PCH Bike Tour- The Good, the Bad, and the Burley

The complete blog series on this tour:
Bike Tour Preperation: Part 1 Destination, Part 2 Training, Part 3 Pack Up!
PCH Tour: There, Biking Back with Burley, The Good, The Bad and The Burley

Here is a breakdown of my experience with the Burley Nomad Cargo trailer while bicycling up the Pacific Coast Highway. This baby traveled from Los Angeles to Napa Valley, and has rolled around much of Flagstaff’s roads. Have a look at my discussions of my there and back tour with it along the PCH from LA up past San Francisco.

The Good

Some of the good and bad aspects are not necessarily specific to the trailer, but are inherent to the nature of one wheel trailers versus 2-wheeled trailers. That being said, here is my review.

The bike I chose to tour with was a 2006 Specialized Tri-cross bike which has carbon stays. The 2-wheeled Nomad allows the weight in the trailer to be distributed over the axle between the 2 wheels of the trailer rather than putting the stress on your carbon stays. This feature lets the trailer easily trail behind you on flat or hilly terrain without you even noticing.

The Nomad is great for commuting around. It’s nice and sturdy with it’s 2-wheels, so when standing up and pedaling uphill you have good stability which can sometimes be iffy when using a fully-loaded single wheeled trailer. The trailer was much better around curves than I expected it would be. The Nomad, and many other (but not all) 2-wheeled trailers, are offset to the left a little. This offset is nice when dodging debris right next to the curb, you don’t have to do an extreme evasive maneuver to dodge the possible tire puncture pile.

The Bad

Going through terrain like the Big Sur, you definitely feel the Nomad a lot more. A single wheeled trailer has a slight advantage in this situation because the weight of the trailer rests on the rear axle of your bike rather than at the rear of the trailer and the handling feels better. Personally, I enjoy standing on my pedals with the 2-wheeled trailer and crushing out miles of curvy, up hill climbs, or moseying along in my lowest gear; however, my traveling partner was quite disturbed with the difference between the Nomad and his single wheeled BOB trailer.

I have a love/hate relationship with flags. Most trailer flags are made from fiberglass, so tiny pieces can get stuck in your fingers. The Burley trailer flag is no different. I disliked carting it around the train stations because I always got fiberglass in my hands, and I would get an uncomfortable little poke every now and again throughout the trip. However, on busy freeways at night with narrow shoulders, cars could see the flag with the handy mLite attached first, followed by the Nomad’s reflective patches.

The Burley

The largest problem that I came across was with the hitch. This was a completely preventable problem if I had taken a close look at my carbon stays before the trip. Use the correct hitch! My rear carbon fork dropouts are short and shaped differently, and i should have used an alternative hitch. This is important because the standard hitch set up cost me 2 quick releases. If I laid the bike down or fell, the set up would instantly bend the quick release to an unusable 90 degree angle. Once I returned to Flagstaff, I switched out the standard for the alternative hitch, and it was SOOO much better. I could lay down the bike without worry, and the hitch spins freely, which is nice when you’re trying to line up the hole with the hitch pin. Once secured, it works just like it’s supposed to.

I had some other issues with the hitch itself that I discussed with Steve and Bartek. They were traveling from North to South and were staying at the same campsite as us. The hitch is not super snug. It is sturdy, but there is a fair amount of play that makes a rattle when you are moving. This can be a little distracting. Another issue is the fact that the screw that holds the round tongue in place is attached to the hitch arm by one screw held on by a nut (which is facing downwards). In the event the nut falls off, you would be stranded if you did not have a replacement. I had no problem with it even coming loose, but Steve did have it fall off at one point. An easy way to remedy this is to be prepared by keeping a couple extra nuts and screws in with your tool kit.

