Mar 8, 2010
I’m excited to announce Xtracycle’s official release of our flagship chromoly LongTail, Radish, new for 2010. We want to send a special shout out to legendary bike designer and kindred sprit Grant Petersen from Rivendell, who played a key role in helping us nail the “sweet spot” cargo bike handling for what we believe may just be the perfect family cargo bicycle.
This post will attempt to unveil some of the thinking, rationale, and motivation behind choices we made to upate Radish for 2010. Special mention needs to be made to those who have played a hand in Radish’s re-creation: Ross Evans, Peter Kinne, Madeline Gradillas, Rick Pickett.
Just like its younger cousin, the FreeRadical, 2010 Radish is 100% Chromoly. A number of other longtails on the market are built from high tensile steel. What’s the difference?
Chromoly steel, also known as 4130 steel, is 60% stronger than high tensile steel, also known as low-carbon steel, or low-alloy steel. While there is no weight difference per unit volume between these two alloys, because of the strength difference, it takes more high tensile steel to yield the same strength of Chromoly. The result? High tensile bikes are heavier, for no good reason (generally only to save cost). Chromoly is used for automobile roll cages, aircraft construction, and other structural applications. Chromoly is the choice for many bicycle handbuilders and fewer and fewer larger production companies, including our friends at Surly. Why the demise of Chromoly in the mainstream marketplace? Mainly cost, but also, the level of skill required to weld – see next section.
What about aluminum? Aluminum is generally regarded as a light, stiff, but often brittle and unforgiving material for bicycle construction. As a bicycle is lengthened to increaese it’s usability and ride quality, the stresses placed on the frame increase. Aluminum is less suited to perform for the long run, under a wide variety of loading conditions. The benefits of aluminum, aside from weight considerations alone, include cost – Chinese aluminum frame production has reached economies of scale, and the training process for aluminum welders is less costly than that of steel welders. All of these combine to offer a potentially lower cost on aluminum bicycles, but it is unclear if the lower cost also translates into lower performance. Because of the need for aluminum bicycle frames to be heat treated (brought to a certain temperature, and then cooled at a specific rate), they generally cannot be repaired. Any failure means the life of the entire product has ended. Radish, by contrast, is built of modular parts, the most costly of which are built to be durable, and built to be repairable.
Xtracycle builds several modular parts that are not under as great a stress, like V-racks, TekDecks, Whatchamacollars, out of weight saving, cost saving aluminum.
Radish frames are tig-welded in small batches (usually 50 – 100 units at a time). Tig-welders are some of the most skilled workers in our Taiwan factories – they get paid the (in US currency) around $15 – $20/hour and enjoy excellent job security. The same woman, Ah Huey pictured below, has been welding Xtracycle FreeRadicals, and now Radish frames, nearly since their invention 10 years ago.
By way of comparison, I find the 2009 Radish to handle remarkably well under loads of 50lbs or more on the SnapDeck or in the FreeLoader bags. When the deck/bags were unloaded the handling becomes noticeably more ‘floppy,’ which appealed to some riders, not so much to others.
The 2010 Radish nails the sweet spot where handling unloaded is crisp and sporty, yet remains responsive and stable under load.
What’s more, the longer effective top tube length on Radish yields a roomier cockpit enabling riders like myself, pushing 6’1″ with my Keens on, to feel totally at home behind the wheel. My wife, pushing 5’1″ in her clogs, feels no loss of comfort. The Radish pictured below is piloted by Madeline Gradillas, an architect turned product designer who played a large role in bringing 2010 Radish to market.
Madeline is 5’4″ and likes the 2010 Radish just as much as her 2009. She’s particularly happy with the increased ease in getting her leg over the top tube. The 2010 Radish frame is more than 2″ lower, where it counts, easing transitions on and off the bike.
Across the board, components have been upgraded while we have kept the overall cost of Radish down. Here are the highlights. A full list of components can be found under the “Specs” tab here.
- Cranks: The new alloy crankset (34t) features an dual-sided aluminum chainring guard to both protect the rider’s clothing from the chain, and to protect the chain from dismounting unexpectedly from the chainring. Owners of 2010 Radish will have the option of installing the included full-protection chain guard (a la Radish 2009) as well for total coverage.
- Brakes: Xtracycle upgraded brakes and levers on 2010 Radish to entry level performance Avid FR-5/SD-3. To accommodate numerous upgrades and cut costs, we decided to jettison the rear disc-brake. In conversation with customers, we found that few felt this to be a critical component, and internally, we agreed that V-brakes worked well for 90% of practical applications.
- Drivetrain: Rear 8-sp cluster remains the same (11-32t), but we’ve upgraded to a SRAM X-5 rear derailleur, and SRAM 3.0 twist shifter. SRAM X-5 rear derailleurs are found on $1000 mountain bikes and we found, has the necessary spring tension to provide crisp clear shifting on Radish.
- Handlebar: Xtracycle worked closely with handlebar manufacturer Zoom, in Taiwan, to develop a bar that provided a comfortable yet nimble, upright riding position, for a riders ranging from 5’0 – 6’2″. This alloy bar is not found anywhere else than on Radish 2010.
- Grips: Grips on the 2010 Radish are made by industry leader Velo. We opted for round grips, with plenty of length, and a bolt-on feature that would allow customers to easily move/remove/replace them with no damage to the grip.
- Quick-Releases: All quick-releases have been updated on 2010 Radish for improved look and feel, but most importantly, function.
2010 Radish will become available with a host of new and existing Xtracycle Accessory Kits. My next post will cover our new kits in depth.
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2010 Radish are in production, and are currently available for pre-order. You may learn more about Xtracycle’s pre-order process here.
We only have 50 available at this time for pre-order, if you decide to be one of the few new Radish riders, you may place your order here.