Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Xtracycle shakedown booze cruise

With my Stumpjumper Xtracycle almost completed, it was time for another shakedown cruise. My original shakedown cruise had occurred a few weeks earlier after much of the construction that affected rideability was completed. That test run told me that the bike was shifting fine, but that a brake cable hadn't been tightened enough. Also, I'd left the handlebars un-cut to their maximum width. I didn't like the feel of those so one of the first things I did after returning was to cut one inch off of either side.

I find the easiest way to cut bars to length is by using a plain old plumber's pipe cutter. You can find them at pretty much any hardware store, although the cheaper ones like mine will require frequent replacement of the low quality cutter blades. My blade had already gotten fairly nicked and bunged up so I had a bit of a rough time cutting the bars down to size.

At the best of times you'll still need to use a file to clean up the edge of the cut. I had to work it a bit more because my cutter was beyond dull. Use a flat metal file to grind down the outside edges of the bar.

After taking care of the outside you want to use a round file, like a chainsaw sharpening file to get any burrs off the inside of the bar.

Now with the bar ends fitted back in place, the bike was ready for another shakedown cruise.

So, a few days later I sent a message to my semi-regular riding buddy Bryan and asked if he'd like to put some miles in while I worked out any more kinks in the Xtracycle build. He was up for it so we elected to meet halfway from both of our houses out in front of the Columbia Yacht Club on the Lakefront Path. Alas, I got a later start than intended and so Bryan met me along the path about a mile and a half south of the yacht club. We met up in front of the 31st Street Marina, which had just been completed at the beginning of the previous summer.

Bryan walked around the newly completed Xtracycle and his practiced eye settled on the long rise to the quill stem along with the steep angle of the stem. "That frame's a little small for you isn't it?" he asked me.

"Back in the day, as you kids like to say (he's 15 years my junior), we used to run our mountain bike frames the next size down. It made for a stiffer frame and made it more maneuverable on tight singletrack and in the really technical bits," I replied.

I also replied that as I had the bike set up originally, the stem was a lot lower than the seat which was great for aggressive off road riding, but not for lengthy tours on the road, and certainly not very comfortable for the "wedding tackle" in the longterm. Next on our agenda, was a childish desire to indulge our selves in taking turns riding on the back of the bike. I started out with all 6 foot plus and 200 pounds of Bryan on the back. The bike felt incredibly wobbly and you could feel a lot of flex in the frame due to the way the FreeRadical joins to the donor bike frame.

It was a bit disconcerting to pedal the bike with an awkward, top-heavy load on the back. Next up it was my turn to ride on the flight deck with Bryan pedaling. I'd call what I experienced, something akin to mild terror. It was somewhat like riding a rickety old roller coaster at the State Fair when I was a kid. Mildly thrilling with the underlying, mounting fear that the whole flexy wobbly thing was going to collapse under you and leave you bloody and broken in a pile of twisted metal on the ground.

So, I think we easily established that the Xtracycle is not meant to support 6 foot tall 200 pound males but instead is more restricted to very small children and petit, size 0 models. We both suspect that the Xtracycle performs much better with the bulk of its weight mounted low versus upright and swaying dramatically.

We pedaled away from the parking lot and north along the path, with an aim to head over into the city and get a burger before continuing westwards to hit up the North Shore Channel Trail. Our original burger joint was to be Kuma's Corner, but a change of plan due to my late start had us settling for merely tooling around in the Loop and parts north instead of heading out to the North Shore Channel Trail. A couple glamor shots were taken before leaving the path though.

We made our way instead over to The Haymarket Pub & Brewery on the corner of Randolph and Halsted. The Pub takes its name from the area of town which is also famous for the Haymarket Riot, also called the Haymarket Affair or the Haymarket Massacre. It was one of the early defining points in the burgeoning labor rights movement. The food was tasty and the beer excellent. I meant to get a picture of our food before we tucked in, but alas hunger took over and when I remembered the desire for a photo, my plate had become a non-photogenic mess of half-eaten burger and french fries.

I have to confess, I don't go out much and I deplore the price of beer at pubs. I can eat and drink way cheaper at home. However, I was delighted to learn of the concept of the "flight" which had been alien to me until this days excursion. The notion that you could purchase a sample of tiny four ounce glasses of various beers for the price of a single 12 or 16 ounce beer intrigued me and took some of the sting out of the cost. Of course some of this is because of my frugal Scottish nature. I'm allowed to call myself a cheap bastard, you aren't.

That may have been Bryan's Acrimonius Barrel Aged Imperial Stout on the left and my Truculent Imperial Pilsner.

I resolved to seek out flights or four ounce sample size glasses where available when cycle touring brew pubs. It seems like a great way to sample several different beers for not a whole lot of cash outlay. We finished up our brews and moseyed across the street to MOX Multisport, a bike shop, so Bryan could add some air to his rear tire and possibly purchase some CO2 canisters for his pump. MOX was a tiny little specialist shop apparently concerned mostly with the triathlon and time trial crowd. A handful of some lovely fast looking bikes but by no means a full service shop with a wide selection of either bikes or other kit.

