Thursday, May 15, 2008

The llama

We got all the parts in for the Big Dummy build, and got it up and running a little over a month ago.

I can confidently say, besides the trailer which opened us up to riding with kids, this is the next best purchase we've made bicycle-wise. I can also say that if I'd known 8 years ago what I do now. I would have built something like this when I sold my car and went to two wheels. Although admittedly, the Big Dummy was not available, neither was the Nuvinici hub, and disc brakes have come a long ways in that time as well. So I suppose I did the best I could with what was available at the time.

To start, we named it the llama, as its a bit of an on-running joke between Nickie and I. She's joked about how great it would be to have a llama so that when we go backpacking the llama can carry the kids instead of us. Me being a little more pragmatic, and having less of an infatuation with animals decided that the cargo bike was a much better, lower maintenance option than the wooly variety of llama.

As for my impressions so far, it is remarkable how much less strategic this bike makes living car free. My wife and I had gotten rather accustomed to running errands strategically such that we could make the most of the cargo capacity of the kid trailer. This bike however makes that all a moot point. It can carry twice as much weight as the chariot trailer and far more volume. I've already toted a couple loads that friends with cars have commented "I'd have a hard time fitting that all in my car!!".

The remarkable thing is how seamless it is. What I mean by that is how little difference there really is between it and a "normal" bike, and how little difference there is with this one when loaded vs. not. When I am making use of its cargo capacity, for example carrying 50-60lbs of groceries, I have to remind myself that its even back there, and the only time it is felt while riding is out of the saddle or climbing a stiff incline. Otherwise you could ride along blissfully unaware that there's even a load behind you.

Many, (including myself prior to owning one) ask how much it affects your speed or overall ride times. Going back to the seamless comment, it once again is genuinely surprising how well it hold its own despite all the added utility. My commute time one way on my race focused road bike was pretty consistently around 31-33mins for my 11.3 mile commute. Now riding my big dummy for everything with 26"x2.0"(schwable marathon supremes) my commute now takes between 34-38mins. That basically boils down to a 10% difference in speed between this monster of a bike that weighs more than twice as much as the road bike and has monstrous rims, tires, cargo capacity and a bolt up-right riding position.

We purchased this bike with two-fold intentions, one it just seemed a no-brainer living without a car and having a family, two these bikes seem to be pretty much the best human powered option for taking kids and gear any considerable distances and for any off-roading with those same kids and gear (most of our favorite hiking trails in the nearby mountains require some off-roading to reach).

Consequently we have not fully realized the second portion of this as I haven't yet built the kid carrying snapdeck. I'm blatantly copying a fellow xtracycle lovin parent. The image below is basically where I'm going with this. Thanks Mark!!!