Thursday, November 27, 2008

This blog is moving....

I'm moving this Big Dummy Blog to a new location - here. It will be combined with my other bike blogs for a one stop bike blogging experience!

If you just want to read about cargo biking and the Surly Big Dummy - no worries. When you jump to the new blog you will see at the top right a section of links titled "categories". If you click on Cargo Biking you only see the cargo bike related posts and this is essentially the content from my Big Dummy Blog just in a new location/format.

Also note that if you only want to read about the Big Dummy you can do that as well. Just look near the bottom of the right side of the screen on the new blog and you'll see a section of links called "Tags". If you click on "Big Dummy" you'll only see posts about the Big Dummy. You can click on "Rohloff" and only read posts about this fine German IGH.

I will be moving all the content from this site over to the new blog - although that process may take some time. This site will remain active until Blogger sees fit to get rid of it so until the transition is complete you can use this site as an archive and the new site to read any new content.

This is officially the last post on this blog. All future posts will be at the new location.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Don't forget the oil...

I was talking to a rider whose Rohloff didn't get any oil added when built and has been ridden dry [gasp!]. I thought I'd just post a reminder that Rohloff's are shipped dry so you need to add that small bottle of oil they provide in the box that the hub came in.

Take care of your Rohloff and it will take care of you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Devo & the Dummy

Photo: Devo

I posted above Devian's Asana Cycles Blog earlier and thought I would share a link to a long Big Dummy thread he has going on over at He talks about everything from the environment to tire upgrades and Big Dummy mods to spirituality and documents his bike camping adventures. I mean where else can you read about a Big Dummy going on a road bike group ride???

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Riding the Spine PT2

The Riding the Spine crew have been taking a break from their Panamerican offroad cargo biking adventure to raise more funds for their trip. They are now back on the road and started the second part of their trip in fine fashion by getting around the infamous Darien Gap by sea kayaking with their bikes from Panama to Columbia.

I'll be keen to follow this group of riders as they continue to south on their interesting collection of Big Dummies, Xtracycles and of course the beastly Chupacabra...=-)

Xtracycle Pricing

Maybe a cargo bike is better than a car?...=-)

A member of the Bike Forums Utility Sub-Forum asked if the Xtracycle was over priced and after typing out a mondo response I decided I'd post it her as well.

" I've made some posts on my Big Dummy Blog that were critical of the pricing of some of the new Xtracycle accessories that came out in late 2008. The president of Xtracycle commented on them and although I think he was a bit annoyed he was polite and constructive. I've tried to see it from Xtracycle's point of view as well as from my own as a consumer and someone who has been responsible for being new products from scratch.

Here are some things I think we can agree on or at the very least I feel solid about:

- the Xtracycle folks are not trying to get rich or charging more just to gouge the market
- the Xtracycle product works pretty well and is a very flexible cargo bike solution
- Xtracycle put time and money on the line developing the Xtracycle when it wasn't popular or clearly going to be a successful product
- Xtracycle has inspired a whole slew of cargo bike new products
- designing new products can be expensive and getting them built can cost more than anticipated
- Xtracycle's new open source project is a progressive idea that seems to have the best interests of the cargo bike market in mind

From this I definitely think we need to be appreciative that some guys years ago decided to invest in a crazy cargo bike add on contraption that probably seemed really far out at the time. I don't question Xtracycle's motives or intentions and I think the product they produce is, for the most part, pretty nice.

So is the cost reasonable?

- a free rad kit is $490
- 2 wideloaders are $108
- 1 long loader is $49
- a set of footsies $59
- a kickback centrestand is $139

For a total of $845.

This represents to me the stuff you'd need to fully use your Xtracycle. You can off course spend way more if you buy the rest of the add ons like a bike carrier, snap deck pad, cargo bags, stoker bar, security collars or pannier kit.

I think there are three ways to answer the cost question:

1) some people compare the functionality of the Xtracycle to a car and therefore suggest the way to evaluate the price is to compare it to what a car would cost you to operate. In those terms the Xtracycle is relatively inexpensive.

