We tried it: Xtracycle EdgeRunner (assisted and unassisted)

Test riding the stoked EdgeRunner in Seattle. Thanks to Davey Oil for the chance to ride, and Madi Carlson for the great photo!

Test riding the stoked EdgeRunner in Seattle. Thanks to Davey Oil for the chance to ride, and Madi Carlson for the great photo!

In 2012 I rode the prototype EdgeRunner. It was a hard bike to review because it wasn’t really in production yet, so a lot of the specifics were unsettled. I liked it, but that review does a lot of blah-blah talking about longtail history as a result of my uncertainty about the ultimate production model.

Since then I’ve had the chance to ride real EdgeRunners, both unassisted (at Blue Heron Bikes) and assisted (both stoked and BionX, at G&O Family Cyclery). These are much easier to review, although I suspect my reviews will always be long reviews (not to mention they’re all my personal opinions and other informed observers may differ, YMMV, etc.) For those with shorter attention spans, here is the 6-word summary I’ve promised for all reviews going forward.

EdgeRunner: Best longtail ever. No contest.

I’ve mentioned before that my first impression of the EdgeRunner, when it was just a picture on the Xtracycle home page, was: “Wow, that is one ugly bike.” Let me officially eat crow: in person, the EdgeRunner is lovely. And it is awesome to ride.

What I like about the EdgeRunner:

  • The EdgeRunner feels like riding a regular bike. Cargo bikes, as a class, are the minivans of bicycles, and in general that is reflected in their handling and speed. They are typically a lot of work to ride. However the EdgeRunner is about as close as you can get to a cargo bike that rides like a normal bike without violating the laws of physics. (Our Bullitt is similarly nimble, but obviously, as a front loader, it is nothing like a regular bike.) This is a bike that a novice rider can pick up and ride with a minimal learning curve. That said the first test ride on any cargo bike should be sans cargo, especially live cargo.
  • The EdgeRunner is stable. My biggest concern in the past with longtail bikes (and the Madsen) has been that we both ended up dumping the kids. All that weight on the back of the bike can be very difficult to control while holding the handlebars in front—and neither Matt nor I is particularly lacking in upper body strength. The EdgeRunner’s big innovation is a smaller rear wheel (20”) which means the deck can be a few inches lower, and those few inches make a world of difference with respect to handling. Over the last year I became very cautious while walking a bike with my kids on it because on occasion my bad right leg would twist right from under me without warning. I was so confident while walking the EdgeRunner that I did things I probably should not have done, like walk into a shop holding the bike up with one hand and pushing the door open with the other. Yet I never felt that the bike would tip, and it never did. The lower deck also means that the EdgeRunner can take downhill turns at higher speeds. On longtail bikes with higher decks, the weight on the rear pulls against the turn, and it genuinely feels like the bike could tip over. This is not a concern with the EdgeRunner. The smaller rear wheel is truly a game changer.
  • This is a lightweight bike (relatively speaking—no cargo bike is truly lightweight). As a result, there is less of it to haul around. There are two places you can really feel this: when trying to go up hills, and when trying to start from a dead stop. These are also the two places where I feel the most vulnerable while riding—other traffic often fails to appreciate the slow starts endemic to cargo bike riding, and going up hills is its own horror story—the slower you go, the more the bike wobbles. Although there is sometimes a tradeoff to be made with respect to the weight of the bike and how much you can haul on it, happily the EdgeRunner also swallowed the weight of both my kids—now much heavier than they were over two years ago when we first went cargo bike shopping—without complaint.
