The classic bicycle touring debate — trailer or panniers — has been running for almost as long as people have been going on bike trips.
There’s a reason for this. As with so many aspects of equipment choice for a cycle tour, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a trailer or panniers for your luggage-hauling needs.
But there are a lot of opinionated voices out there. Having used both setups extensively, I’d rather like to bring a little objectivity to proceedings.
The truth is that whether or not a bicycle trailer is for you will depend on a variety of considerations. This article is intended to shed a little light on what might influence you to use a trailer on your next bicycle trip, and how to decide which of the many and varied cycle touring cargo trailers is right for you.
Benefits of a trailer on a cycle tour
The most common advocate of the bicycle trailer is the road tourer who needs greater-than usual luggage capacity. This is the most obvious benefit of the trailer — the ability to bring more than two sets of clothes, a slightly more spacious tent, and maybe a few home comforts for life on the road and at the campsite. Groups, families, tandem couples and long-term travellers often fall into this category.
The second main group of trailer enthusiasts is likely to be found in the off-road touring community. In this case, the manoeuvrability afforded by a single-wheel trailer in particular, together with the promise of shifting much of the luggage weight off the bike’s frame, are attractive selling points.
Some choose a trailer because of the ‘wow’-factor and the attention it generates, and this can be a blessing or a burden depending on your disposition!
But in general, if your tour is relatively short and confined to paved roads, and you don’t mind relinquishing a few creature comforts in favour of speed and low weight, a trailer is probably not for you. The two- or four-pannier setup is tried and tested, and perfectly adequate for the majority of people’s needs. Given how many cycle-tourists fall into this category, it’s unsurprising that the trailer debate is such a vocal affair!
But if you still think a trailer might be for you, read on.
Types of bicycle cargo trailer
Trailers can be broadly split across a small handful of categories, of which the first is the number of wheels the trailer has.
The distinction between single-wheeled trailers such as those from Extrawheel, BOB and Weber, and twin-wheeled models such as those from Burley or Carry Freedom, is largely a matter of handling and capacity. In general, single-wheeled trailers are more ‘natural’-feeling due to their ability to follow the bicycle along all three axes of rotation, and this is why off-road riders love them so much — they’re narrow and agile and don’t restrict the rider’s manoeuvrability when negotiating tricky terrain.
The Polish-made Extrawheel with its twin-pannier setup is quite the ‘phantom’ trailer when riding on-road; it’s barely noticeable (except for the extra drag when climbing hills). Off-road, there’s little better than the Voyager (EUR299). BOB’s popular Yak (USD319) and Ibex (USD399) trailers have a greater effect on handling due to their length, higher centre of gravity and wheel positioning, but can carry slightly more bulk — and all in a single dry-bag.
Two-wheeled trailers, usually with a flat-bed style cargo platform, are a better choice if you’re sticking to the asphalt and want to carry more than about 15kg of luggage, or excessively bulky items.
In this case, Burley (GBP200), Weber (GBP469) and Carry Freedom (GBP180-340) all offer a variety of solutions.
I once met a couple in the Middle East with a Burley trailer who were carrying (amongst other things) a full-size acoustic guitar!
The next major differentiation between trailers is the kind of cargo you want to carry. Most applications will make the best use of high-capacity dry-bags or panniers; all of the aforementioned manufacturers offer good solutions for this kind of use.
But some users have other needs — two-wheeled trailers such as the D’Lite to carry children are common sights on the roads and cycle paths of Europe, and trailers to haul canoes or pets are not unheard of!
Types of bicycle, and trailer compatibility
Which trailer is for you will also depend on your bicycle.
Lightweight road tourers and hybrids are built for speed and efficiency, at the sacrifice of a certain amount of strength, which will manifest itself in an abnormal amount of frame flex if you attach a trailer. This will lead quickly to metal fatigue and breakage, probably in the rear drop-outs.
Few bicycle frames are specifically designed for the stresses of a rear-axle trailer attachment, but you can up the odds by riding a converted mountain-bike or a touring-specific bike with reinforced rear-triangle tubing that has been built for the extra weight of a cycle-tourist’s luggage.
