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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Why a trailer instead of panniers?

    I've recently come back from a 3 month tour in Australia. I brought way too much stuff, and by the time I finished the ride I was down to two partially full panniers, a trunk bag, and a partially full handlebar bag . . . and I could have probably gone even lighter than that.

    I was quite comfortable out there with so little. The only things I would change in my setup would be:

    - a thermarest mat. I used a foam one and it wasn't quite thick enough. the thermarest would roll up even smaller than the foam mat.
    - fewer tools. I carried about double what I needed.
    - fewer medical supplies. I carried about double what I needed.
    - my own tent (my cycling partner carried the tent, but it was really, really small and I could have easily added it to my collection)
    - a few bits of cooking/eating supplies (my cycling partner carried that as well, and it too was really, really small)

    With those changes, I know I could still fit it all into a couple panniers and a couple other small bags.


    So then I have to wonder .... why would anyone want to pull a trailer on a tour???? I've seen them. I even rode a bicycle with one attached to see what it was like. In my opinion, a trailer has the capacity to carry WAY too much!! I can't imagine wanting to carry as much stuff as a trailer would hold with me, even if I were to tour for the rest of my life!!

    Then there's the business of what you do with the trailer. If you're travelling overseas, you've got to pack it on the plane too. My bicycle and bags were more than enough for me. If you've stopped in a campground, and you want to take a run into town to get some food, you've either got to leave the trailer in the campground, risking having it stollen, or bring it with you all the time. Plus, if you head into town to pick up food ... and you've decided to leave the trailer at the campground ... how do you carry the food back? And if you're trying to make your way along a crowded sidewalk (as I have a number of times on my tours), I can't imagine having to manouver a trailer as well.


    So ... for those who use trailers ... what's the appeal?

  2. #2
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    I've recently come back from a 3 month tour in Australia. I brought way too much stuff, and by the time I finished the ride I was down to two partially full panniers, a trunk bag, and a partially full handlebar bag . . . and I could have probably gone even lighter than that.

    I was quite comfortable out there with so little. The only things I would change in my setup would be:

    - a thermarest mat. I used a foam one and it wasn't quite thick enough. the thermarest would roll up even smaller than the foam mat.
    - fewer tools. I carried about double what I needed.
    - fewer medical supplies. I carried about double what I needed.
    - my own tent (my cycling partner carried the tent, but it was really, really small and I could have easily added it to my collection)
    - a few bits of cooking/eating supplies (my cycling partner carried that as well, and it too was really, really small)

    With those changes, I know I could still fit it all into a couple panniers and a couple other small bags.


    So then I have to wonder .... why would anyone want to pull a trailer on a tour???? I've seen them. I even rode a bicycle with one attached to see what it was like. In my opinion, a trailer has the capacity to carry WAY too much!! I can't imagine wanting to carry as much stuff as a trailer would hold with me, even if I were to tour for the rest of my life!!

    Then there's the business of what you do with the trailer. If you're travelling overseas, you've got to pack it on the plane too. My bicycle and bags were more than enough for me. If you've stopped in a campground, and you want to take a run into town to get some food, you've either got to leave the trailer in the campground, risking having it stollen, or bring it with you all the time. Plus, if you head into town to pick up food ... and you've decided to leave the trailer at the campground ... how do you carry the food back? And if you're trying to make your way along a crowded sidewalk (as I have a number of times on my tours), I can't imagine having to manouver a trailer as well.


    So ... for those who use trailers ... what's the appeal?
    I think there is a place for trailers, but I feel the same way you do for on the road touring. The third tire on the road does slow you down too. I have actually tried to make a 90 degree corner on a sidewalk in a city with a trailer. If there is a phone pole or a fire hydrant nearby it's a problem. I have seen tourers with a trailer and panniers too. I can see it as handy for off road use however. Plus it takes experience to be good at traveling light. It's easy to bring too much, then you like the capacity of the trailer.
    I met two guys on the road once that had all their things in one trailer. They would switch the trailer back and forth between the two bikes to share the load. They would have loved to be sharing it all the time and not have a trailer. I knew a guy who had a long wheelbase recumbent and pulled a trailer in the city. That did not last long, it was longer than some cars. He got rid of the trailer. It would have been totally impossible to do a 90 degree corner on a sidewalk on that thing. In fact I tried it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    why limit yourself to either/or? i usually travel with a loaded trailer, sleeping bag on the rear rack,
    and cooking stuff in the front panniers (no rears). on the longer trips in desolate areas, i'll take the
    rear panniers to hold trailer stuff, with 5 gallons h20 and hiking boots in the trailer.

