Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Snow Radish

Xtracycle Radish in Winter
It was with some regret that I set off to return the Xtracycle Radish after a long term test ride. I had several errands to run and left early in the morning, rear bags filled with items to drop off in the course of my travels. The day was gorgeous, the air fresh, and the temperature not too low. More than a week had gone by since our last snowfall, and the multi-use river path looked like it had been cleared. I chose the path over the road, wanting to make the most out of my last ride on this bike. 

We rode for a few miles along the plowed path, until gradually patches of uncleared snow and ice began to appear. I had the opportunity to get off the trail and rejoin the road, but decided to wing it. 

Xtracycle Radish in Winter
At length, we hit a section of the trail that was completely unplowed. The hard, crusted-over snow made for an uneven surface. I was not in an adventurous or experimental mood, as I had my camera on the bike without a great deal of padding to protect it. Still, I thought that I would try to continue riding and see how it went. Cycling on crusty, uneven snow feels not unlike cycling on rough dirt roads, provided that there is no ice. The more I try it, the more I like it, and I enjoy trying it on different bikes and tires to compare. The 26x2" tires on the Radish have some tread to them, and it was enough for me to feel a difference between how they rode on this kind of surface compared to the slicker Grand Bois Hetres. Bike choice aside, I think my ideal tires for this terrain might be some fat 26" or 650B knobbies. 

It was a windy morning, and the wind picked up in the course of the ride. Naturally, it was a headwind, and the strongest gust coincided with an uphill stretch. I bent my arms until my face was just above the handlebars, put my head down and pedaled, eliciting cheers from a Super-Commuter headed in the opposite direction. Later on the road, a man at a stop light asked what it was like to drag "a bike like that" uphill. "You must be either very fit, or very miserable!" None of the above, mister. 

Xtracycle Radish in Winter
It's funny, because I could sense that I got a lot of respect every time I rode the Radish. But it was undeserved: The bike rides easy, and winter conditions did not reveal any weak spots in handling. I think that for those in cold climates contemplating cargo bikes, that's an important consideration. Cargo bikes have a way of making you dependent on them. And once that dependency forms, you want to be able to use the bike comfortably and safely year-round. I have not tried other cargo bikes in the snow, but I am glad to know the Xtracycle affords that freedom. Throw on some winter tires of your choice, and you may not even have to worry about whether the paths are plowed.

Against the backdrop of a winter wonderland I said farewell to my longtailed friend, and rode home on a vintage Raleigh Roadster - contemplating differences in bike handling and dreaming of future snow rides.

40 comments:

  1. LOL, that dude's comment should get filed under a "shit cyclists say that sounds like shit drivers say" or something to that effect. I'm glad to see some 26" tires get some props.

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    1. I think my ideal winter bike would have 26x2" tires. Subjectively, they feel "righter" than 700C/28" wheels with wide tires.

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    2. They feel great too, but even assuming a 650B winter bike existed, or was made for the purpose, in 650B there are fewer options for wide knobbies + fenders (especially considering it's good to have adequate clearance so that snow does not get stuck in there).

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    3. There are some 'niner snow tires out there as well :

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackcapstudio/8359855146/in/set-72157628336074261/

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    4. Yup. (I've seen some of those 44 bikes in person, too.) But if you want those on a commuter bike, it would present problems with fenders and clearances.

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    5. Good point.

      If you are only riding off road and on non-tended paths, those honking 9er winter tires will work well assuming the rider fits the bike.

      On the street or anywhere one might encounter salt and slush, fenders are just about mandatory.

      44's are a fun mix of tough and aesthetics. They make me want an MTB even though I am not sure I will ever have a use for one.

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  2. An Xtracycle Radish recently made its way into my life too. Living about a mile high in rural Montana, with studded snows I feel comfortable riding it solo and with my daughter on the back. It's nice to read that our assessments about the bike seem to agree, and that I'm not just delusional out of excitement for a new bicycle.

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  3. I never used to "get" cargo bikes. I was always sorta' dismissive of them, but your reviews and the experiences of more and more other people I know have made me realize they represent something pretty remarkable.


    I was dismissive of modern purpose built Cargo Bikes as one more trendy lifestyle accessory for those who could afford to make statements, because(I think), I have this prejudice that placing the word "Cargo" in front of the word "Bike","Van","Ship" or "Plane", really means that something has slid so far down the depreciation scale that it's now expendable. You know, cheap enough for those making a living on the margins to acquire, jury-rig and squeeze all the juice out of before discarding and finding another poor worn-out old thing to do the same thing to.

