Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Big Dumb Plans

The carpocalypse is coming.  Gas isn't getting any cheaper, and despite the host of folks who refuse to get it, the plain fact for anyone who cares to open their eyes, is that more driving is not the solution.  Since inheriting my mom's car, it's been useful on occasion, particularly in the winter when I'm feeling lazy.  But more often than not, it's a crutch, resulting in a prolonged debate between the devil and the angel on my shoulder about how I will get where I need to go.  As the weather gets warmer, the devil wins less--but when she does, I'm almost always the loser, ending up stuck in traffic, frustrated and thinking how much more fun, faster and more pleasant my task would have been by bike.  Even though traveling by bike is hardly a utopia these days, for me, it still beats the alternative 99.99999 percent of the time.  For those .001% times, Jess's car is usually available, since she rides as much or more than I do (having a job and not being a shiftless bum like myself, she actually *has* to leave the house at least four days a week).  We also both have Zipcar accounts (received gratis as perks for involvement with different bike-related projects), giving us the flexibility to get the right car for the job if we need say, a pick-up truck for a dump run.

With that in mind, I've decided to make good on a long held dream.  I've been lusting after an Xtracycle A vacation day of returns.ever since I first saw one seven or eight years ago.  For those who haven't heard of the X, it's a frame extension called a 'Free Radical" which attaches to a regular bicycle.  The wheel base is extended about 15 inches and Freeloader bags are attached to two V-Racks.  A snap deck sits over the rear tire.  That plus a host of optional accessories allow you to carry just about anything on your bike: groceries, ladders, 80 lbs bags of dog food, people, oversize loads.  The size of your load is limited only by your creativity, the length of your tie-down rope, and the strength of your legs.

I never had the money, the space or the need to justify getting one, but I light up every time I see one, and, if the owner is stopped, usually pester them with questions about how they like it.  I've read through pages of testimonials on the Xtracycle website about how it literally "changes your life!"  One of the pros of an X over a more traditional trailer system is the quality of the ride.  The long wheel base means your bike rides like, well, a bike.  I've heard lots of reports that an X rides even better when loaded.  So, you don't have to try to decide whether to hook up the trailer that day, it's just always there.  And we're not just talking nice paved roads here either.  Xtracycles can tackle gravel, dirt and singletrack as well or better than a regular bike. 

Now Surly has teamed up with Xtracycle and made a frame that's purpose built for Xtracycle components. The frame being all one piece means an even smoother ride and less flex in the frame when carrying loads.  They call this new frame, the Big Dummy.  Last week, I got lost in the rabbit hole and spent a whole evening watching Big Dummy porn on YouTube.

So it seems, the time has come to make the leap.  The car will go on sale next month, and the resulting funds will be use to build the bike collection I've always wanted.  Yes, I said 'collection.'   After all the traveling I did last summer, and the $600 I spent on rental cars while visiting folks in California, I swore I would not go down there again without a bike.  After spending a few weeks checking out folding bike options, I took the leap and ordered a Bike Friday Tikit.  Sure, I could spend less on a Dahon, but the general consensus is that Bike Friday has the nicest riding folders of anyone around.  You can get a lot of bike for car money, and I want these to be in the stable for years to come, so I decided not to skimp. 

If you're not a bike person, you might think deciding to get a folding bike would narrow down the choices--but at Bike Friday, they have a folder for every occasion.  Touring? Multi-modal city commuting? Off-road? High end performance? Tandem, triple, four person that comes apart and fits in two suitcases? You get the idea.  So narrowing down the final choice was pretty tough.   I called and talked to Hugh, one of the sales associates at BF and based on my needs, he suggested the Pocket Crusoe or the New World Tourist.  But I couldn't quite get the Tikit out of my head.  The wheels are smaller, which usually means a harsher ride, but Jess and I went down to Coventry Cycles on Hawthorne and tried some out and the ride was pretty smooth. Plus, the folding package is smaller, and you can roll the bike by the built in handle.  And for travel, the breakdown and packing process is a lot quicker than the larger Crusoe and Tourist models. 

After much deliberation, I decided on a custom built Tikit with 24 speeds, touring H-bars and the travel case that doubles as a trailer when you get to your destination.  It'll be yellow and I'm still deciding what to put on my custom name plate.  I'm open to suggestions.

The final steed is arguably the be-all end all of mutt do-it-all bike utility.  It is will also be based on a Surly frame and it's called the Cross Check.  It's one of three bikes that Surly sells as a complete bike, but I'm getting the frame only so I can build it up with just the parts I want.  It will serve as my main commuter bike, but it could be pressed into service for light touring, or as an actual 'Cross bike (I'm getting a lot of pressure to race Cyclocross this year to which I say--we'll see).  I hear nothing but good about the ride quality and versatility of this frame and so far, my test rides have been pretty sweet.  Check out Vik's blog to see what a chameleon this bike can be.

The only really sad part of this affair is that for reasons of space, I'm going to have to give up my trusty Scott Sportster P4, which has been my dream bike up this point and is almost as versatile as the Cross Check.  It's a cushy ride around town, but has front suspension in case I get the urge to go off-road.  I even took it to Bend and took it on some trails that definitely tested it's limits.  I hate to do it, but our garage is not very big.  The Scott has been feeling a little slow for the past few months and I've been wishing for something a little zippier for around town trips.  I can easily rationalize having having five bikes with different purposes, but not two bikes with the same purpose.  That's just crazy. :-)

Jess is also trading her Scott for a Cross Check.  She swears she had the idea first, but I don't know if I'm willing to give her full credit. :) However, it does mean that, once again, we will have matching bikes in the same color (Misty Mountain Grey).  The components might be a little different though.  I keep trying to get her to embrace our twin dork pride, but she's not quite there yet.  The problem is, I've always done my shopping by noticing cool things that other people had and then going to find that thing.  She just happens to live with me, and also have excellent taste in just the kind of clothes/gear I like.  It's really quite convenient.  And besides, I had my Timbuk2 bag first. So there.

So that's it.  By the end of September, I hope to have a completely revamped bike stable.  To sum up the final list:

Trek 1500 (road, speedster, distance events)

Cannondale Rush (MTB (stay tuned for reports from the first shake down rides at Mountain Bike Oregon last weekend)

Surly Big Dummy (Hauling machine for big art portfolios, groceries, girlfriend, granny and whatever else I might pick up)

Surly Cross Check (Do it all commuter, cross, light touring)

Bike Friday Tikit (Go anywhere, stealth superhero travel bike--in bright yellow)

The revolution will not be motorized.

1 comment:

Sandy B. said...

Congratulations! Very exciting.