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  1. #1
    Senior Member one_beatnik's Avatar
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    Panniers vs trailer???

    I've been reading several online journals of transam rides and ALL of them used panniers. Why not a trailer ie BOB or Extrawheel? In my limited thinking (I haven't done that long a tour yet) the trailer would be very versatile and open options for the bike you use. I have a Waterford that doesn't have the frame for panniers and I've used the BOB for the week of RAGBRAI several times.

    Thoughts? Insights?

  2. #2
    Double Naught Spy TrekDen's Avatar
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    I imagine some folks just like to keep things simple. Like only having to carry one size of tubes, and tires for instance. I've never been on a tour myself, so I'm also interested in what others have to say about this.
    Here's a link for a guy using a tandem bike riding by himself unless he gets a volunteer stoker. He is also pulling a trailer. Talk about a lot of weight.
    Take a seat world tourer
    Last edited by TrekDen; 11-14-07 at 01:44 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member foamy's Avatar
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    Sounds like it'd be just the ticket for you. I've read quite a few journals where the riders used the BOB, and they were all quite happy with it. I'm given to understand from reading those journals that that BOB is more aerodynamic on decents, hence, a faster downhill and easier pedalling in a headwind. Conversely, (again, from what I read) they are a bit more work to get uphill and stowing and/or parking the bike and trailer can be a hassle. And, as mentioned above, extra parts (spokes, tube, tire) for repairs, should they be neccessary. If your frame won't accommodate panniers, it seems as though the BOB is the way to go.
    None.

  4. #4
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    This topic comes up every month or two, and appears to be mostly a matter of personal preference.

    I have a very strong preference for panniers, having used both systems. I had a serious handling issue, but not everyone does. It is probably due to a combination of my particular weight, bike geometry, and trailer-load. (small rider + heavy trailer = tail wagging the dog). I have other reasons to prefer the panniers as well, but they are less important, have more to do with how the trade-offs weigh in for me.

    The trade offs I can think of are: multiple vs single bags, multiple vs single spare parts, wind resistance vs rolling resistance, parking issues, ability to completely jettison the bags for day-trips, and flexibility of what bike can be used.

    If you already have and like your trailer, there's no reason to buy a whole new bike/panniers. Lots of people tour with trailers and like them just fine. But, if you have a trailer and it makes your bike handle weird, do pay attention to that, and make sure you don't crash like I did.

    Happy touring!
    ...

  5. #5
    Newbie Thewetyeti's Avatar
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    I started touring with a trailer and quickly made the transition to panniers after some exciting dives for the curb and a couple bumpy sections....and I cut down the equipment by enough to where all I need fits into two front panniers on the back and a dry bag on the top rack...and may sometimes a backpack that ends up living on the rack anyway...trailers add a unnecessary amount of complexity to an experience which should be enjoyed at it's most simplistic!
    Riding into the sunset takes longer than you would think!

  6. #6
    Senior Member one_beatnik's Avatar
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    This topic comes up every month or two
    Yeah, I did a search first and couldn't find anything, but oh well.

    The weight issues I've heard from others. My experience on RAGBRAI has been that the handling has a LOT to do with how I pack it. If I keep everything heavy at the bottom and as close to the rear as possible, I can do over 40mph downhill. If I get it a bit top heavy, 25 is it.

    I was browsing the photo page in this section too and everyone was using panniers.
    appears to be mostly a matter of personal preference.
    I wondered about this too.

    Thanks all.

  7. #7
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I've reported on this before, but don't mind posting again. I was glad to read others' posts before I bought my Bob.

