Randy switches to a BOB trailer... Advantages and Disadvantages

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On private road to Chiquicara
On private road to Chiquicara (View on flickr)

When we came back to Peru I started riding with a Ibex BOB trailer trailer again instead of using panniers as I have for the last few years. It was kind of a return to my roots, since I used a BOB for our first several rides in 2001-2005. So far, I'm happy to be pulling my old friend Bob again. It feels good on the bike.

You may not know it, but since the BOB was introduced, US touring cyclists have often raged at each other about its advantages and disadvantages. As one who has used both the pannier system (front and back racks with saddlebags attached to them) and the BOB, a single-wheeled bike trailer, I thought I could weigh in on advantages and disadvantages.

  • I think when you ride with the BOB it's more like riding a bike and less like driving a truck, which is how I feel when riding with panniers.
  • The BOB is a bit easier on the bike, since there's one more wheel to spread out the load. The frame of the bike gets almost no strain (and it can get quite a bit going over bumps with the panniers). The rear axle still gets about half the load, but the frame itself gets almost nothing.
  • My kickstand doesn't work any more! In general, it's just harder to manage the bike+bob configuration when you're off the bike. I think it's easier to manage when you're riding, but harder when you're off. For example, you can't easily back up (just like with a car and a trailer.)
  • It's significantly more difficult to organize your stuff in the BOB, because it's in one big bag, instead of 4 panniers. The separate panniers give you a good start on organization.
  • The Bob may add up to more total weight - BOB + bag may weigh more than racks + panniers. They're not far apart though.
  • The BOB is MUCH faster on downhills and into the wind, because it has so much less wind resistance.
  • When cycle touring in any situation you have to take care because of the added weight. The BOB, however, is a special challenge. It's important not to make sudden moves as the BOB trailer "talks back". If you make a sudden move, it will give you a counter-action. If you're not careful it could throw you.
  • The BOB relieves all the weight from your front wheel. This may mean that at times the front wheel could be unloaded and perhaps you could have steering issues you wouldn't have with front panniers loaded. On the other hand, it's much easier to steer because the front is unloaded.
  • You can do some things with a Bob that are really hard with racks. Getting a load of firewood, for example. It worked great for that up in Canada.
  • One other nice thing about the Bob: It's made of steel, and any old welder can fix it up. When a baggage handler in Copper canyon threw it down and broke it a few years ago, I just took it to a welder in Creel and he made it as good as new.

Anyway, the BOB is working well and I'm hoping I'll be even fonder of it in 9 months!

Update September 20, 2008: The BOB is great. I'm really pleased that I changed. It seems easier and more fun to ride, even though I have a bit more weight than I did before (we're carrying more warm clothes and heavier sleeping bags now, and the BOB weighs a bit more than the equivalent racks and panniers.) The way I see it, it's much easier to steer with the BOB, making it more like a fighter plane, and less like a truck. This does mean that you can mess up quicker by not maintaining control. I also notice that the front, with less weight on it, does not hold the road quite as well on a difficult dirt road downhill. When riding up the side of a ridge in the road, for example, it has a tendency to fall back down. So it requires a little more care.