ExtraWheel Trailer – A Review

Now that I’ve got over 1000 miles on my Extrawheel trailer I figured I would do a review.  I hope this info is helpful to those considering getting one. (Please note! ExtraWheel has now redesigned their trailer to address most of my concerns in this review. Anything I say about the frame or connection system still stands. The mesh pouches have now been replaced with panniers, so my words about that are irrelevant.)

Tracking/Handle-ability (Is that a word?)

The ExtraWheel tracks great.  The only times I’ve even noticed it was there was when it was packed very heavily.  The weight in my trailer varies considerably since I haul our food – sometimes I’m nearly empty, while other times it weighs a lot.  As long as I don’t have more than about forty pounds, I can’t even tell I’m pulling it.

We’ve gone over some very rough roads during this thousand miles, and the ExtraWheel has taken them on just fine.

Connection System

One of our main concerns when we first saw the trailer was the connection system.  The trailer connects to the bike with essentially a spring-loaded system with nothing actually tying it on.  I’ll admit that it just doesn’t look like it will hold, but somehow it does.

To put the connector on your bike, you pull the ends apart and snap them on to a specially-designed spindle.  The spindle is designed with balls on both ends, and the spring-connector simply pops on them.  It appears as though it will pop off just as easily, but it somehow doesn’t.

I have had only one incident where it came off – and it was a very unlikely scenario for most cycle tourists.  We were just approaching a construction zone on the AlCan when it started pouring rain.  One of the joys of touring with kids is that not only do I have the privilege of getting my bike ready for rain, but I get to prepare Davy’s bike as well.

So I stood there in the pouring rain leaning my bike against me while I frantically stashed the kids’ sweatshirt in Davy’s drybag – and my bike fell, of course.  Not only did it fall, but fell at a very odd angle jackknifing the trailer.  In hindsight, I remember feeling the trailer pop off, but in my rush to protect our gear from the rain, I forgot all about it.

After getting everything properly stashed, we took off to cross the rough patch of construction.  I immediately noticed a high-pitched squeal coming from my bike, but my bike tends to talk to me when wet, so I figured this squeal was simply another of its multiple personalities.  I kept going.

A couple miles later after the rain had stopped, I noticed I seemed to be going much slower than normal.  I got off my bike – and discovered the connector for my trailer had become dislodged and was dragging on my tire.  Only one side was on the ball, while the other side was resting somewhere on my bike – I’m not even sure where any more.

The upshot here is this:  even though the trailer was not securely attached to my bike, I noticed no difference in the way it handled.  I passed through a very rough section of road and the trailer tracked admirably.  The only way I knew it wasn’t attached properly was the high-pitched squeal and the drag.  And the way it popped off was one I can’t imagine many cyclists would find themselves in to begin with.

In short – I don’t think there are any worries with the connection system.

Packing

I carry my gear in two dry bags which are them stashed in slings on either side of the trailer.  I try to pack the two bags evenly, which is fairly easy since they are out so I can easily pick them to judge the weight.  I’ve never packed them unevenly so I can’t report on how the trailer would handle with one side considerably heavier than the other.

The slings are made of knotted nylon rope which appears to expand almost indefinitely.  I have had no problem getting the dry bags in even then they were packed totally full.

There is also space on either end of the drybags where I can stash small items quickly.  We found those spaces were perfect for storing the day’s snacks so we didn’t have to open a pannier to get something to eat.

I have two concerns about the sling system, but so far haven’t had any problems at all.  One is about the durability of the nylon netting of the slings.  It’s possible, over time, that the rope would wear out.  It doesn’t appear as though it would be hard to repair it with some kind of rope if that should happen.

The other concern is for the rope securing the slings.  There is a metal clip which the rope feeds through which works very well.  Over time, however, I can see the rope wearing out from repeated loosening and tightening.  It is simply climbing rope, so would be easy to replace in the USA, but I’m not sure I could find that in Bolivia.  We’ll keep an eye on it for signs of wear and replace it before it fails.

How Does the ExtraWheel compare to the BOB?

We are in a unique situation in that we have both an ExtraWheel and a BOB with us on this journey.  They are both great trailers, and we can highly recommend them both.

The BOB has a solid platform on the bottom, which make it better for carrying things like books and a laptop which we want stored flat.  It also has only one bag, which can be easier to pack in some ways.

Both the BOB and the ExtraWheel have a suspension system.  The ExtraWheel’s is built into the design of the slings while the BOB has an actual shock absorber.

One advantage the ExtraWheel has over the BOB is its portability.  It is very easy to take the drybags out, and then the trailer is just slightly larger than a regular wheel.  For transporting the trailer in a vehicle or taking it up stairs to a motel room, that’s a big plus.  The ExtraWheel is also a few pounds lighter than the BOB.

I think the major advantage of the ExtraWheel is wheel size.  I have to carry only one spare tube/tire for everything, while John has to carry separate spares for his bike and trailer.  Depending on where you travel, this may or may not be much of an advantage, but for South America I think it’s huge.  I’ve heard 700c tires are hard to find in South America, so I’m happy to have a built-in spare on my trailer.  If I were to have tire trouble, I would put the bad tire on the trailer and the good ones on my bike – hopefully that would get me to a place I could take care of the problem.

The only problem I’ve had so far is the noise the trailer makes occasionally.  We haven’t figured out why it creaks and moans sometimes, but a few drops of chain lube on the connection seems to take care of it.