    I bought a Bob on Ebay, which made it palatable; they're kind of pricey new. I was curious about whether I would like it for touring, so I took it on my tour last summer to give it a good test. My conclusion was that I preferred panniers. I'm going back to them for touring, and will relegate my Bob to grocery shopping, etc. To be fair, I've read many reports of people who love theirs and will continue to use them on tour. I can understand this - it's not a completely one-sided argument in my mind. Here are my reasons:

    Good things about the Bob:
    • Less liklihood of breaking spokes. I've had tours severely marred by repeatedly breaking spokes. With the Bob a good portion of the weight is taken off the bike's rear wheel.
    • Easy to pack. That big yellow bag holds a ton! I didn't have to worry too much about organized packing. I just stuffed everything in.
    • Waterproof - That big yellow bag is also waterproof. I didn't have to worry about packing my sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping pad in garbage bags, or stop to put my pannier rain covers on.
    • Handling - It handled so well that I always had to check my rear view mirror after a stop to make sure I had remembered to attach it.
    • Wind resistance - I guess it dragged less than panniers. I don't know if I really noticed this though.


    Things I didn't like about it:
    • Weight - this was the big one. The trailer weighs around 13 lbs. When I'm trying to avoid any excess grams, that's huge! I was pulling it over a couple big passes, including the North Cascades Highway.
    • Rolling resistance - a 3rd wheel and fat tire are bound to add resistance. When I was pulling that thing uphill I started referring to it in my mind as "the anchor".
    • Necessity of bringing another spare tube along.
    • The trailer tube had a Schrader valve. In the morning when I went to pump up my tires for the day's ride I'd have to switch the head of my HPx pump over from Presta to Schrader. Bit of a hassle.
    • It's a bit of a pain to park. It's easiest to lean the bike/trailer rig up agains a wall, but then where do you lock it? Speaking of which, it takes a long cable to reach from the Bob through both bike wheels.
    • It can be a little difficult to get it hooked up in the morning. It's one of those things where you sometimes wish you had two hands to hold the Bob and another hand or two to hold the bike steady. Not a big deal though.


    In conclusion, I'm going back to panniers, like I said. I'm going to buy a set of Ortliebs. I liked the waterproofing of that big yellow bag! After next summer's tour I'll know more - were my complaints about the Bob valid or was I just being a wimp because I picked a tough route for my tour? I'll also tell you that I'm not ready to sell the Bob yet.

  8. #8
    Senior Member slowjoe66's Avatar
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    I run a two wheeled Burley Nomad on tour, and last year on the Pacific Coast I met dozens of tourers and the Bobs were everywhere. I am sure I saw at least 10 of them. Most everyone was happy with them and you have a huge capacity which can really make your trip nice or a headache if your judicious with the weight. I didn't hear anyone with a Bob say they wished they had panniers instead. Panniers work best with true touring bikes that have long chainstays. A trailer and a quality wheel and any bike is ready for tour.

    In the final analysis, I am sure that panniers are fine if ya got em, and a trailer is fine if ya got it; you could decide between the different plusses and minuses of each until your blue in the face.
    I don't have a solution but I admire the problem!

  9. #9
    Senior Member slowjoe66's Avatar
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    BTW, a two wheeled trailer eliminates all of the hassles about parking and hooking up, and puts almost no weight on the back axle.
    I don't have a solution but I admire the problem!

  10. #10
    Senior Member cpblue's Avatar
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    Pulling an overloaded BOB trailer while being lost on dirt roads in Texas is how I describe my first tour. The trailer did great and I was surprised at how easy it was to pull even being loaded with bulky, heavy, camping gear. Zipping down hills at 25 mph through pasture land brought stares from cattle, but no weaving or shaking. I say buy and drag BOB. Good luck.

  11. #11
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    I prefer 4 panniers on a touring bike, of for less load 2 front panniers and stuff on top of the rear rack. I have used the Nomad (2-wheel trailer) for a tour with my 2 children and would still use it under similar circumstances, but not for solo touring.

    All in all, I wonder if the age of tourers and their commuting experience make a difference. When I started touring in 1975, we only had rear panniers; very few of us had front panniers and there weren't any trailers around. So we all toured with panniers. Now I notice that a lot of tourers (in Québec anyway) are in their 40s if not 50-60s; they have been touring for quite some time hence have been trained when panniers were the de facto standard. Besides, many of these riders don't live with a student's bank account and prefer motels and bed & breakfasts, which means less gear to carry.

