Some days, it just happens to be your day. Every thing is going smoothly, and things effortlessly fall into place. Today was that day. After randomly searching Craigslist for bikes, which I have not done in a while, I stumbled onto a bike posting that got my attention. After a few emails, I ended the day with this:
This is a first generation Kona Ute cargo bike. You might be thinking, “Didn’t you just sell an Xtracycle cargo bike kit this year?” Yes. I moved the Xtracycle, and regretted it after it was gone. That thought, paired with the idea of a different cargo bike to haul the kiddos around, ended up with this strange twist of fate of finding this bike at complete random. Timing is everything right?
This bike is from 2008 I believe, and it has the newer style Ute cargo bags that are super large, and very heavy duty. Drivetrain is set up as a 2×8, which is surprisingly low geared. After a little tweaking this afternoon, and a small ride around the neighborhood, this bike is going to be in the stable for some time. Or at least a year or so…
Just keep spinning…
This past year I have really gotten into photography, and it didn’t hurt that I bought a new camera either. Here are my favorite shots from this past year or so. Some of these I have posted here before, some on Flickr, some not at all. These are just my favorites that I have taken this year. Keep in mind while viewing, I still have lots to learn about photography. I hope to keep learning and improve. Enjoy!
First ride on the Xtracycle.
Upper Falls at Hocking Hills state park.
Hocking Hills state park.
Lower Falls at Hocking Hills state park.
Rim Trail at Conckle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve.
Inside Conckle’s Hollow.
Waiting for Disney’s Electric Parade.
Sunset at Mohican State Park.
My daughter on her tricycle.
Cali moving the ball with her mind.
Big Red on a night ride.
Eagle statue at Eden Park.
Valley View Nature Preserve.
On the trail.
Sycamores and blue skies.
T500 avoiding the rain.
Troll ready to be blasted.
I should point out that there are three different cameras in use for these pictures. This year I used my old Olympus FE-20, an HTC Evo phone, and my Sony Nex-3. I am really loving the Sony, and in my relative newness to photography, it is funny to me that I have already found it’s limits. Granted, it was a HUGE upgrade from the Olympus, but I am already thinking of another camera in the near future. Just like bikes, the proper number of cameras in N+1. If you have any comments, or helpful tips, please leave them in the comments section below!
Just keep spinning…
Just finished boxing up the Xtracycle Freeradical for it’s long journey to Minnesota. Shipping this piece off it bittersweet. I really enjoyed the cargo option, it was very useful. But it was not as versatile as I needed it to be. Hence the sale. So, the end for the X, but the beginning for the Troll. The X’s departure will keep the Troll ball rolling. After dropping off the X at the post office, I will be heading over to my local shop to have them install my headset to further along this process.
So goodbye Xtracycle, you were fun. But your replacement is going to be even better…
Just keep spinning…
So now that I have finally secured the funds to start my new bike build, I am unfortunately at another crossroads. This time, I am still leaning towards the Troll, but also leaning towards a full fledged fat bike. I seem to go back and forth with this, over and over, and waiting is not helping me one bit. So, for this installment, here is the next round of my bike comparisons.
As for why I am leaning towards a fat bike, it all started with this:
Gary Fisher Rig SS
This was my first taste of the big wheels. Only ridden around 100 miles, in a haste I dismantled it and sold it off, only to buy another single speed to then sell off, etc. I regretted it after the fact, but hind sight is 20/20 right? Anyway, after riding this bike, I really wanted to try out a full on fat bike. So recently, in my planning stages for the new bike, I found a used Surly Puglsey on the local Craigslist that got my mind rolling on the big wheels again. Unfortunately I was not as quick as I should have been with it, and it sold. So that leads up to the comparison.
We will start with this:
This is the current model that I am leaning towards. I will not go into details, since I have talked about this frame numerous times, like here and here. The frame is very versatile, and I feel like it would be a great fit for my riding style, and also the type of riding that I have been doing. Also, it would give me a bike that is ready for the woods, which is what the Xtracycle was lacking, thus it’s departure. Two things make me not want to go this route though:
First, there is newer model coming out later this year. From what I have read on a cycling forum, it will be in the fall. The newer model adds bottle/cage mounts on the fork, and another bottle mount on the underside of the downtube. I would like those options, but I am not sure that I can wait until then. Patience is a virtue that I do not possess. This is not a deal breaker for me though.
Second, the Troll fits big tires. I plan on using the 26×2.6 Maxxis Ardents on the frame, should I get it. But this could be the opening of Pandora’s Box for tires. It could only lead to wanting a little more rubber (enter “That’s what she said” joke here) and the Troll would be maxed out. Not a true fat bike. The Troll would always be lacking in the tire department.
For the fat bike route, I will not go into too much detail again, since I will only be repeating myself. Click here to see my comparison of the Pugsley and the Mukluk, which would probably be the route that I would take. In a perfect world, I would buy both. Hmmm, if only…
The next few days will be tough on the cycling decisions, thankfully that is the worst thing in my life that I have to worry about. For that, I am thankful.
Just keep spinning…
Surly Troll picture from their site, click the link to the right to have your mind blown on their products.
Now that the Xtracycle has been disassembled, I am back to square one with my old friend, the Haro V3. This bike was my very first “real” mountain bike, from 2003 I believe. This bike has gone through some changes over the years.
