Sunday, 8 January 2012

Carry Freedom bike trailer review

Our latest purchase in our quest for sustainability and resilience to oil price spikes is a Carry Freedom Y-Frame Large bicycle trailer. As the manufacturer says:

"Our bicycle trailers make it easier to carry by bike. This makes bikes more useful more often, encouraging more cycling and makes society healthier. "
So, having bought one, I thought it would be good to write a review including video and photos. So let's start right away with the videos, and the photos will follow with more details. First, a review of how the trailer assembles and is used:

And here's a short video showing it in use bringing 50kg of logs back from the wood, towed by me on one of our electric bikes:

Right, onto the detail... Here's all the parts that come in the package:
Carry Freedom bike trailer parts DSC_1231
There you can see:
  • The load bed, already mounted on the frame.
  • Two 20" wheels.
  • The metal bar that connects the frame to the bike, and a pin to connect it to the frame.
  • Two quick release axles, of the type used in wheelchairs.
  • The hitch mechanism, which uses a flexible piece of red plastic.
  • Velcro straps for securing loads.
  • Rubber feet to put on boxes to be carried.
  • Instructions.
It's really simple to put together, as you'll have seen in the video above. The only thing you need to check is that you have enough spare thread on a solid rear axle, or a long enough skewer for a quick-release axle. You're also advised to limit the load to 50kg, rather than 90kg, if you have quick-release as it's not as strong - you can still pull 90kg, but you might need to replace the QR skewer a bit more frequently.

Here's a shot of the underside of the load bed, and you can see where the Y-Frame name comes from.
Carry Freedom bike trailer body DSC_1232

This design allows the bar connecting to the bike to go on either side, which can be useful in some circumstances. It connects by slotting in here, then the retaining pin is used to hold it there:
Carry Freedom bike trailer frame DSC_1234

Carry Freedom bike trailer frame DSC_1237

These are the axles, pressing the button on the right makes the bit that looks like a ball bearing at the other end withdraw, so it can slide through the wheel bearing and into the frame. If you're worried about the idea of an axle only supported on one side, don't be! These are the same kind of axles that are used in wheelchairs, so they are well suited to the purpose. About two thirds of the length of the axle actually sits snugly inside the frame, so it is well supported.
Carry Freedom bike trailer axles DSC_1233

This is the hitch mechanism:
Carry Freedom bike trailer hitch DSC_1235

The bracket on the left goes over the bike axle, while the red plastic slides into the bar that connects to the trailer and is secured with the screw you can see. Don't worry about it being plastic - it's very strong, yet flexible enough to allow normal movement while you're riding.
Carry Freedom bike trailer hitch DSC_1236

Here's the finished product:
Carry Freedom bike trailer DSC_1238

Carry Freedom bike trailer DSC_1239

One thing that's particularly cool is that it takes about 30 seconds to undo the hitch, take the trailer off and replace the securing pin, and literally 10 seconds to pop the wheels off the trailer so you can store it easily!

When it comes to using it, there are a few things to note, such as keeping the centre of gravity of the load as low as possible, and also slightly forward of the axle. You also need to tie the load down securely. I used two ratchet straps, but found there was still some movement on bumpy roads, and had to tighten them up. A strap going sideways would be a useful addition next time.
Carry Freedom bike trailer IMG_0400

When towing the trailer empty or lightly loaded, you don't even know it's there - so you have to be careful to remember not to get too near the kerb! Once I had 50kg of wood on the back, I certainly noticed it, even on the electric bike! Braking obviously takes longer, so you limit your speed where appropriate. But it doesn't feel unsafe at all, there's just some odd movements from time to time, though I think this might be more to do with how it interacts with an electric bike. I'll be trying it with my mountain bike as well soon, once the spare bike brackets arrive from the manufacturer (it comes with one, but you can order more), and I expect that'll be a lot harder going up the hills! But maybe that'll be my training for the next time I do the London to Brighton ride...



Bottled said...

Excellent review.
I am waiting to receive the same trailer and really looking forward to putting it through its paces. Maybe this will prove to be better than panniers for a bike ride from the UK to Sweden in the Summer.

Mike Pepler said...

Yes, it would probably be easier on the bike than panniers. Nice for having the cars give you a wider berth as well! The only thing is to remember you can't fit through as narrow gaps...

Jean-Philippe Oligny-Lemieux said...

Hi, I was wondering where did you get those quick release axle pins?


Mike Pepler said...

They came with the trailer, but I've seen them on websites that sell wheelchairs.

oneheart said...

And if you drop the bike? Looks to me like you will snap that red plastic link - which is not designed for twisting. This is a weak point in the design I think. It needs a universal joint that can rotate in all directions.

Mike Pepler said...

Actually, their old model used a metal UJ, but it was noisy and prone to failure. The new plastic version is VERY flexible, and can easily twist through 90 degrees if you drop the bike.

Anonymous said...

Great review. Thinking about one of these, the videos are really helpful. Better than the company website.

Victor said...

Great trailer!