Wheel size is rarely an issue when mounting a trailer, as most manufacturers offer variants for different wheel sizes, or build one-size-fits-all solutions.
Disadvantages of trailers over racks & panniers
All trailers suffer from impracticality to some extent when it comes to transportation, and this is especially the case in Europe where restrictions on luggage size and weight are more strictly adhered to. Some models can be disassembled to a certain extent, and when planning your trip you’d be well advised to look into the practicalities of transporting your trailer to the starting point of your tour and getting it home at the end. When flights are involved — especially budget short-haul flights — this can become complicated and expensive.
Some manufacturers are working round this problem by introducing cargo trailers that double up as suitcases, and child’s trailers that convert into pushchairs. But if your trip includes a lot of overland travel, and you really must have a trailer — such as my recent trip to Mongolia which involved over 15,000km of train travel to get there and back — the best solution is slimline, lightweight, single-wheel options such as the Extrawheel, which, given an little ingenuity, can fit inside a bike box along with the bike.
A final point regards the longevity of the trailer. Most road tours of a few weeks or months won’t need to consider this, but in the long term, trailers with their relatively unusual components and constructions will experience wear and tear, just as your relatively commonplace bicycle parts will. When something fails, due to their non-standard nature, repair or replacement tends to be more complicated.
The answer is to play off the need for a trailer against the length of your trip. In general, if you’re considering a trailer for a long-term tour of more than a few months, I would look at only the most tried-and-tested of trailers, find out what’s likely to go wrong first and prepare appropriately, and reconsider the traditional pannier set-up just one more time.
All of these considerations aside, the most important thing is to go and enjoy your trip! Carrying luggage is a fact of life, but you can make it less of a burden by paying due attention to your needs well in advance, and choosing the most simple solution available — trailer or otherwise — so that you can concentrate on the wonderful experience that is a cycle tour.
This article was originally written for freewheelingfrance.com, a website set up to promote and advise about cycle touring in France.
50 replies on “Should I Use Panniers Or A Trailer On My Bike Tour?”
I am a trailer fan for 3 reasons.
1 I pull a Burley trailer with my gear and all camp gear; while my wife carries all her own Stuff. She is free to take whatever she wants.
2 My wife reports that cars give me a lot more room than she gets. Safety.
3 Weigh your loaded trailer and all its contents, Come to a total, say 40#. Next set a scale at trailer hitch height and weigh the loaded trailer. The weight will be near 10#. Let the trailer carry the weight. OK on a climb the weights equal.
Wonderful article and responses! For my 70 th birthday I just finished a 750 mile rails to trails ride from LaPush Wa to Missoula MT on my full suspension ebike with a 2 wheeled trailer. I had two batteries and did a around 50 miles a day. All different types of gravel rail bed and detours. Some sections where really tough. I flipped the trailer 3 times. All in all it was a great journey made a lot easier with the E‑bike. I only used battery when I had to which gave me plenty of exercise. I will do it again on my 75th birthday but with a Burley Coho XC.
Doug thanks! Rather a long time ago now but did the Cyclone IV work for you in Japan? I have a Brompton (Electric) and was thinking of a Cyclone for shopping, trips to the recycling centre, and anything else really to replace car use. My house is tiny so no space for anything big!
Some really good info on here. Thank you folks.
thank you so much for the article, it has been really helpful.
I am new to bike packing/camping/touring. I am leaning more towards using a bike trailer rather than paniers. I was wondering though, would my opus andante 3.0 (with aluminum frame), be able to handle a bike trailer with about 30–40lbs of weight? it is more of an endurance road bike rather than a touring bike.
Something not being considered here is that a two wheel trailer like a Burley Nomad with an optional rack on top not only gives you a nice stable touring trailer with a drying rack for wet clothes or towels in addition to carrying some firewood or some fresh groceries for the night, but also a portable table. In addition with the growing number of touring Trikes Two wheel trailers work out better for those type of frames. E‑assist as mentioned has become available as aftermarket and now is becoming adopted by more and more people who tour. In fact do not be surprised if e‑assist and Trikes end up expanding the touring market. A two wheel trailer is a great place to carry a spare battery or two.
