For those interested in cycle touring, and by that I mean self supported rather than guided with luggage portage, there is the question of how to transport all your stuff around with you. If you are camping either wild or in campsites space on the bike needs to be found for equipment which can become a bit of a packing nightmare; tents, sleeping bags, food, stoves, cameara etc all need a home.
The default approach for most riders has always been panniers, however there is another option available in the form of trailers which offer an alternative and possibly more flexible approach.
I have just returned from just under a week of cycle touring round the islands of Coll, Tiree, and Barra off the north west coast of Scotland. It was also my first trip with my new BOB Ibex trailer and an ideal first test of the kit. I have some previous with BOB trailers as I rented the more basic Yak model in 2012 when I went cycle touring in Iceland, and was at that point sold on getting one for trips in the UK.
Version and Set Up
Although BOB still make the Yak I went for their newer Ibex model which includes a suspension fork on the trailer wheel. Although my experience of the Yak in Iceland was good It did bounce notably when dropping off curbs etc. and I intend to take this trailer onto rougher terrain in the UK including single track and therefore thought some rear cushioning would be useful. I also bought the bigger version compatible with 29 inch mountain bike wheels, as my 29er is mainly the bike I intend to tow it with (this larger version is also compatible with 700C road wheels). A smaller 26 inch wheel version is also available but the bigger version works with 26 inch wheels too.
Setting up was very easy (detailed instructions) straight out of the box; the swing arm, and shock/wheel assembly need attaching to the main load area which can be done with a few simple tools (adjustable and torque wrench). Both models attach to the rear wheel of the bike through a modified quick release mechanism (through axel users, word on the street these are now available with through axels for fat bikes), the trailer drops into grooves within the QR and is held in place using locking pins. With the trailer removed the QR functions as normal so you don’t need to carry the original around with you if you decide to ditch the trailer for a day.
The trailer comes with a massive (94 litre) yellow and black waterproof bag, which swallows large amounts of kit. The material feels really durable and well made, and closes with a simple fold and clip shut mechanism. Having only a small tent with me I used the bag as overnight storage outside by tent and it showed no sign of leaking despite two nights of heavy rain.
One of the benefits of the trailer is in my opinion is storage, although it is possible to match the Ibex storage volume using panniers based on the average pannier being 20-25 litres you would need front and rear wheel mounts and therefore a proper touring bike to get close. The large single volume also means you don’t need to break things down to get them to fit, so no more splitting the tent into three pieces! The trailer is rated to carry up to 32kg which should be more than enough for anyone; crucially as outlined below the weight is much less noticeable with a trailer as the wheel means it is not all taken through the bike.
Obviously you do notice the weight on the bike especially when you are getting going but I think it is less noticeable than with panniers; the trailer keeps the centre of mass lower and because it has its own wheel only puts some of the carried weight through the bike; because of this, and also the flexibility of the swing arm I think the bike feels less encumbered and more stable and manoeuvrable.
Although I did not really test the trailer on really difficult ground during this trip (mainly worn tarmac, gravel tracks, sandy beach, and grass), a number of points were apparent, the ride was very smooth even on rougher terrain, the suspension gives a ride that is certainly smoother than the Yak with no bounce going up and down curbs. The single wheel design means the trailer tracks very accurately behind the bike even when you are winding about all over the place. The short clip below gives an idea of how well the trailer tracks.
Going up hills with the trailer was fine too, I tackled a number of hills with gradients up to about 15% no problem; granted you can’t power your way up them in the big ring but need to sit and tick over but you really would not know there was that much weight hanging off the back wheel. For those that like to ride up steep sections out the saddle I did notice significant and disconcerting wobble of the rear with a very heavy (>20kg) load. This went away as soon as I sat down again and was not present with more moderate loading of the trailer.
This is not normally an issue with a bike, but it is with a BOB especially if its heavily loaded. The trailer will very easily fall on its side if you are not careful how you park it against an object and in doing so it will take your bike with it. The Yak I used in Iceland did have a stand but I remember that not working to well. Just paying a bit more attention to how you leave the bike and you should be fine.
Currently planning on giving the trailer a second test on the Pennine Bridleway in October, so will report back!
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