    there's nothing quite like pedaling a 175-pound vehicle 100+ miles a day. yeah, let's see that
    sissy-boy lance do that.

  4. #4
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    I'm not sold on the 'fewer medical supplies.' At least, not from the standpoint of "I didn't need them..." I like to carry a pretty beefy first aid kit, and if I get to my destination having dragged it the whole way without having used it, I don't regret having taken it for a second.

    I've done both trailer (Bob Yak) and pannier tours. Personally, I prefer the panniers. I believe the bike is more stable with them. Your milage may vary.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abbub
    I'm not sold on the 'fewer medical supplies.' At least, not from the standpoint of "I didn't need them..." I like to carry a pretty beefy first aid kit, and if I get to my destination having dragged it the whole way without having used it, I don't regret having taken it for a second.

    I've done both trailer (Bob Yak) and pannier tours. Personally, I prefer the panniers. I believe the bike is more stable with them. Your milage may vary.

    I had enough to bandage up an ARMY!! I'm notorious for carrying way too much stuff and I've been working at cutting it back. I could have easily cut the amount of medical supplies I was carrying in half and still had enough. In fact, I did send about 1/3 of it home part way through the tour ... then I had a rather painful accident toward the end ... and had more than enough with me to deal with it. I was able to purchase the one or two extra items I needed, when I needed them.

  6. #6
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abbub
    .
    I've done both trailer (Bob Yak) and pannier tours. Personally, I prefer the panniers. I believe the bike is more stable with them. Your milage may vary.
    Good point.

    My touring bike handles better with loaded panniers too. It really is a pleasure to ride with a load. It's a little smoother on small bumps too. The load holds the bike down and makes the tire flex more, and less bump gets to the rider.

  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    I was quite comfortable out there with so little. The only things I would change in my setup would be:

    - a thermarest mat. I used a foam one and it wasn't quite thick enough. the thermarest would roll up even smaller than the foam mat.
    I've been looking at one of these. I purchase the Big Agnus sleeping bag on sale at REI and the pad rolls down to the size of a Nalgene water bottle. It's comfortable too. It's also lighter than the Thermarest. I'm really thinking of buy 2. Think of it 5" of air padded comfort. Heaven!


    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    fewer tools. I carried about double what I needed.
    - fewer medical supplies. I carried about double what I needed.
    I carry very few medical supplies at all. The point of first aid is to treat life threating problems not make permanent fixes. Carry something to stop bleeding (maxi pads do a great job) and improvize the rest. You'd be amazed at what will work for all kinds of injuries in a pinch.

    Stuart Black

  8. #8
    senile member
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    i would probably use 4 panniers and a trailer if i do some places which i need to carry water and food for several days on end. so i guess a trailer is probably more suitable for some expedition or something like that.