The first day of the tour was EXTREMELY wet with a torrential wind storm. The nomad water-proofing on the top cover is really waterproof, even though the Nomad never makes any claims to being waterproof. I’m sure the water-proofing laminate can wear after a lot of use, but just spraying it with your laminate of choice should be just fine. The bottom of the trailer, however, is not waterproof. The rain that splashed up from the ground got a lot of our gear wet. Not soaked, but you do not want to get into a wet, down sleeping bag in severe conditions like this. Luckily the campsite we stayed at in Malibu had a laundromat and we could dry our things. I would suggest getting a tarp and cutting it to fit the size of the Nomad and place it on the bottom, or use a dry sack like the BOB Dry Sak, or some of the Ortlieb Rack Packs to put in the Burley.

Another good thing about the Nomad is that it went everywhere that I needed to go. I wouldn’t suggest it on single track terrain, but it maintained well over the diverse terrain of the PCH. The Burley didn’t even give a hiccup when going over muddy, rocky, off-road, or sandy terrain.

All in all, I had a fairly good experience with the Nomad. I was a little worried about thievery because you can’t lock the lid of the trailer, and it could have easily been punctured if someone really wanted your stuff, but this wasn’t a problem in the least bit. I was also nervous about raccoons getting into the Nomad and damaging the fabric. I mostly carried dehydrated food, and kept my snacks in the tent, so this was not an issue for me either. The Nomad is nice and diverse, and I believe it is one of the best 2 wheeled trailers for moderate touring over a variety of terrains.

I like the Nomad for commuting around town as well. It makes grocery shopping and going to the laundromat-mat very easy. It fits just right through doorways, so you can cart it into places without making a scene. You can fit quite a bit of items into it while shopping as well. I fit a full sized vacuum cleaner in it (the lid closed all the way with no effort), and I carted around a bike frame.

I think this trailer is best fit for Utility cycling and leisurely tours. The person who has a diverse schedule and busy lifestyle will greatly enjoy the Burley Nomad.

The complete blog series on this tour:
Bike Tour Preperation: Part 1 Destination, Part 2 Training, Part 3 Pack Up!
PCH Tour: There, Biking Back with Burley, The Good, The Bad and The Burley

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0 thoughts on “PCH Bike Tour- The Good, the Bad, and the Burley”

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  10. Matt Pohlhammer says:

    I towed a used Burley “Solo” child-carrier for a 1,000 km trip in California, with good results. Drivers seem to give a wider berth to cyclists, when they think that a child might be aboard, and I noticed that whenever I parked the rig in public places, lots of people looked at the rig, but nobody ever touched it, nor even got within a few meters of it. I think there’s a special taboo about children, which extends to child trailers, and may add a smidge of security. I had two very minor problems with the trailer en-route: one flat tire from a thorn, and one stainless-steel snap that failed, and had to be replaced. No big deal. The weight of the trailer does cause the rear wheel of the bike to fish-tail during hard braking, which also causes abnormally quick rear bike tire tread wear. There are photos of my rig on a facebook Album, here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.571788706189095.1073741829.100000739117134&type=1&l=df990a1b03

  11. James More says:

    I ride everyday and stay outside so I am preparing for a longer ride by practicing. I pull a BOB IBEX trailer. Recently the front yolk that attaches to the rear wheel axle quick releases and to the central pivot for the BOB trailer a weld breaks. I have the YAK attachment because the IBEX is too small that comes with the trailer and so the YAK fits so we exchanged the the front yolk parts to fit the 700c tires on my bicycle. So when the weld brakes I order the new part for the IBEX trailer and the part will be here in a few days, so while I wait, I try something called fiber fix to do the temporary job so I can continue using the BOB trailer. The fiber fix is a epoxy mesh and I wrap this tight around the break in the tubing and so far this hold the trailer together.

    When traveling you never know what will be the next problem so it is always good to have a collection of versatile tools for quick fixes on the road. I carry a roll of Gorilla tape and now some fiber fix. A few cables and universal chain link, tubes, tire repair kit, air pump, chain lube, sanitize hand cleaners.

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