Review: ExtraWheel trailer update

extrawheel cycle touring chile

I’ve now used the Extrawheel trailer for nearly six months and 3500 miles, in nearly every condition you can throw at a cycle tourer, so it’s probably time for an updated review of this fantastic trailer.

The first part of our tour saw us cycling for four months in Patagonia in southern Argentina and Chile on some of the roughest road conditions there are in the world. Very steep hills, very strong winds (up to 40km/h head/side wind) and roads that resemble deep pits of gravel (AKA “ripio”). The ripio is often made up of golf ball-sized stones, sometimes bigger, on top of a hard-packed surface with a bumpy corrugated finish. In contrast to these extreme riding conditions, I’ve also enjoyed riding with the Extrawheel on smooth tarmac down the Pacific Coast of Oregon and California. The Extrawheel trailer for cycle touring certainly attracts attention: it’s usually the first thing that people – cyclists and non-cyclists alike – comment upon when we meet them. They all quickly agree that the concept makes a lot of sense, and are keen to hear all about it.

extrawheel trailer for cycle touring

We use the Extrawheel trailer to carry our kitchen materials (Trangia stove, pots and pans, utensils, water filter), along with extra water and some food. The trailer handles better the lighter it is. The website states that it can carry up to 35kg, but I’ve found the optimum weight for good handling is to keep it at 8-10kgs per pannier. Much heavier, and it starts to wobble more easily, though this isn’t too much of a problem. The wobbles only come if you’re hit by a strong side wind at a certain angle. Speeding up is the best way to get out of a wobble, though don’t get out of the saddle to do so. Acceleration can be a bit difficult, however, on a heavily-loaded tourer. I’ve done a maximum speed of 37mph with the trailer, on tarmac, and the trailer only wobbled when I was hit by a strong side wind.

extrawheel cycle touring chileThe ExtraWheel tracks behind the bike so much better than other trailers I have used and seen. The ExtraWheel is also very easy to handle when on and off the bicycle, tight turns and reversing are easy and it doesn’t jack knife. I have had comments about the turns when people have seen me move it around, “I couldn’t do that with my BOB”.

The only time I feel that I am pulling the trailer is when I hit a bump and hear stuff rattling in the panniers. I do not feel the pull and push that you often get with other trailers. On the very rough roads in Patagonia it never came off, no matter how rough the road was. The panniers and I were shaken to bits on the bicycle while and the ExtraWheel just rolled on behind.

At first the frame seemed that it wouldn’t be able to handle the rough surfaces we were about to tackle. But it is surprisingly robust: just clip it on (much easier to do when you haven’t got the panniers on) and ride. The only two times it has ever come off was when it got used a bit too roughly. Once when we had found a great wild camping spot behind some big dense bushes and I was too tired to take all the panniers off and thought that brute force would get me, bike and trailer over on the other side. The other time was when I was thrown off in that famous cement mixer episode aka 120km/h sandstorm. The Extrawheel trailer wasn’t designed for this kind of rough handling, yet on both occasions it still did a great job. It popped off cleanly and didn’t damage the bicycle. In fact, the only damage the trailer suffered in the sandstorm fall was a broken mudguard.

The mudguard is great to stop the splatting of dirt onto you and the bicycle. One thing to note about the mudguards however is that the spray will hit the mudguard and then drips down onto the panniers. So do make sure that you close up your panniers tightly or they will fill with mud and water.

extrawheel carretera austral touringNow to some suggestions for new features:

Light fitting. I would really like a place where I could fit a light since the Extrawheel trailer and flag tend to cover the lights I have on the bicycle. I had to resort to some fettling to make a light fitting on the trailer.

Bottle holders. I would like to have place to carry some extra bottles of water. I think if the “fork” part of the trailer was made a bit longer that would be a great place to have to bottle cages on each side just behind the panniers.

Wheel quality: The wheel that came with the Extrawheel trailer is a bog standard one. Some might consider it too “cheap”. I had to repack the bearings since the cones were very loose, without sufficient grease. Since I did this the wheel has run nice and true.

