June 27, 2005

Sport Utility Bicycle

A couple of weeks ago I was reading through the day's accumulation in Bloglines and came across this entry at the ever-prolific Treehugger blog.

I did a double-take at the picture showing a strangely elongated mountain bike, and before I'd really even figured out what it was I was looking at, the five-year-old part of my brain was already saying "want! want! want!" I spent an absurd amount of time poring over the wealth of information at the Xtracycle web site. I looked at every picture in the galleries, read through all of the FAQs and even downloaded and printed out the user's manual. A week ago last Friday I ordered a Freeradical conversion kit which arrived last Wednesday. It was all I could do to force myself to wait until Saturday to put the thing together, but the trepidation about possibly rendering my bike temporarily unrideable if I couldn't finish it helped me out.

Here's a picture of my bike before the conversion.


To install the Freeradical, you take off the rear wheel, the rear derailleur, the rear brake, and the chain (and in my case, the fender and rack). Once the rear end of the bicycle is naked, you bolt the Freeradical frame into the rear dropouts (where the wheel used to go) and onto the chainstay bridge (right behind the bottom bracket where the cranks attach) or in my case onto a couple of plates sandwiching the chain stays (no bridge on the 6500). Once the frame is secured you mount your brakes where the wheel will now go, mount the derailleur, string new long cables for each of those appliances, patch in a chunk of chain to make the chain long enough for the new geometry, then mount the wheel and get everything adjusted into functioning properly again.

Here's what the bike looks like with just the Freeradical installed.


At this point it's rideable again, but it isn't an SUB until you've installed the vertical racks and their custom-fitted gear slings called "Freeloaders" (yes, the guys at Xtracycle have a lot of fun coming up with all these names). Plus the snap deck, a varnished wooden board that tops the whole thing off and makes it a polished hand-crafted sport-utility piece of bicycle art.


Pretty cool, huh?

It rides really well, maybe a little smoother than before. I need to tinker with the derailleur adjustment, but that's just because I'm not used to working on these new-fangled indexed shifting systems.

The cargo capacity is easily 10 times what I could carry comfortably with the rack and panniers. There's pictures on the website of people carrying kayaks and surfboards. I can't wait to take it to the lumber yard for the first time. One of the things I need to do is rig up a platform for carrying home a pizza (though I can probably just bungie the box down to the snap deck).

Posted by jeffy at June 27, 2005 11:22 PM

The people down at the lumber yard are going to
think you're a weirdo, J :-)

Posted by: Dan L at June 28, 2005 11:51 AM

You say that like it's a bad thing ;-)

(As if that train hadn't already left the station...)

Posted by: jeffy at June 28, 2005 03:15 PM

Congratulations! I enjoyed reading about your experience and seeing the before & after. The guys at the lumber yard may want my number and you can give it to them. Thanks for being weird enough to take your bike to the Xtreme!

Xtracyclers are the most intellegent group of lightbeings I've ever had the pleasure to associate myself with. We are (Hurrah!)only misunderstood because we are ahead of our time.

Posted by: Laughter Medicine at June 29, 2005 12:42 PM