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We had started cycling with 4 bags per bike. Then we chose to add camping to our range of accommodation options.
From then on, we had to look for a transport assistant… a trailer.
The two-wheeled trailer is super convenient, but it has a significant width. Abroad (at least in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands) the cycle paths are well enough designed for cycling, it is almost no problem.
On the other hand, in France, the public authorities (national and regional) are largely unaware of the constraints of cycle touring. They reason only for road racers or weekend hikers. Consequently the tracks, when they exist, are full of plots, chicanes and other joys.
In these tricky sections a touring bike with its 4 bags is already sporty, with a trailer it's even more so.
So we've been looking for a single-wheeler trailer. Good, but what model?
To satisfy our fierce desire to avoid the roads as much as possible, we sometimes have to take roads that are not very passable. Even if it's only for a short time, it can put a strain on the equipment… it breaks those things!
In these contexts we are delighted to have our bikes well suspended. But what about the trailer?
We have located BOB trailers on the Internet (and seen some in the field) (site manufacturer US.
It is an American brand that comes in 2 main models: BOB-YAK and BOB-IBEX. They are very similar.
Their essential difference: Only the second one, BOB-IBEX, is suspended…
We have seen user videos showing its off-road performance… convincing!
The BOB-IBEX trailer can be supplied with a waterproof transport bag.
The ride is EXCELLENT: smooth, hyper stable (as long as you don't exceed 40 km/h downhill, otherwise it's a bit tricky… normal)… BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM…
Yeah, there's a BUT.
The different regional rides we did with the BOB, loaded to 20kg, were a delight. BUT we left fully loaded outside of our region… And then two problems arose.
These worries won't exist for everyone. But here's why they exist for us:
In all our previous rides the load was 20kg, it was great. Ratio of 1 to 3 between the load and the cyclist was all good. On the other hand in this trip the ratio went to 1 to 2… and there it was not good at all.
In 2004, before getting seriously into cycling (and changing the type of power supply), Martin weighed 82kg (of course still 1.75m). At that time the ratio would have been much more favorable. But there's no question of gaining weight again to save the BOB-IBEX solution… at 62kg life is much better !!!
The BOB-IBEX will also be a bad solution for anyone who climbs the hills as a dancer. Here the regular swinging of the bike to the right and left will cause the trailer to swing and wobble. These movements are as unpleasant as they are dangerous.
In conclusion for some cyclists the BOB-IBEX will be perfect (stiffer bike or favourable weight ratio) as long as you never pedal as a dancer. But for us the BOB has been resold.
And we're not the only ones. This is precisely what a couple of tandemist friends have experienced. They've been great cyclists for 40 years, and they've always been used to finishing climbs as dancers. Very embarrassed, they ended up replacing their single-wheel trailer with a two-wheeler (see details below).
We resumed our research with new specifications:
A thorough search on the Web allowed us to find the object, if not ideal, at least answering a maximum of criteria. It is a Swiss trailer, the VITELLI-Camping:
Above original VITELLI-Camping
Below VITELLI-Camping CUSTOMIZED (see details below)
As described above, the tiller can be dismantled. The BIG PROBLEM is that the 3 connecting parts (pin, quick-release screw and washer) have no device to make them captive.
The most serious thing would be the loss of the puck. Without it, the quick-release screw can no longer tighten the drawbar properly. Without a washer (ultra wide) the screw fits into the end cap without tightening it. What could be easier than losing a washer? Example on a station platform we compact the trailer. So we dismantle the screw… the washer falls… rolls… and will get lost on the tracks, under a train, in a sewer.
In short, it is vital to correct this design error.
First replace the washer with a thick flat iron that is drilled with 2 holes. One hole Ø 8 for the passage of screws and one hole Ø 4 for the passage of a safety link.
As a link, for example, flexible electric cable is used. The linkage is attached to the trailer frame on the one hand and to the new (flat iron) washer, screw and pin on the other hand.
Second design error, there is nothing to place safety flags. While being low-profile, the trailer is quite discreet. This can be dangerous.
