Friday, March 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Longtails

I had the opportunity to ride two longtail cargo bikes that are both compatible with the Xtracycle standard and both less than $1000. Longtails have an stretched frame to handle huge loads behind the rider.  

The Sun Atlas Cargo is a purpose built longtail like the Surly Big Dummy or the Yuba Mundo.   The Altas Cargo falls below both of these bikes in price while keeping a funky Mixte-Kruisframe geometry and comfortable ride.   

Sun rates the cargo capacity at 400 lbs and the bike feels solid with rails with frame ports to accept Xtracycle accessories.   The 2.1-inch wide tires and BMX bars provide an upright, relaxed ride. 

Most of the time when I ride one-size-fits all bikes I find the reach to be too short, but the Atlas Cargo is surprisingly comfortable reach.  If the Yuba is like riding a pickup truck then the Atlas Cargo is more like an old Jeep Scrambler.   The BMX bars can be rotated to adjust the reach as well. 

The Sun Atlas Cargo was priced at $600 at Bikes@Vienna.  How can they offer it so cheap?  Look at the component list --lots of bottom of the barrel stuff here.  But hey, you can upgrade as things wear out.  The frame is solid and ready to carry whatever you can throw at it.

No one will argue that longtails are not incredibly useful as car replacements.  Storing them is another matter.   It's tough to haul them up stairs or squeeze them into a shed.   Even taking them for a ride in the car is tough. 

Xtracycle teamed up with Tern to offer the Cargo Joe, a folding longtail.   This a great idea who's time has come.   The Tern platform as 26-inch wheels and 21 speeds and comes in two frame sizes.  The Xtracycle bits are a FreeRadical, a HDPE Flightdeck and Freeloader bag set.  You get it all for $1000, which is not bad at all.  At some point down the road you could still repurpose the FreeRadical on an old hardtail mountain bike still have a nice folding bike. 

I felt a little cramped on the Cargo Joe, but I'm not sure what frame size I was riding, I realized.  Like most folding bikes, they adjust easily to fit most riders.  It felt a lot shorter and quicker than the Atlas Cargo, but a bit more flexy with it's higher pressure tires.  Of course the real trick is that you can fold it in half and shove it in the shed or minivan without sacrificing utility.


Yokota Fritz said...

Nice overview, but the high pressure tires on the Tern made that folder feel "flexy"?

Tom said...

Richard, I meant to say that there's lots of front to rear flex in the xtracycle/folder frame. It resonates like a spring when those relatively skinny tires hit a pothole in the road. The Sun's frame is much stiffer considering the length. The 2.3 inch tires also absorb road irregularities much better than the Tern. The Sun is a very mellow ride.