Jeff's Trailer Reviews, Part 1: BOB Trailers

Coming from the land of two-wheeled trailers, I’ve long held some reservations about the single-wheeled variety. Most two-wheeled models behave in, more or less, the same way. One wheel has always seemed, well, weird. I guess it’s time for me to slay a couple myths about BOB Trailers.

Myth number one: The Hitch

Two-wheeled trailers carry their load squarely on, well, their own two wheels, and only a small portion of the load is transferred to the hitch. Conversely, BOB trailers shift a good portion of their load-carrying capability forward, to the hitch. Not only that, the hitch must also resist the additional torsional force inherent in single-wheeled designs.

BOB pin with lanyardSo how does the BOB hitch fare? By all accounts, very well. The BOB’s front fork/quick release connection is remarkably solid, resisting all torsional forces and shouldering it’s share of the trailer’s load. The connection between trailer and bike relies on two pins to hold the quick release in the trailer fork’s drop outs, and as long as the pins are in place, it means happy riding. Older BOB trailers (pre-2000) used essentially a cotter pin for this job, and, unfortunately, people lost them. Often. Newer models, however, introduced a new pin design that snapped tightly into place against a rivet on the fork dropouts, ensuring that it wouldn’t snap off. Later improvements include a rubber lanyard, to keep you from losing them while the trailer is disconnected from the bike.

The jackknife technique.The fork/quick release connection can be somewhat problematic when trying to attach a trailer that is already loaded. I’ve found it’s easier to attach the trailer before filling it up. Parking also requires some effort with this design. If you have enough room, the jackknife technique works relatively well, and adding a Greenfield kickstand to the trailer fork or an ESGE double kickstand to your bike will help in all situations. For more information, check out this article about kickstands on BOB trailers.

All things considered, the BOB quick release hitch is both strong and reliable and it’s simple design makes it very easy to use. Oh, it’s also important to note that BOB hitches are available for nutted axles, as well.

Myth number two: Handling

Another myth I held about BOBs, and other single-wheeled trailers, was that when loaded, they had a tendency to pull the bike around. I was happy to find this wasn’t as much of an issue as I feared. The trailer wheel tracks faithfully behind the bike, carving perfect arcs around corners and in evasive maneuvers. Trailers with two wheels have a steering lag and tend to stick out on one or both sides of the bike, requiring you to be constantly aware of the trailer, meaning that you have to ride differently. The BOB requires no such awareness, allowing you to ride almost completely normally. Because of this, the BOB shines on single-track and in city cycling, where handling is critical.

It is important to note, however, that overloading a BOB could be dangerous and will adversely affect the bike’s handling. The rated capacity of both the Yak and Ibex is 70 pounds.

Construction

BOBs are well built. Made of tubular 4130 chromoly steel, their truss design is very strong. The fact that it is made of steel also makes it easier to find someone who can weld it back together in out of the way places, should something bad happen. Its cargo rails do a good job of keeping Dry Saks or other bags in place and allow multiple points of attachment for bungee cords, cargo nets, or other tie-downs, and its expanded metal floor allows unobstructed drainage. The space between the frame members does allow smaller items to slip through, but this is easily remedied with liners and cargo nets, in lieu of a bag. BOBs are also relatively light, as compared to other bike trailers, weighing in at only 13.5 and 17 pounds for the Yak and Ibex, respectively. The BOB trailer’s iconic design is also stylish enough to ensure that you won’t be confused with a homeless person, which is, sadly enough, a common occurrence when riding with a trailer.

Conclusion

In this review, I haven’t really drawn a distinction between BOB Yak and BOB Ibex models. I am instead reviewing them for their common design characteristics, because compared to most other trailers, they are much more alike than different. Overall, I found BOBs to be very reliable, lightweight touring trailers for less-than ideal riding conditions. If you just have to ride your bike there, the BOB will dutifully, and capably, follow.


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22 thoughts on “Jeff's Trailer Reviews, Part 1: BOB Trailers”

  1. Andrew says:

    My daughter’s boyfriend just got tossed over the handlebars on a touring bike towing a BOB Yak. It seems that on a downhill run of a cross-country tour, the BOB developed a fishtail wobble that accelerated so rapidly and violently that there was no controlling it. The bicycle lay down at speed, the rider being ejected and the trailer then landing on top of him. As of last report (earlier today) his scapula was broken in more than one place, and further scans had been ordered to determine the extent of other injuries.

    The accident occurred despite strict adherence to trailer weight limitations, as well as caution exercised with regard to overall speed. Concerns of trailer

    ‘Twould seem that a touring trailer [one-wheeled in particular?] may need to be equipped with an anti-sway device, and that a chart of combined speed/weight limits should be determined and published.

