One of the most obvious differences in bicycle trailers is the frame and wheel design. A quick example of each can be seen below.
For heavy hauling most trailers I have seen, especially child trailers, are two wheels. The two wheels allow you to distribute the weight over the surface and into two rolling wheels instead of one.
I’ve used the BOB Yak and several different models of Burleys so I have a good idea how the different systems handle. A bit of a disclaimer as every trailer will handle differently, especially dependent on how you attach the load.
Bike Trailer Blog
One wheel designs
In a one wheel designed trailer the weight of the trailers load is shared between its only wheel, and the rear wheel of the bicycle. Due to the weight being spread between the bike and the trailer, the rear driving wheel of the bike will be pushed into the ground aiding traction tremendously. When off-road touring or bike-camping, this is a great advantage as steep terrain is amazingly easy to sit and spin up with surprising grip, even with the additional load being towed. Also, the width is an obvious bonus in tight conditions. The compromise however, is that the handling of the bike changes in direct reflection to the weight of the load. With maximum payloads often being around 100lbs, this can be quite a dramatic difference from the bike alone. Learning to predict the weight shift in tight terrain & quick maneuvering is key as the bike will occasionally try to find its own direction. When using a single-wheel trailer for around town errands, it’s sometimes difficult to stabilize the entire bike-trailer unit when parking, unless a prop (sign post etc) or a secondary kickstand is used. These characteristics of single-wheel trailers make them the most efficient design when technical situations such as single-track and narrow pathways are sought, and less ideal for general around town use if operating space is ample. This video shows a great example of a B.O.B. Ibex single wheel trailer in its element.
Two wheeled trailers, on the other hand, rest the majority of their load between its own two wheels. This leaves the rear wheel of the bike, and therefore the handling of the bike itself, relatively unaffected by the added weight. Actually, it’s only the weight being pulled that is felt, for the most part. Tire wear should not increase substantially and using a single kickstand is no problem as the bike remains independent of the trailer. The compromise of course, is the width of the two-wheel design. For any type of technical terrain, or extremely tight areas of operation, this can become overwhelming. Narrow sidewalks and gates can become a real obstacle.
Good Rule of Thumb
If you are planning to do extensive, off-road single track or narrow technical pathways or otherwise, you’ll want to lean towards a single wheel trailer. If around town utility is what you’re going to be looking for, study up on the variety of two-wheeled designs available and keep the load off your bike, and your bikes handling, predictable.
What is Your Personal Experiences?
Let us know what style you prefer, and why!