Introduction to adventure cycling

[+] Choosing a bike

[-] Carrying your kit




Camping gear

Spares, repairs & tools

Where to go


Bikes on planes

Enjoying your tour

Safety and security




"The one disadvantage is you can't turn it into a table"
George "Jibi" Brown on his Bob Ibex trailer


Trailers offer an alternative to racks and panniers. Opinions on trailers are pretty mixed, some owners love them to bits, other cyclists try them and immediately revert to panniers.

Adventure Cycling Guide cycle touring information Bike Trailer
Photo courtesy of Mike Porter
In terms of weight and cost there is not that much in it. Two sets of Ortlieb panniers and a set of front and rear Tubus racks, will set you back around 280-300 and are around 4kg altogether. Most trailers are around 250-300 and weigh from 4kg to 6.5kg. That said, many people seem to end up using a rack and panniers in addition to their trailer.

Pros and Cons

I have never used a trailer, but based on the comments on various bike forums, here's a run down of the pros and cons:



Using a trailer - Mike Porter's experience
Previous to the summer of 2006 I had never used a trailer. I was a pannier user on the trips I had done to that time. A neighbour gave me the trailer and since I am no fool, I decided to change my mode of carrying my gear. I found the trailer to be easy to get used to. I built up my load over time and just prior to leaving did my first 8% slope with reasonable success. I did decide to get a lower gear to ensure that I would not have to push up hills. The BOB was a little difficult only when I tried to do something foolish like change path quickly or get off and park it on a hill. I remedied the parking issue by using a toe clip strap as an emergency brake, if you will, by tightening it on the brake lever when I parked the bike. It worked well. I found no difficulty on climbs as I seemed to climb equally well or badly depending on how you look at climbing at 4 or 5 mph. The biggest thing I had to learn was to keep control when standing to pedal. At first, I could only manage 3 pedal strokes before feeling like I was losing control. As time went on I learned to pedal with much less side to side motion and I eventually could stand indefinitely.
Mike Porter

One wheel or two?

One wheel trailers are generally lighter and easier to tow on rough/narrow tracks. On the downside, because they are more closely coupled to the bike, you tend to notice them more, e.g. you have to work a little harder to keep the bike and trailer up right, particularly art low speeds, and when you lean into a corner you are leaning the trailer too. They are also a bit more prone to fishtailing at speed. Also, depending on the model, they can be a little more difficult to connect to the bike because you have have to hold the trailer upright while connecting it.
Two wheel trailers are generally a bit heavier than single wheelers. However, they are generally, shorter, easier to connect to the bike, easier to handle when off the bike and more pleasant to tow on tarmac surfaces.
If your route includes narrow tracks, e.g. footpaths or canal paths, then a single wheel trailer is a better choice. On a narrow path a two wheel trailer will end up with one or both wheels in the grass, significantly increasing the towing drag. (Thanks to Doug Bostrom from Seattle for sharing a lesson learned the hardway on this one.)

Examples of leading models


Bob Yak bike trailer Bob (Beast of Burden), were one of the first companies to make trailers. Their current products include the Yak (unsprung) and Ibex (sprung) single wheel trailers. These are both good, robust expedition grade trailers. Bobs are very popular, but the designs are starting to look a little dated now. Weight 6.1k, price around 235.

Adventure Cycling Guide cycle touring Extrawheel


At 4.5kg and around 150, the Extrawheel is one of the lightest, cheapest and most compact expedition grade trailers on the market. It's available using 26, 27 or 28 inch wheels. It's pretty robust too, having been proven on a number of tough expeditions.

Adventure Cycling Guide cycle touring Koolstop Wilderbeast bike trailer


Koolstop make the Wilderbeast (pictured right) and a couple of other designs where small panniers hang off the frame.At 8.1kg it's a bit of a heavyweight compared to other single wheel trailers. Price 235.

Adventure Cycling Guide cycle touring Burley Nomad bike trailer


Burley make a wide-range of two wheeled trailers, most of which are aimed at hauling young children. Their touring model is the Cargo, pictured left. The wheels are easily removable and the whole trailer folds down quite neatly. Weight 6.8kg, price 270.

Adventure Cycling Guide cycle touring Carryfreedom Y frame bike trailer


Carryfreedom's Y-Frame is a neat, simple, well-engineered, relatively light, two-wheeled trailer. The whole thing is easily disassembled into a neat package for transporting on planes etc. Weight 5.6kg, price 200 (not including waterproof bag).

Monoporter Bike Trailer


Boasting smart German engineering and excellent build quality, the Monoporter (left) is a well-thought out single wheel trailer. The whole thing comes to bits and folds up to produce a very compact, convenient pack for transporting. At 25kg its max load is a little low compared to other trailers and I would be a bit concerned about its low slung platform grounding on very rough tracks. Weight 5.75kg, Price 350 (inc waterproof bag).

Copyright © Tim Barnes 2007