on April 21, 2013
The trailers frame is very well constructed and sturdy. The fabric enclosing the frame is also rugged.The zippers which secure the top are good. There is very little assembly with no tools required.Just loosen up the quick release for your bike's rear tire and mount the front hitch and then attach the towing bar to that hitch and the one on the trailer using the provided pins which have spring clips to keep them in place.
Oh, and air up the tires and pop the wheels onto the trailer. Yeah, about the tires... This is what makes an otherwise great product not quite so great. I guess it's also why they can sell it fort such a reasonable price. These are the thinnest, cheapest crap tires and inner tubes, like something for a kid's toy you'd expect to be worn out just a few days after Christmas. Although aired properly to the recommended pressure (30 to 40 pounds) one blew out within a week just sitting on the patio and the other one was already half flat from a leaky valve.
However, since the rest of the trailer is of good quality and the price was so low, it was worth it to me to invest in a pair of REAL tires and inner tubes so I could put the trailer to practical use for the purpose intended - the occasional jaunt to the grocery store.
The tires and inner tubes are standard 16 inch size available at most bike shops.
I would have replaced the plastic wheels with standard metal ones too, but the wheels are not standard. They have a quick release thing built into the hub which snaps onto the bike sort of like a socket wrench onto a ratchet. So you can't mount regular bike wheels on the trailer.
But the plastic wheels are of pretty good quality and rugged, so, after 4 months of occasional use, they are still holding up okay. As far as I can tell there are no bearings inside the trailer frame where the axle of the wheels attach, but the wheel axles and the shafts they fit into on the trailer are all made of steel so it seems rugged enough for many miles of use, although you might want to spray some wd-40, light oil, or something in there if you are planning to put lots of miles of heavy use on the trailer
Unloaded, the trailer is quite light, and I've had it flip over once while going around a tight corner making a right turn a bit too fast. Due to the pivoting action of the hitch this did not cause me to tumble too, though, and the trailer suffered no damage, but it did make me start exercising more caution. Fully loaded with a week or two worth of groceries, I doubt that the trailer could flip over unless you are very fast and careless.
One other note: If, like me, you are a bit paranoid about the trailer or it's contents being stolen while you are at the mall or whatever, a Master lock, model 140, is just the right size to fit into the hitches. I use one at both ends, instead of the spring clip pins that come with the trailer, to secure the towing bar to the bike and also to the trailer. I also use a tiny padlock to secure the zipper pull tabs together so the trailer's cover can't be opened easily.
In conclusion, this is a good little trailer at such a reasonable cost that it's worth upgrading.
on October 13, 2014
Let's get the big controversy out of the way first: The trailer as a whole is great but as others have reported the tires that come with it are junk. But it's so inexpensive - I paid a few pennies more than eighty-four dollars here on Amazon - I didn't hold the tires against it. Since I read the reviews before making my purchase, I expected the tires to be low quality Chinese junk. I don't know if the tubes are equally crappy because I haven't yet needed to remove the tires to look at the tubes. I haven't had any trouble with them yet but if I have flats or blowouts I've got the right size tubes in my spare parts box already since the front wheel of my recumbent uses the same size tubes (16"/305 x 1.75"). If I ever take the trailer any real distance I'll bring spare tubes for it just as I bring spare tubes for my bike on such a trip. And while the tires are junk they aren't going to be holding the weight of an adult, only a max of 70lbs and usually a lot less, so I don't think they'll be a problem. If the tires do prove to be a problem there are a bunch of 16"/305 tires in my local bike shop and here on Amazon, some relatively inexpensive but plenty good enough (such as Kenda Kwests) and others a bit more expensive but really, really good (such as Schwalbe Big Apples or Marathon GGs). For now I'll use the included tires and tubes until they wear out or cause a problem; I am prepared for but don't expect a problem and they should last a year or more before needing replacement.
