December 26, 2009
All my life I have toured with panniers, and this marks the first time I´ve made my transition to a trailer. It's not that I have anything against panniers, or want to jump in on the debate as to which is more efficient. I just wanted to see what all the hype was about.
I have been touring the Mexico Pacific coast for a few weeks now with Tours Specialist Sarah Raz, and we are both toting the Burley Nomad trailer. The Nomad has a couple big draws that separate it from other trailers. The system they use to mount the trailer to the bike has been improved over the past few years, and instead of clamping down to the frame, the trailer uses a hitch design. It consists of a small aluminum piece that you clamp to your rear dropouts through the rear skewer. The trailer arm then has a small pin that drops into the hitch. The system is very secure, and allows the trailer to move fluidly behind. We did get some loud squeaks out of the hitch, but they were quickly quieted with some light grease.
Another draw to the Burley Nomad is that it is very light at 14.4 pounds, and is easily collapsible. We were able to fit a trailer (with both wheels and all attachments), in addition to all of our clothing and camping gear into one duffle bag that was easily checked onto a plane. No tools are required for assembly, and it goes back together in minutes.
Using two wheels, the trailer is best suited for road use, and its low center of gravity, with modest wheelbase, keeps it upright through large off camber bumps and potholes. The top cover does resist water, but the trailer is not waterproof. If you anticipate rain, I would suggest putting your belonging in dry bags, or sealed plastic bags.
So am I sold on the trailer over panniers? I´m perfectly content with either setup. Both systems transport my gear from point A to point B quite well, and are easily serviceable on the road.
The Burley Nomad retails for $350, and there are plenty of accessories and replacement parts available.
Photo by Josh Tack
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.
I'm having tandem with my boyfriend and after first summer trips wondering if to buy a trailer. For two person things two, even big, panniers are quite small for a longer trip. It looks like it's not possible to add front panniers on our tandem, there's no attaching points for them. The writer likes bouth, panniers and trailer, but is it as hard to have full panniers or same things in a trailer?
Anyway, many of the Finnish bikers are prefering one-wheel trailer. What's your opinion, does one-wheel trailer make driving that much lighter and easier than with two-wheels? One-wheel trailer available in Finland looks a bit ummm.. home-made, heavy and not so safety. That's why I may prefer Burley Nomad. Anyway, we haven't been able to test either...
Other thing we are wondering is what it's like to drive on a road with a bit more trafic wit two-wheel trailer? With two-wheel you have to ride quite much closer the passing cars. Does they note to pass the bike with a trailer far away enough? Is it hard to avoid the trailer dropping down from the road edge?
As Josh wrote it's ok with Burley on snow and ice I suppose it's ok also on sand roads. All in all, here in north it's -14 celcius degrees and we are having more snow than for many years so we have plenty of time to wonder 'bout a trailer before spring:)
Hey John, the handling is a little different compared to panniers. The bike itself handles a little quicker, making it easier to stand on the pedals and tilt the bike through corners. The trade-off is that accelerations are a little jerky, as it takes a second for the trailer to catch up to your speed. I haven´t experienced any issues with the trailer slipping or in the rain, and it tracks pretty well in snow and ice.
I´m not sure either is more convenient than the other. If you´re a disorganized person like myself, you may lean towards a trailer, as you can just pile everything in back, and not worry about distributing weight, or which pannier holds certain items.
I dont know about this trailer, but I did take a In-Step trailer on a 1700 mile trip. Little did I know about 1600 miles into the trip that I was over loaded on weight. It said 100lb max, but was at about 240. I took my bike thru a weight station. Only a couple issues with the frame breaking, but that was cause I hit a pot hole going about 22 MPH. I sprayed the outside with about 12 coats of silicone and besides things getting dampish from the moist air, would say it held up pretty good.
How does the bike handling compare? How is the handling in various weather conditions? Is either more convenient overall?
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Having spent time with both the 2-wheeled Burley Nomad and the 1-wheeled BOB Yak trailer, I didn't notice a huge difference in rolling resistance. Both of those trailers were similar in weight, but the Nomad has a carrying capacity of 100 pounds compared to the Yak's 75 pounds (although you probably won't find yourself maxing out either of the two on a tour).
As for negotiating the shoulder of the road, the rear wheels don't sit too much wider than most handlebars, so you can use that as a good gauge as to where the wheels are behind you. It might seem a little awkward at first, but as you continue to ride with the trailer, you develop a sense of its position until it becomes second nature.
Overall, the trailer seems pretty versatile for road conditions. Just over a week ago my Nomad trailer was cruising sandy side-roads by the beach, and this morning it was negotiating the ice and snow on my way to work.