Moving out of Brooklyn was the smartest thing I've done in a long time--though admittedly that doesn't mean much, since almost everything I do is dumb, so in my life the bar for smart sits pretty low.
Maybe one day I will organize the Wildcat Rock Machine New York City Anti-Fondo--though I probably won't.
Also, if yesterday's ride wasn't baronial enough for you, keep in mind that I also rode my kid to Apple Inc. child labor camp on either end of it, meaning I changed bikes twice, which pushes yesterday's cycling exploits up into the realm of the über-baronial:
Hey, I live in the New York City hill country, so that little commute is no joke, and I'm easily pushing something like 400 Imperial Fuck-Tonnes of leather, metal, and plastic each way. I have to bring the little kiddie bike all the time too, because despite my best efforts to discourage my child from riding he loves to do it anyway. Hopefully I can at least steer him away from the path to Fred-dom on which I wasted so many years and dollars, though I suppose our progeny live to spite us, and I dread one day catching him shaving his legs and applying "embro" while pedaling away on rollers and watching "Breaking Away" in his Google Monocle or whatever people are using to watch movies on by then.
Speaking of Big Dummies (both myself and the bike), I've had one for something like four years now. In that time, it's become an indispensable part of my life. So, while it may still be a little early for an actual "long-term review" (check back with me in ten more years), I think that at least an update is warranted. (By the way, Surly did not ask me to do this. I don't think I've been in touch with anyone from Surly in like three years. I just figured someone might find this useful, and I like to think I'm the only bike blogger on the Internet who uses a piece of cycling equipment for more than six months.)
Here's what the bike looked like when I took delivery of it in, I believe, 2010:
That's pretty much exactly how it came out of the box, apart from the pedals, which weren't included.
In that time, I have made the following changes or additions (not counting bell and lights and little bric-a-brac like that):
--Ergon Dork-O-Matic Labia Grips;
--Xtracycle Peapod and plastic snapdeck thingy (the kid has nearly outgrown the Peapod, soon I can just sit him on the bench and be done with it);
--Xtracycle WideLoaders (you take them on and off as needed, they are handy but tend to clip parked cars and slam you in the Achilles tendon if you're not careful);
--A Brooks saddle, which has held up just fine despite spending a good portion of its life outside, and which has conformed lovingly to the contours of my scranus:
(You just barfed.)
I have not made the following changes out of cheapness and laziness, which I really, really should:
--A center stand
Seriously, using a cargo bike with only a kickstand is a major pain in the ass. I'm an idiot for putting up with it for this long, having dumped the bike while loading it more than once, fortunately never with a human child on board.
I have also not made and will probably never make the following very expensive fantasy changes, which are not even remotely necessary but which would be really nice to have:
--A Rohloff hub, or at least some kind of robust internally geared thingy (this bike sits outside a lot and such a thing would probably better handle that level of neglect);
--Some kind of electrical assist (I admit it, now that I live in the New York City hill country it would be pretty nice to have).
As far as maintenance, I've done as little as possible, and everything has held up very well despite that. I have not touched the hubs, and last I checked the bearings were still smooth. I have not changed the chain, chainrings, or cassette, and they're fine. The Surly bottom bracket it came with developed some play I could not get rid of, but I replaced it with a used bottom bracket from my parts bin and it's been fine ever since. Obviously, I've changed the brake pads. As far as cables, I have replaced only the rear derailleur cable once, though all the cables and housings are overdue for replacement. (The rear shifting is the first thing to go when the bike sits outside in the rain, thanks in part to the half-mile cable run.) Incredibly, I have not yet needed to change the tires, even the rear. I don't know if this is because they're incredibly durable, or if it's because having the rear wheel 500 feet from your posterior instead of right under it makes it wear more slowly. The wheels in gestalt have been problem-free, and I've ridden the bike as pictured above, fully loaded with both kiddie bike and actual kid, over multiple railroad ties without any problems apart from ejecting random stuff from the cargo bags. (Parenting tip: kids love riding over railroad ties.)
In short, the Big Dummy is as robust as it is long and green, though I really should do a complete overhaul this spring, because it needs new cables and it's ticking from somewhere, and there are probably also squirrels living in it.
Anyway, if you're considering a bike like this maybe you'll find some of the above useful. I'll also add that, if you like to ride bikes and you have kids, a bike like this that is somewhat "sporting" and that your child can also fall asleep on will do wonders for your quality of life.
If you don't have kids, stick to your 7-hour Fred rides.
Lastly, here's an invention that's completely gratuitous, even by Kickstarter standards:
Good lord! It took a year to invent a freaking pedal-cozy?!? Can't you just put an old sock on it?