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Old 04-25-12, 08:17 AM   #1
dellwilson
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2nd Mini-Tour: busted

I've been lurking here (learning and planning) for a couple of years. I began collecting components and building my century/touring bike early last year. Last December, a colleague and I went on an S24O; 45 miles each way to a State Park. I took my commuter bike and the combination of rear rack, panniers, and strapping my tent to the handlebars was fine. That was a good experience.

Next in the plan was a three-day/two-night mini-tour: 52 miles on Friday to Bankhead National Forest; 45 miles on Saturday to Dismals Canyon; and 80 miles home on Sunday.

I had recently completed my new bike, based on a Surly Cross-check frame. I did not have racks for this bike yet, so I borrowed a B.O.B. Yak from a friend who had done the Natchez Trace a few years back.

The first 40 or so miles was fine. The bike was performing perfectly and I didn't find the trailer to be much of a concern. However, the last 8-10 miles to the campsite was on gravel roads and I was definitely not prepared for that. (Lesson 1.) My 700x28 tires did not feel stable enough. But the trailer turned out to be downright frightening on the gravel descents. (Lesson 2.) Ascents weren't all that great since my rear tire woudl lose traction on the steep sections so I had to walk a couple of climbs. My colleague with full racks and panniers seemed to be much more stable than me. Regardless, we made it to the camp site and had a good night's rest.

The next day started out on pavement with a really nice climb, but we soon hit gravel again. After about five miles, we stopped at a map to try to find a better route out of the forest. When turning around and starting back to the road, I got my wheel into a rut, started heading down a ravine, slammed on my brakes, and this brought the trailer up off the ground and then dumped me over to the right. What seemed like a minor, low-speed incident soon became a big deal as it bent my derailleur hanger and bent/broke the derailleur such that it would no longer engage the b-adjustment and the derailleur body was pulled forward to the chainstay.

We ended up having to call in a wife with a van to extract us; the tour busted.

I had read enough on the forums to know that some people found the B.O.B. trailers squirrelly on fast downhills and I was prepared to mitigate that. However, I was not prepared for how unstable it felt on gravel on even mild descents.

Oh, well. Several lessons have been learned and that is the point of these mini-tours. I'll be doing all my future touring using racks and panniers in the future. And I'll definitely do more to avoid gravel (e.g. trade more miles for pavement) or set out with fatter tires.

I've appreciated learning from all the experience and advice on this forum. Hopefully, someone will learn from my brief experience as well.
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Old 04-25-12, 08:38 AM   #2
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I thought this was going to be a story about being busted by cops for sleeping in the woods by the side of the road!! Sorry about your mechanical. Catching a rut or the edge of the road/path is a bummer. Glad you're OK.
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Old 04-25-12, 09:24 AM   #3
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I too thought it was going to be a busted by the cops for camping thing... You have made me think twice about a trailer though. Do you think it would have been better if it were two wheeled?
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Old 04-25-12, 10:45 AM   #4
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the falling over on the RD is a vulnerability of derailleurs..

at least with packed rear panniers you are more likely to land on the bags, first.
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Old 04-25-12, 11:26 AM   #5
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Thanks for the post. That is good information for cyclists to know who are considering panniers vs a trailer for touring.
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Old 04-25-12, 11:38 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by dellwilson View Post
I had read enough on the forums to know that some people found the B.O.B. trailers squirrelly on fast downhills and I was prepared to mitigate that. However, I was not prepared for how unstable it felt on gravel on even mild descents.
If I am not mistaken, the B.O.B. was designed for off-road touring, and it has been used successfully for that purpose by countless people. My 5' tall, 100 lb. GF has no trouble handling her B.O.B. off or on road, and she's a fearless descender. Leaves me in the dust on and off road. Last summer we did a 9-day in MT that included over 60 miles of unpaved roads. Some of that was quite rough and steep up and down. One steep portion of a descent was bare rock. No problemo.
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Old 04-25-12, 12:12 PM   #7
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Interesting discussion. A basic feature of any load is that it increases the momentum which must be burned off in a stop. If the load is on the bike itself then it also increases the downforce of the tires on the ground, thus generally increasing traction. If the load is on a trailer it does not increase traction. In other words, it isn't surprising that your colleague with the panniers had more control than you did. Sorry about your trouble. Better the bike damaged than you.
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Old 04-25-12, 12:49 PM   #8
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Reply: 2nd Mini-Tour: busted

