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  1. #1
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    BOB trailer vs. Panniers?

    I was thinking I might get a BOB trailer for the Cross-Country bike tour I was going to do after I graduate (summer after this one). What are the advantages of it vs. panniers+rack? It seems that after I buy the rack and panniers, the total cost would be as much as the BOB, but I'm not sure.

    Has anyone used both and liked one especially over the other. More importantly, has anyone used a bob trailer and NOT liked it? I searched the forum, and I found a lot of positive feddeback about the trailer, especially on tandams. However, I'm sure there are concerns that I need to be aware of before I make this investment.

  2. #2
    Gordon P
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    You may try searching the Forum under trailers and bob or yak and you will find many posts in favour of the BOB. I am leaning towards the BOB trailer myself and I have toured with panniers in the past and invested a pile of money into them. Money wise, I think they are about the same amount if you are starting off fresh. The BOB bag is better for water resistance and can be used for other things like a canoe trip, for example and the trailer can be used for getting groceries easer then using panniers. I would think the trailer would be easier on the bike in the long run and fewer things to brake, get lost or stolen. Also, with a trailer your bike does not necessarily have to be as robust as touring bike. There are many other things to consider such as wind resistance, transport on trains, planes, etc.
    Regards
    Gordon p

  3. #3
    Senior Member Inoplanetyanin's Avatar
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    Hello. I have not used either of them, but already I do not want to experiment with a trailer. Here are the reasons:

    it brings extra chances of a punctured tires.
    it gets too much attention and probably someone will want to look into it.
    the dynamics and handling of the bike will be worse. IMHO.
    The trailer is something that is hard to make on your own, while bags even in Africa are bags... Cheap and replaceable.

    The advantage of the trailer is probably the capability of carrying more and bigg luggage. It is easy to arrange things nicely...

    So, it's an alternitive, but I personally wouldn't use one on my long cross country tour.
    Good luck with your either choice.

    P.S. Most serious bikes just use panneries. Why?...
    I only saw two of them with a trailer... kind of ritch kids..

  4. #4
    Senior Member Triker's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    Hello. I have not used either of them, but already I do not want to experiment with a trailer.

    P.S. Most serious bikes just use panneries. Why?...
    I only saw two of them with a trailer... kind of ritch kids..
    Hmmmmm............. Lots of opinions, considering you have never used either. The idea that "most serious bikes just use panneirs" is a quite a value laden statement. There was a time when most serious bikes had friction shifting, too. Trailers are selling faster every summer.

    I've toured several thousand miles, used both, had good luck with both, and prefer the trailer. If you check with the folks at Adventure Cycling--an outfit that is pretty serious about touring, comprised of folks who have actually done it--you get some good info. Lots of people who ride with them use trailers, not just two rich kids .

    In my experience, a trailer has less effect on bike handling than fully laden panniers. You have one more tire, but the tires are bearing less weight, too, reducing wear. In my experience, I have fewer flats with the trailer. It is a lot easier to pack a trailer than panniers, I think. A trailer compares favorably in price to a full set of racks and bags. And it is not too hard to build a BOB clone trailer--I have done it.
    Trike builder, self-contained tourist, educator, sea kayaker

  5. #5
    N_C
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    First let me say that I have never used panniers. Nor did I even consider it when I was looking at buying a trailer.

    I bought a B.O.B. Yak trailer last year. I plan on doing some week end self contained touring trips this year. And hopefully make longer trips next year.

    So far I have not towed my trailer with anything in it, only towed it empty just to see how well it would track behind my recumbent. It tracked beautifully, never lost control, hardly knew it was there, when it was not bounccing because of the bumps.

    The only disadvantage I discovered was it bounced like hell when ever I hit a bump. But I knew that would happen. But I never lost control because of it. Other wise I hardly knew it was there. The next time I tow it I'll put some weight in it so it does not bounce..

