We’ve had an Xtracycle since Feb 2008. Our Xtracycle is a retrofitted MTB, with the freeradical frame. The freeradical and accessories were drop shipped to Urbane Cyclist, who did the assembly. I was told at the time that it was probably the second Xtracycle in town. Now, I do see others every once in a while; I’ve seen about six different rigs between our home and downtown. They are still uncommon enough that I get quite a few questions whenever I’m parked somewhere. Two years ago, when I told people the price, they would look shocked. Nowadays, more than a few people seem interested.
In the two years since we’ve had it, I ride it much more than I ever anticipated. I’ve stopped counting now, but in 2008 and 2009, I rode it more than 200 times. The two main functions are grocery getting and kid hauling. A cargobike is more than a bike; it is much more of a practical car replacement. Almost all our grocery shopping is done with this bike.
Now a few words about kid hauling:
With two kids, we faced the issue of what to do when they grew too big for the bike trailer. Right now, if you live in the US, you have alternatives to the Xtracycle, such as the Yuba Mundo, and the Madsen bike. However, these don’t appear to be available in Canada. Back in 2008, Xtracycle didn’t seem to encourage carrying kids on the back. They did not even have a stoker bar kit available for passengers. Since that time, they have developed an infant seat, and they have tested a Peapod seat for larger kids. The Yuba Mundo also has a kid seat available.
Our initial setup was a simple stoker bar, a homemade foam pad on the wooden deck, and wideloaders.
Wideloaders are nice since they give larger kids a place to put their feet. Also, they make it hard for the bike to tip over. They also facilitate carrying large loads. In a pinch, they make a nice bench seat.
If I had my choice, I would have made them a little less wide. As supplied, they barely fit through a door, and they make the bike a bit awkward to walk through crowds.
The other two things that I’ve added are the centrestand, and the folding seat backs. The “Kickback” centrestand is terrific. If you are hesitant to spend $139 on a kickstand, the first time you have kids climb on or off with it, you will see the value. It is far superior to a standard single or double leg kickstand. Others have hacked it to make it even more stable. In any event, it allows you to walk away from a bike with kid loaded up, without worrying about everything tipping over.
I carried our daughters around town for about a year before adding the seat backs. However, one day, the older one was clowning around, not holding on, and fell off the back when I accelerated through an intersection. This put the fear of God in me, and I immediately started looking for a solution.
Many people have built elaborate seatbacks themselves. However, I was looking for a simpler solution. I am not suggesting that what I ended up with is the safest possible setup. We all have to find the point along the safety – convenience continuum where we are comfortable. I use two Crazy Creek Kidz seats. They are just a bit wider than the wooden deck, which allows the kids to sit on them while still straddling the deck.
They aren’t meant to be bombproof, or to strap the kids in securely; they just provide an extra margin of safety. When I’m carting the kids around town, I feel much more at ease than when I’m herding the older one on her own bike. The xtracycle is also much more nimble than a bike with trailer ever was.
If I had it to do over again, I might consider the Madsen, which seems to be a low end Bakfiets. There is a good discussion of pros and cons here. I haven’t seen a Yuba Mundo in the flesh either. The Mundo has a larger carrying capacity on paper, but it doesn’t fit the wide range of accessories available for the xtracycle. I’ve seen a couple of Kona Ute’s around. However, these don’t seem optimal for hauling kids. With the new kids seats for Xtracycles and the Mundo, people have more choices now.
Bottom line: I’ve been really happy with the xtracycle. I’ve found various ways of adapting it to carry many different loads. It is now an essential part of our fleet, and it gets the second most mileage of all our bikes, aside from my daily commuter. I also use it to commute on occasion when I want an extra workout; mine is 55 pounds bare.
Someone else posted about using kid seats over a year ago. I’m going to try their hint about foot rests!
UPDATE: The new running boards look like a great alternative to the wideloaders. They are less wide, and so they won’t get hung up in doorways, but will still provide support for feet and when you overload the side bags. However, they won’t do as good a job at preventing tipping over.