2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great carrying capacity increase, tons of fun...,
This review is from: Xtracycle Longtail Accessory Kit
Note that this product is just the accessory kit for the Free Radical frame (or for a Big Dummy bike). If you're converting a bicycle to a longtail, you'll also need the Free Radical frame. This kit is the most popular pieces that make the Free Radical functional.
My review is for the whole Free Radical longtail conversion.
I've been rocking the Xtracycle since December of '09, purchased directly from the company when they were still in Oakland. I installed my kit on an OS Blackbuck 29"er by local legend Mark Slate. I run with a 29" wheel up front, at fat 26" in the rear, rigid fork, and a Cosco Scenera Car Seat custom-mounted to Xtracycle's pre-drilled Ecodeck. Brakes are Avid BB7 with a 203mm rotor up front and a 180 in back. I've run it using both a Nuvinci CVP Rear Hub as well as a Rohloff Speedhub.
Frame choice is the critical decision. This conversion wasn't intended to be run on a 29-inch mountain bike, which I was aware of, so I elected to move forward by cutting custom mounting brackets from plate steel from my local hardware store. But that unnecessary for most 26" mountain bike and 700C road frames. Also, aluminum frames are recommended due to their relative lack of flex compared to the steel frame I chose. The flex presents itself in an initially disconcerting side-to-side sway. For me, it was something to get used to, but it doesn't really affect my enjoyment of the bike.
Also, choosing the 29" frame required me to pick up a taller-than-normal fork to get my steering geometry in check, and to provide adequate bottom bracket height -- which is still quite low (actually a good thing when I'm riding with a heavy load, though I have frequent pedal strikes).
Installation is a 1-2-3 process. You'll need to re-cable your rear shifting and brake, which should easily transfer over to the Xtracycle Free Radical frame. The physical installation is just a matter of tightening up a few bolts and shoving the wheel into its new home.
I was a little bewildered (to put it mildly) when I first saw the Xtracycle parts selection, but it boils down to: the Free Radical frame is the base of the conversion -- the part that bolts up to the bike. From there, the vertical racks (included in this kit) support the (2) Free Loader bags (though I'm outfitted with just one Freeloader + two panniers hanging off the other side). The deck goes over the top of the vertical racks and both stabilizes them, as well as provides additional mounting space. The included snap deck is one option; I'm using Xtracycle's recycled plastic Ecodeck that features a bunch of pre-drilled holes for easy mounting of custom accessories. Wide Loaders (not included) are optional accessories that support additional side loaded weight, such as Igloo coolers, boxes and kids bikes.
To somebody not familiar, this probably sounds confusing. It's explained with pictures on Xtracycle's website, but initially I found that all a little confusing, too, and I'm a bike guy! It was nice to be able to stop into their HQ at the time and see all these options in person, and have somebody walk me through.
Riding the bike is a hoot. My son took his first ride when he was about 1, and now, approaching 2˝, he whoops it up, waves at motorcycles, gawks at road construction, and generally has a great time (though it's pretty hard to have a back-and-forth conversation while we're riding).
The bike is heavy, and it's long, so it's cumbersome to lift, maneuver, lock up, and negotiate stairs and doorways (especially with the Wide Loaders installed). On the road, I can feel the extra weight, but it's not bad -- it's just "big." Wide turns are about the only adjustment I've made to my riding style, and a little extra care when negotiating narrow gaps. I have brakes that would normally be considered overkill for a street bike, but the large rotors are right at home on the Xtra and give me all the stopping confidence I need when loaded and charging down a hill.
My Xtracycle gets its share of attention and certainly starts conversations, even here in Oakland where there are plenty of Xtracycles and other "odd looking" cargo bikes cruising the streets. For transporting kids, toys, groceries, medium sized boxes, or just cruising the waterfront, the bike's utility is endless (it'll even pull a Burley trailer).