    Yes I could tell there was a weight differance. But I knew that would happen too. It only slowed me down by about 1 mph, if that. I'm sure that when I put weight in it I'll be a little slower yet. In fact I expect it.

    It is probably a safe bet to say that the slower speed due to the weight of both towing a trailer and using panniers is about the same.

    One great advantage that a trailer will have over panniers is once you get to your destination for the night and after you set up camp you can leave your trailer at your camp site if you need to go into a town for something to eat, etc. With panniers you will at least have the racks still attached to your bike and maybe one of the bags. Meaning you will be hauling more weight even after you get to your over night stop. With a trailer that is not a problem. You just un-hitch it and off you go.

    A long time member of my bike club who has done several self contained trips to Colorado and back and points further west told me one of the more ideal ways to tour these days is with a recumbent and a trailer. He has always used wedgie touring bikes with panniers.

    I asked him why he did not switch when he bought his new comotion touring bike. His answer was he is so used to touring the way he has he didn't want to make the switch. Which was to me a very legitimate answer. But he did suggest that anyone new to touring do so at least with a trailer, but he also recommended a recumbent too.

    Funny thing is he has never ridden a recumbent but I understand what he meant by his answer.

    At the time I talked with him about this I had not purchased my trailer yet, but was looking into it. He also told me that when he started his self contained touring he wishes that there were trailers available for him to use.

  6. #6
    N_C
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    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    Hello. I have not used either of them, but already I do not want to experiment with a trailer. Here are the reasons:

    it brings extra chances of a punctured tires.
    Ok I'll grant you that this one is a true fact. But so what if a cyclsit that uses a trailer has to carry one extra tube.

    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    it gets too much attention and probably someone will want to look into it.
    Um how and why do you think this is true? How is it any differant then a cyclist using panniers?

    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    the dynamics and handling of the bike will be worse. IMHO.
    You're dead wrong on this one. Granted I have never used panniers and never will. But I do know people that have used both. And they have told me that they prefere the trailer versus the panniers because all of the weight is being towed behind them and it is easier to control the bike.

    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    The trailer is something that is hard to make on your own, while bags even in Africa are bags... Cheap and replaceable.
    Ok I don't quite understand what you mean by this one. If you are refering to a person building their own trailer, while that is a option most of us can't or don't want to. It is a lot easier and probably more economical for us to buy one instead of build one.

    If you are refering to having repairs done on a trailer versus panniers, well I do know for a fact that it is a lot easier to weld steel back together then aluminum. And most trailer frames are made of steel, Chro-Moly to be exact. And pannier frames and racks are made of aluminum.

    Plus in the course of a accident steel is a lot stronger then aluminum and will hold up better. Plus the frame of a trailer surrounds what you carry in it. So again in the course of a accident what you are carrying in the trailer has a reduced chance of being ripped to shreds like pannier bags often are.

    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    The advantage of the trailer is probably the capability of carrying more and bigg luggage. It is easy to arrange things nicely...
    You actually stated another advantage of trailers over panniers. More cargo space. As far as the type of luggage you carry I really don't know that much about other trailers. But with the B.O.B. Yak the luggage you speak of is a great big yellow and black water proof bag. So there is no need to carry any extra luggage in or on the trailer, at least not when you use a B.O.B. Yak model. I think Burley has a similar design as the B.O.B.

    I also know that people use the kid trailers to haul go on self contained trips with. With these you do have to have4 your gear packed in its own luggage. And water proofing can be difficult as well.

    But all trailers that I have seen have a lot more room then panniers could ever have.


    Originally posted by Inoplanetyanin
    So, it's an alternitive, but I personally wouldn't use one on my long cross country tour.
    Good luck with your either choice.

    P.S. Most serious bikes just use panneries. Why?...
    I only saw two of them with a trailer... kind of ritch kids..
    I'm not rich or wealthy by any means and yet I have and use a trailer. I do not imagine anyone else here that owns trailers are wealthy either.


