Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Taste of the Radish

Xtracycle Radish
As anticipated after our meeting at Interbike, Xtracycle has sent over a demo model of their Radish long tail cargo bike for me to test ride. I will be picking it up from Harris Cyclery next week, and after trying it for the first time a few days ago, I have a feeling we will get on nicely. Pioneers of the long tail concept, Xtracycle makes two main categories of products: the Free Radical, which is an extender kit that can turn almost any standard bike into a long tail, and a line of integrated longtail bikes. The step-through Radish model has been around since 2010 and is available in multiple configurations. The Radish pictured here is the Classic - designed to carry "groceries, cargo of all shapes and sizes, and adult passengers." 

Xtracycle Radish
As the term "long-tail" suggests, the Radish sports an extended rear end: The back wheel is set back considerably, allowing space for a massive deck to extend along the chainstays. Other than that, the Radish looks like a fairly normal transportation bicycle: lowered stepover, swept-back handlebars, fenders, flat pedals and a chain guard. All it is missing is lights. Current retail prices for the Radish start at $1,220 for a complete bike, bags included. 

Xtracycle Radish
California-designed and Taiwan built, the frame is welded cromoly steel. The complete bike weighs 43lb. 

Xtracycle Radish
The 1x9 speed derailleur drivetrain is geared to provide a nice and useful range, including a low 1:1 gear. 

Xtracycle Radish
V-brakes front and rear.

Xtracycle Radish
The cargo deck can serve as a carrying platform for large objects and passengers. It also integrates with XtraCycle's expandable FreeLoader bags, as well as with the optional WideLoader side platforms (not pictured). I am going to experiment while the bike is in my possession and see how well this system accommodates the sort of cargo I am likely to carry. 

Xtracycle Radish
My initial ride on the Radish was modest. First I rode it completely unloaded, just to see how it would handle in that state. Then I added some photo equipment, my laptop bag, and an armload of random heavy-ish items from Harris Cyclery for extra weight. Here are my first impression notes based on the (4 mile) test ride:

. The unloaded Radish felt surprisingly light to pick up, something the shop staff noticed as well. 

. The Radish handles like a normal, faster-than-average upright bike. There was no learning curve involved in riding it. I would wager that if you can ride an upright bike, you can handle the Radish.

 . I could not feel the long-tailness of the bike, even when cornering.  

. I could not sense a difference in handling or speed between the Radish unloaded vs lightly loaded. Apparently it will take a lot more than the equivalent of a week's worth of groceries, plus camera equipment, plus laptop bag, for me to feel anything back there. 

. Ride quality over potholes was great (26" x 2" tires). 

. I like the quick and efficient feel of the derailleur drivetrain.

. The geometry makes full leg extension possible when pedaling, while still allowing me to put a toe down at stops without dismounting. 

Xtracycle Radish
. The quick release seatpost makes sharing the Radish easy.

. The stepover is pretty low, but still requires leaning the bike toward me in order to step over the top tube. It is not quite as low as a full-on step-through or loop frame.

. The size of the Radish makes it impractical for me to store it indoors (we have a tiny place). I wonder how it will fare when stored outside. 

. While my impulse is to say that if the Radish were mine, I'd want a box permanently affixed to the rear, I will give the standard setup a fair chance before jumping to conclusions. 

. Aesthetically, I have to admit that I like the Radish a lot; it just looks so darn friendly and adorable.  

All of this combined leaves me in eager anticipation of truly putting this bike through its paces and experimenting with various types of cargo. If you are local and interested in taking it for a spin, the Radish remains for a few more days at Harris Cyclery in West Newton, MA, and will return there after my review.

47 comments:

  1. Funny, while listening to A Prairie Home Companion tonight a couple of women from Chico, CA (who won the duet competition and were very engaging) said they carried their interments around on Xtracycles and said every other person in CA has one :)

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  2. Hopefully, someone told you already that it's good to get the weight low, and forward. A passenger on the back of the deck is super-bad for the handling, a passenger up very close is just heavy (one of my kids did the experiment, without telling me, of sliding fore and aft on the deck).

