Category: xtracycle

One of the reasons I was really eager to get an Xtracycle was so I could schlep my son around town — he’s outgrown his tow-behind trailer and seemed willing to try something new.

So, I thought I’d make the rig a little more “passenger-friendly”: a nice padded area to sit on and a place for the passenger to grab onto.

For the pad, I used interlocking floor mats as the raw material. These mats are available all over the place (big box DIY stores, chain stores, etc.). We had a few of them laying around in our shed just waiting to be repurposed. Using the Xtracycle’s Snapdeck and a big mixing bowl as templates, I traced the shape I wanted onto the back of a sheet of the foam. Then, I cut it out using a common utility knife. I figured three thicknesses would be nice and cushy, and I had multiple colors on hand, so I went with a “Rasta” theme.

cutting the foam

I laminated the three pieces together by spreading Liquid Nails project adhesive between them (using a putty knife to get the adhesive right up to the edges) and stacking overdue library books on them to hold them in place while the adhesive cured. I then used more of the adhesive to mount it to the top of the Snapdeck.

Once the adhesive was all the way cured, I knocked down the sharp edges of the foam pads with a sanding disc, shaping the edge to a radius similar to the edge of the wooden deck. It feels quite nice on the tush and inner thighs!

The next modification was to add a handlebar for the passenger to grip. This was easy — I used a spare pair of handlebars and a threadless 1 1/8″ stem I had in my parts bins and some shims cut from a soda can. Simply pull out the seatpost of the bike and clamp the stem onto it, using shims as needed to make sure the assembly won’t move around. Piece of cake!


One consideration is what handlebars to use. As I discovered once I bolted everything together, an old pair of moustache handlebars curved forward too much, hitting me in the backs of the legs as I pedaled. That just wouldn’t do, so I dove back into my parts bins for a pair of “chop ‘n flops”…a vintage 3TTT “Merckx” handlebar that had been butchered by a well-meaning but misguided friend. Still, only the finest Italian craftsmanship for my passengers!

The total cost of these projects was $11.00 — and that was for the WTB grips I used (my son HAD to have red grips, his favorite color). Everything else I had on hand. Even if you had to go out and buy some of this, the raw materials are extremely cheap…the only real expense would be a stem and bars if you don’t have spares laying around.


My boy loves riding back there — he gets a better view of the world and it really helps him feel like he’s growing up — no more “baby trailer”, as he calls it. And, he got to select some of the appointments for his new perch…pretty red grips and a red pad to protect his butt.

For some other cheap Xtracycle mods, check out:

RL’s homemade Footsies.

and RL’s “Bike on a Bike” carrier.

Last week, we presented the first part of an Xtracycle build…and left off with the attachment of the rear wheel. The rest of the assembly is fairly easy, as long as you are comfortable measuring, cutting and running new cables and casings and adjusting brakes and shifting systems. Otherwise, a trip to your local bike shop might be in order for professional assistance.

Let’s finish this thing up, shall we?

For those of you running disc brakes with your Xtracycle, the FreeRadical kit requires an 203mm/8″ rotor on the back wheel. So, a disc swap is needed if your rotor is smaller than the requirement. Pop the back wheel out of the FreeRadical and replace the disc with a larger one.

disc swap

Whatever you do, DON’T do what I did — in my excitement, I didn’t seat the Torx T25 wrench deeply enough in one of the rotor bolts and rounded it off. So, I spent an extra hour trying to remove the bolt…first with a slightly larger Torx key, then a drill and a “screw out” bit. Finally, after nothing else worked, I cut a large screwdriver slot in the remains of the bolt head and eased it out with a hammer-powered impact driver.

Ok, with that out of the way, place the rear wheel back in the FreeRadical’s dropouts. Now, if you have a repair stand, suspend your bike to give you a better position to complete the build. The next three steps are easy:

1) Bolt on the rear brake body (or V-brake/cantilever arms) and the rear derailleur, greasing all bolts with lube or antiseize as you go:

brake and derailleur on

2) Bolt on the rear fender, if you’re using one:


3) Bolt on the supplied kickstand to the mounting plate welded to the FreeRadical frame:


Now, it’s time to string some new cables. First, measure and cut an appropriate length of casing for the rear brake. Install it using the bike frame’s cable guides and extra zipties if needed. Run the cable through the casing and attach it to the rear brake. If there’s a way, see if you can keep the casing one continuous piece — that lessens water intrusion and the inner cable will last longer because of it. This isn’t an option on all bikes, but with a few extra zipties, you might be able to pull it off.