For a while it was my MTB, geared with a Manitou suspension fork, and V brakes. That phase traveled from Ohio to Southern California and continued on for a bit. Then, after the Gary Fisher Rig showed up, it turned into a geared commuter with 1.5 inch slicks, then switching back to trail duty as a second single speed. Moved back East, and it found it’s way back to the streets, as a single speed commuter, this time with a Salsa steel rigid fork and disc brakes. It hung on the wall of the garage for a time, patiently waiting for parts once again. Finally came the cargo bike phase, via Xtracycle. Now, we are here:
Back to just a frame. What form should it take now?
I have to say, this bike has lasted far longer than I ever would have guessed. I couldn’t even begin to estimate how many miles it has logged over the 9 years or so that I have owned it. I am thinking I could piece together a cheap single speed again, but this time run some Schwalbe Big Apples just for fun. Anyway, whatever form this bike takes on, it has been the best $400 that I have ever spent. Thanks Haro!
This month marks a full year on the Xtracycle conversion. I have ridden the crap out of this bike, and now I feel like I can make an honest comment on what I like/dislike about it. So that said:
The Xtracycle Freeradical kit is a well packaged, all in one “hitch-less trailer” than makes any bicycle a useful tool for carrying stuff. And by stuff I mean a lot of stuff. The kit is rated for 200lbs or so of cargo, which I did not get up to that weight, but if you can pedal it, it will probably work. Weight is balanced nicely, say for example, if you load a six pack on one side and a load of firewood on the other. Getting started pedaling is a little awkward, but once you are moving you do not notice the vast difference in weight for the left and right side freeloaders(bags). If the weight is balanced somewhat evenly between the two sides, you do not notice the weight at all for the most part. Let’s be honest though, with around 75lbs on the back, you can tell there is some weight, but mostly only on climbs. With all of the extra weight, once you are moving, momentum is your friend.
I used the HaroX for commuting to work, going to the grocery, riding with my daughter, bike camping, road riding, and just about everything else you can think of. Only a little bit of off roading, but with it’s extended wheel base, what little bit that I did was quite fun. Not a fast off road machine, but a nice and slow, easy pace to enjoy being in the woods. I would say in total, I have around 1000 miles on the Xtracycle. It rode smoothly with a set of 1.5 slicks, but also very comfortably with a knobby set of 2.1s. I did enjoy it a little more with the larger tires, just because it gave you the option to hit the dirt if the occasion arose.
So with all of the good things said, here is what I was not so fond of:
Right out of the box, it is implied that the Freeradical kit includes everything that you need to get the bike rolling. That is true, but only if you are planning on using rim brakes, and an 8 speed drive train. Since I was using disc brakes, and a 9 speed system, I needed to buy extra cables and two new chains. It would have been helpful to know that from the start. Also, the disc mount of the Freeradical requires a 203mm disc brake rotor, something that I did not think of, since I was planning on using a normal 160mm rotor. All of these were a minor, but more pricey inconveniences that I did not expect. Once that was all taken care of though, it was mostly smooth sailing.
The only other downside for me with this project was the weight. The all steel frame of the Xtracycle adds quite a bit of weight to your bike. Weight that is needed, of course, when you are planning on hauling things. But still, it is damn heavy. Once you are moving it is not as noticeable, but if you need to lift the bike for any reason, or stopping and starting, wow, is it heavy. Honestly though, this is a downside that is also a positive, because it makes your legs strong. But on some rides, I was wishing for a lighter ride.
Add that weight to anything that you might be carrying, and you start to get the commonly observed, “Xtracycle shimmy.” Just a slight, annoying wobble that happens from time to time when carrying weight. I have read that using Xtracycle’s Whatcamacollars helps fix that a bit, but that adds another expense to an already expensive package.
So, would I buy the kit again? You bet. It has been a game changer. Cycling has gone from a sport, to more of a way of living. The bicycle has become a practical tool to use for day to day things. This has probably been one of the best cycling moves that I have made in my cycling life. Very cool product.
That said, I am disassembling the bike, and planning on selling the Xtracycle. I know, lots of praise, then sell it? What the hell? Yeah, a little contradictory. But, I am planning on building a new bike, more of a “do-it-all” bicycle. I love the Xtracycle, but for mountain biking on it, that is not going to happen. My cycling life is needing a lighter, more versatile bike, so the plan is to pull all of the parts, place on a new frame, and sell the Xtracycle and Haro frame as one. Someday, I will build another one…
As for the next bike, I am really excited for it, but I will wait before I let the cat out of the bag…
Today’s ride was of a different pace. I have been putting in some miles here lately, and my tires have taken the brunt of it all. Yesterday’s rides both had flats, on both the T500 and the HaroX. So for today’s ride, Big Red got the call from the bullpen.
Not much on the mileage today, just had enough time to run a couple errands on Big Red. It has been a month or two since Big Red has seen any action, but as usual, pull the bike off of the rack and ride. Nothing ever really needs fixed or tuned, just pick it up and ride. Maybe since it is a beater bike, I just don’t care to fix it up, but it sometimes is the most reliable bike in my stable. But it always is one piece away from a total catastrophe. That is part of the appeal though.
Today’s errands had me down to the local bike shop, Bishop’s Bicycles. Picked up a couple tubes for the busted bikes, and chatted a bit about the allure of a Brooks saddle. I can see a B-17 in my future for sure. From there, it was off to pick up some photos and then back home. Only around 3 miles today, but it was still time on the bike. Tomorrow morning, back at it. Half way down…