The Bettie download

Bettie FamilyBettie is a Bike Hugger project to build a sport-utility bike with a Karate Monkey 29-incher frame, Stokemonkey, and an Xtracycle. Bettie has an enormous carrying capacity, it’s heavy duty – 2 adults or an adult and 2 kids at a time – and is fun (really, really fun). The total Bettie download follows.

We chose the Surly Karate Monkey for it’s big wheels and versatility and a look at the specs will tell you why – the frame is built to be built into something else, your ideal Frankenstein. Bettie with this set up, as Todd describes in his blog post, addresses my biggest concern about putting your foot-down when weighted. Imagine coming up a hill in Seattle, stopping at a light fully loaded, and shifting all the weight with your back to one toe. Much easier to just foot down. Additionally it’s like riding a “working” bike, an industrial cruiser with a very nice motor assist from Stokemonkey.

By running a 29-incher with 26 inch wheels and 2.35 inch tires, we get a lower center of gravity and a cushy ride. Much of that ride has to do with the balloon tires. For the skinny tour crowd, big tires take some getting used to, but do roll and ride very nice.

A sport-utility “balloon” bike

We need to run at least 2.35s (the biggest tire we could find) to keep Bettie low, but not too low and are running the Big Apples from Schwalbe, which offer among other things, “carefree cycling.” See Balloonbikes for more on the benefits of big tires.

Amazing Cargo Capacity

We opted for the FreeRadical Hitchless Trailer Kit with Wideloaders. The Wideloaders add capacity and foot rests for passengers.

Human Electric Hybrid

Todd of Cleverchimp has been enormously helpful and you can find his comments in our posts. We chose a complete Stokemonkey kit with the big-ass battery. We live in a very hilly part of Seattle and need the juice.


  • Nitto Albatross bar – a comfortable cockpit with upright position, wide bars, and lots of room for the controls (tip: these are cruiser bars that accept bar end shifters)
  • Magura Gustav M – a legendary downhill disc brake with enough stopping power to fold the fork in half. Remember an adult, 2 kids, in hilly Seattle, so we chose lots of brake.
  • DT Swiss FR 6.1D – extremely stiff, “big hit” rims. Made to ride through a war zone or the streets of Seattle.
  • Sugino Mighty Crankset – 44/32/22 9-speed compact MTB cranks – right and left chainrings, one for you to drive and the other for the Stokemonkey.
  • Shimano 16T freewheel threaded onto the Stokemonkey – the freewheel drives the left chain ring. That’s your motor assist.
  • Deore LX derailleurs – “pretty standard really.”
  • Bar end shifters – for the flexibility of switching to friction mode, if things go bad with the drivetrain, and because the throttle is taking up space for grip shift or other levers.
  • MKS platform pedals with Powergrips – old school and functional. You don’t want cleats, clips, or anything else with Bettie. Just hop on and ride – same goes for the seat.
  • Brooks B17 – been riding all over town without bike shorts. Bouncy big tires and springy seat adds to the fun factor.
  • Loud bell from REI – announce your motor-assisted smugness when you pass fellow cyclists.

Jedi master mechanic

Bettie wouldn’t have moved an inch without the work of Eamon Stanley at Elliott Bay Bicycles, home of Davidson.

Initial impressions

As I’ve been posting, we’re having a great time with Bettie and most of that is no parking, no sitting in traffic, and no car. I’ve been running errands, going on dates, and Pam has been riding the kids around. Bettie is doing exactly what we wanted and performing well.

There have been some surprises. Bettie makes dogs angry. I guess that’s all the sounds because some dogs have gone into vicious mode when I ride by – Cap’n our Pug likes Bettie, but only after lots of alert barking and a good long sniff. Of course, you can easily out run them with a twist of the throttle.

Motor-assist is just that: an assist. You’re still working and need to learn quickly how to stay on top of the gear. To ride Bettie daily, you’ll need good bike-handling skills, basic fitness, and situational awareness. You’re the motor in the human electric hybrid drive and efficiency is very important. Riding heavy on the throttle is going to burn through the batteries. It’ll be fun, but not good for commuting. With the motor-assist on, Bettie is like a fixed gear and you can’t stop pedaling. It’s easy to get lulled into la-la land, on Bettie, but realize your riding a big bike at fast speeds.

The magic, the secret sauce of Bettie and the genius of Xtracycle and Cleverchimp is that they’ve invented products that allows us to do what we want without a car. As an inventor myself, they get full props and one of the first things I did with Bettie was deliver an order of Clip-n-Seals to the mail drop.

Riding Bettie Downtown

And More Bettie

Another project

Our next project is to build up a light-duty commuter.


Oh my God! the kid who lived next to my grandparents when I was a kid had these great old single-speed Schwinns with the giganto tires and you could ride those things over dirt roads and rocks and tree roots and it didn’t matter. You could not damage those things.

That’s exactly it! The balloon tire bikes are built for care-free riding. Jump on and ride like you did when you were a kid.

