Author Topic: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?  (Read 685 times)

Australian Guy

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Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« on: November 07, 2018, 08:23:15 PM »
Hi,

My wife and I regularly move our children around by bicycle. As the children are all under four, that means bike trailers :)

Generally the youngest (six months) is in a single trailer behind my wife, and the two eldest in a double trailer behind me. That would be about 20-25kg behind my wife's bike, and 40-45kg behind mine.

Our rear wheel spokes keep snapping. I've had to have spokes repaired on my bike three times now. I've also had to replace the sprockets (which I understand are the teethy bits on the rear wheel that the chain goes on). And, the hub bearing on my rear wheel is nearly worn out apparently. This is on a bike that is 18 months old, ridden maybe 50kms a week.

My bike is a Cannondale Quick flat bar road bike. Skinny tyres, internal brake cables (rather than stuck to outside of frame), disc brakes. My wife's is the same but one model down, brake pads instead of discs. Mine RRP is (or was) about AU$1400, wife's AU$1100.

Is there anything I should do to tow trailers in a less wearing way? The bike shop mechanic said it wasn't the type of bike that mattered (mountain, road, etc.) but purely the quality of parts - so to have a harder wearing bike, I would require better quality (in particular a better rear wheel). Is this true? But, now that I have this bike, should I wait until it wears out and replace with better parts? Or would I be better selling this bike and buying a better bike, rather than expensive part replacements?

General advice would be very helpful :)

P.S. I am not very technical, please dumb it down for me, especially any jargon


acepedro45

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2018, 08:35:42 PM »
Very interesting question. I tow a thirty pound (~14 kg) two-year-old around all the time on a beater $65 bike. I haven't noticed any ill effects from towing.

I would see how much extra weight the trailer puts on your bike frame when loaded with your kids (this is sometimes called tongue weight, but I've never seen it applied to bikes, only to a towing car or truck.) Does it seem like a lot compared to a 200 lb (90 kg) person perched mostly over the back wheel? I think it would not - I would be skeptical that it's downward force from the extra weight that is causing your issues.

Are you speculating that the trailer is the problem or do you know it for a fact? Do you regularly ride the bike with no trailer trouble-free?

Don't get discouraged! Bike transport is so awesome for kids. They usually love it and I hope it teaches them something about environmentalism and not following the herd.

Australian Guy

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2018, 09:40:19 PM »
Very interesting question. I tow a thirty pound (~14 kg) two-year-old around all the time on a beater $65 bike. I haven't noticed any ill effects from towing.

I would see how much extra weight the trailer puts on your bike frame when loaded with your kids (this is sometimes called tongue weight, but I've never seen it applied to bikes, only to a towing car or truck.) Does it seem like a lot compared to a 200 lb (90 kg) person perched mostly over the back wheel? I think it would not - I would be skeptical that it's downward force from the extra weight that is causing your issues.

Are you speculating that the trailer is the problem or do you know it for a fact? Do you regularly ride the bike with no trailer trouble-free?

Don't get discouraged! Bike transport is so awesome for kids. They usually love it and I hope it teaches them something about environmentalism and not following the herd.

I am speculating

I rarely ride the bike without a trailer, so can't really compare. They're fairly good bikes I thought so I guess I'm assuming they just don't have spokes snap randomly. If it was a factory defect, seems unlikely to be across two bikes?

Oh I'm not discouraged! It's just annoying. I'll get them fixed and keep riding them, just wondering if there's a way to prevent the damage in the first place

My 3yo can ride a pedal bike already, unfortunately just needs to be a bit bigger and older to safely commute himself. Will be a lot easier once he's about five I think :P

Dave1442397

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2018, 11:19:22 AM »
I don't know what kind of wheels you're running, but you might want to look into getting a wheel with a higher spoke count (I've seen 36 spokes on some), and make sure it uses heavy duty spokes and hub components. You can sometimes find wheels for sale on forums/facebook. You're more likely to find stronger wheels sold by people who are into bike touring, but your local bike shop may be able to help out too. If you have any local bike touring clubs, they'd probably have some leads. Wheels like this don't have to be expensive.