  9. #9
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    I like to keep as much weight as possible off of the bike, as it is not an out-and-out tourer, and I like to bring my dog! (It's not as bad as it sounds, I've trained him to hop out and jog along side when I say "C'mon!", for when I'm huffing and puffing on a really steep climb.) I've never liked the way panniers made my bike handle, and I got really tired of fixing spokes in the middle of nowhere. I haven't busted one spoke since the trailer.
    If I'm going on an ultralight weekend, I'll throw the rack and panniers on my bike(I just had my aluminum rack snap in two last week, so I guess I'm sold on tubular chro-moly from now on!) If I want to bring the dog and/or do an extended tour, I load up the trailer. There are advantages to both. I'm using the trailer on my next tour so I can bring some extra work clothes,, since I'm not going to bring much money and was going to try to find odd jobs along the way. I read tons of travelogues where people spend tons of $$$, but I never read about anyone attempting to work their way through a tour, so I thought it would be an interesting experiment!
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  10. #10
    Senior Member denisegoldberg's Avatar
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    I've used panniers on my diamond-framed touring bike, and a trailer with my Bike Friday. I much prefer the handling of the bike when I'm using a trailer for a fully loaded tour. For credit card trips where I do not need to fly to the trip, I will happily use panniers since I won't be carrying as much stuff - and it's likely I'll use the smaller front panniers on the rear rack. If there are airplanes involved, it's highly likely that I'll be pulling a trailer since the bike that I take with me on airplanes is my Bike Friday, and its travel case does double duty as a trailer. But even then - if the tour is a circle rather than point to point AND it's a credit card tour where I don't need to carry a lot of stuff - I'm sure there will be trips where I will use small panniers instead of the trailer.

  11. #11
    EmperorNorton II norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saddlesores
    why limit yourself to either/or? i usually travel with a loaded trailer, sleeping bag on the rear rack,
    and cooking stuff in the front panniers (no rears). on the longer trips in desolate areas, i'll take the
    rear panniers to hold trailer stuff, with 5 gallons h20 and hiking boots in the trailer.

    there's nothing quite like pedaling a 175-pound vehicle 100+ miles a day. yeah, let's see that
    sissy-boy lance do that.

    Nice pic....You do look ready for work....

  12. #12
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    I like to keep as much weight as possible off of the bike, as it is not an out-and-out tourer, and I like to bring my dog! (It's not as bad as it sounds, I've trained him to hop out and jog along side when I say "C'mon!", for when I'm huffing and puffing on a really steep climb.)
    That is fantastically awesome! One of the reasons I haven't gotten a pet is because I like to tour for weeks at a time and wouldn't be able to take care of it. Hmm...

    Anyway, I've never toured with a trailer, so I can't comment on this discussion from experience, but It seems to me that it would feel much more sluggish and push-pullish on hills, and I'm not sure whether I'd like that.

  13. #13
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    I just bought a trailer but as of now have no advice other than what I've read. My reasons for buying were money. I was able to buy a new Burley flatbed for 100.00 and needed nothing else. I can use my mnt. commuter with the flatbed. I'll use my kayak dry bags to seperate my gear and keep it dry. For me to use panniers I would have to buy racks, panniers and another bike. I would hit my heels using panniers. I also don't like the feel of a heavier bike. I used a trunk bag commuting for years and switched to a backpack. Will I like the trailer...don't know yet. But like you I am a minimalist. Take only what I need. Years of backpacking taught me this. BUT water is crucial and having a trailer will make this important task much easier. Let me ask you...how much water can/do you carry with panniers? I can and do drink lots of water while biking. 3L don't make it far with me. Especially if you are in the U.S. SW. You might be days from water. Plus where can you put the beer/wine;-) Charlie

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Let me ask you...how much water can/do you carry with panniers? I can and do drink lots of water while biking. 3L don't make it far with me. Especially if you are in the U.S. SW. You might be days from water.

    I had about 3L on the bicycle in bottles, and the capacity to carry another 4L in my panniers if I needed to. I never needed to. There was always some place where I could get water.

    I actually have trouble believing that a person could be DAYS away from water in the SW US ... according to my maps there are towns at least every 100 miles all through that area, and that's only a one-day ride.

  15. #15
    Hooked on Touring
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    M -
    Actually - there's lots of water in the West for the observant eye. One of the best sources are cattle tanks with windmills - - No!! - - you don't drink out of the tank - - you spot a windmill - - preferably near the road, preferably on public land and head over there - - what the windmill does is pump water out of a well INTO the cattle tank. Usually there is some rubber hose that is a foot or so above the tank. The water coming out of this hose is almost always cold, clear, and delicious.
    Best - J

  16. #16
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    M -
    Actually - there's lots of water in the West for the observant eye. One of the best sources are cattle tanks with windmills - - No!! - - you don't drink out of the tank - - you spot a windmill - - preferably near the road, preferably on public land and head over there - - what the windmill does is pump water out of a well INTO the cattle tank. Usually there is some rubber hose that is a foot or so above the tank. The water coming out of this hose is almost always cold, clear, and delicious.
    Best - J

    Another place is those faucets on the backs of community halls, and other businesses ... the ones where they hook up a hose to water the lawn. I've slipped behing a few of those sorts of places to fill a bottle.

