There are many very good reasons to bike tour with a trailer. In this post we will explore 18 reasons to bike tour with a trailer. But if I didn’t know better, I would say there truly is a love/hate relationship with bike trailers for touring purposes. People are either for them or against them. If I had a dollar for everyone who told me to lose or get rid of the trailer, my trailer would be paid for.
***Blog post edit. I came up with a 19th reason to bike tour with a trailer. This reason in my experience is pretty huge that might convince even the nonbelievers. For the purposes of this blog post edit this newly discover reason can be found at the bottom as a Super Bonus Reason.
My trailer experience and history
I have only ever done 2 bike tours and I have only ever bike toured with a trailer. In 2011 I did a 6,500 km bike tour through northern and western Canada. And currently I am 16,850 km’s into a 50,000 km bike tour. I have only ever toured in Canada and the US so far. ***edit – currently pedalled 23,000 km’s and am in Mexico.
I have used a BOB Yak trailer for my first tour and again using a BOB trailer for my current tour. My first tour I used the trail with 2 rear panniers. This tour I am using the trailer along with 4 panniers.
2011 my first tour with rear panniers and BOB trailer
So also keeping in mind that you can bike tour in combinations with a trailer. Such as 2 front panniers or 2 rear panniers or like me with 4 panniers. Based on most of my reasons below. In the very least, unless you are flying, I think a trailer is better than 2 front panniers
Based on my experience and history it is going to be apparent that I am for bike touring with a trailer. Also, if you choose to tour with a trailer be prepared for the “online” haters.
BOB Yak trailer
Why a BOB Yak trailer?
The BOB Yak trailer is probably the most affordable and durable design/model for what it is and doesn’t have a lot of moving parts. Virtually every other bike trailer designed had to follow in the steps of the BOB Yak. The current online price is $359 USD. I don’t know if you want to invest more than that into a trailer?
Atlantic Canada 2019 winter
Because I have never used any other makes or models of trailers the only advice that I can and will offer beyond using a BOB Yak trailer is the simpler the design with the less moving parts the better. A quick search showed almost 20 other brands/model/designs between North America and Europe. More often than not people seem to prefer a single wheel trailer vs a 2 wheel trailer.
2 wheel trailer
Admittedly I scanned a few other blog posts about bike touring with a trailer. Most of the posts were panniers vs trailer. I don’t think it has to “verses” unless your plan is to use only one or the other. But I can’t imagine a trailer having enough space for a fully-loaded bike tour. Potentially if you are only going for the weekend and packing similar to a bikepacking set up then I suppose you could make only a trailer work.
Fort Frances ON July 2020
18 reason why a bike trailer is the way to go
Some of my reasons may not scientifically proven but some intelligence and logic should back most of my reasoning.
- I feel that you are safer on the road. A trailer makes you bigger and more visible. In my experience vehicles give you more room/space. I am talking about overall experiences not the one offs.
- I get a lot of compliments about my trailer from people which I believe strengthens my argument in my first point and would in turn causes me to think and feel I get far more respect from vehicles on the road.
- Connected to my last point. People are more likely to approach you because they are extra curious. They know you are either going far or have come from far away. That can lead to hosting or free food and even a few bucks. And there is nothing wrong with that.
- A trailer is a great place to strap and spread a solar panel or other gear.
Charge your batteries while you pedal
- I have far more room for extra food and water when I am heading into isolated areas or the desert.
The reasons keep coming
- Because you have extra space you can use a foam sleeping pad vs a blow up sleeping pad. There is very little difference in weight but a big difference in price. Foam pads can cost around $40 or less where a reasonable quality blow up pads can cost between $80 and $200. And blow up pads need to blown up and packed tightly every day. And blow up pads are susceptible to punctures.
Foam sleeping pad – more space but cheaper and easier to use
- Related to the last point, I am able to take advantage of cheaper grocery prices and selection by stocking up in city vs small general stores in small towns.
- You will now have something to carry groceries and supplies in while at a city campground or hostel vs dumping my panniers out (to turn my panniers into grocery bags).
- You save money because of extra things I can bring from home vs purchasing more “stuff” on the road. Examples such as cold weather clothing or even something as small as a small bottle of laundry detergent.
- I am more comfortable because I have space for cold weather clothing or few extra pairs of clean underwear.
Pulling a trailer in Washington
- You bike is likely safer from thieves. A thief is going to far more noticeable in his get away and not get as far as quick with a trailer attached to a bike. Which helps make your bike more trouble than it’s worth.