    What is your definition of a serious cyclist? Is that determined by how many miles they ride a year? Or the kind of bike they ride? Or the brand of bike they ride? How can you make a blind statement that anyone who uses a trailer and not panniers is not a serious cyclist?

    Finally let me give you some advice on making humble opinions. First you should have some basis to back it up. In this case you don't and you admit that from the beginning. For that I commend you. But you put your foot in your mouth when you went on to make the statements that you did. I can only imagine why. I have no doubt that it will do no good to even ask why. Next time before you give your HO on something have something to back it up.

    You may have noticed that I do not give any opinions on panniers. That is because I have never used them and never will. All I know about them is what is the answers other people have given me after I've asked them. So while I do know of other peoples opinons on panniers I can not really form one myself until I use them.
    Last edited by N_C; 04-20-03 at 10:13 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member shaharidan's Avatar
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    great question, ive been meaning to ask the same thing. i had some more specific questions.
    now ive never toured so have never used either, but i was wondering.

    with a B.O.B do you run into many problems going around narrow turns?

    does pulling one in heavy traffic areas cause any problems?

    if your on a bumpy road or maybe a trail does it bounce around enough to cause issues?

    how about any issues with shipping it, or maybe putting it on a train? i'd like to do a one or 2 week tour where i go as far as in the time i have and hop a plane or a train back home.

    is there anyone who has used both and likes panniers better? and why?


    the B.O.B in general seems like it would be more convenient, but since ive never tried either i'd really like to hear from the voice of experience.

    thanks

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    I've ridden with both, and they both have certain advantages. If I am going on a mountainous route, I prefer the panniers. They weight a little less going up hills, and you don't have the friction on the ground of a third wheel (this is probably neglible, just in my imagination). Also, for me climbing out of the saddle, while not great with either carrying much weight, is easier with panniers. You can carry more with the BOB, but I generally just end up carrying more stuff I don't need. I am currently down to just three panniers for long distance, self contained touring, so I am a bit more of a minimalist than others. The waterproofing issue is more preference over anything else. I've learned to like 5-gal zyplocks inside panniers. My BOB bag is heavy empty! I do however use the BOB for getting groceries (not on tours). Panniers just don't cut it there.

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    WEight did worry me a bit. he yak says it weighs 13 lbs! Thats half the weight of my bike! about how much does a rack and pannier set up weigh?

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    Senior Member cranky's Avatar
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    I dont have a BOB, but I recently got a trailer and I noticed one interesting thing: If you're carrying a heavy load, you have a little more control if the weight is on a trailer, and not actually on the bike. I can sometimes feel the weight in the panniers fighting me.

    Edit: Whoops, just noticed that N_C also mentioned the same thing. Now you have a second opinion
    Last edited by cranky; 04-21-03 at 03:32 PM.

  11. #11
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    I tour with panniers. I have toured with guys who use BOB trailers. I think it's probably a wash.

    Panniers and racks weigh less and cause less rolling resistance than a trailer. Panniers probably have a more noticable effect on handling. I like being able to divide my gear up among four bags: one for clothes, one for kitchen, one for tools, etc. A BOB trailer can be attached to pretty much any frame. Racks work best with a frame that has the necessary braze-ons. the BOB probably carries more stuff, but that just means you carry more stuff. The BOB trailer works like a kickstand to keep your bike standing while parked.

    If you are touring on a dedicated touring bike, I'd say go with panniers and racks. If you are touring on a roadster or a mountain bike, you are probably just as well served with a trailer.
    Religion is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people. --H. Richard Niebuhr

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    I have not used a BOB but toured with someone (Dwagonheim)that did.The concerns I hear are a pin tends to break on it (and some have commented on the overall quality of construction)so you want to start with one or two extra pins and that it can cause some swaying that you quickly get use to on steep downhills.I seem to notice that mtn bikes and recumbents often go with the trailers but touring bikes invariable(as far as I have read and observed)tend to stick to panniers.I wonder if touring bikes are less suited to trailers from a handling standpoint .

