- BOB Yak trailer
- Orbit Cycles
- 0114 275 6567
While planning an epic tour of New Zealand I cast a speculative eye at the BOB Yak trailer hanging on my wall. I’d only ever used it for weekend bothy trips in the Highlands, so maybe it was time to get some serious mileage under its wheel. As it turned out, the ‘epic’ riding in New Zealand never really materialised, but at least the Yak proved to be a great way of carrying all my gear… Right?
Well, actually – no. After riding 3,440km I was left scratching my head over the claims that people make for the superior handling and logistics of the Yak over a conventional rack-and-pannier setup…
The BOB Yak is a single-wheel trailer with a swivelling fork that hooks on to a special quick release skewer on your bike’s back wheel. The frame is made from 4130 chromoly (which rusted quite severely during my trip) and the accompanying bag sits in to the cradle.
Don’t even bother bolting the mudguard onto the trailer. It’s a rattling irrelevance, and your trailer will get covered in crap thrown up by the bike’s rear wheel in any case. Without the mudguard you’ll need to devise some way to stop the (not quite waterproof) bag’s buckle/strap from rubbing against the tyre. I used the housewife’s choice, gaffer tape.
The tyre split after about 2,000km, something I’ve since found out is par for the course. Some retailers recommend replacing the stock tyre with a better one at point of sale. Personally I’d junk the whole wheel, as the hub appears to be sourced from the same company that supplies front wheels to department stores for their ££99 clunkers. The hub is a horribly cheap effort, the unsealed cartridge bearings quickly develop slop and the (rusting) nuts are there solely to space out the hub within the dropouts – you cannot adjust out the bearing play.
My feelings on the handling advantages of the trailer are of the take-it-or-leave-it variety. It’s fine on tarmac and good tracks, but tends to bounce around a bit when the going gets rocky. I found loose hill climbs to be significantly tougher than with panniers. Loose descents can be interesting, as the trailer will slide out independent of the bike. The third wheel generating extra rolling resistance probably doesn’t help matters either.
The real problems arise when you have to push the bike – which you will have to do due to its poor performance on rougher ground. Pushing a bike with a Yak trailer is a purgatorial exercise in ankle gouging. I have also successfully ridden deeply rutted tracks with panniers where the Yak would have become merely an over-engineered travois. Bear in mind that the unloaded trailer weighs 4.5kg, around three times heavier than a set of pannier racks. Whether this affects the ride quality is debatable, but it’s certainly a factor when you’re pushing the bike (and pleading with truculent airline check-in staff).
The extra bike length and unwieldy manoeuvring associated with the Yak trailer are a pain when it comes to navigating crowded streets, hotel stairs, public transport and so on. I wouldn’t even consider using one in the parts of Asia where I’ve cycled for just this reason.
One area where the trailer holds its own is when crossing deep rivers, as you can wear the whole thing like a Heath Robinson rucsac. This was the reason I originally bought the trailer, for a trip I’d been planning across Iceland.
The devil’s in the detail, the minor details that really start to bug you when you’re living on your bike for weeks or months at a time. Y’know, the piercing squeaking noise from the dropout mounts after it’s rained, and the rumbling noise from the crappy wheel bearings that sounds like a articulated lorry is coming up your arse…
Over the two months I dragged the Yak behind me I grew to hate the bag it came with. If you need something mid-ride that you’ve left in the bag then it’s a major unpacking exercise, rather than a case of simply flipping up the lid of the relevant pannier. This becomes even more fun in torrential rain. Realistically, you need to carry a small rucsac with you for day-to-day items, either bungied on to the trailer or worn on your back depending on the terrain. You will need this rucsac for day rides in any case, because the trailer is useless for such riding (as opposed to panniers, where you can just use one with a few bits thrown in it when you go off for a pootle). Of course, this extra bit of luggage means that you will then find it tricky wearing the trailer as a rucsac on rough ground, leading to multiple there-and-back shuttle runs.
Positives: Carries a lot of stuff
Negatives: Unwieldy, poor on rough tracks, not really up to serious expedition use
Verdict: The Yak trailer is not the touring solution that a lot of people claim it is. But don’t just take my word for it – this is a good discussion of the Yak’s merits (or otherwise) that occurred a while back on a touring site.
This is not to say that trailers are not OK in principle, especially for road riding or less demanding trails, but you might want to consider a design such as the Weber Monoporter (a far more sophisticated product that addresses a lot of the niggles I had with the Yak).