I was loaned a Bicycler Evolution EcoShopper trailer to evaluate. I do most of my shopping by bike, and while I already have a kid trailer and an XtraCycle, I definitely looked forward to testing a dedicated cargo trailer.
The EcoShopper trailer has a rugged plastic 27 gallon storage box with a snap-on lid. Its frame is “T” shaped and made out of galvanized tubing.
The 20″ wheels mount to the axle using solid bolts with a cotter pin hole at the tip, and a steel clip pin holds the bolt in the axle tube.
Ease of Setup
I received the trailer in the mail, and it was boxed up inside it’s own cargo box. The frame and wheels were ready to assemble, wrapped in bubble wrap and packed with a wad of brown paper to reduce rattling.
That night I was able to construct the trailer parts by hand and get the nuts finger-tight. I tightened them later with a ratchet. I noticed the BikeRev.com sticker on the trailer bar and I learned they had instructional videos online.
Getting the wheels into the axle tube was interesting. The rubber washers that buffer the hubs from the axle tube were thick and stiff enough that I had to actually sit on the trailer wheels sideways so flatten them down so as to align the cotter pin holes. (Later I realized I should have dropped the washers into a cup of hot water to soften them up.) Attaching the trailer to your rear bicycle axle is done with a pneumatic quick release. The female coupling is at the tip of the trailer tongue, attached to a neoprene rubber hose. The male end of the coupling you attach to your rear axle.
The trailer frame is rated for 75 pounds. The cargo box is about 31 x 21 x 14 inches. When you snap the lid on normally, there is no reason why you couldn’t also place another Tough Box on top of the trailer if you wanted to use a pair of flat nylon cinch straps to tighten it down. I can place a 30 qt long tub inside, or three 15qt Sterlite tubs on their sides, or four 15qt tubs stacked. Putting four tubs in makes it difficult to close the lid. The trailer lid can be placed on the cargo tub upside down and you can use a some kind of clip to fasten the lid on upside-down. I drilled more holes around the lid to attach keyring clips for keeping an upside down lid on the trailer. The trailer tongue is long enough so that I didn’t have any issues with the back tire or fender touching the cargo box. There is not more than a few inches between the rear tire and the cargo box, however.
Versatility and Ease of Use
I was able to use the trailer right away. Attaching the trailer to the bike is one brisk movement: you push the female quick release onto the male hitch you placed on your rear axle and click…you’re done. The mechanism is much quicker to operate than the PVC vice on my Burley Bee trailer. Installing the mounting bracket on the outside of the chain stay and dropout involves unscrewing your rear axle but does not involve removing the rear wheel. If you can change a flat on your rear wheel, this bracket will be no problem to attach.
I assume that such a plain bucket design is intended to be fungible to my needs, thus the simplicity of the trailer’s design ads to its versatility. I promptly decided it was necessary reflectorize and to attach red blinkies to the back of the trailer. It was simple to adorn the cargo tub with reflective tape. If the trailer came with reflective tape, I would have preferred that. I also replaced the hose-bolt on the trailer tongue with an eye bolt. This was so I could lock the trailer to my bike. I would have preferred that the trailer come with an eye bolt and a cable. Also, if some children I know end up playing space-ship or otherwise closing the lid on each other…I added some air vents in case.
Handling (on and off the bike)
I pulled this trailer behind my Trek diamond frame bike and my Rans Tailwind recumbent, going to work, to the grocery store, doing about 21 miles a day to work and back, covering chip seal, traffic, gravel paths and I made sure to try some forest trails in the park, too. Pulling the EcoShopper is effortless and I have enjoyed having it on the bike. With the load off my bike, often find it preferable to using my Xtracycle which I have to ballance when loaded. Sometimes, I want to use a bike with low handlebars, like in high wind and rain conditions. Like any trailer, the EcoShopper is not intended as a high-speed accessory, but the 20″ wheels did not offer any undue drag or change the handling of my bike.