With the introduction of e‑bikes trailers might be a better option I think. You don’t have to load up your bike and simply use a trailer. One complaint about trailers is that uphill is very hard. With the support from w‑bikes it should be easier. Just use more support going uphill and less support downhill when you don’t need support. Anyone agree with this thinking? Because I am thinking about a e‑bike and use a trailer. I take two battery’s with me and I should be good to go..
Ive just got an e bike. I purchased an extra Bosch battery. I have a BOB trailer and also carry a small car battery and inverter so can charge the e bike batterie when camping in the wop- wops. Extra weight for sure, but the security of having always a charged battery until one reaches a powered campground. I live in New Zealand
How is the cycling uphill going? Easier because of the support you get from the engine? I am thinking getting an riese muller e‑man with a trailer.
What voltage and amp-hour capacity do ebike batteries have? Seems to me a small automotive battery such as a 12v fire alarm / computer UPS style battery would only get you about 2/3rds of a recgarge, and anything larger is going to be 50 pounds. Lead Acid batteries are far lower capacity per pound than ebike LiIon batteries. Rather than bringing an automotive battery bring a third ebike battery.
Great article Doug. Very thorough.
What about a cargo bike? Does anyone use them for touring?
Hi Tom, a few years ago I did a solo charity ride around Wales towing a trailer with a Specialized road bike, had to dump some gear due to weight, but the problem may have been due to wrong gearing on bike, when I bought it they recommended not going above 15mph lol, well this wouldn’t do would so I took it to a local long hill and progressively took it up to 30mph downhill of course no problems stuck to me like glue
I’ve recently been thinking about buying a trailer to replace my pannier bags, and I’ve come up with my own list of pros and cons for trailers and pannier bags. Some were mentioned in this article, but others weren’t. So I just thought I’d share them here.
1. TAKES THE WEIGHT OFF THE FRONT AND REAR WHEELS OF THE BICYCLE
This has the huge advantage of avoiding broken spokes and bent rims, and it reduces tire wear. It sounds like Tom, the author of this article, carries very little weight, so this wouldn’t be an issue for him. But for the average bike tourer with camping gear, this is something to consider. And these days, people tend to carry heavier things — eg, laptop computers and large cameras. With all this weight, spokes in the rear wheels are under a lot of stress and can and do break. A trailer spreads out the weight and solves that problem neatly. This also means you don’t have to have the world’s most indestructible bicycle with heavy 36-spoke wheels, bomb-proof rims, and heavy-duty spokes. You can use more ordinary and lighter-weight bicycles and wheels, which are cheaper and more readily available overseas. Pinch flats are also nearly eliminated.
2. TRAILER BAGS ACCEPT ITEMS OF ANY SHAPE OR SIZE OR LENGTH
Putting a tent with long tent poles or a long sleeping pad on a bike rack presents a problem. They end up sticking way out the back or to the sides. All of these awkward items can fit into a trailer no problem. You can also toss in irregularly shaped items whenever you like. While crossing Canada with my BOB trailer, I’d often pick up a couple of loaves of bread or a dozen eggs and toss them into the trailer for the night. This was not so easy with pannier bags
3. PACKING AND UNPACKING IS MUCH FASTER, MORE EFFICIENT, CLEANER, AND SAFER.
The available volume of the trailer bag is all one in one big compartment instead of being divided up over several pannier bags and lots of pockets. So you don’t have to worry about which item will fit best in which pocket or compartment. And you don’t lose available space. The more separate compartments you have, the more available space that goes unused.