2) you could look at what other products of similar manufacturing complexity and raw materials are being offered for by other companies that get their stuff made in Taiwan. Interestingly RANS' new Hammer Truck is a similar cargo bike system and parts will be made in the US and/or Taiwan. This should provide a pretty good comparison, but individual part prices are not available yet from RANS. The over all bike is priced at ~$2K similar to an Xtracycle spec'd Big Dummy.

3) You could evaluate the cost from the perspective of a cyclist who is interested in an Xtracycle, but who is part of the majority of the cycling market and isn't going to drop $2K on a bike without flinching. Clearly Xtracycle and Surly with their Big Dummy are doing brisk business [based on lack of stock in 2008] with those folks who routinely spend $1K+ on a bike. These are folks that wouldn't be shocked by $845 for a complete Xtracycle kit or $2K for a Big Dummy. The problem is that there are a limited number of these people and eventually that part of Xtracycle's market will get saturated. The majority of the bike market thinks $1K for a bike is crazy talk. Will they see $845 in value in an Xtracycle kit to add to an old bike they already have? I'm not sure.

One of my friends who got a ride on my Big Dummy and then saw it in action wanted an Xtracycle. I got her a smoking deal from a shop I know - keep in mind this was back in the early part of 2008 before the prices went up. Even with the lower prices, the discount I got her and the fact I was going to lend her any add ons she needed [wideloaders, bike carrier, etc...] the cost was still so high I ended up paying $50 of my own money to take the sting out of it for her. She is solidly middle class and has some disposable income, but $500CDN+ for something you add to a bike kind of blew her mind. If the cost was $600, $700 or more she just wouldn't be interested. With the current cost of an Xtracycle I haven't bothered trying to get other people I know interested as the price point wouldn't work for them.

Obviously everyone has to draw their own conclusions as to how much value they place on an Xtracycle and what they'd be willing to pay for it. If you really can replace your car with it and use it regularly [taking kids to school, getting groceries, hauling recycling, etc..] I can see it being worth the money for sure. For more occasional use or for those who think $300 for a Walmart bike is a lot I'm not sure they'll be able to justify an Xtracycle.

From my perspective I appreciate the fact that selling bike products can be a tough business and Xtracycle has to make enough $$$ to make it worthwhile. Two things I'd like to see are:

1) better discounts on complete kits so that people are rewarded for buying accessories - perhaps even an additional discount if you buy stuff with a Big Dummy or Xtracycle Freeradical. Yes they do have some packages at the moment, one I checked offered ~15% off buying a la carte, but I'd like to see even deeper discounts at time of purchase of a BD or Xtracycle kit. This will help overcome the sticker shock when people price out a complete Xtracycle system and they can still charge the normal rate for accessories purchased down the road.

2) better interoperability between Xtracycle accessories. I was keen on a KickBack centrestand until I found out they are not compatible with the footsies I already own and my passengers like plus they make adding/removing wideloaders a chore. This seems really odd for a company that makes and sells all these parts to not make them more cross compatible. As an example an aftermarket centrestand option for the BD and Xtracycle uses a different set of mounting points and is totally compatible with the footsies and wideloaders. It's ironic to me that the stand made by a third party is more compatible with Xtracycle's own accessories then their in house design.

I guess we'll find out what happens. If Xtracycle continues to sell strongly as they did in 2008 then their prices were acceptable to the folks that were interested. If their sales start to slump perhaps we'll see costs come down. Time will tell. "

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Efficiency of a Rohloff Hub

This article by Rohloff talks about the efficiency of their hub, some issues involved when measuring efficiency and provides some test data that might be of interest to Rohloff owners or potential customers.

Some things to consider:
  • This article was written by Rohloff and could be biased, but keep in mind the test results of the independent researchers that Rohloff quotes at the start of the article only vary by 1-2% from a derailleur system. So the differences are small and the discussion on how to setup efficiency tests seems worth considering.
  • The Rohloff hub used in the previous tests referenced was new and not broken in whereas Rohloff used a hub that had seen some use for their tests.
  • I thought the point about efficiency of the human body was interesting. So that having an optimal gear available was an important and unmeasured variable.
  • Both the Rohloff and derailleur drive train tested were clean.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Big Dummy Therapy

I've been in a cast for the last few weeks [hence the lack of posts] and wanted to start some rehab on my gimpy leg getting the full range of motion back and strengthening it without putting too much stress on it. I decided to throw my Big Dummy on a fluid trainer as the top tube on the BD is quite low and the seating position is upright. This allows for easy mounting and dismounting.

