During 2007 and 2008, Andy and I road-tested some prototype trailers for the Polish company Extrawheel who have been helping to support . Today we took the final production version of the Extrawheel Voyager for a spin to see how it compared to those early models.
The Extrawheel Voyager is now being produced alongside the original Extrawheel Classic, and is intended to complement rather than replace it. The designs appear similar – they use the same lightweight sprung fork attachment, and a similar steel frame with a single 26-inch wheel. Looking closer, however, the differences are many – and most of them seem to be welcome improvements.
Gone is the plastic and fabric hood and net system for carrying big dry-bags of luggage. In its place is thin carrier-style steel tubing for mounting panniers. The tubing has been reinforced in all the right places too, after our testing showed that resting the loaded trailer on the ground put pressure on the tubing in certain places.
Unlike the prototypes, which carried four panniers each, the Voyager takes two panniers mounted slightly in front of the wheel axle. This means half the amount of metal in the frame, helping to make the Voyager the lightest single-wheel trailer on the market, and two full panniers are enough to take the trailer to its comfortable maximum weight.
In effect, the Voyager gives you a free-floating pannier rack with its own wheel. The advantages of this need not be stressed – say goodbye to broken spokes, frames and rear carriers by moving your heavy and bulky items onto the trailer. We’ll probably use rear carrier racks as well, in case we need to carry extra food and spares (extra capacity is always handy). The handling of the trailer is still second to none.
Large panniers instead of the Classic’s dry-bags makes accessing your kit somewhat easier, and the pannier suppliers Crosso have also improved on their pannier designs since 2007, fitting beefy mounting hooks and supplying removable lids for extra rain protection and security. I can get my tent, sleeping bag and inflatable mattress into one of these panniers with room to spare. The removal of the covered hood exposes the wheel and makes it much less of a target for flying children.
While many aspects of the Classic’s design were ingenious, we found that in the long term, there were a few issues with durability and maintenance. Specifically, the nets and hoods were vulnerable to abrasion and wear, and the integrated bearings were exposed to the elements and very difficult to replace.
Extrawheel have responded to our criticisms by making the bearing surfaces replaceable – not likely to be an issue for most users, but in the long term this could be the difference between a visit to a workshop and a visit to the dumpster, and it’s certainly an improvement that I am very happy to see.
From the build and finish quality and the mechanical improvements, it’s clear that Extrawheel are serious about competing in the trailer market. The new Voyager is simple, efficient and rather beautiful. I’m looking forward to taking it on the road with me next year, when I’ll have an extra person to carry kit for…