Q:

Is a bike trailer better than panniers for long-distance touring?

Do you have an opinion about panniers versus a B.O.B. Yak for long, self-supported bike touring? I ride a Gold Rush Replica LWB recumbent and planning a solo coast-to-coast ride. David Portland, Oregon

Oct 27, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: I won't take this golden opportunity to engage in any more piling-on regarding the pros and cons of recumbents. Maybe you saw that little dust-up we've been having, Dave, and maybe you didn't. On balance, touring may be one arena where recumbents confer some benefit. Almost certainly more comfortable during long days in the saddle. Probably a little slower on average than an upright touring bike. But nobody is especially speedy on a loaded bike.

For my touring bike, a Bob Jackson Special Tourist, I prefer to pull a B.O.B. (aka Beast of Burden) Yak Plus, a trailer that costs $289 with custom-fit bag (www.bobtrailers.com). That is not to say I regard the trailer as a perfect solution compared with panniers, so here's how I weigh the pros and cons on each:

Trailer
Pros: More aerodynamic. Easier to pack, especially for bulky items such as tents. Takes load off bike frame and tires, reducing breakdowns and flats.
Cons: Adds a level of mechanical complexity. Can make for some weird bike-handling, especially for first-time users. Can't stand up in pedals (not an issue for a recumbent, obviously).


Panniers
Pros: Balance load nicely, front to rear. Mechanically simple. Cons: Packing and unpacking more complicated. Place frame and tires under greater stress and increase rolling resistance. More wind drag.

Cost is about the same, with a set of good-quality panniers such as Ortliebs or Jandds running about the same as a Yak. I still use panniers, usually small ones on a back rack where I stash lightweight items such as clothing.

My question would be how the bike handles with a trailer. If that's an issue, you'd definitely want to figure out a way to borrow a Yak, load it with 30 to 40 pounds, and take it for a spin. You might find that it really screws up the balance and tracking of your Gold Rush, especially when stopping. But then again, maybe not.

Anyway, good luck with your tour plans. That should be quite a trip!

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