Sunday, September 19, 2010

Central Florida Proving Ground: B.O.B. Performance Evaluation

Captain's Log, Stardate 091810.7. Location, St. Petersburg, FL, Milky Way Galaxy

We did our first full test run with the B.O.B. trailers today, and the phrase "unhook the trailer" has gained new meaning! For those who aren't in the "in crowd," a B.O.B. is a one wheeled trailer that hooks up to the rear wheel of your bike. Vanessa and I did a good amount of deliberation on our preferred method of cargo storage. Generally, touring cyclists are broken up into two groups. The first group has super cool and awesome friends that are very generous with their time and money, and help by driving a van loaded up with all of the necessaries. The second lonely and outcast group has to lug all of their clothes, tents, water, food, sleeping bags, etc. along with them on their bikes. I'm not trying to indict my friends by saying this, but: Vanessa and I fall into the second category of cyclists! (Legal disclaimer: we have great friends and family, and have undertaken this self supported ride on our own freewill.)

In the second category, there are two subcategories: a) trailer-haulers, and b) pannier-havers. A trailer is a rather self explanatory item. Panniers are bags that you can mount directly on your bike. Vanessa and I ("us", or, "we") decided to go the trailer route. Panniers would probably end up being just as expensive, and appear to be a bigger hassle than the trailer. Considering that the bike is already supporting my overweight body (source: the Body Mass Index calculator underneath the scale at Publix), adding 70+ pounds of gear directly onto the bike puts unneeded stress on the bike and spokes. The trailer offers a nice middle ground. We aren't putting the additional weight directly on the bike, so the spokes won't be directly burdened. The trailer has its own wheel and a sturdy frame, so I think that it will relieve the bike from the stress of the weight.

Trailers do have their cons, though. They aren't nearly as maneuverable as the "naked" bike. I'd imagine that a bike loaded with panniers is almost as maneuverable as the "naked" bike, which brings me to our first practice ride with the trailers.

First impression- B.O.B. trailers apparently come from the factory with two different weights: Standing weight, and riding weight. When you're stopped, it takes a moderate amount of effort to keep the fully loaded trailer/bike from toppling over. That is a wordy way to say: They were waaaaaay heavier than I thought they'd be! Even getting riding took some adjustment. Because of the added weight, you can't really just push off and start riding. You've got to balance yourself and start pedaling immediately.
Second impression: When you ride with extra weight, your maneuverability suffers. It took a conscious effort to keep going straight, especially with wind. It felt like my front wheel was attached to two rubber bands on either side that made my ride resemble anything but a straight line.
Third impression: Parking mode is a convenient and photogenic way to park your bike. The B.O.B.'s allow you to "park" the bike by jack-knifing the trailer against the bike, which keeps the bike upright. A pretty handy trick, and we took some pictures of everything fully loaded.

It will take a few days to get used to the trailers, but they were a good idea, and they are a blast to ride with.

Two more days until departure date! Four more days until Maine and their tasty lobsters!

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