A frequent question we get at the Bike Trailer Shop is comparing the advantages to owning an Xtracycle to a bike trailer. The main topics to consider in comparing these two methods for carrying cargo and passenger on bikes are versatility; carrying cargo, passengers and specialty uses; and handling characteristics.
The first thing to consider when choosing to go with an Xtracycle over a bike trailer, is that you are choosing to turn a standard bicycle into a longtail cargo bike. While it is possible to take the Xtracycle on and off the bike, it is not very convenient and I am not aware of very many Xtracycle owners that use their Xtracycle in this capacity on a regular basis.
For cyclist that don’t want to dedicate a bicycle to being used with an Xtracycle, bike cargo trailers offer much more flexibility. Bike cargo trailers can be installed and removed from a bicycle in seconds. This offers versatility for cyclists that prefer using their bicycle in multiple capacities. For bike touring, bike trailers are very nice in that within a few seconds, you can remove your load from your bike for a quick ride in the area you are visiting.
The negative side of the versatility of narrowing the use of a bicycle with an Xtracycle has a strong flip side. A wonderful thing about using an Xtracycle is that the option of carrying cargo or a passenger is always there. There is no need to think ahead of time whether or not you will be picking up groceries, bringing some stuff home from work or carrying home an interesting piece of junk that you find on the side of the road.
Carrying Cargo, Passengers and Specialty Uses:
Xtracycles offer the ability to carry large awkward loads as well as passengers. There are several accessories like the WideLoaders and LongLoaders that offer even greater capacity. Xtracyle has recently introduced the Adventure Racks which allow four panniers to be mounted on the Xtracycle. This is a great setup for bike touring or simply using the organization advantage of multiple panniers.
Another note about Xtracycles is that 2-wheeled bike cargo trailers can be added to the back of them to increase their capacity like in the photo above.
In comparison, bike trailers are much more specific in their uses. Flatbed style bike cargo trailers can carry larger awkward shaped items as well as normal items in a bag strapped on board. Enclosed bike cargo trailers offer large enclosed protection. Overall, bike trailers are generally more specific to their use. While an Xtracycle is a great do-it-all machine, an arsenal of bike trailers will do a better job at handling some of the specific tasks.
Handling & Usage Characteristics:
Adding an Xtracycle to a bicycle changes the ride and feel of the bicycle. Have a look at our previous post, Living with Xtracycle. Once used to riding an Xtracycle, riding it feels as natural as riding a standard length bicycle. A big advantage of an Xtracycle over a bike trailer is that everything is all together. You do not have to be concerned with maneuvering and storing a separate item. On the other hand for traveling and limited storage space, a large Xtracycle can be a bit unwieldy and a bike trailer which can be quickly removed may be advantageous.
Putting a bike trailer on a bicycle also changes the feel of the bicycle, but mainly in the sensation of pulling extra weight. Bike trailers affect the ride of your bicycle differently depending on the style of bike trailer. The biggest difference in bike trailer styles in how they affect the ride of a bicycle is whether they are 1 or 2 wheeled trailers. 1 wheeled trailers offer the best handling off-road as compared to both Xtracycles and 2 wheeled trailers. That being said, Xtracycles do perform fairly well in off-road conditions. 2-wheeled trailers have the toughest time off-road due to their large berth and should generally not be used on single-track. Two wheeled trailers offer advantages over both single wheeled trailers and Xtracycles in that the weight of the load does not sway with the movement of the bike.
Xtracycle or bike trailer? We think getting setup with both is the best way to become less reliant on cars and have the capability of dealing with the largest variety of load carrying challenges.