    If you have a stoker bar, if you are limber enough, it is helpful to learn to dismount by popping a leg up and over the bar, rather than around the back. Clobbering a passenger or getting tangled up in the stoker bars is very unsmooth, even for me.

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  3. A pedantic semantic: the company is Xtracycle (singular, one word).

    Low and forward to pack, what chase said.

    Box ok, forward as possible, not an extreme amount of weight. Take same weight and put it in the freeloader and feel the dif.

    So far your impressions are spot on. Well imo of course.

    Grant P had some input to the revised geo, which you're experiencing.

    LOVE my xtra. On it 8 hours today, most of the time e x t r e m e l y s l o w. l y.

    "The cargo deck can serve as a carrying platform for large objects..."

    Be aware that that is precisely the wrong place to put something on this bike that doesn't come with a gluteus maximus. Try the bags instead. They are genius.

    I believe, barring storage issues, that every household would find this type of bike extremely useful to the extent that it could easily replace car trips under x amount of miles for most people. And it is way more efficient than a cruiser and probably more comfortable.



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  4. Forgot: the Kickback center stand (optional) is absolutely necessary to allow stable, easy loading of awkward items.

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  5. PS, none of my bikes spend much time inside. Put a plastic bag over the saddle, since it's an eval bike. If it was your own bike, also do Weigle's frame saver, and get a pin-point oiler (I use a solder flux bottle) to wick a dab of not-water into all exposed threads. Use an old skinny inner tube to make a gasket over the rack-freeradical junction (dismantle, slide on over rack ends, roll up, grease end, reassemble, roll down over joint).

    Since there's breaks in the brake and derailer cables, you might also want some light oil in their to prevent water from getting in and freezing the cable in the cold.

    There's an official solution to the water/rack/tubes problem that makes more sense on the Big Dummy (because the rack fit is looser there): http://www.xtracycle.com/cargo-bicycles/xtracycle-cargo-accessories/small-parts/whatchamacollar.html . It's a little pricey, but it gets the job done and makes the whole assembly that much stiffer.

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  6. I've just fallen in love with the concept. I really want one! I wish they sold these bikes in Australia...

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    1. Cheeky Transport in Newtown, (suburb of sydney) are the Australian distributor. I've been talking to them about fitting a free radical kit to an old mountain bike of mine so I can transport 2 kids that are at present to big for a standard kids seat but to small to ride solo. $1000 is the estimated cost of doing this (includes a compatible kids seat suitable for a child up to 6 years old).
      I'm pretty sure theres a melbourne shop as well.

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  7. Just the ugliest top tube I have EVER seen!

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  8. Store the QR seatpost (and seat) indoors, please.

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  9. Seems like this would be a good place for an IGH hub.

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    1. To each their own, but I actually prefer derailleur gearing on a bike like this; the 1x9 setup is great.

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    2. It's a great place for an IGH, with one huge caveat. The main advantage is that if you are stopped with a heavy load, that "wrong gear" can be really wrong. An IGH lets you fix it without being in motion.

      The caveat is input gearing; these hubs have torque limits, and they mean it. People riding cargo bikes (usually people of some mass and musculature) have broken IGHs. I broke an SRAM 9, which was otherwise a great hub, and provided more range than the single+derailer on the Radish. I was frequently unscrewing an Alfine 8 from the frame (the colored washer was not enough) and once apparently undid the cone on one side. I recycled the Alfine for low $$ to someone more nearly V's size, and they are happy with it on their xtracycle, so it can work if you're not a gorilla.

      An Alfine 11 doesn't get much more of a low end than an Alfine 8, so that's no remedy. SA-8 has the wrong combo of torque limit and input ratio, so not that either.

      That leaves either a Rohloff ($$$$) or a combination of "lesser" IGHs (e.g., 3 or 5 speed) and the Schlumpf bottom-bracket drives.

      A 177% AW-3 + 250% Schlumpf gets you 443%, but with a 41% jump between 3rd and 4th gears.

