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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 08-14-12, 10:20 PM   #1
kiltedcelt
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Building an Xtracycle FreeRadical - looking for suggestions/advice

In about three months or so I'll be embarking on construction of my own Xtracycle FreeRadical. The donor bike is my old '92 Specialized Stumpjumper Pro mountain bike. The frame and wheels are still sound and though it is an old 7 speed drivetrain, it's good old Suntour stuff with thumb shifters and crankset and front derailleur. The rear derailleur is an old Shimano XT long cage unit circa '94/'95 if I remember correctly. Of course the stem and bar will need replacing and I'll swap out the old Bontrager off road saddle for something more realistic (ie. comfortable). I've already decided that I'll be probably just buying the FreeRadical base frame along with the two heavy duty frames so that I can use panniers with Rixen & Kaul fittings if I want to. I'll probably make my own saddle bags similar to the ones Xtracycle sells as well, using my own sewing machine and heavy nylon I get from the fabric store. I'll also be making a wood deck for it and wood running boards as well. Anyway, the questions/appeal for suggestions/input:
1. Saddle - I use a Brooks B17 on my daily tourer/commuter bike and I love it. Will the same saddle be a good choice for a longtail, or is one of the different models of Brooks a better choice?
2. Handlebar - Since my fork is threaded and 1", I'll be using a quill threadless adapter along with an adjustable stem. Originally I wanted to run a drop bar, but I've not seen a single longtail with a drop bar. I run a Ritchey Biomax on my daily commuter and I love it. It's decently wide and the drops are fairly shallow. It's a pretty good fit for a fairly upright riding position on what is essentially a touring frame bike. So, no drop bars I guess, but I'm thinking how about a butterfly bar? I'm pretty sure I may have seen a longtail bike with butterfly bars. That'd give some extra hand positions beyond a basic flat bar or the swept back type bars and I imagine would still allow for good low speed control. Does this seem workable, or is some other type of bar a much better choice?
3. Gearing - I don't know the exact gearing, I'd have to dig out the stuff from the parts box and count teeth, but basically I'll be using a three ring front (full size mtb crankset), along with a 7 speed rear (I think it's an LX cogset circa '96). Is general mtb gearing pretty good for one of these longtail bikes?
4. Finally, I'll be using the bike to begin with, mostly for massive grocery runs but at some point it'll be pressed into service carrying lumber, my longbows and archery targets, large djembe drums, etc. The wife will probably even enlist me to cart her large loads of boxes to the FedEx Kinkos. So, it'll be carrying a variety of loads. Any suggestions on things I may want to consider when building my set up? Are their things about your own Xtracycle FreeRadical that you wish the folks at Xtracycle had done differently, particularly in regards to things like bags, running boards, etc.?
Anyway, any general impressions, suggestions, advice would be greatly appreciated - thanks.
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Old 08-15-12, 06:59 PM   #2
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Nice project. I considered converting my '84 MTB race frame to an Xtracycle. Is there any reason you aren't upgrading everything on the donor ride? As far as gearing a 46-36-26 9 speed would be the largest gear inches I would personally use and even then I'd look at putting a 24 on it. You will need to upgrade the brakes. The X comes with disc mounts does it not? You will want to upgrade to get disc's on at least the front if you are looking at long term heavy cargo use. (well, that's my line of thinking when I do my mod at any rate). Look forward to the build as it progresses!
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Old 08-16-12, 06:57 PM   #3
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Well the donor bike is old enough to be pre-disc so without replacing the front fork there's no running a disc brake there. It'll be easy enough to V-brakes as Xtracycle recommends. I'm not considering upgrading the drivetrain mainly because even though it's "old" stuff, it's all solid and not worn out, especially the Suntour thumbies. Nobody makes shifters that bomb-proof anymore. The other reason is basically I'm trying to do this on the cheap, so it's a matter of working with what I have and trying not to spend a lot of money on extra parts and upgrades. I'm going to be manufacturing a lot of the add-on stuff to attach to the base FreeRadical frame as well, in order to save money there too.
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Old 08-18-12, 04:37 AM   #4
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Telling somebody you need discs on a cargobike is weird. Discbrakes is the latest hype and soon gone. Prepair yourself for the next thing you MUST have.

I have a friend who went over the bars twice and hurt her self becouse she was not prepaired for how strong the v brakes are. Should I tell her to get discs too?
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Old 08-18-12, 02:46 PM   #5
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Telling somebody you need discs on a cargobike is weird. Discbrakes is the latest hype and soon gone. Prepair yourself for the next thing you MUST have.

