Panniers vs. Trailer? - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2011

Panniers vs. Trailer?

Until last summer we were only dimly aware that there even was such a thing as a purpose built bicycle touring trailer. We headed into the mountains with a twin sized baby trailer. It was a bug - heavy, floor made of weak fabric, two wheels making for lots of friction, heavy. Then on the road we met a man with a BoB, and the lights went on. The same man, by the way, was the one who first told us about CGOAB. He was from France, had cycled up from Mexico, and displayed a few other tricks that were new to us. Leggings, for example. Thanks, man from France! (Though we have never adopted the leggings!)

In all our past cycling we have used rear panniers, while never trying fronts. The fronts do seem a good idea for balancing the load but 'heavy' steering did not seem attractive. Heavily loaded rear panniers, though, are top heavy and a strain on the rear spokes.

By contrast, the trailers are a dream. With a moderate load we almost do not notice that they are there. The one wheel design of the BoB makes the unit no wider than the bike itself, so no worries about catching it on gates or parked cars. The mounting system at the rear axle is both secure and quick to disconnect, and we appreciate the water bottle mounting points. Again, we have not had the time to investigate other bike trailers (even some that are quite well known and made right here in our Valley) but the BoBs are so swell we feel no reason to look elsewhere.

This is not to say that the BoB is without issues. With the trailer fully loaded, our bike stands became marginal for holding the whole parade upright. We experimented with different heights of pop and beer cans to help prop up the trailer, but decided it was dumb to be carrying such cans across the continent. (In the end, before we abandoned the idea, the Budweiser 473 ml 'limited edition commemorative can' was our favourite. It's height was right, and to Canadians (even non-drinkers like us) a can from Budweiser seemed like an exotic piece of equipment. In the end we bought child sized bike stands and installed them through the BoB's floor grating. We worried that flexing would tear out this grating, and so replaced the top part of the stand clamp with some heavy, wide, flat washers. We replaced the hex shaped bolt with a round headed one with hex key hole. We feel this will be less likely to tear the B0B bag, and while we are carrying hex keys, we are not carrying an adjustable wrench. With this bolt we will be able to retighten with our existing tools.

Stand or not, the loaded BoB has a tendency to jackknife if you try to turn and jockey your bike in tight spaces. One jackknifed, the thing is highly resistant to being straightened out, even with one person manning the bike and one trying to lift and straighten the BoB. It's much better to not get into such 'jams' in the first place.

Going straight downhill on pavement we have seen no reason to see what the BoB's stability limit is, but at 40-50 kph it is totally stable. We have no idea what would happen with significant curves or some sort of emergency handling situation. However we have noticed that at anything above 30kph, the wind from passing large trucks produces an 'uncomfortable' oscillation, but nothing uncontrollable. If we do eventually find the conditions that throw us into a tailspin, we will be sure to send an update from our hospital room (because it would surely be gruesome).

Our child's stand (from Walmart)with optional round bolt and flat washers shown.
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