      I don't know if it can handle the torque, but an SA-5 (256%) plus a Schlumpf might be a good choice for some people. the gear range is very large (640%), and there is one overlapping gear (5L = 1H, very nearly). It's unclear whether the torque arm for the brake (coaster or drum) also functions as a torque arm for the drive -- you would want that.

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    3. Gear range is probably more than adequate on a 1X9, I was just thinking the lack of external parts on an IGH would be nice here. The torque input could definitely be the limiting factor though. An Alfine w/ disc would be a pretty good set up if you could get away with the minimum gearing. A matching dyno up front would be just about perfect!

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    4. The maintenance-free aspect of an IGH is certainly attractive on a transportation bike. That is why I love 3-speed hubs, and would gladly ride a 3-speed for transport exclusively if my route and terrain made that practical.

      However, once we get into the territory of 7+ speed hubs, while they look good on paper, in practice I have never tried one that I liked. I just feel like there is an inefficiency to them an it's very frustrating. Something doesn't feel right with respect to pedaling effort vs what the gears do for me. The Rohloff-geared Van Nicholas I tried was better in this respect than other IGH bikes I've ridden, but for me the improvement is not worth the price.

      I am a big fan of maintenance-free bikes and would love to love using a multi-speed IGH. But in practice derailleur gearing is such a relief and pleasure to use in comparison.

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    5. IGHs? Bah! 1X9? Pooh! The simplest, best, most efficient, prettiest and coolest grocery getter is a fixed gear. I ground my way up a (well, it was short -- 4/10 mile) hill that reaches 20% in places in a 67% gear at 4 mph and 20 rpm carrying 45 lb (in the rear) on a tout 531 legere 1973 Motobecane Grand Record using Axiom "Dutch" panniers. Well, true, I often bail on that hill with a heavy load. And, true too, my loads are more often in the 25-35 lb range. But you can do it, and it is fun! (As was hauling my then-4-year-old-daughter in a doublewide kiddie trailer against a headwind with the same 67" gear 8 miles down the bike path to the childrens' museum.)

      I must admit, however, that as I age (57 1/2) I do appreciate the 31" gear on my load carrying Fargo, but still, half my loaded errands get done on a fixed gear.

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    6. @Bertin - a fixed-gear cargo bike is a harsh lesson in physics. I know of only one person ("Tone") who has done this, and think only as an experiment. Tone is notable for using an xtracycle in NYC messenger work, actually breaking a FreeRadical, and starting "Cranksgiving".

      45 pounds is not a big load on a longtail. Six times that is a big load. I realize you said "grocery getter", but a longtail allows you to get a lot more groceries, and maybe take a kid or two to the grocery store with you. (Yes, I did once go to the grocery store, and returned home with a tired kid on the back, hauling a small bike, and with groceries.)

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    7. I've found my Rohloff far better than any derailleur system used on any transportation bike I"ve owned. It's far more efficient and practical. Also, when calculating what I"ve saved by switching from automobile to bicycle for all transportation It has paid for itself in the first few of months of use. I'm seriously thinking of the Xtracycle attachment to an older bike and would not hesitate installing another IGH.

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    8. Childsplay, Bertin. Here's a real fixed gear cargo bike!

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    9. They also have one at Clever Cycles. It can carry a surprising quantity of children at low speed, though I found the single speed drivetrain to be hard on the old knees:
      http://flic.kr/p/dbuBes

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    10. Ach, du Scheiße! I can't compete with that. I withdraw my boast.

      (Still, it *is* a steep and demanding hill...)

      I've seen what must have been 100+ lb loads of charcoal, in huge burlap bags, carried on 3d world roadsters (Kenya).

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  10. Overpriced. Based in a niche and therefore high margin.

    Le Cockeral Sportif

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  11. I don't understand why an IGH is preferable over a derailleur here. Who futzes with their RD anyway?

    Ok, I do. Adjust limit screws, change out pulleys -- once every billion miles.

    Scraping crud out of the pulleys with a dental instrument? You pull over the straps from the other side, hiking up her skirt.

