Saturday, January 2, 2021

Road Test: Burley Travoy cargo trailer

 A woman in my congregation is collecting all sorts of supplies -- clothing, food, tents and stuff -- to help a couple of large homeless encampments. I had collected some things through my local Buy Nothing network. With my eyesight restored enough well enough to ride, I decided to load up my new-to-me Travoy, Burley's cargo trailer, and ride across town to deliver the bundles myself.

First, I had to install the hitch.

I tried to make it work with what's already on my All-Rounder, a Nitto saddlebag support rack. I swapped that in, in place of a regular rack because I was carrying everything in a large Carradice saddlebag and no longer use panniers. Unfortunately, the size and location of the saddlebag support meant that the angle wouldn't allow for easy hitching up of the trailer. This trailer has a very specific angle of attachment, and no spring to give any "wiggle" room in the process. I'm sure the folks at Burley Design tried to think this through, but the fact is that if you plan to install the hitch on a rear rack with the bracket available, that bracket depends on your rack being installed at exactly the correct angle or it's not gonna work. (Note to Burley: The desired angle seems easier to attain on taller bikes -- what else is new?)

Ultimately I opted to remove my Carradice saddlebag so I could install the hitch on the seatpoist, where it's designed to fit optimally. Installing it just above the mounting clamp for the Nitto rack, I thought it would be fine. But once again, I was stymied by not having exactly the right angle. This time, with no other option (including raising the hitch on the seatpost because of the springs on my saddle), I had to "nudge" the trailer onto the hitch with some effort, and it did finally slide on.
Still it's not the most ideal situation. Bikes of different heights should be able to handle the trailer with equal ease, and Burley ought to consider a re-design on the hitch to allow for a little wiggle room.

Riding with the Travoy hooked up was easy. It felt balanced and rolled smoothly, even with the tiny 12" wheels which attach with a "push-button" quick release. Burley suggests that if you mount the hitch onto a rear rack, mount it was far forward as possible in order to shrink the space between the trailer and the bike. Mounting the hitch on the seatpost effectively solves this issue, as shown in the photo below.

I liked that I didn't have to swing my leg any higher to get around the trailer than I do to get around my saddle. (I am aware that someday, I won't be able to swing my leg around anything at all, and instead will have to dip the bike to one side in order to get on or off. But that's for later on.)

The Travoy comes with a large tote bag; when the wheels are removed and the trailer is folded up it fits into the tote bag for very easy, compact storage.
Additional accessories for the Travoy are available separately, including upper and lower bags in various styles, hitch adapters for rear racks and side panels to prtect the cargo from water spray when riding in the rain. I bought the trailer used from a previous owner who had seldom used it, and it came with the tote bag. I also bought side panels, spare inner tubes (they come with longer, bent valves for easy access by a pump) and what I'd thought was a used upper bag. It turned out to be a lower bag, and for now I've clicked it into the brackets provided on the trailer. It fits clumsily and I will probably save up for a real upper bag so I can move this bag down.

A couple of issues with the Travoy include:

-- where to mount a rear light? After looking for a logical place, I finally wrapped a silicon-strapped rear light around the uppermost part of the frame. It doesn't aim directly back but it's better than nothing and keeps me barely legal on Portland's streets. I'm going to have to remedy this quickly.

Burley offers a light mount that fits in the hollow part of the frame behind the handle (see photo: it';s just above and behind the twist-handle), that installs like a handlebar plug. I may choose to make one rather than buy it. We'll see.

The bags are designed to fit the trailer's frame very nicely, and clip on to specially-designed brackets on the frame. Sadly, none of the Travoy-specific bags available from Burley are waterproof; Burley offers a rain cover for another $50 if you want it, and this will probably be enough to encourage people in drier parts of the country to consider riding in the occasional rain shower. But for a company founded and still based in Eugene, Oregon it seems that a truly waterproof set of bags, or even one long drybag, should be available for the Travoy. An awful lot of us here in the Pacific Northwest ride year-round, in the rain, and waterproof bags are a must for regular cargo-hauling. After my 8-mile loop, both bags were thoroughly wet outside and the bag I'd clicked in on top was beginning to soak through. I may look for a waterproof alternative if I can find one to fit the trailer.

The Burley Travoy is rated to carry up to 60 pounds; Burley recommends that no more than 20 pounds be carried in the upper bag. So this is definitely an ideal trailer for urban hauling -- groceries, your kid's baseball gear, even a small sapling and yard tools for a tree-planting can all be carried on the Travoy. I know that some folks have tried touring or camping with it, and perhaps it's great for that. But I bought the Travoy -- indeed, had been looking for a used one for over a year -- because I was ready to let go of my full-sized Burley Encore. I don't need a trailer that can carry 100-plus pounds of stuff; If I go to a gig here in  town, I'll take the bus or catch a ride with friends. I bought this 2018 model from someone who'd thought he would use it far more. I bought my trailer and tote bag used, and then purchased the other pieces from the Burley web site (except for the bottom "classic" bag which I bought off craigslist).

The Travoy was updated slightly in 2020 and sells for $299.00 from Burley. The 2020 version includes side/wheel rain guards, but no bags.

The more I think about it, the more I feel inclined to look for a used drybag that will fit on the trailer, and I can easily strap that in place with bungee cords or tiedown straps. The other possibility is that a hard plastic crate of the right shape and size could work for some kinds of hauling. But Burley's upper and lower bags retail for almost $100 each and that seems like too much to spend on bags that aren't truly waterproof.

Still, I'm very happy to have sold my big Burley (to someone who plans to carry their dog in it, which seems sweet), and to make more space for a smaller trailer that should take care of my hauling needs going forward. I look forward to finding reasons to use it again soon.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The newest model has a better quick release seat post connection. I used the Burley Straps and Velcro straps to attach a lightweight milk crate to my Travoy. That works well for groceries. Thanks for the comment about the lack of water proofing on the Burley designed bags. Maybe I’ll hold off on ordering those and get a waterproof duffel bag and the bungie next to hold the duffle in place instead.

Was in Portland last June. Great city. Loved the Tiliklum Bridge!