    Likewise, commuters who are used to carry gear to the office have lots of riding with panniers. Touring with panniers comes easily for them: put the commuting panniers in front and install larger ones on the rear rack.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  12. #12
    Senior Member Leigh_caines's Avatar
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    I've toured with both.
    Bags are good
    2 wheeled trailer is great if your on the road longer and need to bring more stuff
    I'm still not sure which is best.
    I'll do a few more 1000's of miles and let you know

  13. #13
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Here are 5 links for the question of trailers versus panniers. One of them is a previous thread from this forum (10/06)!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  14. #14
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    One thing to consider is what your travel companions are going to use. I did the West Coast with 3 other friends while back. They all had panniers and I had a BOB. We were all in good shape, and I should not have had a problem keeping up with them, yet I struggled quite often to keep up. The few times we dropped our gear and rode, things were back to normal. Since then, I've toured exclusively with panniers and love every minute of it. I have a Burley Nomad that I use for groceries and around-town stuff. It's great for that, but I would not want to tour with it. If you're going for a trailer, the BOB has a much more solid connection that reduces or eliminates the "slinky" feeling I experience with the loaded Nomad. Plus, you can jackknife the BOB and the bike and trailer will stand up together.

  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    A trailer is likely to be 10 pounds heavier than panniers. TEN POUNDS that you have to drag up every hill!!

    That ought to be enough right there, but then also consider that you have to ship it if you want to fly to or from your tour.

    To over come those two disadvantages you have to really like some of the advantages.

    I own a trailer and it just hangs on the basement wall. Want to buy it? I will give you a good price

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    Again, I think that part of the answer is what type of bike are you using. If you are using a road bike, then it's best to keep the weight of panniers off the bike and onto a trailer. If you have a touring or hybrid bike, then the extra weight should not be a factor. (but 13 or so pounds of trailer is heavy, not matter what).

  17. #17
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peaks View Post
    If you have a touring or hybrid bike, then the extra weight should not be a factor.
    Not sure I get that one. Care to explain?

    IMO: Extra weight always matters. This Summer we were sending home stuff like a deck of cards, cutting down on clothing to the absolute minimum, and basically sending home everything we weren't using no matter how small after the 5th or 6th mountain pass. Every pound eliminated made a noticeable difference.

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    If you add up the weight of the racks and the panniers, it's not a 10 pound difference. My racks and bags are 11.7 pounds. That's Tubus Cargo & Tara, Arkel GT 54 & T28.
    ...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Not sure I get that one. Care to explain?

    IMO: Extra weight always matters. This Summer we were sending home stuff like a deck of cards, cutting down on clothing to the absolute minimum, and basically sending home everything we weren't using no matter how small after the 5th or 6th mountain pass. Every pound eliminated made a noticeable difference.
    Yes, a little explanation is in order. My point is that a touring bike and to some extent, a hybrid bike is built to handle the weight of panniers better than a road bike. The extra weight of loaded panniers will not tear up a touring bike or hybrid bike nearly as much or as fast as the weight of loaded panniers will tear up a light road bike.

    Yes, certainly, when touring, or backpacking, one goal is to keep your total weight down as much as possible. Pounds (and ounces) do matter!

  20. #20
    __________ seeker333's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I've reported on this before, but don't mind posting again. I was glad to read others' posts before I bought my Bob.

    I bought a Bob on Ebay, which made it palatable; they're kind of pricey new. I was curious about whether I would like it for touring, so I took it on my tour last summer to give it a good test. My conclusion was that I preferred panniers. I'm going back to them for touring, and will relegate my Bob to grocery shopping, etc. To be fair, I've read many reports of people who love theirs and will continue to use them on tour. I can understand this - it's not a completely one-sided argument in my mind. Here are my reasons:

    Good things about the Bob:
    • Less liklihood of breaking spokes. I've had tours severely marred by repeatedly breaking spokes. With the Bob a good portion of the weight is taken off the bike's rear wheel.
    • Easy to pack. That big yellow bag holds a ton! I didn't have to worry too much about organized packing. I just stuffed everything in.
    • Waterproof - That big yellow bag is also waterproof. I didn't have to worry about packing my sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping pad in garbage bags, or stop to put my pannier rain covers on.
    • Handling - It handled so well that I always had to check my rear view mirror after a stop to make sure I had remembered to attach it.
    • Wind resistance - I guess it dragged less than panniers. I don't know if I really noticed this though.


