Offroad Touring: Panniers or Trailer
This year I plan to do a lot of off-road touring such as the Colorado Trail and I am trying to decide if I want to use panniers or a Bob type trailer. I know what to expect with panniers but I've never used a trailer. Can anybody who has used a trailer off-road share their experiences?
Mad bike riding scientist
I'm not a big fan of trailers on-road but off-road, I feel that they are a necessity. On something as rugged as the Colorado Trail, any thing on the bike isn't going to help - panniers or trailer but the trailer doesn't interfere with your suspension. You might actually be able to ride up and down a lot of the stuff on the trail with a trailer. I doubt that you would with panniers.
Originally Posted by TomM
I've ridden both off-road and the trailer is far better...neither is ideal but the trailer is a better way to go.
It sort of depends what you mean by "off road". If you're talking about dirt roads that are relatively smooth and kept up then a trailer is a good choice.
If you're talking about horrible roads resembling mountain bike terrain then panniers are a better choice. Remember that on this sort of stuff you might have to portage the pannier over sections separately from your bike. I've done this before and while it's a lot of fun, it takes a lot of time and such tours cover very low mileage each day so plan on reduced mileage in such cases.
Off-Road touring translates as fire road and single track to me. I have been using panniers on my unsuspended bike forever on this kind of terrain and do not plan to change to a BoB. I have toured offroad with those who do use BoBs. My friends like the trailers for their high capacity but curse them when struggling with the overload at times or when forced to carry them over downed trees on trails. I have heard and observed their complaints about rutted roads redirecting the BoB off line and the BoB pushing and unweighting the rear wheel of the bike with traction loss.
As usual each method has good and bad points.There is no correct answer to this question. Choose your poison, live with it and just go ride.
I used the Bob Ibex suspension trailer with an older, rigid mountain bike.
It works great on singletrack provided the trail is non-technical, free from deadfall and you don't have steep hills to climb. Pushing your bike and loaded trailer up steep hills is brutal.
For something like the Colorado Trail. I'd be inclined to go ultra-light (without trailer).
IMO the best off-road application for using a trailer is on rails to trails and unimproved gated forest service access doubletrack. The limited grade change makes this much more enjoyable.
When you intersect with singletrack, it's much more fun to unhook the trailer, and do an out and back without all the extra weight.
If your off-road include long baren stretches, then maybe you need the extra capcity of a trailer for water or food and gear. I would follow my normal preference of bags first then a trailer if I ever need the extra gear. I have done touring on snowmobile trails and they often have technical sections that are twisty not so much like a trials course, but just switches between rocks, steep little climbs, sections of riding through streams and just about anything you can imagine being covered with snow and smooth in the winter. Small capacity paniers with high mounitng racks seem the perfect solution.