Xtracycle Radish Bike Review

Jon Watts and his Xtracycle RadishI 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 concept of a cargo bike appealed to me because I have a large load of stuff that I carry with me on tour – amps, guitar, accordian, merchandise, etc – but the idea of toting a trailer behind me just didn’t appeal. It seemed like it would slow me down with its one or two extra wheels, cause me to feel bulkier and just be a hassle in general.

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.

The Xtracycle Radish

…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.

Jon Watts and his Radish

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.

Max Carter on Jon Watts’ Video

I was unaware of a YouTube video that recently went “viral” – at least in proportion to Quaker numbers – until friends referred me to it. The video shows 2006 QLSP graduate Jon Watts rising in the silence of worship in the Barn at Pendle Hill. His vocal ministry turns into a “rap” about Quaker history and theology, focusing on the diversity of views among Friends and his own upbringing in Friends General Conference.

Reposted from the 2009 Friends Center Newsletter

Max Carter, Director of Friends Center at Guilford College
Max Carter, Director of Friends Center at Guilford College

I am not adept at most of the modern social networking devices. No Blackberry or cell phone, even. At the insistence of Friends Center staff and students, there is a Facebook account with my name attached – for purposes of getting the word out on campus ministry programs. But I don’t know how to operate it.
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“Dance Party” Reflections – Two Months Later

Three months ago I traveled to the Sierra Friends Center in California to take a break from the spotlight… I had been traveling in the ministry and performing all over Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for two months.  It was my intention to get some rest and do some discernment about my next steps, including some experimentation with internet outreach.
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FGC’s Quaker Information Center responds to a question about “Dance Party Erupts” video

QQQQandA is a great resource: a blog made up of answers to questions sent to FGC’s Quaker Information Center. Recently they received a question inspired by my music video, “Dance Party Erupts During Quaker Meeting for Worship”:

Please explain — what is the deal about Quakers and music? Is it true that music is considered sinful? Why? If music is bad, how do you explain the video “Dance Party Erupts at Quaker Meeting for Worship”?

I recommend that you check out Joan Broadfield’s response.

Bringing our Quaker family into dialogue

Six days ago I released this music video, which has been shared widely among Friends.

Some of the lyrics have provoked dialogue, specifically about the relationship between modern Quakerism and Christianity. Here are a few of my own thoughts…

Let’s start with:

“I’m not a Christian
but I’m a Quaker
I’ve got Christ’s Inner Light
But he’s not my savior.”

Full Lyrics

If you visited my website seeking an anti-Christian Quaker manifesto, you were probably disappointed. After a Guilford College education and a year living in community with all types of spiritual seekers at Pendle Hill, I am decidedly “Christian-curious” and have no illusions about the roots of my religion.
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Dance Party Erupts During Quaker Meeting for Worship

The Quaker Youtube video sensation, Dance Party Erupts During Quaker Meeting for Worship.

Greetings, Friends!

TODAY I AM RELEASING MY FIRST EVER MUSIC VIDEO!

Sorry for the “all-caps,” but I have to express my excitement.  This has been a long time in the making and I only get to release my first music video once!

Plus… it is really good!  I promise.  We filmed it in April at Pendle Hill with many familiar resident faces.  The concept of the shoot was “Meeting for Worship turns dance party” and it came out so well!  …thanks to filmmaker Ben Schilling, his helper Allie and all those who graciously came to worship, dance and be filmed.

So, without further ado… watch this!
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“Friend Speaks My Mind” Study Guide

A week ago I got this email from a Meeting in Pennsylvania who had some questions about the song “Friend Speaks My Mind” after I performed for them this past April. Their questions were not uncommon, and so I took the time to respond carefully and in depth and am re-posting the response here. Hope it is helpful.
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Photoshoot in the Guilford College Quad – 2006

At the end of his final year at Guilford College, Jon Watts was awarded the Clarence and Lily Pickett grant and needed a photo for their website. Blammo! His first photo shoot ever. Called up some friends and made a nice afternoon of it. Thanks to Sidney Martin, Fedelma Mckenna, Colin Boussiere-Nichols and Liz Maillie. Photos by Dana Putney.

Jon Watts playing guitar on the Guilford College Quad
Jon Watts playing guitar on the Guilford College Quad
Jon Watts, Fedelma Mckenna and Liz Maillie hanging out at Guilford College
Jon Watts, Fedelma Mckenna and Liz Maillie hanging out at Guilford College
Jon Watts, quaker spoken word artist
Jon Watts, quaker spoken word artist
Jon Watts and Sidney Martin at Guilford College
Jon Watts and Sidney Martin at Guilford College
Of all the photos we took that day, the one right after I woke up from a nap was the best.  Photo by Dana Putney.
Of all the photos we took that day, the one right after I woke up from a nap was the best. Photo by Dana Putney.