I’ve now got a whopping 200 miles on my new BOB, so I thought I’d write up a bit of a comparison between the two trailers. Keep in mind that I’ve only ridden 200 miles with the BOB, whereas I rode 5000 with the Extrawheel – so my feelings may change as I get more familiar with the BOB. I also used the old style ExtraWheel with mesh pouches for carrying gear. They have since redesigned the pouch system to mount panniers so some of what I say here no longer applies. Most of it, however, is still valid.
The main difference I’ve seen between the two trailers so far is in maneuverability, and I have to say the ExtraWheel wins hands-down. For 5000 miles now I’ve been able to make tight turns and didn’t even notice the trailer was there. I could jockey the bike around in campsites easily. It was rare that I had to ask one of the kids to straighten out the trailer.
The BOB, on the other hand, can’t handle tight turns at all. I have to make wide, semi-truck turns now. If I try to turn too tight, the BOB immediately screams at me by forcing my bike over – making it very difficult to keep it upright. I’ve only ridden a few days with the BOB, but I’ve already had to ask for help more times than I did the whole time I rode with the ExtraWheel.
I suspect I’ll get used to making wide turns in time, but for now – it’s a pain in the rear! I will say that, if I was going to be doing a lot of single-track riding, I would choose the ExtraWheel in a heartbeat!
Both trailers track just fine. I don’t find either of them pulling me to one side or the other at all. Once I’m actually riding, I don’t even feel the trailer is there.
Theoretically, the two trailers have almost identical carrying capacities. However, it seems to me that you can, in a practical sense, cram more stuff into the BOB. The ExtraWheel, with two smaller bags, is harder to cram so full. The BOB, with its one large bag, is a bit easier to pack than the ExtraWheel. I say a bit because there isn’t really much of a difference in ease of packing. One slight advantage for the BOB is that you can pack things that need to remain upright. In the ExtraWheel you pack the bags while they are standing up, but put them in the trailer on their side – so it’s much harder to make sure things stay in one position.
Where the BOB comes out on top, however, is the way you can stack stuff on top of it.The ExtraWheel is limited to only what you can put in the pouches, whereas you can pack the BOB bag full and also strap additional gear on top.
The ExtraWheel comes out on top here. I love the attachment system for the ExtraWheel! It is so quick and easy to detach and reattach. When we pulled into a campground, I could snap the trailer off and run down to the grocery store with just my bike. When I was ready to put the trailer back on – it was on in a grand total of 15 seconds.
The BOB is much more cumbersome to attach. The bike has to be perfectly upright (which means someone has to help me) and it’s difficult to get the forks under my panniers and over the spindle just right. Once I get it in place, I have to attach the pins, which is yet another step. The whole process – as of now – is taking me a good couple of minutes. I might get more proficient at it as I do it more, but right now I miss the quick attachment system of the ExtraWheel.
Once again, the ExtraWheel wins. With the ExtraWheel, getting into hotel rooms was a breeze. I simply took out the dry bags, popped off the trailer, and I was good to go. I had three easy-to-handle pieces to take up to a hotel room.
The BOB, on the other hand, is much more cumbersome. It’s more difficult to take the trailer off the bike in the first place, and then it’s very difficult to carry up the stairs or to the elevator. The one big bag – even if it’s not too heavy to carry easily – is fairly difficult to manage, and the trailer is long and unwieldy. If I do take the bag out of the trailer to carry it, I have to completely repack it once it’s back in the trailer as everything shifts around.
I can’t judge from my personal use on this one, but looking at John’s BOB and my ExtraWheel, I think the BOB wins in this category. The BOB has a metal cage surrounding all the soft gear, which protects it somewhat from thorns, branches, or whatnot. My impression is that the BOB is pretty much bombproof – I’m not sure what could damage it.
The ExtraWheel is much more vulnerable. The pouches, while very useful and convenient, are susceptible to getting caught on branches. The nylon strings of the pouch are sewn into the backing, but can tear out quite easily with a small amount of force. The basic framework of the ExtraWheel is solid and I’m sure that part would hold up. I’m just not convinced the pouches (which are critical to its design) can handle the demands of long-time heavy usage. I’m hoping ExtraWheel comes up with something more durable for future models.
A small selling point for the BOB for most people is the idea that you can use the trailer as a kickstand. I say ‘for most people’ because it doesn’t work for me – my bike is too heavy. If you are only carrying your load in the trailer, you can jackknife the trailer a little bit and it’ll serve as a kickstand – a handy feature! If you have loaded panniers on the bike (like me), the bike is too heavy and the kickstand idea doesn’t work. I can use it in the campground at night once I’ve unloaded the bike, but that’s not all that useful – I would love to be able to use that during the day when I take breaks with no place to lean my bike.
So – what’s the bottom line? If I was doing a shorter tour, and didn’t need a lot of carrying capacity, I would take an ExtraWheel. I would also take an ExtraWheel on single track or anywhere I needed to make tight turns. If I was touring in a situation where I frequently needed to unpack my bike (to put it in cars, buses, hotel rooms, etc.) the ExtraWheel would be a better choice.
On our long journey, where we have gear for four people on two bikes (we don’t have much on our son’s bike), the BOB is a better choice. I’m confident the BOB will be able to handle the demands of a 20,000-mile journey, but don’t think the ExtraWheel would be up to the task.
edited February 2, 2009 to add: I’ve now hauled my BOB about 1500 miles and I still feel the same about it. It’s a good solid trailer, but just doesn’t feel as good as the Extrawheel did. I liken the ExtraWheel to a race car – it’s sporty and nimble and fast, but a bit delicate. The BOB is built like a tank – and rides like one.
A huge advantage of the ExtraWheel that I didn’t mention above is that it uses the same size tire as the bike. Now that I’ve got the BOB I have to carry an extra 700c tire and tube, but also need a spare 16″ set too.
The other consideration that I didn’t mention above is the distribution of weight. One of the major selling points of any trailer is the idea that it gets the weight off your bike. The ExtraWheel, with all the weight concentrated on its axle, puts virtually no weight on the bike itself. The weight in the BOB is equally distributed between the rear bike wheel and the BOB wheel.
A commenter below mentioned the idea of packing gear flat – and that is an advantage for the BOB. Since John loves his BOB, we were able to put anything that needed to be packed flat in John’s BOB and I could take stuff that didn’t matter. If you are only carrying an ExtraWheel, that could be an issue.
In conclusion, I really miss my ExtraWheel! I loved the idea that I could put it on and take it off by myself. I could make tight turns and maneuver around campsites/hotel rooms easily. If the folks over at ExtraWheel could figure out a way to make the netting system more durable, I would certainly go back. I do have a few suggestions, so if you have any contacts at ExtraWheel please let me know so I can pass on my ideas!