After several weeks of thinking about it, trying to find somewhere where I might get a demo and a tryout (but failing), I finally decided to go ahead with the purchase of the Bob Ibex Trailer. I’ve been thinking about touring with more emphasis on off road, and a pannier laden bike doesn’t seem to be the most sensible approach. The single wheel trailer seems to give lots of flexibility to where you can go, although up steep rough trails with any sort of load is going to be difficult and all about compromises. I’m not adverse to getting off and pushing in these situations, and even unloading and ‘portaging’ things over multiple trips if necessary to get around obstacles. All part of the adventure!
Assembly and installation were simple, although I was confused by the recommendation for the attachment of the trailer fork to the trailer body. It details a certain torque requirement, and I don’t have a torque wrench so can’t judge what is right, but certainly if you go too tight the fork won’t turn around the axle (allowing the left/right motion of the trailer), which can’t be right. So I’ve tightened it enough that there is close contact between the fork and trailer without too much friction. It’s a self-locking nut, so I don’t it will work loose, but will keep an eye on it. A major design fault with this is the requirement for two 10mm spanners. The top end of the bolt really should be an allen bolt so that you have the tools to hand from the normal bike maintenance kit. Carrying two of anything is just plain wrong.
I’ve now done a few trial runs with the trailer. First off, its worth mentioning that the trailer is almost unnoticeable to the handling of the bike, pretty much regardless of weight (I’ve only gone up to 15kgs so far). You can tell that the weight is there, as there is more resistance, but you’d have that regardless of how the weight is attached to the bike. What I’m immediately impressed with is the ability to forget that you are actually towing something. It really feels part of the bike.
First ride out was with trailer without any load, and the bike was fine and the additional weight being pulled (7kgs) was not noticeable. Second ride out was with a light load, probably about 8kgs, and I decided to take it onto some rough lanes. Given that my current ride is not an off-road bike, it handled well and the trailer didn’t make handling over rough ground any worse. You don’t get any pull-me/push-me feel from the trailer which is great, and when turning quickly to avoid obstacles it follows well behind.
Third ride was much more interesting, but the trailer behaved impeccably. I took a bridleway that was thick with mud and puddles, and the bikes mudguards quickly clogged with mud, leaves and sticks, to the point of the wheels barely going around as I was forced to drag the bike through the mud (riding was impossible). Even with panniers, this would have been a challenge. The only slight downside to the trailer was that when trying to avoid tractor ruts, the trailer wheel would tend to stay in the rut and not climb out onto the better ground, but it was easy to reach back and grab the frame and lift it clear. The bike itself would struggle with this if not for human intervention, so can’t be levelled as a fault of the trailer.
Once I got clear of the bridleway, I was able to scrape out the mudguards and ride back and forth through the handy river ford to wash out the remainder. The second part of the bridleway was then much firmer and I was able to cycle all the way. Back on the roads the trailer continued to perform well.
One thing that extra weight in the trailer does is make the whole rig inclined to roll to one side when you are off the bike and negotiating obstacles, especially when trying to go backwards. If you are not quick the whole affair can end up on its side with the bike in the air. Some of this will be down to experience, the more you get used to it the easier. Pannier laden bikes have the tendency to twist the forks around and deposit everything on the floor, and with the trailer this seems less inclined to happen. ‘Park Mode’, where the trailer is allowed to rest on one side with the bike at 90 degrees is useful, but doesn’t always work. It seems to depend on how much weight is in the trailer, and how amenable the terrain is. It also takes up a lot of space! A stand on the bike and possibly on the trailer as well is probably going to be a more relevant solution to parking.
The Bob Dry Sack is good, and contrary to many reviews I’d read before purchase, the straps are located on the top, not underneath, so BOB have obviously looked at this recently. Personally I don’t think its the best solution. Once loaded with more than 15kgs it would be a hell to move in and out of the trailer, in and out of hotels etc. I think that 2-3 dry sacks would be a better solution, all held in place with bungees. For more off road trip, I might also be inclined to find something that can adapt to a rucksack design easily, so that when portaging, you don’t have to struggle with things underarms etc.
So far, so good. The new bike hopefully arrives to today, so should be able to give the whole rig a more thorough test out shortly!