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The staff here at Bikecommuters.com strongly advocate bike commuting as one of many ways of reducing our impact on the environment, but we also really encourage utilitarian cycling such as grocery shopping, errand-running, date nights, etc. We feel that the amazing Xtracycle facilitates such a lifestyle…this baby is designed to do just about everything a car can do — hauling people and packages in a friendly, healthful, low-environmental-impact sort of way.

That being said, we’ve gotten a few questions submitted to us in the past couple months along the lines of “you know, I’m really interested in getting an Xtracycle…how hard are they to put together?” So, we figured we’d do a (mostly) step-by-step photo tutorial with tips and tricks for getting one of these beauties up and running. And, because this tutorial is photo-intensive, we also figured that it would be better as a two-part article.

Xtracycle kits come with a well-prepared and clear assembly instruction booklet, but it is always nice to see some additional photos and hear about some of the “ins and outs” of such an assembly. So, let’s get down to it!

How difficult is it to take this:
bare bike

and a box full of Xtracycle parts:
parts

and combine them to be a fully-functioning utility bicycle? It’s not as hard as you think…if I was pressed, I’d rate it as no more than an intermediate-level mechanical endeavor. If you’re comfortable replacing cables, adjusting brakes and shifting systems on your bike, the rest of this setup will be a piece of cake. However, if you’re not comfortable with such things, leaving it in the hands of a professional might be a better course of action — after all, you won’t ride it if it doesn’t work well, right?

Right off the bat, please let me recommend that you visit your local bike shop and purchase a “tandem-length” (3000 mm) brake cable with the appropriate leaded end for the type of brakes you’ll be using on your build. Although the good folks at Xtracycle include a long brake cable in the build kit, it was over 4″ too short for my application, resulting in a mid-build trip to a faraway bike shop that had tandem cables in stock. If for some reason you don’t actually need such a long cable for your build, rest assured that it wasn’t a wasted trip; you can use it next year when it is time to replace your cables.

Also, you may strongly consider prepping the interior of the FreeRadical frame with Boeshield, FrameSaver or plain boiled linseed oil — there are some tubes that could potentially collect rainwater, and you don’t want this great machine rusting from the inside out. Simply plug all the welding vent holes with tape, pull out the Xtracycle-provided tubing plugs and pour your rustproofing inside, allowing it to coat the insides of the tubes. Pour out the excess, let it “cure” for a day or two and get ready to build.

Tools you will need for assembly:
– 4, 5, 6 and 8mm allen wrenches
– Torx T25 wrench (only if disc brakes are used)
– 10mm box/open-ended wrench
– adjustable wrench
– cable/casing cutter (I used a Dremel-type tool with a cutoff wheel)
– grease/assembly lube/anti-seize paste to lubricate all mounting bolts
– small screwdriver to adjust rear derailleur
– chain breaker tool

First step in the build is to remove the saddle and seatpost, rear wheel, chain, rear brakes and rear derailleur from the “donor” bike. Flip the remainder of the donor bike upside down, resting the handlebars and the top of the seatpost on the ground. Trust me, this is the most convenient way to continue with the assembly as the Xtracycle’s “FreeRadical” frame gets bolted on.

parts
Rear brake body and rear derailleur removed from the donor.

Next, thread the long bolts and “special nuts” into the receiving holes on the front of the FreeRadical frame. Xtracycle provides spacer washers to use if the donor bike’s rear dropout thickness is less than 7mm, but I didn’t need to use them…the donor KHS Alite 1000 has really thick dropouts. Squeezing the bike’s dropouts together, carefully seat the “special nuts” into the dropouts and screw in the long bolts (leave them loose for now). In the below photo, you’ll be able to see how this is all oriented — arrows point to the T-shaped stainless steel “special nuts”.

special nuts

Make sure that the front tongue of the FreeRadical frame is above the chainstay bridge (if present) of the donor bike. Now, “sandwich” the bike’s chainstays with the FreeRadical frame on top and the Xtracycle-provided “front attachment plate” (with rubber pad) below. Run the long bolt and appropriate washers through the “sandwich” and tighten the bolt and nut, ensuring that the tongue is centered between the chainstays. Here’s a photo that illustrates this:

tongue over chainstay

And a view from the underside:

FAP

Now go to the special nuts and bike’s dropouts and snug those bolts up. Xtracycle provides torque values for both sets of bolts in their instruction manual. You may need to hold the T-shaped portion of the special nuts with an adjustable wrench to keep them from rotating while you tighten the bolts with your allen wrench.

The last step for this part of the build process is to place the rear wheel into the dropouts welded to the FreeRadical frame. Now we can roll this beauty outside and can complete the build outdoors with the assembly firmly grasped by a bike repair stand.

rear wheel in

Ok, take a break; you’ve earned a cold drink — and just as the instruction manual states, we’re over halfway there! Tune in next Tuesday when we complete the build…bolting on a new brake disc, the rear brake body and rear derailleur and running new cables and casings. Finally, we’ll put the V-racks and Snapdeck on, stuff the Footsies in their receiving holes and take this baby for a spin!