I am moving along an asymptote toward a nearly car-free lifestyle. I do most of my local travel, errands, and visiting using a bike; mostly my Sun EZ-1 Lite recumbent although I also have an early-90s Schwinn hybrid and a little Dahon folder. The one thing I found myself still wanting a car for is to do shopping trips that involve bulk items such as paper towels, larger potted plants, etc. The solution to this is a cargo trailer. There are lots available and I did my research, eventually settling on the Burley Travoy. Unfortunately, there is no good way to get the Travoy's hitch to work with my EZ-1 because it has no seat tube and the rack is too low to the ground; too bad because I really liked the ability to use the Travoy cargo trailer as a handcart. After spending over a month trying to come up with inventive ways to get the Travoy hitched to my EZ-1, I went back to research mode and narrowed my choices down to the Burley Nomad and the Allen Sports ACT200 Explorer. The Nomad is a very high-quality trailer from a company well-known for its high-quality products, with more interior cargo space and a higher weight capacity than the Explorer. The Nomad is also lighter because it has an aluminum frame vs the Explorer's steel frame and a much better-designed hitch using an elastomer vs the Explorer's universal joint. But the Explorer had two things going for it that I liked a lot: It could be quickly converted to a convenient handcart mode and it was way, way, WAY less expensive than the Nomad. Even at the highest prices I saw for the Explorer (around one-hundred twenty five) and the lowest I saw for the Nomad (around two-hundred thirty) there was a one-hundred dollar difference - you can pretty much buy two or three Explorers for the price of one Nomad. Even if the reviews claiming that the Explorer's included tires and tubes were so bad they would need to be immediately replaced were true, the Explorer remained a bargain. So I decided to at least give the Explorer a try since the price was so appealing and it had that handcart mode.
The Explorer cargo trailer comes almost fully assembled in its box. Just lift it out of the box, unzip the zipper, pull the wheels out of the cargo compartment, pop the wheels on, then attach the hitch arm to the trailer. This takes barely longer to do than it does to read about. After that, attach the hitch plate to your bike's rear axle. I purchased two extra hitch plates directly from Allen Sports (they're not available here on Amazon) in order to have a hitch plate on all three of my bikes. This is also trivially easy to do, although it's possible with a quick-release rear hub that you'll find that the hitch plate is thick enough so that the skewer won't be long enough with the hitch plate attached. If that's the case, go to your local bike shop or look around here on Amazon or another online store for a longer skewer; they're not expensive and they're easy to find. The hitch plate fit fine on my Schwinn (quick-release skewer) and Dahon (nutted axle) but not on my EZ-1 (quick-release skewer) but I had a longer skewer for the EZ-1 sitting in my spare parts box so that didn't slow me down.
I did experience a moment of confusion when attaching the wheels. At first, I thought that the wheel axles were supposed to go under the trailer bed, partially supporting the trailer bed. But the first time I put a load into the trailer bed, the trailer bed sagged down and the axles poked into the sides of the trailer. I communicated via email with Allen Sports and they told me that the axles are SUPPOSED to poke into the sides of the trailer and in fact the cargo compartment is reinforced in that area to prevent damage. This is not apparent in any of the pictures or videos I saw before my purchase but you'll see the reinforced patches right away as you pull the trailer out of its box; I thought they were just decorative at first.
Before putting the wheels on, pressurize them. The tires on the wheels are rated for 30-60PSI but there is a stick-on label on the wheels that says "30 PSI MAX" so pump them to 30PSI, no higher. If you don't have a pump with a pressure gauge, get one. If you over pressurize and the crappy tubes pop the crappy tires off the rims or the crappy tubes =POP= that's probably your fault, not the fault of Allen Sports or Amazon. By the way, the wheels are mostly plastic but they seem to be perfectly round and straight; weird if you're used to "normal" bike wheels with separate hub, spokes, and rim but they seem to work fine and certainly there should be no need for truing these wheels or using rim tape to protect the inner tube from the nonexistent spokes.
The universal joint at the end of the hitch arm which attaches to the hitch plate on the bike works fine. It's a good inexpensive way to allow the bike to move in relation to the trailer without damaging the hitch arm, trailer, or bike. The trailer can flip over without affecting your bike (other than the drag if you keep riding, of course), or you can lay your bike down on the ground without affecting the trailer. An elastomer would be better as a universal joint can get stiff or even experience damage if movement occurs around more than one axis simultaneously; but of course the universal joint is much less expensive and that's what you get with the Explorer: An inexpensive solution that works.
