Author Topic: Saddle bags versus trailer in tow: Which is better for a cross country trip?  (Read 3953 times)

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Offline dsupica

I'll be doing a self-supported cross country trip this summer and am currently considering the best method of carrying all of my gear. I'm currently leaning towards a trailer - it seems like it would be a little less hassle compared to saddle bags. Thoughts? Experience?

Offline DaveB

Please do a search.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of threads and articles on this topic and the answer is never clear cut.

Offline dsupica

Oops! Right-o, will do

Offline John Nelson

http://www.adventurecycling.org/features/bigdebate.cfm

If you can't decide, and you believe in the wisdom of crowds, use panniers. Many more bicycle tourists use panniers than a trailer.

Offline Westinghouse

I have used only panniers in 37,000 miles (59,000) kilometers of bicycle touring. However, I have read quite a bit about people touring with trailers. The answer to your question perhaps does not exist. One form is just as good as the other. Many people are perfectly satisfied with trailers. Many feel the same way about panniers.
Get what you want and go. There is not such a difference that it will appreciably upgrade or downgrade the quality of your experience.

Offline staehpj1

What bike you will be using and how much you will be carrying are fairly major factors in this decision.

I will add that if going light enough other options become possible like using a Carradice seat bag or using lightweight stuff sacks rather than pannier.  Those options only start to make sense with either a really light camping and cooking style or a credit card touring style.

Offline SlowAndSlower

I am more comfortable using panniers and knowing that when I have to move my gear up and down steps or where ever that I can manage the bike and panniers. A trailer brings up the issue of leaving some of your gear as you move around. If I want to put the rig in the back of a pickup I can do it easily.

None of this has to do with which is best when riding. It is about the things you have to do with the trailer when you are not riding IMHO.

Offline gpshay

I am going to do the Pacific Tier this May .. 2 yrs ago I started it with my daughter [pulling 2 Bob Ibex trailers] but unfortunetly she developed a knee problem and we had to stop the trip after only a 100 miles. I found that the  trailer pulled very nicely behind our Cannondale T-1000 touring bikes .. I didn't feel like it added much wind resistance .. on the steep declines I remained vigilant about how the trailer was reacting to speed so I limited it to a top speed of 30mph .. I probably could have gone faster .. the trailer never gave me any indication it was going to be a problem at any speed .. I was just leary ... I am using Panniers this time and I will be also watching my down hill speed .. I am abit concerned on the wind resistance the Panniers my cause .. what I did not like about the trailer was .. when you stop, get off the bike and try and put the 2-leg kickstand down it became clumbersome because you are lifting part of the weight in the trailer as you are getting the rear wheel off the ground .. once the bike was on the kickstand if the trailer falls to one side or the other it will pull the bike down with it .. a solution might be a Click Stand which leans the bike and trailer to one side or the other that could possibly work .. working out of the large bag was not optimum .. trying to sort through gear when the trailer was attached to the bike would enevitably make the bike unstable and cause it to fall ..  if you motel at any time getting the bike and trailer through the door is more challenging and if its upstairs that is another set of difficulties the trailer will cause... to remove & replace the trailer bag while attached to the bike I found to be a pain .. so I am going to use Panniers on this trip and see how I fair with those .. I found the trailer caused or a least increased my anxiety when the bike would tip over or I'd just catch the bike in time ect...I dont know .. I am hoping Panniers will smooth out some of this frustration for me ... we will see.....Glenn

Offline BikeFreak

I found that the  trailer pulled very nicely behind our Cannondale T-1000 touring bikes .. I didn't feel like it added much wind resistance .. on the steep declines I remained vigilant about how the trailer was reacting to speed so I limited it to a top speed of 30mph .. I probably could have gone faster .. the trailer never gave me any indication it was going to be a problem at any speed

I have toured with a BOB Yak myself and I fully agree with your analysis. However there is something most trailer people never mention. Something which annoys me a lot and explains why I switched back to panniers again. When pulling a trailer, especially standing in the pedals going uphill, I feel a large dead mass behind me. A mass which tries to live its own life. I would describe it as inertia. The trailer gives me small sideways "counter forces" when pedaling and I don't like that. I guess these counter forces are a result of a non-perfect attachment system on the rear axle of the bike: There is a little play in that system. I believe that if the play could be fully removed, then the counter forces would be reduced. But not fully, because the entire trailer might flex along its longitudinal axis especially if you are hauling 60 pounds of gear.

Lucas

Offline dkoloko


I have toured with a BOB Yak myself and I fully agree with your analysis. However there is something most trailer people never mention. Something which annoys me a lot and explains why I switched back to panniers again. When pulling a trailer, especially standing in the pedals going uphill, I feel a large dead mass behind me. A mass which tries to live its own life. I would describe it as inertia. The trailer gives me small sideways "counter forces" when pedaling and I don't like that.

I have a two wheeled trailer. Yours is one reason I tour with panniers, leaving the trailer at home for shopping, hauling. I call it pulsing; there is a lag between force applied at pedals and force transmitted to trailer, especially felt up hills.

Offline johnsondasw

I never noticed any of the above problems when towing a Burley Nomad 2-wheeled trailer.  I did notice how convenient it was to pack and to unpack it.  And I think the headwind resistance was reduced using the trailer as compared to the panniers.  Also, steering is much better with a trailer because you don't have the weight of the bags on the front wheel.  I will not go back to panniers.  If I'm carrying a lot I will use the trailer, but my new plan is to get into very light gear ( ai already have most of it) and just go with rack and straps, handlebar bag, seat bag and if necessary a small camelback/pack deal. 
May the wind be at your back!

Offline james2u

Hi  We use either panniers or Burley Nomad two wheel trailers. To determine the difference if any between the two fully loaded, we decided to test the two with a  mapped out a 32 mile route with hills and level roads. All conditions the same we did not find a any difference between the two modes of load hauling with speeds and times.
We personally met a Aussie woman who was thrown off her bike into a side road ditch and laid there unconscious for several hours until somebody diving by spotted her, her Bob one wheel trailer lost control downhill and whipped her right off her bike.
Two wheel trailers can provide table space with the optional rack attached and conjuring up a plastic sign board to place on top.
Cara

Offline newfydog

Well, I have done several trips with trailer people, and they all came back next year with panniers. 

If you can go rather light, you can skip front panniers.  Trailers are often compared to a four pannier ride, and even then, they are  heavy.

Offline Souc

I prefer panniers as well.   Just don't purchase giant rear panniers and overload your back end.   I think my bike handles really well with medium sized panniers in back and small front panniers mounted on low-rider style front rack. 

The danger of large capacity (trailer or pannier) is that it is tempting to bring along too many items that you cannot live without.... you know, otherwise know as stuff. 

Dave

Offline dkoloko

I prefer panniers as well.   Just don't purchase giant rear panniers and overload your back end.   I think my bike handles really well with medium sized panniers in back and small front panniers mounted on low-rider style front rack. 

Dave

Maybe best for you. Tests show best to have more weight on front, or at least have equal weight front and back. For that reason I see no reason for smaller bags on front. I use same size medium rear bags front and rear.