  2. […] are some good discussions on the functioning and differences of different trailer styles. BOB Trailer Review Cass Gilberts Trailer Comparison and Reviews Practical Pedal’s Trailer Manifesto BOB Trailer […]

  3. Brian says:

    I’ve done some grocery shopping with my BOB, and the only time the BOB exhibited bad handling was with a particular parking lot driveway. The driveway has a very steep grade, and I have to approach it from a right turn, and with sufficient speed. When my bike’s Ortlieb panniers are loaded, there’s no problem. When I tow the BOB, it applies a good bit of force in the outwards direction, where I don’t want to move.

    The only other time that I’ve had “bad handling” is when I went to get new batteries for a couple of cars. The batteries were in the BOB, and the handling was terrible. I had to move at about 5mph because the batteries would bounce and shake. I think that if the weight were isolated by some kind of shock absorber, the trailer would have been stable.

    Otherwise, the BOB has been a great trailer.

  4. […] have a look at our review of the BOB Trailer as well as our Step-By-Step Assembly guide for the Extrawheel Voyager. Share and Enjoy: These […]

  5. Chester says:

    With light loads, the BOB seems to handle fine. But, I have a habit of overloading mine, and just got thrown from it coming back from the hardware store. I had it loaded down quite a bit, and coming down a hill it would develop a side to side swaying wave, like a semi trailer out of control. I tied to slow down, but it ended up picking my front tire from the pavement and throwing me down.

    When lightly loaded, however, it does handle well, and you dont have to worry about the rear wheel tracking behind you in wierd places. However, for moderate to heavy loads, I’ll be looking for another trailer.

  6. Handling the BOB when moderately to heavy loaded is something to be taken very seriously. I experience major BOB fish-tail wobbles going downhill and was lucky to have regained control. My BOB was moderately loaded below the manufacturers maximum limit; my speed was also below the manufacturers maximum limit. Factors to watchout are going downhill at any speed in excess of 30 km/h. One minute your seem in control the next any change in balance caused by a car overtaking or a bump in the road will cause the rear to wobble increasingly violently. I found that shifting my weight forward and applying the back break helped regain control.

  7. Alec says:

    About the Bob and stability. Properly loded, I’ve reach speeds exceeding 80km/h (50mp/h) without wobble. I found that the high weight/mass items sould be stored about the wheel (I put my tent along side the Bob’s wheel, and tools ‘n’ parts on the other with fule and stove). Lightweight items (clothes and the like) near the hitch. The cause of instability, is that the hitch extends the bike’s frame to the front of the Bob, and thus, the load in the front of the bob becomes a large pendulum. The miss understood idea, is that the Bob attaches to the bike at the rear axle. This is incorrect. The yoke attaches to the rear axle, the Bob (by way of the yoke extending the bike’s frame) attaches well aft of the wheel. Grasp this idea, and perhaps all becomes obvious.

  8. Bradley Mead says:

    My father gave me a nearly new BOB Yak that my nephew had intended to use for a cross-country trip. But I’m using it to carry groceries. The Yak trails beautifully when unloaded, but seems dangerously unstable when carrying 50 pounds of groceries. I’ve read dozens of user reviews whose writers have claimed zero instability problems with a fully loaded YAK. So my father and I are both confused as to why I’m having stability problems, particularly when descending out of a parking lot entry way and making a fairly sharp right turn onto the sidewalk homewards at low speed. I’ve seen stability-related comments regarding “frame triangulation” and “single-tube frames”, but I’m not familiar with specialized bike designs. I’m deeply disappointed, and a little scared.

    1. Josh says:

      There are quite a bit of factors that can effect the dynamics of a bicycle and BOB Trailer combination especially once the weight gets over 50 lbs. The head tube angle on the bike may be an important factor as well other aspects of the geometry of the bicycle and the way the cyclist fits on the bike. BOB Trailer offer the great benefit of single wheeled maneuverability, but on the down side can sometimes have maneuverability issues. When this does come up, I would suggest seeing how the load maneuvers in the same conditions on a different bike. This will likely solve the issue, though every cyclist will experiance the stability issues of a loaded BOB at speed differently.

      If you are not able to come up with a satisfactory way to carry the desired load with a BOB Trailer, it is worth considering a two wheeled trailer. While two-wheeled trailers don’t offer as much manueverability and the ability to go off-road, they offer many other great features, one of which is far greater stability especially with heavy loads and in higher speed conditions. Have a look at the great line-up of two-wheeled bike cargo trailers here: http://www.biketrailershop.com/two-wheel-bike-trailers-e-382.html

  9. Jacob says:

    I’ve been a bike messenger (in The Netherlands) for some time, using a Bob Yak professionally. Since my positive experiences with this handy one-wheeled-trailer I own one myself now, mainly for use as a vacation trailer.