Rack loops: There are some small metal loops on the ends of the racks, which I think are intended to stop the panniers from sliding off. Unfortunately, this means that the hooks on your panniers are too close together, therefore making the top rack of the panniers bend. It would be better to either make these rack loops moveable or position them right at the ends to give more space.

Flag: The flag and light fitting, if Extrawheel trailer take up my hint and add this feature, need to have the option to fit at either side of the trailer, depending on which side of the road you’re riding on. The DIY fitting of the light I made works great in the UK but not in the US, for example.

Quick release skewer: a special rear-wheel skewer comes with the trailer. Mine originally had some plastic covers which were something of a nuisance as they were always in the way when I tried to attach the trailer. I have only removed the skewer a few times and yet it has broken. While I can fit it securely onto the bike, when I remove it it comes apart in my hands. A more hardy skewer made from a more resilient material would be an improvement.

The flag: ours was ripped in strong winds in Patagonia. If you make your own flag don’t make it too big as the flag pole isn’t strong enough to handle the extra drag. I had to reinforce the pole with a spoke.

One of the ExtraWheel’s big selling points is that it allows you to use the wheel itself as spare parts if needed. The tyre I put on it does not look at all worn, so it’s a great place to keep a spare. The wheel itself I used as a front wheel to ride around Portland while we waited for my SON Hub to be returned from its service.

In summary, this really is a great trailer if – and this is a big consideration – you can fit what you need to carry into panniers. It makes packing your bicycle easier and spreads the load so that the bike doesn’t feel too heavy to handle. However, it is not designed for very heavy or bulky loads, for which the BOB trailer would be more suited.

Five oinks for this great light touring trailer.

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  1. I quite like the idea of the Extrawheel, and I suspect as a way of helping to spread the load on a tourer, it’s quite possibly an optimal solution.

    On the other hand, it’s horses for courses, and I use my Yak Bob and Carry Freedom Large-Y for things that wouldn’t be possible with an Extrawheel, like take my two cats to the vet, or a huge heap of cardboard to the local recycling centre.

    The Extrawheel obviously works well were the load can be fitted into a pannier, but for large bulky stuff it’s never going to be appropriate.

  2. We have a two wheeled bike buddy which is about 35 years old. It is great for hauling larger stuff but we wouldn’t take it touring. It isn’t too stable at higher speeds and would be impossible on some of the barriers on cycle tracks here in the UK. We bought an xtrawheel early this year and have toured about 500 miles with it during the worst summer weather we’ve encountered on much deteriorated tracks. It performed faultlessly. You are right . It is horses for courses and we could not haul the Christmas shopping with the xtrawheel but for the little extra we need cycle touring it is great.

  3. Nice write-up!

    For me, it’s off road where the benefits of the Extrawheel are most apparent. There’s no comparison in off-road handling between a 4-pannier setup and a 2-rear plus Extrawheel one, as I found out in Mongolia. For extended trips on unpaved roads I’d take an Extrawheel over panniers every time.

  4. A good honest and unbiased review thanks Woolly. Being a practical person I can understand the lateral problem with the extra wheel and if you can’t put your total load on the trailer then why have a trailer that is additional weight to your overall load. This is where the low to the ground 16 inch single wheel trailer has is over the high 700cc wheel. You can put all your gear in the low to the ground trailer and have a bike that handles more like a bicycle than a motor bike that won’t start. Being Australian, the problem I have is travelling by plane to Europe with a bike. Every time I fly with a bike there is an issue with size and weight which has become more and more expensive. My next tip to Europe will be with a trailer that I can put all my gear in and I will buy a basic bike in France when I arrive. I can then sell the worn out bike to a cash converter and not have to pack the bike. As I see it, the trailer that can take all my gear easily in one bag and is low to the ground out of the cross winds is the way to go? And hello Tom, I did enjoy Janapar. Thanks, Ross.


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