The B.O.B. (Beast Of Burden) Yak trailer, does what it says on the tin – carries loads of your stuff and just gets on with it, never complains, and never misbehaves. At least, that’s been our experience since we attached it to our Pino tandem, over 25,000kms ago, in July 2011.
The manufacturers give it a capacity limit of 32kgs, but we may have exceeded that once or twice and they also say that it shouldn’t be taken above 40kph, and I think we may have exceeded that too perhaps just once or twice (read about our downhill speeds on the Pino review here) but it has handled perfectly despite how we’ve treated it.
Compared to the Extrawheel trailer which weighs less than 4kg, the Bob Yak is a hefty 6.1kg. This was one of the reasons why we didn’t buy it at first, however it behaves faultlessly and has carried our kit, over good roads and bad, without complaint. In 2011 we covered about 6000kms with the Bob, from Poland (where we gave up on the Extrawheel, our first choice of trailer) through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and into Russia. In 2012, we travelled just over 12,000kms from the UK to China and now as the end of 2013 approaches, we’ve towed Bob for a further 10,000kms from China down into south-east Asia and throughout this time the Bob continues to track behind us as good as the day it was new. Only minor maintenance has been required during this time with new sealed bearings fitted to the wheel after 11,000kms of use, and then after about 19,000kms of use the original tyre ruptured so a new one of those was sourced without too much difficulty. In the last few months, I’ve also had to touch up the paint-work here and there to stop it rusting on us.
During the course of our 2012 trip, we made the following tweaks to the Bob Yak:-
- First tweak was to construct a new tube for the warning flag-pole, so that the flag could be mounted as far back as possible to allow space for our solar-panel. The sturdy metal support for the back of the mud-guard (fender in manufacturer’s language) proved an excellent place to tape on a carefully sculpted tube (made from a plastic beer-bottle & duck-tape).
- Next, was the addition of 2 standard bottle-cages for carrying some extra water and these were first attached to the rear of the frame, on the bosses provided by the manufacturer, but then moved to the sides of the trailer to allow for the next tweak.
- Carrying enough water on our tandem, in the hot summer sun, is often a problem. In 2011 we tried just strapping big bottles of water on the back, but they tended to fall off. So in 2012 we constructed two little shelves right beside the trailer wheel, where we could strap on one or two 5 or 6 litre bottles of water, one on either side.
By carrying the load so far back, it keeps as much of the weight as possible off the tandem back wheel (tandem’s weakest point) and doesn’t affect the trailer handling at all. The shelves were made from some (probably) 1mm thick sheet metal (possibly galvanised tin) that we found on the roadside just before getting to Moscow in July 2012, and I borrowed some tools from our hosts during our stay there to cut and shape the metal. The extra capacity has regularly proved very useful as in some parts of Russia, Kazakhstan and China that we’ve covered, we can travel for a full day without passing a shop and in the hotter weather, we often consume about 8 to 10 litres of water each day.
- The last tweak of 2012 was an extended mud-flap, to stop the trailer and the trailer bag becoming destroyed with mud and road-grit when the roads are wet. A bit of old floor vinyl and some wire ties to attach it have proved very successful, and the vinyl can cope with being squashed for a while when the trailer is off the bike and just resting on the ground.
During 2013 we carried out a few more tweaks as follows:-
- We made a bright new flag for the back of the trailer at the end of 2012, neatly trimed with scotch-light reflective tape, but we found that on a wet road, the flag was getting covered in road-dirt, kicked up by the trailer’s wheel. The only solution was to significantly extend the mud-guard, but it needed to be done with light-weight materials, so a chopped up plastic bottle did the trick.
- Also nearer the end of 2012, we stopped using big 5-litre water bottles on the back of the trailer and we found some 2.5-litre bottles in a shop in China. Problem was though that the chopped up plastic bottle, extended mud-protection on the rear wheel did not stop the bottles from getting coated in road filth from the wheel, so an old 5-litre oil-can, found on the roadside, was chopped up and 2 bits of side-of-wheel mud-protection where fashioned and attached. Now our water bottles on the back of the trailer stay clean, no matter how dirty or wet the road is.
- We’ve always had problems with where to locate the most rear-ward, back light on the bike and trailer and it is my strong preference to have a light right at the back of our rig. The new chopped up oil-can, side-of-wheel mud-protection turned out to be a perfect mount-point for a standard rear bicycle light and it doesn’t get obstructed by the stuff we put on top of the trailer.
- The smaller “big” bottles on the back meant that we could move the bidons that were previously attached to the side of the trailer, back onto the rear of the trailer, and by doing this, we now had room on the side of the trailer, to mount our new snorkelling fins. No self-respecting, travelling cyclist should ever be without their snorkelling fins for some free sea-side entertainment … unless of course you’re travelling through central Asia and the beach is many thousands of kilometres away!!
Reversing the trailer to park it is a bit of a knack, but easily acquired. The advantage of the Bob’s long wheelbase is that you can go back in a straight line more easily than with the Extrawheel trailer, but if you want to reverse round a corner, the Bob takes a bit more encouragement to take the turn.
The big bag is surprisingly easy to pack and keep organised. We had initially feared that smaller items would get lost in it, but if packed carefully then things stay in place on the flat base-plate and we quickly got into a routine of packing items in the same place each day.
One minor niggle is that the 16″ wheel means we have to carry spare inner-tubes for 3 different size wheels (20″ front and 26″ rear on the tandem plus the 16″ on the trailer), and it’s hard to find good quality tyres for 16″ wheels so we do get a few more punctures than we’d like.
We also had a bit of a problem related to the horizontal drop-outs. We’d picked up a puncture in a Ukrainian city and some helpful local cyclists insisted on helping us fix it. We were surrounded by about 20 people, and simultaneously trying to keep an eye on our kit, answer questions about our travels and keep watch on the guys who’d insisted on helpfully fixing our puncture. We should have checked their work, but after an enjoyable and lengthy amount of chit-chat we failed to do so. The local cyclists escorted us and showed us the correct road out of town and we said our goodbyes and pedalled off on a busy, bumpy road. We’d gone hardly any distance when the wheel parted company with the trailer and rolled off into two lanes of traffic. We managed to rescue it before it was run over by a lorry, but the mudguard is now irredeemably bent, and it was definitely a lesson in not letting anyone else help you with mechanicals…or at least to check they’ve done the quick-release skewer up sufficiently tight yourself after they’ve finished. But if the dropouts were vertical there would have been less chance of the wheel falling out at all.
After 10,000kms of use, the bag was starting to wear a bit thin in a couple of places, so I put a few puncture repair patches on it here and there and so now after about 25,000kms, the bag is still serving us well. But we must constantly be careful not to pack items with sharp or even rigid edges close to the outside of the bag, and don’t have anything sharp rubbing on the outside either.
Niggles aside, we’re really pleased with the BOB Yak and would happily recommend it to anybody, but owing to the many bumpy roads that we find when travelling, I sometimes wish that we had bought the BOB Ibex – same trailer, just with suspension on the rear wheel. But then it would be even heavier and we’d have nowhere to put our extra water, so perhaps the Yak is the perfect trailer for us.