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.