741Re: Surly Xtra-frame (Big Dummy)
- Dec 8, 2006Hiya John, Tone, et al,
First, just a word about where I'm coming from. I'm a hardcore bike
freak. I wife and I own and use 2 Free Radical conversions. It's
really a truly revolutionary idea and an ingenious product. Being
able to convert just about any bike into something capable of hauling
trailer-sized loads and still ride more or less like a regular bike
sans trailer is fantastic.
To me, the unified longtail frame is the next logical evolutionary
step, but very much doubt that it will replace the Free Radical kit.
I don't think the people who would buy a Big Dummy are necessarily
the same people who would buy a Free Radical. My hope (and I'm sure
Xtracycle's and Surly's) is that it will expand the market.
As wonderful a product as the Free Radical is, it has issues that
should be addressed. The first is the creak at the chainstay bridge-
tongue attachment point. Next would be the poor torsional rigidity on
certain donor bikes. Differences in height between donor bikes'
chainstay bridge attachment point height can a pretty substantial
effect on the bike's handling. One of our Free Radicals, based on an
older GT mountain bike, handles pretty well. The other, based on a
Trek 970, not so much. Either one will get pretty whippy near the
upper end of the load weight limit.
Then there's the overall improvisational homebuilt feel. I'm fine
with riding a kit-built conversion around, but some people aren't.
Also, in conversations with interested parties, I've had to contest
the idea that the Free Radical was part of the donor bike brand's
lineup. More than once, I've gotten the "oh, so that's a Trek?"
question. An integrated longtail will finally give this class of
bikes an identity of its very own. Kinda like when Joe Breeze, Tom
Ritchie and their ilk took us from Clunker to Mountain Bike (not
exactly, but I did say kinda.)
Here's what I see as the benefits of having an integrated frame:
-Reduction in torsional flex.
-Improved strength behind the rear dropouts
-Haven't confirmed this, but I think it resolves rear disk brake
caliper-disk size difference
-Lighter (not a big issue for me, but every little bit helps)
-An identifiable, marketable cargo bike
As for the cost, yes, it's expensive. But think about it--it's a
completely new class of commercially-produced bicycle. It will
require more materials to produce, larger shipping boxes and more
shipping space. The market for it is currently pretty small, so
there's also some risk that it won't sell enough to cover development
costs. I don't know how the cost of a complete bike will compare to
some other cargo bike like a Bakfiets or a Christiana, but I'm
betting it would not be substantially different.
I get where you're coming from and hear you on the cost issue, but I
think Surly is going out on a limb. And look, Pugsley buyers pay a
premium too ($550 or $600, I think. Anybody know what list price is
on a Pugsley?)
The Big Dummy does have vertical dropouts. John's white industries
ENO hub suggestion is a good one. I've heard those are pretty bombproof.
The riding you describe doesn't sound like it would justify a Big
Dummy. Seems like there are and will continue to be plenty of Free
Radical owners in that position. Like I say, I hope it expands the
market for this type of bike. I'll be keeping one of mine and
hopefully selling the other to the firefighter across the street. She
commutes about a mile to the firehouse with about 60 pounds of gear.
She's currently using a Chevy Suburban, but she loves the Free
Radical. I'm aiming to create another convert... 8-)
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