Touring - Worst things to happen to you and your BOB
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02-03-08, 03:22 PM
I am still trying to decide between a BOB or panniers for my cross country journey. I did some miles with a BOB for the first time today and found it to be quite easy to ride with. I'm curious what people who have toured with a BOB have experienced as far as mechanical or other problems. I don't want a debate about panniers v BOB, I just want to know what people have experienced for problems with a BOB, especially on long tours.
Thanks in advance.
Oh, and here is a picture of my bike with the BOB just for your pleasure.:D
02-03-08, 04:40 PM
Oooo, great thread. I've posted this before, in a thread about touring crashes:
Background: bike was a hard-tail MTB with locked-out fork. Trailer was an older non-suspension bob, with the cotter-pin attachment (lame, but that's another story). When I first started using the BOB, whenever I picked up any speed downhill (>15mph or so) I would feel like the trailer was pushing me in slow "swoops." I was able to control it by gently slowing down. When I first tried the trailer, I hated that feeling so much that I almost got rid of it, but my ride partner suggested I should try to get used to it, so that's what I did. I'm not blaming him, it made sense, any loaded rig is going to feel different than an unloaded bike, and I had never done any touring before. I sort-of got used to it.
Aside: I borrowed the trailer, and had never read the owner's manual, so I wasn't aware of manufacturer's speed and load limits.
The accident: The trailer was more heavily loaded than usual, I would guess by about 10 pounds. I was descending a long gradual grade. Conditions: The road surface was good, new chipseal, no gravel, no potholes, no traffic, no wind, very hot. I had experienced some problems earlier in the day with swoopiness, but had controlled them. When the accident happened, I was going pretty fast (for me), probably about 25-30 mph). The swooping started, and I couldn't control it. Swoops got bigger and bigger 'wavelength.' I tried braking gently with both brakes. The last thing I remember is thinking "i'm going to crash" as the swooping got bigger and bigger, and I couldn't bring it under control.
Based on the damage to the bike and me (edit, head injury, so no really accurate memory), we figured the bike probably jackknifed, (front wheel violently moving to the side - broken brake lever) sending me over the bars in a "high side" (as in, you fly over the bars, rather than laying the bike down.)
That's really all I know. I had no similar problems with panniers on the same bike and on my subsequent bike.
Guesses about the cause of the accident:
1) overloaded: +10-15 lbs more than usual
2) speeding: +5-10 mph more than usual
3) possible tire problem: trailer tire was damaged, but impossible to tell post-accident if it was a cause or effect of the crash
4) weight distribution between bike/rider (lighter than usual) and trailer (probably loaded heavier than the owner's manual tells you)
5) bob design
02-03-08, 06:16 PM
John pulled a BOB behind the triple last year and had no problems. He tried the bike with panniers first (hadn't intended to take the trailer) but didn't like the flex in the frame, so he switched right before the ride. I will say the BOB was most likely loaded heavier than it should have been for the entire trip, and when I went home to take care of Mom for four weeks and then later for her funeral the trailer was DEFINITELY heavier than recommended. He still didin't have any problems.
02-03-08, 08:41 PM
10k+ miles and no problems with the BOB per se. OTOH, needed to bring special tubes and to constantly switch from Presta to Schraeder and back again. I switched to panniers because they are easier to pack on an airplane. The BOB is a PITA to transport.
02-03-08, 09:01 PM
This is a WAG on my part, but looking at nancysv's post and valygrl's post, I think rider weight has a great impact on BOB handling. I'm 300 lbs, I've ridden with my bob empty, with a moderate load(gear for an self supported tour) and a heavy load(two bundles of firewood plus 24 lbs of ice). With an empty BOB, if it weren't for the rattles when I went over road imperfections, I'd barely know I was pulling anything, no matter what the speed. With any load, I found low speed handling a pain, and the bike would get kind of squirrelly, especially my road bike. With a heavy load, descents were more of a handful, and I definitely had a feeling of the trailer trying to push me around, but it never felt unmanageable. My guess is that tandems/triples are great companions for a bob, with their extra weight and long wheelbase.
02-03-08, 09:11 PM
I did a 3150 mile tour towing a BOB this summer and had no problems at all. My bike was a 2005 Cannondale T2000. This is a touring bike with long chain stays and heavier tubing than some. I had no swaying of the trailer and I got to 40 MPH (not recommended) without problems. But, I was carrying about 30 pounds of gear in the trailer. I have not carried loads over 40 pounds so that may make a difference.
02-03-08, 09:13 PM
Yeah, I later heard from an engineer friend that there is good physics explanation why light person/bike- + heavy trailer is a recipe for handling problems.
Over the years since the accident, I have heard a number of stories from people saying the had near crashes, but tons and tons more people (here, crazyguy) who never have a problem.
02-03-08, 09:17 PM
Regarding valygrl's input, "long gradual grades" and BOBs don't mix. I am glad she survived. The trailer was very stable until I descended a mountain pass or any long hill. I can only attribute it to the fact that the trailer flexes and there is play between the trailer dropouts and the skewer. Once the trailer starts to oscillate, it's hard to stop it, or the bike, and it continues to get worse until.... I came close to losing control several times and I wasn't anywhere near the 70lb limit. When I encountered a long descent, I either had to go slow or if there wasn't any traffic and I wanted to pick up speed, I would do a moderate swerve back and forth which prevented the oscillation from starting. For those of you who haven't experienced this, I would sure like to know what you are doing different.
Other than that, I loved it. I used it on a tour for the first 8k miles but kept thinking that I would be better off w/ panniers due to less weight (spare tubes, tire, skewer and sealed bearings). I was also going to make a few stops on the way home, via air, and didn't want to deal w/ packing it so traded it in for panniers (they are a PITA to deal w/ at airports). I almost immediately regretted it because I was riding into a headwind and amazed how much drag two front panniers caused. I also started having more spoke problems due to more weight being on the bike. Sorry, I guess I am now debating.
I contacted BOB before the above tour and asked them if I should carry sealed bearings. They said something to the effect that for some customers they lasted only a thousand and for others, they lasted all the way across Russia and beyond. I never had a problem with mine. Also never had a problem with the skewer but know a friend whose failed on his first 2 week tour.
02-03-08, 09:26 PM
Dominic Gill (http://www.blue-ant.tv/takeaseat/home.php)is cycling a tandem solo from Alaska to Argentina and picking people up and giving htem rides. We cycled with him for a little while in Baja last winter. In addition to his BOB he also has panniers. He said he liked to keep the heavy stuff in him panniers because it seemed like the bike handled better that way. John found (on the triple) that having the weight in the BOB was better. So - given the fact that Dom's tandem was very light (one person) and he liked the weight on the bike and John's triple was heavy (three people) and he liked the weight in the BOB, the weightdistribution is probably a huge factor here.
There is a german couple that travels a lot with a bob. and they run front paniers and a bob, no rear panniers. I think their point was something like they use panniers, then if the load increases they go to front Ps and the BOB, then they load up everything including rear paniers.
I'm not sure how it would be possible to run a bob alone with less effort that paniers alone, anymore than a trike is more effecient than a 2 wheeler. But as long as you keep moving I guess you eventually get where you are going.
Is there a reasonable option for adding brakes to a BOB? The main problem seems to come when the trailer runs forward. This is a problem solved with inertial braking on regular trailers. Seems like that could be easily aranged. Another option for severe occsional downhills where one may need to brake the bike would be some form of droge. Even some part of the luggage arranged to catch the wind, or the flag.
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