Category Archives: buildin’ the xtracycle

Leaf-Blower Elegance in a Bike-friendly Package

Oma TankerAs most of you know by now, the team at Car Free Days is involved in an outright crusade to drive less and ride more. So far it’s been great. We’ve been riding (our Xtracycles and Anne’s Oma, mostly) nearly everywhere we need to go.

Those of you adept at reading through the lines, however, have probably noticed a little discord along the way. There was our son’s brush with hypothermia on the New Years cargo bike ride. There were challenging logistics for a 10pm wedding reception in Auburn. And we still get grief for the 50″ Plasma we scratched the crap out of hauling it home from Costco on the Xtracycles. And yes, the hills. Always the damn hills.

In many cases, my friends, pure people power isn’t the only answer.

We’ve dabbled with the idea of powering our Xtracycles with a Stokemonkey. Everyone we know who’s used one loves it. And Todd at Clever Cycles is a total peach. Really, the Stokemonkey is a perfect product, save one major shortcoming: They run on electricity. Franky, we just can’t condone the wasteful use of electrons wondering if perhaps a salmon got trapped behind a dam or a seagull met its demise at the blade of a wind turbine.

Though people can overlook such negatives, we at Car Free Days like to think our moral junk is of a stiffer quality than average. So that’s meant schellping our damn kids up the damn hills on our damn bikes with only our damn legs to thank.

Until now…

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Snap! (Crackle, Pop) Goes the Xtracycle

Snapped Xtracycle Tongue

I broke my Xtracycle frame the last day of April and am only getting around to mentioning it on the blog now. It’s been so long I almost let it pass without comment, but figured the info may help someone else down the road.

First of all, I should be clear. It’s not really the frame—more the undersized tongue where the front attachment plate sandwiches the chainstays near the bottom bracket.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’d been hearing this creak, creak creak—first when climbing out of the saddle (which isn’t unheard of for someone my size), then later even when seated (which is unusual, even for us giant folks) and only applying moderate muscle. I kept checking the torque on the three attachment points and even looked for cracks on my Rockhopper frame and the X where it was visible. Everything seemed fine. Finally, the night before “Bike to Work Month” started, I couldn’t take the embarrassment of a noisy bike any longer. I vowed to pull the Xtracycle off the bike frame, coat up the “Special Nut”/dropout contact points with anti-seize and put an end to the creak once and for all!

It wasn’t to be. As soon as I backed off the Special Nuts torque, … CLUNK! What was left of the tongue snapped under the weight of the bare Xtracycle frame. On closer inspection, this piece obviously had been failing for a while. It’s hard to tell from the photo but there’s surface rust on the break, meaning the puny welds had been failing for a while. Sheesh, would it have killed them to beef that weld point up a bit? A small gusset perhaps? Still, at least it held until I got to the workstand, rather than failing on a downhill with kids on the Snapdeck!

So here I was, the night before the big bike commute month kickoff and me, the BikeJunction team captain without a bike. Or was I?

I looked across the garage and spied my spare Xtracycle. Spare Xtracycle? Everyone has a spare, right? I bought this as a loaner for friends and family but hadn’t got around to giving it a very needed tune. In addition to it being a couple sizes too small, the flat tires, rusty chain and ginormous exercise-bike saddle made it unridable for my commute. As a donor, though …

A mere hour later I had the old longbike frame joined to my Rockhopper and was ready for the morning commute. I figured I’d send my Xtracycle frame in for a warranty claim and do the swap again in a few weeks. That was the plan anyway; six weeks later is still hangs in the garage.

A few more notes/observations:

  • Check your tongue! Right now.
  • A bit of reinforcement with the original design would have gone a long way.
  • A gusset would have been great. Even better, a flat, plate-like tongue could probably serve a couple purposes — more metal-to-weld contact and the plate would spread out the forces on the chainstay bridge like an upper FAP.
  • The donor frame has some issues with the disc mount. I pulled the rear Avid brake off my original Xtracycle and it should have bolted right on the donor. Instead, the caliper rubbed the rotor, almost as if the mounting bosses were dialed in for 201mm rotors instead of 203mm spec. A presta valve “nut” worked under the mounts as a spacer, but I’m still wondering if they had a bad batch or something. Anyone seen this?
  • The Big Dummy and other custom Xtracycle options are looking kind of nifty. Less to break.
  • Finally, and I’m serious about this, check your Xtracycle for cracks! You might be able to do it with a flashlight and some creative neck craning, but if you have any creaks or squeaks you’ve been trying to ignore, pull the frame and check it out up close!

Snapped Xtracycle Tongue, other sideHas anyone else out there broken their Xtracycle? Had it warrantied? I’m starting to think it may not be worth the shipping hassle and time delay to send it back. I may just have someone tack the tongue back on there (reinforced, of course) and be done with it.

Summer’s coming, and with my luck I’m going to need a spare.

I Pimped Her Ride

shellac’d xtracycle goodness

It’s a tired old title cliché, but really, what else do you call such an exercise in vehicular vanity?

Regular readers may remember Anne complaining about her bike being in for service last week. I tried to remind her that other people travel to shops and pay a mechanic to accomplish the work magically completed on her bike, but apparently even that doesn’t excuse said mechanic to remove saddle and Snapdeck from her main source of transportation.

To make up for the inconvenience, as I tackled some minor tuneup tasks and installed her honey Brooks B17-s Christmas present I threw in a few stylistic upgrades: Continue reading

Xtracycle Stoker Stems

Cheap-ass stoker stem on my Xtracycle

I covered stoker bars a while ago. That was a cop-out because the bar is the easy part. Almost anything will work (chopped off mountain bike bar, old BMX bars, Albatross, whatever). The hard part is mounting the bar in such a way that the passenger’s nose is not stuffed into the rider’s butt.

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I ♥ my Wald Front Basket

My xtracycle, my basket, and suzzallo library

After date night, I attended an amazing lecture by Lawrence Lessig at Kane Hall. On the way home, when I should have been thinking about things like hybrid companies, government regulation, and our broken intellectual property system, I found myself moved to conduct an impromptu bike-basket photoshoot. As much as I wanted concentrate on Supercapitalism, etc, I was smitten by the beauty and function embodied in my Wald #585! Continue reading

Xtracycle Build Details: Stoker Bar

Nitto Stoker Bars on Anne’s rig

This is part of an ongoing series of posts (ok, it’s the first–we’ll see how it goes) on the building of our Xtracycles. We get lots of questions about putting them together so I thought I better start documenting. Normal people would do it in order, starting with the actual kit, but me, I gotta start with the stoker bars. Maybe I just like saying Stoker….

Interested in the build? Read on, then see the blurb at the bottom and watch the “Buildin’…” category.

For our stoker bar setups we used some cheap ebay tandem stems and beer-can shims to mount bars for our passengers. I’ll get to the stems in another post but for now, here’s the scoop on these sylish Nitto “Swept-Back” bars.

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