Bike Friday Cargo Bike

Click on image to jump to Kickstarter....

Click on image to jump to Kickstarter….

Bike Friday is working on a size adjustable cargo bike. They need some financial help to get the project off the ground so if you have the means and are interested in this concept click on the image above and jump over to their Kickstarter Campaign page.

It looks like a great idea and it should work for a lot of people who couldn’t handle a full sized cargo rig.

From Bike Friday:

“Dear Bike Friday Customers,

We’ve been working on something very close to my heart here at Bike Friday. We’re ready to take it to the next level out into the world and I am writing to you to ask for your support.

Maybe you have seen the YouTube video about my home sustainability project made back in 2009. I’ve always been personally committed to leading a low-impact, human powered life. For most of my life I have relied entirely on bicycles for transportation. Up until now I have never found the perfect bike for living a car-free life. The cargo bikes on the market are designed for larger riders and often weigh 50-60lbs. Going grocery shopping with a trailer is harder to lock up and more awkward to park.

Today we are announcing the launch of our Kickstarter campaign to support the development of Bike Friday’s Haul-a-Day cargo bike. To get things started we are offering several $200+ discounts on already-low prices that are only possible if our campaign succeeds.

Haul-a-Day co-creator Shane MacRhodes with his kids on the back of the first Haul-a-Day prototype

My father and co-counder Alan Scholz developed the Haul-a-Day as an “instructor bike” for the local school district’s Safe Routes to School program. When Safe Routes to School coordinator Shane MacRhodes posted about the Haul-a-Day on his blog, people started coming out of the woodwork asking for more information about Bike Friday’s new lightweight cargo bike that could adjust to fit riders of all sizes.

Since building that original prototype for Shane, Alan has built almost every one of the 70 Haul-a-Days in the tiny “skunk works” research and development corner of our factory floor. We’re reaching out and asking for help from our customers to help us build tooling and train our production staff to reach our audacious goal of delivering 1,000 Haul-a-Days to 1,000 families in 2015. In many cities and large towns, a cargo bike can meet most or all of an individual or family’s needs for transportation while improving health and reducing dependency on expensive cars, maintenance, and fuel.

We hope you’ll join us for the ride. Please visit our Kickstarter page and back our project. Whether or not you are able to back our project, please pass the word on to as many friends and family members as you think might be interested in our latest work. We’d be happy to reward you with a 10% discount on your next Bike Friday purchase in exchange for passing the word along. Just let us know the names of the people you passed the word to the next time you call in.

Best in cycling,

Hanna Scholz
President, Green Gear Cycling Inc.
Makers of Bike Friday

1-800-777-0258 (US) / 1-541-687-0487 (Everywhere)
https://www.bikefriday.com
3364 West 11th Ave Eugene, OR, 97402, USA”

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VEMA – Bicycle Emergency Response

Looks like the local emergency response folks are setting up an elite squad of bicycle riders to save the city from disaster! I guess me and my Big Dummy better join! 😉

Have trailer and ready to ride…

If you have a bicycle, are 19 years of age or over, and would like to help the community in the event of a disaster, VEMA’s new Cyclist Response Team is for you.  

Cyclists can play an important role in an emergency response. After an earthquake in Victoria, cyclists may be able to access roads, pathways and bridges that vehicles can’t, to help move people, information and materials from one location to another. VEMA is creating the Cyclist Response Team to help meet this need in the community. 

Cyclist Response Team members will train to be responsible for moving information and supplies; conducting damage assessment and other information gathering tasks; and performing mobile first aid and basic search and rescue. Volunteers will receive training in bicycle safety, first aid, basic emergency preparedness and basic damage assessment of buildings. Learn more about this exciting volunteer opportunity by attending an information session in January.

Information Session: VEMA’s Cyclist Response Team
Thursday, January 23, 2014
6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Note new location: Oaklands Community Centre
2827 Belmont Avenue
** Location was changed to allow for the use of a larger room.
***There is motor vehicle parking (street).
****There are a few bike racks to the left of the main door and there are various poles and fences in close proximity to lock bikes to.
*****This location is close to bus routes on Hillside and on Shelbourne. Allow between 5 and 10 minutes to walk from each route.

