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Go, Go Golden Circle! Biking the Golden Circle with BOB

Ker-PLINK !

Another broken spoke. My heart sank. My bike tour was going nowhere fast, and it had barely even begun. I had too much weight on two cheap wheels, too flimsy for a Clydesdale like myself. I needed a trailer.
Author Wesley Cheney at the start of his six hundred kilometer Golden Circle ride through Alaska, British Columbia and Yukon, before hooking up with BOB.

I felt my goals were modest enough: I wanted to bike the “Golden Circle” from Haines, Alaska, through the Yukon Territory and British Columbia and back to Skagway, Alaska in less than four days. I would be crossing two major mountain passes and riding six hundred kilometers on the Haines Highway, the Alaska Highway, and the Klondike Highway. I could not afford to have spokes breaking. It would be three hundred kilometers between bike shops and gas stations. I only had one emergency spoke with me.

Admittedly, it was a problem partially of my own creation. I was riding a Trek Alpha 1.1 entry-level road bike. If I’d read the fine print on the warranty, I’d have seen that I exceeded the maximum recommended weight. But I’d been hesitant to ship my favorite touring bike from Virginia to Alaska for my first season as a bike tour guide. I didn’t know if I’d really need it. Instead, I bought a used rental bike from my shop. And promptly started breaking spokes.

Ker-PLINK!

If I was going to make it any farther than the ferry dock in Haines, I was going to need another wheel. I didn’t have the time or the funds to buy another bike, even if there were any 63cm touring bikes available, anyway. (Did I mention that I’m almost always the tallest guy in any room?) But there was a BOB Yak Trailer for rent at Sockeye Cycle Co. And I had ridden many miles with a BOB in tow before.

The BOB Yak Trailer is amongst the most versatile of bike trailers, and a worthwhile investment for cyclists who need to get the groceries or go five hundred miles.

I bike by the seat of my pants, literally. The feel of my bike comes through my seat, through my pedals, through my handlebars. Different roads, different trails, and different bikes all feel distinct and different.  If I really want to get in touch with nature, I ride my skinny, high-pressure tires down a rutted gravel road. There’s nature, pounding my palms and soles mercilessly. The same holds true for carrying loads on bikes. The location, size, and volume of cargo directly affect how a bike feels in motion. To the seat of my pants, cargo carried in trailers is more stable and less tiring than cargo carried on bike racks. And carrying cargo in a backpack is even more of an exertion than carrying cargo on a bike rack.

Larger than Life: Touring with a bike trailer spreads the load out, making it less taxing on both the body and the bike to ride long distances with cargo.

Bicycles are physics in motion. And carrying cargo on a bicycle is an act of compounded physics. In addition to balancing myself atop two wheels, I’m also balancing a static load. The higher that load is above my pedals and wheels, the more work I have to do. Lower loads are less work. Handlebar bags and baskets are great for quick access, but when they’re overloaded they make a bike harder to handle, both in motion and standing still. Watching my bike flop over on its kickstand and spill a couple of smoothies over a couple of sandwiches made me swear off handlebar baskets once and for all. Feeling my shoulders ache under the pinch of overloaded backpacks was one thing, but it was another matter to feel the wind gust and jerk bulky backpacks. It taught me that it’s not just the weight of a load that matters, but also the volume. Biking is like sailing. Air resistance is everything. Tucking down into my drops lets me pedal faster into a headwind. The location of loads makes a difference in how the wind feels. Higher loads place the center of resistance to the wind higher on the bike, and require more work, making the bike more finicky and twitchy, and leaving me craving more burritos. Whereas lower loads are easier.

 

Cargo on the Down Low: The OMM Ultimate Lowrider Rack is a great option for lowering the center of balance on a touring bike, and keeps the weight evenly distributed.

The same load carried in a trailer will be more stable than carried on a bike. When it comes to moving cargo on a bike, two wheels are good. But three, or more, wheels are better. Moving my cargo from my back and my bike to a trailer made all the difference in not only the amount of energy required to ride but also decreased the strain on my bike. The biggest difference was in the number of flat tires and broken spokes that I had to deal with. I already weigh over a hundred kilo. I’m big enough to be mistaken for a (svelte) linebacker. My spokes don’t need the added stress of extra weight. By moving my cargo to a trailer, I removed weight from my rear wheel, moved the center of mass below my bike hubs, and lowered the center of wind resistance. Furthermore, I was able to carry bigger loads, both in terms of weight and volume. The only trade off was that I was carrying more deadweight. Even empty, a bike cargo trailer weighs at least twice as much as a pair of panniers and a set of racks.

