Sunday, December 02, 2007


Tonight was the first time that I not only loaded a lot of stuff on my Xtracycle (or "X), but that I also loaded more than I ever possibly could have dreamed of fitting on a standard "non-stretched" bicycle.

The load was not particularly heavy (mostly plastic containers and shelving units along with maybe $30 of groceries), but it was bulky. It took a little thinking to figure out how to get it all nice and stable on the "X". I'm still learning how to efficiently load the "X", so it was a good exercise for me in terms of how learning to use it well.

When it's not loaded, the "X" handles pretty much like any other bike and you really forget that the extra foot and a half of bicycle is back there. But loaded it's a very different experience and kind of hard to explain. There really is something truck-like about it. On the one hand, you can really feel the bike sway with the load and you have to expend a little bit of effort keeping it straight. On the other hand (and this is the part that's hard to explain) it feels incredibly steady. It must have something to do with the "X"'s very low center of gravity when loaded -- you just feel glued to the ground (note, in the pic to the right, how close to the ground the cargo is; standard bike bags -- usually called panniers -- ride much higher).

Did I really need to buy groceries, etc., tonight? Nah, but there's a winter storm coming and I don't want to "bail out" of my car-free life (at least when I don't have to actually leave town) anytime it snows, so I decided to stock up a bit. And, in all honesty, I just love to shop via bicycle. . . It's hard for me to motivate myself to go for a ride unless I know I'm going to stop at the supermarket or something on the way back.

Tonight I rode for about an hour (in temps that were around -3C, or in the upper 20s Fahrenheit). That was about the coldest I've ridden in so far this season and it was a good opportunity for me to think about exactly how I need to outfit myself when I go out for an hours-long ride in winter temps (which I hope to do some snow-free Sunday soon!). I'm grateful for this one heavy wool sweater that I have. I just don't think anything beats wool for working out in cold weather.

I had wool on my feet, too. Believe it or not, I wear sandals when I bike ride in the winter. The advantage of sandals is that you can wear pretty much as many layers of socks as you want without the "shoe" getting too tight. And since the socks don't get all squished from being crowded in a shoe, they better retain the "loft" they need to actually keep you warm. A challenge with sandals, however, is the lack of wind protection for your toes. In the past I've stuffed the front of my socks with newspaper (other people use baggies) for wind protection. But, the sandals I was wearing on the "X" tonight actually have rubber toes, which helped some. If it was much colder I would have needed some additional wind protection down there, though.

By the way, if you look at the second pic, you will see that I have my regular day back (packed with my laptop and a copy of the Brothers Karamazov ) on the back of the left side of the bike. After the main part of my ride, I stopped to get a coffee and read the Brothers "K" for a while. Really enjoying the book. Russian literature was a big part of my undergraduate career, but I haven't read any Dostoevsky in a long time. Having developed more of a faith life of my own since I was an undergrad, I'm more able to appreciate all the religious themes and struggles that populate Dostoevsky's literary universe. It's incredibly rich.

Here are a couple for more pics of the "X" loaded:

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