I have been thinking about doing something like this for a while now.  We are a one car family, but find that sometimes it would be nice to have two.  We have young kids so it is difficult to ride places as a family.  A “bettie” bike would definately help with daycare drop offs and short trips.  We live in North Vancouver = big hills, so the Stokemonkey would be a must.

If you don’t mind me asking, what do you think this rig cost in the end?


That’s a good question and we’ll have pricing in the next few days. We’ve got to tabulate it all ourselves! I’ve no doubt, it’ll pay for itself in a few months. Regarding cars, with our active lifestyle, business, and trips, I don’t think we can go without a car but absolutely reduce trips. The first big reduction is for errands. Groceries, mail, and dates.

Man, that sounds like a sweet rig. I just put Big Apple tires on my Xtracycle-equipped bike, and they really do make a huge difference. I’m this close to ordering a Stokemonkey, too, but I can’t decide whether it makes sense to order one now, or wait until I’ve built up a better bike first.

How has carrying passengers worked for you? Do they find it difficult to hold onto the snapdeck for stability? I’ve got a stem mounted on my seatpost, but I haven’t figured out yet how to make quick-release handlebars so I can snap them on when I have a passenger and easily remove them so I can mount the bike without contortions when I don’t have a passenger.

Bettie is sweet! We’ve got a tandem stoker set up and order and it’s not a must, but will help. Until then, we’ve got a compression strap around the snapdeck that the passenger can hold onto that. Rider and passenger(s), need to get in sync, or the ride is wobbly and do not stand up with a passenger(s). I’ve gone up 20% grades with both kids and me (in a 39 x 26) just fine. It’s really remarkable. I should do some feats of strength with Bettie.

Alec, I happen to have been pricing out a very similar setup myself recently. Here’s my estimate for a roughly comparable bike, based on prices from online discount shops (not including labor costs for assembly, which should only be $50 or so for frame prep if you have decent mechanical skills yourself):

<li>Karate Monkey frame/fork: $430</li>
<li>Xtracycle freeradical with wide loaders: $470</li>
<li>Stokemonkey: $1350</li>
<li>Albatross bar: $35</li>
<li>Sram X.7 group (X.7 rear & shifters, X Gen front, BB7 disc brakes, Truvativ cranks/bottom bracket, FR5 brake levers): $390</li>
<li>Headset, stem: ~$50</li>
<li>Brooks B-17: $60</li>
<li>Seatpost: ~$40</li>
<li>Pedals/power grips: $50</li>
<li>Handbuilt wheelset: $400 - $800, depending on how beefy you want your hubs</li>
<li>Big Apple tires: $60</li>

Total price, somewhere between $3300 and $4000, or roughly 15% to 18% the price of a new Prius.

Thanks Josh, that’s really close. Our pricing is going to come in higher because we opted for the Magura Gustav Disc brakes for the load. The Avid mechanicals will do just fine for a lighter load, or the Shimanos. Also note, in your specs above to consider the throttle and why we chose bar end shifters.

Also if you want Stokemonkey, you must either provide your own tandem-type double-sided crankset, or use the Sugino ones that come with Stokemonkey. They’re for square-taper bottom brackets only.

Don’t forget fenders, and while we’re at it, fitting a Karate Monkey with the FreeRadical requires a second front attachment plate (“FAP” in Xtracycle parlance).


That’s correct and we had to scramble to get a second FAP from 20/20 cycle — I probably won’t ride Bettie today because we don’t have fenders on her yet (and it’s finally raining … we need it). I’ve ridden in the rain for years and it’s your feet that get wet in the front. On Bettie, with those big tires and upright position, the spray goes right into your face!

The other items are a speedo. Having tested Bettie with the Drain Brain, I’ll get one of those when they come back in. Also, a HID light and led flashers in the back. For safety, the Big Apples have reflecto strips on the side and the back of the FreeLoaders have red strips.

For security, I’m going to get a disc wheel lock, just like motorcycles use, to prevent the opportunistic crack head walk off. No way they can lift it, so stopping the bike from rolling is ideal.

A couple notes:

<li>The material on the Freeloaders appears to be generic nylon, and not Cordura ballistic or Hypalon — so, be extra careful when loading and setting it up all so that nothing is rubbing, or you’ll have a hole in your bags in one ride. (I hope Xtracycle offers an upgrade for wet climates). I’ll treat the bags with NixWax before the rainy season starts.</li>
<li>On big hits, with load, the FreeRadical is bottoming out and the SnapDeck is hitting the (what’s with all the CamelCase product names) tire. No big deal, but I’d slow down over the next speed bump.</li>
<li>I hope I never have to change a rear tire on a rainy day, but that day will come and will have to be done like a motorcycle.</li>

Finally, with those big tires, you’ll lean the bike to turn like a motorcycle.

sks/esge’s fattest fender fits (note disc brake clearance contrivance): . note also big mudflap (essential to keeping drivetrain cleaner) and spoke strut to make up gap between fork crown and tire.

xtracycle has a deck clearance fix for 700c xtracycles (a set of v-rack shims) that is probably appropriate for these big 559 tires too. it should also help keep stokemonkey’s electronics bag from sagging into the tires if fenderless.

