Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The birth of an Xtracycle: Part 3

I managed to spread out the construction on the Xtracycle over several nights and weekends. A couple of the last tasks to be completed before a test ride was installation of pedals, the saddle, and a deck to attach to the P-racks. I was able to continue to use my old seatpost although I wasn't sure it would work with my new Brooks B17 saddle. I struggled for ages trying to find a truly comfortable saddle. Once I tried the B17, there was no going back. The B17 on my commuter bike has over 5,500 miles on it and was amazingly comfortable right out of the box. The Brooks saddle would end up being probably the single most expensive component to go onto the Xtracycle.

For pedals the choice was easy. I was already running Crank Brothers Candy 1 pedals on my daily commuter bike so it would be easy to switch between bikes using the same shoes. I also like that all of the Crank Brothers pedals can be rebuilt which increases their longevity and long term usefulness. I also like the Candy pedals because they have just enough of a platform that I can keep a foot clipped out while riding in tricky traffic situations, in case I need to put a foot down quickly.

The pedals of course come with cleats and shims which will go in the spares box for whenever I need to replace the cleats already installed on my shoes.

The Candy pedals install easily with an 8mm Allen wrench.

Running the shifter cable to your rear derailleur might require the use of a an Avid Rollamajig to prevent excessive cable drag from needing a huge loop of housing running into the rear derailleur. Xtracycle provide the Rollamajig in with the parts box in case your mountain bike frames cable routing necessitates its use. Because the Rollamajig uses a roller wheel, it allows essentially a 90 degree turn to the shifter cable without creating binding or drag that would happen with a regular housing bent at 90 degrees.

The Rollamajig can only be installed one direction to work correctly. Where it attaches to the derailleur it uses a small ball and T-shaped piece which goes into the barrel adjuster on the derailleur.

Next up was finding some way to affix the P-racks so that they wouldn't move or shift when going over bumps. The Freeloader bags that Xtracycle makes have straps that hold them in place and can help hold the P-racks down more securely. However, I intended to make my own bags and I also wanted the security of using some sort of clamp that will securely hold the P-racks to the FreeRadical.

Xtracycle makes an accessory that they call Watchamacollars
which can securely hold the P-racks in place. They also contain an internal O-ring to help prevent water infiltration down into the FreeRadical. At the time I was buying all of my parts, Xtracycle was selling Watchamacollars for $35 per set. I didn't want to spend $70 on them so I looked around for alternatives. Suggestions from the Xtracycle Yahoo group, Rootsradicals led me to purchase double-bolt seatpost clamps in 25.4mm diameter.

I needed to add some shims and some O-rings to make sure everything fit securely. All told I spent about $30 to make my own imitation Watchamacollars. They're not quite as pretty as the Xtracycle ones but they get the job done. I used copper pipe fittings and a cut up old seatpost to make my shims. Originally I wanted to use electrical tape to seal the joint between the P-rack and FreeRadical. The tape didn't work too well so I ended up springing for four suitable size O-rings for $4.

Bottom shim in place with O-ring on top.

I tried to set up the collars so that the screws would be difficult to get to in case some would-be thief wanted to try to steal my P-racks and deck.

One of the last things to be installed on the bike was to be a wooden deck to go over the tops of the P-racks. Xtracycle sells their own versions for anywhere from $60 to $70. I was able to purchase a piece of Baltic Birch plywood for only $17 which gave me enough material to make the deck and a pair of running boards. However, halfway through the process of applying a finish to the boards, I got to thinking about the durability of finished wood when exposed to the extremes of temperature and nasty stuff like salt.

I inquired on Rootsradicals about making alternative decks using recycled plastic lumber. As I was searching for a suitable plastic lumber material, a Rootsradicals member offered to sell me his brand new, unused flight deck, minus the clamps that hold it to the racks. With the cost of the clamps I'd already purchased and the new, unused Flight Deck, I ended up paying pretty much the same as if I'd bought a new one from Xtracycle. C'est la vie. At this point I simply wanted to get the bike done so I was prepared to go a little further over budget.

After weeks of research, patiently buying parts, and a few nights of building here and there, the bike was finally completed.

Stay tuned for "The Xtracycle Shakedown Beer Cruise," coming soon!

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