  • The Xtracycle accessories are the best longtail family biking kits I have ever seen. In terms of family and cargo biking innovation, Xtracycle is unmatched. The deluxe models sold by most family bike shops even come with dynamo lights, which is nothing I’ve seen before on any non-European family bike. The deck is now designed to have Yepp seats pop directly in, while older kids can be corralled by the adjustable Hooptie (no need for stoker bars). The Xtracycle bags (recently upgraded) can haul almost anything, and do particularly well with long and skinny things that are tough to dump into a front loader. Add in various cushions and foot rests and the SideCar to haul cargo and this is an astonishingly versatile bike.
  • Longtails are easy to park. As much as we love our Bullitt, it can be a bear to park at normal racks, despite the fact that it is the skinniest front loader of them all. The EdgeRunner, like all longtails, can be bumped over curbs and at worst, will stick out a bit more than usual from a bike corral. This is a much more flexible way to travel than with a box bike or a trailer.
  • The parts are not crappy. To get cargo bikes down to price points that keep inexperienced riders from choking in disbelief, there are often compromises made with respect to the quality of the parts. This can be very scary indeed when it comes to, say, brakes, because a bike that is carrying 100 extra pounds is not a bike that should be skimping on stopping power. There are various models of EdgeRunner and the quality of the parts improves with each increased price point, but even the cheapest models do not compromise basic safety.
  • The EdgeRunner comes in multiple frame sizes. This matters less for me personally, given that Matt and I are similar heights and right in the middle of the size range that bike manufacturers consider normal. Other people are not so fortunate. Having different frame sizes expands the range of people who can ride the bike—and it means that more petite people aren’t trying to push a bike that’s heavier than they need.
  • The EdgeRunner is compatible with multiple assists. Lots of bikes can handle a range of aftermarket electric assists, but none more than the EdgeRunner. We tried the EdgeRunner with both the BionX and the (throttle) Stokemonkey, but it is also, at the moment, the only bike that can use the brand-new pedal assist/pedelec Stokemonkey. (When I say “pedal assist” I am using the EU legal definition, meaning an assisted bike that will only move if you are already pedaling. Although there are other definitions, this is the one that most people I speak with intuit when they hear the term pedal assist.) This gives a fair bit of freedom to find the kind of assist that works for whatever terrain and loads you’re hauling, or maybe more importantly, the kind of assist that’s supported by a local bike shop.
  • The EdgeRunner is relatively inexpensive. No cargo bike that can safely carry my kids could ever be called cheap. Extra parts and engineering are required to turn a basic one-person bicycle into a cargo bike. The base model of the EdgeRunner is $1500—this bike doesn’t have accessories or an assist, but it will get the job done. The deluxe EdgeRunner with a family kit (Hooptie, center stand), dynamo lights (totally worth it), upgraded brakes, and a BionX assist powered for San Francisco hills is $4700 at The New Wheel in San Francisco, and comparable elsewhere. In comparison, in 2012, when we priced a Big Dummy, the base model was $2000, while an assisted Big Dummy ran about $4500—but that was without dynamo lights or a Hooptie. Currently a base model Yuba Mundo is priced at $1300—$200 cheaper, but also much heavier. (A BionX Mundo with comparable accessories to a deluxe EdgeRunner is too complicated for me to want to price.)

