jamesjbigler

Friday, September 07, 2007

Amy's Comments on the X2Cycle tandem rack

From the x2cycle website:

"The x2cycle Tandem Rack looks just like a slick cantilever style bike rack, but hidden inside the body is a telescoping tube that extends out and attaches to a trailing bike to let two people stay together for any part of a ride without having to buy a traditional tandem bike. The link bar connecting the bikes has a special patent pending design that allows one section to "float" about six inches, letting the link bar lengthen or shorten during a ride. This lets the two bikes move freely back and forth in relation to each other.

This permitted movement dissipates the permitted movement dissipates the forces that hitting a rock or rut would normally transmit between the bikes and makes the ride comfortable for both riders. If one bike makes a sudden movement the "floating tube" eliminates or cushions the impact to the other rider.

The linking bar will let the trailing bike swing out about 75 degrees to either side. What happens if you go past that? It simply releases. This ability to be able to go side-to-side also gives the back rider some independence of movement rather than always riding directly behind the front bike

So what will happen if the person on the rear bike comes too far forward and starts to go ahead of the front bike? The safety release will automatically disconnect the link bar from the bikes so the two bikes are now riding independently. A special connection to the trailing bike releases should the back bike fall."


Having had some experience riding a tandem with James on the Silver Comet and at the beach while on vacation, I was excited to try the new x2cycle Tandem Rack. I really enjoy riding a tandem, but I have to admit that one of the drawbacks is the limited line of sight for the person riding in the rear. Since the person riding in the rear is very close behind and lower down than the person in the front of the tandem, the rider in the rear usually has an excellent view of the front rider's back, as well as a view of any scenery on either side of the bike. It's the view of what's happening directly in front of the bike that is very limited.

This concern was really not a problem with the x2cycle. Since there was more room between James' bike and mine, and since I had the ability to move my bike slightly to either side, I was able to see much more of the area directly in front of James than I have ever been able to on a regular tandem. This was great for me in that if James chose to ride a line of terrain that was scary to me, (like a big rock) I could simply drift slightly to the side to avoid it, instead of having to ride directly over it whether I wanted to or not, as I would have to on a regular tandem.

When we first started our mountain bike test ride, we were on some rolling forest service roads in Dahlonega. We latched our bikes together, counted to three and took off. I was slightly nervous at first, but after a few minutes of adjusting, I was much more comfortable. Since the bikes are not permanently attached, the rider in the back has to adjust to the tempo/direction of the rider in the front. The better I could anticipate James movements, the less likely we were to have our bikes push/pull at the other. When James slowed down, I needed to be aware of what he was going to do, to avoid running up on his back wheel. Whenever this happened, which it did occasionally, the telescoping pole would "break away" and we would become unattached. It was not too difficult to get the hang of though, and soon we were riding together much more easily.

One of the biggest pluses of the x2cycle involved traveling uphill. Before I even realized it, James and I had covered two miles of road, including several hills. Usually big hills and I have a hate-hate relationship: on most rides, after killing myself trying to get up one really steep, long hill, I usually end up doing a hike-a-bike up the rest of them. The approximately 10 minutes it took us to cover those first two miles would have taken me at least 45 minutes to complete on my own. I would have had to stop at least three times to gasp for air and guzzle water. Thanks to James' legs, we were able to complete the first two miles of our trip quickly and easily, without having to stop at all.

Unlike a regular tandem, where I would have had to pedal at the same tempo as James was pedaling, with the x2cycle, I could pedal as fast or as slow as I wanted, using as much or as little power as I wanted, or I could choose to not pedal at all if I was feeling particularly lazy. In fairness to James, I tried to pedal the whole time, even if I couldn't do it with as much force as it would have normally taken me to get myself up the hill. There were several really challenging hills where toward the top of them I must admit it was 100% James' sherpa-like effort pulling me to the top.

I asked James later if he could tell the difference between me pedaling hard, lightly, or not at all. He said sometimes when I pedaled hard, he could feel my bike pushing his slightly up the hill, but that usually he couldn't tell if I was pedaling or not. (note to self: he can't tell, so I can slack as much as I want!)

The downhill sections were slightly challenging at first. James and I like to go downhill at different speeds. I think of my downhill speed as fun and fast. For James, my downhill speed translates into the equivalent of grandma driver on an icy road. I was worried initially that since we were attached, I would be dragged along at breakneck speed, careening wildly down the hill until I finally lost control, skidded and fell, pulling James down with me. As we began our first descent, my stomach tightened in apprehension and visions of a spectacular wreck danced in my head. Thankfully, descending did not turn out to be too much of a problem. I was able to brake easily and control my speed that way. I did notice that my hands hurt slightly, from having to apply increased pressure to the brakes to compensate for the added force of James' bike pulling mine downhill. This was very minor though.

Probably the best part of the x2cycle tandem for me was the way that it enabled James and me to ride together, even with our very different skill levels. Since my fitness is not equal to his I cannot ride as far, as fast or for as long as he can. Usually when we have ridden 3-4 miles, I am tired and ready to call it a day, while James has barely warmed up. Since it takes me at least three times longer to ride the same distance, this usually means that he has to stop often and wait for me to catch up. On our first trip with the x2cycle, we rode around 8 miles, which is further than I have ever ridden before, in the same amount of time it would normally take me to ride 3 miles. By the end of our ride, I still felt like I could ride some more, which I would never have believed could be the case.

In addition to riding on the forest service roads, we also went for about a mile on some double track, and for a shorter distance on some not too technical single track. While these terrains were different, we were able to adjust to riding them while attached with the tandem link. I had some difficulty when we went up a steep rocky stretch of single track, but hopefully with practice I'll get better at that.

Our test ride with the x2cycle was really a wonderful experience and I can't wait to do it again!

Here is a link to James' opinion.

amy

2 comments:

i8chocolate said...

I'm so glad your experience was a good one, Amy! This sounds like it will open some new avenues and adventures for the two of you. Look forward to hearing of more rides together. Thanks for the report!
PS. maybe I should look into my sherpa getting one of these, hmmm?!!

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