    Or you can get an IGH with its tiny, tiny pawls or teeth or whatever in those dark recesses to substitute for the giant teeth on a cassette that you can inspect and change out in a few minutes once it gets worn. The choice is yours.

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    1. GRJ - I would say it's a matter of it-depends. You live in the land of the lotus-eaters, where the roads are never tainted with sand and salt -- like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr2chase/6739747623/in/photostream/

      That wears out your cassette that much faster, and gives you that much more incentive to have a single front chainring so you can fit a chaincase.

      But otherwise, I think it's an accumulation of little things and personal preference. IGH gets you a stronger wheel, no chain rub on the fat tire in the lowest gear, that sort of thing.

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    2. Those are good reasons.

      The trigger shifters on the Radish work fast, 1x9 here is a great range.

      Cheap way to go: old mtb, 7sp. triple.

      Last cassette was $15, chains are dirt (sic) cheap, wear very well, can shift with Sun Race thumbies, chain rings are very cheap. The good news in by going old tech w/Free Rad one can potentially keep the cargo bike running on pennies for years. The main consumable would be tires. That's what I call frugal and practical.

      Note about Emily's 200lbs.+ comment - I'm running a very crappy 20 year old double wall rim 32x, not true, up to 340lbs. total weight...still alive and vivacious (?) Anyway I'll verify a burly rear/ok front is a-okay.

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  12. We have a Free Radical on an old hybrid frame (well, the frame is too small for either of us, but it was lying around.... we've been meaning to switch it out, but haven't yet) and you really can't beat it for the times when you really need the cargo capacity. We also have an ANT cargo bike, which is much more attractive and easier to load for some things, but can't haul anywhere near as much stuff.
    The first time I really loaded the thing up, I spent over $200 (long story why) at the grocery store and loaded it all into those panniers (which really are ingenious). I have years of experience at hauling awkward loads on racks, trailers, on my back, etc, but in this case, it handled so easily that by the time I got home I dropped the bike while dismounting because I'd completely forgotten that the load was even there.
    The one thing I will say about it is that in addition to requiring a robust drivetrain if you're the sort of person to over-torque a loaded cargo bike, you REALLY need a good rear wheel. A stiff rim with lots of spokes at high tension is a good idea, because using whatever old wheel you have lying around and then carrying a 200lb+ load plus rider is a great way to de-tension the wheel or worse. Ask me how I know...
    The good news is that the front wheel doesn't need to be anything special really because the weight is fairly well centered over the rear.

    But if you have someplace to put it, it's great. We've also used it to pick each other up at the train station - load another bike onto the xtracycle, ride to train station, load the person's luggage onto the xtracycle and give them the other bike to ride home.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this, Emily. More incentive to go this route.

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  13. Sorry, can't justify these bikes or cargo bikes in general. $1200 will buy a lot of zipcar or Hertz or Craigslist or whatever for quarterly stock-up shopping. I think the action is in, or will be, first/last mile problem: integration with public mass transportation to get workplace...and bikes that can do that. Nimble.

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    1. Cargo bikes get used for more than the occasional shopping trip. There are those who carry large or heavy items on a regular basis as part of their job or lifestyle. Others transport multiple children several times a day.

      Furthermore not everyone has access to rental cars within walking distance. Think of life in the suburbs. And of course, not everyone wants to get around by car.

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    2. @Anon, that does not work for me. Commute is 10 miles, mass transit is slower than bike door-to-door, inflexible hours, not cheap, does not stop at the grocery store. I've tried various backpacks and bags, on the bike, I hate them (too sweaty, too much abrasion on my shirts). I live in not-really-suburbs (20 minute bus ride to Harvard Square, runs about every 5 minutes at rush hour), but work is out the other direction.

      Cargo bike gets me to work fast enough, carries all my stuff, I can stop for groceries on the way home, never have to worry about whether they will fit, plus the loaded handling is very nice.

      There's also the issue of "which bike should be equipped for everything" (meaning, rain, snow, dark, nasty roads, riding in long pants, etc)? Clearly, the cargo bike.

