Top critical review
8 people found this helpful
Well built but with some usage issues
on August 18, 2015
Wish I'd read a review like this before buying the BOB, so I'm writing one. I bought the BOB for a week long tour on the Great Divide trail, with the idea of doing future tours with it as well. We rode 320 miles over 8 days with about 23,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail through this section is mostly on fairly well maintained dirt/gravel roads with some stretches of pavement. Now that you have a picture of the ride, I'll list the pros and cons of the trailer.
The trailer seems to be constructed well and overall I think the design is good. Build quality also seems quite good. Attachment to the bike is easy after the special replacement skewer has been installed on your bike. I had no problems with the connection to the bike despite some sections of washboard and washed out rocky trail surfaces. On smooth surfaces the BOB follows your bike with little noticeable effect on steering or handling. High speed descents on smooth surfaces, especially pavement, seem little different than riding without the trailer. The trailer does take much of the load off of your back wheel and therefore seems to affect handling less than having heavily loaded rear panniers. This might also result in less likelihood of broken spokes, a somewhat common problem with loaded touring bikes.
The dry bag seemed to keep everything clean and dry, although we didn't encounter much rain that would have really tested its water tightness. I organized the gear inside into stuff sacks, so the cavernous interior stayed pretty well organized.
The BOB adds about 17 lbs. to your overall load. This may not matter all that much on descents or fairly level surfaces but becomes noticeable on steeper climbs. At one point I tested pushing my wife's bike with panniers vs. pushing my bike with the BOB up a moderate incline on a mixed dirt and gravel surface. The BOB added a considerable amount of additional resistance. I think some of that is from the additional weight of the trailer, some from the additional rolling resistance of having a third wheel, and some from the placement of the weight being behind the bike on the trailer, rather than more centered over the bike itself. Also swapping bikes with my wife, I noticed that the small (16 inch) wheel on the BOB generated additional effort when going over rocks or other obstacles, the small wheel being nearly stopped by these obstacles, then needing to be essentially pulled over them. When crossing ruts, bumps, and particularly a series of these, the BOB and bike combination can really undulate, requiring slowing to keep from bouncing about wildly. There are also warnings provided by the manufacturer that this type of undulation can cause the BOB's swing arm to damage your rear derailleur.
Access to the dry bag while on the road is time consuming. You have to detach the bungee cord, release the buckles in the center and both ends and then unroll the top. Also, even with the use of stuff sacks, you are faced with this cavernous space to rummage through. Panniers allow you to organize things into a bit more bite-sized chunks and are more readily and easily accessible.
Another problem with the bike and trailer combination is that it is somewhat unwieldy. If you lean the bike against a tree or the like, the BOB will generally jackknife, causing the whole rig to crash to the ground. It's possible some sort of kickstand arrangement on the BOB, bike, or both could alleviate this problem. Mostly I just laid the whole thing on the ground and then developed a technique for using one hand to lift the BOB and the other to lift the bike, this became fairly second nature after a while.
I pulled the BOB behind my full suspension 26" wheeled bike. It definitely is not the most efficient rig. Between some suspension pogoing from the bike and the extra drag of the BOB, long climbs on rough surfaces can become a bit grueling. If your friends are riding 29ers with panniers, you're going to be eating their dust. That said, the BOB seems to generate less wind resistance on the downhills than panniers.
If you like the idea of a trailer for touring, this may well be the best one out there. I've talked to people using them for road touring who expressed great satisfaction. Off-road, the BOB is going to make you slower and work harder.
I think the BOB would benefit from a reduced weight design and a larger wheel size. Unfortunately, reducing the weight would likely increase the cost of an already pricey accessory. It would be interesting to know if the folks at BOB have experimented with larger wheels.