final update: I bought the prototype from a shop; tried it out on both
sides of my Surly, and -- well -- HATED it. For the life of me, after
watching numerous videos and getting tips from the Xtracycle web site
and trying different tightnesses of the stem clamps, and no matter what I
did the thing just made my Surly wobbly as hell. Didn't matter if it
was loaded or empty, it was completely unwieldy to steer and even after a
week of trying to get used to it I still ran into stuff.
Talking to several folks who'd tried sidecars, the responses ran to
extremes: they either loved it or hated it and there really wasn't any
in-between. Looks like I was in the I-hate-it camp. So this morning I
put it up on craigslist. I got five responses within two hours (of
course I did; shops don't carry these much and Xtracycle seems not to always
have them on hand), and by dinner time I had sold it for my asking price to the first guy who
responded. He was firmly in the I-love-it category, and I wasn't out any money when it was over.
I'll go back to using the Wideloaders and trying not to overload the bike. Probably the guitar and mic stand and cables will go on one side and the amp on the other side, or something like that. The other grand ide is to figure out a way to hook up a trailer to the back of the Surly, which will make for a stupid-long vehicle but might be worth a try for those rare, really big loads.
Bikelovejones lives the bicycle life in Portland, Oregon: car-free since 1990, she gets around town by a combination of bicycle and transit, occasionally towing her guitar to gigs with an old kiddie trailer. After two decades in the bicycle industry as a shop owner, mechanic and purchaser, she retired to pursue other creative projects. She still keeps a hand in bikey things by taking in repairs and tune-ups by appointment at her own tiny workshop; and by volunteering her mechanical services at bicycle races and citizen events like Sunday Parkways. Beth is also the driving force behind a little project called Refugee Bikes; she collects donated adult bikes and accessories, tunes them up and hands them off to an organization that helps newly-arrived refugees learn their way around Portland. If you live in PDX and want some experienced, very affordable mechanical love thrown at your bike -- or you want to help Beth's Refugee Bike Project keep moving along, drop a line here.