Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Updated: In case you were wondering: Xtracycles are taking over

Posted by on September 19th, 2008 at 12:25 pm

[See end of story for updates.]

A family ride to IKEA-5.jpg

Kids, cargo, or both; longbikes rule.
(Photos © J. Maus)

I can remember a time not too long ago, when Xtracycles were an oddity. They first started showing up at bike industry trade shows in the late 1990s and they were a novel, fringe product that only true bike geeks really knew about. At that time, the industry was still completely enamored with cliff-hucking downhill bikes and road racing machines (Lance was just getting started).

Fast forward to today and not only has the bike industry (finally) fully embraced the commuting and utility markets, but Xtracycles have become a hot product. At one point earlier this summer, you couldn’t even buy one new in Portland — all local shops were plain sold out.

Kidical Mass - August-26.jpg

Kids and dads love ’em.

And now comes word of the Portland Longbike Consortium (longbike is a generic term for Xtracycles and other bikes with larger than normal wheelbases like Yuba Mundos and bakfietsen).

According to recent Xtracycle fan, veteran Portland bike advocate and co-owner in the Citybikes Cooperative bike shop, Beth Hamon, the group had its first meeting in Southeast Portland last night. I’m sure they hatched plans to take over the city, but what caught my attention about the meeting was this photo of the parking lot outside the pub taken by Ms. Hamon:

Xtracycles in formation. (Photo by Beth Hamon)

UPDATE 1:58pm: According to commenter Hollie below, all the bikes in the photo above are owned by ladies:

“…it might be worth mentioning that every one of these bikes is woman-owned. For being so otherwise underrepresented in the cycling world, we\’re rocking the cargo bikes!”

More updates: I can’t help but share a few other pieces of Portland Xtracycle lore…

How about an Xtracycle’d Bakfiets — compliments of those cargo-bike masterminds at Clever Cycles:

It was just experimental. Learn more about it here.
(Photo: Todd Fahrner)

And of course Portland is home to an Xtracycle tall-bike. This one was made by Michael Jones:

(Photo © J. Maus)

Longbikers unite!

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  • Zaphod September 19, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I fear mentioning this because it\’s a bit decadent but with my wife always rolling away on the family Xtracycle, I went and built up a second.

    Now mine is set up as a more cargo-centric focus (cargo + 1 kid) and hers has a kid carrying focus (2 kids & less bulky cargo).

    I have to say that it\’s totally sweet to have the cargo carrying ability at my fingertips without having to choreograph timing. Plus getting two kids to two different schools is simplified.

    Once we get our act together, we plan on taking our dualing rides to a local-ish camping spot like Champoeg or similar. I can\’t wait.

    The Xtra is life changing, I totally dig it.

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  • Donald September 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Anyone done the conversion at home rather than having your FNBS do it?

    If so, how\’d it go?

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  • bahueh September 19, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I counted FOUR of those things on the way to work a few days ago…
    I was blown away..

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  • LizardMama September 19, 2008 at 12:52 pm


    Nothing wrong with having a second Xtracycle… We too just got our second this week! My first is in the photo above (third from the left) and is our 2-kid carrier. The new one will be the 1-kid, stuff carrier, commuter bike. Last week we had two cars and one xtracycle. This week one car (sold one for good) and two xtracycles!

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  • Jeff Ong September 19, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Zaphod —

    My girlfriend and I took our duelling X\’s to Oxbow for an evening of camping. Climbing up out of there with 60 lbs. of cargo each (on 50 lb. bikes!) was pretty brutal, though!

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  • Snowflake Seven September 19, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Are they parked in a handicap parking access area? That is what the striping looks like.

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  • PJ September 19, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    PJ want.

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  • Steven M. September 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I live in a smaller town than Portland, but I have also been seeing more xtracycles and Big Dummies around town.

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  • Scott Mizée September 19, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    repeat from yesterday: I say again:
    longbikes rule. 😛

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  • matt picio September 19, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Zaphod – I did a bike camping seminar this year during Pedalpalooza, and will be leading camping trips, including a few family-friendly ones next year. Drop me a line (matt [dot] picio [at] gmail [dot] com) if you\’re interested or looking for ideas for locations, routes, or gear.

    Jonathan – awesome article. Longbikes are showing up EVERYWHERE. MJ Freshy Fresh rode a tallbike Xtracycle this year during Seattle to Portland, at least 1 Xtra has come on ECT and CycleWild camping trips this year, and I can\’t go even one day without seeing an Xtra either on Hawthorne or parked at the New Seasons Seven Corners or at People\’s.

    I love \’em – wish I had the money right now to get one.