- A trailer is handy for giving you a place to keep things separate such as cooking stove, fuel bottles, pots and pans or a wet tent.
- Because of the dimensions of a trailer packing can be quicker and easier. You can just stuff everything in and go.
- If you are a hiker with lots of hiking plans you can now bring you backpack.
- If your current bike is not tour specific (mountain bike, suspension etc) a trailer is lot cheaper than a new bike
Front suspension bike with a trailer. Internet photo
- Because of weight distribution, you will have less weight on your bike wheels because your trailer is handling some the weight. That puts less wear and tear on your tires, rims and hubs. You will also likely experience fewer broken spokes and cracked or bent rims. I am sure the day will come but with my current 170 lb set up (185 lbs in in the winter) I have never broken a spoke or cracked a rim. You’ll also find pinch flats become less common as well
- I have come across the argument that you are more aerodynamic which doesn’t hurt either
- Because you now own a trailer. When you are not touring you now have the ability (at home) to more easily transport things with your bike such as groceries. This help eliminates the need for a car or in the very least be able to reduce your need to drive absolutely everywhere every time.
A bonus reason to bike tour with a trailer
- I use my trailer to carry my bear canister. Bear canisters can be a real pain to carry on a bike tour but wise to have in bear country. That being said I still carry mine even though I left bear country a long time ago for a bunch of reasons. I am able to carry food without crushing it. And it’s great for food that may possibly leak or melt. Has anyone ever had butter melt into their clothes? Not me. The canister also keeps ants out my food. And a bear canister makes a camping great seat that wont break.
The contents of my trailer & bear canister
Bear canister, my tent under foam pad (black bag), extra fuel bottle, cooking stove,
pots and pan kit and room for extra food and water if needed
Super Bonus Reason to pull a trailer
To be completely honest when I entered Mexico my bike touring system changed considerably. I was actually strongly considering leaving my trailer at home (in Belize) when I arrived there on my way to Argentina. I basically found I could no longer cook my own food. Most of the foods I cooked in Canada and the USA were not available to me in Mexico and I was therefore packing a lot less stuff because I was eating at taco stands instead. Therefore my load was considerably less.
But what did happen in Mexico and I suspect will continue most of my way to Argentina is that I was now starting to be chased by dogs multiple times a day. This can actually be pretty dangerous given the number of rocks, potholes and speed bumps on third world country roads. How can you possibly focus on the road in front of you when a dog is right on your heals? Well when pulling a trailer they (the dogs) are not on your heals. They are chasing your trailer instead. That extra space between you and the dogs allows you to navigate the road far more safer while cursing those dogs chasing the trailer. I experienced the difference first hand and within seconds I realized – the trailer stays no matter what.
- With a trailer it will be tempting to bring extra gear and stuff simply because you have the room. That is between you and you to figure out. But you can read my blog post about that subject HERE
- My current trailer wheel hub has on 2 separate occasions disintegrated. The good news is the trailer wheel turned easily enough on the axle with no real noticeable drag until I was able to reach a bike shop.
Twice my hub disintegrated
- On my current bike ride I have gotten close to 20 flat tires on my trailer, but only 1 or 2 on my front bike tire and none on my rear bike tire. I would much rather fix a trailer flat then on my front or rear tires.
- Flying with a trailer or anticipating other modes of transportation with a trailer such as buses or trains kind of sucks.
- It can be a pain if you have to break your bike and trailer down because you are being hosted in an apartment for example. I have run into that over 10 times with hosts but I still would rather pull a trailer.
- See photo how to balance your bike with trailer. Some practice is required.
Jackknife the bike and trailer just right and the bike will stand on it’s own
- Oil your quick release as required. I had my trailer wheel come off on the road because the quick release wouldn’t lock tightly. A bike shop showed me to oil it regularly. Problem solved. (Unrelated but another bike tip. My bike lock seized up inside and I squirted oil into the cracks and holes. Another problem solved.)
- Check the tightness of your quick release regularly.
- One of the times my wheel disintegrated the local bike shop couldn’t help me. Thankfully the owner ran to the dump for me to get a wheel off kids bike. The wheel worked great and I simply strapped my “better quality” wheel to my trailer until I got to a bigger city.
- Carry an extra tube.
Pulling my trailer in McMinnville Oregon
In conclusion the facts speak for themselves. Go get a BOB Yak trailer and bike tour with a trailer.
Everything you need to know about what to pack and how much to pack on your bike tour