To register to attend this session, email vema@victoria.ca or call 250.920.3373. We look forward to meeting you. “

Island View Beach Cargo-Packing…

Sharon and her trusty Surly Cross Check...

Sharon and her trusty Surly Cross Check…

Sharon’s ACL surgery this past May has kept her off her mountain bike, but she has resumed commuting to work and doing easy urban rides. With summer coming to a close we wanted to get out for an small adventure that her knee could handle so we decided to camp overnight at a local beach campground.

Just a quick ride from home...

Just a quick ride from home…

Island View Beach is ~20kms from our house along the Lochside Regional Trail. There is a pretty steep climb to get to and from the beach, but other than that it’s a flat route.

My Surly Big Dummy loaded...

My Surly Big Dummy loaded…

To keep things simple I just loaded up my cargo bike with the bare essentials like: tent, sleeping bags, chairs, beer and ice. 😉

Stay frosty my friends...

Stay frosty my friends…

I didn’t bother with a stove or food. We just stopped along the way and ate an early supper.

Camp chairs are nice...

Camp chairs are nice…

We found several empty tent spots at the campground and settled in with a cold drink to celebrate the last sunny days of summer.

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

Since we weren’t counting grams I brought a roomy 2 person tent which was quite luxurious.

Foraging...

Foraging…

Fruit is in season on Vancouver Island so Sharon started foraging for a snack.

At the beach...

Two Big Dummies at the beach…

The beach was a short ride from our tent so we cruised over there to chill for a bit.

A little competitive kelp throwing...

A little competitive kelp throwing…

It was a typical Vancouver Island beach – super nice and totally empty.

Sharon learning about the local fauna...

Sharon learning about the local fauna…

With the sun setting we headed back to camp to get cozy our sleeping bags.

A bit moist...

A bit moist…

We woke to persistent and sometimes down right heavy rain. I fired up my smartphone and was happy to see the weather report was saying it wasn’t raining. Too bad the local clouds didn’t get the memo!

Top of the climb out from the beach...

Top of the climb out from the beach…

We packed up quickly and hit the road. Starting with a long steep climb to get away from the beach. On a different day I might have grumbled about a rough start to the day, but since we were cold and wet a strenuous climb was welcome as were our rising core temperatures!

Hot goodies...

Hot goodies…

We stopped about halfway home for some hot tea and snacks. The rain went nuts while we were inside so it proved a good time to take a break. I like tea in the morning, but this pot seemed almost magical – I couldn’t get to the bottom of it no matter how many cups of tea I drank. I eventually gave up!

Sharon keeping an eye on the local farmers...

Sharon keeping an eye on the local farmers…

The rain had pretty much given up by the time we left the tea shop. That made for pleasant riding the rest of the way.

Riding in the countryside...

Riding in the countryside…

The Lochside Trail is quite scenic and given it was early on a wet long weekend morning we had the place to ourselves.

Sharon making friends...

Sharon making friends…

This was only Sharon’s 2nd ever bike camping experience and she had a good time. I think we’ll use this combo of bikes and loads in the future on tours as it resulted in quite comparable speeds on the bikes – especially on the climbs. I don’t mind doing shorter tours and with a heavier load I get a good workout anyways. Plus we can have as many luxuries as we can bother to pack on the cargo bike.

Two thumbs up for getting out on the bikes...

Two thumbs up for getting out on the bikes…

Xtracycle Accessories Review…

Ready to haul...

Ready to haul…

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.

Stuff I carry all the time...

Stuff I carry all the time…

What I’ve used:

  • V-Racks
  • 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
V-Racks with wooden deck & MK2 Bags...

V-Racks with wooden deck & MK2 Bags…

V-Racks

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.

Pro Tips:

Flight Deck and Wooden Deck...

Flight Deck and Wooden Deck…

Original Deck

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.

Pro Tip:

  • you can buy the deck clips separately and use a skateboard as a deck if you want to be a hipster
Underside of Flight Deck...

Underside of Flight Deck…

Flight Deck

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.