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    I am a lonely visitor RegularGuy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by RWTD
    I wonder if touring bikes are less suited to trailers from a handling standpoint .
    I don't think so. Touring bikes are just better suited to racks and panniers.
    Religion is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people. --H. Richard Niebuhr

  14. #14
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    I have toured with panniers, and I enjoy them! I prefer climbing with panniers as I find it more efficient. Plus, I choose to utilize all the pannier-specific braze-ons.
    Taking photos of your lovely planet...

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    The simple fact is this: A Bob weighs more than racks/panniers do. Probably 10 lbs more. That's an extra 10 lbs to carry up every hill.....
    Je vais à vélo, donc je suis!

  16. #16
    Gordon P
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    The concerns I hear are a pin tends to break on it (and some have commented on the overall quality of construction)so you want to start with one or two extra pins and that it can cause some swaying that you quickly get use to on steep downhills.
    I have heard about the pin troubles, but nothing about construction problems. RWTD could you please elaborate on this?

    Also, the new BOB has a shock absorber for off road use.
    Regards,
    Gordon p

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    I have read where one or two at least one who constructed his own trailer as I recall have commented about the quality of materials in the BOB.This is not to say construction problems or that the quality of materials in the BOB even caused problems but more along the lines they were able to construct a better quality trailer as the BOB was fairly cheaply constructed.As I myself have not looked at a BOB trailer closely enough to tell about this I really can't say one way or the other but as there doesn't seem to be much negative feedback on the durability (other than that one pin)and there does seem to be alot of customer satisfaction with the product this is probably not even an issue.I just though I would mention it so he might take a close look at the construction and decide for himself .
    Last edited by RWTD; 04-21-03 at 06:25 PM.

  18. #18
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    I did my first tour this week-end with the Yak trailer, so I thought i'd give my thoughts. In my view the advantage of the trailer is the fact that it can instantly turn almost any bike into a pack mule. The trailer is quite handy for the around town errands that you would otherwise use a car for.

    For touring the B.O.B. makes packing easy. Although I haven't toured with full panniers, I've read that the weight of your gear needs to be distributed from side to side and from front to rear. With the yak everything goes in the big yellow bag. It's a good idea to put your heavier gear low and towards the rear of the trailer but otherwise pile everthing in and you're set. The trailer tracks behind the bike perfectly and unless the trailer is empty the trailer really doesn't bounce. You'll feel the trailer's tire go over a bump or hole or whatever but it's just enough to remind you that the trailer is there. The best thing about the Yak is that the majority of the weight is being applied to the stout 16" trailer wheel and not the wheels of your bicycle. I guess I should get a spair tube for that wheel but I haven't had any problems yet. Does it affect the bikes handling? Sure, but so do panniers.

    Are there disadvantages? I would not recommend a trailer to anyone that needs to transport or ship their bike and gear on a tour. A trailer, in my opinion, would be too much of a hassle if taking a plane, train or bus to reach a destination. The Yak is pretty big and even with the fork reversed and the wheel removed for shipping it would still be a big package. I suppose a trailer would also be a pain if you plan on staying in the occasional hotel, hostel or B+B.

    Also everthing is in one bag so it can be a difficult to find what you're looking for. With panniers you can place everything where you want it and it stays there. When you go to get your jacket or whatever out of the trailer you can end up messing up everthing else

    I was interested in comparing the BoB Yak trailer to a set of racks and panniers. Heres what I came up with.

