Author Topic: Questions about handlebars and trailers  (Read 10557 times)

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Offline Ryo69

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« on: May 18, 2006, 03:01:38 pm »

I'm a newbie here, and I searched around before I posted this topic, so I hope I'm not asking questions that have already been answered.

I am just getting back into bicycle riding, and touring is very appealing to me.  In shopping for a bike to ride daily and tour with(I am currently riding a Diamond Back mountain bike on the road), I've run across two things that I had concerns about.

The first concern are the drop bars that all touring bikes have.  I've never ridden a bike with drop bars, and I don't know that I'd feel comfortable riding them now.  I'd like to hear some pros(I've got enough cons in my head already) for using drop bars versus flat bars.

My second concern is that most people I speak to live and die by using bags on their tours.  I initially thought that I'd pull a trailer when I got into shape to tour.  This would(I believe) give me a little more flexibility in the bikes I'd have available to me.  I'd like to hear some pros and cons of trailers versus bags.

Thanks to anyone who'd like to give an eager new guy some insight!!

Offline wanderingwheel

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2006, 04:39:32 pm »
Either bar will work, and I have toured on my mountain bike with its flat bar, but I prefer drop bars for road touring.  Drop bars provide two main advantages over flat bars.  

First, drop bars allow you to use a number of different hand positions over the course of a ride.  The different positions allow you not only to move your hand and arms around when they get tired, but they also change your entire position on the bike so that you are recruiting your leg muscles in different ways.

Second, drop bars allow you to adopt a more aerodynamic position.  Now I realize this sounds silly given that a loaded touring bike has the aerodynamics of a dump truck, but it is nice to be able to get out of the wind at least a little when you face a day of headwinds.

I haven't seen this written anywhere, but I believe drop bars are also more comfortable over long distances because they place your wrist in a more natural positon.  If you put arms out in front of you, it is probably more comfortable to have your palms facing eachother rather than facing the ground.

If drop bars scare you because they are low and far away, then by all means raise them and bring them closer.  You are not racing, so you do not need an extreme racing position.  If you are worried about braking from the top of the bars, consider getting a second brake lever (such as this that works with the existing brake lever.

Welcome to touring


  • Guest
Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2006, 06:43:49 pm »
A BOB trailer is more aerodynamic than panniers, cheaper and lighter than high quality racks and panniers, puts only about 1/3 of its loaded weight on your rear wheel, has a waterproof bag, can carry more stuff, and, as you point out, is compatible with almost any bike in that you don't need such robust wheels, you don't have to worry about your heels hitting your rear pannier or whether your favored racks will work with your bike, or whether panniers get in the way of fenders, disk brakes, or front suspension.

I'll let somebody else champion panniers.

Offline Ryo69

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2006, 11:02:46 am »
Thanks for the insight, folks!  It looks like I may need to give the drop bars a shot when I go test ride bikes.  I must admit, this morning on my ride, I started thinking about how uncomfortable it was having my wrists in the flat position...subliminal thoughts, I guess!

As for the trailer, your thought are exactly the reason that I was contemplating using a trailer rather than bags.  The guy at my LBS put the fear into me when he mentioned that a trailer is just more bike that has the opportunity to be hit by a car.  I'm still wrestling with that idea.

Offline wanderingwheel

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2006, 01:00:58 pm »
Since nobody else is, I'll take up the standard for panniers.  On the road, I see only two significant advantages for trailers.  First, they can be used on nearly any bike; and second, you can jack-knife them when stopped to keep your bike upright.  Otherwise, I feel panniers are a better choice for road touring.  

Properly loaded and balanced, a bike with panniers handles better, especially when descending.  I alo find panniers to be more convenient if you need to access anything during the day.  I appreciate the organization that panniers encourage, since I am very unorganized by nature.  The large available capacity of a trailer also makes it easier to carry too much unnecessary junk.

For road touring I'll stick with the panniers, but I'll bring out the trailer if I'm going offroad.



  • Guest
Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2006, 02:12:41 pm »
You should stop taking advice from your LBS.  In the vast expanse of a touring route, the extra length of a bike with a trailer is insignificant to say in the least.

Of greater concern would be the greater width from using panniers.  Many more cars pass you than cross you. However, I don't want to dis panniers.