It’s also much faster and easier to set up camp. With a single big bag, it’s nice to be able to quickly set up the tent and then throw it inside and be done. You don’t have to fiddle around with bungee cords and unhooking five or six bags with some of them ending up on the ground and getting dirty.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about all the hooks and metal bits on pannier bags puncturing and tearing the floor of your tent or the sleeping pad. With pannier bags, you have to make sure the bags are lying on the tent floor with the hooks facing up. With the large duffle back in the BOB, for example, you don’t have to worry about that.
4. SAVES MONEY ON GEAR
Cyclists end up spending a lot of money on specialized gear that packs down small. For example, they might buy an expensive down sleeping bag instead of a synthetic bag. This saves space, which is very important when using pannier bags. Same thing for tents, sleeping pads, etc. With a trailer, you don’t have to worry about this. You can use less expensive (and often more durable) gear because you don’t have to worry about packing it down super small. I’m not talking about weight here, but just volume.
5. YOU CAN CARRY A FULL-SIZED BACKPACK OR DAYPACK
A constant puzzle for bike tourers is how to carry gear when you are OFF the bike. The average pannier bag is a beast to carry around all day when it’s not on the bike. I’ve rigged up a way to transform one of my pannier bags into a backpack. It works, but it is not ideal. With a trailer, it’s simple. The large single-compartment trailer lets you toss in any daypack or backpack you like. When you get to your home for the evening, you unzip the bag, pull out the daypack and off you go into to the city or village or wherever to go exploring. The trailer can easily fit a full-sized backpack,which gives you the best of both worlds. You can go bike touring but then switch to backpacking whenever you like.
6. BETTER SECURITY
Using pannier bags overseas presents some security challenges. When packing/unpacking the bike to put it on local boats in the Philippines, for example, or to go into hotels, it’s hard to keep track of all the separate bags. There’s the constant worry that someone can grab one of the bags and run off with it. Plus there are all of the individual pockets and compartments. Busy hands can easily unzip or unclip a pocket and take the items inside. A trailer bag solves this problem neatly. You only have to worry about one bag. You put a lock on that one zipper, and you’re done.
7. NO WEIGHT PENALTY
People seem to think that trailers are heavy compared to pannier bags and you pay a weight penalty using them. I don’t find this to be true. A trailer generally can weigh the same as or even less than a set of pannier bags and pannier racks. Of course that depends on the pannier bags and racks that you use. In any event, the Cyclone IV I mentioned weighs 12.5 pounds total (frame, bag, and wheels). That’s pretty light. By my calculations, that’s even less than a set of Ortlieb bags plus pannier racks. A BOB trailer and Yak Sak is significantly heavier than this at 16 pounds. That’s more than a set of lightweight bags like the Ortliebs, but not by a huge amount.
8. INCREASES STABILITY
A fully-loaded touring bicycle is an unwieldy beast. Mine ends up somewhat top heavy, and when I stop at the side of the road to take a picture or something, it’s hard to straddle the bike and keep it under control. It also takes great care to park a loaded touring bike anywhere and keep it from crashing to the ground. A trailer removes these problems. The center of gravity (at least in my case) is much lower with a trailer and stopping is no problem at all. The bike doesn’t want to topple over and the front wheel wheel doesn’t want to twist and spin out from underneath me.
9. CAN BE USED LUGGAGE ON AIRPLANES.
For this point, I’m thinking mainly of Radical Design’s Cyclone IV trailer. The trailer itself is essentially a giant duffle bag. I’ve never seen one in action, but it appears that in airports, you can simply remove the tow bar and the wheels, put them inside the duffle, and boom, you have a piece of luggage. This is FAR easier than having to deal with 4 pannier bags, a handlebar bag, a tent, and a sleeping bag. I’ve always had to buy two large bags in the local market to put my pannier bags inside. Then after the flight, you have to throw away those bags and buy new ones for the next flight. It’s a huge inconvenience. Other people don’t ever talk about this problem, so perhaps there is a better way to go about it.
10. MAKES WATERPROOFING EASIER
You only have to worry about making one bag waterproof. The BOB is usually used with one large waterproof bag. The Cyclone IV bag is extremely water resistant, and it comes with a waterproof cover for really wet days. This is much easier than having to worry about waterproofing lots of separate pannier bags (espeically if they are bags with lots of compartments and pockets).
