Author Topic: Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?  (Read 14816 times)

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Offline e46rick

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« on: December 08, 2004, 05:16:41 pm »
I am an avid cyclist however I have done very little touring.  I have done a couple of shorter tours using just rear panniers.  I would like to plan a longer tour but need to carry more gear.  What are the pros and cons of panniers VS. trailers (BOB style)?  
Thanks in advance for your opinions.

Rick, Ca.

Offline janetanorth

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2004, 06:28:24 pm »
for an excellent comparison.
we do BOB for trips lasting > one week, and panniers only for less.
unfortunately, panniers tend to creep into the longer trips, as well. it's nice to have BOB for the long length sleeping mats, tent, sleeping bags and goofy stuff. not heavy, but BIG.
if your trip has alot of hills, forget it. pushing bike & BOB up a firetrail is no fun.

Offline Peaks

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2004, 11:39:30 pm »
One other point in favor of trailers.  You can attach a trailer to almost any type of bike:  road bike, mountain bike, hybrid bike, recumbent, folding, and so on.  

Most people with panniers use a touring bike.  Touring bikes tend to be heavier than road bikes.  

Offline janetanorth

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2004, 04:43:34 pm »
found two trailers to give BOB a run for the money:

Offline OmahaNeb

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2004, 02:21:27 pm »
I theorize that a trailer is a heavier setup compared to panniers, but creates less wind resistance and thus may be more energy efficient.  I base my wind drag theory on how easy it is to pedal while drafting someone.  Panniers have a larger uneven profile compared to riding without panniers.  This larger profile reduces riding efficiency.  I think the trailer following in your slip steam, has less of a profile than panniers, thus easier to ride with touring gear.

I also believe that a trailer may cost less than quality panniers and racks both front and back. A trailer is more versatile than panniers and allows for you to tour with any type of bike.  A trailer is easier to  set-up and tear-down, if you use the same bike for recreational riding and touring.  I think the weakness of a trailer is riding up-hill, the increase weight and additional rolling resistance from the additional tire.  

Then again, I could be completely wrong about the wind drag thing.

Offline n_lobnitz

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2004, 03:04:52 am »
Trailers are more efficient than panniers for the following reasons:

1. A two wheel trailer is rotationaly decoupled from your bike. This means if your bike rotates(turns/leans etc) the trailer stays still and there fore concerves momentum and hence saves energy.

2. a short trailer tucks into the turbulent wake of the bike+rider that extends behind the bike. In effect the trailer gets sucked along by the bike and does not add significantly to the bikes drag(even though the frontal area is increased slightly.)

3. Two extra tyres do not add significantly to your bikes rolling resistance, assuming you use good tyres, and assuming they both point in the same direction.
And rolling resistance/mechanical losses are fractional compaired to wind losses.

but most importantly two wheel trailers can also be used as wheeled suitcases, and are easier to pack/unpack than panniers. See for a pretty complete list of trailers available. Also see the downloads page on
for a background discussion on trailers and a collection of magazine reviews.

I own a BOB Yak and carry freedoms Y-Frame
Nick the newbie

Offline Parkrider

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2004, 05:18:54 pm »
My first experience with a trailer was dang I can't go fast up hill and when I started to go down hill the thing started to shimmy (25-30 mph)so I said dang I can't go fast down hill either. So I will reaffirm the comment that trailers are good for bulk but not weight. Another option to consider is an xtracycle (.com) This thing is good for weight and/or bulk. I am absolutely in love with mine (and no I don't work for the company.)


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  • Guest
Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2004, 12:37:30 pm »
I still consider a *traditional* touring bike with panniers to be the most efficient travel setup. In fairness, I don't fret much over aerodynamics and other statistical matters.

Frankly, I wouldn't use a trailer unless it were absolutely necessary. As mentioned, some bicycles just aren't well suited to carrying a full load on the frame. Also, panniers may not work well for single-track mountain bike travel. And of course, some folks prefer to tour with a VERY heavy's not uncommon to spy tourists using both a trailer and bags!

Either way, I'd suggest that you keep your load to a minimum. Aside from an epic globe-circling trip, a longer tour shouldn't require much more gear than a shorter one.