You could also go with a wider tire, depending on what fits your frame. A wider tire can be inflated to a lower pressure than a narrow tire. It'll give you better ride comfort without jarring as much over bumps, etc.

Again, I don't know what type of cassette (gear cogs) you have on the rear wheel, but go for strength over lightness, eg Shimano 105 will be more durable than Shimano Dura Ace.

The wear on the rear cassette can also be caused by a worn chain. Get yourself a cheap chain measuring tool - https://www.amazon.com/Park-Tool-Chain-Indicator-CC-3-2/dp/B000OZFIMQ

If the chain is worn out, it's an easy DIY fix. You'll need a chain tool - https://www.amazon.com/Park-Tool-CT-3-2-Chain/dp/B009ZN1Q0Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1541787308&sr=1-3&keywords=park+chain+breaker&dpID=31RIJQatXxL&preST=_SX300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

Some of these things are very much bike dependent, but if you have a decent bike shop near you they should be happy to tell you how to take care of the basics.

TrMama

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2018, 12:15:36 PM »
I bike quite a lot and worn wheels, cogs, and chains are just part of life. Especially if you bike in wet weather a lot due to all the extra grit that gets on them. I was under the impression than Cannondale made pretty decent bikes so I'm not sure what else to suggest that might be better.

For the kind of riding you're doing, I'd stick with a midrange bike (which is what it sounds like you have). Cheap bikes have cheap parts and will wear out quickly. However, for commuters and road bikes, high end bikes are built to be as light as possible. This means the higher end components are actually less sturdy and wear more quickly.

Personally, snapped spokes haven't been an issue for me, but they were for my DH. Are you a heavier than average person? Are you also loading heavy panniers on the back of the bike? If so, those can all contribute to spoke failure. I'd find a decent shop that will true the wheel and adjust all the spokes for you, or consider replacing the back wheel entirely. Ditto to making sure you go with a higher spoke count.

I'd also make sure you keep the chain clean and measure it periodically to check for wear. A dirty chain wears out more quickly. Once it's worn (called "stretched") it then wears out the cogs because the holes in the chain no longer line up precisely with the teeth on the cogs. I can usually get away with 3 changes of chain before I also have to replace my gears and rear derailleur cogs. Get a chain cleaning tool and some basic citrus degreaser (from the hardware store) to keep it clean. https://www.amazon.com/TOOL-CHAIN-CLEANER-CM-5-2-CYCLONE/dp/B007HDNOT2/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1541790306&sr=8-5&keywords=chain+cleaning+tool&dpID=51Zgad8dLTL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

Did the shop replace your cogs without also replacing your chain? If so, that would be pretty odd.

I'd also take it to a different shop. Just like with car mechanics, most are reputable, but some take advantage of clueless customers, or are simply clueless themselves. There's a specific shop in my town that's tried to tell me my bike needs all kinds of things replaced and I know they're just full of it.

JRA64

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2018, 01:40:41 PM »
I'm not disagreeing with anything anyone else has already said.

What sticks out to me - are you replacing the spokes one at a time as they break? I was taught if one goes, they are all about to go, just replace them all and rebuild the wheel. You may be able to use beefier spokes too.

Syonyk

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2018, 09:00:02 PM »
Our rear wheel spokes keep snapping. I've had to have spokes repaired on my bike three times now. I've also had to replace the sprockets (which I understand are the teethy bits on the rear wheel that the chain goes on). And, the hub bearing on my rear wheel is nearly worn out apparently. This is on a bike that is 18 months old, ridden maybe 50kms a week.

That's not unreasonable for heavy use, though the hub bearing wearing out is a bit unusual.  They normally last longer than 600 miles.

I've found a solution to rear wheel issues under heavy use: You want to ask for a "double walled touring wheel."  They're far stronger than a normal wheel, and are designed for loaded up use - which is what you're doing for all your miles.  Standard bike wheels aren't going to hold up to that very well, as you've learned.

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Mine RRP is (or was) about AU$1400, wife's AU$1100.