What I don’t like about the EdgeRunner:

  • With all longtail reviews, I make my usual complaint that they’re not front loading box bikes, which is sort of unfair and sort of not. I like having our kids in front—we can hear them better, we can intervene if they start fighting, and the weather protection is unbeatable. For us, the rain/wind canopy has been the thing that lets us ride in any conditions—there is a point at which our children (who are wusses, it must be said) will wail without ceasing if asked to ride exposed to the elements. I also like that with the front loaders you just throw stuff/kids in and go—there is no need to pack stuff carefully or balance the load. We have been known to shove the kids in and let them sort out where they’ll sit after we start moving. The Bullitt can take it. However to be fair, our front-loading paradise is not without its serpents. Front loading box bikes cost a lot more than longtails, and learning to steer them can be harrowing for some people (like me). However these things are in our past so I can now safely ignore them.
  • The Hooptie, as awesome as it is when the bike is on the move, can be a bit of a hassle on starts and stops. Our kids are capable of climbing to the deck of an EdgeRunner without assistance, but they can’t maneuver on and off the Hooptied EdgeRunner by themselves because the rails are too narrow for their helmets to fit through. We have to lift them over. I suspect this might be an issue for our son and his giant head even if he were un-helmeted. There are circumstances where this could be a plus, but mostly I found it a pain. Update! This issue was resolved with practice. After a couple more rides, they learned to swarm onto that thing like a jungle gym, with no help needed from me.
  • The lower deck of the EdgeRunner means that older kids—even my not-especially-tall 5-year-old daughter—can drag their feet on the ground and slow or stop the bike whether I want them to or not (not). Sometimes on our rides my son didn’t even realize he was doing it. It’s pretty easy to tell when it’s happening from the sound and the fact that the bike becomes hard to pedal, and to tell them to stop, but it’s annoying, and it’s not doing the soles of their shoes any favors either. I would definitely be investigating some kind of deck for their feet if we rode this bike regularly.
  • Xtracycle is still ignoring the front of its bikes. It is understandable that a company that started by creating a longtail extension would be focused on the back of the bike, but one place where Yuba’s innovation reigns supreme is the creation of its front frame-mounted Bread Basket. Xtracycle has yet to release a comparable front basket, and this is a stupid, annoying omission. Front baskets are incredibly useful, and it is a waste not to use the space above the front wheel on a longtail cargo bike.
  • Speaking of accessories, the stock EdgeRunner saddle is the most uncomfortable anvil I have ever had the misfortune to ride. I am not very picky about saddles, as a rule, yet I wanted to rip this one off and throw it into San Francisco Bay. It’s not a very expensive upgrade to change out a saddle, but my guess is that pretty much everyone will want to budget for it.
  • Although the EdgeRunner has a relatively low top tube, it was still a bit of a trick for me to get a leg over it. That is because my leg is still vaguely mangled. I have the advantage, at least, of being relatively tall at 5’7”. I imagine that it would be worse for someone shorter, even if that person were more flexible than I am (yet—I am getting better quickly). I don’t really see any way around this one—the top tube provides a lot of the stability I like so much about the bike. But it’s something to consider if you are short or inflexible.
  • With longtail bikes, you need to pack the bags and balance the load. It’s not necessarily a big deal, but when conditions are unpleasant, or when you need to make multiple stops (each of which involves loading and unloading the bike) it can be something of a hassle. Squirming kids are also more noticeable on the back of a bike—you’ll do better with this issue on an EdgeRunner than on any other longtail because of the lower deck, and for that matter, relative to a normal bike with a rear seat. But it’s no issue at all on a Brompton with a kid seat, or on a front-loading box bike.

Overall, these are not big complaints, and there are kludges or fixes for the things that bother me. For our kind of riding, the EdgeRunner is a category-killer in the longtail class.

Seriously, these bikes are all over San Francisco now.

Seriously, these bikes are all over San Francisco now.

Would we buy an EdgeRunner? Will we? Well. Maybe?

My poor mamachari is essentially stroking out at this point. It was old and rickety before it got run over, and yesterday its power cord was crushed by the construction workers fixing the rotted wood in our garage. We had expected that the mamachari would be our second cargo bike until both kids were riding on their own bikes, but now I’m not so sure. And as much as we love the Bullitt, it would be far more practical to have a longtail and a front-loader than to have two front-loaders. So let’s say this is a question we’ve begun discussing seriously.

So I’m very glad that the EdgeRunner is available now, because if we do buy a longtail, the decision of which one to buy has become very simple indeed. There are reasons to buy other longtail bikes—the Mundo can carry extreme loads, and the Big Dummy can be more useful in certain conditions—but for the purpose of hauling kids around town, we found the EdgeRunner unbeatable.

20 Comments

Filed under EdgeRunner, electric assist, reviews, San Francisco, Xtracycle

20 responses to “We tried it: Xtracycle EdgeRunner (assisted and unassisted)

  1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife

    Great review! We are loving our EdgeRunner. You’re lucky that you and your husband are similar heights.

    Our 5-inch height difference (as well as husband’s wish for a more aggressive position) is our biggest challenge in sharing this bike, one we have yet to fully resolve. The seat is easy — quick release seat post. Getting a handlebar style and position that we’re both happy with is another story. I’d love to hear from other people who’ve faced this issue.

  2. Can you tell me more about riding this without an assist? I would think the smaller rear wheel would really take away your pedal power and make it harder…though a lighter bike might balance that out. (We ride a yuba munro currently).