11. SIMPLER AND MORE EFFICIENT
With a single large bag and a trailer, you don’t have to mess around with hooking up four separate bags and then untangling a bunch of bungee cords to attach sleeping bags and tents and all the other doodads that we often end up draping from our bikes. You also don’t have to worry about all the hooks and attachment mechanisms on all the pannier bags failing or breaking or getting lost. A single wheel trailer like the BOB presents its own challenges when attaching it to the bike and then loading a big, heavy bag. However, I anticipate hooking up and unhooking the Radical Design Cyclone IV to be a dream compared to the complex process of loading up my bike with pannier bags and bungee cords
1. A TRAILER MAKES THE BIKE MUCH LONGER
This problem became apparent very quickly the first time I used a trailer and then tried to stop at a coffee shop or a convenience store. It’s hard enough parking a fully loaded touring bike. With the added length of a trailer, this becomes much more difficult. It’s also more difficult to navigate sidewalks and narrow hotel lobbies. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but that long trailer can be awkward.
2. A SINGLE BAG CAN BECOME VERY HEAVY
It’s awkward to have to deal with 4 pannier bags plus a handlebar bag plus a tent and a sleeping bag. However, each individual bag is light enough to carry easily. Put all that weight into one big bag, and it can become very heavy. It’s nice to have to carry just one bag up four flights of stairs, but when that one bag weighs fifty pounds, it’s no easy feat. The Radical Design IV has that nifty trick of turning into a luggage trolley, but that doesn’t help when you have to go up and down stairs.
3. MORE DIFFICULT TO SEPARATE ITEMS
Having one large bag is convenient in some ways, but it can become inconvenient, too. Small items can become lost every easily. Of course, you can deal with that problem by organzing your gear in lightweight stuff sacks, etc. However, you still end up putting things like soap and cooking fuel and your stove in the same bag as your clothes and food and sensitive electronics. With pannier bags, you can isolate your greasy tools and smelly cooking stove. With a trailer, it’s more difficult. If your fuel bottle leaks inside the trailer bag, it can be a total disaster.
4. LOOKS AND FEELS A BIT DORKY
I have to face it. Trailers look dorky. And having that thing behind your bike takes away from the overall feeling of freedom that a nicely loaded touring bike offers. It’s nice to have all your wordly possessions mounted directly on the bike that you’re pedalling. When you have a trailer behind you, it feels more restricting. It’s just not as psychologically appealing as pannier bags. A dude on a touring bike with pannier bags looks like a dude on an adventure. Same dude with a trailer looks like a retired couple pulling a tent trailer behind their car after retirement.
5. MORE WHEELS TO WORRY ABOUT
For this con, I’m thinking mainly about two-wheeled trailers. Single-wheeled trailers like the BOB aren’t a problem. The wheel of the BOB tracks directly behind the wheels of your bike, so it goes where you go. If you avoid a pothole with your bike, the trailer also avoids that pothole. But with a two-wheeled trailer, this isn’t the case. I’ve never used one before, but I can imagine that on rough roads, it’s a pain to have to constantly worry about where the wheels of the trailer are. On my recent trip in the Philippines, it was hard enough trying to avoid giant rocks and coconuts and potholes the size of craters with just my bike. It would have been much more challenging with two more wheels of a trailer, both of which are sticking out to the sides.
6. BIKES LOSES TRACTION
This was an unexpected problem. I listed as an advantage to trailers that it takes weight off the rear wheel of the bicycle. However, when I was in Ethiopia I discovered that on steep mountain roads with loose gravel or dirt, my rear wheel wouldn’t get enough traction. With all the weight in the trailer, my rear wheel would just spin and not get a grip on the road and be able to pull the trailer. This was only a problem on the steepest of dirt and gravel roads, but it was a very real problem for me on that trip.
7. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AND AIRPORTS
One commenter above said that he had no problem using his BOB Ibex in airports. He’d just tape down the bag and cover up the forks. In my experience, that’s not true and this represents the number one problem with BOB trailers. They are simply too long and unweildy for airports. I don’t think most airlines will even accept them unboxed. And finding a box to fit a BOB is a major challenge. And even if an airline would accept a boxed BOB trailer, the only way to do it is to spin the front forks around, which means you can’t have the sak in place anymore. And it’s sure to be considered FAR oversized. An airline may or may not accept it even as oversized luggage, and then it would cost a lot.
8. HANDLING PROBLEMS
For me, this isn’t really a con, but I’ll list it here since so many people bring it up. It’s true that having any type of trailer attached to your bike has an effect on the bike’s handling. When I was going downhill with the BOB trailer, I could sometimes feel the BOB pushing me. It was a weird feeling at first, but I soon got used to it. The point is that the effect on handling is a result of the weight of my gear, not the trailer per se. You have the same weight on the bike using pannier bags, and in my experience, that has a far stronger impact on handling than the same weight in a trailer. So handling is an equal problem between trailers and pannier bags.
9. TRAILERS TEMPT YOU TO CARRY TOO MUCH
This also isn’t really a con for me. But I’ll list it anyway. The idea here is that it’s a human tendency to take as much gear as our bags can carry. If you have a big backpack, you will fill the backpack to the top. If you have a huge trailer bag, you will fill it. It’s human nature. So it’s better to limit yourself to a set of four pannier bags. Then you won’t be tempted to carry everything plus the kitchen sink.
I don’t really think having a trailer means you will take too much. People bring what they bring, and you just have to use discipline to bring less if you want to keep the weight down. And the same thing happens with pannier bags. In theory, you can reduce your gear down to four small and light pannier bags, but very few people actually manage to turn that theory into practice. Just do a Google Image search for loaded touring bikes. These days, you can barely even see the bikes underneath the mountains of gear that are piled on top of the rear and front racks.
As Tom concluded, there really is no conclusion. Pannier bags and trailers have their advantages and disadvantages depending on many factors — personal preference, the weight of the gear you’re carrying, length of trip, type of trip, destination, budget, etc. I don’t do any off-road riding through mountain trails, so I haven’t even taken that into consideration. If your main interest is actual mountain biking on trails, that would likely change everything. You couldn’t even consider a two-wheeled trailer for that, and the Xtrawheel might be appealing. I know nothing about the Xtrawheel, so I haven’t really thought about it in terms of the pros and cons I listed here.
Both trailers and pannier bags work just fine. For me, the number one concern right now is broken spokes. And I see a trailer as a way to deal with that problem. If it weren’t for that, I’d stick with pannier bags.
Thank you for this ludicrously in-depth contribution!
Thank you so much. Just thinking of it since my bike only can bring trailer or pannier( since the trailer mount block the pannier rack hole)
I found Doug’s post more informative than the article. Not ludicrous at all.
“Ludicrous”? Hmmmm…I quite enjoyed his thorough explication. Enjoyed the article as well, but am rather puzzled at the “ludicrous” quip.
I guess the meaning of the comment was lost in the mists of the English language – “ludicrously detailed” was meant as a compliment!
Thanks, Doug. As someone trying to make this decision, you covered all the points that had me puzzled. Well, thought-out post.
Thanks, Doug, for a very informative article. My husband and I are just getting set up to go bike touring (we live in New Zealand), so have been debating what is the better option — panniers, or a trailer.
Thanks for the great contribution! I will add, with single wheel trailers (B.O.B) I find I actually have additional traction instead of less. These models distribute weight between the bike rear wheel and the trailer wheel. On my mountain bike off road I often find I have better traction than without gear.
Tom, Doug and others,
Appreciate your helpful comments helping me to decide between panniers and trailer for biking across the states.
In my case, the choice of a trailer is because of a lightly touched point above: family. We’re preparing for our first long tour, in Japan, with a 3 year old boy. It’ll be a challenge in many ways but my son will travel on his Yepp Maxi seat on my wife’s bike (17 extra kgs all together) so I’ll have to carry all our luggage, camping equipment, food, tools, etc.