Whether being pulled by a 19 lb carbon road bike or a 32 lb steel touring bike, a BOB does not make the rig unstable.  Sure, the handling is very different, but so is the handling when adding panniers.

Jack-knifing the BOB trailer is awkward.  That's why there are so many DIY kickstands out there.

Wandering Wheel, there must be some other advantages to panniers other than they make the user organize better and to take less stuff.  Perhaps its because panniers come in more colors and the ensemble looks more "expedition like" than a trailer......

Offline wanderingwheel

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2006, 04:47:00 pm »
The biggest thing for me is the handling.  I'm very picky about the ride and handling of my bikes, and I just prefer the ride of a loaded touring bike to a bike pulling a loaded trailer.  

I don't think the width of panniers is an issue, since they take up about the same amount of room as the rider.  The extra length of the trailer has never been a concern of mine when it comes to cars, either.


Offline alfonso

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2006, 05:10:29 am »
Like Sean, I'm keen on the versatility that drop bars offer -- but make
sure the stem will allow you to achieve a comfortable position. I had a
drop bar bike years ago, but bought a flat-bar hybrid when I returned
to cycling, and now crave the flexibility that drops offer: that's what I
will upgrade to. I'm certainly finding that flat bars cause pain in my
wrists after several hours.

One other possibility is European-style touring bars, which curve
forwards and offer a wide range of hand position. They're popular in
Europe and have had good reports here, but I haven't tried them. They
don't allow the aerodynamic  positions that drop bars do.

Welcome back to the world of the wheel.

Offline Ryo69

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2006, 12:00:52 pm »
Thank you everyone for all the advice.  I have definitely openned up my options for the drop bars based on these comments.  I think I'm leaning towards the trailer option as far as carrying my stuff goes.  Thanks again, folks!!

Offline ptaylor

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2006, 11:37:41 pm »
I have a quality set of panniers that I have had for about 10 years. I also have a Bob trailer.

I actually got the Bob a few years ago when I bought a recumbent. I don't ride the recumbent any longer (I got it because of neck problems - my neck has since healed allowing me to go back to my upright bikes). So I tried the Bob on one of my upright bikes. I use it for grocery shopping, where I only need to ride about 5 miles. The capacity of the Bob is huge, but I would never use it for touring...I feel like I'm always fighting to maintain control of the trailer, a problem I don't have with panniers.

I have also pulled a Burley 2-wheel trailer which I rented to pull my grandkids. The 2-wheel trailer has no effect on handling; it's easy to forget it is there until you go uphill. I don't know how this would pack for touring.

As of now, I will stick with my panniers. I like having 4 small bags that I can put in my tent, rather than 1 big bag. I like being able to carry them as checked baggage on airplanes. I like the compactness - not having a rig nearly 10 feet long. If I'm staying in a hotel, I can easily roll my bike on an elevator an din my room: I don't think the trailer would be as convenient.


Offline driftlessregion

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2006, 12:08:31 am »
If you look around in the forum you will find MUCH written on the trailer v. panniers issue. It is very much a personal matter (unless the bike is not sufficiently stout enough for loaded panniers, like carbon fiber frames which pull a trailer adequately). Whether there is proof or not I opted for the trailer because I think pulling is less hard on the bike than being loading down with the weight of panniers.  I love my BOB but wish I had panniers just because they look more like bike touring should look. Handling is also a personal matter. My fastest mph on a bike (in the Rocky Mountains) is actually with the BOB not without it. I didn't even notice it behind me. With the great dry bag from BOB it is probably more waterproof than panniers. Everyone has their priorities; mine may not be yours. Having fun on the bike is the only constant!

Offline wdyharden

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2006, 05:18:36 pm »
I agree with all that has been said in this reply, except the comment concerning the additional brake levers that can be had now to allow you to apply the brakes form the flats of the bar. In an emergency situation, the split second required for the mind to decide which levers to use could cost you dearly. I strongly discourage the use of any secondary brake levers no matter how convient they may seem.

Offline Mira!

Questions about handlebars and trailers
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2006, 07:08:42 pm »
I have to disagree about the levers in the center of the handlebars.  I love them because I don't have to get my hands from the center of the bars to the drop position in an emergency.  They are just there, immediately.  And, they are easier for my wrists to handle.  (I may have less flexibility there than some folks.)

Anyone want to champion mustache handlebars?