Load Testing the Trailer

  

Today I did a 20km load test with the trailer. The trailer is mostly packed for the trip away. I had the full 12 litres of water on board, plus 9 kilos of dry food, one pannier loaded with bulky stuff-- sleeping bag etc, and another with a few stray bits of gear. This is not a full load. I expect to carry about 5 kilos extra in the trailer, and another 5 kilos of clothes etc on the rear of the bike, plus whatever the front panniers add. But it gave a good indication of the handling of the full trailer. Which is very different to an empty trailer! The loaded trailer has the same pannier sway as a loaded touring bike, although you can feel it's a bit further back. I felt at home with it quite quickly, whereas a pannier load seems to take longer to get used to; I usually take a couple of days to feel comfortable.

The big differences show up in turning, and in standing alongside the bike. Tight turns are not really an option. Either the trailer jams against the panniers, or the bike is tipped over. These are mostly walking turns and not really the sort of turn you would do while riding. A good example is the sort of slalom railings the put on bike paths to stop motorbikes. To get through one of those would mean taking the trailer off, and dragging it through by hand.

When touring I usually stand the bike up with a forked stick as you can see in the photo. The centre of gravity with the loaded trailer is in the wrong place for this, and the front wheel skids off, tipping the whole thing over. The point where the bike needs to lean against something solid is actually where the front tab is on the dry bag. So I am adapting my Dad's old walking stick to the right length to fit in there. You can see how the bike is leaning against the tree and balancing just with the trailer in the second photo at the top, and how it is balanced against the treated pine stump in the bottom photo.

The bike and trailer will lie down together; hold the seat and the handles on the dry bag, and it's quite stable to lie down. Of course this just invites ants etc in! With a fully loaded touring bike, everything tends to fold up round the head-stem. With the trailer the fold point is in the yoke at the front of the trailer; the front wheel just flaps around in the breeze.

I spent some time on twisting bike paths-- sealed and gravel, and from the feel of things, the front wheel is likely the weak point on the road. Wet slippery conditions or sand or gravel would see that lost traction first.

My packing has two 5 litre water containers at the rear, and there is a little 2 litre bottle hidden from view. My engineering friend tells me this puts as much weight as possible on the trailer wheel. The third container will have the top cut out and act as a tool box for the hope-we-don't-need-these spares, and will have room for my wet weather shells to sit in the top. I like to keep stuff organised, hence the plastic containers. They add a little weight but are worth their weight in gold when it rains, and with the supermarket bags they make for a very modular system. Breakfast muesli and dried milk sits in a stack on one side and the main night meal sits on the other.

It all makes life a lot easier in the dark or if it's raining.

The water is heavy. I have five sections of road where there is over two hundred km between known clean wate points and in winter time, 12 litres plus the three I carry on the frame, should be easily enough. There are plenty of bores on the Plenty Highway, but it means treating the water, which takes time, so I'd rather run with clean water and save all the mucking around. (Notwithstanding this, I have 100 aquatabs on hand.) For much of the time I will travel with little if any water in the jerry cans, as I will be able to top up the frame bidons and the 2 litre spare. But the long stretches use up water pretty quickly. Dried food soaks it up. It takes a litre to cook tea, give the pot a basic clean out and give myself a similar basic clean. Even in winter, I can drink serveral litres on a long day if the temperature gets much above 20 degrees.

Today's excursion sat at 17km/h which is a good touring speed, especially since I spent a bit of time mucking around with slow riding and turning. I managed a 12% climb with little trouble, but the steep path out of the Jenkins Reserve up into Porter Street brought me to a sudden halt. I often ride up that, but with the trailer I was struggling to push everything up. And of course, could not get through the barrier at the top. That aside, I think my touring speeds will be fine and 100km days on the bitumen will be as easy as normal. Corrugated and unsurfaced track? Well, we'll see!

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