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Handling and braking with a trailer seeking advice

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Handling and braking with a trailer seeking advice

Old 08-31-13, 06:04 PM
  #1  
christo930
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Handling and braking with a trailer seeking advice

A friend of mine has lent me a trailer for 2 babies. It's the type that attaches to the left chain stay with a large wingnut and has a spring at the connection site so that it's not rigid. I've rode around with it empty and it doesn't seem to affect stopping or handling too much, however that is empty. I plan on doing some food shopping and putting food in this thing, probably around 30 pounds.

First, is pulling 30 pounds easier or harder than having the 30 pounds on a bike rack?

Second, how will that trailing weight affect turning and the general handle-ability of the bike?

Third, will it have the same effects on stopping the bike as it would if the weight was on the bike on a rack?

The market I am going to is fairly close, mostly level and requires only 2 turns getting there (while it's empty) and 7 turns (I can't take the same route home because of 1 way streets) coming home (while it's full). I'm not going to have access to it very long so I don't have time to experiment. I will also have my normal 20 pounds or so on the rack.

Any advice anyone could give would be greatly appreciated.

Chris
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Old 08-31-13, 07:42 PM
  #2  
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Since you already have the trailer and tried out empty, why don't find 30#s of junk and try it and see how it handles without going to market yet. As you gain confidence expand your practice range until you feel you're ready for the real thing.

When family and friends would ask me about baby seats on their bikes, I always suggested they ride around with a sack of potatoes back there until they had it dialed in. Over the years there were lots of bruised potatoes, but never an injured child.

There is simply no substitute for real world experience.
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Old 08-31-13, 07:54 PM
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So long as you don't get too high on the trailer weight (30-lbs isn't very high) having the weight in the trailer instead of on the bike is actually beneficial to the handling. Acceleration and hill climbing lag is the same and increase in braking distance is the same, but you either don't have to try to balance the weight with a two wheel trailer or with a one wheel trailer the weight is is lower to the ground then if it was on the bike so it is easier to balance.

Now, when you get into very heavy trailer weights (approximately trailer weight that is approaching or exceeding half the weight of the bike and rider that is towing it) with a one wheel trailer it becomes very problematic to impossible to try to balance the weight on the one wheel trailer with the long leverage arm the trailer makes for the twisting forces or with a two (or more) wheel trailer you start to have a need for trailer brakes to keep the trailer from trying to jack-knife and/or over-run the bike that is towing it during braking especially down a hill. I have towed trailer weights up to and exceeding a full ton with a bike and I can absolutely assure you that once the weight on the trailer gets high enough you absolutely have to have trailer brakes that are as strong or stronger then the brakes on the bike and with a heavy enough trailer you have to have a means of apply the trailer brakes first and can't use a tongue compression trailer brake system.

But, for your particular trailer (sounds like a two wheel) and weight your going to be towing about the only thing you need to worry about is to realize you need a little more room on the inside of turns and need a little more width to squeeze through between obstacles due to the trailer. Also, I'm not a huge fan of actually putting kids in those low rear trailers made for kids. Fine for hauling cargo but too low to the ground for me to be comfortable that some stupid text-ing punk in an act of criminal negligence in the operation of a dangerous machine won't roll right over that low trailer with the kids in it with their SUV and squash them like pan-cakes. I prefer to carry kids up front on the main bike up high and in front of me. Can do that with a single smaller kid on a regular bike with a kid seat that mounts over the front wheel to the handle-bars. For hauling bigger kids or more of them a bakafiets front loading cargo bike is the ticket for that.
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Old 08-31-13, 07:57 PM
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I agree with FB that it's best for you to experiment with the trailer on your own under safe conditions - i.e. on some quiet streets near your home at low-traffic times. That'll let you know exactly how that particular loaded trailer acts in combination with your bike, your brakes, and your level of experience.

In general I find that the effort required to tow/carry a certain load is less if I can carry it on the bike in panniers/baskets/etc. instead of towing a trailer. The rolling resistance is reduced and I avoid the extra weight of the trailer. OTOH, the handling of the bike is better using a trailer since I don't have extra weight on the bike itself making it more likely to lean over, or, even worse, have the weight shift unexpectedly.

Overall I tend to prefer keeping the weight in bags on the bike until the weight carried gets well over 30 lbs. - say around 50 lbs. or so. But the cross-over point varies a bit by terrain and road surface.
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Old 08-31-13, 08:05 PM
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Yes, with a trailer there is a little bit more rolling resistance. The extent of that and how noticeable it is, however, is highly dependent upon the quality of the trailer wheels. A good trailer made using at least 20" size bicycle wheels with good bearings can be such that the additional rolling drag isn't even noticeable, where as a cheapo trailer made with small junky wheels with junk bearings can indeed have a very noticeable additional rolling drag.
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Old 08-31-13, 09:27 PM
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Just be prepared to work a little harder and allow a lot of extra room for braking. I used to haul two of my kids around in a trailer and they were a lot more than 30 lbs combined. Never had any issues pulling or stopping; you just need to be smart about it.
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Old 09-01-13, 12:48 PM
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30# isn't much, but the effect it will have on handling, acceleration, AND braking will be significant. Make wider turns, allow more braking distance, and shift down a gear until you feel comfortable with the differences.

I've hauled 160# in a trailer rated for 100# (seatpost mounted, design claimed by mfr. to be 'tip-proof', and almost IS), and those were the necessary things for me to do.

Don't be surprised or alarmed at the extra 'pulsing' feel when you pedal, particularly uphill. Nature of the beast.
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Old 09-01-13, 12:49 PM
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Thanks to all that responded. It is a 2 wheel trailer and when I was testing it the tires were actually flat (I tested it on the way home from the person I borrowed it from and it was in her garage and not used for a very long time). I got it up to about 15MPH and did a panic stop and it didn't appear to have much effect, but it is pretty light and there was nothing in it.

I've inflated the tires and wrapped the underneath with string because this thing is so old that I am afraid the bottom, which is cloth connected with 2 loops on either side won't hold much weight. The wheels are slightly smaller than a 20" bike and have bearings and they are each on an axle (each side has it's own axle) that slides into holes in the frame and then held in by cotter pins. This thing is probably 20 years old and the rims are covered in rust. I have no intention of putting a child in this thing. There is instructions on the back of the trailer that says 2 babies max 100lbs 1 baby maximum 50lbs, do not exceed 10mph. The trailer doesn't have brakes. The clamp that attaches to the chain stay is rubberized and you can screw it down and my bike's chain stay has a rough surface (I guess that's why it's there) so I don't think it will slide forward or backwards on braking and acceleration. I generally like to ride about 10mph so the speed is in my general comfort zone anyway. I hope to get a chance to practice around the neighborhood first with some weight in the thing. The supermarket is about 2.5 kilometers away, and I take the side streets so there shouldn't be much traffic.
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Old 09-01-13, 01:01 PM
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Be careful about overheating your CF clinchers on technical descents.
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Old 09-01-13, 11:28 PM
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You'll get used to it.

In the meantime, the thing is a lot wider than you might realize. Be really careful getting too close to parked cars and curbs, retaining walls and such. Notice how it probably sticks out quite a bit more on one side than the other. Also don't take turns fast if you're used to that, a trailer can overturn pretty easy in a normal fast cycling turn.

EDIT I just realized you're not hauling any actual babies in this thing. Have at it!
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