Bob Yak Trailer Review / 30.11.12

It is here in Turkey where we will part ways and say goodbye to our Bob Yak Trailer. “Bob” has been a trooper and has gone above and behind the call of duty, carrying twice as much as he’s rated for and going twice as fast too. We are only sending him back to the states because we are shedding some weight and for the next portion of the trip- so we will go “Bob-less” and see how it compares. Here are some of our initial impressions at 3600km of the Bob Yak trailer (about $320 at REI).

Some background on why we took a trailer: The majority of people bicycle touring are on single bikes. They have a front rack, a back rack, and four panniers. Even though we are on a tandem, we still only have one front rack, one back rack, and four panniers. You do the math.

(Above: Andrew’s first rig on the last trip before they got the two wheel trailer. It took him an hour to set up every morning. Not an option for me.) Packing light is a good practice for me, especially since we’re advocating for a simplistic lifestyle (this is the girl that would fill up her Jeep with sports equipment, sewing stuff, instruments, and camera equipment and then drive over to a friend’s house) . All of my clothes and toiletries fit easily into one pannier and my camera equipment in the other. But even packing very light, we still need a little more room on the tandem for both of our stuff. We also decided we would bring instruments on this trip, so it looked like a trailer was the only option. I started researching the types of trailers, turns out there are two main types: single wheel trailers and two wheel trailers.

(Above: The two wheel trailer they used on the last trip)
Two wheel trailers are great because:
– They are stable at a standstill/less torque
– One person can attach/remove the trailer on their own
– You can walk the trailer easily with one hand when it’s not on the bike
– They offer more room/easier to pack
– They often come with rain protection
– Easy to transfer between bikes. They would trade carrying the trailer day to day on the last trip.
– The weight is on two wheels, meaning less weight on the bike

Some of the downsides of a two wheel trailer
– More drag (especially on hills)
– Take up more space. Tricky when navigating through rush hour or on narrow sidewalks
– Less stability while turning (the trailer can potentially flip over if you hit a curb)
– Depending on the design, the clamp can damage the paint on the bike

A couple of summers ago, Andrew and I met a couple biking from Main to Washington. They each had their own single-wheel trailer and raved about them (they carried no gear on the their bikes, only on the trailers). I read up on reviews, researched some different brands of single-wheeled trailers, and when REI sent me my dividend check, we brought Bob home.


Pros of a single wheel trailer:
– Less drag than a two-wheeled trailer. Without any weight, you forget that there is anything behind you
– Follow behind the bike well (we feel completely comfortable flying down mountains at 60+ km/h with Bob). He hits rocks and potholes and takes a little skip, but will never flip over
– The trailer eliminates the need for a kickstand
– Slimmer than a two wheel trailer. Great for narrow trails/city use
– Center of gravity is lower
– The weight is divided between the rear bicycle tire and the trailer tire- resulting in more traction. Great on gravel roads/off roading.

Cons of a single wheel trailer:
– The rider(s) is always balancing the trailer whether riding or stopped. Before we shed some weight, it was exhausting for me to hold a fully loaded tandem and trailer at a standstill. It wobbled like crazy and was really a pain to stop and hold the bike. Now it’s more manageable, but still takes some energy.
– Need two people to attach and detach the trailer
– You need a special quick release in order to make the trailer compatible with your bike. We’ve been hauling the trailer the whole time.
– If you don’t have the weight secured, it can shift. This can be dangerous at high speeds or going downhill (we don’t have this problem, Bob is packed like sardines).

WARNING ABOUT TRAILERS IN GENERAL: We have a bad habit of filling empty space, and a trailer makes it that much easier to do. Be careful with how much you carry- you pay the price when you start going uphill and also literally pay the price when it starts to break your bike (we’ve been through several chains, a derailleur, and a cassette on a brand new bike because we’re carrying too much weight).

Personally, I prefer a single-wheel trailer. Two wheel trailers are more convenient, but I prefer the handling and maneuverability of a single wheel trailer. I can weave through traffic, go over curbs and potholes with confidence. We’ve been really thankful for Bob on this tour and can’t wait to use him more at home too. We can’t compare Bob to any other brand of single wheel trailers, but we give him our best rating: Five out of five cookies!

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