Pro Tip:

Deck pad is Cat Approved...

Deck pad is Cat Approved…

Deck Pad

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.

Pro Tip:

Foot Rest...

Foot Rest…

Footsies

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.

Pro Tip:

Mk2 bags unloaded...

Mk2 bags unloaded…

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.

Mk2 bags overloaded...

Mk2 bags overloaded…

Mk3 bags freshly installed...

Mk3 bags freshly installed…

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.

Pro Tip:

Loaded up with dry bags on tour...

Loaded up with dry bags on tour…

Dry Bags

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.

On tour with smaller dry bags...

On tour with smaller dry bags…

Pro Tips:

Carrying a bike box...

Carrying a bike box…

Wide Loaders

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.

Definitely a wide load...

Definitely a wide load…

Pro Tips:

  • 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.
Carrying a Bike Friday...

Carrying a Bike Friday…

A long load...

A long load…

Long Loader

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.

Long Loader in action...

Long Loader in action…

Tie downs FTW!

Tie downs & a Long Loader FTW!

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 other side...

The other side…

Best $7 I ever spent!

Best $7 I ever spent!

$7 Kickstand

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 in action...

Kick Back in action…

Kick Back Center Stand

You can read my full Kick Back Review here.

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.

Pro Tips:

  • 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.
My Dummy with PR bags...

My Dummy with PR bags…

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.

You can read my PR bag reviews here – top bag review and triangle bag review.

PR Bags close up...

PR Bags close up…

OMM Cold Springs rack...

OMM Cold Springs rack…

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.

Pro Tip:

OMM on tour...

OMM on tour…

Cannondale on the way to the LBS...

Cannondale on the way to the LBS…

Bike Carrier

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.

Buying a Townie for a friend...

Buying a Townie for a friend…

Rolling...

Rolling…

Longboard Tow

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.

Towing is not just for guys...

Towing is not just for guys…

More Surly Big Dummy reading:

Surly Big Dummy Review…

A typical Big Dummy mission...

A typical Big Dummy mission…

What is it?

The Surly Big Dummy is a long tail cargo bike that was designed to use the Xtracycle line of cargo products as plug-ins to a robust one piece steel frame. That provides a lot of flexibility from carrying kids to lumber, to groceries and even ladders or kayaks.

The current configuration...

The current configuration…

Specification as Tested

I got one of the first batch of BD frames and built it up from parts. At the time there were no BD completes available. My BD features a Rohloff IGH for a very strong rear wheel and minimal maintenance.

  • 2008 Surly Big Dummy frame 18″
  • Rohloff hub + shifter + Mavic EN321 Disc rim
  • Shimano SLX brakes + 160mm rotors [Avid fr & Rohloff Rr]
  • Shimano XT hub + XC717 rim [front wheel]
  • Schwalbe Marathon XR tires 26 x 2.0″
  • Race Face Turbine crank 38T ring x 16T Rohloff cog
  • platform pedals
  • Titec H-Bars + Egron Grips
  • Brooks B17 champion flyer saddle
  • Xtracycle Long Tail Kit
  • Old Man Mountain Cold Springs front rack
  • Planet Bike Cascadia fenders
  • Porcelain Rocket frame bags [custom]
  • $7 kickstand

You can see all my Big Dummy photos here.

Hauling a Pugsley...

Hauling a Pugsley…

Hauling a shelving unit...

Hauling a shelving unit…

Surly Spew

“The Big Dummy is designed for carrying cargo. Like all our frames, it’s made of steel and it’s got lots of little touches that you’ve come to love in a Surly, like clearance for bigger tires and common component sizing.

It’s built around the longtail standard design platform, invented by Xtracycle which means that Xtracycle or Surly accessories can be added depending on what you want to carry, or you can build your own to meet whatever hauling need you have. However, being a dedicated single-piece frame instead of an add-on to an existing bike, it’s more stout and resistant to torsional flex, and this makes it resistant to fatigue and failure.

The load weight, and how it’s loaded, will affect the handling. Also plan on using gears, provided on the complete version, especially as cargo weight increases. This may seem obvious, but as you get comfy with it you’ll use your full range of gears as never before.