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  • Hollie September 19, 2008 at 1:28 pm


    I built my own X (it\’s in that picture!) and it was a moderate pain in the ass, but nothing more than a regular bike build. Attaching the Freeradical was the easiest part– it was finding cables long enough that was annoying. Oh yeah, and adjusting the mid-90s low-end drivetrain from my donor bike. That sorta sucked, too.

    In the end, it came out beautifully and rides like a dream.

    Heh. I\’m the girlfriend Jeff Ong mentioned, too. Me and my X: we get around.

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  • […] posted this short, but sweet piece today about Xtracycle’s (and other longbikes’) ascendancy into, dare we say, […]

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  • Robin September 19, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    It\’s true! I even saw an Xtracycle in Eastern Washington last Christmas.

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  • BAW September 19, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I don\’t live in Portland, and I have the only Big Dummy in town; there is, AFAIK, only one other Xtracycle. I get lots of comments, though.

    Zaphod, have and Mrs. Z. thought about Xtracyclizing (is that the word?) a tandem? It can and has been done.

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  • Brian September 19, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Do they fit onto trimet bike racks, or on the max? I like biking b/c I\’ve simplified my life. It always seems to me that the bigger the bag, the more shiz we rationalize we \”NEED\” to carry.

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  • Hollie September 19, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Oh yeah: it might be worth mentioning that every one of these bikes is woman-owned.

    For being so otherwise underrepresented in the cycling world, we\’re rocking the cargo bikes!

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  • xtrasue September 19, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I was at the \’meeting\’ of longbikes last night (that\’s my Big Dummy on the right), and it was super fun.

    Thanks to Martina of Clever Cycles for organizing it!

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  • Austin Ramsland September 19, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I ran into a few the other night:


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  • beth h September 19, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Donald (#2) wrote:
    \”Anyone done the conversion at home rather than having your FNBS do it?\”

    Yes. It may be called \”cheating\” because, well, I work in a bike shop. But I DID build mine up at home.
    Having a bike repair stand is really helpful. I suppose you could do it on the ground but it seems like it would be harder. Otherwise, Xtraycle\’s instructions are pretty clear and concise. Take your time and step back periodically from your work if needed. I built mine in a day (using pre-existing wheels and handlebar setup from when the bike was a regular bike).

    One note: If you convert an older ATB with cantilever brakes, you will need to convert to V-brakes (you\’ll need the additional stopping power) and either get V-brake levers OR use a Travel Agent with a rear V-brake and keep the front a canti so you can keep your old canti-specific levers. I\’m doing the latter and it all works fine.

    Also, if you are converting an older ATB with a freewheel in the rear, you will need to upgrade the rear wheel to something with a cassette hub for additional strength and durability.

    Good luck!

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  • K'Tesh September 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    DAMN!!! I Forgot about this…

    I knew there was something that I wanted to do on thursday night…

    Hope you all had fun…
    Do it again sometime, and I\’ll be happy to join you (if my memory works).

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  • Val September 19, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Dang, that parking lot shot reminds me a lot of any number of our cargo bike rides (like this one: http://tinyurl.com/3otuxr ). Besides hatching plans for world domination, did y\’all ride anywhere together? Nothing dominates like a pallet (yes it\’s the correct term: http://tinyurl.com/4bcoff
    ) of cargo bikes, and taking supplies along just makes a trip to any park that much more fun. Ride on!

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  • Donald September 19, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I\’m sensing a lot of grrrl power in the room. I\’m thinking I should just invite the gang-o-ladies over. I\’ll supply sandwiches and lemonade and y\’all can help my wife build it up.


    thanks to all for the input! it\’s going on a 2005 Gary Fisher Tassajara, so I think I\’m cool with brakes and cassette.

    look for it soon running errands in NoPo.

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  • derek September 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Zaphod- If 2 xtracycles is decadent, we are in real trouble. 7 in our garage- including a tandem xtracycle…
    Makes for excellent bike dates/picnics with friends. Great product and a great company.

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  • Mmann September 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    But try finding a kit one right now – yikes! and the price just went up too. I have a steel Rockhopper I bought special for the conversion, but need a kit. Anyone got any leads let me know.

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  • Oliver September 19, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I saw a woman last night pedaling with 3 toddlers on the back. It was awesome.

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  • beth h September 19, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Mmann (#24) — I am attending Interbike next week and have a meeting scheduled with the nice folks at Planet X. We are hearing through any number of grapevines that distros will (hopefully) have the Free Radical kits to ship to retailers sometime in early/mid October, but nothing can be verified as yet. Demand for these things is the highest I\’ve ever seen since our shop started selling them several years ago. It\’s nice to see but also slightly insane. Sip your coffee slowly and be patient. Cheers–B

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  • Marion September 19, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Now if we can just get folks who make bike corals to count us longtail\’s in!