BARGAIN GEAR ISN’T ALWAYS A BARGAIN

You get what you pay for. Buying a bike rack at a big box store may be easy on the wallet, but it doesn’t make for reliable gear. If you’re only using a bike rack once a month or once per season, then it may do just fine. But if you plan on loading your panniers every day, carrying groceries home, bringing books to class or paying the rent by delivering food, then you’ll want to invest in a quality rack.

The Ortlieb Touring Rack R2 is a sturdy, affordable option that beats any bargain bike rack in the long haul.

 

PLINK!

The replacement spoke sang as I plucked it on the truing stand at Sockeye Cycle. I swapped the skewer on my rear wheel, set my wheel back in the dropouts, and mounted a rental Yak B.O.B. (Beast of Burden) trailer onto the rear of my bike. With my spare clothes, bivouac sack and food transferred from sitting high over the rear wheel to sitting down low behind my bike, I now had a more stable ride, and I was stressing my rear wheel less. Four days and six hundred kilometers later I was exhausted, but happy that I’d made the switch. I only wished that I’d done so sooner.

When I finished my own private odyssey a few days later, I unclipped the BOB trailer and lickety-split, I had a little, lightweight road bike again. Unlike a cargo bike or a touring bike that is always loaded down with racks, the BOB Yak is easy to detach and store when it’s not needed.

And, it looks darn cool.

A rainbow stretches over the Haines Highway and the author’s bike during his self-supported Golden Circle bike tour with a BOB Yak trailer.

Author Wesley Cheney leads bicycle tours in Alaska and Virginia, blogs at The Kilted Writer, and delivers freaky fast sandwiches in the off-season.

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The Many Racks of Dobie Gillis

Putting a rack on a bike is a pragmatic statement of utility. It separates the practical peddlers from the the casual or competitive cyclists. It says, I’m going somewhere, and I need to bring more stuff than I can just stuff in my pockets or comfortably carry in a backpack. It says, I’m less worried about looking fast than looking good when I get there.

Whether you’re buying a pair of tires, a set of panniers, or a cargo rack for your bike you must choose between low price, long-term reliability and low weight. You cant have all three. Cheap and reliable racks are heavy. Lightweight and reliable racks are expensive. And cheap, lightweight price racks are unreliable. But a weak, cheap rack can be worse than no rack at all when cargo is dumped to the gutter or damaged en route.

Choose Any Two Equipment Attributes: Lightweight, Reliable or Cheap. You can't have all three.

Choose Any Two Equipment Attributes: Lightweight, Cheap or Reliable. You can’t have all three.

The Broke Student needs to get from their part-time job to their part-time school without paying for gas, parking or bus passes. Their racks tend to be either rugged and vintage or new and cheap. They’re the most likely to over pack a seat post rack with a backpack of books, and suffer the consequences.

Cheap, lightweight rack are inevitably unreliable.
Cheap, lightweight racks are inevitably unreliable.
For pedal pushers in petal pushers.
For pedal pushers in petal pushers.

The Flower Girl has a pretty pink plastic basket on the front of her bike for carrying flowers. She rarely carries more than a couple liters of cargo, so the steering isn’t affected so much. Later in life the Flower Girl may upgrade to a more attractive wicker basket with leather and brass hardware.

Do-It-Yourself bike racks are cheap and reliable, but often heavy.
Do-It-Yourself bike racks are cheap and reliable, but often heavy.

The Do-It-Yourselfer can’t find the rack he wants at the price hes willing to pay. While it might be quicker to just buy a better bike rack, the Do-It-Yourselfer will hack his own from a hodgepodge of recycled parts and newly purchased hardware. He might have found the milk crates free on the curb, but he paid almost twenty bucks for stainless steel, metric nuts and bolts. Depending upon his skill set, the DIYer may assemble his racks with zipties, hose clamps, wood, bamboo, parachute cord, chicken wire, coroplast, duct tape, epoxy, fiberglass, bungee cords and cardboard. It rarely looks elegant, but it always gets the job done.

Never underestimate the utility of bamboo and zipties.
Never underestimate the utility of bamboo and zipties.

The Dedicated Tourist buys the lightest and most reliable racks available. Titanium and aluminum are both within their budget, although sometimes they will settle for a cheaper, somewhat heavier, but reliable and repairable steel rack. The Dedicated Tourist often designs their kit around their racks, with packs and bags that are designed to interlock with the racks. Nowadays Dedicated Tourists take it off road on fat bikes with custom, integrated racks.