One of the funny things about the Big Dummy is that it doesn’t ride quite like you might think. Sure, it’s a little longer, but mainly it rides like a bike. It’s smooth, maneuverable, even nimble. Are you riding light and want to hit some singletrack on the way home? Do it. And if you get a call from your better half asking you to pick up some groceries, or you see a nice lamp at a garage sale, you’re all ready. Lots of people bought one to use once in a while and began using it as their everyday ride.

The frame can be built up lots of different ways to suit your needs and budget. The complete bike option has reliable but understated components to help keep the price down while still retaining durability and quality components Surly is known for.

New this year we’ve designed bags, deck and bag frames. All are well thought out, durable, and high quality.”

The current configuration...

The current configuration…

Groceries for the week...

Groceries for the week…

Testing

I’ve had my Big Dummy for over 5yrs. It’s seen thousands of kms of cargo biking – hauling passengers, bikes, groceries, furniture, SUPs, etc… I’ve also used it as an expedition style touring bike on paved and dirt road tours. Surprisingly I also used the BD a ton for cruising around town with no plans to haul jack shit.

The only common BD mission I haven’t had much experience with is hauling kids. I wasn’t prepared to breed just for testing purposes! 😉

The business end...

The business end…

The Frame

The Big Dummy is a typical Surly frame – built from no nonsense 4130 chromoly and covered in a robust understated powercoat finish. It looks like a mountain bike that’s been stretched out like a limo. You can run disc brakes or v-brakes as desired.

After many years of riding the decals are shredded, the powdercoat is scratched and scuffed, but all in all the Big Dummy is going strong.

Behind the seat tube things get interesting. There are a number of extra tubes that form the longtail cargo area of the Big Dummy. This provides a bunch of extra water bottle cage mounts for long rides or an opportunity to fill the space with some custom frame bags. The Big Dummy allows for plug and play installation of pretty much any Xtracycle accessory you care to use.

There is a kickstand plate just to the front of the rear wheel on the non-driveside of the frame. I have installed at generic $7 kickstand which has proven very useful all these years and survived much abuse.

That compatibility is key to the BD’s versatility and usefulness. Many of the other cargo bike options available give you few accessories mount. That means you are left to DIY any hauling solutions you need. Sadly the basic longtail isn’t all that useful. The saddle bags most longtail cargo bikes come with are great for small items – pretty much what a touring bike could carry. To really get the most from your Big Dummy you need to start adding the correct accessories for the mission at hand.

  • Going to carry 2 kids add some child seats
  • need to haul a bike plug in a bike carrier
  • need to haul 2 bikes plug in 2 carriers
  • got a 12″ sea kayak you need to move add a wide loader with a long loader
  • want to give your GF a lift on date night add some foot rests and a set of stoker bars
  • you get the picture!

Now if you are a DIY kind of rider the Xtracycle design is easy to work with. So you can make any parts you don’t want to buy. That means you get a choice. Buy what you want and build anything you feel you can make at home.

Having a one piece cargo frame gives you a stiffer more solid bike than a 2 piece bike + Xtracycle combo. This matters most at the heaviest end of the hauling spectrum and/or when you are riding off paved roads.

The rear brake on a BD is a long way from the lever. If you are using mechanical cable actuated brakes you’ll want the most compression resistant housing you can get your hands on. Standard brake housing will result in spongy low power braking at the back. I started my BD build with Avid BB7s and moved to Shimano SLX hydraulic brakes after a few years to get better performance.

Towing a longboard...

Towing a longboard…

Riding...

Riding…

The Ride

The BD rides like a mountain bike. A long one, but still a mountain bike. That’s a good thing. It means you’ll want to ride your BD when you aren’t going to haul any cargo and you don’t worry when the road turns to dirt or disappears altogether.

I’ve got wide Titec H-bars on my BD combined with a 23.5″ TT puts me in an upright position. That’s great for controlling heavy loads and enjoying the scenery, but not very aerodynamic.  I could easily be riding a 20″/Large frame.

