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Trailers For Bike Touring


Trailers are an alternative choice to panniers for carrying luggage on a bike tour.

Although we don’t have any direct experience with trailers, many cyclists do use them. Are they better than panniers? That’s a tough question to answer. The debate of trailers vs. panniers is one of the never-ending discussions in the bike touring world.

In this article, we’ll mainly stick to the benefits of trailers and the most popular models.

Trailers are good because they:

  • Keep all your things in one place, making packing easy.
  • Attach to bikes without the special braze-ons needed to fit luggage racks.
  • Can carry bulky, heavy items (kids, large quantities of water, a backpack for hiking trips).
  • Have more uses than just touring (grocery shopping, carrying firewood).
  • Minimise strain on your bike.
  • Have a wider profile that encourages cars to give you more passing room.
  • Can easily be unhooked so you can ride a ‘naked’ bike, without racks.
  • Can sometimes be flipped over and used as a table.
  • Are still fairly unusual and make a good conversation starter.
  • Distract aggressive dogs, who tend to chase the trailer instead of your legs.

On the downside, trailers are an extra bit of equipment that you have to worry about. There are more things that can potentially break and need to be replaced on tour. If you have to take a plane or train somewhere, the trailer is an extra piece of luggage that may attract a fee.

Trailers can be broadly split into two groups, single-wheeled and double-wheeled models.

Single-wheeled trailers give your bike extra traction and are relatively narrow, making it easy to squeeze through tight spots. Both of these factors make them good for off-road touring or bike camping. They can, however, affect the handling of the bike with heavy weights. Double-wheeled trailers don’t affect the bike’s handling so much and are very stable, but are primarily for tours on paved roads. Cycling through narrow gates and on sidewalks can be impossible with a double-wheeled trailer.

Popular trailer models include:

Single-Wheeled Trailers

Bob Yak PlusBOB Yak Plus ($359 from REI) – This trailer is a long-time favourite among bike tourists. It’s solid, can carry up to 70 pounds, is easy to assemble and can be flipped over and used as a table when you’re in camp. The dry bag that comes with it is totally waterproof, so you won’t need to worry if it starts raining. Its narrow profile is also more aerodynamic than boxier trailers and can be easier to handle when you have to navigate through heavy traffic or narrow alleys.

Extra Wheel TrailerExtrawheel – The Polish-made Extrawheel trailer has one big advantage: it uses a standard size wheel, that’s easily replaced anywhere in the world or even used as an emergency spare for your bike. The big wheel (in 26″ or 700cc size) also absorbs bumps better than the Bob Yak’s smaller 20 inch tires and is relatively easy to transport on trains and planes. The total weight of the trailer is a very light 3.9kg. Tom & Andy have given this trailer a good work out on their off-road expeditions and recommend it.

Double-Wheeled Trailers

burley.jpgBurley’s Nomad Cargo ($349 from REI) – This cargo trailer is known for being very easy to assemble and it can carry a hefty 100 pounds of stuff. The trailer itself weighing in at 6.5kg, heavier than other trailers on the market. It has a cover but is not entirely waterproof. Other trailers, like the BOB, are probably better if you just want a trailer for touring but the Burley could be good if you’re looking for a trailer that will be as useful at home as on tour.

cougarchariot.jpgCougar Chariot ($437.93 from REI) – This is the trailer of choice if you’re taking kids along. It was endorsed by all the families we talked to about bike touring with babies. The advantages? A truly waterproof interior, with lots of room for toys and books, plus suspension to minimise vibrations. It can be a stroller or a bike trailer. Remember, it’s always a stroller if you’re flying somewhere for a bike tour because strollers will be carried free, whereas you’ll have to pay for a trailer!

Carry FreedomCarry Freedom Y-Frame – This UK-designed trailer has some very devoted fans. Simple and versatile, you can put just about any type of container on the back, from a large plastic box to an Ortlieb rack pack. It is made from simple components that are replaceable or fixable anywhere in the world – a big advantage if you’re cycling in more remote destinations. The Y-Frame is on the heavy side, weighing 6kg for the smaller model (with a carrying capacity of 45kg) or 7kg for the large size, which can carry up to 90kg of gear.

Carry FreedomThe Radical Design Cyclone IV Trekking trailer can be folded inside its own duffel bag for easy transport on trains and planes. Clever!