    The Yak:

    Weight: 13.5#
    capacity: 70#
    5700+ cubic inches
    cost: $289 msrp

    Jannd setup from Jandd.com; expedition rear rack, front lowrider rack, pair of mountain panniers, pair of mini mountain panniers

    total Weight: 4972 grams or 10.9#

    Capacity: racks rated at 75# (50# rear and 25# front)
    6276 cubic inches
    Total price: $322
    Last edited by thbirks; 04-21-03 at 07:00 PM.
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  19. #19
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    A few answers:

    Weight

    The BOB weights 13 lb (from another post);
    The Burley Nomad (2 wheel trailer) weights 14 lb
    The Charriot Classic (2 children trailer which I have) weights 22.5 lb and is bulkier (much more wind resistance)

    Panniers add weight too:

    - typical racks are about 1 lb each (total 2 - 2.5 lb)
    - Arkel's T-42 and GT-54 panniers (which I have) weight 4.4 and 5.5 lb respectively.
    Total for a complete set would be 12 lb.

    Many trailer users like the fact everything is in one big pouch. But after a while -- and especially after a rainy tour --, they suggest adding a set of front panniers, so the stuff can be grabbed during the day without opening the big pouch. On some bikes, front panniers also help stabilize the direction.


    On the road

    I often tow the 2-children trailer and I have toured extensively with panniers. Except for those who ride singletrack, the trailer isn't much wider than my space, and a single-child trailer or a cargo trailer such as the Burley Nomad isn't wider than the width I need to sneak throug a narrow passage. There are a few places where it is a problem:

    - on a highway with a gravel shoulder, the bike needs to be 12-15" away from the white line, otherwise the trailer rides partly in the gravel;
    - on pothole-infested streets, it's harder to find a suitable place to ride and keep all thee wheels on a good surface;
    - in the snow, three tracks really slow you down;
    - in tight turns, the trailer tracks inside the bike; this is not a problem on highways and streets, but on bike trails, especially where they like to install chicanes ()
    P.S. I find the latter especially bad when I tow a trailercycle and a child trailer.

    BTW, most of these "problems" don't exist with a single-wheel trailer like the BOB, because the single wheel tracks behind the bike wheel and the hitch is designed so that the trailer doesn't track inside on turns.

    Serious tourers use panniers

    Or do they? Tradition helps here. I'm only 44, but I started to tour long before trailers were available. And if I tour with both children on a tandem + trailercycle, I'm not sure I want to add a trailer behind that. And given the price cargo trailers are sold here, I can buy 2 sets of Arkel's TT-82 panniers (they are huge) for the price of a good cargo trailer!

    Apart from that, one piece of equipment that serious tourers have is a touring bike. I can attest that a real touring bike makes a difference. I have a 1980 Vélo Sport Alpin, which was defined as a touring bike then. Compared to my 2000 Trek 520, is is flexible and vibrates if I have more than 40-50 lb on the rear rack. And if I add too much on the front rack, it wants to control steering!

    By comparison, the Trek 520 is neutral. I can load it as much as I want -- and I once carried 80 kg of groceries in 4 panniers and on top of the rear rack -- and it is as easy to control as an empty bike. So the only advantage of a trailer is for bulky items. BTW, I generally do the grocery with the trailer, because it's so easier to pack.

    Should one use a trailer?

    It depends. People with road bikes like the idea of a trailer, but their frame might be too flexible for a single-wheel trailer. People with a mountain bike, however, are well served with a trailer, because their bike is very rigid and allows a single-wheel trailer to track very well. See the warning about the BOB here: http://www.bobtrailers.com/warning.html


    Other pros and cons (apart from what was highlighted in other posts

    - The extra wheel(s) mean you have to carry extra spares. Parts for 20'" wheels are fairly easy to find, but parts for 16" wheels are not as easy to find in small towns.

    - Extra wheel(s) mean less weight on the bike wheels. On soft surfaces, it may help.

    - Torsional efforts (?) on the frame are induced by the BOB trailer and other single-wheel trailer. I have read more than one story of group tours where the only ones that broke spokes were people towing a single-wheel trailer.