    It does happen that way alot, the old school bus with the top cut off for hauling hay or cantaloupes, the grubby mountain bike with the backpacks and garbage bags slung on the cheap rear rack, or the old DC3s I used to see hauling anything and anybody all over South Texas and Mexico, none of those things were chosen as the ideal solution, they were just the expedient chosen by people who didn't have much choice.

    So I would see people riding Xtracycles or whatever loaded with groceries or kids on a nice day and snort,"10 degrees colder or hotter and they'd be in the Subaru", like a grumpy old fart(which I am rapidly becoming, BTW). Just because someone could afford to CHOOSE it I was busting them for not being "Real" or something. Now I realize that what people are choosing is to leave the car at home(or at the dealers lot altogether) and use a BIKE for crying out loud. Things are getting BETTER. Holy Cow, you can buy a brand new CARGO BIKE and haul your crap around in it and at least some of the people in the world won't think you're homeless or an idiot. That's FANTASTIC!

    Bikes are helping make the world better in even more ways and I was too dumb to notice.
    Long live Cargo Bikes.

    Spindizzy

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  4. Oh, and I am FREAKING OUT with envy over your Chrome DL1.

    Spindizzy

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  5. Have you tried a fat bike for winter riding? I was out on mine last weekend, and it handled very, very well on snow, slush, and even compressed snow/ice patches.

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    1. None of the bike shops I know here stock test-ridable fat bike models. It doesn't snow enough, so I guess they "don't sell." Excuses! I would LOVE to try a Pugsley or something without having to schlep to Burlington, VT.

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    2. Emily at Hub had a Surly Moonlander around the shop a while back, and she posted about riding it in the snow recently, so she's still got it.

      http://hubbicycle.blogspot.com/2012/10/winter-is-coming.html

      http://hubbicycle.blogspot.com/2013/01/snow-machine.html

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    3. Hmm I did not see it when I was there some time ago! Will have to ask her, thanks.

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  6. Someone needs to steer you toward a decent mountain bike, I bet you will love it. Seriously, you are almost there!

    Will you be posting a final review of the Xtracycle, or is this the end of the series?

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  7. I'm sure this bike is very practical and all, but surely it belongs on your sister blog, Ugly Bicycle? That top tube, yeesh! Looks like a tree fell on it.

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    1. I disagree and find the bike adorable. Eye of the beholder and all that. I am sure every bike featured here looks ugly to someone.

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    2. Eye of the beholder, of course. But sometimes a bike is so ugly it disqualifies itself from consideration. I'd look at every other cargo bike (some of which are quite attractive)before I'd consider this one.

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    3. I suppose that's useful to know.

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  8. I have read comments from longbike cyclists complaining about lack of traction on snow due to no weight over the rear wheel. Did you experience this?

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    1. No. But I had a bit of weight over the rear wheel. How little weight were they talking about?

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  9. I would love to hear your thoughts on different wheel sizes. Do you like the feel of any one size over the other? Have you tried 20's... how do you feel about 16's... is there much difference between 26's and 650b's? Thanks again for a GREAT blog! It is always a pleasure. Casey

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    1. I do not have set opinions about wheel size at this stage, and it seems to depend more on the wheel+bike combo than just on wheel size alone.

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  10. I just purchased a Civia Halstad cargo bike. It will be interesting to see how it handles in contrast to the long tail bikes. It seemed important to me to have the cargo up front so that you could see that nothing fell off.

    Michael

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    1. I like the look of that bike (especially how Clevercycles had it set up at some point, but I've gotten mixed feedback about the handling. What's your impression?

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    2. I don't have an impression yet as it is 37 degrees in mixed snow and rain here in Seattle and I have not ridden the cargo bike yet. I will let you know as soon as the weather gets a little better.

      I did just finnish a ride around the south end of Lake Washington on my cross bike (with fenders) and I'm still trying to warm up.

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  11. Does anyone have any pointers about wide winter/gravel tires in the 27" size? The widest that I have been able to find is a 1 3/8 knobby CX tire, which seems less than ideal. I'm considering converting to 700c just to broaden my tire choice.

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    1. Oomph, sadly no. The limitation in tire sizes is the one big drawback to going with vintage 10-speeds.

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    2. Do the 700 conversion and don't look back. Suppliers are not supporting the 27" size and there's little reason they should.

      The only reason to stick with 27" is that you can pick up used wheels for very little. No surprise. Wish I could point you to the source of good 700 rims for cheap but I'm still searching myself.

      Vintage bikes that are 27 and will stay 27 because the conversion is more than the bike is worth - well those are basic bikes that just have to live with basic tires. Paselas are still good and don't cost much.

