Bike: The Ultimate Escape Vehicle?

Our friend Matt (regular reader and commenter “Palm Beach Bike Tours”) recently posted an article on his blog about using a bicycle to escape disasters…or to get around town after one hits.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Here is what I have learned: when all hell is breaking loose, a car isn’t going to do you any good. During evaculations, the roads are packed and moving 15 miles an hour. Cars run out of gas. Cars break down. Tempers flare. The roads move slowly.

After the 2004 hurricanes, 100-year-old oak trees in Orlando were down and even the most beefy Hummer could not get around town. Yet, you could get just about anywhere by bike if you didn’t mind lifting the bike over a trunk every once and a while.”

Read the rest of the article by visiting his blog.

Tropical Storm Fay

Well, crap. With a potential hurricane heading our way — the storm track projection on the above map labeled “8PM Tuesday” is pretty much directly over my house — we might just get to test this concept out. I’ll have to be sure the tires on my Xtracycle “escape vehicle” are pumped up! With two bikes, we should be able to get to safety with enough provisions for the whole family if we need to. Luckily, we live away from any flood zones.

I can attest to the utility of a bicycle after a natural disaster. I’ve lived in “hurricane country” (various points along the Gulf coast) since 1987, and I’ve been in the aftermath of about a dozen serious storms in that time. When gasoline is in short supply and there are downed trees everywhere, getting around town by bike doesn’t just make sense…it may be the ONLY way you’re going anywhere! A bike made it possible for me to visit friends to make sure they were OK after a storm — since telephone service was down, there was no way to call. A bike also allowed me to find a grocery store that was up and running when so many others were without power.

Something to think about, eh?

Summer nights with the Xtracycle

The City of La Mirada hosts open air concerts at nearby parks. The family decided to head to our local park to check out the bands. My wife rode her Electra Beach cruiser and I put my two girls on the back of the DB Transporter Xtracycle.

It was already packed when we got there, but what was surprising to me is the amount of cars circling the park looking for a parking spot.

Not us, we simply picked our spot, parked the bikes, laid the Sarape down and enjoyed the tunes. If you ever decide to get an Xtracycle, be prepared for people to oooh and ahhh over the bike, it will sorta make you feel like a Rock Star.

D.I.Y. Xtracycle Flagpole

I used to own a beach cruiser equipped with a tall flagpole so I could fly a “Jolly Roger” flag at bike events (check it out on Velospace). Well, that bike rusted away, but I still had the flagpole, so I thought I’d attach it to the back of my Xtracycle.

This project took all of 10 minutes to complete — all that is needed is a length of PVC pipe, two eyebolts and corresponding nuts, a strip of aluminum or steel to make a bracket, one long machine screw with nut and a few zipties. Luckily, I had all that on hand, so this project cost me the princely sum of $0.00 — the BEST kind of project!

First, the flagpole was constructed — a couple of holes drilled and the eyebolts mounted to hold the flag. Next, the base of the pole was ziptied to the crossbar at the back of the Xtracycle’s frame:


Then I used a piece of aluminum strip and bent it to support the flagpole on an angle away from the back of the rig. One hole is drilled into it and a corresponding hole goes through the PVC pipe. Put the long screw through both holes and snug down. Then, this aluminum bracket was bent around the back of the V-racks, using a couple extra zipties to hold it in place:


Finally, the flag is attached and we’re off — our pal Val Kleitz has the most modded Xtracycle that I know of, but I’ll bet he doesn’t have a wicked flagpole for his rig!!


More Xtracycle DIY mods and gadgets

One fun thing about having a bike with the Xtracycle Freeradical is customizing it. Since weight is not that important, adding accessories or DIY stuff that will make trips more fun/practical is fun to do. Check out my rear handlebars and DIY pedals:

The stoker stem is a KHS stoker stem that fits nicely on the seatpost, the handlebars were cut for a better fit for my rear riders (my girls) and the ‘pedals’ are actually a PVC pipe with handlebar grips that I got on sale from an LBS. My girls really dig the skull theme.

Some of you may have noticed some weird thing on my front wheel:

This is the M132 LED from Monkeyelectric, I will do a full post later on with videos and pictures from this super cool gadget.

What’s next? I want to modify the freeradical so it will accommodate my two girls comfortably, I’ve seen pictures of people adding backrests to the snapdeck, I’ll see what I can conjure up.

A Freak Occurence

For the July 4th holiday, my wife and I spent the day doing yard projects — building a better compost bin and doing some landscaping. I had moved my Xtracycle up onto the back deck to get it out of the way of some of these projects, and when we wrapped things up and made our way inside for my customary afternoon nap, everything was kosher…

When I went to let the dog out later in the afternoon, I saw a HUGE tree limb laying on top of my bike.

tree limb

That sucker weighs a good 400 lbs. Apparently, when it broke and fell 25 feet to the ground, it landed squarely on the bike’s saddle — utterly destroying the saddle (bending the rails like taffy), bending and ovalizing the seatpost and shearing the leg off the kickstand. My Xtra’s Snapdeck was thrown about 10 feet away from the impact, too.

Once I pulled the limb off, I was greeted with this sight:

saddle destroyed

Here’s a clearer shot of the damage once I got the post out of the seat tube:


And a shot of the kickstand, which sheared off right at the hinge pin:


Although I haven’t been able to ride the bike to see if the frame or FreeRadical got bent, it appears that everything else is OK. Sure, the bike is covered with scratches and dings now, but here’s a testament to both the “parent” KHS Alite 1000 and the Xtracycle’s frame — to withstand such an impact, both frames must be incredibly strong. The top of the seat tube shows no sign of bending or warping, even though the seatpost itself bent right at the top of the seat tube collar. Even the kickstand mounting plate welded to the FreeRadical is undistorted. Absolutely amazing!

I’ll run out to the bike shop tomorrow to get a replacement seatpost and give the rig a test ride to see if everything else is OK.

Well, at least we got a little extra firewood out of this event — our fireplace will avenge this damage come wintertime!