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Observations, my new trailer....(long post)

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Observations, my new trailer....(long post)

Old 07-02-08, 06:18 AM
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Observations, my new trailer....(long post)

A little background: I've been into bicycle touring for around 8 years. I started with my trusty Trek 520, and loaded panniers/racks. I have always been dissatisfied with the way the bike handles when loaded. It's like driving a semi truck. The front end is sluggish, and the bike shimmys/wobbles/shakes, etc. when standing. It seems to be hard on my knees, and even wears out my upper body after a full day of riding. I got tired of fighting with it. I love to tour, but I hated riding a loaded touring bike.

I got a BOB trailer, and tried it out on several tours over the last couple of years. It tracks well, but doesn't help the problem of poor handling while standing. When I would stand, and work the bike from side to side, I could feel the weight of/in the trailer shifting back and forth. And the bike still wobbled considerably.

So I went back to just pans/racks this spring and tried a short, week-long trip. I realized that I just couldn't do it anymore, and decided that I needed a whole new bike. That option sucks, since my 520 is pretty heavily modified to fit my needs. And yes, I've got an excellent rear rack on it, so it's not the rack that causes my problem. I considered purchasing a Thorn EXP, and almost plopped down the money for it, even though it would've cost around 7 grand for the one I wanted.

I decided to try one last possible solution before dropping the cash on a whole new bike and purchased a Burley Nomad trailer. I can't say enough about this little trailer! It's perfect.

First of all, it has two wheels. It's connected to the bike with a rubber hitch, so that when I stand and work the bike, all the weight in the trailer stays settled, and the bike feels almost like it would when un-loaded, just slower because of the drag. The front end of the bike is nice and light, without panniers, so that's very nice. And all the wobbling is gone. As I work the bike from side to side, while standing, I don't have to "wait" for the bike to respond, or try to force it. The Nomad even has more carrying capacity than the BOB, so I don't need to leave anything behind. Now, I don't need to tour with the kitchen sink, I cut weight everywhere I possibly can. But it's nice to know that if I need to pick up some extra food or something while on a trip, I'll have room for it. Did I mention that I love this trailer? And the coolest thing is this: under similar conditions(weather, topography, etc.), I think that I actually have a higher average ride speed at the end of the day, while towing the trailer, than I do when riding with loaded pans/racks! And considering that it's an extra 15 pounds of weight, and two more wheels of road friction, I'd say that's a testament to how much more comfortable the riding is! And I feel better at the end of the day as well. It's a lot easier on the bike too. No more popped spokes.

When I first started touring, I began to research how to load a bike, and the overwhelming majority of folks claim that the key to touring is having the lightest load possible. Everyone seemed to recommend spending thousands of dollars on the latest, high-tech, lightest weight gear available. I found myself thinking that: cycling is a matter of power to weight ratio. You can either have the lightest weight load, or you have to up the power. I thought that the key would be to compromise, cut weight where I could(but take what I felt I needed), and try to get into good enough shape to pull the load. Then I ran into all the bike handling difficulties. So I cut down the weight as much as possible, but never got it low enough to enjoy the ride. But now I must say, I'm sold on my new set-up. I have no problem being the little engine that could. I'll lug the weight, and enjoy the ride at the same time.

I would highly recommend this trailer to anyone who dislikes the way a loaded touring bike handles. I'll be doing the Northern Tier route starting next month, from Wash. to NY. Maybe I'll see some of you out there!
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Old 07-02-08, 08:30 AM
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The wider Burley trailer makes you a bigger target for cars and, more importantly, the second wheel forces you to ride further from the shoulder - especially where there are rumble strips. Most folks find panniers / racks or the BOB the better choices for loaded touring. Panniers / racks allow faster climbing, BOB is more aerodynamic allowing easier going in a headwind.

The Burley makes sense for hauling groceries around town where there is a bike lane or a wide shoulder. The weight penalty can be offset by using a road rather than a touring bike.
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Old 07-02-08, 08:49 AM
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Well of course you're gonna feel it shift side to side if you stand there wriggling it like a dog shaking off water...

You have more mass and therefor more inertia to deal with but then again, how often does your bike wriggle back and forth like that while you're riding?

Also, if you tie the load down properly it shouldn't shift around on you.

I've been using a BoB for about 3 or 4 years now and wouldn't dream of using anything else.

I use it for hauling groceries, recycling, and other bikes on occasion and the only time I even laid it down was one winter when I got too close to a snowbank.
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Old 07-02-08, 08:51 AM
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The OP mentioned that he already had a Bob trailer and didn't much like it. I have the Nomad and although I tour with panniers I find the Nomad to be very easy to pull. Light enough and tracks great.