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  12. I saw this very bike today, when I rode out to Harris this afternoon! I was curious, did you take the bike path the whole way? I came across a few spots past Watertown Square, where I ended up having to get off the bike and walk - like that wooden bridge thing that makes up a few hundred feet worth of the trail parallel-ish to California St. I found out the hard way recently, that slush and melty ice on a warm-ish day are a bit more difficult to traverse than on a colder day. Definitely wasn't willing to risk a fall on the bridge-thing!

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    1. I rode the trail until Watertown Sq, then continued on Rt 16. And this was a few days ago now, when the snow was more solid. Riding in deep slush is pretty difficult, I agree.

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    2. The most common type of slush on the roads is salt slush. At least in my experience. While the chrome DL-1 takes a heartstopping photo in the snow I do hope you are aware that once that bike is thoroughly marinated in brine your only options will be to 1) watch it dissolve or 2) clean very thoroughly, beginning with the interior of each section of the frame.

      Riding in snow means riding in snow. The nature of snow is that it changes constantly. Riding in snow is hardcore. Picture postcard snow is the exception, not the rule.

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    3. Yes, I cleaned the DL-1 after.

      Agreed about riding in snow. It's not easy. I did it for short stretches, and always had the choice to walk a bit.

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  13. A logistical question about running multiple errands by bicycle: I get around mostly by bike, but I find myself a bit stumped when faced with having to run errands at multiple places that involve a more-than-trivial amount of "stuff". What do you do with the "stuff" for Errand 2 while you're running Errand 1, and vice versa?

    I have this problem mostly with shopping errands - I usually try to do the errand with the "little" stuff first, but sometimes I'll go to the grocery store and they won't have something that I need, but then I can't just stop somewhere else because I would have to then carry all of my groceries from shop 1 into shop 2, and they don't look kindly on that. Plus it's inconvenient, especially when shop 2 is small and doesn't have carts (like a liquor store or similar). But I could see having similar problems while running multiple errands with a cargo bike, too, where you might be porting a lot of equipment with you that you can't just leave strapped to a bike while you pop into a store.

    This likely sounds dumb to most, but it's probably been the biggest challenge I've faced while commuting by bike. At some point, even if I still have room on the bike, I can't do any more errands because the stuff I'm already carrying is too unwieldy to manage while completing subsequent tasks.

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    1. Wholly dependant on how much you are bringing home, but I find a Swift Bag similar to the one in the preceding post is the best way to accomplish this.

      Over the past ten years or so, Chicago has become chock-a-block with specialty food stores. In the summer every weekend and many weekdays see many farmers markets spring up around town with unique vendors in each one.

      The easily removed Swift bag facilitates multiple stops. It comes off and goes on so quickly I can stop at the bakery for bread, mid-eastern store for olives, organic store for tofu, farmers market for produce and dessert without worrying about leaving stuff unattended on the bike.

      I am single so my shopping needs are less than many. That said, I know quite a few single people who none-the-less are stuck in the weekly trip to the big grocery store rut that worked for their suburban parents.

      Frankly, I think the ease of making multiple stops is one of the best things about going bike only in the city.

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  14. No, this is the un-dumbest question in awhile.

    Depends where you are and what you're carrying mostly.

    If the question is about entire-bike security my feeling is a laden cargo bike is much less attractive to attempt to steal than a normal one.

    If the question is about cargo security there are ways. With the Xtra realize the bags are mostly just giant bungee nets, that you can, and maybe should, throw other bags in there to optimize your carrying/security potential.

    WTH do I mean by security potential? I have 3 bags that live permanently on the bike: a wide-mouthed tool bag that closes shut like, well, a mouth; two cooler bags, each with internal ribbing to stand up on their own. Point is stuff goes into the bags, the Xtra's straps are thread through the carrying handles in multiple spots. Still not totally secure but...

    I carry a 12 ft. thick cable lock used by contractors to secure on-site tools and machines but have never felt the need to use it to secure the bags with it. It's used as a redundant lock with a U.

    Plus I carry a dog with me.

    Another thing: I can take advantage of parking spots others can't, including free-standing it a la a Dutch cafe lock due to it having a great center stand. Meaning I can park directly in front of an establishment, flower stall, etc.

    Overall I feel much more at ease security-wise with it than with my normal bikes. If you were to get an LT its usage is only limited by your imagination.

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  15. None of the bike parts shops I know here stock test-ridable fat bike models. It doesn't snow enough, so I guess they "don't sell." Excuses! I would LOVE to try a Pugsley or something without having to schlep to Burlington, VT.



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