Xtracycle cruiserJune 2, 2010 at 23:00 | Posted in bicycles | 4 Comments
Tags: bicycle, bike, cargo, chafing, cruiser, cycling, radish, xtracycle
I have bought a new bike. It was going cheap in the Dirtworks yard sale, and I just couldn’t resist.
It kind of ticked a lot of boxes. For a while I had been mulling over the following things:
– getting a bike suitable for putting a baby seat on
– finding a way to transport my trombone by bike
– having a more casual, upright ride for local trips and family rides
– a grocery-getter that I could ride in regular shoes (the tourer has SPDs)
– something Mrs Chillikebab might ride
– a bike with internal hub gears, just because I think they are cool
Then, in the Dirtworks sale list, I spotted it. The Xtracycle Radish. I mentioned to Mrs Chillikebab that I was mulling it over, and she instantly told me to buy it. (I have to say, I think I’ve scored a bit of a success here in partner management. The last few bike purchases I have agonised over for so long, Mrs Chillikebab has got thoroughly bored with the endless umming and ahhhing, to the point where she would rather I just spent the money than continually go on and on about something I am thinking about. Hence she now urges me to just get on with it, rather than debate it ad nauseum.)
What a machine! It pretty much ticks all the boxes, with the exception of hub gears. And it just looks so cool. ‘Like a Harley’ was how one (non-cycling) friend put it. Those handlebar grips are hand-stitched imitation leather, people. And those tyres are over two inches wide.
All my non-cycling friends love it. I have had more complimentary comments from people at work about this bike than any other I’ve ridden. People are intrigued by the platform on the back, and ask ‘what’s it like to ride?’. People want to have a go on it. It’s a bit similar to what happened when I bought the Aldi bike, and people wanted to try it out. It makes me reflect on some of the things Mike Rubbo talks about with regard to upright bicycles and their effect on cycling culture. I have to say, it is strangely liberating to jump on this bike wearing my jeans, pedal to my destination and hop off, ready to go. The cool weather helps, of course, but it does make me realise that I probably wear ‘cycling clothes’ when on short trips as much out of habit than real necessity.
Part of the equation is, of course, riding slower. This is a bike to cruise along on, rather than a bike to work up a sweat riding. The seat is set back, the handlebars are right there and you just can’t get up out of the saddle for a sprint. Just sit back, click down the gears and enjoy the scenery as you cruise by nice and slow. it’s a very different way to cycle.
And those gears are quite low. I haven’t actually looked up the ratios, but that’s a small front chainring coupled to some hefty gearing. You need them, as this thing weighs a ton. It’s a lot like driving a bus, actually (not that I’ve driven one, but hey!) – slow to get going, capable of getting up some speed on the downhills but lacking in manoeuvrability. Steering takes some getting used to. Apart form the fact the handlebars kind of bash my knees when cornering it has such an extreme castor angle that it really prefers to go in a straight line. Sharp, low-speed corners feel a bit weird, especially with the extra length and the thick, soft tyres.
Cruising along on the flat, though, is lovely. Big balloon tyres (40psi!) soak up the bumps, and you just feel like waving to everyone as you go by. Especially small boys who point you out to their dads and cry out ‘look at that man on the funny bike!’. Hills are a bit harder, but you just go slow and steady. My best ‘score’* on this bike is only two, which gives you an idea as to the ponderous nature of climbing hills. Still, the low gearing makes it possible, and I can ride this bike to work from the Inner West to the top of North Sydney quite easily. And the brakes are awesome. The long wheelbase and weight on the back, coupled with the amount of rubber on the road means that this thing stops on a dime, notwithstanding the weight. (It has a disc brake on the rear, but not on the front.) The only real problem is that it’s a bit small; it’s a ‘one size fits all’ proposition, but in reality I’m a bit too tall and am not quite comfortable. The marketing for the bike features images of women riding it, so perhaps that’s their target market.
The other gimmicky thing is the pedals; they have a kind of dynamo in them which light up some LEDs as you pedal. Well, actually they don’t; experimenting with them shows that in order to generate enough power to light them up, you need to be riding with a cadence of about 300. Now I know those gears are low, but that’s a tad ridiculous. However, the dynamo mechanism prevents you putting your feet close in to the cranks (as they stick up on the inside edge of the pedal). I’m going to have to change these, I can see, as I like to have my feet closer together when riding. It’s the old one banana thing.
The reaction of my cycling friends to this bike has also been interesting. ‘WTF?’ is a common reaction, and many of them simply cannot comprehend why I bought it. Heavy, slow, less nimble in the traffic. And as for riding in jeans, well, just think of the chafing!
More fool them, I say. I am on the cutting edge of bike fashion; I rode a vintage 80s racer until they got popular, then a fixie until the fashionistas took over, when I bought a panniers-and-rack commuter. Well, this is the new bleeding edge, folks – upright cargo bikes. You heard it here first. Give it three years, and you’ll take back the scoffs as you jump on your Dutch bike in your suit.