Thanks Josh and DL. Excellent ideas and write up.
It will be interesting to see how the whole set up fairs over the wet winter months here in the Pacific Northwest.

Hey, what are you using for the passenger stem on Bettie? The longest stem I could scrounge up for my as-yet-unnamed xtracycle was about half as long as the one I see on Bettie in the latest photos. It occurs to me after a few uncomfortable rides that this is a case where it probably makes sense to spend a little extra for a part that’s the right size, rather than making do with what I have.

That’s a control tech adjustable stoker stem, in the longest length. The nitto bar was Bill’s idea, and a great one, as the passenger isn’t a stoker and they want a good view (around you). Also, a little kid can hang on in the front and a bigger kid on the back.

Also, great news on your xtracycle. Please let us know when you get it done, send photos, and post (also do a guest post, if you’d, like.

Thanks for the excellent project writeup!  I’ve some questions for you if I may:

How necessary is the stokemonkey on a bike like this?  My wife and I are considering going carless in Seattle (movie possibilities?) and definitely want to build out an xtracycle.  Is the stokemonkey a must given the weight of the cycle itself, or is it more a question of how often you will be carrying loads, or if you live on top of one of Seattle’s many hills?

Not that the price of the bike needs any increasing, but do you see any problems with running a Rohloff Speedhub on such a bike?

And finally, where would one go in Seattle to try a similar bike?  Or to get one built?  Thanks!


Thanks for writing. The Stokemonkey is necessary to carry the loads up our varied terrain here — we rated it at 300 lbs and when I’m dropping the kids off at school or on a date night, it’s a must. We live on a steep hill in West Seattle. An Xtracycle by itself does not require a Stokemonkey at all - but be sure to gear it accordingly with a triple. Our neighbor rides his xtracycle up and down the same hill as a commuter and has no problems.

I think the Rohloff Speedhub is a great idea, also see the Nuvinci or even Alfine or just Nexus.

The great news recently about Xtracycle is that QBP (a distributor) is carrying them, so they’re be more widespread. Locally in Seattle, see Aaron’s Bicycle Repair or a new shop in the University District that I can’t remember — I’ll add another comment later, when I remember.

Thanks for the plug Byron!  We are indeed, the largest Xtracyle dealer in the northwest.  I have sold about 30 free radicals over the last 4 years.  This year we sold 8 in just 2 months!  I think we have passed the hundredth monkey! 

My wife uses a Stoke Monkey, but I do not.  I don’t mind the thigh burning work-out.  My low gear is 22 x 34 so even the steepest hill is OK.  Standing up with Albatross bars is easy, but if it is wet, you may need to sit down!

Big news in my wife, Gypsie’s life is that I recently restored her bike.  She was hit by an SUV and suffered a broken pelvis.  Her Xtracycle was destroyed.  Everything from the seat tube back was ruined (run over by the car). The bike was OK from the seat tube forward except for the handlebars.  We had the frame repaired and a new Free Radical painted candy apple red to match.  I’ll post pics soon. here:

My friend Val Kleitz (of the late Bikesmith and the first Xtracycle dealer in the Seattle) works at my shop on Sundays.  He invented and makes a heavy duty centerstand for the Xtracycle.  For loading it is invaluable.  You can put a full keg of beer on one side and the bike will still stand up!  If you haven’t met Val you need to!  He it all about bicycles!

Val’s day job is the warranty/service manager for SRAM at Seattle Bike Supply.  SBS will be the US distributor for the NuVinci hub.  Val will have a sample hub which he plans on testing for torque on his Xtracycle.  The problem with that type of gear design has always been torque limitations.  We will know soon if you can exceed their lowest gear ratio of 1:1

I am not a fan of the Rohloff speed hub as it only has 32 spokes.  For serious loads you really should have 48 spokes otherwise you will be breaking spokes and truing your wheel more often. Chalo Colina has sucessfully drilled his Rohloff for 48 spokes.  Because of the flange bolts it required a crow’s foot spoke pattern.  I have carried 300 pound payloads before with no problem.  The wheels stay true and trouble free.  Phil Wood makes (and we stock) 13 to 14 gauge butted spokes that can make a low spoke count wheel stonger. I agree the Schwalbe Big Apple 26 x 2.35” is the best tire for the rear.

I have a large Xtracycle owner list if anyone wants to plan an event.  We have about 4 or 5 rides a year.  The next one is being planned for New Years Day.  We were thinking Gas Works to Seward Park.  email me your ideas.  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

btw, I always have plenty of Xtracycles on hand to test ride.  Eveyone that works at my shop rides one.  On some days there are 4 or 5 parked outside!

in the year of 1940 my brother and i rode our ballon tire bikes on a 27 day trip from ma. to fla 1245 miles haulinf a 65 pound trailer.  bob mc donald

I really don’t thing the price to build this bike would be anywhere near the $4000.00 that was that was posted in a comment.

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