I use mine for grocery getting and I spend most my time along the state hwy. I will say that I don't have rumble strips to deal with though. The trailer is very low profile and unless it's loaded it's very hard to tell it's behind you.

I wouldn't have a problem loading it up and going on a long tour with it. I didn't buy it for that though. If I didn't have a fully equipped touring bike I would.

I'm glad you like your Burley Thulsadoom.... I dig mine. I've had it loaded with over 80 lbs and it still tracked great. Was a bugger on the hills though.

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Old 07-02-08, 08:58 AM
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Glad you found a solution that works for you. It doesn't really matter if you tour with panniers/racks or a trailer...light or hauling the kitchen sink...as long as you have a smile on your face when you do it....
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Old 07-02-08, 04:03 PM
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I did a weekend tour using a Toddler Trailer to haul my gear in. It worked alright, but I don't want to use it for long trips since it was effin' heavy. I was lagging far behind my friends with their simple, lightweight panniers.

I now use racks and panniers, and like them over the heavy toddler trailer. I do think a trailer is still a great choice for touring, especially for people without dedicated touring bikes. I use a LHT, so loading it with panniers is what it is built for, and it works great.

I think a Nomad or a BOB would be decent for touring, but not really a heavy anchor that is a steel toddler trailer.
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Old 07-02-08, 04:44 PM
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OP said;

"It tracks well, but doesn't help the problem of poor handling while standing. When I would stand, and work the bike from side to side, I could feel the weight of/in the trailer shifting back and forth. And the bike still wobbled considerably. "


Standing with a BOB trailer is definitely a bike skill, I think the bigger / heavier the rider, the easier this is. It's like the tail wagging the dog, you have to get into a rhythm, to do it well.

"And the coolest thing is this: under similar conditions(weather, topography, etc.), I think that I actually have a higher average ride speed at the end of the day, while towing the trailer, than I do when riding with loaded pans/racks! And considering that it's an extra 15 pounds of weight, and two more wheels of road friction, I'd say that's a testament to how much more comfortable the riding is!"

Agreed, but I attribute it to aerodynamics. I also think it's why they seem so hard on hills. It's not that they are so hard on hills, it's that they are so easy all the rest of the time.

Glad you found what works for you, tailwinds!
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Old 07-03-08, 05:59 AM
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I loved using a Nomad a couple of years ago for hauling various items, it just seems so light! And drivers gave me a huge berth on the roads, guess they thought I had a kid inside.
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Old 07-03-08, 06:54 AM
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IronMac, When I'm pulling mine I find the same thing... Cagers seem to give me quite a bit more room when I'm riding in traffic without a shoulder.
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Old 07-03-08, 09:28 AM
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My own experience with a BOB, or rather the Yakima, a BOB near-clone, wasn't particularly happy either. I found it tended to wobble, particularly at high speeds. Perhaps riding 34 MPH with it down Pittsburgh's Rt 837 wasn't the wisest thing I've ever done.
 
Old 07-03-08, 09:42 AM
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I use a BOB for hauling cargo and it tows very well. I'd use it on tour without hesitation if I wasn't so happy with my pannier/rack setup. I don't find I have any handling issues with it unless I use it for really unreasonable loads - I'd never tour with that much gear.

On my recent tour I spotted at least 4 or 5 BOBs at work and folks seemed to be happy with them - although they were all carrying crazy big loads.

I'd like to try a Nomad out, but now that I have a Big Dummy my days of pulling trailers are pretty much over. I just keep the BOB in case I want to use it occasionally with one of my other bikes or if I want to loan it to a friend who wants to tour, but doesn't have a touring rig.
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Old 07-03-08, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian
My own experience with a BOB, or rather the Yakima, a BOB near-clone, wasn't particularly happy either. I found it tended to wobble, particularly at high speeds. Perhaps riding 34 MPH with it down Pittsburgh's Rt 837 wasn't the wisest thing I've ever done.

I have read other accounts of trailers wobbling, I think the biggest factor is weight of packed trailer vs weight of bike and rider. The heavier the bike and rider compared to the trailer the less problems. Conversely, light riders with heavy trailers have more problems.

I'm a heavy rider on a heavy bike, pulling a heavy (but not compared to me) trailer. I have never had a problem, not the slightest wiggle up to about 45 mph.

Anyway that's my hypothesis.
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Old 07-03-08, 10:03 AM
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The only time I had a BoB adversely effect the bikes handling was traveling at high speed with the trailer empty, bumps in the pavement and all tend to make it bounce and this can make the handling feel a bit wonky.

