One Wheel or Two?

Bicycle trailers are fast becoming a viable transportation option in the face of the changing energy scheme. With that, many calls are received at the Bike Trailer Shop headquarters about the basics of trailer design. One of the more frequent considerations when selecting a trailer is the wheel count. Are you better off with a one wheel bike trailer or two wheel bike trailers? The choice is dependent on the use. If you intend to have children in-tow, two wheels is the only option. If you need more utility & versatility, your options open to a wide variety of designs.

Fundamentally, with one wheel designs, the weight of the trailers load is shared between its only wheel, and the rear wheel of the bicycle. Due to the weight being spread between the bike and the trailer, the rear driving wheel of the bike will be pushed into the ground aiding traction tremendously. When off-road touring or bike-camping, this is a great advantage as steep terrain is amazingly easy to sit and spin up with surprising grip, even with the additional load being towed. Also, the width is an obvious bonus in tight conditions. The compromise however, is that the handling of the bike changes in direct reflection to the weight of the load. With maximum payloads often being around 100lbs, this can be quite a dramatic difference from the bike alone. Learning to predict the weight shift in tight terrain & quick maneuvering is key as the bike will occasionally try to find its own direction. When using a single-wheel trailer for around town errands, it’s sometimes difficult to stabilize the entire bike-trailer unit when parking, unless a prop (sign post etc) or a secondary kickstand is used. These characteristics of single-wheel trailers make them the most efficient design when technical situations such as single-track and narrow pathways are sought, and less ideal for general around town use if operating space is ample. This video shows a great example of a B.O.B. Ibex single wheel trailer in its element.

Two wheeled trailers, on the other hand, rest the majority of their load between its own two wheels. This leaves the rear wheel of the bike, and therefore the handling of the bike itself, relatively unaffected by the added weight. Actually, it’s only the weight being pulled that is felt, for the most part. Tire wear should not increase substantially and using a single kickstand is no problem as the bike remains independent of the trailer. The compromise of course, is the width of the two-wheel design. For any type of technical terrain, or extremely tight areas of operation, this can become overwhelming. Narrow sidewalks and gates can become a real obstacle.

The basic rule of thumb, is that if you are planning to do extensive, off-road single track or narrow technical pathways or otherwise, you’ll want to lean towards a single wheel trailer. If around town utility is what you’re going to be looking for, study up on the variety of two-wheeled designs available and keep the load off your bike, and your bikes handling, predictable.

Here are some good discussions on the functioning and differences of different trailer styles.
BOB Trailer Review
Cass Gilberts Trailer Comparison and Reviews
Practical Pedal’s Trailer Manifesto
BOB Trailer vs Carry Freedom Y-Frame on the Roads of Bolivia

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