Omnia mea mecum porto

The salt is on the road and the good bikes are waiting to be taken to the basement. Overall I would declare 2013 a good year for biking with the Edgerunner getting the Star of the Season award.

Use and abuse

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I got the big bike at the end of April and have put about 800 km on it by last week’s snow storm. Amongst other adventures, the most impressive feat must be our camping trip to Fitzroy Provincial Park. Since April I’ve towed adult and kid’s bikes, picked up stuff from Costco and CSA farm, rescued furniture, planted trees and ferried children pretty much anywhere within our neighborhood.

Five star geometry

I’ve never tried any other longtail, but I have carried kids on the back of regular bikes and I am a big subscriber to the small back wheel geometry which distinguishes Edgerunner from the competition. By the time Trev hit 20 kg limit, I found it difficult to stabilise the city bike with him in the back seat whereas I can easily balance both Trev, Owen AND their combined weight in inanimate cargo on the back of Edgerunner. I am not going to claim that I do not feel that weight when pedaling but I can still average 15km/h when fully loaded. When all the extras are stripped, my average speed is 27km/h which is just 1km/h less than on the hybrid and 3km/h less than the touring bike. Having no more use for it, I sold my hybrid.

Hill climbing is surprisingly doable. The hardest hill I did was the 16% hill on the way out of the Fitzroy campsite while fully loaded with two kids and camping gear. It is not something I would want to repeat every day, but as wimpy and unathletic as I am, I did it. Go Edgerunner gearing!

Could do better

Apparently Xtracycle had moved to a different factory pretty soon after my Edgerunner was made (if you were wondering why your local bike shop had less than usual number of Xtracycle products, they were in the process of re-establishing production). As a result, I am not sure if the issues I have are due to manufacturing or design problems. I have no idea how the latest batch of Edgerunners fare on these. Hopefully it’s all fixed.

The major problem was with the paint chipping. True, the big chips were due to the bike scratching on the van’s rack and this would have been problematic for any bike, but there are a number of small chips that should not have happened. In particular, the scratches on the top tube due to me flipping my foot over are particularly annoying. It is too bad that the paint is chipping because I really love the colour of the frame.

Another issue that has somehow sorted itself out was the chain and gears occasionally rattling and generally sounding obnoxious. My shifters have a trimming function but even with that I sometimes rode with a noisy chain. In the last month and a half I have not had a problem with this. I don’t know whether this is because the gears and cables are finally broken in or if the colder weather suits the bike better or my trimming skillz reached zen level or something entirely different. The chain is still louder than a regular bike’s but given its increased length and functionality of the bike, it seems like a compromise I can live with.

Family vehicle

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I carry all three kids on the bike less than 5% of the time. There are two different configurations, one with Markus in the front seat and the other with all three kids squished into the peanut gallery. I prefer the second, the kids first. I was not able to get the bobike mini seat installed directly onto the stem but rather on the top tube. I can ride the bike and jump off the seat in this configuration but it is tight. On the back, the Yepp seat takes up half of the bench leaving little space for both six and four year old. As a result one or both older kids usually elect to ride their own bikes when we are going somewhere in full complement. This works well and, if I really need to carry all three of them at the same time, we deal with tight quarters.

By contrast, riding this bike with any combination of two kids is a dream. Even finicky operations like carrying Markus and Trevor on the Edgerunner while lifting Owen and his bike out of the mud every two wheel rotations are easily doable. The bike is stable, fun and fast (for a cargo machine).

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The hoopties are nice. I remove one side when Trev is riding so it is easier for him to get in and out. Owen, who still gets lifted onto the bench, loses it if both hoopties are not attached so I usually keep them on. Trev loves riding while facing the back and it helps brotherly unity. Originally I had ordered the RunningBoards as Xtracycle promotional material had them in their setups. For some reason, we did not end up installing them. I was glad for it in the end because keeping the kids’ feet in the bags seems more practical and I bought a Brooks saddle for the other bike with the money I saved. The bags get extra use and extra dirt but I pick my battles and keeping the bags clean is not high on my priority list.

The Yepp seat is really nice. The rack stays attached to the flight deck but the seat is easily removable (it can also be locked to the bike for theft prevention). The “legs” of the seat cover the middle bag buckle which is a little bit annoying and I’ve seen moms cut a hole in the seat leg to be able to access the buckle quickly. In an unrelated incident we’ve had one buckle ripped from the bag so I quickly fashioned a cord that would replace this buckle. It is not an elegant solution but it inadvertently fixed the buckle access issue. I don’t need to access the buckle more than once every week or two so I did not put a similar cord on the other side though I will if my buckle access needs increase.

Lights

When we ordered the Edgerunner, I was almost as giddy about dynamo lighting as I was about the bike. Shimano Alfine hub is one of the cheaper hubs available but it definitely beats the dynamo bottle from my first full sized bike (two out of three dynamo bottles on our cottage bikes (30 years old on the average) still work – take that battery powered lighting!). I have absolutely no problem seeing at night even in areas with no ambient light. The light will stay on for about a minute or so after stopping and it will turn back on as soon as the bike is brought back to riding speed. The hub will not charge significantly at walking speed so if I am accompanying the kids and they are falling over more than usual I have to ride ahead a few meters to recharge before going back to pull them back up on their bikes. The front light is B&M IQ Cyo. I was amused by this description of this light on Bicycle Quarterly blog: “it remains a smart choice for riders who don’t often descent mountain passes at night”. Isn’t that an apt description of me???

Cargo bike as cargo

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One of the reasons why I shied away from bakefiets is that I wanted to be able to store the cargo bike in the basement over the winter and I wanted to be able to transport it (i.e. take it to a bike shop if it needs repairs). Edgerunner fits inside the minivan and I can even lift it and take it out by myself. We also got a rack for longer trips when we need extra room in the van. The rack we got is intended for recumbents but it fits the Edgerunner, especially if you add extra padding to avoid scratches.

Long tail market

As we are early adopters, getting this bike was a bit finicky. We ordered the frame through Tall Trees Cycles as soon as we got e-mail from Xtracycle that hundred or so of them will be released in January 2013. Tall Trees managed to reserve one of the few available frames and did a custom build for me. As they are ramping up the production, Xtracycle is now offering full bikes at the price much closer to the competing long tails though it seems that there is still a waiting list to get one.

I choose the Edgerunner over the Kona Ute, Surly Big Dummy and Yuba Mundo because of the smaller back wheel and availability of child seats. This made it worth the extra cost of the custom build. I am looking forward to seeing how well Edgerunner does in the market once they are readily available and priced competitively.

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