Boxes

Readers may recall from the entry Batteries that I have developed a battery pack format and enclosure for Stokemonkey. These batteries are treated much like any other cargo, which means that they compete for cargo space, and they are subject to some jostling and shifting in motion. While these are minor issues in my opinion, I have been pursuing an alternative: battery boxes to replace the Xtracycle snapdeck.

Because passengers and stuff can go on top of the boxes just like the snapdeck, these boxes would effectively create new space on the bike, and center their load. They would also accommodate arbitrary battery formats, many of which resemble bricks if not cinder blocks. Want to mess with, say, hydrogen fuel cells for your Stokemonkey? This is where you’d put all that stuff.

I’ve always loved the wood elements of Xtracycle’s product as soulful, so these alternates had to be wood, too. Wood is also light and non-conductive.

Paul Sykes is a Portland woodworker and former messenger who makes, among other things, wood fenders for most any bike. I have them on Xtravois. They differ from Portland’s more widely known Full Wood fenders in being of lighter construction and rather less fanciness, as hand-made wooden artifacts go. I approached Paul to make the boxes. We’ve met half a dozen times over various sketches and prototypes, and today he delivered some likely production design candidates. One’s in clear fir, and the other is in quarter-sawn oak. Mahogany to follow.

They are beautifully made; they are art. They will attain beausage. They look big on the bike to me, in spite of our efforts to slim down the look with a forward lean and dark-stained sides. They can’t possibly be cheap. Cars-R-Coffins should love ’em.

What do you think? Quite apart from batteries, maybe you’d want one for your spread of dips and cruditÃ?©s at your next Xtracycle-enabled pique-nique.

box ends
side
side 2
fir
oak

19 thoughts on “Boxes”

  • Bill Manewal

    They DO appear big. And beautiful. I want one! Maybe they’ll reduce the comments I get on the Snapdeck: “Is that your skateboard?”

    I think the their utility and security far outweigh any esthetic considerations, not that I think they’re ugly at all. Just big.

    I would imagine that with Lithium batteries their higher center of gravity is a non-issue. Congrats to you and Paul on a nice job! Put me on the list.

    Reply
  • Jonathan Maus

    Wow, great work. They look elegant to me. These would definitely be a premium option I assume? Does Sykes have a website? I really like how you’re using local fabricators and artisans.

    Reply
  • Todd

    thanks bill. they have to be 4″ inside height to accommodate many common battery formats, including the lithium polymers i’ll be evaluating soon, so yeah, big. There’s room for 30Ah/36V li-po plus controller in there!

    Reply
  • Todd

    These would be an option, yes–probably recommended if you wanted to use batteries other than the NiMH offering I’ve put together. Batteries are always changing, so this is a solution that’s fairly tech-agnostic. Paul and I haven’t yet worked out how getting these out will work, like will they always be made to order, to allow for individualization, or do I order up 10 at a time and hope they move? It sort of depends on demand, which is why I value these comments. Because I don’t really have any value to add to these naturally expensive items, I’d just as soon have Paul provide direct. Cleverchimp would benefit indirectly just by them being available, not by being a middleman.

    Paul doesn’t appear to have a site, though I found a bit about his fenders online a couple months back.

    Reply
  • chris

    I’d like to see the battery pack lower on the bike. Much like how trailer attachments work better lower because of the weight, Battery packs follow the same logic. Perhaps they could be place under the pannier bags ?

    Reply
  • Andrew

    Those look beautiful. Are they meant to be permanently mounted, or removeable on parking?

    How would the 4″ additional height affect seating height and reach for the footsies? On my limited experiments with passenger riding, it is unsteady enough (at least until you get up to speed) as it is, and if the passenger can’t help push off, it might be hard going. Of course with the electric assist of the SM, this might be a moot point.

    Cool!

    - A

    Reply
  • nathan

    Boy, I could see folks just buying those, sans Stokemonkey. Have them be more permanently mounted to the bike instead of just clipped on. I’ve heard of problems with the snapdecks flying off under load, anyway – you’d want to protect against that! Put a lock on there and you’ve got semi-secure storage – that’d be great! Oh, look at that, there’s one already! :)

    Reply
  • Todd

    chris: if you want low, you can just put batteries in the cargo slings, which is the default option anyway. i have tested clamping the packs very low, below the xtracycle structure beside the wheel, and i can tell you that the handling really blows with it there – it needs to be too far out to the side to clear derailleur, kickstand et al. it’s better if you have the load low and balanced left-right, but that’s not feasible in the general case, for reasons too tedious to explain, if not obvious anyway. i can tell you also that the “lower CoG is better” mantra is way, way overstated anyway. try lashing anything heavy to the deck vs. having it in one of the slings to confirm this.