    I'm not sure about the US, but up here in Canada, I've often come upon community halls sitting right in the middle of absolutely nowhere!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    One of the best sources are cattle tanks with windmills - - No!! - - you don't drink out of the tank - - you spot a windmill - - preferably near the road, preferably on public land and head over there - - what the windmill does is pump water out of a well INTO the cattle tank. Usually there is some rubber hose that is a foot or so above the tank. The water coming out of this hose is almost always cold, clear, and delicious.
    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Another place is those faucets on the backs of community halls, and other businesses ... the ones where they hook up a hose to water the lawn.
    i am just wondering, is the water in the states or canada portable, like, right out of the faucet or windmill?

  18. #18
    Ride it, don't fondle it! Wheel Doctor's Avatar
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    Quick story. Woman comes into my shop. Her hubby is a teacher. He is doing the Trans Am with some of his teacher buddies, some of them are "big time bikers". She shows me a list that they made up from a book on self supported touring. She knew a friend of my wife's and knew that I did the Trans Am as well as other self supported multi week trips. So I took a highliter and highlited the stuff he didn't need. She returned and said he took all the items on the list except for a few. He felt that he need all the stuff. A week after he left she came in and told me that she got a big UPS box of the stuff I highlited. She said laughlingly she was instructed not to tell me about the box.
    I use medium panniers on the rear with small ones on lowriders. Stack tent/sleeping bag/thermarest on the rack top. I see no need for a trailer for touring. I have a BOB but its a COZ model no longer made. I use it sometimes when I commute and need to stop for groceries or take a weeks dirty laundry home etc. It is great since it is a waterproof plastic box. I have a cargo net on top for a case of dog food or whatever I can't get in the box and close the lid.


    Jude

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schumius
    i am just wondering, is the water in the states or canada portable, like, right out of the faucet or windmill?
    What do you mean by "portable" - if you put it in a bottle, you can carry it!


    Or do you mean is it OK to drink? If so the answer is ... most of the time, probably yes, it is OK to drink. Occasionally it is not. In the Manitoba prairies, and into western Ontario a bit, there is a problem with ecoli in the water. It killed off almost an entire town before they finally tracked it down to the well which provided water for the whole town. Now and then they'll send out warnings to avoid drinking the water in this town or that town because ecoli has been found. Unfortunately if you are just cycling through and you get water from the back of a building, you'll likely never know about the warning until it's too late. But probably 90% of the time, up here in Canada anyway, it'll be OK.

  20. #20
    Hooked on Touring
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    Potable water is a question of degree. A person in Bangladesh is able to drink water safely that would probably leave a Californian in the hospital for weeks. Generally, I can drink water right out of streams with no ill effects, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend that to others. Then again, I'm stuck in the bushes for days if I eat cashews - so we're all different.

    Of course, if we continue to insulate ourselves from any and every pathogen we will all be wiped out in one big epidemic - be it waterborne, airborne or whatever. The whole giardia thing is somewhat overblown in my book. There's a lot out there from professional studies - esp. one in the Sierras/Yosemite. http://www.sierranevadawild.net/Learn/coliform.htm

    The cattle tanks I was talking about are "most likely" safe for 99% of people. I was biking north from Wamsutter, Wyoming through the Red Desert on 60 miles of dirt to Jeffrey City. Tailwind, wild horses - just the bestest of the bestest. And the water at the tank I stopped at was the elixer of the gods.

    Enclosed is a pic of that stretch.

    John

  21. #21
    One Tough Cookie. Black Bud's Avatar
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    Trailers are probably best used as a large load, heavy-duty, urban cargo hauler.

    If you are touring, they are not always necessary, especially if you are doing credit-card touring (and NOT transporting the family pet anywhere! ). Unless you are taking your children with you (that's a good idea?? ). Or relocating!

