17 January 2014

Mob Ride Alert: Groundhog Sprocket

For the 21+ bike ridin' crowd. Don't forget your lights and maybe a helmet. Good times will be had.

07 January 2014

Xtracycle EdgeRunner: We Love It

After nearly a full year of riding, modifying, and accessorizing, my Xtracycle EdgeRunner now looks like this: 

I upgraded my old Xtracycle setup back in February 2013 by building up an EdgeRunner frameset. I don't track mileage, but I'd estimate I have at least 500 miles on this bike, maybe closer to 1000 miles. Other than minor brake and derailleur adjustments, there haven't been any mechanical issues.  

I bought the frame through my local Xtracycle dealer, Defiance Bicycles. At the time it was possible to buy directly from Xtracycle, but they have since switched to a dealer-only sales approach. This means that Defiance and other local dealers stock the bikes and accessories so that you can test-ride and customize a bike that specifically meets your needs. I haven't had that luxury with any of my cargobike purchases and bought the EdgeRunner only after thoroughly comparing spec sheets and wringing my hands. A short test-ride will save you from many hours of internet research and worry.

From my research I knew that the geometry of the new bike would be similar to my old Xtracycle: a 26" Surly Karate Monkey with a FreeRadical attachment (aka The Monkey Bus). In fact, it feels almost exactly the same. Moving over the components to the EdgeRunner frame gave me a familiar cockpit that I had already found ideal. For me, Albatross bars are key for a comfortable, upright riding position that gives you plenty of road visibility. 

I built the bike on the pretense that the smaller, stronger 20" rear wheel and the uni-frame design would have more lateral stiffness and a lower center-of-gravity (i.e, more stability!) than the 26" wheeled bike it was replacing. I've been blown away by just how stable it is, especially when loaded with two rapidly growing young ladies who like to sit sidesaddle on the back with their legs to the same side. Taking a hand off the bars when carrying passengers is no longer scary and getting out of the saddle to get the bike going when heavily loaded is now a possibility.

Strong, small rear wheel = Low center of gravity = Stability
I extensively tested out the EdgeRunner's ability to handle unbalanced loads like this when I hauled a 5-gallon keg of beer over 50 miles to Seattle for Earth Day. You can't ride no-handed with a load like that, but it wasn't difficult to steer either. (I actually tried this with the Monkey Bus two years ago and it was completely unmanageable; not enough frame stiffness.)

The bike also performed flawlessly at Seattle's Disaster Relief Trials over the summer, especially on the off-road sections. Among other things, that's a 5-gallon bucket of water on the running board, something that I struggled to haul with my old bike at the 2012 Portland DRT.

Photo by JRA Bike Shop
From the inititial build in February, I have made a few changes:

-The well-used rear bags were upgraded to the X2 type once they became available. There was an adjustment period wherein I hated them because they have way more features than I knew what to do with. Then I modified them slightly, used them some more, and now I find they work great. I leave the rain flaps attached all the time, but tucked inside when it's not raining hard.

-The wood Snapdeck was chipping around the edges, so I recently replaced it with a plastic FlightDeck. The new deck is bolted in place and makes the rear rack, and the whole bike, even more stable and solid. That's the number one reason to upgrade if you are considering this. Though I do miss all of my cool bumper stickers. :(

-I then fabricated a matching plastic running board from an old UteDeck, a discontinued Xtracycle product made from the same black recycled plastic. Cut in half lengthwise, the deck was exactly the same size as my wooden DIY running board! I have the other half of the deck leftover - contact me if you want to make a running board. I love it when stuff matches.

-That pvc pipe on the back is my DIY flagpole holder. It now attaches to the Wideloader frame under the running board, but worked just as well on our recent Kidical Mass Tacoma ride on New Year's Eve. 

Towtrucks need lots of lights
-The Wald front basket has been super handy, but it will be removed soon in place of a new stem-mounted Yepp Mini seat, also from Defiance Bicycles. TBR Junior is now six months old and should be ready for the bike by spring!

Overall, I love this bike. The handling improvements alone were worth my time and effort to upgrade, but the many new accessory options available give the Xtracycle platform modularity to meet the needs of a growing household. Most of the accessorizing I did is now available as a package deal. If you are looking for a bike that can replace many of your local car trips, or a bike that can haul groceries and kids, I recommend the EdgeRunner.

Defiance Bicycles has 2 EdgeRunners in stock (as of this writing), one of each size with all of the kid and cargo hauling bits, including the Hooptie and Yepp seats. Take your whole family for a test-ride.