Riding a bicycle to and from work, for errands and to other destinations every day is a solid way to cut your carbon footprint and shrink the cost of gas consumption. But unlike cars and trucks, which carry all the sports equipment, grocery bags and work gear you can throw in them, the bicycle is really only efficient for carrying you, a water bottle, maybe a pump and some small tools. That’s where the single-wheeled bicycle trailer comes in. This kind of trailer will “up” your carrying capacity by volumes, while still keeping you nimble, safe and comfortable.
Bike trailers provide a lower center of gravity than bike packs and panniers, minimizing the impact on the bike ride. They also reduce your overall rolling resistance by spreading the weight of you and your cargo over three wheels instead of two. While they don’t typically offer as much carrying capacity as double-wheeled trailers, single-wheelers track your bicycle (i.e. cover the same ground as your first two wheels), providing superior cornering and maneuverability.
Here are some top-rated single-wheeled trailers and their pros and cons:
Meet BOB! This company markets a trusted line of Yak trailers to carry up to 70 lbs. of gear. These are some of the most rugged and versatile bike trailers out there, but they come at a steep price: $329 US is the base price and you’ll pay more for extras. The Yak trailer’s single-wheel design also keeps total weight low (13.5 lbs.), maintains a narrow profile, and can handle off-road riding.
The top-end Ibex model BOB Yak features a shock absorber to keep your haul from bouncing and rattling every time you hit a bump or dip. Thanks to its 3” of travel, the Ibex is more adept at tough, off-road riding – even single-track riding. Of course, the Ibex costs more, starting at $409.
Both the Yak and Ibex come in 28” models compatible with 29” mountain bikes or 700cc road bikes with full-wrap fenders.
ActionBent developed a single-wheel trailer very similar to the BOB Yak at a fraction of the price. For $195, you can get the foldable TW-Trailer shown above. In my experience, it provided many of the same benefits as other models but wasn’t quite as rugged. The last I checked, this particular trailer was out of stock and now it looks like their site is down. Whether you find a used one or just use this as a concept for your own design, it’s certainly innovative!
With a lower price point but decreased carrying capacity, Nashbar strikes a balance with its single-wheeled trailer (above). The Cargo Trailer 2 hauls up to 45 lbs. of gear and retails for $200 (on sale for $100 at time of publishing). It weighs less than the BOB at only 12 lbs., but doesn’t offer any shock absorption, so you might want to stick to smoother paths and roads with this one.
Both BOB and Nashbar trailers mount to the hub of your rear wheel, but not all trailers do. As an alternative, there is a small British Columbia operation called Tony’s Trailers which advertises the advantages of its seat post-mounted single-wheel trailer. According to the company, the seat post mount allows for a more stable load, more maneuverability and less lateral pressure on the rear wheel when cornering. On top of that, you can simply slide the seat post off to detach the trailer, rather than having to deal with any grimy hardware.
While Tony’s Trailers seem innovative and functional, they’re more expensive than others when looking at size and carrying capacity. The entry level 15 lb., 16” SST/16, for example, costs $342 and carries up to 45 lbs.
Whichever mounting system you prefer, one thing’s for sure: The less size and weight you can get away with on your trailer, the better. The Polish-manufactured Extrawheel (below) offers a trailer with a footprint not much larger than a third wheel. Instead of a long, flat trailer bed, Extrawheel’s Voyager uses panniers strapped to a wheel, cutting the length and weight of the trailer. I have used this trailer and it’s quite light! Hard to say if it’s the “lightest trailer in the world”, but it’s definitely one of the lightest.
Now you might be asking yourself: Why don’t I just forget the trailer, buy panniers, and hang them on my bike frame? And the answer is that, by spreading your luggage out to that third wheel and mounting it even lower than your main frame, you keep the bike lighter and more nimble. And because the Voyager pulls the trailer wheel closer to the bike, it tracks better around corners and over bumps.
Extrawheel Voyagers can carry up to 77 lbs. of weight and offer several wheel sizes to match your bicycle. The trailer wheel can even serve as a spare front wheel in a pinch, or shed its parts if your bike tire, tube or spokes get mangled. BikeTrailerShop.com has the Voyager starting at $249, but that’s just for the trailer equipment. You’ll have to add $50 for the wheel and $99 + for panniers.
No matter how small, light and maneuverable they make bicycle trailers, there are still some times when you don’t want any extra weight holding you back. Carousel Design Works and Revelate Designs both make ultra-light cycling bags to meet this demand. They also make larger frame, saddle, and handlebar bags in various configurations, designed for long-distance biking on even the tightest, most rugged mountain bike trails. With enough space to carry vitals like extra clothing, tools, shelter and food, they still allow bikers to tackle tight, winding trails and big downhill routes. They may not be great for everyday work like hauling produce or power tools, but they open up new possibilities in terms of where you can go and what you can take with you.
For more information about ultra-light, multi-day biking, check out the forums, gear reviews and information at Bikepacking.net.
If none of the aforementioned trailers or packs meet your needs – or seem too expensive – you can always make your own. I can’t weld and don’t have a garage, so it’s not an option for me. But if you’re a handy hacker, visit www.instructables.com and search “bicycle trailer” for a long list of DIY guides. Bikepacking.net, mentioned earlier, also has a forum called “DIY/Make Your Own Gear” where you can ask questions and get tips.