I have a friend who went over the bars twice and hurt her self becouse she was not prepaired for how strong the v brakes are. Should I tell her to get discs too?
Really, disc's are a fad and don't belong on utility rides?? Why are they standard on many factory utility rides?? Why don't you look at the high end road and cyclo cross bikes those are disc's on there and they have electronic shifting as well - another fad I'm sure. The OP spoke of hauling heavy loads, why use pads when you can use disc's that are more efficient at stopping a load??
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Old 08-18-12, 07:42 PM   #6
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Well, for one thing building this bike up with discs will cost a LOT more money since I'd essentially need a completely new set of rims. Also, there have been numerous articles out on the web regarding cantilever vs. V-brakes vs. disc brakes, and while disc brakes get a lot of "pros" for stopping power, they have issues with there being so many types that you're likely to run into difficulty getting replacement parts at shops because they may not have the particular brand of disc brakes you are using. Anyway, you can always find replacement pads for pretty much any type of cantilever or V-brake. Anyway, I'm using my old mountain bike rims, so that means rim brakes.
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Old 08-19-12, 02:18 PM   #7
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Really, disc's are a fad and don't belong on utility rides?? Why are they standard on many factory utility rides?? Why don't you look at the high end road and cyclo cross bikes those are disc's on there and they have electronic shifting as well - another fad I'm sure. The OP spoke of hauling heavy loads, why use pads when you can use disc's that are more efficient at stopping a load??
Yes, absolutely fads. Just a few yrs ago those bikes had V brakes, and before that Canti brakes and before that..

Just wait and see. Next hype is automatic gears that all the (small) big boys just neeed and next.. You can easily spend as much on a bike as you do on a used car.

OP talked about hauling stuff but not about high speed and steep hills.

Drum brakes is a good solution if the present brakes is not enough, especially if you can build the wheel yourself. Drum and canti brakes on the same wheel has also been done.
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Old 08-20-12, 09:59 AM   #8
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Sounds like a great project. The XtraCycle components are so versatile that it's hard to go wrong. Here's an example of a similar project I did a few years ago with a standard mountain bike frame. Great bike for carrying all sorts of loads. My advice would be to just build it up and tinker. I am in agreement with some of the previous posters that you don't need disk brakes. Well set-up v-brakes have been fine for me for very heavy loads on steep hills. There are so many examples of different ways to set up an XtraCycle that it mostly seems to boil down to personal preference. Have fun!










Last edited by Doconabike; 08-20-12 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 08-20-12, 08:58 PM   #9
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Doconabike - nice "Xtrahopper" you have there. I'm in agreement about V-brakes. Get them dialed in correctly with the right pads and you can flip yourself over the bars if you're not careful. That's probably a lot harder to do on a longtail cargo bike though. I'll be sure to post a thread on the build up of the bike once I get started on it.
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Old 08-21-12, 11:58 AM   #10
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Any bike with a suspension fork , a replacement fork, with or without suspension,
can be substituted for one with disc brake tabs.

Just older 1" steerer threaded headset types have been dropped .. from new bike making.
for a while some brands of suspension forks came so
you could change the steerer tube..
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Old 08-21-12, 06:32 PM   #11
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Not that I'm going disc anyway, but the donor bike for this build is in fact a '94 Specialized Stumpjumper Pro, which has a 1" steerer.
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Old 08-28-12, 05:33 PM   #12
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1. I see no reason why a Brooks saddle wouldn't work well on an Xtracycle, especially if it is broke in and comfortable. There is a very good chance that you will spend a lot of time on it.

2. I love my butterfly/trekking bars on my Xtracycle.

3. I didn't have any issues with the stock gearing on my Kona Fire Mountain (donor for my X). I upgraded to an 11-34 cassette on the back.

4. I wouldn't willingly go back to rim brakes. I love my disc brakes.
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Old 09-02-12, 12:52 AM   #13
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My Xtracycle on a Bridgestone MB5.



V brakes work fine, no need at all for discs. Unless you place to race your Xtracycle offroad in mud and rain or something.

Mountain bike gearing works fine. The lower the better. When you are carrying 50 lb of groceries up a hill, if you'd normally use 36:26, now you'll be in 24:28 or similar.

Note the B17 - it is fine.

Fenders are a must, I think. For almost any utility bike.

Get a center stand. A heavily loaded bike wants to fall off its kickstand. That is my next purchase.
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Old 09-02-12, 08:23 PM   #14
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My Xtracycle on a Bridgestone MB5.



