I’ve been a Surly Big Dummy since 2008. In that time I’ve hauled a lot of cargo, passengers and done a few tours. I thought I would go over the Xtracycle accessories I’ve used and give you some feedback on them.
What I’ve used:
- Decks [original & Flight Deck]
- Deck Pad
- Footsies [foot rests]
- Xtracycle Bags [Mk2 + Mk3]
- dry bags
- Wide Loaders
- Long Loader
- tie down straps x 3
- $7 kickstand
- Kick Back centerstand [sold]
- Porcelain Rocket Bags
- OMM Cold Springs front rack
- bike carrier
- longboard tow
These are the vertical “C” shaped aluminum tubes that your top deck/side bags attach to and they slide into your Big Dummy or Xtracycle Free-Radical frame. I have the original variety, but there is also a heavy duty variety now. So far I haven’t felt them need to upgrade and I have carried 200lbs on the back of my Dummy.
All in all not much to say about these bad boys. They work. They haven’t failed me.
I painted mine black which looks stealthy, but I did a shitty job so the paint isn’t very durable.
- use sections of old road bike inner tubes over the ends to seal the connection between the V-Racks and your frame
- Use bike toe clip straps front and back to keep them tight and prevent any wiggle
- Surly makes a set of Dummy Racks that look pretty nice.
Made of wood the original deck worked fine. Although it would get a little gnarly when exposed to the elements for a long time. It had a tendancy to pop off when you hit a big bump. This was solved by the use of bike toe clip straps at the top front and rear of the V-Racks. If you carry a lot of passengers the deck was hard and not super comfortable.
If you gave me a Dummy or Xtracycle with an original wood deck I would use it without complaints, but I wouldn’t buy another one if I needed to replace mine.
- you can buy the deck clips separately and use a skateboard as a deck if you want to be a hipster
The Flight Deck is made of plastic and is bigger with many attachment points and grab handles at both ends. It copes with weather much better than the original wood deck and it attaches more securely than the older deck. It’s still uber hard so a pad would be good if you carry passengers a lot.
- Surly makes a metal deck that looks pretty nice. I’d probably buy one if I needed to replace the Flight Deck.
I carry a lot of passengers on my Big Dummy so I got a soft deck pad. I can’t recall who made it, but there is nothing particularly special about it other than it is sized to fit an Xtracycle deck. I leave it on most of the time in the city since I never know when I’ll be hauling someone. It has survived a lot of sun and getting wet. If you carry passengers this is a worthy upgrade.
- a foam shop will cut you a custom piece of closed cell foam shaped to your deck
- if you know anyone who can sew they can make you a cover
- Xtracycle sells a pad if you don’t want to mess with building one
My passengers are usually adults so they have long legs and big feet. Giving them a solid place to put their feet means they stay stable and secure on the Dummy which makes piloting the loaded rig easier. I keep these in the Xtracycle bags at all times and they install in seconds when I need them.
I haven’t felt the need for a set of stoker’s bars on my Dummy although they could be a good addition to the foot rests if you carry a lot of passengers. I don’t like how wide they make the rear of the bike and my passengers haven’t had any issues staying aboard so I haven’t bothered.
These foot rests are definitely taking a beating, but so far they have held up fine. If I had to replace these I’d just buy a new set.
- Xtracycle sells a revised version of these foot rests
- Xtracycle also sells running boards if you are carry multiple passengers
- you can use your Wide Loaders like foot rests if you want
Mk2 Xtracycle Bags
These are the second generation bags made by Xtracycle. They maintained the clever versatile design of the original bags, but made them out of less durable fabric. They work well for a wide variety of loads since they open up all the way for a large item or they can be closed like a taco to keep smaller items from falling out. This particular version was not very abrasion resistant so they wore out relatively fast in hard use. The material is not waterproof so anything inside the bags will get wet from rear wheel spray as well as rain that falls in from the open top.
If you gave me a set for free I’d use them, but I wouldn’t buy a set even at a discount.
Mk3 Xtracycle Bags
Xtracycle released a new version of their bags that kept the same design as the Mk1 & Mk2 bags, but returned to a more durable fabric construction. These bags will hold up to hard use better and keep water from rear wheel spray out much better. They are still open at the top so rain will get in.
I broke one of the velcro straps that attached one of the male ends of the fastex buckles that closes the bags. It was just poor QC and I stole one from my Mk2 bags to keep rolling. I haven’t had any other issues in the 2yrs I’ve been using these bags.
- Xtracycle offers several newer models of bags that I haven’t used, but that are worth checking out.
- Surly has just come out with their own version of bags for longtail cargo bikes.
In order to maintain a lot of versatility in what they will carry the bags discussed above use an open top “taco” design. This means you can carry lots of different items with minimal hassle, but they are not protected from the elements. I’ve used a variety of dry bags to carry gear on my Dummy in wet weather. This also lets you load and unload the bike very quickly.
- Ortlieb makes waterproof duffels in a number of sizes.
- If you use a large duffel it’s best to place it on a Wide Loader for support.
- You can use smaller waterproof dry bags with just the Xtracycle bags as show above.
- Ortlieb and other companies make nice waterproof backpacks which will protect a laptop and let you hop off the bike and head out on a foot mission quickly.