I don't notice the empty trailer behind my bike at all, except for the noise of it bouncing around on the potholes. The first couple of times I used it on smooth roads I had to keep looking back to be sure it was still there; when empty, it doesn't affect the handling of the bike at all and even though it's 20lbs empty I didn't notice it even on uphills. Loaded with 60lbs of soil from the garden store, sure, I noticed it going uphill but on the flats or downhills it was like it wasn't there except when starting or stopping. Of course it's harder to ride uphill pulling more weight and it takes a little more effort to accelerate and you have to give yourself more room to brake to a stop from a high speed. Physics, DUH! The trailer itself, however, rides better with a load than without because at 20lbs empty it bounces around on rough road quite a bit but even a modest load, another 20lbs or so, helps to keep it from bouncing around. Low-pressure tires designed for shock absorption, such as the Schwalbe Big Apple, would probably reduce the bouncing while unloaded.
The zippered compartment, when zipped closed, is 26" long/19" wide/7" high which looks and functions larger than it sounds. It's good for small items and pizzas. For most shopping, the zippered compartment works nicely and holds quite a bit of stuff, more than the two baskets on my Schwinn combined. It's also good for keeping things inside clean (freshly washed laundry, for example) and dry (the cargo compartment isn't waterproof but if you get caught in a sprinkle for a short time it's better than nothing). The cargo compartment also has an interior divider that can be zipped up or folded flat, leaving a slightly larger space in the rear and a slightly smaller space in the front. It's hard to get stuff into or out of the rear space when the divider is zipped up because the top cover gets in the way. It might be useful for people carrying only a few items, or if you want to be able to reach some items easily while keeping other stuff covered. But I haven't used the divider yet, I just keep it unzipped and folded flat, leaving one large space in the cargo compartment. I often find myself unzipping the top, laying it mostly flat on the trailer bed, and then putting bulky items on top of that. The interior side panels have three tie-down ring anchors each and I keep three long bungies and a cargo net to use with them; the cargo net for multiple smaller items and the bungies for big items like a box I have to bring to the post office.
One of the things I like most about the Explorer is handcart mode. To go from trailer mode to handcart mode, just detach the hitch arm from your bike, unscrew a big black knob on the trailer, swivel the hitch arm from horizontal to vertical, then screw down that big black knob to tighten the hitch arm in that position. It's great for shopping because you fill it up as you walk around the store, unload it at checkout, then load it back up again after paying with no need to waste plastic or paper bags. No need to compete with other shoppers for a cart because you have your own and no worries that you're buying too much stuff to bring home in a single trip. It's not quite as useful or convenient to use this way as a Travoy, but at 1/2-1/3 the price of a Travoy the Explorer is plenty good enough.
To repeat the point of the first paragraph of this review: Please note that my 5-star rating is not a comment on the quality of the tires and tubes. I've seen the tires, I agree with other reviews that they are crap. I haven't seen the tubes (because they're inside the tires and I haven't yet needed to remove the tires) yet I have no doubt that they're crap, too. But I haven't had issues with them and I have spare tubes on hand if needed, and replacement tires are easy to get if and when needed. The welds on the steel parts as well as all the other bits of the trailer don't have the quality one would get from Burley but everything is functional and strong. Given the price, this trailer is an excellent value. You can pay more (a LOT more) and get better quality. You can't pay less; I don't think there is even a half-decent cargo trailer made by anyone available for a lower price. The handcart mode is invaluable for me and the standard axle hitch attachment makes it usable with any bike, including my EZ-1. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a bargain cargo trailer and for whom the 70lb weight capacity is sufficient.
edit 2015-01-17: I've been using the trailer frequently for a couple of months now and I remain very pleased with it. However, note my comment above about the universal joint. Last night while bringing home pizza for the family, the joint locked up and the trailer flipped onto its side while I was making a turn. I had to disconnect the hitch and "work it" with my hands to loosen it up, after which I reattached it and completed the ride home without incident. I have a feeling this will happen every now and then. Infrequently, but it will happen. Universal joints usually work fine, but they can lock up as mine did last night. While I'm not deducting a star, it would be better if Allen Sports replaced the universal joint with an elastomer or even a metal spring.