Part of that was due to the fact that I have the Yak, which has a rear shock, and I sometimes forget to dial down the suspension so it gets weird once in a while.
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Old 07-03-08, 11:25 AM
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For me, the problem has never been about high speed wobbles. As long as my butt is planted on the saddle, I don't have a problem with either loaded pans/racks, or a BOB. It's when I stand and pedal (and I like to stand pretty often) that the bike will start to shake and wobble, when it's loaded.

With the Nomad, the bike behaves almost normally, since the load weight is stabilized.

I also have noticed that most drivers tend to give me a wider berth when towing the Burley trailer, as some other posters have noted. I think that it's because it just looks wider, with the two wheels, even though it's only as wide as a loaded bike. Or, as someone said, maybe people think that it's a child carrier, and there's a rugrat inside.
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Old 07-03-08, 11:36 AM
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[QUOTE=Thulsadoom;6994353]For me, the problem has never been about high speed wobbles. As long as my butt is planted on the saddle, I don't have a problem with either loaded pans/racks, or a BOB. It's when I stand and pedal (and I like to stand pretty often) that the bike will start to shake and wobble, when it's loaded. QUOTE]

It just takes some practice to control this, when I first tried it, I was convinced it could not be done. But with a little practice I could stand as long as I wanted.
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Old 07-03-08, 01:46 PM
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[QUOTE=gregw;6994432]
Originally Posted by Thulsadoom
For me, the problem has never been about high speed wobbles. As long as my butt is planted on the saddle, I don't have a problem with either loaded pans/racks, or a BOB. It's when I stand and pedal (and I like to stand pretty often) that the bike will start to shake and wobble, when it's loaded. QUOTE]

It just takes some practice to control this, when I first tried it, I was convinced it could not be done. But with a little practice I could stand as long as I wanted.
It's not that I can't do it, I've done it for years. It just takes away from the fun of the ride.

The purpose of my post was to let others know that there is another way. For me it was a revelation to tow this trailer, and be able to enjoy riding the bicycle again while touring with a load.
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Old 07-03-08, 02:13 PM
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[QUOTE=Thulsadoom;6995235]
Originally Posted by gregw

It's not that I can't do it, I've done it for years. It just takes away from the fun of the ride.

The purpose of my post was to let others know that there is another way. For me it was a revelation to tow this trailer, and be able to enjoy riding the bicycle again while touring with a load.
Point taken, thanks for posting.
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Old 07-16-08, 01:45 PM
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I have the Nomad, too. I think it's an excellent trailer. Someone I know has a BOB. Like you, Thulsadoom, I've found the two-wheel Nomad to be much, much easier to ride with, especially with heavy weight, than the one-wheel BOB. I'm convinced the two-wheel design is just a better way to make a bike trailer.

As you, Thulsadoom, noted, the one-wheeled designs make for some weird handling. This happens when one stands, or when one moves fast with a lot of weight in the back (a descent with a load, for example). The two-wheel design avoids these problems.

As a utility trailer, the two-wheel design also brings much more weight capacity. Burley rates the trailer to 100 lbs, and I've carried more than that in there for short trips. BOB is rated to 75 lbs.

On the downside, the Nomad, unlike the one-wheel trailer, runs the risk of turning over if you turn too quickly. So, you just have to avoid taking turns very sharply at higher speeds. As a practical matter, this worry doesn't interfere with my riding. 90 degree turns at 10-12 mph have always been safe.

The Nomad is actually not very wide. It's exactly as wide as the front of my bike is when my Arkel T-28's are full. That comparison includes the trailer wheels.

The Nomad is slightly offset to the left, however. This is so the right wheel of the trailer does not track significantly off of the road compared to the rear wheel of the bike. So it's possible to ride the bike very close to the road edge without the right wheel of the trailer going off of the road. A nice design feature, all in all.

However, the trailer does extend out to the left some inches past the front of the bike. If that worries you, that's a problem. In practice, though, I've found that drivers give me more room with the trailer than they do with just panniers and racks. Some other posters above say the same. The Nomad hasn't put me at more traffic risk.

An empty Nomad weighs 14 lbs, according to Burley. Panniers and racks will be close to this in weight. For example, I've got Arkel T-28 and T-42 panniers. The total for the four bags is just over 9 pounds. Jandd Expedition and Extreme racks add about 4 more pounds. That's 13 pounds for the racks and panniers, compared to 14 for the trailer.

So, the Nomad is a good choice for touring. All that said, I still prefer to use racks and panniers for touring. I like the organization the bags bring-- especially with all of the pockets Arkel designs. Also, it's much easier to dry things out in the webbing on the side of the bags than to try the various options available with the trailer. But that's all, really. Touring with a trailer is a fine idea.
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