Hopefully I'll be back in action fairly soon!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Xtracycle KickBack Centerstand or Footsies, but not both...

All Photos: Xtracycle Inc.

The one product I was most interested in from Xtracycle's newly released accessories was their centerstand called the KickBack. At $140 the functionality of having a robust stand that would make my Big Dummy more stable when loading/unloading seemed like a worthwhile investment.

The first hiccup was that the stand came with a bracket [small black piece top center in photo above] that fits the Freeradical frame tube, but would not fit the much larger oval tube on the Big Dummy. Xtracycle has since come out with a Big Dummy specific bracket so make sure you order the correct version of this stand. I was pretty happy to see Xtracycle quickly resolve the issue as I was not prepared to take the chance of damaging my Big Dummy's frame.

My renewed enthusiasm was dampened when I realized you can't use the Xtracyce Footsies and the KickBack at the same time. My passengers really like the stable platform provided by the Footsies so I'd hate to give them up. The Xtracycle site notes that passengers can put their feet on the stubs that stick out horizontally when the KickBack is mounted, but that doesn't seem like much of a platform when compared to the Footsies.

So I'm back to looking at what other options are out there for a centerstand for my Big Dummy. Val Kleitz is selling a very nice centerstand that will work with either the Surly Big Dummy or the Xtracycle Freeradical. His stand will not interfere with mounting any Xtracycle accessories so you can have Footsies as well as a centerstand. The downside to Val's stand is the cost of nearly $400.00.

Update: Jeff's comment to this post reminded me that I should mention that you can use Wideloaders with a KickBack installed, but one person who has tried using them together has said installing the Wideloaders is a bit of a PITA and suggested that removing/installing them frequently would get old fast. I could probably live with that if that was the only issue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

LA Times Cargo Bike Review

Photo: LA Times

The LA Times has an article reviewing cargo bikes posted online here. I don't agree 100% with their comments, but it's good to see these bikes get some airtime in the mainstream press.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rohloff Exploded View

Click on image to enlarge.

Rohloff Manual Online

Portions of the Rolhoff Manual are online here should you need some Rohloff info and not have your printed manual close at hand.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

RANS Hammer Truck Specifications

RANS has put the Hammer Truck up on their website with specs. Sounds like production models will hit the street in early 2009 so we'll have to wait a bit to see what owners are saying, but the concept looks promising.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rohloff shifter on drop bar

If you want to run a Rohloff shifter on drop bars and aren't happy with the other work arounds like the Hubbub Adapter or the Thorn Accessory Bar you can get this two piece drop bar from Germany and use a standard Rohloff shifter. Click on the image for more details.

Xtracycle Open Source Info

Xtracycle has placed a lot of material about their new open source concept here. I haven't read through it all, but wanted to get the link up. I'll be updating this post in the next few days when I've had time to digest it.

I really do hope this inspires other companies to adopt the same standard for cargo bikes so we get a number of different sources all making products that work together. Congratulations to Xtracycle for an innovative move like this.

RANS Hammer Truck PT3

RANS has posted an article providing more details on the Hammer Truck spec and pricing on their website here. I like that this bike and accessories are made in small batches in the USA vs. overseas.

The real test will be how it rides with a heavy load. I'll be looking forward to reading owner's impressions when it hits the street...=-)

Rohloff Oil Change

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surly Big Dummy Complete Bikes

Photo: Xtracycle

Surly announced that they will be selling a complete Big Dummy for those folks who don't want to build one from scratch. No word yet on the parts/spec or cost, but you can be sure it will be a lot cheaper than building the same bike a la carte. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the complete Big Dummy being sold by Xtracycle. Hopefully Surly will make some different parts choices just so folks can pick from two different flavours of Big Dummy.

