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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I plan on riding across the Scottish Highlands this September. We will be on our Ritchey Double Switchback Tandem. We will be going from B&B to B&B, so no camping gear required. A total load of maybe 40 lbs.

Does anyone have any experience with both panniers and trailers? Which is easier to move? Other thoughts?

Also, I am a little leery of front panniers. Adding mass to the fork doesn't sound like the best idea, but is it really that much of an issue? It will spread out the load between front and rear tires, which would be a very good thing.

Also, the Ritchey doesn't have mounting points for a rack, so we would be forced to use clamp on racks. Any thoughts?

-Dan
 

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Hi Dan,

People use both, both have strong proponents, and really both work fine. I like panniers (never used a trailer, but have thought long and hard about them). Given your situation, and assuming you are not riding a light weight carbon fiber racing tandem, I would advocate strongly for using panniers.
Two points:
1. Towing a trailer behind a tandem makes for (in my mind) a huge unwieldy rig. So, finding a place to put it when you stop is more difficult, backing it up it more difficult, and forget about easily getting it up a set of stairs in one trip, and then where do you put it all when you get to your room?
2. You are essentially "credit card" touring. Trailers are great if you are bringing a huge amount of gear, but you don't need a huge amount of gear because your not camping or crossing deserts in third world counties. For your trip all you really need is just some clothes and toiletries for two people (and your credit card!). Pack smart and you should easily be able to fit that in a couple of panniers, and if needed, a handlebar bag. One bag for you, and one for your cycling partner, easy peasy and nobody's stuff gets mixed up with the other persons.

Finally, don't worry about front panniers, can't see why you would need them. As far as using a clamp on rack, don't, bad idea. Go with Old Man Mountain, they make very high quality racks that utilize the axle as a mounting point so they don't need frame mounting points.
Old Man Mountain specializes in Racks designed to work on all bikes.

Gregg
 

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I would probably vote for Panniers over Trailer unless I was carrying something too bulky/heavy for the panniers.

Of course not having pannier rack mounts on your frame complicates things a bit.
 

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Does anyone have any experience with both panniers and trailers? Which is easier to move? Other thoughts?

Also, the Ritchey doesn't have mounting points for a rack, so we would be forced to use clamp on racks. Any thoughts?
Panniers are definitely the best option, except of course trailers are better. Get it?

No worries about the extra 20 lb of weight on the forks from a set of front panniers.

Clamps on the frame tubes not an issue - wrap the frame tubes first with some tape or old inner tube.
 

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I have toured with both options.

Trailer Pros

You can use with any bike
You can haul a lot of gear
You can take off the trailer and have a regular bike
Only half the weight of the trailer and gear on the back axle

Trailer Cons

Trailer and gear put about as much weight on the rear axle as panniers
The extra weight of the trailer makes climbing no fun at all.
It is hard to park the bike at stops, with a tandem it would be like trying to lean a semi along a wall
You need different set of tubes for the trailer

Panniers Pro

Lightweight
Easy to use
Can be detached and taken with you inside

Pannier Cons

Need mounting racks
Can't pack huge items

I switched over to panniers and never looked back. The extra 40 pounds of weight on your bike isn't cause for concern for the frame because it is distributed.
A trailer is great for someone that only has one bike and wants to tour and do fast group rides with the same bike. You still need a bigger tire on the rear though because of the extra weight. My buddy had 23s on his bike and had 4 pinch flats.
 

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Like KI said, clamps aren't a big deal.

Pack extra nuts and bolts in case a few rattle loose. They only weigh a few ounces. Ask me how I know?? lol
 

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Your credit card touring trip with the tandem would seem great for panniers. First, for most of the reasons above. Second, because since you'll have minimal gear, you could get a really slim (not voluminous) setup of four panniers (one at each corner). IMHO mini panniers are quite attractive, darling really, and look great on a tandem. The front panniers could be your heavier items - hers on the left, yours on the right. And the rears could be for your lighter kit - again hers on the left, yours on the right. Gives you organizing options as well as keeping each person's kit separate, as suggested by others here.

