Review: Bikebox trailer (2003)
Bike trailer review from the Velo Vision archive. First published in Issue 12 in 2003.
Posted by Peter Eland on Thursday 8 Dec 2011
This review was first published in Velo Vision Issue 12 in 2003. Prices mentioned date from that time, and will have changed. Contact details are current unless otherwise stated.
A COMPLEX CARRIER
There’s more to the Bikebox trailer than just a box on wheels, as Peter Eland discovers...
BikeBox Trailers wasn’t a name I’d heard until a reader pointed me to their rather minimalist website. Unimpressed, I promptly forgot about them – it just looked like yet another simple box on wheels. But soon after, on the internet somewhere, a customer waxed lyrical about some of the BikeBox’s unadvertised but clever features. Intrigued, I got in touch. It sounded like this could be a hidden gem.
As it turned out, Andy Hunter of BikeBox was in the UK shortly after, working on European distribution, and he dropped off one of their ‘Wallace’ trailers for me to test. As I’ll describe later, a number of improvements have since been made.
The ‘Wallace’ sells for 329 Canadian Dollars in its native Canada: that’s the approximate equivalent of £150 or US$250 or €215 as we go to press. We were hoping to have European prices and distribution details, too, but that’ll have to wait for next issue.
With its folding box, the ‘Wallace’ is well-suited as an export model. The box is of moderate size: 21.8"/545mm long, 15.5"/390mm wide and 10.5"/280mm tall, and a bit less internally. I found this a bit of a missed opportunity: there’s a lot of wasted space between the wheels. If it was square it would still fit, and offer much-increased capacity. But I guess they have to use standard sizes.
To fold the box, the ends flip up, the sides fold down and it ends up as a ‘flatbed’.
The box is supported on a simple chassis. A very solid square-section aluminium crossbar has sockets at each end for the axles. These are stainless-steel, about half an inch in diameter and look like they’d stand up to some serious abuse. The axles incorporate a quick-release mechanism: push the brass button at the hub and two ball-bearings retract at the other end, allowing the axle to be slid in or out of the crossbar. This worked perfectly, with everything a nice fit, and it is easy to remove the wheels in a few seconds.
The wheel/axle combination is one of the best bits about this trailer. Press the button on the axle end to remove the wheel
One minor caveat is that the brass buttons project about 5mm from the hub, and they’re the widest point on the trailer (which is around 720mm or 28.3” wide overall, which gets through most doorways). While they’re probably solid enough to withstand most knocks, it’s not a good idea to have the button sticking out like that – if it’s pressed flush with the hub then the axle can come out (though it would probably be prevented by whatever was pushing the button). It shouldn’t be hard to re-engineer the hub area to recess the button a bit more.
The wheels themselves are tough plastic items in 16" (305) size (the moulded-in brand name is, appropriately, ‘Tuff’) and the axles run in large sealed bearings – bigger and more robust than you’ll find in most bicycle hubs.
This well-engineered rear axle and wheel combination is the best bit about the BikeBox. The makers rate the trailer at a conservative 46kg, but I’d guess that the crossbeam and wheels are not the limiting factor.
The axle is joined by a relatively thin-looking tube to the forward box support, then by an ‘elbow-piece’ to the drawbar. The elbow is secured to the central tube simply by running a bolt through both: and the drawbar is attached similarly to the elbow with a safety-locking pin. Unfortunately the tolerances seemed to have slipped badly: straight out of the box there was perhaps five degrees of wobble on each joint. This means that, holding the trailer still, the hitch end of the drawbar can wobble freely through around 4" (10cm)! Can’t be good...
It did strike me that it would be an easy matter to make the trailer longer ‘at will’ by adding a straight extension piece to fit between the central chassis tube and elbow. This would be handy for those occasional long loads (timber, kayaks and the like). Unfortunately the manufacturers don’t offer this, so you’d need to make it yourself, or have it made.