    Melissa, my husband and I are about 7″ apart in height- I’m pretty short at just over 5’1″. We both ride the Mundo just fine, though it’s a lot of bike for me…the handling is fine, but getting back into “mundo shape” if I slack off for a while is noticeable. We both use a more upright positioning, however, so sounds like that’s different from your situation.

  3. Jonathan

    Thanks for the rundown. Price looks a little steep in comparison to the Bullitt however.

  4. Libby

    I have been riding a gorgeous blue edgerunner for just over a year now. We live a ways out of town in a rainy climate, so I admit I have been a fair weather rider, especially with the kids. At 5’2″, I am small for handling a long tail with two kids, and can do it comfortably only on the edgrunner. My only complaint, and one that doesn’t apply to your urban San Francisco life is the extreme difficulty of transporting it. There are times I would love to take it to Portland for a kidical mass or even to nearby state park that is just out of riding range so that I could ride with friends who aren’t comfortable on the roads, but I can’t. Technically it fits in the back of my husbands (large) truck, but I am not strong enough to get it in, and it gets petty banged up every time.

    Because of this, sometimes I regret not having a smaller bike with a baby seat and a Tagalong, as more versatile. But as long as you never want to go further than you can ride, the edgrunner is fantastic.

    • Have you considered a roof rack? The Splendid Cycles folks have a swing-up roof rack that they use to haul multiple Bullitts around over long distances. It’s very cool. I think it was originally designed for tandem bikes.

    • Minnie

      It might be easier to load of a bike rack. Hollywood Rack’s Sport Rider line should be able to accommodate a bike that long.

    • Libby, I have a Big Dummy w/ 26′ wheels, and I have put it on a Thule hitch-mounted rack numerous times, on the back of a Prius. The wide way.
      The wheels do extend past the sides of the car, and I’m careful to leave clearance especially when in local traffic. It would be narrower if I took the front wheel off or turned the front wheel 90 degrees.
      I’ve considered hanging the bike on the rack from the seat tube instead of the top tube and seat stays, with the rear wheel up in the air – but haven’t actually tried it
      If I’m going more than 50 miles I take the Freeloaders off due to the gas mileage hit.

      • Libby

        Really Joel? That’s awesome. Our truck is way bigger than a Prius, so I suppose with the wheel turned around, it might not stick out far at all. Silly me, I just assumed I was impossible. I will try tonight. Thank you!

  5. Hair

    Hi – What’s the deal with the small (20″?) front wheel and yellow cargo basket fork? Is that a homebrew conversion thing or is that a prototype option?

    • That’s the G&O Family Cyclery cycletruck conversion–not exactly homebrew but thus far it’s specific to that shop. It allows the bike to carry a gigantic frame-mounted front rack and basket. I’ve seen it on two bikes now–one rider reported he could carry four full grocery bags in front.

      • That Cycletruck conversion is actually created by Colin Stevens nd Garth L’Esperance of CycleFAB in Georgetown, Seattle. They run the only Bicycle/Moped oriented machine and welding shop in the Seattle area. They are super creative, reasonably priced, expert welders and machinists. No job is too small or too big (Colin has built 2 pedal powered parade floats on old car chassis!). They are also super nice guys, funny and very good looking (so says my girlfriend)!
        Check them out! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cyclefab-LLC/426871784029540

      • I believe Colin is also the creator of the Rolling Jackass centerstand, the best longtail support I’ve ever seen (despite the unfortunate name).

      • Jay

        Not to nitpick, but Colin is the current manufacturer of the Rolling Jackass, Val Kleitz (deceased) was the creator: http://rollingjackass.com/history.html
        While I don’t doubt it is the ” the best longtail support” at $350 one would expect nothing less. However, I’ve found the stock center stand on my Mundo perfectly adequate. Of course nothing compares with the stand on the Bullitt (but then, nothing compares to the Bullitt period.)

  6. Have you read GearJunkie.com’s “8 Ultimate ‘Bike Mom’ Rigs?” http://gearjunkie.com/bike-mom-kid

  7. So, Dorie, if you get an Edgerunner, what front rack would you put on it?

  8. Hi, I know this is weeks later. About the BionX re-charging while going downhill, over here in Oakland, I do actually gain a bar coming home out of the hills. So it does help!

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