    Things I didn't like about it:
    • Weight - this was the big one. The trailer weighs around 13 lbs. When I'm trying to avoid any excess grams, that's huge! I was pulling it over a couple big passes, including the North Cascades Highway.
    • Rolling resistance - a 3rd wheel and fat tire are bound to add resistance. When I was pulling that thing uphill I started referring to it in my mind as "the anchor".
    • Necessity of bringing another spare tube along.
    • The trailer tube had a Schrader valve. In the morning when I went to pump up my tires for the day's ride I'd have to switch the head of my HPx pump over from Presta to Schrader. Bit of a hassle.
    • It's a bit of a pain to park. It's easiest to lean the bike/trailer rig up agains a wall, but then where do you lock it? Speaking of which, it takes a long cable to reach from the Bob through both bike wheels.
    • It can be a little difficult to get it hooked up in the morning. It's one of those things where you sometimes wish you had two hands to hold the Bob and another hand or two to hold the bike steady. Not a big deal though.


    In conclusion, I'm going back to panniers, like I said. I'm going to buy a set of Ortliebs. I liked the waterproofing of that big yellow bag! After next summer's tour I'll know more - were my complaints about the Bob valid or was I just being a wimp because I picked a tough route for my tour? I'll also tell you that I'm not ready to sell the Bob yet.
    Thanks for taking the time to explain this subject. I used to do it some myself and discovered it was a thankless task and usually a waste of my time.

    You (and other readers) may be interested to know that the complete (tire, fenders, etc) BOB YAK trailer does weigh the widely advertised 13-13.5 lbs, WITHOUT the yellow bag. The bag, which most folks buy with the trailer, adds another 4.5 lbs weight (empty). So total weight is actually ~17.5-18.0 lbs.

    Due to its roll top closure you can only get about 4500 cubic inches in her maximum. Even less if you fold it over twice for some confidence thats its going to be waterproof. Of course you can stack things on top, just like rack/panniers. So a BOB with yak sak gives you 4500 ci/ 74 liters protected storage capacity.

    If you do the math, you'll find that many of the lighter combinations of racks and bags offer a superior capacity-to-weight ratio over the BOB rig. For example, my gear weighs ~11 lbs and holds 84 L. IF you use Nice Racks and full Arkel, you're getting close to BoB YAk ratio.

    The BOB is a great choice for off-road / single track trips where the road shock would eventually damage bags/racks/spokes/axles, which is precisely what it was built for. It's a little ironic that so many pavement-only tourers have adopted it.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    If you add up the weight of the racks and the panniers, it's not a 10 pound difference. My racks and bags are 11.7 pounds. That's Tubus Cargo & Tara, Arkel GT 54 & T28.
    Most trailer users end up also having one rack and a set of small panniers. Various reasons for that:
    – better bike stability if you add some weight on the front wheel (depends on bike geometry);
    – ability to carry stuff on day rides, to open a bag and get quick access to rain gear without wetting everything, etc.
    – not enough room in the BOB to carry the kitchen sink.

    So one would have to compare the weight of two racks and two sets of large panniers vs the weight of the trailer and one set of small panniers.