V brakes work fine, no need at all for discs. Unless you place to race your Xtracycle offroad in mud and rain or something.

Mountain bike gearing works fine. The lower the better. When you are carrying 50 lb of groceries up a hill, if you'd normally use 36:26, now you'll be in 24:28 or similar.

Note the B17 - it is fine.

Fenders are a must, I think. For almost any utility bike.

Get a center stand. A heavily loaded bike wants to fall off its kickstand. That is my next purchase.
Nice MB5. Those Bridgestone mountain bikes were the shnizzle back in the day. Close to contemporary with my Stumpjumper frame I imagine, or pretty close at least. I have full SKS Alley Cat (Bluemels) on my 700c tourer and love them. I can't imagine NOT having fenders on a bike now that I've had 'em on my everyday commuter. I'm looking at some 26" compatible fenders, also from SKS for this Xtracycle build. I'll definitely be installing some sort of center kick stand as well. Anyway, nice looking Xtracycle, and thanks for the advice. I can't wait to get started on my own build.
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Old 10-05-12, 12:44 PM   #15
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Hey Kilted, I don't know how far you've gotten but I just posted a lengthy spiel about building an Xtracycle: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...g-an-Xtracycle

Maybe it will be of some help - Colin
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Old 10-05-12, 03:41 PM   #16
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Thanks for the link Colin. I haven't started on my build yet. Due to my budgetary constraints I have to wait for a 10 year bonus check at work to arrive in November, so I can finance the purchase of the parts I'll be acquiring. So far I'm looking at buying the base unit FreeRadical along with two of their more fancy rails, ie. the ones with the extra bit for holding pannier bags with click-on hardware. I'm going to build my own top deck and running boards since I can make those way cheaper than buying what Xtracycle sells. I'm also going to make my own roll-top waterproof pannier bags. Other modifications I'll need to make to the donor bike is the purchase of special Tektro V-brakes designed specifically with longer arms to clear fenders, the fenders themselves, and a new trekking bar and the necessary clamp-on adjustable angle threadless stem and quill-to-threadless adapter. Oh yeah, and I'll need to get brake levers that are V-compatible as well. I really would love to have their full trucker kit of accessories but simply can't afford that much. However, I'm reasonably sure with my fabrication skills I should be able to build my own version for a fraction of the cost. I will of course post a build when I begin my project.
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Old 10-05-12, 10:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jyl View Post
My Xtracycle on a Bridgestone MB5.



V brakes work fine, no need at all for discs. Unless you place to race your Xtracycle offroad in mud and rain or something.

Mountain bike gearing works fine. The lower the better. When you are carrying 50 lb of groceries up a hill, if you'd normally use 36:26, now you'll be in 24:28 or similar.

Note the B17 - it is fine.

Fenders are a must, I think. For almost any utility bike.

Get a center stand. A heavily loaded bike wants to fall off its kickstand. That is my next purchase.
Gah- I still have my MB-5 (can't believe it's 20 years old) and have been dreaming of converting it to an Xtracycle. You my friend, have stoked the fires!
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Old 10-10-12, 05:50 AM   #18
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Congradulations on the upcoming project,my friend! You're in for a whole new world of fun I'm looking forward to the build tread (how cool is it to find a soon-to-be buildthread on an Xtra after having been off the board for a few months,LOL,does it GET any better? ).

I wanted the Trucker kit too,and I had the same issues...lack of budget. I wound up buying the ECO kit with the Hoodie to better fit my budget (and since my parts stash had long been donated off to friends in need,with no budget I wound up raiding parts off my last complete mtn bike to finish the build),Ialso bought a Flightdeck as it fits (a bit too snugly,IMHO) underneath the Hoodie,and the eventual planned purchase of the Freeradical bags (I think they're called?). Haven't regretted the build or the choice of the ECO kit one bit...I've hauled a week's worth of groceries (several times),as many as 8 12 packs of Mtn Dew/Coke (shoulda took the hill-less route home that day,LMBO! ) for a birthday party for a neighbor,and a few days worth of camping gear down a couple of railtrails wth my son riding alongside (he's 10) on a few occasions. I LOVE it,and the Xtracycle is the one thing hat makes me not-quite-happy livign where we moved to a couple months ago,kinda out in the sticks so it's lost it's ability to be used for utility so much and has been religated to rail-trail tourer for now. I...must...move...back...into...a...town....next-move




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