The four pannier formula wouldn’t work so I decided for the Radical Designs Cyclone IV trailer ). It is not cheap but it has pretty good reviews so I’ll give it a go. A good thing about the design is that you can very easily take off the wheels and tow bar and carry it as a large duffel bag. You might need a very strong back to carry it fully loaded for longer distances but it will pass as a regular piece of luggage when flying.
Soon I’ll discover how it works in the Japanese mountains.
Seems frames these days snap all the time, I have snapped 2 myself in the last 5 years carrying nothing more than myself at 14.5 stone and 3ltr water hydration pack, they were not cheap bikes either sadly, currently awaiting a warranty replacement on one of them as i type, if either of these mountain bikes had been attached to a trailer the bikes would have disintegrated and i’d have been ran over by the loaded trailer. Here is hoping the hardtail mountainbike i have chosen is up to the task of dragging my singlewheel trailer i just ordered
Mountain bikes are generally rugged enough to cope with trailers. Splitting the weight across racks & trailers is also a good tip!
I am aiming on limiting myself to 30 kilo of kit all in, almost wish it could just be me, water on my back and the wheels but I know i will appreciate a few comforts on the road no doubt there, i’ve started a few lists and it could literally go on and on with what i might need and the list ends up like a ten years old christmas list so every time i strip the list back to things I think i will definitely need and this works out at around 20kilo without food or water. Still lots to learn but i am not seeing that as a obstacle in any way, the more i learn the keener i feel to just burn the last few bridges and go. Thanks for sharing Tom your site is like petrol on the fire
Spot on touring blog. I have toured 80–100,000kms 60,000 of that with a bob ibex trailer.
I found the yak bounced around and had a tail waging the dog effect so after 5,000 with that i switched to the ibex.
Pros, weight off the front wheel, easy in airport (just tape the bag on and cover the ends of the fork).
Also there are plastic bushings in it, so no bearings to wear out.
I have only broken one spoke in my rear wheel since switching to the bob.
For organization i use smaller bags inside the bob.
No weight on the fork makes steering much better.
Jackknife the trailer and i have a kickstand and chair.
Narrower so off-road or trails i hit fewer things.
Gear is protected by a roll cage.
Less affected by side winds and passing trucks (large safety thing there).
Trailer pops off in seconds to to up stairs.
Everything inside is clean.
Heavier, but not that much if you subtract bags and panniers.
The trailer flats once every 2 months.
Turning around on a sidewalk is a hassle.
With 90L capacity it is easy to pack too much. I often carry my friends gear as well and have a 100lb trailer, after 40,000km it broke (at the bottom of the yoke) and a cowboy in new mexico re welded it. I re-enforced the replacement.
Put heavier things at the front, it’ll handle better.
Thanks Nat! Safe roads 🙂
I think that your idea that light weight cyclocross, hybrid or road racing frames will fatigue or break due to pulling a trailer is off. Racing bikes are designed to be clamped by the rear axel into stationary trainers after which point people, generally much fatter and heavier than anything that you could possibly pull in your trailer jump aboard and sway all ofer the place.
Despite this treatment it is unheard of to break a frame from trainer use (while clamped at the dropouts.
Carbon bikes break from crashing or getting smashed in transit. Sometimes they break months later.
I’ve ridden Seattle to san diego no a 17lb dura ace carbon race bike pulling all my gear for two without issue.
I have personally seen not one but two cold forged steel drive-side dropouts snapped clean in half through long-term trailer use. It’s pretty well known that fatigue over extremely long distances (years of touring) doesn’t play well with a lot of frames.
Thanks for the post. Great points. I am heading off on a trip to Patagonia and have been debating bikepacking bags or my old bob trailer. Bikepacking bags are great when traveling ultralight, but this will be a long long trip so I would have to add lots more bags. Based on your post, I think I will just go back to my 10+ year old B.O.B. Thanks again!