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    3. I am the big bad Anonymous October 21, 2012 7:33 PM

      Thought experiment:

      Alternate Universe 1 for the US, Car-lite

      Alternate Universe 2 for the US, Car-free

      Both are desirable, but realistically, which is more attainable?

      I think Alternate Universe 1. I don't think cargo bikes fit into Alternate Universe 1 to a huge magnitude...in general, people will default to the car when it comes to cargo. They, in general, just will.

      I am aware of this, that and the other exception; the "what about this" and the "what about that." And, I am not arguing against cargo bikes. Am I realistic?

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    4. Anonymous, your logic is backwards. I agree that if we lived in AU2, there would be cargo bikes, and I agree that AU1 is more likely.

      However, you then claim that because AU2 implies cargo bikes, that not-AU2 implies not-cargo-bikes. That's not logic (implication does not work that way). It's perfectly compatible to both be car-lite, AND ride a cargo bike, and I an example of exactly that. I tend to use the car for long trips, not cargo trips. For more serious cargo than what I can carry now, I would think about a trailer.

      I think you are also making the error of imagining how something would work without actually trying it. If you don't own a cargo bike, and have not spent some time riding one, why would you think that you had a good idea how they would be used, or not, especially compared with people who DO own and use cargo bikes?

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    5. You are assuming I don't own or have never owned, or have never ridden a cargo bike to any significant degree. You are incorrect. So much for your paragraph three.

      I make no claim, one way or the other, about cargo bikes in AU2. As for AU1, I only suggest that cargo bikes wouldn't play a huge (it's a question of magnitude)role. I don't want to repeat. Your assertion that my logic is backwards is incorrect.

      Let Velouria or whomever get some sleep.

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    6. After midnight it is usually my cats who manage the comments, so no worries about my sleep patterns.

      I am going to close this particular thread, as all subsequently submitted comments show signs of a flame war. Anon doesn't like cargo bikes, we'll just have to live with that.

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  14. I have several friends with Big Dummies or Free Radicals and they don't ride them much in the winter. Even with studded tires they have problems with the loss of traction and the rear wheel breaking free.

    Having said that, one of them has stated that if he had to cut back to one bike it would be his Big Dummy. It comes closer to doing everything he wants than any of his other bikes

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    1. What my dad, and many others, used to do with their big block engine rear wheel drive cars is load bags of sand in the back to pack down their studs there. Worked like a charm. Lots of people had some mechanical sense back then.

      Same w/a longtail: add needless weight over the axle or in front of it, lower pressure, etc.

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  15. Some of these comments are ridiculously off-base. "High margin niche", "last mile problem".

    You can get a Free Rad attachment for $300 with bags next year and put it on an old mtb everyone has sitting around. That's 5 Bromptons. It is definitely not a last mile solution; that's an extremely narrow way to look at bicycles in general.

    My closest zip car station is 6 miles away while there are numerous food stockist in between. I'm supposed to ride my bike to zip, load it in, drive to the stores, burn gas, load it up, drive home, unload the stuff, drive back to zip, burn more gas, then ride back 6 miles. So 12 miles of riding on one bike plus more than that in a car, say about 25 with all the zigging and zagging, or I can go wherever I want, park for free in front of any store and enjoy the journey.

    And if you really must invoke the last mile argument you could get a folding Tern/Xtra combo, stuff a Brommie in it and have transpo for multiple people while taking on the train and some buses. Or just get a regular bike and not slag on longtails.

    And it could easily replace a car and is especially viable in the sun belt or Cali.

    I just rode the Radish again; it is so natural I got it to track stand within 20 feet of the shop. Empty it accelerated better than the alu big brand x standard wheelbase city bike with a huge dt.

    I'm not sure how you are still not able to get your leg over the tt without tipping it because it seems quite low to me, at 32" inseam.

    re: fixed gear Dutch cargo bike - Josh from My Dutch Bike had one of those loaded up in a race at Biketoberfest. Came in hot to the finish, back pedaled and hit the hand brake, just as when sliding a car. No harm, no foul.