Updated Specification:

Here's the specs.
Headset- Richy Logic Comp
Handlebar- Surly Torsion Bar
Brake levers- Avid Speed Dial 7
Brakes - Avid BB7
Crankset/BB - Surly Mr. Whirly 48/36/26
Saddle - WTB SST
Cassette- LX-M580 9 sp 11-34
Hubs - Surly front, XT rear
Rims- Salsa Gordo 36 hole
Front der.- LX
Rear der. - LX
Shifters - LX
Spokes DT Swiss 14g
Tires -Schwalbe Big Apple 26 X 2.0
Pedals - not included
Xtracycle kit, Snapdeck, left and right V-racks left and right freeloader bags.
Price- TBA

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rohloff Trigger Shifter

Apparently a trigger shifter is in the works from Rohloff. I'm guessing it won't be made with wood triggers...=-) Personally I like the twist shifter because you can dump several gears at once, but I welcome some choice in shifters.

Tune Aftermarket Rohloff Shifter

Rohloff 100,000 hubs and counting...

Rohloff Equivalent MTB Gear Ratios

Click on the image above to see the equivalent MTB gear ratios for a particular Rohloff chainring/cog combination. This will help you choose the chainring you'll drive your Rohloff with. Remember the Rohloff will ship with a 16T stock cog and they won't warranty a hub used on a single bike with a chainring smaller than 38T.

Thorn's "Living with a Rohloff" PDF
also shows some MTB drivetrain equivalency info on the last page.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Big Dummy Project

Jim is riding across the US on a Big Dummy towing his dog Elke in a trailer. He has a nice site called The Big Dummy Project and he is trying to raise awareness about diabetes. Drop in and post an encouraging note if you have a moment.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RANS Hammer Truck PT2

I've got a bit more info on the new RANS Hammer Truck. It will haul up to 500lbs - which is 2.5 times the capacity of the Xtracycle/Big Dummy and more than even some of the serious heavy duty cargo cargo bikes like the Yuba Mundo. The accessories you see that are similar to the v-racks and wide loaders from Xtracycle are not compatible with the Freeradical of Big Dummy.

RANS has suggested that a future version of the Hammer Truck may be compatible with the Xtracycle/Big Dummy or at least that RANS may develop some accessories for the Xtracycle/Big Dummy.

Given RANS' track record for high quality innovative products it will be very interesting to see what comes out from this new player in the cargo bike market.

The RANS Hammer Truck should be available for delivery around January 2009.

Xtracycle Bling @ Interbike

Thursday, September 25, 2008

RANS Hammer Truck

Some info on the new RANS Hammer Truck from the Commute by Bike Blog:

"Rans is known for their recumbents and low seat upright bikes. Rans designer Randy Schlitter schleps around Hays, KS but he didn’t the cargo capacity he needed, so designed the Rans Hammer Truck.

The Rans Hammer Truck is the Rans unique take on longtail cargo bike. The 35 lb bike can carry up to 500 lbs of rider and cargo, with huge bags to carry cargo and optional running boards to support the weight. The Rans Hammer Truck will retail for $1895 beginning in November."

Not sure yet about the details, but it looks good. I hope it will compatible with all the Xtracycle accessories so you'll have loads of flexibility.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Small Wheels + Big Rubber

Todd Fahrner of Clever Cycles in Portland posted the info below on Bike Forums and I thought it was worth capturing here for those of you with cargo bike builds on the go. I haven't tried using small wheels with large tires, but it's a concept which makes a lot of sense and Todd has loads of experience with cargo bikes. I'd be keen on hearing some feedback from anyone who tries it.

"For Xtracycles including Big Dummy, I greatly prefer 24" wheels with 2.35" Big Apples to 26" wheels with either high or low volume tires. High volume tires provide the only suspension to be had for the dead weight of your cargo, and improve braking and comfort. 24" lets you have it while still keeping the bottom bracket in the range of road bikes, so you can get a foot down to stabilize at stops, and mount/dismount easily without leaning the bike. This matters with a heavily loaded bike, particularly if your load is precious and mounted high, like a kid. You need disc or drum brakes to swap wheel sizes like this.

A similar trick is to start with a so-called "two-niner" frame (designed for 700c rims with poofy tires) and fit 26" wheels; e.g., .

This advice doesn't apply if you intend actually to jump logs and so on with your cargo bike, or if you insist on pedaling through high speed sharp turns, such that you risk striking a pedal. Both Xtracycle and Surly do tend to promote the concept of these bikes being MTBs, and optimize ground clearance accordingly. I'm more urban/pavement oriented, excluding curb-hopping."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Adios Taifun

I sold my Challenge Taifun recumbent and had to get it to the UPS Store to ship it. Naturally I didn't use my pick up truck.