Back when wicker was cool.
Back when wicker was cool.
More is more.
More is more.

The Newspaper Boy is practically extinct today, and remembered mostly for halcyon guest spots in an Eighties movie and video game. But once upon a time in America, children were sent out alone without cell phones or helmets on their bikes before dawn to deliver daily newspapers! Their bikes were equipped with strong, wide front baskets, which more often than not were mounted sturdily top and bottom to the handlebars and forks.

The Scavenger can be seen near dumpsters, and trolling the streets on trash day. He has strapped milk crates and bread trays and bungee cords everywhere on his bike. The Scavenger likes to have plenty of cargo space. His rides cheap Walmart mountain bikes until they fall apart defying the laws of engineering as they bounce and flex under overloaded freight. The Scavenger is most noticeable at night, when the dozen of red, white and yellow reflectors festooned on every surface of his bike are simultaneously lit up by passing cars, leaving the observer to see psychedelic tracers when they finally look away.

On a Surfing Safari.
On a Surfing Safari.

The Beach Bum rides a simple bike for short distances, often with a water toy in tow. Sometimes she will balance a surfboard on her handlebars, but may buy a rack specifically designed to hold her boards. East Coast Beach Bums almost always ride single speed, coaster brake beach cruisers, which are ideal for leisurely pedaling down the boardwalk and along sand-swept, waterfront streets. Beach Bums often add coolers, horns, folding chairs, boom boxes and umbrellas to their bikes. And some Beach Bums upgrade to tricycles, which can offer more stability and cargo capacity.

Catherine rides h er folding bike in Midtown Manhattan.
Catherine rides her folding bike in Midtown Manhattan.

The Commuter needs to get to work on time, and look good when she gets there. On nice days she might pack a light messenger bag and ride her skinny bike. But most days the Commuter wants her bag, books, clothes and lunch to arrive clean, dry and separate. Depending upon her budget, she may use a hand-me-down bike rack, the rack that she used on her bike tour, or a sleek new rack adorned with brass and leather panniers. Depending upon her skill level and patience, the Commuter may install a rack herself, or get their bike guy to do it, or just pay the bike shop mechanics to do it right the first time.

The Bike Cop/Paramedic rides because its part of their job. While Bike Paramedics will have big, detachable packs of medical supplies on a rear rack, Bike Cops tend to limit their kit to smaller, rack-top bags that don’t impede tactical agility. Both value a reliable rack, and they will often outsource the assembly of their bike to local shops. For small, local bike shops, a contract to assemble and equip a couple dozen police bikes can keep the lights on and the staff employed during the off season.

Periscope not included.
Periscope not included.

The Bike Courier rides for pay, and their racks reflect it. They value reliability and price over rack weight. Their racks are scratched and dented from being leaned against walls, or banged against lampposts. They prefer front racks that keep their cargo low, stable and in sight. Handlebar baskets are only used by novice Couriers, who haven’t yet learned first hand that overloaded steering leads to disastrous handling.

But in the end, regardless of how little or how much we strap onto it, the bicycle is a vehicle that allows us to savor the better things in life with those we love.

Perhaps the most famous bike rack of all.
Perhaps the most famous bike rack of all.
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Introduction : Burley Travoy

Burley Travoy - 1
Back in March we introduced the Burley Travoy, a new urban trailer from Burley. There is now one in house for review from Burley for a few weeks.  Below is a sneak peak of the bike trailer in my kitchen. We will have a full video clip and photos of how the Burley Travoy works and rides in the next couple weeks.

Follow us on Twitter : @BikeShopGirlcom

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Torker Cargo-T

Take a look at the new Torker Cargo-T bicycle available from your Local Bike Shop in the United States.

Torker Cargo T

Seattle Bike Supply has apparently listened to their customers with cargo bikes, because the Cargo-T with its 4130 Chromoly frame and fork has very practical features like a sturdy center kickstand, a step through frame, chainguard and fenders. Other features are a rear coaster brake and front roller brake, headset lock (to keep the front end stable as you load and unload the bike), Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub and a bell.

Besides this eye catching flourescent green, the Torker Cargo-T is also available in satin gray.

The Torker Brand is distributed through Seattle Bike Supply, so any bike shop in the USA using SBS as their distributor can order this bike through their catalog. MSRP is $599.99, which seems like a pretty good deal to me.