Longtail bikes are an essential piece of the ever-evolving utility cycling movement. If you're looking for the hauling capabilities and overall utility of a bike trailer, but you don't want to deal with a trailer hitch and changes in bike handling that are part of owning a bike trailer, then a longtail bike may be just what you're after. Longtails, which are usually based on Xtracycle's open-source design standard, bridge the gap between trailer and bike by extending the rear wheel of your bicycle and incorporating cargo capacity onto each side of the rear wheel. Longtails are available as both conversion kits for your existing bike, as well as complete bikes. Most importantly, longtails accept a wide range of fun and useful accessories such as blenders, electric assists, and cargo add-ons, and they are ready to haul loads as diverse as groceries, ladders, surfboards, people, and more!
If you are ready to begin hauling more cargo by bicycle, you may be trying to decide between a bike trailer or a longtail bike. There are advantages and disadvantages to each setup. Longtail bikes are always cargo-ready and available to carrying your gear. There is no need to think ahead, as your longtail is always ready for groceries, passengers, and whatever other cargo you need to move. At the same time, longtail kits are not easy to remove and reinstall from a bicycle; whereas a bicycle trailer can be removed in seconds. However, something to keep in mind is that longtails are fully compatible with most two-wheel bike trailers. So if you have an insatiable appetite for cargo capacity, don't fear, just hitch up a trailer and take along whatever you want. This is also very handy when you need to transport your child and cargo. Longtail bikes also handle more like your bicycle normally would, as they are simply an extension of your bicycle, not something hitched to it. Although longtails, single-wheel bike trailers, and two-wheel bike trailers all change the feel of your bicycle slightly, the longtail feels the most like a normal bike. So if you are looking for great maneuverability and always-ready cargo capacity, a longtail might be just the choice for you.
A longtail kit is like a blank canvas, and its options and accessories are the paint you use to create your masterpiece. When setting up your first longtail bike, the first thing you need to decide is whether you want a complete longtail bike or a conversion kit for your existing bike. Xtracycle's kit for converting your bike comes with everything you need to make your regular bike a longtail bike. There are also a number of complete longtail bikes on the market such as the Xtracycle Radish, Surly Big Dummy, Kona Ute, Trek Transport, and the Madsen kg271. If you plan to convert an existing bicycle, you can convert both 26" and 700c bikes with the Xtracycle FreeRadical conversion kit.
The next thing you need to decide is how much you want to carry with your longtail bike. Xtracycle offers a wide range of decks, racks, bags, accessories, and more for the Xtracycle FreeRadical cargo bike kit, which allow you to customize the longtail to your specific cargo hauling needs. For example you can carry long, awkward loads with a LongLoader or big, wide loads with a WideLoader. But don't stop at cargo! You can carry people on your longtail with some Footsies, a Stoker Bar, and a nice, cushy Magic Carpet. Many of these accessories and add-on's also work with the complete longtails like the Radish or Big Dummy, as well.
Longtail Features to Consider:
- Wheels and Brakes: Longtail kits are available for both 700c and 26" wheeled bicycles and support both disc and v-brakes. Longtail kits attach to your bike's rear dropouts and to the chainstays, just behind the bottom bracket, extending your wheelbase by about 14 1/2" and creating all kinds of opportunity for expansion. Two vertical and two horizontal ports on either side of the kits form the foundation of the system, accepting a variety of racks, and creating a whole rainbow of cargo carrying configurations.
- Horizontal Ports: The horizontal ports on an Xtracycle kit are meant for WideLoaders, LongLoaders, the KickBack, or everyone's favorite, Footsies. WideLoaders support cargo that doesn't fit well into the FreeLoader saddlebags. LongLoaders piggyback onto the WideLoaders, allowing you to carry longer items, like ladders, without interfering with your pedal stroke. The KickBack is a motorcycle-style kickstand strong enough to hold up your whole cargo rig. The TrayBien is a convenient way to carry another bike on your bike, 'cuz you never know when you need a spare. And Footsies, of course, are the most comfortable way to haul your human cargo.
- Vertical Ports: The vertical ports are meant for installing the different rack systems with which you can customize your longtail kit. Using the vertical ports, you can install the venerable V-Racks, which form the foundation of the system. Or you can plug in a set of P-Racks and take advantage of those panniers.
Customize Your Longtail
- Racks: Whether you plan to haul around passengers and groceries or whether you plan to take your cargo rig touring, you will need racks to go with your Xtracycle FreeRadical. Choose from the versatile V-Racks for daily hauling and commuting or the P-Racks for your next extended bicycling adventure.
- Decks: The icing on the Xtracycle cargo cake comes in four flavors: SnapDeck, TekDeck, FlightDeck, and MagicCarpet. The SnapDeck is the jack of all decks, allowing you to carry passengers, boxes, or whatever. The TekDeck is more minimal, designed to hold the system together without adding a lot of weight and is great for touring. The FlightDeck is an environmentally-friendly option to keep your conscience clean. And the MagicCarpet is meant to protect your most precious cargo: friends and family.
- Bags: Bags are the method of choice for storing everything from small, loose items to bigger, bulky items and everything in between. Xtracycle offers two bag systems to suit your needs. The FreeLoader Saddlebags are easily adjustable to carry a wide range of gear. Meanwhile, the Hoodie offers a sleek, integrated bag system that keeps your gear in check and your style-points high when you are cruising through town.
- Chain: If you are converting an existing bike to a longtail, you will be extending the bicycle's drivetrain farther back, so you will need an extended chain. The Xtracycle chain can accommodate 6/7/8 speed drivetrains, as well as 9 speed drivetrains.
Don't Forget to Accessorize
- Kickstands: Cow tipping might be cool, but longtail tipping isn't! Keep your Xtracycle upright when you are loading and unloading with the KickBack kickstand.
- Stoker Bar & Footsies: Bring your girlfriend, boyfriend, or even your mom! The Stoker Bar, which is a handlebar that attaches to the seatpost of your bike, and Footsies, which are installed on the horizontal ports, paired with a Magic Carpet for comfort, make a longtail bike a great way to bring your family and friends along.
- Lights: Hey! You've got a sweet longtail kit. Make sure everyone sees it and you with a nice light kit. Rock The Bike-Down Low Glow is probably one of the most fun and visible ways to light your bike and draw a crowd.
- Storage: Keep your longtail squeaky-clean with a storage bag such as the ShowerCap, which keeps your bike, racks, and bags safe from the elements.
- Child Accessories: Don't leave your little ones out of the fun; bring them along! Xtracycle offers some great child accessories to make your longtail kid-friendly. You can pair up a Stoker Bar, Footsies, and Magic Carpet for older children or install a PeaPod child seat for younger children.
*For further information on longtail bikes and kits, please review our Longtail, Pet, & Specialty Bike Trailer FAQ's and our Bike Trailer Comparison Chart.