My BD is built like a tank. It rides like a tank. The upside is that I’ve never had a lick of trouble with it even when hauling over 200lbs of stuff. The wheels have been bomber. The frame has been stiff enough to let me haul the heaviest loads with confidence in downtown traffic or at 75kph on a steep mountain road. I’ve never had a flat and I just ride it like it like every mission is search and destroy. The downside is the burly tires, the upright riding position and the heavy frame don’t reward sprinting. OTOH you can cover a lot of ground at a decent speed with a steady effort.

Faster rolling tires and a longer lower riding position would let you pick up the speed if your cargo rides are longer than most. Some folks have also installed e-assist kits on the their BDs.

You want low gears on a cargo bike if you have steep hills where you live. I can conquer all sorts of ridiculous climbs on my loaded BD with my Rohloff in gear #1 and a constant spin. I’m fine with minimal gear range on a lot of my bikes, but this isn’t one of them. Using an IGH is nice since you can’t lift the rear of the BD easily if you stop on a hill in a gear too high to get started in. IGHs can shift while stopped or while coasting – perfect!

Although the BD is a rigid bike its length, steel construction and the rider position in the middle of the bike mean there is a leaf spring type suspension effect. It’s very comfortable on rough roads or trails. An unexpected bonus.

The long wheelbase means Cadillac type stability. That means low stress when riding at speed with a load onboard.

One quirk with longtail riding is that the rider is not on top of the rear wheel so when you ride towards a curb or a log and try and lift the front wheel not much happens.

Urban assault mode...

Urban assault mode…

11' SUP heading out for a paddle...

11′ SUP heading out for a paddle…

Hauling Stuff

A longtail cargo bike is great for carrying a lot of different loads:

  • kids
  • adults
  • boxes
  • groceries
  • long items [ladders, SUPs, lumber, etc..]
  • other bikes

In stock form the Xtracycle rear gives you two options: 1) a cargo deck you can sit passengers on or strap boxes to and 2) Freeloader side bags that let you load up both sides of the bike with cargo in a lower more stable position. These bags are very versatile on their own, but I like have some plug in Wide Loaders that give you a wide horizontal shelf on one or both sides of the bike to support bigger loads.

If you are going to transport adults or older kids a lot you’ll want to invest in some foot rests and possible a set of stoker bars which give them someplace to hang onto. For the occasional ride these are not essential.

If you have young kids there are a variety of child seat options available, but I’m not really up to speed on what they are.

I’ve got the following accessories:

  • wide loaders [shelves to support wide loads like boxes]
  • long loader [pushes really long loads out a bit at the front so you have room to pedal]
  • bike carrier
  • tie down straps
  • foot rests [passengers love ’em]
  • deck pad [comfy for passengers]
  • $7 kickstand

Click here to read a review of the accessories I use.

I carry everything except the bike carrier] on every ride because you just never know what you will end up carrying home.

You can visit my old Big Dummy Blog for lots of cargo hauling ideas and tips. I’ll be reviewing the Xtracycle accessories I use in a separate post.

Groceries and my buddy Steve...

Groceries and my buddy Steve…

Mountain touring...

Mountain touring…

Touring

The BD makes a great expedition touring bike. It can carry anything you need. It doesn’t care if the road turns to dirt or you start exploring trails. Since most people don’t tour full time it’s handy that your exploring bike is such a useful cargo rig at home.

The leaf spring suspension of the BD’s long steel frame is comfortable on the roughest track. There us room in the BD’s frame for the biggest touring rubber you care to mount plus fenders.

I use an OMM Cold Springs rack on the front on my BD. This balances out a touring load a bit and gives me easy access to stuff I need throughout the day.

The long wheelbase of the BD is very confidence inspiring when descending a hairy steep muddy road with a heavy bike.

The BD is longer than a single touring bike, but shorter than a tandem so flying or taking it on a bus/train isn’t a real problem. You can install S&S couplers on your BD if being able to pack it into a smaller box is important to you.

Muddy Dempster Highway...

Muddy Dempster Highway…

Loading a couple BDs...

Loading a couple BDs…

Big Dummy vs. Trailer?

