summer of the Xtracycle

It’s been a bit over 3 months now with the Xtracycle, and I still love it. It’s a bit like owning a pickup or a van: you can always bring more “stuff” and just toss it in the back. That made all the rides out to the river quite luxurious, because we could bring blankets, snacks, cold beverages, towels, etc., etc.

I’ve taken to quick grocery trips to the Safeway near work on my way home; I can load up with not just a few things for dinner, but whatever other staples we might be running low on. (Like a 10 lb bag of flour, a gallon of milk, a big brick of cheese: there’s always room for one more thing!) This past weekend I finally did what I initially claimed as my Xtracycle goal: getting a big bag of cat food home, 16 lbs, bungee’d onto the deck.

Actually, that load, which also included a big brick of cans of sparkling water, probably topped out what I can safely carry. Not that it was too heavy, although I was a little slow, but that having so much weight on the back makes for wobbly steering. If I had a front rack or a really big basket, I might’ve been able to carry even a bit more and had more balanced steering.

Tangentially: the last connector in the east-west trail is almost done — paved, but not yet landscaped — and I love it. Having that straight smooth path almost directly to Fred Meyer…dreamy.

The bike doesn’t get a lot of attention, but I do get questions about it fairly regularly. Sunday was pretty typical: I was at the farmer’s market, came out with my food, and an elderly couple was standing by the Xtracycle giving it quizzical looks. When I started loading (always kickstand side first, BTW) and unlocking, they asked what it was for, how it worked, did I like riding it. My standard answer: it’s a kit bolted onto a normal bike, but I bought it pre-assembled (at Joy Ride in Lacey!); I can carry lots of stuff, great for grocery shopping; I’ve seen pictures of them with kid seats; no, it’s not that heavy and it rides really stable.

Which is true: I love the way it rides. After a year & a half of the Smoke-29, it feels low, which is a good thing, and the long tail just makes me feel solid, like riding a barge. Or something. As for “maneuverability,” I’ve never been great with turning — in our house, we call it Zoolander Syndrome — but it’s not much different from my previous bikes. C, on the other hand, can turn on a dime with his, which maybe says as much about his mad skillz as the Xtracycle.

I still need to get it really ready for the rainy season, which seems to have started in earnest this week. From my research, it sounds like the Snapdeck should probably get an extra coat of varnish, and I’d like to try the backpack cover trick. Ideally we’d get nice waterproof bags to put in the freeloaders, but at the moment I’m rolling kinda ghetto with my commute bags (a pair of fantastic water-resistant bright yellow grocery-type bags) inside of kitchen trash bags.

About the bags: those el-cheapo fabric bags found at the grocery store don’t work all that well; the square shape makes them awkward to fit into the Xtracycle bags. Instead, anything with a long skinny profile does quite nicely. I adore this bag in particular, because it’s about the right shape — and insulated as well. Originally it was for day trips, taking beverages & grapes, but I also like it for grocery shopping; don’t have to worry so much about things melting or spoiling!

We have a Wideloader/Longloader combo, but somewhat to my surprise it hasn’t been especially useful yet. I put the wideloader on before that big grocery trip, but there wasn’t anything that needed the extra support. Plus we had an annoying mishap with the original set — design flaw plus fiddling led to them being stuck together entirely the wrong way — so I’m kinda meh about those particular accessories.

Otherwise, I’m thrilled to pieces. I get excited about riding, and I’m irrationally proud of being able to haul so much stuff. Now let’s see how long into the fall & winter I can keep going. (For those keeping track at home, I commuted regularly up into early December, quit at the arrival of the Snowpocalypse, and only rode sporadically from then until April. Prior winters have been similar; February is the nadir of everything.)

Here’s some pics:

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