The guys at xtracycle are sharp

November 1, 2006

It works, and people notice it, and like

So, about a month ago I got an XtraCycle. It works very well. Empty, I don’t really notice it is there. Not-empty, it can carry bags of groceries, a pumpkin, a stupidly heavy backpack, spare clothes, a lock, a half-dozen stretchy cords I found along the road today, a spare tire, and (almost always) a serious toolkit. I’ve lost weight, blood pressure’s better, blood chemistry is better. I’m not a big planner or careful packer; with the Xtracycle, I just do whatever the heck I want.

What’s especially entertaining is watching how the chain, under load, manages to not quite hit anything as it threads its way through the old frame and the new FreeRadical, no matter which gear I choose. Someone thought about that. The various add-ons seem to fit securely, with surprisingly minimal attachment hair.

The handling depends on the load, and how it is placed. No load is great. On grades, I think it even helps; the front wheel stays down on the way up, and descending a bumpy dirt path it feels less like it might go end-over. Some load, forward, is fine. Much load at a moderate speed, is also ok. A descent down a 5+% grade, with backpack, grocery bag, toolkit, gallon of milk, lock, clothes, and road souvenirs, with a studded tire on front undergoing its break-in, is “interesting”. After a few experimental wobbles, I decided that slowing down would be prudent. I think the studded tire is part of the picture; it sometimes seemed squirrely without a load. And definitely, it benefits from a forward load. Put a lot of weight far back, and the handling gets a good deal worse.

What’s more interesting is that people notice it, and like it. I’ve been reviewing papers (which necessarily happens at Peet’s Lexington; I need the right amount of unimportant ambient noise, and a steady supply of warmed caffeine) with the bike parked out front, and at least three times someone has noticed it and we’ve talked at length. A bunch of construction workers saw it today, and made favorable noises. Some guy in a crosswalk in Harvard Square saw it yesterday, yelled out “what do you carry in that?” — “whatever I want” seemed to be the right answer.

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