Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The history of my Xtracycle: a brief run down

Since this bike is now in it’s 3rd iteration, I thought I would quickly run through where it’s been, and how it came to where it’s at.

I first received my freeradical bolt-on kit from my sweet wife for Christmas, 2007. By the end of Boxing day (returns day to my American friends) it was put together and I took it out for a test ride. At the time, I was living in Rockyford Alberta, and I worked in a combine repair shop, literally 1 block from my house. I was building an office building (all by myself, and I even designed the trusses, layout, every aspect of the building). After the design was done, I built the thing myself, inside of a shop. When it was -30C outside, I was sure a spoiled ‘framer’ to be inside a shop with in-slab heating. During this time, I used my Xtra to haul my tools between work and home. I had a crazy home renovation going on at the time, and needed my tools in both places. I could carry some significant loads of tools with me on the Xtra. Only rarely would I have to use my pickup truck. The few times were when I was hauling my table saw and air compressor, and other really heavy stuff. Essentially, I was contracting with my Xtracycle as my truck.

Now, while I didn’t log too many miles on the Xtra, I did use it every day, and it saved huge wear and tear on my pickup truck.

One issue I had with the Xtra in this configuration was that the donor frame was really too small for me. It was originally my mom’s bike, and a decent Trek Antelope Cro-Mo frame, but simply too small. After I started working back at my other (and current) employer (our slow season was done) I had a 26mile commute each way. I tried several different bikes for this commute; a recumbent, which was actually a great option for this commute. I rode my fixie quite a bit and also bought a beautiful vintage specialized sequoia, which again was too small for me. Finally I got my LHT. All during this time, my Xtracycle sat unused. The frame was simply too small and the components were pretty much junk. During the time I was hauling tools, I pretty much used it as a single speed. When you’ve got weight, and 1 block to go, one low gear is all you need.

I wanted badly to have a nice frame on the Xtracycle, to make it an option for longer rides and in particular, a longer commute. So I started searching. At the time, I didn’t want to spend any money on a frame, and even in it’s current rendition, the frame was a freebie. I picked up a Giant frame for $20, and even though it wasn’t the great quality, I liked the large size and built it up. Now, there is something to be said for actually having a liking for a bike. If it fits you, but you just don’t like it, you’ll never really enjoy the bike. I learned that. After building the Xtra up on the Giant frame, I had something against it that I just couldn’t get over. I don’t know what it is, but it was like a smitten puppy or something. Didn’t like it, didn’t like to ride it, and even though it did its job fine, it never got my seal of approval.

What to do, what to do. After purchasing my Karate Monkey S/S 29er MTB, I realized that I no longer needed my 26” S/S pink bike. Now this pink bike, I had a real attachment to. I don’t know why. It’s not spectacular and I don’t even know the make. I do know that it is built with Tange Cromoly, and there are a few lugs in the frame construction, but it’s not a completely lugged frame. This pink bike, would become the platform for the Xtracycle as it is today.

I sanded the pink bike down, painted it, repacked all the bearing with grease and gave her a complete overhaul. Painted it semi-gloss black to pay homage to the original inception of my Xtracycle.

The drive train came from a sweet Miyata 100LT that I picked up for $80. Even though it was a 48cm frame I couldn’t turn down a bike like that, at that price. The frame went off to Conneciticut, where it’s currently undergoing a transformation to 650B. The gent who bought the bike only want the frame (triple butted, splined tubing) so I kept all the parts.

While first re-doing the Xtra on the Giant frame, I even used the Shimano bar-ends that came off the Miyata, but on this past re-build, I opted for the riser MTB bars. Some cheapo Shimano thumbies are playing very well with the Deore derailleur, so I’ll let them keep playing together. I like these cheap thumbies. They’re comfy, and they’ve got the friction option, which is nice. Currently they are set up in ratchet mode and working very well. I even sent a set over to my friend Smudgemo, when he was needing a set. I think these thumbies are highly under-rated, and should get some serious consideration when looking for shifting options for commuter or utility bikes.

So, now that I’ve had a few days of riding the new and improved Xtracycle, I will say I think I like it’s current set up. The frame is comfortable, and I like it. Sizing is good, while I could stand a larger frame, it’s not to the point where I’m concerned about it. I feel like this is a bike that I can ride for hours, and I hope to get some long rides in next summer. As for the winter, I’m not sure I’ll run studded tires on it. I’m in the process of converting the Giant into a Single speed winter beater with Studded tires, as it once was, just without the extreme DIY studded tires. However the Xtra might just turn into my main commuting bike over the winter. Studded tires may just find themselves on the rims one day. I love the fact that I can keep a lock, patch kit and some other supplies tucked into the pockets at all times. I love that I can wear a warm coat to work in the morning (this morning it was -2C) and on the way home, just throw it in the Xtra and enjoy the last of the T-shirt weather that is disappearing quickly.

Need to swing by the store to grab some groceries? Not a problem. Need beer for some friends coming over tonight? Covered. This freedom that the Xtracycle brings is really quite incredible, if you’re a person who loves to ride bikes as much as you can. Handling isn’t any better with the freeradical on, and only marginally worse. It’s a lot slower for sure, but last time I checked, the idea of having a bicycle replace a car has never been about speed, and the accelerated rate that we can do things, but rather about the quality of life we can live. The quality of my life is better because I ride my bike to work and don’t drive. The Xtracycle enables me to do that a whole lot more, and also ride a bike at times when before, I would have had to take a vehicle. If you’re wondering about getting an Xtracycle do it. You will not regret it.

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