Offline sunfisher

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2004, 06:25:32 pm »
I used panniers for a number of tours several years ago, when I was in
high school and college.  Took a small trip last summer (first one in a
long time) and, curious about the trailer/pannier issue, used a Burley
D'Lite to see what I thought.  I liked it well enough that I bought a
Nomad.  Yes, it's draggy, yes it may weigh more than panniers, but I
didn't care.  With a 2 wheel trailer, you have something like a 5th
wheel, and with the Burley mount, the impact on handling is - no

I've used the Nomad on family outings to carry a cooler, and this fall
we had a couple of time trials.  I towed the trailer with a floor pump
and a couple of lawn chairs, unhitched it, rode the time trial, packed
everything back up, then rode home.  10/10 for style points :-)

My wife and I each have a bike, plus we have a tandem.  It would be
expensive to put good racks on them all, but the trailer swaps between
them nicely.

Offline driftlessregion

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2004, 07:32:02 pm »
There will always be someone who has had a bad experience with one or the other. Many problems can be traced to the bike, and not to the mechanism of hauling gear. This past summer I regularly hit 40+ mph in the mountains with a BOB and 700/32 tires without a hint of shimmy. I rode a quality bike that fit me like a T, had a new headset and wheels (two areas that can start shimmy) but I wouldn't think of trying 40 mph on my smaller, older, less touring oriented bike with a trailer or panniers. Riding with me down those hills were folks with BOBs and others with panniers who were also having no problems. The one person having problems swapped out her panniers for another set and the problem disappeared.

This message was edited by driftlessregion on 12-25-04 @ 3:33 PM

Offline SKYMAX

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2005, 02:30:28 am »
Being able to quickly unhitch all that stuff and leave it at the motel/capground and go for a junk-free ride into town is another big bonus.
Have a look at the Quick-Pak trailer, it folds into a compact bag for easy shipping or bussing.

Clear skies, Max.
Clear skies, Max.

Offline skibc

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2005, 07:36:03 pm »
I am a pannier person have been since 1976-----I also do most of my
touring outside the US----so dragging along a trailer on airlines is a
hassle---especially since European flights one can only carry 20 Kilos.  

I also like having everything on my bike with me.  I have never had
problems with my bike handling poorly.  I would go with some of the
nice German panniers that look like dry bags.

Happy pedaling!

Happy pedaling!


Offline tgpelz

Panniers VS. trailers, what do you prefer?
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2005, 11:50:38 pm »
There is no correct answer to your question.

At times I use both pannier AND a BOB trailer.

I carry an awful lot of stuff on my bike.  Clothing, food, books, trip log, camera, stove, shovel, LOTS of water (three 28 oz bottles, 1 50 ounce bottle and a 10 liter MSR water bag).  

I also carry a three/four person tent, sleeping bag, air mattress etc.

I use the ARKEL panniers.  I wear a large butt bag and a large handle bar bag.

I carry two spare tubes, tools, spokes, pump, high pressure air cartridges.  My tubes are slime filled and  I have tire liners.

I also carry water purification equipment.

This is just a partial listing of what I carry.

I use the BOB when I travel somewhere and I take my camera equipment along.  This I put in the BOB.

Otherwise, I prefer a self contained unit.  This is the bike and the panniers.  

I like the panniers for a number of reasons.  

1. Easily loaded on an AMTRAK train.  
2. Fits easily in the back of my airplane
3. I have everything I have found I need and it is in its own place (the ARKEL panniers have lots of storage areas).
4. Easy to remove at any time.

BAD points of my panniers:

1. My bike is really heavy - especially when I am riding in the summer and have loaded up on water.  Note: I have found that three gallons of water a day is not enough for me when I am riding in the hot summer.

2. Often I don't use everything I carry.  However, when I need it, I should have it available.  On trips in the fall or spring, I just keep the 10L MSR bag folded up until supper time, then I fill it to prepare our meals.

3.  The bike wobbles a bit, especially at speeds above 20 MPH.  This is corrected by making sure that the panniers are connected properly.  However, when I have the 10L MSR bag full, the bike wobbles more because the weight is on top of everything else I have connected to the rear rack.

4. If you use panniers, it helps to have BOTH front and back racks.  This helps balance the load. It also means that you have to have four panniers and two racks.

My bike has front suspension.  I use the Old Man Mountain front rack.  This connects to the front axle and the V-brake mounts.  It is a very sturdy front rack.  

I use a JANDD rear rack.  It gives my big feet room, so I don't kick my rear panniers.

Either panniers or trailer, you will enjoy the travels.  

Have fun.

THere is no wrong choice (unless you buy the least expensive panniers, trailers, racks.