    When loading a Bob Yak/Ibex trailer you should keep a few things in mind. 1. Always distibute the load evenly along its length-axis 2. place the heaviest load nearest to the trailer’s wheel 3. When you overload a Bob trailer (which is fairly possible), never make the load ‘top heavy’.

    I’ ve handled loads of over 50 kilograms with the Bob Yak and have had no stability or handling problems with it.

    Tip: A bike without shockabsorbtion is most ideal (in terms of handling/control) for towing a one-wheeled-trailer like the Bob Yak.

  10. […] Jeff’s Trailer Reviews, Part 1: BOB Trailers […]

  11. camping in kifisia says:

    Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

    1. Melanie Lipton says:

      Hi there! You can follow our sister site, @Commute_by_Bike on Twitter.

  12. I just rode across America using a BOB IBEX suspension trailer. It was the greatest addition to carrying all my gear. I had the trailer loaded with 105 lbs and more, thru all of the 1722 miles. It took about 400 miles to get used to the handling, but thru it all the BOB held up great. I rode thru the Ozarks and Missouri and had no issues with the fork and the trailer. I will add that I did make special Stainless Steel adapter brackets that bolted to my frame and using BOBS Nutz, giving 3 extra inches of clearance, for easy trailer removal, even while loaded. This was a help while using loaded Pannier bags. I did add my own kickstand with heavy duty washer plates, so the kickstand wouldn’t rip off the trailer, like it originally did. I never had to use the kickstand of the bike; the trailer would hold everything securely. It even fared well in a 50 mph head-on collision, it encountered in Texas, which ended my trip early. The only part that suffered damage was the trailer attachment hook of one fork, it was severely bent. I love this trailer and I’m buying new forks for the rebuild. I don’t recommend overloading as I did, unless you know more about weight distribution and are a conditioned cross country Cyclist. You can see my pictures and videos of the ride @ https://www.facebook.com/ride4jj and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC12lg1QVxoWavGbBOe-7XsA

  13. david says:

    23 pounds ? why’ed you need a trailer? The first time I use one on a trip it almost killed me 10 times in 20 miles. I couldn’t go over 10 miles per hour going down hill. I repacked it and got up to 17 mph. Not very good really. My mistake was using a 27″ road bike and 50 lbs of gear. They should have a huge disclaimer so they don’t kill someone but they probably don’t really care. I paid 300 used it once now for sale at 100 with a huge warning it must be perfectly balanced and lightly loaded at best or ride with your hands on the brakes. There it is. These trailers aren’t for the road, maybe the trail. My Burley Solo is so much better. DW

  14. Dan Roberts says:

    Is your BOB trailer still for sale for $100.00?

    If so give me a call at (406)431-9011 or email me at chiarored@gmail.com

  15. Hello folks,

    Just wanted to comment a bit as I have had the IBEX version of the Bob trailer for a couple years now. I’ve been putting together a bike camping setup I plan on using this spring, and the Bob trailer is/was planned from the start to hold a key role in this adventure. I’ve also been putting together my bike which started life as a Motobecane Cafe w/IGH. I’ve installed a mid-drive electric setup on it, as I planned to carry the full capacity this trailer would carry on long treks around Colorado/Wyoming and perhaps in other states as well. All together for about 3 months now, but I have been having real problems with the trailer carrying anything close to the 70 lbs. it is listed for. In fact, 40 lbs. is the max I can carry before the trailer becomes too unstable and can really start to wag side to side. As would be expected, this wagging motion will increase quite rapidly to an uncontrollable condition if not taken care of by braking hard, or tapping the throttle full for a second. What causes this is the high center of gravity built into this design because of the 16″ trailer wheel. This makes the centerline only 8″ off the ground and the bottom of the trailer itself is about 9″ from the ground, so there isn’t any way to load the trailer that does not increase the instability due to this top heavy condition. The reviewer actually said this, when he remarked it is better to attach the trailer before you load it. This is because with anything more then a few lbs. in the trailer, it will actually tilt very easy and can also very easily pull itself from your grip and fall over. Imagine 70 lbs. balancing on an edge that is 9 inches below it. That is exactly what is happening with a fully loaded ibex trailer. Now attaching that weight to the rear axle of your bike, and it transfers 100% of that tipping force right to the bike at its centerline (rear axle). Any engineer will tell you this is not the way to carry weight as it will produce too much tilting action if the trailer begins to sway due to pedaling action or road conditions. This pedaling action is the primary cause that is always at work when someone pedals. Body weight of the rider shifts from side to side as force is exerted down. This tilting motion is transferred to the trailer and the mass on that trailer is must tilt the same angle as they trailer is locked to the rear axle of the bike. As the mass on the trailer is far above the centerline of trailer axle, tilting that mass extenuates that effect back to the bike at the end of the tilting motion by forcing the bike to actually continue tilting more before that inertia of mass can be counteracted by the pedal pump from the opposite foot. As you continue pedaling and this mass is cycling back and forth, the inertia grows with greater force with each pump and before long, it is more than the rider can control. There are other forces at work here as well, such as counter steering and frame flexing at reverse inertia points. When added altogether, this is why this trailer design is faulted to point where carrying more than a very small amount of weight is simply not safe. And since it cannot be loaded in any manner where the weight is below centerline, there is nothing that can be done to rectify this. Too bad too, as I have invested a lot of time and money is attempting ways to fix this and the only real fix would be to build a new trailer from the bed back using a new tail assembly and wheel the same size as the bike uses. I may have to do this, but I am pretty dissapointed in not taking the time I should have to analyse this better before buying this trailer in the first place. So, for those thinking this is the trailer for you, just be aware of it’s short fall with carring any weight more then 30 lbs. or so.

