opted either for a BD or and Xtra conversion. As for our dog, it's a 69 pound Lab puppy we adopted from a local shelter. Way too wild to expect to sit in that bucket! People tell me that they calm down though. Only problem is some say it takes 7 years!!!!


    he's sure bigger now!
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  20. #20
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    I asked my wife for her review, and here's what she said, verbatim: "I like it, it was difficult for me to get used to the balance of it, but I'm getting used to it. It worries me when the boys lean and play around too much in the back."
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

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    we have three dogs. a 6 pound chihuahuamutt, 14 pound dachshund, and an 80 pound Catahoula Leopard Dog/Pit Bull.

    i stick milk crates in the freeloaders on my big dummy and put the little ones in them. used to put them both in one crate but the wiener dog is pretty young and crazy, and would jump all over the smaller dog and make her mad.

    i tie the big dog's leash to the P rack on one side and make him trot alongside.

    can't go too fast with him running alongside though so its really only a solution for taking them to the dog park.

    i have been thinking about getting a nice sized rubbermaid tub or something to strap onto the side for him to sit in so I can go faster.

    oh the problems the bucket just doesn't have :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Standalone View Post
    If your family expands in the near future, I highly recommend the Madsen. If we only had one, I'd have opted either for a BD or and Xtra conversion. As for our dog, it's a 69 pound Lab puppy we adopted from a local shelter. Way too wild to expect to sit in that bucket! People tell me that they calm down though. Only problem is some say it takes 7 years!!!!


    he's sure bigger now!
    Sounds about right. And watch the tail around toddlers and coffee tables. It's like a baton.

  23. #23
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    almost 100 miles on the odometer so far! Had to walk it up one hill---- one of the highest in town, the one with the water towers on it. Both boys were in it. Otherwise we've gotten around just fine!
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

  24. #24
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    I saw a bucket Madsen here in Reno this weekend. He was on a Xtracycle conversion longtail and she was on the Madsen Bucket. I talked with them a bit and he indicated that he had upgraded the running gear on the Madsen compared to as delivered. He described the as delivered running gear as pretty minimalist level components.

    The Madsen makes my Big Dummy look short and compact in comparison!
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  25. #25
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    yes on both counts. definitely a big old bike, and shifting is basic trigger shifting stuff. Probably SRAM's low end. I don't think it makes much difference on a 75 lb bike-- the functionality is the same.
    The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley

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