Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A subtle difference...

My Xtracycle started its life as a medium-to-low-end Trek road bike. I picked it up whist working in my first shop. This dude comes in and wants to trade in a one-year-old bike, which 'we' were only gonna give him a hundred bucks for, but 'I' gave him two hundred, and he was happy. I then bequeathed it to my dad because he said at some point that he wanted to do a century, and I thought it'd be better than his mountain bike for that little adventure. Well one century turned into anther, and another, etc. and several years later, when he picked up a custom built Bianchi (full campy, beautiful), he gave me the Trek back. It was, to say the least, beat to crap. It was effectively a single-speed, as its shifters had pretty much seized, and the rear hub made a flat out frightening sound over fifteen miles an hour.

I used it for a couple years as a commuter, but eventually I discovered fixed gears and the sad, tired little trek road bike was relegated to a set of back-corner ceiling hooks in my garage. Here it would sit, forgotten, ignored, utterly broken down. Unbeknownst to me at the time, lurking deep in that seemingly broken little bike's soul, was something more amazing than the R and D department at Waterloo could have ever dreamed of.

I first saw an Xtracycle on campus a few years ago, and instantly wanted one. When I found myself in a position that I could afford one, I just got it without really knowing what I was going to build it up with. I had just joined a community bike co-op and I felt pretty confident that I'd be able to find a frame to build up my new load bike. Then, hanging in the far reaches of the garage, I saw my broken-down, neglected little Trek 1200, a serviceable bike, if badly in need of a complete rebuild. 'Hmmm...a load bike built on a roadbike chassis could be fast and nimble' thought I. So, that's what I went with. Immediately, I made the decision to lean for disk brakes, going with Avid Road disk brakes (a fortuitous decision). It was a decent bike, fast and capable.

But the drop bars weren't the greatest for getting up to speed, especially with a load, so I opted for a mary bar, and since I had gone with the road disk brakes I was able to use an old set of servo wave XTR shifter/brake lever pods, which are amazing!

The second iteration of my Xtracycle was just like the first. Only much more stable, better handling, and far faster from a dead stop.

Then, early this summer, the true potential of my resurrected little road bike was realized. DNA called me in July, and asked if I wanted to go on a little bike/backpacking/car camping trip. We would ride from town, twenty miles into the mountains south of Bozeman, camp, live large, and ride home happy and without using drop of petrol. 'Hmm...' thought I, 'I'll need to put some cross tires on the Xtracycle'. Now, that was a good idea, as far as initial ideas go, but my second thought was even better. 'I wonder if I can sneak a mountain bike tire into that cyclocross fork'? So I grabbed a mountain bike wheelset, and voila, since I had disk brakes, I found that I could switch between mountain and road tire/wheel combos with absolute impunity, making my once forlorn, broken-down, roadbike, an almost infinitely capable load-hauling bike. Road or off road, it became clear that this bike would do everything I asked it to do, and probably things I'm not capable of conceiving of.

Post camping trip, I left the knobby set up on my Xtracycle, and I've been riding it that way ever since. As fast and nimble as the road set-up is, I love the rugged do-it-allness of the mountin bike wheelset and tires. With winter fast approaching here in the Rockies, I've decided to leave it that way. The 26 inch wheels handle well, and it's still fast and capable, and it will now quite easily accommodate a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires, with full fenders.

So here's the latest iteration of my favorite bike. It probably won't be the last, but that's the thing about an Xtracycle, it does what you want it to do, and things you maybe didn't think possible.

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