Most commercially available flags come with a metal bracket that fits under the wheel clamp nut. This does not apply to the Vitelli, as the wheel axles are very special with disassembly by pressure.
It is therefore necessary to tinker with mast shafts. The constraints being that this does not come as a wart outside the chassis, that it does not give a protruding (sharp) part to the (watertight!) bags carried and that it respects the integrity of the fibreglass masts, even on a broken track.
The do-it-yourself work carried out consists of creating mast shafts made of aluminium tube. In these small dimensions, the aluminium tubes are 1 mm thick. It is to be feared that the tube will deform at the slightest shock.
Therefore the thickness should be doubled by inserting a tube of 8 (6 inside) into a tube of 10 (8 inside).
The play between the mast and the aluminium tube is simply made up with the help of ultra-powerful, textile-reinforced wide tights. This sticker is wound on the fiberglass mast:
The adhesive strips are wound in a multi-turn process until the outside diameter formed is very slightly smaller than the inside diameter (6 mm) of the aluminium tube by 8.
The shafts thus formed can be assembled on the frame in 2 different ways. A single well at the rear of the trailer. Two side wells at the front of the trailer.
In both cases the top of the well is fixed on the top horizontal tube of the trailer chassis by 2 crossed stainless steel clamps (clamps size Ø24-36 mm, width 8 mm).
Elastic cords (green in the photos) prevent the masts from coming loose from their shafts when bumps occur.
The absence of a bottom plate can lead to two problems :
So we made a bottom plate out of 4 mm marine plywood.
The original 20" tires are 'noname' (unbranded) 'made in Taiwan'. Made in China or Taiwan' can be excellent when backed by a real brand that guarantees technology and quality. On the other hand, without a brand name, you can be sure that it is very mediocre.
20" tires are difficult to finish mounting (when there is only 10cm left of the 2nd lip of the tire to fit into the rim).
In fact, when you have tucked in half the circumference of this second lip, you have to place a Velcro strap in the middle of this part. This strap is used to tighten the tire AND the rim. Thus the tightening of the strap makes the tire go back into the rim. This has the effect of slightly off-center the tire towards the last part where we will finish the lip retraction, and therefore will facilitate a little bit the passage of the tire on the rim bead.
With a bike without a trailer you can slalom between pieces of glass or flint. With a trailer, you can be sure that one wheel will suffer from a 'prickly' passage.
So to venture out on long distance rides with such 'things' would be asking for trouble. It is very unfortunate that VITELLI has such a badly equipped trailer.
These tyres have therefore been replaced by the 'standard' of the 'informed cyclist'… SCHWALBE in the MARATHON PLUS model. These tyres are in the top anti puncture tyres of the brand (6/6).
And yes, there's still a 'BUT'.
We did our two rides in 2014 with this trailer. But I was literally overweight because of the trailer. Nothing had been lightened on the luggage side… but there was the weight of the trailer on top of it.
This was heavy on the Atlantic coast and definitely penalizing on the second hike in Switzerland.
So, DONE, we abandoned the trailer system. We solved the problem by changing some of the equipment (more compact) and replacing the small front bags with large ones (identical to the rear bags) and by adding a (tent) bag on each of the two bikes, above and across the rear bags. See all details here.
As detailed above, the cyclo-camping trailer is not ideal for single bikes (not tandems).
On the other hand in tandem it is THE solution, especially for the 2-wheeled VITELLI. Indeed a tandem can only have 4 panniers and 1 bag across the rear luggage rack. But for 2 campers it is very limited.
We sold our VITELLI trailer to our 2 tandemist friends mentioned above. They were also cyclo-camping enthusiasts and travelled with a single-wheel trailer. But the instability, especially when riding uphill, was causing them more and more problems. For them the 2-wheel trailer proved to be PERFECT. It allows them to put the tent bag and some additional stuff in the trailer to complement the panniers. They are delighted with it.
The weight of the trailer, which takes the weight off a single bike, is no problem for a four-legged muscle engine of tandem riders.