    Reply
  • Todd

    andrew and nathan: the boxes mount by the same means as the normal snapdeck, so come off just as easily, too. for this reason, it is advisable to run a tension strap around them to secure them to the rails in use. the strap doubles as an extra cargo tie-down (top of deck/lid). for theft prevention, there’s the locking lid, but also the closed loop at the rear, through which a security cable can be passed for lock-up. as with anything, a thief with tools and time can ruin your day.

    a more permanent fixture to the rails is not advisable, because the box, like the deck, must be free to slide fore and aft a bit to tension the v-racks properly as the loads in the slings vary. Also, unless you can park your rig in a secure, climate-controlled area, you’ll want to get the box off readily to protect the contents (and the box itself) from prolonged exposure to harsh conditions.

    it’s true that the box height makes things less comfortable for passengers, but not unbearably so IMO. the box also interferes with the child seat xtracycle sells.

    so yeah, there are reasons not to like this solution, but other reasons to prefer it. it depends on your needs: it’s an option. the box would be my choice for longer range riding without passengers, where lateral balance and large battery capacity is important. it’s also advisable whenever you want maximum space free in the slings. but the single biggest reason to favor it is if your battery/electronics package (including any homebrew extensions like ammeters or voltage converters to run lights, computers, sound systems etc.) demands the physical protection of a locking, padded rigid box with internal lash-downs, without taking up other cargo space or unbalancing the bike.

    Reply
  • Todd

    ps: Bill found a link with Paul’s fender info: http://www.velocebicycles.com/pages/specials.htm

    Reply
  • Martina

    Xtracycle from a passenger’s point of view: While I like riding the Xtracycle as a passenger — my honey has one of them and chauffeurs me around every so often — I can’t imagine riding of top of a box without either moved footpegs or some padding…

    Reply
  • Diego

    Cool stuff. Nice workmanship

    Reply
  • Nate Byerley

    The high rise snap deck negatively affects the aesthetic of the Xtracycle (not to mention possible functionality for passenger transport). Could the storage compartment be below the level of the V rack upper horizontals, filling in spaces between the rear wheel and the two v-racks? This would create a two channel compartment, but if battery storage is your aim, perhaps it can be molded in such a way to create maximum battery storage capacity with minimum alteration of the Xtracycle’s sleek aesthetic .

    Reply
  • Todd

    I agree that the look is problematic. On the other hand, I thought regular Xtracycles looked funny when I first saw them, too. Not entirely sure this isn’t more of the same–shock of the new. The space below deck isn’t nearly large enough, sadly, especially in the worst case of 700c wheels, v-brakes, tall rear triangle, and then the shape of the space isn’t friendly to the brick-like forms of larger batteries. The whole point is to accommodate odd-sized electrical appointments, so imposing odd wedge shape requirements on same is not effective. The under-deck space is the favored place for the controller, by the way.

    Reply
  • Jeff Osborne

    I like the options that you’ve considered in the design. It’s a bit funny looking; the worksmanship looks really great from here. Good job! I’ve also been considering ideas to use the space that Nate mentioned – below the front quarter of the deck, in front of the wheel, and as flush as possible with the seatstays. It would be a challenge to find a dimensional spec that would be compatible with the maximum number of frame sizes, but probably feasible to create something useful for a wide variety. Maybe that would be an option worth experimenting with? I could imagine wanting both boxes to store electronics on a cross country ride.

    Reply
  • AC

    Todd,
    I was wondering about a smaller (Brompton size) rear wheel. Your clearance would increase,
    maybe enough to mount stuff on the underside of a snapdeck. I would imagine a smaller, more
    compact wheel would be a little more durable, too. Would sugh a set-up throw the geometery
    of the bike too far out-of-whack?
    A

    Reply
  • Todd

    AC, yes that would throw the geometry way, way off – pedals hit ground, steering becomes chopper-esque, etc. I know somebody who welded major modifications to the FreeRadical to make it work, but if you think the box looks funny… Might as well start over: http://www.bikefix.co.uk/i-8freight.html

    Reply
  • Ian Hopper

    Inre: not working with the BoBike Mini: there’s always the option (if they are made to order) of making it 1/3 shorter to accomodate the child seat…

    Reply
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