I recently made the decision to do my tour this Spring on bicycle, for reasons that I’ve explained in this post. I thought it might be nice to write a quick review of what I’ve noticed of the bike just in my preliminary riding around town. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say once I’ve ridden it 600 miles up the East Coast.
The first thing that struck me about Xtracycle’s Radish is the amount of stuff that it can hold. With two giant panniers beside the extended rear wheel, the Radish can hold more than four times what I would carry on the back of a normal bike. I say more than four times because all of the straps are adjustable, and the bags are essentially open flaps instead of restrictive bags, so I can have as wide a load as I want.
The Radish can hold 200 lbs of cargo in the back, which is perfect… it means that I can fit all of the stuff I need, but that the bike isn’t so heavy duty that I can’t lift and maneuver it when it’s empty.
It would be a real pain if I couldn’t lift it up the stairs to bring it into my house every night while I’m living in the city. That said, it is not light, even when it’s empty. I take a deep breath every time I’m going to pick it up.
…but it’s light enough to be playful. One major concern that I had about getting a longer bike than normal is that I like to jump curbs, skid to my stops, weave in and out of cones, and all of the other fun stuff that I did on a bike as a kid. Why ride a bike if you’re not going to enjoy it? To my relief, the Radish isn’t too heavy to do these kinds of playful stunts. Even though I do feel the extra length and weight, the Radish isn’t so bulky or heavy that I refrain from being a little adventurous.
While my initial concern was that 8 gears wouldn’t be enough for me (I don’t often need to pedal when going downhill, and 1st gear is amazingly easy, even with a load), it’s getting the gears to line up with the shifter that I have been having trouble with. From my first ride on the bike I noticed that the shifter would occasionally skip a gear and after spending hours with the bike upside down adjusting the shifter and even more hours riding the bike around and fiddling with the awkwardly-placed adjuster on the handlebars, I can say that I am slightly baffled. I love the bike enough that it doesn’t destroy my experience of it when I try to shift into fifth and it surprises me by shifting 2 minutes later, when I’m about to go up a hill. But it sure would be nice if I could get that fixed… and it is somewhat ridiculous that it came with that major of a problem out of the box.
I love my Radish so I wipe it down every evening after a day of riding, but those who are not quite so attentive might get frustrated with the way that dirt stands out on the milky white frame or with the way that the chain hangs down to leave grease on a white crossbar underneath it.
The disc brakes on the back wheel of the Radish are great… they help me to feel totally comfortable in most situations, knowing that I could stop on a dime even with wet brakes. The brakes rubbed badly for the first few weeks of riding, and when I looked online it seems like that is perfectly normal. It has corrected itself, more or less.
I should also say that I’m not a serious biker. I test-rode a few touring bikes and they simply felt uncomfortable and certainly couldn’t hold the amount of stuff that I am needing to take on the road. Some may call me crazy for taking a bike as casual as the Radish on a trip this serious, but the trip is more meditative than it is goal-focused. I have plenty of time in between cities and will not be rushing or racing.
When I was researching for this trip I looked all over for stores that carried Xtracycle gear so that I could test it out. I mostly got cockeyed looks when I walked into bike stores in Richmond, VA and asked for an Xtracycle… but I lucked out to find Cycle9.
Cycle9 is a little bike shop in Carrboro, NC which specializes in cargo and electric bikes. They were super friendly and helpful when I peppered them with ignorant questions about the basics of cargo biking and touring… and best of all, they didn’t treat me with the insider snobbishness that I often encounter in bike shops! Cycle9 is the bike shop for the everyday user who may not know much about bikes but wants to live more responsibly and freely in a world where it is increasingly possible to opt-out of the destruction and everyday frustration caused by our culture of individual car ownership.