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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
If I am not mistaken, the B.O.B. was designed for off-road touring, and it has been used successfully for that purpose by countless people. My 5' tall, 100 lb. GF has no trouble handling her B.O.B. off or on road, and she's a fearless descender. Leaves me in the dust on and off road. Last summer we did a 9-day in MT that included over 60 miles of unpaved roads. Some of that was quite rough and steep up and down. One steep portion of a descent was bare rock. No problemo.
Two differences in my situation from your GF and that road in the photos. First, I'm a terrible descender to start with. I'll pass plenty of people climbing a hill, but they they'll bomb past me while I'm riding the brakes going downhill. Second, I felt pretty good on hard-pack as shown in that photo. This road had a huge amount of 2", loose rock. I'm quite sure that it wasn't just the B.O.B. that caused my usteadiness; that it was also caused by the combination of rock and my 28mm tires.
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Old 04-25-12, 01:09 PM   #9
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Unlike some of these other hoodlums, I read your title in the way you meant it.

Sorry to hear about your accident -- glad no one was hurt. But hey, it can only be better next time! Plus, now you have a pretty exciting story to swap.

Note to self: avoid gravel roads ... and bike trailers.

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My 5' tall, 100 lb. GF ... Leaves me in the dust on and off road.
You're just weak. WEAK!
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Old 04-25-12, 01:10 PM   #10
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...it was also caused by the combination of rock and my 28mm tires.
^That is why I decided against buying a road bike instead of just fixing up my mountain bike to be a tourer. I don't know how some people survive with small tires on bad roads.
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Old 04-25-12, 01:43 PM   #11
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Too bad Derailleur guards were restricted to Kids bikes , and made Freddish..
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Old 04-25-12, 05:53 PM   #12
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^That is why I decided against buying a road bike instead of just fixing up my mountain bike to be a tourer. I don't know how some people survive with small tires on bad roads.
Depends on the tour. If your route is >90% paved roads then there is no point riding on fat tires. I'd rather walk those few rough miles than waste energy on pushing fat tires on asphalt most of the day.
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Old 04-25-12, 06:12 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
Interesting discussion. A basic feature of any load is that it increases the momentum which must be burned off in a stop. If the load is on the bike itself then it also increases the downforce of the tires on the ground, thus generally increasing traction. If the load is on a trailer it does not increase traction. In other words, it isn't surprising that your colleague with the panniers had more control than you did. Sorry about your trouble. Better the bike damaged than you.
No doubt about this statement. When I have the 2 year old in the trailer my rear brake will lock effortlessly, ahh so does the front. I have a grassy hill to decend next to concrete steps on my return run home and it can be very tricky especially if its wet out, scary is a better word.
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Old 04-25-12, 08:43 PM   #14
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Depends on the tour. If your route is >90% paved roads then there is no point riding on fat tires. I'd rather walk those few rough miles than waste energy on pushing fat tires on asphalt most of the day.
That's a bunch of baloney. Fat tires don't offer any more rolling resistance than skinny tires. They are heavier and less aerodynamic, but generally you aren't going as fast on a touring bike so the aerodynamics don't matter much. When you compare the weight of fatter tires to the total weight of the rider plus gear, the extra cush is a much bigger benefit than the slightly faster acceleration. They also offer more protection for your rims when hitting potholes, etc.
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Old 04-25-12, 09:40 PM   #15
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That's a bunch of baloney. Fat tires don't offer any more rolling resistance than skinny tires. They are heavier and less aerodynamic, but generally you aren't going as fast on a touring bike so the aerodynamics don't matter much. When you compare the weight of fatter tires to the total weight of the rider plus gear, the extra cush is a much bigger benefit than the slightly faster acceleration. They also offer more protection for your rims when hitting potholes, etc.
Wow. Can't believe I'm hearing this.
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