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.
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.
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:
- The connection system. It is metal on metal and we’re watching it for signs of wear.
- 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.