Monday, May 23, 2011

Burley Nomad in Action

I neglected to mention some weeks ago that I got myself a Burley Nomad Cargo Trailer. I found a seller off Craigslist selling one in may-as-well-be-new condition for $250, and jumped on it. Originally, I had planned on getting a BOB like most touring cyclist who go the trailer route. These initial impressions are what predominantly swung me towards the Nomad:

  • Cargo room: Much more of it. Some may point out that with so much space, one would be tempted to fill it. Well, I'll certainly do that, and be glad for it, too!
  • Balance and Handling: The Burley Nomad only transfers 10% of its total weight to the bicycle, reducing frame and wheel stress. It won't fishtail, swing, or tip over when you park. It makes little difference rather its loaded evenly or not.
  • Design: The Burley Nomad is designed like a trunk for your bicycle, rather then a big crumpled bag on a wagon. It's easier to root through in a hurry, and easier to keep organized. The trailer can easily be snapped into the hitch with one hand, and is easy to move around when detached.

Unfortunately, there is no great wealth of product reviews for the Burley Nomad. Most of those available review it as an around-the-town grocery hauler. Among those, I heard of various drawbacks: Its not weatherproof enough. It is not durable enough to handle rough trails or roads. Its too wide. Just looking at it, I was worried I'd feel like I was carrying a wide load, or it would jerk my bike around if I tracked it through a pothole or over grass.

After putting the trailer to use, heavily loaded, over gravel, limestone, pavement, and a bit of dirt, I'm entirely pleased with it. My average speed over nonpaved surface was significantly lower than usual, but without the effort of balancing loaded panniers, I felt less exhausted than I suspect I otherwise would have. Over paved surface, I may well have made better time with the trailer.

The attachment arm dampens most jarring from the trailer. I made an extra effort to drag it over lumps, rocks, and potholes to assure myself of this. Even with one wheel on a rumble strip, it just rattles enough to alert you. I've heard of these trailers tipping, but even while intentionally unbalancing it, I never felt it came near toppling over.

The width of the trailer, though no wider then a pair of stuffed ortliebs, does cause me to be a bit more cautious about what is going on down at wheel-level. So far, however, I've not felt cramped by it, nor have I hit any curbs. I've yet to take it out on any narrow, high traffic roads, so I can't say how that'll be. I've heard that in general, folks see the big yellow trailer and give you a wide berth. I also wonder if it might distract aggressive dogs. I suspect the one that chased me was more playful than angry, but it did seem a great deal more interested in my trailer than my bike. I can live with that.

The spacious cargo compartments are great. I love being able to stop, prop up the bike, snap off the cover and have easy access to all my gear in one place. I rode through some heavy rain, any only minimal water and grit found its way into the gaps. For this run, I wrapped my gear up in a tarp. Next time, I'll have made a snap on weather cover out of a bit of tarp, both to keep the trailer relatively clean, and because the yellow covering seems like it might soak through, given enough steady rain. I may also sew some mesh pockets onto the top for drying herbs on the go, thus weakening its weather resistance.

So, in summary - with about 100mi on the Burley Nomad trailer, I'm thrilled with it. It's a joy to ride without the effort of balancing loaded panniers. It is wonderfully spacious and well designed. Hopefully after 1000mi I'll still be saying the same.


  1. Hi,

    I talked to you via about your Safari.

    Ironically, I too am interested in the Burley Nomad.

    Thanks for the great review. When I can afford it, the Burley will be behind my Safari.


  2. Great review! Will definitely purchase a burley Nomad for the coming tour