Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Ride - X Bike Review

I was really excited to be riding this morning for a couple of reasons. I didn't get to make the usual Saturday ride last week, so I was anxious to get back on the road and stretch my legs with my friends. This is also the first opportunity Liz and I have had to really unlimber the new Barcroft XBike Back to Back Tandem and see what it could do on a really good ride.

For a change of pace, we met near Richmond, Texas just south of US 59 where Wayne led us on a ride on his turf. We were joined by Danny, Ken, Jim, David, Robert and Bobby.

This was also the first really cool morning we've had on any of our rides this fall. Temps were in the high 40's - low 50's, but warmed up rapidly as the sun rose.

Here's Bobby's new Optima Baron. I want one! the Optima no longer comes with Flip-it handlebars so it was interesting to watch Bobby trying to dismount.

Now to the bike. The first thing you notice on this new tandem is the seat height. It's much lower than the Flevo. The bike rides on 20" wheels. With my feet on the ground, my thighs are parallel to the ground. This makes for effortless, more solid starts and I can easily hold the bike steady while Liz is clipped in and ready to pedal. She can also remain clipped in for intersection and traffic stops. The only disadvantage of the low profile is that it can be hard to see around other bike in front of and behind us. The bike is equipped with comfortable Euromesh seats. This is a more upright pedalling position for me, but it should be an easy adjustment once I get used to it. Liz sits at more of an incline because we had to move her seat all the way to the stop to get her feet to the pedals. Bill Cook also helped by shortening the rear end of the frame a bit so the boom had a little more travel towards the stoker. The bike is considerably shorter than the Flevo and handles beautifully. It has dual wheel drive and the front wheels drive system uses a twisting chain. This system works very well and I could pedal through turns without heel interference.

Steering is quite a bit different from the Flevo. The handlebars on the Flevo are right at eye level and obscure forward vision. This is because of the high bottom bracket and the recline angle of the seats. This is also one of the reasons the Flevo is fast. The handlebars on the XBike are well down and right over the front wheel, resulting in full forward vision and no tiller effect. Like the Flevo, this bike offers fully independent cadence so that Liz can pedal at her most comfortable pace.

I was a little concerned that the 20" wheels would mean a rougher ride. I quickly discovered that the braced monotube frame flexes just enough to take the edge off of most bumps. The ride was quite comfortable. The bike is fast. We didn't push to see how fast it would go, but I found that we could accelerate through 20mph without too much effort at all. I had the feeling that this bike accelerates from a stop much faster than the Flevo. This is probably due to the smaller wheels. I think I'd like higher gearing on the bike. Danny is looking into it.

We were relieved to find that this bike fits perfectly onto the trailer David built for the Flevo. Overall, I am very pleased with this bike. It has several distinct advantages over the Flevo and I think Liz and I will be enjoying it for many more miles in the future. This makes three tandems for me: the Seavo, the Flevo and the XBike. The Seavo still fills a role in my riding. I'll be using it on most of my Sunday rides in town and as a change of pace from back to back riding. I doubt I'll ever sell the Flevo. It's just too unusual and rare to part with, at least right now. Liz is in love with the XBike right now so it's going to be hard to get her to ride anything else.

We had a blast on today's ride. The traffic was a bit challenging for the first 10-15 miles, but once we got out into the countryside, the riding was great. We had nice shoulders most of the way.

Miles Ridden This Year: 1682
Miles Today: 51.8