Using a wide loader combined with a long loader I was able to easily strap the box to the side of my Surly Big Dummy. The weight being all on one side unbalanced the bike a bit when riding. Not terribly, but I should have picked up a couple cases of beer to balance out the right side of the bike...=-)

My cheap kickstand took a beating when I was loading the box. I'm actually surprised it didn't break. I'll be shopping around for a centre stand over the winter. The Xtracycle stand is the front runner at the moment.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rohloff Hub - The Inside Story

Jay's Big Dummy

Wow - you can tell the new batch of Surly Big Dummy frames is in stock at QBP with all the cool Big Dummy builds hitting the street. Jay got his Big Dummy rolling with the help of the fine folks at Revolution Bike Repair in Arcata, CA. Sweet ride Jay - congrats! Click here to see more photos of Jay's ride.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sean's Big Woody

Sean Ralph's Big Dummy looks stunning with custom Woody fenders and matching Snapdeck & Footsies. It almost looks too nice to ride..=-) Great work.

Simply amazing.

Cut out on right side of fenders for chain clearance.

Dirk Leas' Big Dummy

Dirk's been wanting a Big Dummy for a while now and finally got his baby rolling and hauling. Congrats Dirk...enjoy your Big Dummy.

Xtracycle Dealer Agreement

Photo: Xtracycle

The message below was posted on the Roots Radical Yahoo Group. Apparently there are some changes happening with how Xtracycle products are distributed. Not sure what the ramifications will be, but if you were planning on getting one you might want to either pull the trigger now or confirm with your supplier what impact these changes may have on your particular situation.

"As of now, the new Xtracycle Dealer Agreement will not allow bike
shops to sell you a Free Radical Kit. The agreement states that all
bike shops that stock Xtracycles must install it and cannot sell you
a FR kit otherwise.

You must either have the shop order it from Quality Bicycle Products
in order to avoid the requirement. QBP sells at a much higher price
than Xtracycle does, Don't ask me why!

Also, the new Xtracycle Dealer agreement is designed to only favor
the highest volume shops. (Performance anyone?) In fact, they have
even put their highest volume dealers out of the loop. I sell many,
many, many per year but cannot come close to the number they expect!
It is crazy. Xtracycle was founded on the small guy. Now you can
enjoy you going dealer direct as I do not expect many IBDs
(Independent Bicycle Dealers) to be able to stock them at a price
that is competative with Xtracycle direct.

Good luck!

Signing off, Aaron's Bicycle Repair, the former #1, now apparently #3
Xtracycle Dealer in the USA.

Not Feeling the Flavor of the Freedom....."

Rohloff - Bent EX Gear Mech

Photos: Mugtree

These photos were posted on the Thorn Rohloff Forum. They show how the external gear mechanism can be bent inwards and rub against the disc rotor. Since this is the same position the external gear mechanism would be in on a Big Dummy it's something to be aware of. Not a huge risk and not something I'd lose any sleep over, but at the same time you want to keep this in mind when riding/transporting/storing your Big Dummy if it has a Rohloff.

BTW - the hub still shifted okay like this and the external gear mechanism could likely be bent back somewhat until it could be replaced.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2009 Xtracycle Catalogue

Photo: Xtracycle

The 2009 Xtracycle catalogue is available for viewing online. There are a number of new products shown - some of which I've talked about in previous posts. One that I hadn't mentioned is a centre stand [see page 12/13] for sale at $139.00. I'm doing okay so far with my $10 kickstand, but I'll be giving this new centre stand some thought. I can see how it could prove quite useful. If you get one let me know what you think about it.

Nonconform Cycling Blog

Dennis over at the Nonconform Cycling Blog has a very cool gas-assist Xtracycle rig and a nice DIY centre-stand.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Xtracycle talks about pricing and going open source...

I rec'd the comment below from Xtracycle and thought it deserved to be a post on its own rather than buried in the comments section. It's great that the company has taken the time to talk about important issues like pricing and I'm excited that they are going open source with their cargo system standard.

"Greetings from Xtracycle.

