The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's been a Long time and a Long Bike

I haven't written a blog post in quite a few months, some of you may have noticed, many probably didn't. My Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2009, in July 2010 my parents moved to Bellingham. Last winter his health started to decline, thus I was spending a lot more time at their house. With working full time, and having my own family to take care of as well, I made the decision to take a break from some of my volunteer activities until things settled down. I wish I could say this story had a happy ending, however, there is no cure for brain cancer, so after living a full and wonderful life my Dad passed away on February 11, 2011. I am fortunate to have had him as a Dad, and fortunate to have shared a love of bicycling with him.

That being said, let's talk about bikes now. I decided last January that I really needed a new bike. The bike I had was a Trek 4300, a bright orange mountain bike that I tried really hard for nine years to turn into a commuter bike. I added a rack and fenders, neither of which really fit, thus, the fenders were constantly rubbing on the tires and driving me crazy. Also, I knew the time was coming that I'd need to replace the drive train. The chain would make the dreaded 'ker-clunk' sound when I shifted, sometimes it would shift right away, other times it would wait awhile and shift when it felt necessary. With as much biking as I do, and since we choose to own one car, my husband and I decided a new bike was a good idea.

After giving it much thought, I finally decided I wanted a long bike. For one, my daughter could sit on the back and I could drop her off at school, or pick her up, and she wouldn't need her bike. This was helpful because there are some days when I drop her off, but don't pick her up, or vice verse. The second reason is they are simply amazing and awesome, I use my bike a lot for work, having to haul supplies to schools for bike education presentations, and the long bike can carry SO MUCH cargo!

Once I decided on the long bike I had to decide which one to get. It cam down to three choices:

The Trek Transport, a new bike on the market. It is very sleek looking, and
has a front rack as well as the extended rear rack, however, the major downfall of this bike is that the carrying capacity of the rear rack is only 100 lbs. After talking with my local bike shop employee, he said he wouldn't recommend the Transport if one of my main uses of the bike was to haul my daughter. He did, however, recommend the same bike he owned.

The Surley Big Dummy Complete. This was a few steps (and hundreds of dollars) above the Trek. It has disc breaks both front and rear, a steel frame and a carrying capacity of 400 lbs (including driver). The Xtracycle is built right into the frame. It's a beast built for hauling some serious cargo!

The third bike I was considering was the Kona Ute. Priced lowest of these three bikes, the Ute is also very sleek looking (check out those panniers!), and has a carrying capacity of 300+ lbs. Sadly it only comes in 18" and 20" frame sizes. Not very helpful for a 5'2" rider.

When it came time for me to make a decision I opted to go with the Big Dummy. It was in my mind, the best of the three, a very high quality bike, built to do just what I needed, haul heavy cargo. Also, it came personally recommended by someone I trusted. This is huge when shelling out over $1,000 for a bike. But really, what sealed the deal, is that my Mom offered to contribute $1,000 towards the bike (from my Dad's life insurance). So, while it saddens me to no end that the main reason I have my Big Dummy is because my Dad passed away, I can be happy knowing that he would have loved the bike and would be happy knowing that he was able to help me get it.
Stay tuned for blog posts on carrying ridiculous amounts of cargo. And a sometimes ridiculous 8 year old.

Do YOU have a long bike? Which one? What is the heaviest/biggest/most amazing thing you've hauled on your bike (long bike or not)?


  1. Welcome back, Mary! We missed your voice on the blog.

  2. Did you look at Madsens at all? Seems they are built for carrying kids...

  3. Hey No fair calling your dad a "Big Dummy!" If he taught you to ride a bike and love it, he was one of the smartest dad's you'll ever meet.

    As for hauling an 8 year old, and other big loads up and down the hills around here, you might want to look into adding a "stoke Monkey" electrical assist motor. It adds even more weight but it also gives you power when you need it most, climbing hills with a load.

  4. Congratulations on your new bike, Mary!

    I have a XtraCycle conversion from a 58cm cyclocross donor frame. The largest load I have hauled on it has been an 8-foot Christmas tree plus my son. The tree was straddled over a burley bee trailer and the tree top was bungeed to the snapdeck astern of Jesse. The heaviest load I've hauled has probably been on a bike picnic, with a full pannier load of groceries, a propane grille, a kid on the deck and a kid in the burley trailer behind.

    Thus I'm grateful for my 22T chain ring and my 34T cog. All this hill climbing with kids and groceries is very likely why we don't see more Madsens, bakfiets and Long Johns around Bellingham. I think the Xtra is a great compromise of frame weight, cargo capacity and hill climbing ability. The frame design is an open spec, whereas some other cargo bikes (Trek, Sun) are not producing cargo bikes that fit the Xtracycle cargo frame design.

    Some additions I've made in my Xtra include extending the fenders, adding some stoker bars and investing in a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires for our icy Januaries. For hauling cargo the rain, I have four 15qt Sterilite plastic tubs that fit reasonably in the cargo panniers. I top it off with a home-made rain fly, but a back-packing rain fly could certainly do the job, too.

    See you around town!

  5. @Brian, I might have considered that when my daughter was younger, however, I need to haul a lot more cargo than just a kid.

    @GaryP, so far I've been able to make it up the hills around town. I think it helps that I have a cheerleader yelling "go mommy go! go mommy go! you can do it!"

    @Jed, I added the stoker bars, need to look into some sort of a rain fly, as the Xtraycycle bags clearly weren't made for our rainy conditions.

  6. In middle school last year, i was in bike club and we took 1bike trip every semester. we did one every year where we rode 97mi on the katy trail to Jefferson City, MO.