These aluminum tubes fit into each side of your cargo bike and have a nylon deck. They allow you to carry wide heavy items with ease – think bike box or a rubbermaid with recycling in it. The Xtracycle bags can carry some smaller boxes, but at some point you will be overloading the straps that attach them to the bike.
I couldn’t imagine cargo biking with my Big Dummy without these side racks.
- use tie down straps to get the most from these side racks.
- bungee cords are not as secure as tie downs.
- use these racks as foot rests for your passengers if you don’t have dedicated foot rests.
- these racks and the Kick Back center stand aren’t fun to use together unless you never take the Wide Loaders off.
One of the benefits of the rear loading cargo bike is that it carries long items [ladders, kayaks, SUPs, etc..] well. A Long Loader is a small bracket that attaches to your Wide Loader that pushes the item you are carrying out a bit at the front so there is room for you to pedal and steer the bike.
It’s small, simple and highly effective. I’m glad I have one.
Tie Down Straps
I always have 3 tie down straps in my Big Dummy’s bags. They are essential for securely attaching bigger loads. They work much better than bungee cords. If you have a Big Dummy you need some.
The Big Dummy has a kickstand plate for a standard single leg side mounted kickstand. Mine cost $7 and is going strong despite a ton of abuse. It’s nice to be able to park the Dummy anywhere without laying it over or having to lean it up against a wall.
If/when this breaks I’ll buy another!
Kick Back Center Stand
I bought a Kick Back center stand because I thought having a more stable bike when loading cargo would be a good thing. It was, but sadly the design of the Kick Back means it needs to be attached to the bike in the same spot as your Wide Loaders. So what once was a simple and easy task of plugging in your Wide Loaders now becomes a major operation. I can’t get my Dummy through the gate it my yard with both Wide Loaders on nor do I want to ride massively wide bike 24/7 when I am not carrying any major cargo. So the Kick Back was a fail for me and I sold it. There is also some chain rub issue on the Kick Back depending on your drivetrain. That’s a bit annoying, but I could have lived with that.
If you either rarely use Wide Loaders/Footsies or you leave them installed 24/7 the Kick Back could work just fine for you. The construction and functionality of the stand itself was good.
If you use a variety of accessories and want to keep the install/removal process fun skip the Kick Back.
- the $7 kickstand works surprisingly well and is worth a shot.
- with your Wide Loaders installed you can lean your bike over for stable loading/unloading without a center stand.
- The Rolling Jackass center stand works great and doesn’t mess with your other Xtracycle accessories if you really need a center stand. They are expensive, but well made.
Porcelain Rocket Bags
I got some custom frame bags from Porcelain Rocket for the rear of my Big Dummy between the seat tube and the cargo area. The Xtracycle bags at the rear of the Dummy have a flap pocket on each side that I use for carry accessories and tie down straps, but once you are loaded up with cargo you can’t get into them very easily. These two frame bags allow me to carry smaller items I want access to throughout the ride. These bags aren’t essential, but they are quite useful. Note that they will cover up 1 of the water bottle cage mounts, but that still leaves you with 3 others.
The cost is high for these bags, but so is the quality. If I was starting over I would get another set.
Some folks are getting a Porcelain Rocket frame bag made for the front triangle as well. I don’t have a need for that and I’d rather keep 2 easily accessible bottle cages, but it’s an option for even more cargo space.
OMM Cold Springs Front Rack
I have an Old Man Mountain Cold Springs front rack on my Dummy. It gets used mostly on tours, but it’s so light I leave it on 24/7. Having some gear up front balances out the load and slows down the steering on the Dummy. For a rough/dirt road tour that can be nice. It’s also handy to have some segregated storage up front that I can access easily without messing with my gear at the back.
I’ve got something like 10 OMM racks which I’ve used for over 10yrs. They are strong, light, work well with my Ortlieb panniers and I love the having a platform to attach stuff to – like a water bag when I am headed to camp. The modular design means they will fit on just about any bike.
They are made in the US. I love these racks.
- OMM doesn’t make the Cold Springs any more so you’ll want to look at the Pioneer or Sherpa racks.
This is just a Wide Loader with a normal roof rack bike carrier tray attached. It lets you carry a bike super securely on the Big Dummy. It was expensive to buy, but every time I use it I am glad I spent the money. There are other ways to carry a bike on your Dummy, but this carrier is so secure you can take singletrack detours comfortably.
I don’t see this for sale on the Xtracycle site, but you can just buy an spare Wide Loader and then DIY attach a bike carrier of your choice.
Towing someone on a longboard with the Big Dummy works really well. The Dummy has enough bulk and stability not to get messed with and when skating is no longer an option the 2nd person can jump aboard and get a lift home.
Our tow rope rig is DIY. We started using some spare tie downs, but they were too rigid and there was a lot of un-fun accelerations for the boarder. So we added a section of strong bungee at the bike end of the rig. This keeps the ride smooth.
More Surly Big Dummy reading:
- Big Dummy posts at The Lazy Rando Blog
- Vik’s Big Dummy Blog
- VikApproved Surly Big Dummy Review
- VikApproved Surly Big Dummy photos on Flickr
- Xtracycle website
- Surly Big Dummy page