For about 5 or 6 years, Yakima was manufacturing what I consider to be a “knock-off” version of the BOB Trailer. This trailer, named the Big Tow, utilized a trailer-to-bike mounting system with feature very similar to BOB Trailer’s patented mounting system. Yakima agreed to pay a royalty to BOB Trailers to use this system.
While the Big Tow might be dismissed as a “knock off product”, it did offer several distinctions from the BOB Trailer. The most noticeable difference is the black plastic fairing around the front of the Big Tow’s cargo area. This fairing distinguishes the look of the trailer and offers protection from spray, mud and rocks as well as some degree of containment for items inside the trailer. Other than this, the other differences between the Big Tow and BOB Trailer are more stylistic. The tubing of the Big Tow’s cargo area swoops back into the trailer’s wheel mount rather than butting off at the rear corners. And the Big Tow sported a wide molded plastic fender.
With the Yakima Big Tow being discontinued several years ago, customers have been left in a bit, with no available replacement parts. We’ve found this to be a common problem with many bike trailers built by companies not focused on bike trailer as an after thought. With all single wheeled trailer, the most common aftermarket part is the quick release/nutted axle attachment systems. This most commonly is some form of a rear wheel quick release that has fittings on its ends for mounting a trailer fork to. This “trailer specific” quick release is the most vulnerable part in a bike trailer/bicycle combination as it is the critical connection point between the trailer and bicycle. It seems to also go missing quite frequently or is sought after for setting up two bicycle for use with the trailer.
While the Yakima Big Tow parts are no longer available from Yakima, we’ve discovered some cross compatibility between the readily available BOB Trailer parts and the Yakima Big Tow. The most straight-forward way to use BOB Trailer parts on a Big Tow is to install the BOB Trailer fork onto the Big Tow. The BOB Trailer fork has a steerer tube that is (10.25″) in length as compared to the Big Tow’s (10.5″) steerer tube. With this slight difference, it will be no problem using the BOB Trailer fork. To compensate, we recommend simply putting a few 1/4″ ID washers on either end of the BOB Trailer fork through bolt. The through bolt has enough extra length to allow for this.
With the BOB Trailer fork installed, you will be able to use the BOB quick releases or BOB Nutz. You can mount any of the BOB Trailer forks to the Yakima Big Tow including the BOB 28 fork for larger diameter wheels and tires or the Santana Tandem fork. There is no difference between the Ibex, Yak black and Yak silver forks other than color though you might prefer the Yak silver forks to match the Big Tow.
Switching to the BOB fork is definitely an upgrade over the Big Tow’s fork. Beyond the increased availability of fork sizes and hubs styles that it will work with, the BOB fork is light and strong and utilizes an upgraded easy-to-use, reliable pin closure system.
While we think that the best way to revitalize a Big Tow is to use a BOB Trailer fork with it, some of our customer have reported that they have been able to get a BOB Trailer quick release to work with the Big Tow trailer fork. The Big Tow Trailer fork has plastic sleeves fitted over its dropouts. With these sleeves in place, the fork dropouts will not fit over a BOB Trailer quick release. Some customers have reported simply removing these plastic sleeves and then being able to fit the fork on albeit with a loose, rattling fit. It also seems as if these plastic sleeves might be filed down with a round file for a snug fit on a BOB quick release.
Beyond the BOB Trailer fork and related parts working with the Big Tow, there are quite a few other BOB Trailer recommended parts and accessories that will work equally well on a Yakima Big Tow. In the parts categories, the BOB Trailer wheel as well as tubes and tires will mount perfectly onto the Big Tow. In the accessories category, almost any of BOB kickstands and locks will work well with the Big Tow. The BOB Trailer recommended Bags and Cases (other than the CELLO) will all fit nicely with the Big Tow. Many of our the other popular BOB accessories notably the Wandertec Cargo Net and mLite work great with the Big tow as well.
Finally, I should mention several warranty and safety issues as we also have mentioned in a previous post concerning utilizing branded bike trailer hitch parts for bike trailers without replacement parts support.
While this method for replacing parts for a Yakima Big Tow, mentioned above can function quite well with well thought out installation, please be aware of the following warranty and safety issues:
1: Hitch designs are not recognized as being cross compatible by the bike trailer manufacturers. Installing the hitch of one brand of trailer onto another brand of bike trailer will likely void the warranty on both the hitch and the bike trailer.
2: Bicycle Trailer hitch design effects the placement of the trailer behind the bicycle. Most bicycle trailers are designed to be centered behind the bicycle. The length of the trailer’s hitch arm is specifically designed to work with the trailer’s specific hitch. If you choose to install another hitch style on your bike, this may have the affect of putting your trailer off center in relation to your bicycle. This can possibly be adjusted for by shortening or lengthening the hitch arm.
3. Modifying and changing a bicycle trailer can have other unintended consequences. Do not attempt to use a self modified bike trailer without a very thorough understanding of the changes and adjustment being made to the bicycle trailer.