I was thinking of getting a small 1 wheel trailer to allow me to have a pop up tent to make camping easier as I’m going from dunkirk in belgium to helsinki in finland in july.
1st what are your thoughts on pop up tents? also do you think it would be practical to have my pop up tent on my trailer. thanks
I think having a trailer will introduce more complications than you’ll avoid by taking a pop-up tent. A sub-2kg 1‑man tent on the rear rack should be fine for a road trip such as yours. With a bit of practice you’ll be able to pitch it in a couple of minutes — it’ll just become part of your routine.
Hi just joined the site great reading been dreaming of a bike adventure nows the time work finished kids left the nest is empty load up the panniers an off we pedal my good wife an myself fly to Geneva out of Milan via Czek an Turkey in July about 18weeks so the research begins have the bikes an panniers tent mats etc but what tyres where to get maps will l need these so will have a busy few weeks sort it out l always say the simple things in life are the best l should stick to it like your news letter thanks Ian from Brisbane Aus
Easy! Buy Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres and get maps from tourist information centres or petrol stations. Safe trip 🙂
One huge advantage that a trailer has over panniers is aerodynamics. I use panniers and when I was in Cuba I rode with a couple of guys who had trailers. I had to pedal to keep up with them as they coasting down hills. When the headwinds came up? It was so hard to keep up without drafting.
[…] Per si voleu indagar una mica més sobre el tema, uns enllaços interessants: fòrum de Rodadas, article (en anglès) de l’Adventure Cycling Association, entrada (en anglès) de Tom’s Bike Trip. […]
I guess that’s why the media and comms projects don’t fall to those who arrogantly disregard other peoples journey’s.….….
Not sure what you’re getting at here, Andy — could you shed some light?
Yeah, I guess if all you’ve ridden is a standard lightweight Mountain / touring bike, with the odd 15 0r 25 Kg’s on it, instead of a 32 Kg Cargo Bike with 40 Kg’s of cargo weight, they would be your perceptions.….….….…… I can appreciate both, but alas, some people can’t.….…
Really enjoyed your article and look forward to hearing more about your adventures. We’ve just finished a 900 Km Tour from home in Central Victoria Australia, to the New South Wales border and back. Completed with the ‘Watt-Bot’ Solar Electric Assist Trailer that I build, and a couple of highly modified Yuba Mundo’s. You can check out some pics here:
And yes, that is a Cello on the back of one of the bikes!
The Watt-Bot looks great — although I’d rather have it charging my cameras than pushing me along!
Enjoyed the post! Personally i favour the trailer (extrawheel) although i find it quite annoying that i can’t use a kickstand and must find somewhere to lean the bike everytime i want to take a photo/go into a shop/take a break, etc. I’ve heard about the drag when your pedalling uphill but once you get used to it, it’s the norm.
The lack of kickstand never bothered me — I just dump the bike on the ground usually…
My ’91 Miyata 1000 LT has a kickstand and it doesn’t interfere with my Topeak single wheel trailer.…
Amazing that you posted this now…
It just dropped into my google reader as I finished packing my bob yak, ready to depart for Poland tomorrow morning.
As for carrying less than 15kgs, how does that happen? My kit is pretty minimal, but I’m up to around 20kg. )
I guess I’m late replying! But for two weeks in Poland? I would dump:
The towel (use clothes/don’t wash), lock (hide/watch your bike/tie to tent), emergency rations (forage), sandals (luxury), wooden spatula (use spoon), mug/bowl (eat/drink from the pan), iodine (the water’s fine), scourer (use Boy Scout sand/water method), half the tools/spares (Gaffa/zip-tie it), most of the wash-kit (you’ll stink anyway), chamois cream (HTFU), midge net (HTFU), most of the painkillers (HTFU/chemist), handwash (water’s fine), waterproof socks (use plastic bags), and three-quarters of that sleeping bag!
Should save a few grams. OK, I tend to be ruthless, but you’ve got to be…
Wooden spatula? Why would someone carry that in the first place? 😀