    I wish Emily would quit cussing when using her last name as well.






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    1. I'm far too lazy to go figure out what the appropriate code for an apostrophe is... Is this better?

      Personally, a cargo bike (or trailer or really big panniers, etc) really is the only way I can haul that much stuff without help. I'm a city kid and I'm eternally lazy in my own special way, and as such I've never gotten around to getting a drivers license. So while my better half can always get a zipcar or a rental, it's out of the question for me if he's not available to help, regardless of the fact that there are several within a couple of blocks.

      Around here we've observed a handful of families that we'd see on our way into work, who rode their kids to school on an Xtra. As the kids got older, they rode their own bikes, but the parents would ride with them and then load the bikes onto the Xtra when dropping the kids off, so we'd see them riding around with a kids' bike or two strapped into the back.

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    2. Ha I tried to post the apostrophe code here, but it displays as an actual apostrophe. But anyhow, I think I prefer the bleep.

      I have not been behind the wheel since some time in 2007, so I'd need to practice before I drive again. Living here, there is really no incentive though. Except the trips to Vermont.

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    3. Oh lawdy the language.

      These Xtra dealies litter the landscape here: car-free -lite, normal people (me), moms and dads galore. A guy at Public Bikes hauls newbs around to get them a bikey perspective on riding in the city. A friend schleps his gf around a lot on date nights.

      Tried to do the airport p/u trick with another bike but mounting the bike on a fork mount at the very back puts too much twist/strain on the rest of the bike while getting stuck in narrow spots. (Wheel won't fit in bag due to the way it's set up.)



      These bikes are disarming: Sat dude passed me in a contractor truck, big trailer, loud engine, I brace myself for something. He yells, "Bike Party!"

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  16. Like the V Brakes and 1 x 9 (although in the Midwest a 1 x 7 or even 1 x 5 would do fine). These newer models are starting to look somewhat more attractive.

    I will be very interested to read your long term impressions about at home storage and parking the thing while on trips.

    After giving up the car in favor of a porteur style bike, it was not long before I found myself a regular at the nice shops and establishments in Chicago's more established neighborhoods which were built long before parking was an issue.

    It is so easy to shop Parisien style frequently at small quality shops, bakeries, and produce stands while taking time out to visit nice restaurants, book stores and the like. In my neighborhood which has its share of wanna be Capones and trust fund bohemians who feel it their birth right to snatch or wreck things left around, I can easily hike my city bike up three flights of stairs and store it inside next to my road bike.

    These long frame haulers seem ideal for people who live in the 'burbs and the Southeast and Western cities which share more in common with what I call a suburb. In more the more dense urban centers East of the Mississippi (and San Francisco, of course) the length and weight of the long haulers present many of the same issues that drive people to give up cars, motorcycles and scooters in the first place.

    Fortunately Zip Car is an easy solution for people living in Chicago. My porteur is so practical however that I have not used a Zip for shopping in years.

    In sum, multiple options are swell. Glad these long hauls work for many. Until someone comes up with a long haul Zip type service, I don't think they are ideal for people living in dense urban areas.

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    1. Your experience doesn't match mine, though I guess it depends on how you define "dense" and "urban". Cambridge and Somerville are dense (also east of the Mississippi, last I checked), and I know people who own bicycles in both cities, and nobody I know there hauls their bicycle up stairs. Some have garages or shared garages despite the density, and the woman who lives 3 floors up in a very dense part of Somerville, leaves her bike parked outside at ground level (and to look at the neighborhood, so does everyone else in that area). I know people with cargo bikes in Cambridge, and they just park them outdoors.

      We have friends in Boston with some bikes and no outdoor parking, but everyone in their building seems to park their bikes just inside the door, up the front (non-trivial, but nice and wide) front steps. A Radish would probably go up those stairs easily enough, my bike (50% heavier) would be a pain, as would a cargo trike.

      So while it's true that it would be a real hassle to get a cargo bike up stairs, for most people just getting a bicycle upstairs is a real hassle.