    For most purposes, panniers are more than adequate to do the job!

    You shouldn't cut back (much) on medical supplies if you are "way out" of civilized areas (though you won't need so much in the way of clean clothing since you won't get close enough to anyone else most of the time!
    Make sure you have enough repair supplies--at least until you get to a bike shop!

    Or, in a pinch in Podunk, USA, a Wal-Mart!!

    I find that keeping the weight on, or, behind, the bike is easier to handle than carrying it on ME!

    As for making those tight turns (and curb hops--which I can't do in any case! ), one should not do those with a loaded bike anyway--the added load makes it just too risky! You just have to think ahead and avoid trouble whenever you possibly can.
    A bad day on the bike is better than a good day at work!!

    My discussion board, another resource for the "utility" and commuter cyclist: "Two Wheeled Commuter: The Everyday Cyclist"

  22. #22
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Let me ask you...how much water can/do you carry with panniers? I can and do drink lots of water while biking. 3L don't make it far with me. Especially if you are in the U.S. SW. You might be days from water.

    I had about 3L on the bicycle in bottles, and the capacity to carry another 4L in my panniers if I needed to. I never needed to. There was always some place where I could get water.

    I actually have trouble believing that a person could be DAYS away from water in the SW US ... according to my maps there are towns at least every 100 miles all through that area, and that's only a one-day ride.
    I think I would need more than 3-4L of water for 100 miles in the SW. I could probably make it on that but would prefer more. That's assuming I could make 100 miles fully loaded on hot windy dusty day in Arizona. I have taken water for granted living in the eastern US, lots of streams and rivers everwhere. But when I lived in Utah we always had to focus on H2O. Filters are great and are not that heavy. Might be good choice to use with the water tanks (which was an excellent bit of information). There's lots I need to learn about touring and water is an important area. You may be right about 3L and 100 miles. Charlie

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by balto charlie
    I think I would need more than 3-4L of water for 100 miles in the SW. I could probably make it on that but would prefer more. That's assuming I could make 100 miles fully loaded on hot windy dusty day in Arizona. I have taken water for granted living in the eastern US, lots of streams and rivers everwhere. But when I lived in Utah we always had to focus on H2O. Filters are great and are not that heavy. Might be good choice to use with the water tanks (which was an excellent bit of information). There's lots I need to learn about touring and water is an important area. You may be right about 3L and 100 miles. Charlie

    Just a little note: 3 + 4 is 7.


    That's assuming I could make 100 miles fully loaded on hot windy dusty day in Arizona.

    Why wouldn't you be able to? It might take a bit of time, but should be do-able.

  24. #24
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Just a little note: 3 + 4 is 7.


    That's assuming I could make 100 miles fully loaded on hot windy dusty day in Arizona.

    Why wouldn't you be able to? It might take a bit of time, but should be do-able.
    Ahhh! 4 MORE. Now I get it.(slighty red in the face here) I just reread your other post. I was thinking you were a dromedary. 7L should be suffecient. As a newcomer to this adventure another Q. I guess you have to plan your trips with H20 in mind, no? In most situations it wouldn't be a problem. Would you take that interesting side road wtihout a known water source ? Or do you have to "stick to the plan". When backpacking I would look at the topo and find a source. Do bike maps have this type of info. Again in most situation it wouldn't be needed but there is a possibility. Thanks for bearing with me. Enough computer, I gotta ride so I can make that town 100 miles on the horizon, low on water, into a 30 mph wind, dust flying and scorching sun. Charlie

  25. #25
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I tour with panniers...personal preference. I have not traveled with the newer generation of trailers...the last one I towed was a Cannondale Bugger and it was a beast but did the job at the time. As far as water is concerned...I carry a MSR Miniworks I have only used one time that I can recall when I dropped my water bottle and did not find out until a couple of hours later I also carry at least one MSR Dromedary Bag with the shower attachment. I have filled one of the black ones and left in the sun for several hours....nice warm shower in the middle of nowhere also comes in handy for doing dishes, washing hands etc. I have a couple of these in different sizes depending on my needs/wants.

    Aaron

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