One use of Xtracycles is to help riders of unequal speed ride together happily. The faster rider rides the Xtracycle, loaded up with kid, camping gear, food and water, tools, pig iron, parachute: whatever it takes to slow the rider down (except downhill of course). The slower rider rides an unladen bike. Think thoroughbred and drafthorse heading down a road together at their own naturally equalized pace (that of the drafthorse). Now, I ask you, do thoroughbreds really enjoy being hobbled to drafthorse speed? Suppose you might not undertake the journey at all if that’s the only choice?
Stokemonkey makes this equalization work in reverse; the slower rider carries all the stuff and has assistance to make it easy to keep up with or speed ahead of the unladen rider. As a bonus, the unladen rider can draft the X/SM and get sucked along nicely whenever s/he tires. (I submit that Stokemonkey turns an Xtracycle into a fine sag wagon, with the capacity to haul a rider and his or her bike together. I know which kind of vehicle I’d rather have shadowing a “supported tour.” If one’s not enough, take three?)
This is how our overnight family trip to Sauvie Island worked. Wife rode Xtravois hauling child in trailer and all our stuff; I rode plain bike as fast as I wanted, and we stayed together without either of us even thinking about the pace. It was only 25 miles, so when we arrived at our Bed & Breakfast, she wanted to keep going, and we did. We visited a nursery and picked up four exotic potted plants, relishing the astonishment of the management as we loaded them onto the bike to haul back to Portland. The plants fluttering in the wind made a nice zinger as we overtook a couple of roadies on the way back.
We topped off the batteries as we slept. The next morning’s ride home, right after crossing the St. John’s Bridge, we saw an empty 55-gallon drum on the sidewalk with a sign taped to it: “FREE. CLEAN.” This is why we carry an extra-long compression strap. We had been looking for such a barrel to serve as a rain catchment. Lashed on tight, she said she couldn’t tell it was there.
Continuing home through North Portland, we attracted lots of stares, some unfavorable. Even I was feeling a bit nutty with that drum strapped on. We pulled up alongside an SUV at a light. I took a picture of the scene, but my camera settings were wrong so you have to use your imagination. I planned to annotate the photo of the two travelers under the heading “Who’s the Nut?” Over the SUV would be:
- Single occupant, fast food wrappers, cell phone
- Approximately 3,000 pounds
- In-town average speed: 20MPH (less after factoring in parking)
- Expends ~6,600 calories per mile (petrocarbon, mostly imported)
- ~$30,000 finance cost. Gas is what? Insurance? Parking?
- Spews toxic fumes; makes noise; cars are the leading cause of death of children 2-14 in the US
- Drives to gym?
Over the bike:
- Free range
- Double occupancy, plants, 55-gallon drum, changes of clothes, food, cell phone
- Approximately 75 pounds
- In-town average speed: 18MPH
- Expends ~300 calories per mile (largely from rider’s metabolism)
- ~$3500 initial cost. 20 miles strongly assisted for the cost of running a 100W lightbulb about 6 hours. Maybe $200 a year in maintenance, accessorization. Free parking at door.
- No emissions, virtually silent, about as safe to operator as driving or walking per hour of exposure to cars; incomparably safer to other street users
It’s easy to pick on SUVs. So substitute a Prius: same difference.