cable and casing

On the other side of the bike, measure and cut appropriate lengths of derailleur cable housing and run them back to the rear derailleur. Thread the inner shifter cable through and attach to the derailleur. Most of the time, the cable housing will be cut into several pieces to run between cable stops on the bike’s and the Xtracycle’s frames. You may need a couple zipties to keep the casing secure as it travels back to the derailleur. Finally, be sure to use “linear” housing for the derailleur to ensure crisp shifting…it’s a long run of cable and any slop will be magnified if you just use brake casing. Xtracycle supplies lengths of the appropriate casings for each application in the build kit, though, so don’t worry!

derailleur casing

Next, add the Xtracycle-supplied piece of chain to your bike’s existing chain and size the chain for your application. If you’re not familiar with proper chain sizing technique, the folks over at Park Tool have an excellent tutorial. I wound up using all but one complete link of the extra piece of chain for my build.


Guess what? All the tricky building steps are behind you! We’re in the home stretch now, so take a break, crack open another beer if that’s your thing and relax for a few minutes.

Ok, now it’s time to adjust the brakes and rear shifting mechanism. Again, if you’re not familiar with these tasks, Park Tool comes to the rescue again with a derailleur/shifter adjusting tutorial and a good series of brake tutorials.

Here’s a completely optional step — get your “house elf” to doublecheck the drivetrain for smooth performance. Despite his lack of clothing, he gave the drivetrain a thumb’s up. It worked flawlessly!

naked house elf

Make sure the rear derailleur shifts cleanly and the brakes do what they’re supposed to do, then pull the bike out of the stand and rest the assembly on the kickstand you installed a little while ago. Now, slip the V-racks into the upright sockets of the FreeRadical frame, strap the attachment straps in their appropriate places (consult the Xtracycle assembly instructions for specifics — it’s not as intuitive as it sounds, and proper strapping is crucial to a long bag life), snap on the Snapdeck and voila! You have just completed your Xtracycle build — congratulations!!!

the complete rig

All that’s left now is to go for a spin. If you’re anything like me, you’ll return from your shakedown cruise with a huge grin on your face!

The staff here at 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:

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.

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:


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!

In case you missed it, I was the lucky winner of an Xtracycle Freeradical. I won the Xtracycle Freeradical at the Urban Bicycle Commuter Expo, I’ve never won anything useful in my life, but this is the BIG exception.

I installed the Xtracycle Freeradical on my DiamondBack Transporter, the name just says it all. Today I had the chance to go grocery shopping, so I took the Transporter on its maiden voyage.

As I pulled into the driveway, I felt the stares right away. An older fellow approached me and marveled at my bike. He then went to tell me his story about being a paperboy and using a bike to distribute the newspapers.

I’ve ridden RL’s Xtracycle before, so I knew what to expect in terms of handling and how to balance a load.

I’m really stoked about my new grocery gitter, I’m looking forward to personalizing it.

Stay tuned for more Xtracycleness, we have more exciting stuff coming up soon.

RL and I have been trying to use our cars as little as possible. I have been commuting to work and taking my kids to and from school on bike. This weekend we wanted to see how a longer commute would work out for our grocery shopping. With a family of five to feed this is no easy task. We also live in a community of huge hills and a really fast highway on the way to the local Traders Jo’s. But I love to ride my bike so we decided to give it a go!

RL loaded up his Xtracycle with a trailer attached and I couldn’t resist a ride on my new beach cruiser. :)

My youngest daughter also wanted to join which was no problem with the Xtracycle. We also made sure to bring a small cooler for our frozen and refrigerated items. And of course we remembered to bring our sack cloths and brown bags!

My biggest concern was the huge hills and highway traffic. But we found another route that made it all the more enjoyable. There were two parks we could ride through that kept us off the fast highway, and some nice quiet neighborhoods with the biggest bike lanes you’ve ever seen!!! The round trip is about 7miles. And it was a beautiful ride. Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face then a ride on my beach cruiser. :)

The grocery shopping was quick, but expensive!!! I don’t know what it is about bringing some of the family along for the grocery shopping but I seemed to have more items in my cart then usual. All our items fit perfectly into the trailer though.

The ride home was a piece of cake for me. RL on the other hand, well lets just say he got in a great work out for the day. Hehehe. I had such a good time I suggested we make this a regular family outing. We had great conversations to and from the store, a great work out, saved some gas money, and some great bonding time with our youngest daughter.