Wev'e gotten some feedback lately regarding the raised pricing on several of our products, as well as a window into some of your inspired discussions about this. First and foremost, we want to say, thanks for your thoughts. We definitely strive to balance all the factors that go into the pricing of goods: materials and manufacturing costs; buying in huge quantity to drive down price vs. managing cash flow and keeping quantities low; compensating our suppliers and our team well; building in opportunities for distributors/dealers to make a living selling our stuff as well.

Perhaps you've heard the adage from the bicycle industry: "What's the best way to end up with a million dollars selling bikes? Start with two million." Bicycles, like most commodities, suffer from a great deal of externalized pricing, whether it's the artificially low (now rising) cost of fuel, the artificially low (now rising) cost of Chinese labor, the artificially low (now greatly rising) cost of raw materials, or the fact that the bike industry has never had enough self respect to ask for what the products are worth to grow the market share of bicycles to cars. Seeding a revolution in transportation and quality of life won't be free. It will however, be way cheaper than owning a car.

Todd's right that we've put nearly 10 years into carving out the niche for longbikes in the broader bicycle market. It's been a wonderful, if at times, fiscally challenging journey, and we're not making a profit yet. Never fear, no one's getting rich off of Whatchamacollars (or FreeLoaders or Footsees or Pea Pods). We're not opposed to making money, mind you, but it's been proven out over 10 years that the reason we do this is because we love the product, the lifestyle, and the opportunity to present a true transportation alternative to the world. It has been our number one goal to keep the Xtracycle as affordable as possible while making sure that our products are well built, long lasting, well designed, and attractive.

What I'm clear about from some of the latests discussions is that our customers need more information about why our new products are useful and what value they offer. We trust that each person will decide for themselves what products will help to expand their Xtracycle lifestyle. We'll be adding that content to our webstore in the weeks to come.

Furthermore, we're excited to announce that we are officially open-sourcing the Xtracycle Long Tail Standard to encourage other players to make Xtracycle-compatible platforms and accessories. Surly has been a fantastic lead partner, and has aptly demonstrated a concept not altogether understood by the bike industry at large: that collaboration and partnership, built on trust and passion, lead to great solutions and a shift in the bike industry at large.

By "open source," we mean that you don't have to pay licensing fees or royalties, or get permission to make a product that works with our system. We want to lift those barriers to encourage a fertile environment for ideas, innovation, and partnership.

We're looking at sharing our standard right now with independent US fabricators of Xtracycle compatible SnapDecks, fabric bags, new Footsies, etc. Wanna play along? We welcome your input, your products, and your thoughts about pricing. We will publicize the Xtracycle LT Standard developer kit on our website and within our online communities (Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Rootsradicals Yahoo group, etc.) in early October, so keep an eye out.

Will these items be Walmart cheap? No way. Likely they'll be competitively priced with our products, but in buying them you can feel great about supporting creative individuals and a movement dedicated to innovating something truly new and valuable within the bike industry.

Will there be Xtracycle knock offs in years to come, competing with us on price and quality? More than likely. Such is the way our economic system works. We feel that competition will only help us to refine our offerings and to better meet your needs, so as nice as it feels sometimes to have built an amazing platform and community, we realize that in order to be truly excellent at this, we have to give it away."

A Long Walk to Green

A Long Walk to Green is a great blog with such cool Surly Big Dummy tidbits as a custom centre stand and the dual custom kid's seats shown above. I wish I had 25% of the DIY skills this family has!

Update: if you thought the kid's seats pictured above were cool they are going into production soon and will be available as kits. Click here and here to get more info.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Adventure Racks

All Photos: Xtracycle Inc.

The Xtracycle Adventure Rack allows you to attach two standard bicycle panniers per side instead of your v-racks and Freeloaders. That's a nice option, but the cost is on the high at $75 each - plus you also seem to need a $39.99 set of Whatchamacollars for each side. That's $229.98 for both sides plus the cost of any panniers.

Being able to attach regular bike panniers to your Xtracycle is a nice idea. Given the cost though I'd stick with the stock v-racks/Freeloaders and use some sort of dry bags to haul your cargo.

I'm trying to figure out where the bottom hook on my Ortliebs will clip into? Hopefuly there is some allowance for this as having the panniers just hanging from the top hooks swinging around wouldn't be ideal.