    - In a tour, it's easy to get rid of the trailer if you want to do a little ride after you have set up camp. But what if you need to bring a few items with you? A trailer and front panniers could be an ideal combo: use the panniers only for that quick ride. BTW, it's easy to attach a loaded two-wheel trailer like the Chariot or the Burley (with alternative hitch), but it doesn't seem easy to attach the BOB when it is fully loaded.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  20. #20
    Gordon P
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    I was just searching through the Touring section and found this thread regarding the BOB skewers.

    BOB trailer skewers SUCK!

  21. #21
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Good thread,
    a little controversy can liven things up. I had never considered a trailer, but after reading this thread; I might. Not for touring, my credit card can carry most everything the Bob does But it would be very hand around town.
    My new bike is pretty limited in storage; and this just might be the answer to the eternal question.....'Ok, now where the heck am I going to put 3 grocery bags?'
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

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    I've never used a trailer; they're intriguing, though.

    As it is, I've got a touring bike and panniers, and no cheap ones at that. So, I'm invested. I'm going with this setup until it wears out. Then I'll consider a trailer.

    When I last bought a lot of stuff-- over the last 18 months-- I didn't consider a trailer.

    When it comes to touring, it seemed to me that a trailer would be a sensible option. It weighs comparably to a set of four good panniers and two racks. (I calculated things along the lines of Mgagonlv, as I was getting Arkel panniers with aluminum frames.) It would likely result in less wind resistance, too. My front Arkel panniers can get a bit boxy when they're full.

    But I wanted to use my touring bike and bags for utility functions, too. There panniers have the advantage hands down. It's easier to carry just a bike with panniers on it down the stairs than it is to make two trips for the bike and trailer. Everything can be stored together, ready to go. You can bring a bike inside of a store, if need be, but you cannot do that with a bike and a trailer. Storing a bike and panniers in your office is an easier matter, too, than messing with a trailer.

    And panniers offer levels of carrying capacity. You can attach bags when you need them. The trailer's either on or it's not.

    This last fact, actually, provides panniers with one advantage when it comes to camping. Someone above said he'd prefer a trailer, because he could unhook it and head into town. But you can unhook panniers too. More importantly, you can leave one or two on; that way when you get whatever it is you were heading into town for you can carry it easily.

    Of course you might add a front rack to a bike you use with a trailer. But if you're going to spend the money on one rack anyway, then the rear rack and additional panniers start to look like a good deal compared to the trailer.

    A trailer can carry some heavy items, true. But I've carried a lot of stuff on my racks and panniers-- at least seventy-five pounds of groceries, and for about ten miles, too. I don't find myself wishing for more carrying capacity very often.

    A trailer might be harder to see, too, at night, when a motorist expecting a bike to be about as short as it is without a trailer wouldn't realize you've got a significant extension behind you.

  23. #23
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    hmm. It seems that the main arguments are between air resistance (panniers) or rolling resistance (BOB trailer). Which is bigger? I suppose that I could do some calcs...But I don't feel like it. I am probably going to be carrying around 40-50 lbs at most, so carrying capacity is not a real big deal. This is quite a conundrum. I think I need more time to mull.

    One other thing: How easy is it to get 16x1 tires/tubes?

  24. #24
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    I tried to build a trailer...But I couldn't figure out how to design/build a pivot at the skewer..I see now that BOB uses a special skewer..coolio, I suspected as much.
    Booyah!!

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    Originally posted by Phatman
    hmm. It seems that the main arguments are between air resistance (panniers) or rolling resistance (BOB trailer). Which is bigger?
    The air resistance from panniers is certainly greater than the rolling resistance of the trailer-- how much greater I don't know for sure. That would take measurements, and some calculations. But as air resistance at biking speeds is at least an order of magnitude greater than rolling resistance, there's no doubt which creates the greater drag.

    Added air resistance from panniers might add ten or even twenty minutes to a day's ride on tour. That's no small amount.

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