A trailer for city cyclists.
When the pandemic hit, the goal was to avoid people; and that meant avoiding buses, subways, and private cars. They all appeared, at first blush, to be spreading vehicles. Everything needed to be done on foot or bike. Food shopping was the biggest challenge. A backpack, even a large one, can’t take a week’s worth of groceries.
I was in the market for a bike trailer. It needed to be as large as possible, while being light, easy to carry, easy to attach and detach from a bike, assemble and break down easily, and small enough to fit in a closet.
There are beach wagons, which looked like they could be large and carry everything, but most of them seem to have plastic wheels and don’t fold up small. Camping wagons are fairly similar, just with wheels better adapted for trails, and by extension, streets and sidewalks. The typical bicycle trailer is either too big, or doesn’t fold, has a cumbersome hitch, or all three.
If the trailer could serve some other purpose, it would be even better. Utility is flexibility. The more things the trailer can do, the better.
Amazingly, Burley Design debuted a new trailer this spring that ticked off most of the boxes. They call it the Travoy.
It’s light at 11.5lbs, including nylon storage bag, which has an interior pocket for the hitch and straps. Folded, it measures 21” tall by 18” wide by 8” thick. Unfolded, it measures 37” tall by 15.5” wide by 11.5” deep. The wheels are molded 12.5” mags with pneumatic tires inflated by Shrader valves and are installed/removed by pushing a button on the outside of the hub, a one-handed operation. The hitch is an adjustable quick-release unit that fits seat posts 25-35mm in diameter (most round seatposts these days are either 27.2 or 31.8mm, but older bikes can be 26-27mm range). The tow arm can extend, by working a quick release lever, to fit over oversized rear ends—conceivably, you could also run a rear rack and panniers and the Travoy would still fit. That tow arm is also padded to make it easy to wheel around as a hand truck when you have non-bike trips or are walking inside a market. It also comes with eight side studs for affixing tie-down straps and design-specific bags.
Setting up, including attaching to a bike, takes about a minute. Breaking down takes about that long as well. And you don’t need instructions to set it up: the Travoy comes in its storage bag inside a box. Assembly is fairly intuitive; no instructions necessary.
But to really utilize the Travoy for shopping trips, you currently need two purpose-built Burley bags that affix to the cleats for three-dimensional gear support. The Lower Market Bag for the bottom of the cart, and either the Upper Market Bag or the Transit Messenger Bag. Burley sent the Lower Market Bag and the Messenger bag. It would be cool if there was some kind of adjustable cargo net which could attach to the studs, but such a thing doesn’t exist yet.
The Lower Market Bag has a capacity of 40 liters. It’s a pretty tough, fairly meshy, shopping bag. It seems designed as a super-durable oversized bag that can be cinched down. It has both a reinforced bottom and a stiffening plate in the bottom, so it can both be dragged a bit and handle heavy loads. The messenger bag, while smaller than the Upper Market Bag (12 liters as opposed to 22), is more versatile, as it can be used for work commuting more easily; it’s a shoulder bag designed for a laptop and various work-related gear, so yes to padding and plenty of pockets. It’s not a big messenger bag, I’d put it on the smaller side of the spectrum, and the shoulder strap could be wider, but for shorter jaunts or as a shoulder bag that can even be attached to an airline carry-on suitcase, it works just fine.
It’s easy to hide the Travoy in a closet, partially assemble it before heading out the door, carry it on one arm, with a bike over the other shoulder, and then hit the ground, fully open, attach, and go. The Travoy’s hitch takes seconds to secure, and easily fits on Citibikes, extending the range of travel and cargo options.
Not sure how to shop with, I tried both bringing it to the supermarket, stashing it under the cart and filling the cart, and later shopping into the cart. Shopping into the cart is a way to make sure you don’t overload the cart. But because supermarkets don’t typically set up the aisles with the heaviest and highest-volume stuff near the front door, the things you’d want to put in the lower bag, it was far trickier to shop into the Travoy.
For our way of shopping, it’s easy to stash the Travoy and bags on the bottom shelf of a supermarket cart, shop, and then arrange the goods into the Travoy after checkout. Yes, getting too much stuff is a problem—the first time is the toughest, where we totally overwhelmed our carrying capacity–but with a few tries, it got easier to eyeball. It’s also a good idea to bring a backpack to take care of the overage. We found we could do $170 or so worth of groceries without any extra bags.
Riding with the Travoy is pretty easy. I didn’t try cornering hard or excessively throwing the bike around while standing on the pedals, but with a normal commuting effort, the Travoy was barely noticeable when unloaded, and an easy weight to carry when loaded, even when we had the Travoy close to it’s carrying capacity hanging off it. If you’ve ever carried a kid on a seat or on a trail-a-bike, the Travoy is much easier. Also, thanks to the narrow width and short extension, it’s easy to pilot through small spaces in heavy traffic—something larger bike trailers have trouble with.
I tried using it as a handcart as well. Even fully-loaded, walking a mile with it was fairly easy; the load balanced well when being pushed one-handed. The only limitation was that it couldn’t stand on its own well when parked on a hill.
A minor quibble is that the Travoy storage bag isn’t of much use when the Travoy isn’t in it. It’s a pity they didn’t sew in attachment points for the Travoy’s mounting studs. There’s a flap in the Travoy that appears when the central pivot is opened up, and the bag, when rolled, can rest in there, but I wouldn’t call it secure. The storage bag can double as a shopping bag, but it’s a bit large and can’t be secured to anything because it doesn’t have tabs to fit the studs. You can use the tie-down straps to help secure it, but I don’t think it will be secure, unless the cargo inside is pretty big. Likewise, it’s not easy to bring out your own bungee cords and strap stuff down, as the Travoy’s back has material stretched across the frame which prevents hooks from going around the frame members.
The Travoy has been great thusfar for shopping and hauling recycling. Think it can handle bike components, including wheels, but haven’t tried yet. Considering seeing if it can handle a boxed air-conditioner, but the box dimensions might make that impossible.
I still haven’t been on the subway or in a bus or car since late February. The Burley Travoy is helping me keep that streak going.
To find who carries Burley, visit: https://www.burley.com