Bike Path Revisited: The Little Trailer That Could

25 Mar

Remember those chicane fences on the Stevens Creek trail I wrote about a few months ago? I got a comment from Andrew who didn’t agree with my assessment that the fences were wide enough apart: “Try getting through these easily on a cargo bike,” he said. He has a point. I don’t have a cargo bike so I can’t say it works.

But I DO have a bike trailer, so I decided to test the trailhead fences on the way home from a Costco trip.

Ready to roll.

It was my first cargo grocery trip and I didn’t hold back at Costco, buying big and heavy items like toilet paper, dishwashing soap and bulk food items. Everything I would never dream of buying with just panniers.

I learned a lot more than whether the trailer could navigate the chicanes. I learned that an empty trailer is an unstable beast, that typical bike parking doesn’t work for trailers, that the angle of a curb cut can make or break you, and how hard it is to accelerate when you’re dragging 70 pounds of cargo. It was eight miles of hard work.

Did the trailer work on the chicane fences? Yes, much better than much of the ride.

The chicane fences on Shoreline Creek Trail: no problem!

To all you parents out there who haul kids and gear like this every day: you are truly amazing! Those eight short miles and four overpasses were more tiring than 40 miles of rolling terrain on my road bike.

Have you ever ridden a cargo bike or a bike with a trailer? What did you notice that was different?

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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Around Town, Bike Lane FAIL


18 responses to “Bike Path Revisited: The Little Trailer That Could

  1. Kath Youell (@KYouell)

    March 25, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Every single teeny little hill is noticeable. I’ve been on group rides, with moms/kids on longtails, and they have dusted me on grades that they thought were no big deal. A 90-pound bike is a beast, but it needs the additional weight of a kid or two in it or the ride can be kind of squirrelly. Yay for you for shopping like a driver!

    I think of my bakfiets as wide, but really the widest part of the box is narrower than my handlebars, so it’s not *that* wide.

    • ladyfleur

      March 25, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      I tend to get dusted by friends on hills anyway, but man, when you put a little weight on a bike you find new hills where you never knew they existed!

      The trailer was interesting to try getting around town and on an off the trails, but I’m still curious how it would be with a bakfiets that doesn’t bend in the middle. I suspect the chicane fences would be OK, but have the entrance and exit ramps would be a PITA.

  2. ian menzies

    March 26, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Costco on a bike with trailer?Gutsy move,Ms Fleur. (I always feel just a little bit smug when I take my bike to Costco)

  3. TinLizzie72

    March 26, 2013 at 5:20 am

    We’ve been discussing a trailer, and now we actually have place to store on (more on that later…). But you’ve inspired me. I’d still rather have a bakfiet, but the trailer is more in our price range at the moment.

    • ladyfleur

      March 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      The Croozer was really inexpensive. Even though I paid for shipping it was still cheaper than a Burley. But I chose it based on its 4-sided design, not price.

  4. Rachel Unger

    March 26, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I have a bad enough time hitting the grocery store and then the market with a pannier. Suddenly, my bike has a sail – on one side. That adds tens of pounds to the weight – all on one side. Suddenly, simple things like taking off from a stop and making turns and especially any kind of hill whatsoever become Much More Exciting. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I increased carrying capacity…
    Do you think it would have been better or worse to just climb that part of Shoreline in the bike lane, rather than trying the side path?
    I hadn’t even considered locking up a trailer, too.

    • ladyfleur

      March 26, 2013 at 9:18 am

      I only ride this bike lane on Shoreline on my road bike. With the fast car traffic and the expressway entrances/exits I need to be nimble. The NB/EB direction is particularly scary. The cars coming off of NB Central do not yield with care to motor traffic much less look for bikes. Fortunately, I’m usually cutting over to make a left at the light so I can cross over early and avoid them completely.

      As for panniers, I carry 7-10 lbs every day on a single side so I’m used to it. I will say it’s more balanced on a heavier upright bike than on a road bike.

  5. Erica B-W

    March 26, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I use my mountain bike with triple crank gearing when towing a cargo trailer to the market such as a the grocery store or hardware store. Different trailer hitch designs definitely affect the behavior of the trailer. My hubby took our BOB trailer and modified from single to 2 wheels and a flat bed. The central hitch mounts to both sides of the skewer and centers the trailer behind the bike. It clears must tight areas. Similar to this set up.

    Good luck

    • ladyfleur

      March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      The Viva Juliett has 7-speed internal hub but it’s geared in the high side probably because it’s designed for flat Copenhagen. If I need lower gears I’ll probably attach the trailer to Zella my 90s MTB now commuter.

  6. Melissa

    March 26, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Riding solo with no passenger feels fast. Riding on a long tail with a passenger feels slower, but it’s really fun. Riding with a trailer is still fun, but harder to converse and riding into the wind feels like a parachute is dragging behind me. Hills and headwinds are a serious cardio workout with a trailer or cargo on the longtail. I guess I’ve adapted to everything else you noticed (like turns, curbs, bike parking, accelerating), but I find riding into the wind and hills the hardest things to get used to.

    • ladyfleur

      March 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      I hate wind more than hills. At least with hills you can see the result of your effort.

      • Melissa

        March 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

        Good point! And with hills, at least there’s usually a downhill to reward a climb.

      • ladyfleur

        March 26, 2013 at 10:23 pm

        And I LOVE downhills. 🙂

  7. rz

    March 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    60 lb kid and 40-50 lbs of groceries on the boda boda makes the going a bit up hills and is mostly unnoticeable on the flats. The bike doesn’t make sharp turn at any times. However, 40 lbs of dog food or compost on top of the rack makes the bike feel squirrley until you pick up some speed.

    • ladyfleur

      March 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Ouch! My thighs are hurting for you already. I wonder why 40 lbs of the dog food is squirrelier than a 60 lb kid.

      • Melissa

        March 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

        I’ve also noticed the more weight I’m hauling, the squirrelier the ride (until I get to a moderate speed). I’d wager that having the dog food or compost on top of the rack is squirrelier than a kid because the weight might be higher, and possible further back.


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