Ah... yeah.  That's a $1000 bike (US).  That's actually a bit more expensive than you want for something like trailer duty.  As you start going up in cost, you start getting lighter and weaker components.  They're great to ride, great for performance, but don't hold up to heavy duty like you might hope.  To be fair, a US$500 bike won't either, but that $500 difference covers the gap between "What you have" and "What you need."

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Is there anything I should do to tow trailers in a less wearing way? The bike shop mechanic said it wasn't the type of bike that mattered (mountain, road, etc.) but purely the quality of parts - so to have a harder wearing bike, I would require better quality (in particular a better rear wheel). Is this true? But, now that I have this bike, should I wait until it wears out and replace with better parts? Or would I be better selling this bike and buying a better bike, rather than expensive part replacements?

You're not riding a carbon fiber exotic race bike, so just replace the parts as they fail.  You'll definitely need to replace your rear wheel, and get the heaviest duty spokes you can.  I've gone through this on most of the bikes I've owned over the years, and the double walled touring wire with the biggest spokes they can fit is going to solve the problem, at a moderate weight and moderate financial cost ($100 for a wheel like this isn't unreasonable, but it won't crap out on you again).  You also want to find heavier duty sprockets.  The super light stuff?  You'll trash it.  Get the heavy stuff - literally.  Pick up the boxes for the various options.  Pick the heaviest one.  This is likely to not be the most expensive, because you start paying for less weight very quickly in the bicycle world.

Another suggestion for towing: If your brakes fit the KoolStop Electric Bike pads, use those when you wear the first set out.  They're closer to motorcycle pads and do a great job of tolerating high heat abuse you get from things like trailer towing (or having a heavy, high speed electric bike).

elliha

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2018, 07:14:33 AM »
I don't have any suggestions but I have seen more wear on my bike from tugging a trailer as well. I also use a double trailer and the total weight is probably up to 45+ kilos for me as well.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2018, 07:36:22 AM »
The more upright you sit on a bike, and the heavier that you are, the more weight the rear wheel takes.  Putting a trailer will also transfer a bit more weight onto the rear wheel as well.  The rear wheel has an additional complication in that the cassette sits there and the spokes are dished.  Typically this means the spokes on the drive side are at a high tension and the spokes on the non-drive side are at a lower tension.

In a properly built wheel, you should have similar spoke tension on all the spokes of a side of the wheel, and the wheel should be true.  Spokes will tend to lose tension as you use them.  The more that you use a wheel the more often you need to check and correct the spoke tension (usually the wheel will start to go out of true as an indicator that this is happening).

Wheels that aren't properly built will have uneven spoke tension to begin with, so to keep the wheel true some spokes will have very high tension and some will have very low tension.  The low tension spokes will break early, and the best fix for the problem is to de-tension the wheel and rebuild it more evenly.  This is a common problem with less expensive machine built bike wheels.

In general, the more spokes that you have, the better the stresses are spread among the spokes . . . so a 36 spoke rear wheel will tend to be tougher (able to accept heavier weight and greater impacts) and will be longer wearing than a 24 spoke wheel if they're built and tensioned up properly.  Some rims are stronger than others which can also spread the stress out among the spokes (typically deeper aluminum rims are stronger than the shallower ones).

I'm 200 lbs, and completely destroyed the stock 32 spoke wheels that came with my decent brand Giant bike in about a year by towing my son around, carrying heavy groceries, and generally using it pretty hard.  My utility/winter bike now sports a heavy duty 36 spoke rear wheel which has been very reliable.  Bike wheels do need maintenance, so get a spoke wrench.  You should check their tension when you first get them (it's possible to pluck them and listen to the pitch), and then check for loose spokes after the first couple rides, then regularly every few months.  If you do this your wheels should last a long time.  If you ignore them and use them heavily you'll be replacing spokes on a regular basis.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2018, 07:43:54 AM »
If you have standard Shimano type loose ball bearing hubs, you will have to replace them regularly . . . but after 600 miles sounds pretty early.  I do mine once a year or so, and get about 6000 miles a year on them.  If the hubs are adjusted too loose or too tight, you will get much less wear out of them and will be much more likely to crack the bearings.

