Test Rides!

Test Rides!

There are two little bike shops near my house that have been tempting me for months. I finally made time this weekend to test ride a couple of bikes. The first store is a classic LBS with a variety of bikes chained out front – road bikes, hybrids, city cruisers, kids bikes and more. The one that caught my eye, though, is the red Xtracycle. I’ve seen a few around the city and I know people who swear by them for transporting kids and cargo. I was especially curious to see how it compared to riding with a trail-a-bike.

I first tried it up and down the block on my own to see how it handled. My first impression – it’s solid. The trail-a-bike has a slight side-to-side wobble, no matter how much you tighten the screws. I’ve gotten used to it, but have to admit that the Xtracycle did feel more secure. However, it is long, so you still have to allow for a much wider turning radius. Still, it didn’t seem to take much to get get used to it, so I rode back to the shop and picked up my passenger.

Adding a passenger didn’t change the handling much, aside from the extra weight. It still felt solid and secure. The bike isn’t light, but it’s not as heavy as I expected. It’s heavier than Ye Olde Mountaine Byckke, but not by much, and it’s considerably lighter than the Byckke plus the trail-a-bike. I didn’t want to take it out too far, since it didn’t have the foot rest attached, and I was worried Spencer might kick the chain. Because of that, I really can’t call this a thorough review, but it did make a good first impression. I had no problem getting up the gentle hill back to the bike shop, but didn’t test out any serious hills. It’s hard to say whether I’d miss the extra push from the back seat or not, given the diffence in weight. However, it definitely has better “hop on and go” vs. a trail-a-bike, especially since I usually detach them and lock them together.

Spencer found the back seat comfortable. It’s well padded and cushioned the bumps in the road, not that I was deliberately aiming for them. At least not many.

When asked what it was like to ride, he said “Easy!”

Me: How did it feel?

Spencer: Good!

Me: Do you like this one better or the trail-a-bike?

Spencer: This one. I don’t have to pedal so my legs don’t get tired!

Hmph. And here I thought he might get bored without his own pedals. Active transport my @$%……

The next stop was two doors down at an electric assist bicycle shop. This shop, which opened about 6 months ago, carries the Ohm bike, made in Vancouver. After a little chitchat and signing a waiver, I was out the door on their city commuter bike, while the store employee rode the sport version beside me.

The commuter bike is a solidy built bike, that feels quite upright and cushioned. It’s heavy – about 53 lbs – and, with the low center of gravity from the battery, it feels very stable. It handled smoothly on turns, though I didn’t try any particularly aggressive moves. The electric assist controls were very intuitive and easy to use. I didn’t notice much with the two lowest settings – it just seems to take off a little bit of weight. Settings 3 and 4 are pretty cool, though. At first, I slowed down, expecting the motor to pick up the slack, but I quickly ground to a halt. The motor actually multiplies the effect from each pedal stroke, so the harder you push, the harder it goes. Once I started pedaling, I could really feel it pulling the bike forward. I still had to work to get up a steep hill, but not nearly as much – I was able to keep up a conversation and go much faster. The bike was very quiet and free of vibrations.

Although I’m not looking for an electric assist bike right now, I can see the appeal – it would makes Seattle hills much more manageable. If I had to tow kids daily or if I developed a health issue that made a regular bike too much effort, it would be a great option. Or, of course, if I ever move to Phinney Ridge. The downside is the price – at $2800 US, it’s a pretty expensive bike. I’ve never tried another electric assist bike, so I can’t say how it compares to others. It did rides well, though, and was a lot of fun.

This was my “test ride a different kind of bike than you normally ride” entry for the LGRAB Summer Games.

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