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9 Responses to “Trailers For Bike Touring”

  1. I use a Carry freedom ‘City’ trailer, rated at 45kgs max. I went for this model as it folds into its own frame, making travelling easy. I’ve only toured in the Uk so far, but will use it for my ‘Round Britain’ ride next year.
    All of the advantages in the lead in article apply, I don’t really know it’s there apart from on hills when you suddenly feel the weight you’re pulling. On the flat and down hill, the only clue to it being there is a little noise on bumpy roads.
    The trailer is pretty much maintainence free and Nick who builds them reckons he has seen this model with over 20,000 miles on the same bearings. A real quality piece of kit, only let down by the quality of the courier type clip on bag which leaks and can rub the wheels unless you are careful. A cover made from a bin liner or survival bag sorts this out and keeps the crap thrown up from the rear wheel off the bag to a large extent. I increase capacity by simply strapping a second bag on the top, with tent, shoes etc in it and when I pick up food, that goes in there as well.
    I’ve ridden this on some mild rough stuff and narrow tracks. it isnt as good here as a single wheel trailer like the Yak, but I don’t intend to do a lot of that type of riding.
    It is so easy to attach/detach, and the bendy ‘lollipop ‘ hitch means you can lay the bike down without unhitching it if you wish. It also provides seperation from the vibrations etc. The bike still feels like a bike without the trailer and you definately get more respect from car drivers and more interest from the public.
    Wheel removal is a cinch, and makes punture repairs easy and tyres for 12″ wheels are easy to come by. I will be using Swchalbe tyres next year, but so far are quite impressed with the original fit Kendas which have done several thousand miles with little wear.
    As stated earlier in the main article, I can and do use the trailer for my weekly shop, rather than taking the car. It means I have a great reason for not driving and having another ride. I do get some funny looks when I go around the supermarket with a folded trailer hanging on the trolley and a small wheeled folder in the basket, but that’s such a good security measure.
    The low attachment (rear wheel axle) means the whole thing handles better than some other trailers, and the ride height is easily adjustable for different sized wheels and axle heights with the simple turn of a threaded handcuff type thingy!! It is also centralised, unlike the Bike Friday suitcase jobby, so it doesnt stick out. I have never had a problem judging corners etc and you simply learn to keep your speed down a bit because you need to brake earlier due to the weight (no different than panniers).
    In windy conditions I have read that trailers catch the wind more. With the bag on the ‘City’ tapered at the front and sitting level with the frame this doesnt seem to be the case. I would say it’s much easier than panniers, even in cross winds. The handlebar bag creates far more problems in this respect.
    All in all, I’m really chuffed with my mobile home carrier. When I use a top bag, I place a rucsack cover over it. This keeps the bag dry, and it’s bright colour alerts motorists to your presence.
    The level top surface with the wheels below means you can carry large loads on the top of the trailer frame, leaving the bag in to act as a sling. I havn’t tried this yet, but I’m sure the time will come. You cant do this on the Y frame trailers as the wheels protrude above the base.
    All in all I think this is one of the best purchase I have ever made. I don’t even care about the bag being relatively cheap. Nick at Carry Freedom is a great help and very supportive, sending upgrades through the post as he develops them and all without charge.
    Finally I have to say that this is a great British design, well thought out, robust and made to travel. If I need public transport links I can simply place the bike in its bag, pull the trailer along the platform or whatever. The small castor wheels make doors a cinch too. All I have to do then is unclip the bag and fold the trailer (20-30 seconds). Simnply Brilliant :-)

  2. gerardo says:

    I own a BOB Yak,that I used on my tour in Vietnam with a Tandem,we over load it and broke some spokes oly ones.For the next tour in 3 months (Norths Argentina,Andes)I got a big carry freedom with the 20″ tires.I will pull the trailer with Bike Friday,I choose this one because is very simple and I like to have the same tires like my bike.I already try it here on the forest and dirt roads and is ok only a little noise it.The only negative is a little width,more I can tell you next year by the end of february
    Saludos

  3. I hope you get great service from your ‘Y Frame’. The City doesnt have wire spokes, so nothing to break :-)

  4. Gerardo says:

    I am taking some spokes,and hope no to use them

  5. I’d have every confidence in any of Nicks products. It’s always worth having a few spares though. Contact him at http://www.carryfreedom.com ,and he’ll probably send some out to you. Have a great tour :-)

    • gerardo says:

      I already contacted before I got the trailer (he answered all my questions,nice guy)anyway I am sure that I will not need any spares. Safe ride

  6. mark wilson says:

    i av a bob yak single whl.i need the fittin 4 the bike.my bike had the attatchment on it when it got stollen.how much 4 that attatchment on its own with the screw on nuts pls.thanks

  7. joe says:

    I have both a bob yak and a Burly nomad. We use them with our thorn tandem and i must say from the start that even though the bob is great on single track off road riding it dose put a lot of strain on the rear triangle of the tandem. when using the Burly Nomad with the tandem on tarmac roads its a total dream, very little starin on the rear triangle and you are able to take lots of camping stuff, we even take 100mm base camp sleeping mats and ally chairs. Allso because of its massive cappacity and top rack we dont use rear panniers making the tandem very stable indeed. All in all the are both great products the burly is the best with a tandem for on rd touring,

  8. Raymond (Ray of Sunshine) says:

    Correction: When speaking about Extra wheel, Bob’s Yak tires are 16″ not 20″ as shown. :^{D

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