Replacing your cassette is a whole different thing.  There are things that will wear your drivetrain more:  towing heavy things, being heavy, grinding in slow cadences rather than spinning along lightly, having a dirty chain, having a dry (unoilied) chain, cycling in gritty/sandy areas, etc.  The best you can do to reduce drivetrain wear is to regularly clean and lube your chain and to pick a gear that lets you spin between 80 - 100 rpm all of the time.

nonsequitur

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2018, 03:44:29 AM »
That sounds like a lot of repair, but not crazy I suppose.  I've been pulling kids around for the last seven years or so--done around 16k km in that time, at least half that pulling a kid, sometimes two.  Broken ~5 spokes in that time, replaced the chain ~4 times, cassette once, hub bearing never (how would I know it needs replacing?), rear tire twice.   This is all on a $500 Giant bike. 

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2018, 05:24:47 AM »
That sounds like a lot of repair, but not crazy I suppose.  I've been pulling kids around for the last seven years or so--done around 16k km in that time, at least half that pulling a kid, sometimes two.  Broken ~5 spokes in that time, replaced the chain ~4 times, cassette once, hub bearing never (how would I know it needs replacing?), rear tire twice.   This is all on a $500 Giant bike.

The hub gets noisy when it needs replacing.  Unfortunately it's hard to hear over the freewheel pauls.  I just take the rear wheel off and spin it while holding it by the axle.  If it sounds noisy at all, replace the bearings.  New bearings are only a dollar or two, and grease is pretty cheap.  Running a hub with bad bearings can damage it beyond repair pretty quickly (which I've done) so it's easiest just to replace things on a schedule.

Australian Guy

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2018, 04:34:07 PM »
Thank you all for your replies, they've been really helpful!

I think when the wheel wears out I will replace it with a heavier duty one (more spokes, heavier, etc.)

I generally keep the chain clean and oiled but I will now pay more attention to whether it's correctly tensioned and/or how worn it is.

Also useful to know that lighter use (higher RPM) is less wearing.

:)

rothwem

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2018, 02:47:38 PM »
Thank you all for your replies, they've been really helpful!

I think when the wheel wears out I will replace it with a heavier duty one (more spokes, heavier, etc.)


Its not JUST the amount of spokes though, to be honest.  Use a quality rim and a quality hub.  Good hub brands are DT Swiss, Hope and Shimano (off the top of my head).  The Shimano stuff uses cup and cone bearings that can be really durable, but sometimes they're not adjusted well from the factory and they eat themselves really quickly.  A good test to see if the bearings on a Shimano (or any cup and cone hub) are adjusted is to lift the end up that you want to test and wiggle the rim side to side (axially along the hub's axis).  If there's play, the hub needs adjustment.  Don't ride it when there's play, that's how you destroy the hub.  If you feel this on a non-cup and cone hub, you just need to buy new bearings, and different hub manufacturers make it varying levels of difficult to swap these out. 

Good rim brands are Mavic, DT Swiss, Easton and WTB, again off the top of my head.  Luckily, you won't find much superlight race stuff in 36 spoke configuration, so you should be able to avoid the "silly light" stuff.  A Mavic A719 or A119 rim is a good choice and not TOO pricey.

Lastly, get the wheel built by someone who knows what they're doing.  You can do it yourself if you're at least kinda smart, but the tensionometer and the truing stand are double the cost of the wheel you're about to build.  I'm not sure what bike parts cost in Australia, but a quality rear wheel is probably going to run you at least $150 US and its worth it to avoid having your bike break constantly. 


Syonyk

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Re: Bicycle trailer wearing my rear wheel - what to do?
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2018, 08:08:26 PM »
I'm not sure what bike parts cost in Australia, but a quality rear wheel is probably going to run you at least $150 US and its worth it to avoid having your bike break constantly.

Yeah, that's a fair warning - a good rear wheel is expensive.  It is, however, cheaper than a never-ending succession of cheap rear wheels that break.