Although I don't like the cheap bent metal mounts, this Jandd Economy Pannier is a great example of a slim, attractive bag. My wife and I each have a pair:

Economy Pannier

Jandd sometimes ebay's leftovers for half price. A Harley motorcyclist once complemented me on my Jandd luggage :) There are any number of commercial and boutique vendors making mini panniers, so you have plenty of style choices. Swift Industries and Carsick Designs come to mind...
 

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Oh yeah, Loctite blue on all your fasteners, particularly for the R-clips you use where the frame doesn't have integral bosses.
 

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ok, i dont tour. always wanted to, but i dont. think about it a alot, but havent niked.

i do, however, have a tandem with a trailer. its a kid-hauler trailer, but a trailer nonetheless. and i can tell you this:

a trailer with a tandem at first sounds horrible, but its really isnt THAT bad. turning around is a pain, but with captain and stoker working together you can get it done. if we stop for icecream i usually lift the bike and have the stoker move the trailer.

i find the trailer make the tandem pretty stable, even at slow speeds. feels like a sea anchor i guess.

the problem with the trailer is you have more space, so you take more. with the panniers you have to pack smart, so you only take what you need. but heres the thing: what are you gonna do about souvenirs? you gonna be that person who asks the shopkeeper to ship the framed four leaf clovers and kilts? or do you wanna put all that sweet tourist trash with you?

honestly, i would say panniers, but you really gotta get some practice vefore you head across the pond. just to get the feel. do a weekender, like as soon as you get your rach and panniers.
 

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Like KI said, clamps aren't a big deal.

Pack extra nuts and bolts in case a few rattle loose. They only weigh a few ounces. Ask me how I know?? lol
I just had that happen to me, with my rack struggling under the immense weight of my tail light. Unfortunately, when I went to replace the bolt, I realized it had sheered off in the braze-on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all the responses. We have purchased tickets to fly to Scotland, so the trip is a go! BTW, Air Canada was a very low cost carrier to the UK, and they treat bicycles as regular bags for international flights, and Winnipeg is just a few hours drive.

Now, for what I did about carrying our stuff. I did read all the responses, and took into account all of them, and a lot more comments from other sources.

Length was a concern. And rolling resistance. Since we are going to be riding from B&B to B&B, the amount of stuff we can take in panniers should be enough.

I bought a Surley FRONT rack that mounts very low and close to the pivot line of the fork. The load limit on the rack is 70 lbs. I had to fabricate a mount for the top, but that was a pretty small project. I can sit on the rack (all 19 stone of me) and it doesn't seem to bend a bit.

Loaded with more stuff than we will be taking plus a gallon of water just to make it a little heavier, the handling is still fine up to as fast as we have had the bike ( about 25 mph). We have also ridden a little on gravel roads with deep ruts, and the setup is OK on them as well.

The Bags are Jandd Large Mountain Panniers. I know, they say rear only, but they fit just fine and the rack has worked fine for a couple hundred miles. Besides, the rack and mounts are all steel, so repairs on Skye should be possible.
 

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I've used both and I really prefer panniers for any situation that would benefit from speedy removal of luggage from the bike. I have axiom typhoon panniers and they have a quick release system making them very easy to take on and off. There are several brands that have a similar setup.

I had a yakima big joe trailer that was a knock-off of a bob yak trailer. It was nice for carrying a lot of cargo but I really preferred the panniers. The trailer seemed unweildy on climbs and higher speed corners, anything much over 15-18 mph if memory serves me correct. This was basically downhill or tailwind situations when the trailer was empty as I used it for grocery shopping mostly as my plans for bikepacking off-road never happened.

Enjoy the trip, sounds like it should be a lot of fun.
 

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I have tried towing a trailer twice. I did not like how it felt while climbing. I went back to panniers and haven't looked back.
 
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