Using a trailer when touring is a very personal thing. Some people can’t do without one, while others manage to tour the world without. It’s different strokes for different folks.
NOTE : Click here to read an updated blog post about the Extrawheel, after 3500 miles, in nearly every condition you can throw at a cycle tourer.
There are three main reasons why I decided on a trailer: space, weight and water-carrying capacity.
You may have heard that I have had some grave problems with my rear. My rear wheel, I mean! So, I wanted to redistribute some of the weight from the rear wheel by using a trailer.
Of course, we could fit all the luggage we need by stuffing our panniers to the brim and strapping things on the rear rack. But, I prefer not to have to play Tetris each time I want to find something. While touring in the UK and in New Zealand we noticed that our panniers were full and if we wanted food (yes, we eat rather a lot) our bags were stuffed to the brim.
Which leads to the last problem. Water. I’d like to carry a few more litres, but there isn’t any room. We drink a lot of water while cycling compared to others, and have sometimes been close to totally running out, especially when wild camping.
There may be more bits to carry, but we’re not talking bags of bricks. A few more trips up and down the steps at the train station or hotel is better than pulling something in your back when carrying something heavy.
I knew that it had to be a single wheel trailer, since I didn’t need to pull a great deal of weight. A two wheeled trailer is great for large, heavy loads, but they’re also heavy themselves. I was thinking about taking our Revolution Cargo Load Trailer (a B.O.B. copy) but the load-to-weight ratio wasn’t in my favour. Even when packed down it is rather bulky to carry around.
Then I spotted the Extrawheel and was lucky that a friend had one that I could have a play with. I borrowed it for a few days to test it before I ordered one myself (thanks for the loan!).
It’s nice and light and the weight-to-load ratio is good. It weighs in at ~3-3.5Kg but can take up to 35kg in two panniers. As a comparison, the cargo trailer weighs ~7.5kgs and takes 35kg. (In practice, I won’t take more than 10-15kg and I wouldn’t recommend taking more than 25kg.)
The Extrawheel runs the same size wheel as your bicycle, 26″ or 700c. Because it is closer to your rear wheel, with the weight right on top of the wheel, it tracks so much better. The cargo trailer’s wheel is further back and the weight is between your rear wheel and the 20″ trailer wheel and the tracking is therefore not as good.
The Extrawheel takes two panniers – one on each side of the wheel – so like the panniers on your bicycle you need to load it up evenly. I picked two red Ortlieb Back-roller Classic, but the Extrawheel can accommodate any pannier.
For my very first ride I loaded the bicycle and trailer up with as much heavy stuff I could find, plus some pet bricks I had lying around, and went out for a spin. It had been some time since I last used a trailer so the first few metres were a bit weird. But, I soon got the hang of it and quickly forgot that I had a trailer behind me.
The Extrawheel is attached to your rear skewer on both sides of your real wheel. This makes it a bit tricky to attach at first but you soon find the knack. Attaching the trailer unloaded and then putting the panniers on makes that job much easier.
Because of the way the Extrawheel is attached you do not get the rocking effect while cycling especially while going uphill, as you do with other single point attached trailers.
I ordered mine direct from Poland (www.extrawheel.com) where they are made and it arrived here promptly, after a worrying day or two. The online tracker first said Friday, then Monday, then Tuesday next week… I was glad I was planning to be home Thursday when it arrived – you know how annoying it is when you find that “We tried to deliver today” card when you are waiting for a new toy!
Today we went out on our recycling and charity drop off, which we should have done a long time ago, so the panniers on the bikes and the Extrawheel were full to the brim. I’m sure that I overloaded the bike and trailer a little on this run. But after the first drop, the Extrawheel just sat behind me and I didn’t feel that I had two extra panniers and wheel. Now you can’t get any greener than that, recycling on your bicycle!
At first glance the trailer does appear a bit flimsy: the stays of the trailer do look a bit like they will not withstand the slightest bump. However, on the first outing I tried a few times on the roughest parts of the riverside path in London to see if I could get it to fall off. But, it stubbornly stayed put, just as I have read in reviews elsewhere on the net. The stays are spring loaded onto the skewer, which you can adjust so they fit your bicycle width. You then lock this with easily adjustable Allen screws.
If you wish, you can simply buy the Extrawheel frame and put your own wheel on it. Another plus is that you are always carrying an extra wheel, rim, spokes and tyre so you have a bit more to fix your bike if something should break.
The only thing I think is letting down the Extrawheel is the lack of rear light fitting. I had to do a little fettling to affix one myself. A Cateye fitting could be screwed in next to the stays for the mudguard.
Another bit of fettling I had to do was to make my rear mudguard a bit longer. The two panniers on the Extrawheel get rather dirty in muddy conditions with my set-up. So I ziptied a bit of clear plastic I had laying around to the stays of the Extrawheel which should make a nice barrier for the spray from the rear wheel. I’m sure if you had another kind of mudguard you wouldn’t have this problem.
I’m also going to have to find a solution to the fact that my SuperNova E3 rear light is hidden by the Extrawheel’s mudguard when seen directly from behind.
When off the bicycle it is much easier to walk around with than the cargo trailer since the Extrawheel is lighter and tracks so much better. It takes nice and sharp corners while walking around, say, a train station or parking the bike and trailer against a wall when shopping. Since the Extrawheel is also so compact it is also easier to grab and lift over things if needed.
If we should go out on a big tour again the Extrawheel will split into three parts: wheel, stays and frame, and will be packed into a cardboard box along with the bicycle.
Oh, and we even gave the Extrawheel a name. It’s called Eeyore. As in packhorse… donkey… Winnie the Pooh, get it? I know, we put our minds to work for that one.
I’m sure we’ll be updating this blog with our experiences of Extrawheeling.
Light and easy to use trailer that just give you that extra space for that homely feel while out cycle touring.
And, as an extra bonus, the Extrawheel has a flag!