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    2. Well, I live in moderately dense central Los Angeles and you see a growing number of cargo bikes around. I'm not car free or even particularly car lite, but the Xtracycle really changed the way I use my bike. Mainly it's the ability not to have to precisely plan what and how I carry things beforehand that just make it much more practical.

      My only problem with it is that you can't really get away with taking it on the train except during very low traffic times, though I've done it in a pinch.

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    3. MU - Agree. If I lived in LA, a long haul would certainly be in the mix.

      Dr2C: In my immediate neighborhood, living valuable things outdoors overnight is an invitation to disaster. Even one bike would block most vintage Chicago apartment building foyers or rear porches. Many multi-resident buildings in Chicago build a bike room in the basement. The first floor units in my building duplex into the basement making such a deal impossible in my building. Carrying a 23 pound bike up three flights of tight back porch stairs is a challenge, but doable. My back porch is smaller than some, but even many buildings with larger porches have rules against keeping bikes on them.

      I work and frequent stores in an area of Chicago that one could say is close to Boston's Beacon Hill area: Many multi-story mixed use buildings with retail on the first floor, offices, living space or both in the many stories above. Sidewalks are narrow. Bike parking scarce. There have been more than a few times I have to park my porteur a block or more from my destination as available locking places are all taken. I expect with a long frame that would happen more frequently.

      The ideal solution, of course, would be for parked cars to share some of the valuable real estate they hog in most urban areas (even Manhattan for crying out loud). As it is, the only streets in Chicago where the rule makers are bold enough to ban parked cars usually do not allow parked bikes.

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    4. There's plenty of places I won't leave my bike parked overnight, but for short-term (a few hours) sometimes weight can be a feature. A 23-lb bicycle, if not locked to something permanent, would not be too hard to carry off. 65 lbs is a bit more of a burden.

      It's also not a flashy bike (I get the impression that you like nice bikes), and I've taken steps to make it not quite so easy to pick things off of. The rear hub is pitlocked, the headset is pitlocked, the saddle is on a leash. The lights are homemade, bright, and relatively cheap to replace (and obviously have zero resale value) -- but that's not a hack that generalizes to other people. I thought about getting the nifty custom powdercoat when I bought the frame, but decided to save money and stick with military green, and since then all the decals have rubbed off anyhow. The cranks (if you saw that snow-slush picture I posted a link to) are no longer terribly attractive, and the pedals are just platforms. So, so far, so good, even parked in random parts of Cambridge and Somerville.

      Surprisingly often, I do see flashy valuable bikes parked out in the open, in places where I'd think they were more at risk of theft. There's a cargo trike and a shiny orange Public often parked right next to Harvard Common.

      The length is not really an issue for finding places to park. The size of the bike matters in the following cases (that come to mind right this instant) - carrying up and down stairs (as noted already), racks on the front of busses (too long, though longtails fit with the front wheel off), and officially not allowed on Amtrak, though unofficially people seem to have pretty good luck. I've not tried myself, though I intend to one of these days. It's not a great fit on the back of a car, though I've done it several times this year -- note that you want to take the fabric off the back anyhow because of the wind, so there's some built-in inconvenience above and beyond the width. I've had no problems taking it on the commuter rail or subway. It's probably impossible to check through on an airplane.

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  17. "Riding The Spine" expedition from Alaska to the tip of South America used Xtracycles. http://www.ridingthespine.com/main.html
    Cool application and goes to show that this configuration works everywhere from suburban Boston to the roughest single tract along the continental divide and the Chilean Andes.

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    1. I've seen that, pretty interesting. They used a mountain bike or a Surly Big Dummy I think, with the Free Radical extensions. It is worth noting that they broke 2 Free Radical kits in the course of that trip, with Xtracycle sending them replacements each time.

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    2. If you've ever hiked the Continental Divide you'd think it was preposterous they'd even try it, let alone do it.

      That it's not engineered to withstand those conditions and they only broke two is amazing.

      But I'd bet the new Leap could handle it.

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