You might be thinking should I just get a cargo trailer or an Xtracycle kit for an existing bike instead of a Big Dummy? The answer depends on what you are going to haul with your bike and how often. It also depends on what sort of bike[s] you already have. I’ve had 3 cargo trailers over the years [BOB and Burley Nomad style] and they work well, but for regular hauling duties I far prefer the Big Dummy. Not only can I carry passengers on the BD, but I can carry a wider variety of items more easily than with the trailers I’ve owned. Most importantly I often ended up hauling stuff on the BD when I wasn’t planning to. With a bike trailer that means I most likely wouldn’t have had it with me since riding around with an empty trailer isn’t all that much fun…however, riding around on the empty BD is pretty much like riding a normal mountain bike.

There are speciality trailers that can haul loads that far exceed the BD’s capacity in size and weight. Trailers so huge you can move apartments with them. If you need one of those you are in an ultra small niche of cargo bikers and you may need a BD to haul that 15′ beast around! 😉

Where I think a trailer does make a lot of sense is if you only need to haul cargo occasionally and you have a bike you like to ride already. Investing in a dedicated cargo bike probably doesn’t make sense. Say getting groceries once a week and a summer bike tour.

The ladies like the BD...

The ladies like the BD…

CETMA...

CETMA…

Big Dummy vs. CETMA front loading cargo bike?

I owned a CETMA front loading cargo bike with a nice wooden box for a couple years. It was much heavier than the BD and could haul more weight. In fact it handled better with a heavy load than empty. I ended up selling it because the BD was a better fit for my needs.

What was better about the CETMA?

  • big box made loading loose items [say recycling or groceries] easier
  • box could be removed to carry large heavy boxes
  • most cargo could just be placed in the box without any straps for fast loading
  • could haul more weight than BD
  • you can keep an eye on your cargo
  • if you are carrying kids you can talk to them and watch them

What was better about the BD?

  • rides like a normal bike unloaded
  • narrower when unloaded [better for gates on bikepaths]
  • more nimble
  • carries long loads easier
  • carries adults easier and more comfortably
  • lighter/faster
  • handles dirt and steep hills better
  • blends into the background well when empty so less stupid cargo bike questions

I found that since I rarely needed the cargo capacity of the CETMA and I preferred to ride the Big Dummy the CETMA only got used a fraction of the time. If I was going to keep just one of the two the BD was the more fun and more versatile option.

Doug and Fiona love their CETMA...

Doug and Fiona love their CETMA…

Hauling a bike to the UPS Store...

Hauling a bike to the UPS Store…

What don’t I like about the Big Dummy?

  • my build was expensive…although I could have skipped the Rohloff and if I was buying today I would probably just get a complete bike and get OEM savings on the parts.
  • it’s heavy and long. Finding someplace to store it and still have easy access to it can be a challenge.
  • the price of flexibility is that you need to spend a few minutes reconfiguring the BD to haul a load and strap it down.
  • Xtracycle accessories are expensive.
  • My BD in this build is not a rocket ship.
Backroads Big Dummy touring...

Backroads Big Dummy touring…

Big Dummy in camp...

Big Dummy in camp…

Would I do it all over again?

Absolutely. The BD has been a super fun and useful bike to own. I would probably just buy a complete BD from Surly to save $$$ and worry about upgrading to an IGH down the road when stuff wore out. I buy and sell bikes regularly so bikes that don’t hold their own in my garage don’t last long.

The Big Dummy is my oldest bike.

What keeps it safe is that it can do pretty much anything. If I need to haul something the BD has my back. If I just want to go out for a cruise the BD is fun for that. If I have a tour on the books the BD can take me on the road travelling. Commuter bike down for repairs – the BD is reliable all weather bike with an IGH and fenders.

The Big Dummy may not be my first choice for rides other than cargo missions, but the fact it can do everything means I always have a bike to ride which is great for peace of mind.

At least so far I haven’t found a better cargo bike solution for my needs.

Picking up a new bike for a friend...

Picking up a new bike for a friend…

Loaded for a tour...

Loaded for a tour…

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