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  • Kronda September 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    That was a fun meeting and great to see all those long bikes together. I have been loving my Big Dummy in the few short weeks I\’ve had it (last one on the right). Great for hauling the girlfriend to coffee. 🙂

    @Snowflake Seven: No handicapped persons were harmed or impeded in the making of this photo op.

    @Brian: Definitely not on the bus racks. Might be able to sneak one on the MAX during a low traffic time, but I wouldn\’t risk it unless I had a mechanical or some other pressing reason. It probably wouldn\’t hang on the hook. And it\’s true that Fezzik hasn\’t helped my tendency to over pack. 🙂
    @Val No ride, just a meetup.

    I just posted more photos from the meet up, including a group shot of us on our bikes.

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  • Doper September 20, 2008 at 1:32 am

    home conversion?

    3 beers.
    two new wheels (alfine 8 spd disc/magneto disc).
    3 hours.
    a brother in law who works for shimano.
    1 ebullient 3 yr old.
    no sweat.
    do it.

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  • pkoonce September 20, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Is there a bakfiets club?

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  • Kronda September 20, 2008 at 10:21 am

    pkoonce, why don\’t you start one! 🙂 Also, I\’m sure baks would be welcome in the longtail gang.

    (wish I knew why my subscribe to comments stopped working about a year ago.)

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  • chimponbike September 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    For all who are interested: http://bikeportland.org/forum/showthread.php?t=2333

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  • pdxpixie September 20, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Kronda #28 says:

    \”@Snowflake Seven: No handicapped persons were harmed or impeded in the making of this photo op.\”

    That may or may not be true, as you may not know about users who could not use the parking space due to the parking of bikes in the access aisle of an accessible parking space. Snowflake Seven is correct that the striped area is indeed part of the required space for an accessible parking space. See ORS 447.233 specifying at least a six-foot wide access aisle.

    Furthermore, parking your bike there is a violation and is considered unlawful parking in a space reserved for persons with disabilities. See ORS 811.615(b).

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  • Kronda September 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I guess I\’ll have to spell it out then: WE WEREN\’T PARKED THERE. We lined our bikes up for a photo (which took a whole three minutes) and then rode away. Had someone driven up wanting to park, we simply would have moved.

    I guess every post needs some commenter (or two) to put a negative spin on it no matter how positive the content…

    How do y\’all walk around with your panties in such a bunch?

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  • jason September 20, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I\’ve but my longtail on the Max several times. I bring an 2-3 foot strap with a clip and secure it on the bar with the hook. I had to do a little pleading with the conductor but he let me stay on without much hassle.


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  • Dennis September 20, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Where in portland can you test ride an xtracycle? I called the shops on their retailers list, and nobody has one built up.

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  • antloader September 20, 2008 at 9:52 pm


    Give Clever Cycles a call for a Big Dummie / Xtracycle test ride. 18\” frame.

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  • Kevin September 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I have had an Xtracycle since Feb. and I love it. I am under 30 with no children and find it one of the most useful transportation tools ever. It takes away pretty much all of your excuses except, \”I\’m lazy\”.

    As far as doing the conversion goes, I would recommend a stand and basic bike tools. If you have a MTB made in the last 10 years the conversion should go pretty easily. Mine came with cables, some chain, everything one would need to become a convert.

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  • […] to BikePortland, Xtracycles are taking over. Have you experienced the phenomenon in your part of the country? I love the shot of the gaggle of […]

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  • luke September 23, 2008 at 1:43 am

    Do you all have any prize-winning loads? I think my best was 3 kayaks. It was wide, one crosswise on the snap deck, but we were on a closed dirt road.

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  • Anonymous September 23, 2008 at 8:50 am

    omg I covet a bakfiets!! I have a 60lb dog and places to go that are too far to walk. Trailers are cool but bakfietsen are so much cooler!

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  • Anonymous September 23, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I’m seeing more and more Family Tandems too. We pulled up to birthday party this weekend and one had arrived before us. Of the three bikes at the party two were Bike Friday Family Tandems and one was a built up xtracycle. I guess two of the three did belong to us. I’m sure one of the other families at the party will have one or the other buy next spring.

    Revolution is here!!!!!

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  • Kevin September 23, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Best loads:
    50lb. sack of grain
    2 desktop computers to Free Geek
    Bike parts and a wheelchair
    Full grown friends!

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  • MJ September 26, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    More info on the xtra-cycle Tallbike and riding the STP on it:


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