02 May 2009
We've had our Madsen "bucket bike" for 10 days. We've put 20-30 miles on it, usually in less than three-mile increments and always while hauling 20-100 pounds of children. We have ridden it every day since it arrived. Here are some initial thoughts:
-The bucket works great for hauling small children - lots of them! Unlike in the trailer, they sit up a bit higher and can see everything. They want to ride in it and have a blast, even big kids.
-The kickstand works well. Apparently the height is adjustable, but I haven't needed to adjust it. The kids know that rocking or bumping the bike too hard could knock it over, but it would take quite an intentional shove to do it.
-The frame is rock solid. Even while hauling my 6'3", 185 pound buddy around the block for our first adult-in-the-bucket test ride, I didn't notice the frame wiggle at all. This is substantially different than the amount of lateral wiggle that I feel with my Xtracycle when it's laden with even 80 pounds of groceries. I feel that the 600 pound limit on the bike is realistic for the frame, but wonder how some of the other components would hold-up under such a strain.
-The welds are ugly, but the paint is sweet. And few bikes come with paint-matched fenders that look this sharp. Get the blue one, you know you want to.
-The stock saddle and handlebars work fine, but I'm replacing both with a VO Model 8 and a VO Tourist Bar. This bike is not going to be ridden fast and I like sitting upright at slower speeds. The adjustable stem is handy since the frame is one-size-fits-most.
-The tires are 1.75" wide, which seems narrow compaired to the 2.3" Schwalbe Big Apple tires on my Xtracycle. Fender clearance is the limiting factor, but I'm thinking I'll switch to Schwalbe Marathon tires front and rear, or maybe a 2.0" Big Apple in the front. I would like more air volume and do not want to change many flats with a loaded bucket.
-The Promax mechanical disk brake in the front feels much weaker than the Avid BB7 that I use on my Xtracycle, although it could be that the load on the Promax brake is generally much heavier due to the additional curb weight of the bike and passengers. I've really only tested the BB7s with speed, comfortably stopping from 60 mph, but I would not trust the Promax brake to do that same task.
-The gearing is OK for flat places, but not realistic for running loaded in Tacoma. I frequently find myself in the lowest gear when hauling even two kids, just to navigate my neighborhood. Before I venture further, I would like to swap the 48T chainring for a 36T, which also requires a new right-hand crank.
-Every bike should come with a chain guard. I like that this one is long enough to cover most of the chain.
-The bike didn't come with any sort of owners manual. It would be nice to have a few words from the manufacturer on some of the unique bits of the bike, like the bucket and the kickstand and the screws on the sides of the top and down tubes (which are apparently for some sort of front rack that is to-be developed.) Even a detailed FAQ that I could download from their website would do.
Overall: This bike can work hard, looks good, and is an excellent value.
I feel like the bike is helping to bring me and my family closer to our community by letting us experience it together in a healthy and fun way. That is worth more than a few car payments in my book. (Plus, I'll spend less on saddle, bars, and crank than I saved on shipping and the scratched-frame discount, so I'm still coming out way ahead.) Tacoma doesn't see many cargo bikes and I've already been stopped twice by folks who want to get an Xtracycle, but just don't know how well it would work here. Remember that test rides are always free down at the ranch.
I'll go in to more detail as we put in more miles. So far, Sarah has taken our youngest to the doctor and the fruit stand. I've taken toddlers to the farmer's market. We frequently ride along with Sarah on her way to work in the evening; the kids facing rearward so they can chat with mom face-to-face while she rides behind. I still haven't done a big grocery trip because a certain little boy wanted to take the Xtracycle that day instead. Go figure.