"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.
|Photo courtesy of Mike Porter|
Pros and ConsI have never used a trailer, but based on the comments on various bike forums, here's a run down of the pros and cons:
- Greater load carrying capacity (not necessarily a big advantage) - some trailers can manage up to 70lbs of kit.
- Handling is better because the load is off the bike and lower down.
- With the load off the rear wheel, you are much less likely to suffer spoke breakage.
- It is easy to unhook the trailer and immediately have your normal bike back, no need to remove four panniers and other stuff strapped on the bike
- The bike-trailer rig may have less wind resistance than a bike and four panniers
- It's potentially a quicker/simpler route to a touring ready rig, i.e. you just have to buy one trailer instead of two racks and two sets of panniers.
- There are no heel-pannier clearance problems
- For tandems, where you are limited to four panniers between two, they offer a solution to the problem of carrying enough kit.
- When not on tour, they are great for carrying shopping, beer, pets, tools, rubbish...you name it.
- There is the additional friction of the third wheel and the whole assembly can feel quite draggy going up hill
- Getting a bike and trailer on a plane, train or bus is more awkward than a bike and panniers.
- A bike plus trailer combination is a lot less manoeuvrable than a bike on its own, e.g. quite difficult to back up.
- It's another set of things to go wrong, trailer frames can get bent and there's another size of inner tube and tyre to carry spares for.
- Some racks are lower than panniers making it more likely your gear will be be immersed on river crossings.
- On the road, your stuff is less accessible in the pack on the trailer than in a pannier
- Steep descents can be more exciting with a trailer - the trailer tends to "push" the bike and can fishtail (less of an issue with two-wheeled trailers).
- Some say trailers are more difficult in strong cross winds and on rough gravel tracks.
Using a trailer - Mike Porter's experiencePrevious 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.
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
BobBob (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.
ExtrawheelAt 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.
KoolstopKoolstop 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.
BurleyBurley 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.
CarryfreedomCarryfreedom'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).
WeberBoasting 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|