My Xtracycle: Uses & Modifications

11 Sep

Xtracycle = Shopping Trolley

The xtracycle is my cargo-hauler. They are also known as SUBs or Sport-Utility-Bicycles. I like the term “longtail” also, as there are now more of these style of bikes on the market. For example the Yuba Mundo.

I use it for grocery shopping fortnightly, and have transported bulky and awkward loads like flatpacked furniture, eskies, outdoor chairs, and even other bikes. It attracts a lot of attention when we are out and about – a lot from kids who would like to be able to transport all their stuff independently, and also more random people who aren’t bike-types, yet. The pairing with the STP makes it look tough and utility like which seems to add to it’s appeal.

No car - no worries. The xtracycle loaded up after a trip to Kmart & IKEA

Back when I bought the freeradical frame in 2009, the Australian Dollar was not very strong against the US Dollar. If it was, I might have just gone for a Radish or a Big Dummy. I was on a budget though so I ordered the freeradical, and was going to decide which bike to bolt it onto when it arrived. I had an idea of bolting it to the back of my long-suffering Malvern Star, which I stripped down in anticipation, but in the end, I decided my Giant STP2 dirt jumper, which was not getting ridden now I had moved back into the city, was a better option because it had disc brakes, super strong wheels (Sun Rhynolites), and a low top tube so I could use it as a step-through when required because of a passenger or higher load on the back.

I did have some problems with this arrangement though. The suspension forks on the STP were too soft and didn’t have a lock out so any kind of climbing out of the saddle or hard braking had a disturbing ‘pogo’ effect. I swapped them out for some second hand rigid forks, but these forks are not quite long enough, resulting in a lower bottom bracket height, which means pedal strikes when cornering happen if I am not paying attention. The solution here may be a different crankset. I need a bigger ring on the front for downhill or unloaded riding, as the STP only has a 46 – this would be an opportunity to get a different crankset with shorter crank arms, and maybe downgrade from the big chunky downhill cranks that the bike has on it now.

The STP had low end Shimano running gear, and the Acera derailluer coupled with the Alivio combo brake & shifter levers struggle with the length of cable pull to the back. I have since upgraded the rear derailluer to Deore XT, and while this has improved matters, the shifter still causes issues as it cannot change more than one gear at a time. If you accidentally try to shift two, it will only shift one and then slip when you put pressure on the pedals. As the rear end is 8-speed I am starting to think friction shifting would be the most reliable way to go here, so I am looking for a good quality but also reasonably priced friction shifter option.

The bars on the STP are also excessively wide. At first I liked them for extra leverage while riding loaded but now I want to go narrower. I am thinking about some backsweep too as I am finding the hand position on the hoods or drops is most comfortable for me, and that is similar to bars with backsweep.

In terms of cargo bikes, I think the xtracycle has a good capacity, and I don’t think I would be able to pull any more weight anyway. I am a diminutive sort, being a whole 158cm tall, and don’t have the power output of a lot of cyclists out there. I think for the xtracycle to be a true car killer for the masses, electric assist might be a deal maker.

Xtracycle with grocery shopping

In writing this blog post I realise I have not taken as many ‘epic loads on the cargo-bike’ photos as I should have. Hopefully in the near future this will change, and I’ll post some more about my cargo bike adventures, and any modifications I make to the rig along the way.


Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Cargo bikes


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3 responses to “My Xtracycle: Uses & Modifications

  1. xiousgeonz

    September 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Don’t feel bad about not having enough “epic” loads — but do be sure to take pictures!
    I love the looks people give as they figure out “hey, that bike’s designed that way on purpose, not just to use until you get a car…”

  2. richardmonfries

    September 14, 2011 at 3:47 am


    My Xtra AKA ‘The Blobinnator’ can regularly carry phenomenal loads (including me).
    This is what I can do on work and non-work days with The Blobinnator:

    As far as bars go, I started with Randonneur bars ‘cos I thought it would look kinda spiffy, but with 2 kids and sundry other items, I couldn’t feel safely in control; not enough leverage; so what works is a cheapy sit-up style gents bike handlebar inverted – it’s my cheap North Road bar look – and it works!




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