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One Wheel Vs Two Wheels : Bicycle Trailers

by Bike Shop Girl

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.

Personal Experience

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

Our friends over at BikeTrailerShop.com have a blog, BikeTrailerBlog.com, and they wrote about this exact topic a couple years back.

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!

 
Burley nomad 229

8 Responses to “One Wheel Vs Two Wheels : Bicycle Trailers”

  1. Good review. I have a older Bob, and had a Burley kid trailer (two wheel). One advantage of the single wheel for around town riding is that it is no wider than your bike, so if you are cutting between cars, you don’t need to worry about clipping a car :-)

    Also, the Bob can be used as a kickstand by angling it 90 degrees from your bike. You can see a photo of how this works here: http://www.biketrailerblog.com/2008/05/jeffs-trailer-reviews-part1-bob-trailers/

    Bottom line: I like my Bob for around town hauling, but when I go on tours that involve train to or from it, I can’t check the trailer as easy as the bike, so I use panniers. I’ve done some shorter home to home touring and used my Bob and enjoyed it.

  2. PS. The other aspect of a single wheel trailer I prefer is that when you bank, the trailer banks with you. If you take a turn too fast with a two wheel trailer, you can flip it, but this is not a danger with a single wheel trailer.

  3. BluesCat says:

    My only experience is with a two wheeled trailer.

    I’ve pulled this Schwinn Scout trailer with over 50 pounds in it and have had no problems with the change in handling. I like the 20″ spoke wheels, I have zero confidence in these two-wheel trailers with the much smaller plastic wheels.

  4. Trevor says:

    One comment on the handling of a single-wheeled trailer off road.

    If heavily loaded the weight-bias will be shifted significantly to the rear, ‘causing the steering to be vague and the bike will feel less planted.

    I discovered this while touring the great divide route w/ a BOB Yak (Eventually replaced by an Ibex after the trailer cracked, and required welding on 3 separate occasions.).

    Handling improved immensely after adding a set of front panniers to improve the weight distribution.

  5. BT Shares says:

    It is quite difficult to drive one while vehicle after driving two wheeler. You have made very nice comparison among them so that other people can understand the importance of vehicle.

  6. Kevin Brady says:

    I have had a Burley Flatbed for three years now and it’s hauled many things that I don’t think a single wheel trailer could. I’ve added a 45 gallon Rubbermaid Tote to it and it’s done a great job hauling multiple computers across campus (I’m an IT guy) as well as the ability to go on grocery runs for a family of five that I completely fill up the Rubbermaid.

    I’ve never tried it for long haul though, but have had people stay with me through warmshowers.org that have used it and/or the Burley Nomad.

  7. Chris VanWoerkom says:

    I use a B.O.B./Yakima hybrid single wheel for shopping and general hauling. I’ve also used our kid trailer as a cargo trailer. The article is a great summary. The single wheel trailer is much more mobile for winding your way around traffic or on bike/ped paths, but you need to take into account the handling differences. Parking with a loaded single wheel is also a pain, but it can be left in much narrower places – usually nearer the store. The two wheel trailer can carry heavier loads, but you need to be really careful to leave extra room. It’s all too easy to not take the extra width into account and run a wheel up a curb or into a pothole, thus flipping the trailer (which I have done). For “normal” bike loads, I still prefer the single wheel trailer.

  8. Marta says:

    Good Rule of Thumb but single wheel trailers are still very functional for city use. Just do your research for the most suitable style for you.

    I use the Maya Cycle bike trailer. It’s a single wheel bike trailer designed for the city and touring, what ever your pleasure. Has a kick-stand too. There is a “Bicycle Trailer & Cargo Carrier Buyers Guide” available on the website. This Guide provides information and comparison on all cargo carrying options for when riding your bike, whether it be touring or around the city: http://www.mayacycle.com/Bicycle-Trailer-Cargo-Carrier-Buyers-Guide.pdf

    It’s a good starting point for anyone doing research around cargo carrying options.

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