Concerns for the Long Run

I guess the real question here is:  Can the ExtraWheel make it 20,000 miles to the southern tip of South America?  We don’t know yet.  We’ll be keeping a close eye on the trailer and make a final decision on whether to keep it or ditch it  just before we leave the US in a few thousand miles.

The things we are watching closely are:

  1. The connection system.  It is metal on metal and we’re watching it for signs of wear.
  2. The slings.  If the nylon slings are showing sings of wear before we leave the US, they most likely wouldn’t make it all the way.  Right now, all is well.

The bottom line here is that I can absolutely recommend the Extrawheel for at least short trips and for daily errands in town.  So far it has performed flawlessly and I can recommend it whole-heartedly.  It remains to be seen if it can withstand the rigors of an extended journey.

edited to add:  I’ve now toured 5000 miles with the ExtraWheel and a few hundred with a BOB.  I’ve compared the two trailers here.

Bike Trailer Shop: The Bike Trailer Experts

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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5 Responses to ExtraWheel Trailer – A Review

  1. george white July 17, 2008 at 3:52 am #

    Interesting review and your views reflect mine about the trailer. I too had travelled around 1000 miles with mine heavily loaded and found the tracking superb.
    I made a couple of mods which you may like to consider. I thought there would be problems with the bags’ contents rubbing the fabric of the mudguard against the internal frame so I wrapped the frame at these points with pipe insulation and secured this with cable clips.
    Again, on tour I found that as the plastic mudguard is held between the forks by pressure, the bags pressing inwards compressed the mudguard and allowed it to spring out and foul the wheel. I fixed this by making a small hole in the mudguard and securing it in place by a cable clip. Both mods were easy to do but I think were well worth while.
    As to the safety of the yoke on the rear wheel you should have no concerns as I have found, as have my friend who uses the trailer for off-road work, that no amount of abuse results in it coming loose.
    Regarding the steel clip used to tension the hammocks, I thought that a much better solution to this would be one of those stainless-steel devices used to secure the sheets on sailing boats. This would be simple and more effective I think.
    Good luck on your trip.

  2. Rags July 21, 2008 at 5:10 am #

    Good write up! I’ve the extrawheel trailer for 3 months and took it on a 200 mi. roundtrip- camping gear and clothes to attend a seminar. I heard a creak too and had a gas station attendant add some motor oil to the joint for the fork and the vertical rod of the trailer. Going downhill beyond 27 mph, the trailer came off. Luckily, there were no cars by me and the fork provided friction so as to stop the trailer from flying off the cliff (plus, there was a barricade so that was good). The attendant put too much oil on the joint.

    Also, if I get off the bike and wheel it around and have to make a sharp turn or back it up, and it jackknifes, it sometimes comes off. It’s amazing to me that it can hold up so well when riding but when it comes to maneuvering it at 2-3mph, that that occurs sometimes.

    Nonetheless, for all the advantages mentioned above by Nancy and George, I too strongly recommend this trailer for at least groceries, weekend rides, and I could see it being used rigorously for a month. Beyond that, I’ll look to your review and hopefully those of others to see if it could hold up well. I do think that there’s some room for improvement and I heard that they’re working on the next generation. how about some strong thin but light metal mesh nets.

  3. nancy July 22, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    YIKES!! That sounds scary – having the trailer come off! I haven’t experienced anything like that at all – and I hope I don’t! I’ve never had mine jackknife (except for that one time when I was trying to get Davy’s bike ready) but I suppose I’m pretty careful about backing up – I rarely do it at all. If I have to go back, I simply turn around. John can back up with the BOB, but I haven’t mastered that skill yet.

  4. nancy January 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm #

    I’ve now used my ExtraWheel for about 5000 miles and recently switched to a BOB and have around 1000 miles on it. Overall, I have to say I prefer the ExtraWheel and would get another ExtraWheel in the future if/when I need a new trailer.

    The main reason I like the ExtraWheel is the maneuverability – the BOB has VERY little ability to turn, so I have to make very wide turns whereas the ExtraWheel had a huge range of motion relative to the bike. I find it’s hard to park my bike making sure the BOB is straight behind it. It’s hard to maneuver around campsites. Overall, the BOB is much more difficult to handle than the ExtraWheel.

    As for your questions:
    – I find very little difference in stability between the two, but I think the ExtraWheel comes out slightly ahead in terms of stability. I say slightly because I don’t think there’s enough difference to use that as a factor in which to use.

    – I’m not actually sure on this one, but I think the ExtraWheel takes more weight off the rear wheel of the bike. I say that because I used to be able to pick up the back of my bike to move it closer to a wall when I was using the ExtraWheel – now that is very difficult to do. When I look at the design of the two trailers, it makes sense that the ExtraWheel would take more weight since the load is directly over the wheel. The load on the BOB is suspended between the bike wheel and the trailer wheel so, in theory, half the load should be on each wheel.

    – The ExtraWheel is very small and compact. It ends up being just slightly larger than a spare wheel. It’s easy to tuck it up against a wall behind a bed in a hotel room. The BOB is much bigger.

    – No, the ExtraWheel does not act as a stand.

    I wrote up a comparison of the two trailers a while ago – I still stand by everything I wrote then. You can read it here: http://familyonbikes.org/blog/?p=722

    Good luck with your decision!

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