REVIEW: Bike Nashbar Cargo Trailer 2; one year later
Summary: The Bike Nashbar Cargo Trailer is an effective and useful trailer for its price. Its platform design offers a lot of versatility in loads. It works well for longer trips up to speed, but can be difficult to use at slower speeds, with awkward, heavy cargo, and while stationary. The replacement skewer limits your bike to derailleur drivetrains, and requires you to carry a 15mm wrench to remove the rear wheel. The quality of materials is what one would expect for a $100 trailer. I do not recommend using it for a tour, but is most useful for in-town shopping in suburban areas.
Nashbar Cargo Trailer 2
Price paid: ~$80, plus replacement skewer $12, cargo net $8 and extra tube $6
Purchase Date: April 2010
Attachment: Replacement rear skewer with quick-attach mechanism
Max Capacity (as recommended): 45lbs
Max Capacity (as tested): 70lbs
Used on: Converted MTB for commuting
Miles ridden: 250-300
An Economical Trailer
The Nashbar Cargo Trailer 2 is one of the cheapest trailers available. The old saying "you get what you pay for" does apply. The material used for the frame and floor panel is rust-prone steel, which relies on the paint to protect it. In areas where the paint has worn off, surface rust has appeared. The center bolt connecting the trailer with the hinge has also become rusty. The 16" wheel used has alloy rims, and the hub is of no significance, with some play in the bearings. The tire used is up to the task, but a replacement would improve the performance of the trailer noticeably.
The tubular construction of the trailer frame has sufficient welds. The platform grating is spot welded onto the frame, and I have become concerned that road vibration might break one or two of the welds, as indicated by occasional rattling. Other sounds are created, too, with a squeaky hinge, the ball connectors to the hitch, and a too narrow fender line causing grit to rub against the tire and fender.
A rear fender, wheel and trailer reflectors are appreciated. The hitch connectors have a safety pin to keep the trailer from disconnecting. For the price, you get versatility with its size, and a faster trailer (due to the single-wheel design) than most 2-wheel trailers.
The elongated hexagon design of this trailer is very ideal. You can put one medium rubbermaid tub in it without worrying about the tub moving around. For lighter items, I've stacked one tub on top of the other. It also helps give the trailer a narrower profile, which I appreciate while riding in traffic. The floor panel does not form a lip around the bottom, so smaller items must be secured in a tub or bag, or strapped down.
The trailer lengthens your bike considerably, longer than most longtail cargo bikes. This can make it a very awkward choice in the city. Some corners you have to approach wider than you would with a double-wheeled trailer. On the open road, there is less ground contact than a double-wheeled trailer, so it is quite useful for suburban and rural use.
The stability of the trailer is fairly weak. When stationary, it is better to find a wall to support both your bike and the trailer than attempt using the kickstand. I only have a single leg kickstand, so perhaps getting a double will make it manageable, but certainly not as manageable as a double-wheeled. The stability is also affected by the hitch mechanism. Having the trailer mounted right at the axle plays against the gyroscopic effects generating at the hub. On occasions where there has been wind, or with a heavy load, I have experienced shimmy between my bike and the trailer (uncontrollable swaying back and forth). I had to immediately stop to avoid a crash in the two instances this happened. There have also been times, due to weight mismanagement, where the trailer would want to tip the bike backwards.
A better design for a single wheeled trailer would be to put the hitch higher above the wheel, such as at the rack or seat post. This changes the load so that it is not affecting the lateral stability of the bike, instead, having the weight distributed to the frame. (Source: http://www.tonystrailers.com/singlewheelers/ bottom-half of page)
Having the hitch replace the quick-release skewer of your rear wheel also limits you to using derailleurs only, and you must bring a 15mm wrench to do any emergency tire changes. The threaded skewer that came with my trailer did not tighten completely with my 135mm spaced rear wheel (the trailer also comes with a 120mm spaced skewer). I naively stripped the threads while tightening it at one point, and had to order a $12 replacement skewer, plus shipping. Since then, I have added washers to the skewer and solved the incompatibility. The hitch connector, which is a sprung connector pin that expands two balls that fit within the skewer grooves, seems effective, but needs occasional oil. The way it has worked for me lately makes me wonder if the pin itself with fail within a few years.
The fender, although a nice touch, has too narrow of a space between the center of it and the tire. This can cause grit to scrape against the fender, and if there is sufficient cargo weight, the fender itself will press against the tire.
Loading with this trailer can be an issue. The obvious issues for single-wheeled loading, mainly stability, affect other trailers such as BOB. Again I feel a seat-post hitch would improve loading with a single-wheeled trailer.
Due to the short height of the side-rails, you are afforded more variety in what you can load, but must use more straps or a net to secure taller objects. The process of evenly distributing your load takes several minutes or longer, and you are not guaranteed the best riding stability since in order to load this trailer, it must be supported or leaning against a wall. The open design of the trailer also allows you to put garden tools like shovels flat, or other longer objects.
Average loads, such as to the grocery store, this trailer is more than capable of. It works very well for lighter loads, less than 35lbs. Past that, there is noticeable frame flex. I had a large amount of recycles that approached 50lbs, and the trailer became dangerous to use due to it's height and weight. This was an instance where the trailer "shimmied", and I ended up losing a bag of bottles on the road. I was crossing an intersection and put a lot of energy into it. I have successfully moved several potted plants and soil, approaching 70lbs, by maintaining a very low speed (5-8mph).
This trailer and system I would not recommend for urban use. The trailer is more transportable than a kids trailer, but there are foldable trailers such as Burley Travoy, or using panniers/front cargo rack would be more ideal. The stability of it makes riding in traffic at lower speeds not fun. The quick release added to the rear wheel, although thoughtful, makes you concerned with locking your trailer in two points. I have to carry a U-lock with a cable and a heavy duty chain lock (20-30lbs extra) to lock both my bike and their wheels completely. Finding a good place to lock your bike and trailer up is also more of a nuisance, although not much different from any other trailer.
Ultimately, I am happy with the price of this trailer. I would not purchase it at it's current price of $120, as a $180-230 trailer would dramatically improve quality and perhaps stability. I have learned to live within it's limits, and find it a very useful tool, but know that it won't last for too much longer. I do feel I will get my money's worth, and probably long enough to save up for a better cargo solution.