    -Rodger

    1. Dennis Becraft says:

      The height of the trailer axle has little to do with stability. What matters is the line from hitch to tire contact patch to the ground. Any part of the load or trailer itself above that line makes it topheavy. The higher from that line, the greater is the effect of the misplaced load. The trailer’s wheel is entirely above the contact patch, so the lighter (and lower its own center of mass) the better.
      On trailers I’ve built using a u-joint hitch at the seatpost, there is a higher line under which most of the load can fit to provide the pendulum effect that helps keep the trailer upright.
      Especially when significant tongue weight is concerned, a hitch point vertically over or in front of the pulling vehicle’s rear axle is preferred to Bob’s arrangement. Semi rigs and gooseneck trailers are prime examples. The same physics apply.

  16. Billy Romp says:

    Hey I just couldn’t resist chiming in. I have tens of thousands of trailer miles experience, one-wheel and two, with most kinds of bikes.

    To the guy who rode once and had a bad experience: your complaints don’t register. Thousands of happy Bob trailer users, hundreds of thousands of miles, smiling faces and kudos all around. You crash on your first ride and BLAME the TRAILER. Disqualified.

    To the folks who tried to do things right and crashed anyway, well, you crashed on your bike. I have crashed, too, with a trailer and without. Kudos to you who got up and figured out why. Shame on you who blame the design of the trailer. I suspect that if you had no trailer on that day, you would have blamed your bike for the crash.

    Manufacturer’s maximum load ratings seem rather conservative. Lawyers and such. I have enjoyed putting two burly adults in my Burly and zooming around, quite safely. I have broken a few, but it took more than 400 pounds and some rough handling. Around town, a broken trailer is a lark.

    On tour, I do not know what on earth people are carrying 70 pounds of, but I recommend they leave most of it behind for a more pleasant tour. I typically tour with 35 pounds of gear, 40 in winter. My heaviest was 52 pounds — for eleven months, London to Hong Kong. The load included a mandolin in a hard case. With my pared down kit, it was too cold to sleep on a a few occasions. In Siberia I made a fire. In the Mongolian Gobi Desert, I packed up and rode until dawn. Other than that, I was over-prepared.

  17. dave says:

    The IBEX can almost handle 100 pounds (steering).
    At 70#, I road across the USA with 0 complaints (Alu. Trek 1.2 with triple from a mtb).
    At 55# I road across 4 states without knowing I had an accomplice. (EVO Hi-Mod with compact and 28t rear)
    Just keep your mass back and down (DOWN!), loaded toward the rear wheel (Ok, now lower, and without the whining). I weigh 175/6′ and definitely use clipless.

  18. Bo says:

    I love my BOB’s!!!
    Even better my name is Bo.

    I find that I have made a BOB hot tub trailer, BOB mobile movie theater trailer, BOB Stereo trailer, BOB pump-up camper trailer, BOB cooler trailer and just a BOB trailer for my dog.

    What is important is not how much one BOB trailer can carry it is how many you can pull at the same time. I am up to five linked up pulled around many miles…I think six may make my knee caps explode.

    Yes, the wiggly at high speeds is dangerous. That is just a way of telling you to slow down. I have made “jack brakes”for the third and fourth trailers and even made fifth wheel trailer style dampers to deal with this problem. Easy cheap cure squeeze your legs to your frame best trick I have found, trust me I crash A LOT.

    Two wheeled trailers are nice but are wide and often have tracking issues. Plus one flat vrs. the potential of two?

    The other day I even found plans from the D.O.A. Forest service dept. for a BOB trailer setup for trail work.

    The question I have for you other riders, is have you ever used the rear water bottle cage spots on the BOB trailer with any success? and how?

    Thank you

    1. R says:

      Bo , we need pics I never thought to daisy chain.
      Best I could do was to make mine a rolling bill board , thought I have put a bike rack on it , so I can haul the MTB and not use a car. Marjama’s discussion on the physics was appreciated. Trailers need to be balanced.

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