Extrawheel Classic Single-Wheel Bicycle Trailer Review

Looking at getting an Extrawheel? The trailer reviewed here has been replaced by the improved Extrawheel Voyager and is no longer available. Go and read the new review.

There are quite a few trailers on the market nowadays, but none seem to be able to shift BOB and his Yak and Ibex single-wheeled trailers from the top of the pile as the most well-known and popular models. But Polish engineers at Extrawheel might just have designed the trailer to topple it. Mark, who cycled with me for the first 2 months, used a BOB Ibex, and I was able to directly compare the designs. Although it looks odd at first glance, and takes a little more getting used to than the BOB when it comes to loading, I think the Extrawheel is superior, and I want to tell you why.

My bike's rear end in the Sudanese desert

There are several reasons you might initially want to take a trailer such as the Extrawheel. It reduces the weight and therefore the stress that your bike and components would otherwise experience. It enables you to carry more if you need to – the trailer can be loaded up with the extra food and water that would doubtless otherwise be added to the growing mountain on the top of your long-suffering rear rack.

Riding The Nile Valley

What I like about the Extrawheel is that it’s full of incredibly innovative ideas, and they all work. Take a look at the fork attachment that connects the trailer to the rear axle of the bike. It doesn’t look too safe at a glance, does it? Well, the trailer has never disconnected at any speed on any roads or tracks, nor whilst mounting kerbs of various heights, nor whilst blasting down mountainsides on dirt tracks. Only once have I ever seen it disconnect, and that was when Andy let a teenager in Yerevan have a go on his bike. He circumnavigated the public area outside the Opera, whooping joyously before slamming the front brake on and flying over the handlebars, closely followed by the back of the bike. The trailer didn’t follow, having disconnected (as it is designed to do in case of a crash). We have no worries about the stability of the trailer’s attachment.

DSC_0023The bearing surfaces benefit from a quick wipe in the evening if it’s been a muddy day’s riding. The luggage itself is stowed in cargo nets on either side of the main body of the trailer. Extrawheel can supply big yellow canoeists’ drybags that are perfect for this purpose. (We also use a third bag to waterproof our rack-top luggage.) The nets are secured by a simple but clever drawstring system which is (again) unbelievably effective. Once you’ve got used to loading the bags into the nets, it’s a quick and simple process, and you can organise your luggage more efficiently with two bags rather than the BOB’s single carry-all.

I find that a cargo bungee linking the nets together over the top of the hood is a good idea if you’re carrying a smaller load, as the reduced volume of the nets in this case can cause the bags to hang lower than usual. With a normal-sized load, this isn’t necessary. It’s also important to check that the bags are oriented so that they hang horizontally – if they are pointing downwards at the front, you might find that they bounce a little close to the ground when traversing bumpy terrain.

The learning curve of loading the trailer soon becomes second nature, and then you can really see the benefits of the design. It’s extremely light, for one thing, and has a shoulder-strap so that you can sling it over your shoulder if you need to carry your bike and luggage anywhere. The drybags also have shoulder-straps for carrying by hand. The frame of the trailer is a steel construction, as is the attachment fork, and the supplied quick-release skewer comes with a rubber end-caps for when the trailer isn’t mounted.

The handling is something else. The Extrawheel tracks incredibly well behind the bike, even on high-speed descents. With my normal touring load, I don’t really notice it being there – it’s a lot less noticeable than Mark’s BOB, which imparted a very different feel to the handling of the bike with its higher centre of gravity. If it’s overloaded, of course, you can expect from the Extrawheel all the stability issues inherent in any single-wheeled trailer – that’s why it comes with a 30kg maximum load rating! (I try to keep my load well below that limit, with the weight distributed between my rear panniers and the trailer.) On technical terrain, the trailer really comes into its own, the 26-inch wheel bouncing easily over anything your bike can make it over, and the cargo nets adding an element of suspension to the luggage itself.

Let’s not forget that with a 26-inch wheel, taking an Extrawheel theoretically gives you all the spare parts you need for a complete wheel replacement (except for a rear freehub), so it probably makes sense to use the same wheelset for your trailer as for your bike. That also means you’ll only be carrying one set of wheel spares. Removing the wheel itself is a breeze – all you have to do it pop the flexible lower edges of the hood out of their retainers to access the dropout, and pop them back in again when you’re done. The trailer comes in 27- and 28-inch wheel sizes as well.

In the long term, the Extrawheel is just as susceptible to wear and tear as any other piece of touring equipment. In April 2009 in Ethiopia, I discovered that the bearing surfaces, which I had neglected to clean in the dusty conditions I’d been riding in for the previous months, had been wearing away at each other. The tipping point came when the ‘ball’ of the coupling on the trailer body wore through the ‘cup’ part of the coupling of the fork. I was able to continue for several hundred kilometres with the trailer in this condition, before having a machine shop in Yemen turn me a new pair of bearing cups for the fork, which solved the problem completely for five dollars.

This experience highlighted the fact that the fork attachment really does need to be cleaned regularly to avoid this kind of wear. Had I done so, I am sure that the parts would have lasted much longer.

In conclusion, the trailer has a number of innovative design features, organizational advantages and handling benefits that make it the Smart Car to the BOB trailer’s Volvo. It’s also considerably cheaper. If you’re going to use it, spend some time getting to know how to load it before you set off. If we’d done this, we could have saved ourselves the problems we encountered at the start of the trip.

Ride Earth Rating: 4/5
Ride Earth Rating: 4/5

Looking at getting an Extrawheel? The trailer reviewed here has been replaced by the improved Extrawheel Voyager and is no longer available. Go and read the new review.

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