The hitch is great. A resilient rubber ball extends from the drawbar, and slides into a neat little steel moulding which fits on the bike’s rear axle. A pin with spring-loaded retention ball secures it, and a safety strap wraps around a frame tube or carrier stay as a back-up. This hitch is licensed from Chariot Carriers, a long-time maker of child trailers and strollers in Canada. It was easy to use and reliable, and should fit most bikes.
The hitch is neat and effective, while the chassis is simple and could easily be lengthened with a bit of DIY
A kick stand on the drawbar is designed to keep the bike and trailer standing as you load, and also to keep the hitch from dragging in the dirt when the trailer’s ‘parked’. I didn’t much like the way I needed to really tighten the bolts so that the stand mount dug into the metal of the drawbar – but this was the only way to stop it swivelling round under even the lightest load.
I put the BikeBox through some heavy use, as the test period coincided with me moving house and with a Velo Vision mailing. The mailbags you see in some of the images weighed perhaps 50kg – just over the trailer’s rated limit. Overall it coped well, but I did realise a few of the limitations.
First, the box. Folded down as a ‘flatbed’ it was of limited use: the wheels prevented big flat things being tied on, and it rattles like anything. Unfolded, the top edge is above the wheels, but then there’s another problem: the lack of tying-on points. There is a small metal loop at the front (I’m not sure why) but apart from that the only place to tie ropes etc is to the crossbeam. A series of holes drilled around the top edge of the box would enhance the trailer’s capacity no end. As would a bigger box: as you can see with the mailbags, more room would be very welcome.
Second, the drawbar. The ‘wobble’ in loose joints was mainly irritating rather than serious, but with a full load it did make the towing a little less predictable, especially if the load’s centre of gravity was reasonably high. There’s a tendency for the trailer to ‘seesaw’ back and forth.
The hitch system worked well, but the drawbar was a bit flexible for my taste – it flexes with each pedal stroke if you have a full load. It’s also not at the right height for a 26" wheeled towing bike – the trailer rides rear-end-down.
The kick stand was occasionally useful, but it just didn’t support bike and trailer well enough to be used as the sole means of support when loading up. I found it better to load the trailer unhitched, and then only attach the bike when ready to go.
The BikeBox does score when it needs to be stored. Remove the wheels, fold the box and uncouple the drawbar and you’re left with a flat package which can be stashed away easily. Reassembly would take a couple of minutes at most.
Since they provided our test trailer BikeBox have revised the chassis considerably, and the new design looks like it will answer a number of my criticisms. The new square-section drawbar (see photo) won’t wobble, will be more rigid, and will better support the kickstand. Unfortunately, it looks like it’ll remove the possibility to lengthen the trailer with extension pieces – though they do have a kit to join multiple trailers to form a train! They’re also working on making the drawbar properly fit 26" wheel bikes. Bikebox offer a variety of boxes and flatbeds, including pet carriers in various sizes.
This prototype shows how the new square-section drawbar should be non-wobble and much more rigid, answering my criticisms of the current design
For not much less than most bargain-basement trailers the BikeBox offers a rock-solid axle setup and a versatile chassis. It has a clever and effective hitch and convenient quick-release wheels. The folding box didn’t work out for me, but it’s easy enough to add your own ‘top’. The new square-section drawbar should cure many of the niggles I have with the current design.
If one of the available boxes suits your needs, then this is a good-value basic trailer. But I think that where it really shines is as a trailer for the tinkerer: unscrew that folding box, add lengthening pieces if required, and bolt on your box of choice to take full advantage of that solid rear axle. For relatively little outlay in materials or effort you could end up with a truly robust, high-capacity load trailer.
As we go to press the best thing is to contact the manufacturers in Canada: BikeBox Trailers:
Tel +1 604 732 5926
Fax +1 604 251 59000
Update: Website no longer active
No comments have been posted - be the first ...
You must be signed in to post comments. Sign in or register via our forum to create an account.
Search Velo Vision website story archive:
Search full magazine text via the digital edition: