Many hardcore bicycle touring specialists could go on for hours about their particular setup and why it is the best way to travel by bike. I'm not an expert, but many years in a bike shop has taught me some key differences between the two most discussed options: Panniers or Trailers.
BikeRoar would like to simply share some of the facts and let you make the decision on which suits your situation.
Some facts about Bike Trailers:
- Larger luggage capacity.
- Better for off-road. More nimble and balanced when the going gets rough or technical.
- Removes destabilising weight off the bike lower onto the trailer, thereby lowering the centre of gravity.
- Usually comes with a large dry bag which is a great waterproof place to cram stuff into, but can be a bit difficult to move when not on the bike.
- They are probably overkill for short tours on smooth surfaces.
- Trailers may not be suitable for lightweight road touring bikes as the extra weight and stress of the trailer may result in flex and fatigue of the bike frame. They are better suited to a mountain bike converted to a tourer or a specific touring bike with a beefed-up or reinforced rear triangle.
- Trailers are bulky and may be unsuitable for packing for flight in some areas of the world.
- Trailers also require specific parts if repairs are necessary, much like a bike. This could be a problem in more isolated places.
DID YOU KNOW? There are many different types of bicycle trailers. For touring there are mainly two: Single and Twin Wheel. The main difference is handling and capacity. Single wheel trailers are narrower, follow the bicycle more naturally and as a result are more agile and better for off-road. Two wheeled are better for bitumen and when carrying more than approximately 12kg. They also make it possible to carry bigger, bulkier items if that's your thing.
Some facts about Panniers:
- Easy to carry your load off the bike, particularly into a tent, hotel or over obstacles.
- Very simple in design, and very little to go wrong.
- Versatile for different types of trips. Carry all four for longer journeys and then cut down to one for a short day trip.
- Cargo needs to be balanced between each side of the bike to avoid instability. This instability is only really a problem when tight turns and balance on uneven ground is required; think mountain biking and off road trails.
- Increases wear on the bike.
- Weight "on the bike" affects handling and agility.
An example of a good quality pannier for touring is the Ortlieb Bike-Tourer.
Generally speaking, panniers come out on top for shorter trips or bitumen-based touring. They are also easier logistically if travelling overseas or off the beaten track as repairs typically do not require special tools or parts.
Trailers seem better suited to really long journeys where the logistical hassle is out-weighed by the ability to carry supplies for many days or even weeks. They are also the best option for off-road touring as the weight is carried low and off the bike.
Have you used either of these options before? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.