From MOX, we wended our way further north and west alighting at the location of Tati Cycles, a local purveyor of classy bikes along with classy attire. They apparently have a weird, almost non-existent schedule of actual hours when the shop is open. Alas, they were closed when we rode by. I could swear we saw someone working inside, but by the time we locked up, the apparition had vanished and the door was locked, the shop lifeless.

We ventured further north and west into the neighborhood of Logan Square, allegedly the hipster capital of Chicago. I was hoping to see some more single speed and fixie bikes other than Bryan's. I was really looking forward to seeing someone on a bike with matching gold rims and chain, swigging a PBR in their skinny jeans, giving the finger to someone in a car they'd just cut off as they ran a red light. Alas it was not to be. Apparently it was too cold for the hipster fixie crowd as we were the only people on bikes anywhere in the vicinity.

We cruised by Dunlay's On the Square, where a buddy of ours, Erik, is the head chef or kitchen manager or something. I can't keep the professional restaurant kitchen hierarchy straight, but Bryan and Erik seem to try tirelessly to educate me on the finer points of professional cooking for other people. Feeling thirsty from our exertions, we sampled a flight apiece.

I had the Hopster, but was not sure if the pun on hipster and their location in Logan Square was intentional. Two of the beers, Revolution and Half Acre are both Chicago locals. I'd had Half Acre stuff before and liked it, but the Revolution was a first for me. I liked it better than the Rogue sample, but then again I've never really liked much of anything from Rogue, it always tastes far too piney for me.

Bryan had the Cabin Fever Reliever flight, but alas the Lagunitas selection was out so he had to substitute. I forget what his substitution was, but we ended up switching, his Lagunitas substitute for my Rogue. We both finished our beers happy and hit the road again.

We checked out a large monumental column across from the restaurant before heading back east towards the lake. Bryan tried riding up the smooth marble edging of the steps to the right of the column, only to lose traction and come down hard upon his top tube. His Facebook posts the next day regaled all of his readers with tales of a swollen testicle. Kids, they never learn do they?

We ended up back near the lakefront in a park where our ride had now seemed to take on a pose-the-bikes-by-a-monument theme. We parked them in front of a half-naked statue of Goethe, who also has a street in Chicago named after him. Although, native Chicagoans will tell you the street is not pronounced "Ger-tuh" but is instead pronounced, "Go-eth-ee." Phillistines!

Next up was Alexander Hamilton, in bad need of re-gilding I might add.

As darkness was quickly approaching, we parted ways when we hit the Lakefront Path once again. Bryan headed north while I turned south. Overall I think it was a good shakedown cruise. There was a stiff wind blowing from the south as I headed home so I really felt the wind resistance of the upright pedaling position along with the lack of good aero positions to get down out of the wind. My daily commuter is a drop bar touring bike which while not exactly fast, at least allows me to get down out of the wind somewhat if I need to. Additionally, I found that I prefer the more stretched out position that I have on the commuter. The handlebar is three inches closer on the Xtracycle when measured with the nose of the saddle as a reference point on the two bikes.

Already the wheels are turning in regards to how to change the riding position slightly to make it more like my everyday bike. I found the adjustable stem, made by Zoom, to be utter junk. The mechanism that holds the stem locked in at a specific angle is not firm enough, even with the bolt tightened all the way. As a result, the stem can move upwards a couple millimeters or more, alarmingly, especially when pulling upwards on the bar as you attempt to accelerate away from a dead stop. I'll be replacing the Zoom stem with a quill-to-threadless adapter that will allow me to use a variety of threadless stems, both in angle and extension.

Also, even though I installed bar ends I still feel a decided lack of hand positions. I find that if I don't have the option of changing my hand positions regularly enough, or that I don't have enough variety of positions available I start to suffer from aches and pains in the shoulders as well as my elbows and hands. I find that adhering to the same limited positions tends to make me want to unconsciously lock my elbows and hunch my shoulders.

So, a change from the riser bar will be in order as well. Several other Xtracycle owners utilize trekking, or "butterfly" bars and seem to like them well enough, so I think I may give one of those a try, or possibly some version of an H-bar like the Jeff Jones
. Either way, I need to get more hand positions and get my riding position lowered into a bit more comfortable position for me. As always, I think bikes are a work in progress, at least for me. I think that is a good thing, because it gives me a chance to tinker and I do love an evening in my shop with a bike in the stand and a beer close by.

1 comment:

  1. As I mentioned in the Roots Radicals group, I experience instability with heavier top loads as well. As you said, given the joint connections for the Free Radical, it's not surprising. I have 60lb of kids and what, 15lbs or so of Peopods on the back, but up high like that, the center of gravity makes it wobbly at low speeds. I'm experimenting more with adding ballast to the freeloaders, something we normally elect NOT to do as riders, right, add weight to a bike. But I've found that on grocery runs, where I have the bags filled with sundries, wine bottles, milk jugs, cat litter and the like, the kids on top feel a lot more stable. We'll see.