With 20″ wheels, this trailer has a higher center of mass than if it had 12″ wheels. When empty or lightly loaded (less than about 7 lbs), turning up onto driveways the trailer would flip to its side. I assume this is part of the learning curve. Also, pulling the trailer over a curb at an angle when walking my bike, it tended to flop over. If you approach your curbs in a perpendicular fashion, you minimize the tipping.
Using smaller containers inside the trailer are prudent to prevent shifting. The trailer has no tie downs or partitions, so I would use two tubs to keep my ballast weight from sliding around (and knocking against my cargo).
I shall soon have the opportunity to use it at my local Farmers Market, where I’m looking forward to seeing how it hauls around by hand. I do not have the BikeRev handle attachment for the trailer, but (being a cheapskate) I was considering a simple homemade leash.
Compared to a Kid Trailer
There are a lot of chores I would do with the EcoShopper that I wouldn’t do with my kid trailer: I could not haul a load of loam, ten gallons of ice cubes, a load of snow balls, or a dis-assembled mountain bike. My child trailer does not lug more than two or three shopping bags easily, and back flap on nylon kid trailers seem to allow groceries to fall out. The Eco is lighter than my Burley Bee, so I can lift it up and rest it on a shelf with little problem. If I needed to ship it again, it would be little effort to disassemble the trailer and pack it up in the manner it was mailed to me. The trailer is pretty narrow, skinnier than my Burley Bee kid trailer. The Eco will easily roll through your doorway or into a closet for storage, which my kid trailer won’t. The EcoShopper is not intended for hauling kids. I wouldn’t worry about a pothole tipping kids out…rather I would expect that wild kids when bouncing left and right would unintentionally tip the trailer with their antics.
Compared to my XtraCycle
Deciding between using my XtraCycle and the EcoShopper is actually a bit of challenge. I can more quickly load the EcoShopper with my plastic tubs. Debatably, given proper tie-downs, I haul more tubs with the trailer if I include loading the panniers on my short bike. And, if I were hauling light, fragile items (like boxes of donuts), I would much rather use a trailer than the snap deck on my Xtra. In the case of donuts, I would want to add ballast to the trailer so as to prevent an empty flip, though. Granted that I have a way to store an Xtra, and I have kids and haul cargo, I often opt for the Xtra first and forgo a trailer. Also, my Xtra will more likely tip than the trailer. However, I can haul twice the mass using the Xtra that I could with the Eco. And when I have to take my kids to school…of course I’m using my XtraCycle.
I don’t store my bicycle equipment outdoors, but rain and snow are my frequent commuting companions. The plastic cargo tub is weather proof and should survive a lot longer than a nylon fabric trailer. Maintenance should be no problem: except for the wheels, trailer parts are standard items from the hardware store (not a bike store). The plastic that makes the tub is a rather pliable PVC and not a rigid HDPE that is prone to splitting. I don’t have plans to see how long the cargo box would survive direct sunlight (and living in the pacific northwest, that’s pretty funny), but I did use this box in wet weather and it does keep the rain out. If you want to do your shopping in the rain however, I would suggest being in the habit of placing your groceries in some smaller covered containers to keep the them dry when the lid is off, off course.
I was concerned that the lid of the trailer might fly off, but the lid stays secure even after flipping over and being dragged, so there is little reason to secure the lid further. When The EcoShopper flips, even at 14mph, the lid stays on…even if it flipped entirely onto its lid. The pneumatic coupling never accidentally came free. The extra holes I added to the lid for D-clips are only necessary for when I want to attach the lid upside-down.
The EcoShopper is useful and durable, and among trailer prices I’ve seen, I think it stands in the middle. Discussing the trailer with acquaintances, I heard a few comments like: “I’d be great if they could get the price down,” and “At $200 I’d rather find a used trailer on Craiggers.” If you are inclined to mechanics and want to build your own cargo trailer, you probably wouldn’t buy new trailer. However, if you are a parent or professional with a full time job and you don’t have to haul young kids around, I bet you’d like this trailer. Is it worth $199? I think could be if it stood out more with some refinements. If it came stock with a few of the modifications I made, that would save time for busy people like me, and make dark-weather commuters feel safer.
If you are interested in evaluating the trailer, you have a little time left to get in on that opportunity.