    As a point of comparison, my pannier kit involves:
    - Bruce Gordon front rack + Burley Piccolo Moose rack: 0,5 kg + 0,7 kg approx
    - GT54 + T42 : 2,3 kg + 2 kg (current weight)

    Total : 5,5 kg

    vs
    - Burley Nomad : 6,6 kg
    - Burley Piccolo Moose rack: 0,7 kg approx
    - T42 : 2 kg

    Total : 9,3 kg

    Granted : I might use smaller and lighter panniers than the T-42 in front, I could use a lighter rear rack and I could use a lighter trailer, but these are all components I have. I also don't remember the old data but I'm fairly positive that older Arkel panniers had a few less features, but also a few hundred grammes less.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  22. #22
    Bike4Peace Vernon Huffman's Avatar
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    Right now I use both. I've got a full set of four Ortlieb roll-up panniers with a cross bag that have crossed the USA twice with me. I'm very fond of these awesome bags. Due to circumstances, I now also have a BOB yak trailer, which ships with a similar waterproof roll-up. Nothing is packed full, but I'm carrying all of it. I live on my bike and am not in a hurry to get anywhere. If I had to choose between them, the panniers would probably win out for ease of operation, though the BOB has better wind profile and lower center of gravity. Maybe if I could find a real 18" road tire...
    ---------------------------------------------+
    | __o CONTINENTAL CRITICAL MASS
    | _`\;,_ plan to ride from home
    | (*)/ (*) CONVERGE ON WASHINGTON, DC
    | 22 SEPT - World Car-Free Day
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    ---------------------------------------------+

  23. #23
    Senior Member one_beatnik's Avatar
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    Maybe if I could find a real 18" road tire
    I found a smooth tire for mine from a bike shop. It's apparently the same size as some of the front wheels on bents.

    It seems that most here that are pro panniers are mentioning weight as the biggest issue. I would agree, but I'm not sure it's that significant. The added weight of the trailer/bag is probably offset somewhat by the weight of a touring bike compared to my road bike. (I'm guessing here so don't flame me too badly!)

    I've learned to pack light from years of motorcycle travel. The old addage there is that saddlebags will carry everything you need, but not as much as you'd like!

    Some have mentioned ease of use of panniers, but pulling 2 pins and I'm off with the bare bike. This could be a problem of security in some areas, but non bicycling folk would have no idea what to do with a BOB trailer. You could also throw it in the tent just like the panniers.

    I sound like I'm trying to talk myself into not doing panniers, don't I? Maybe I am since I already have the BOB. OTOH, if I get to do a cross nation ride, I have to have a different bike anyway since I don't have a triple and it won't fit my frame (I don't think!)

    Some really good insight here.

  24. #24
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    I'm planning on touring next year - haven't done any yet, but my daily rides on the same (406mm folding) bike with various bits of kit are giving me some ideas, along with all the useful info' from BF contributors of course. Thanks for the 2 vs. 1 wheel trailer appraisals.

    I started off in dry weather today, but as you can see, I ended up in rather wetter surroundings :-)

    I was in a dilemma: do I ride back through that long stretch, or risk riding through the short, but potentially deeper next stretch!

    In fact both stretches were a bit more than knee deep, so I couldn't see the wheels! When my bike's dried out a bit, I'll have to strip it down to grease the bearings.
    I had just a handlebar bag, & a seat height rear bag which stayed dry, as the flood water wasn't much above knee height during that ride. (It meant a 7 miles detour to avoid that stretch & I was feeling lucky ;-) )

    I suppose if I had a light-ish weight trailer & I knew I would encounter flooding, I could carry a couple of 5 gallons plastic drums to make the trailer buoyant?

    I'm warming a bit more to derailleur gears now, as I rode home fine after that long underwater ride ;-) I'm now wondering if hub gears are waterproof? Do any of you long term BF members have a link to something like "riding through floods" type thread?

    Of course all this is trivial compared to the floods those folk are having in Pakistan currently!

    I'm now beginning to see why there's a bias towards panniers :-)

    I still like the idea of a trailer though, especially as all 3 wheels would be the same size, & am contemplating a DIY one first to see how I get on.......
    Attached Images Attached Images

  25. #25
    Senior Member one_beatnik's Avatar
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    You had a LOT more guts than I would have had to try to ride through that. We've had flooding in our area this spring and I've seen the road damage after the water subsided. NO WAY. Glad you're OK. Next time, please, take the detour. We don't want to lose you!

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