Review: The Burley Travoy is an almost-perfect bike trailer for city life

Review: The Burley Travoy is an almost-perfect bike trailer for city life

If you ask me, every e-bike should be able to carry some cargo.

Some cyclists do everything to minimize the weight and maximize the aerodynamics of their two-wheel machines. But as someone who uses e-bikes as veritable car (and subway) replacements rather, I need to be able to run most of the errands I’d regularly do using a larger vehicle.

The Burley Travoy makes it so I needn’t have to choose. An ingenious cross between a bike trailer, a handtruck, and a granny cart, the Travoy has helped me haul all sorts of things I’d never imagined I’d be able to carry on a bike — from several weeks worth of groceries to large packages and even some furniture. At $300, it’s a pricey add-on, but if you ever carry anything more than a bag or two of groceries, its incredible versatility and clever design make it well worth the price.

(Note: I started testing the Travoy months ago, but during the process of this review, Burley released and sent over a new model with several improvements. I’ll mostly be referring to the newer model, but most of my impressions reflect both.)

$220 worth of groceries, though I’ve carried far more than this. Pictured are the optional Lower and Upper Market Bags.

Bikes trailers have been around forever — Burley itself has been making them for over 40 years — but they are usually bulky attachments that present particular challenges for city dwellers.

Though many fold up, they still take up a large amount of space in a small apartment. Their bulkiness makes them a pain to maneuver through a hallway, and makes them more unwieldly navigating among congested traffic. Moreover using them to haul cargo means having to leave them outside stores, making them a potential target for thieves.

The Burley Travoy avoids these pain points. Some key usability highlights:

  • Because it’s set at a partly vertical angle, it has a smaller footprint than a typical bike trailer with similar capacity.
  • When you’re not using it, it folds down to the size of a large backpack or briefcase — wheels included. The included tote serves as a storage bag for the entire unit.
  • A small footprint, quick-release hitch, built in kickstand and built-in handle make it easy to bring into a store and use as a shopping cart. It’s much more comfortable than walking around a store with heavy panniers.
  • The included tote bag and tie-down straps make it easy to carry groceries, packages, and cargo. These attach via several mounting points on the Travoy’s frame, making it easy to add or remove accessories. There are also optional accessories, such as bag clips to use your own bags, or bags better catered for groceries or commuters.
  • By default, the trailer attaches to your bike via a seatpost hitch. The latest version uses a resizable hitch that can be attached and detached from the seatpost in seconds, making it ideal for users or families with multiple bikes. It even works for bikeshare services (such as NYC’s Citibikes), as you don’t need any tools to attach the trailer.
  • It comes with reflectors at the bottom, and there’s a mounting bracket for accessory lighting.
  • The latest version of the Travoy has an extensible arm to fit more bikes; the previous one could be finicky fitting over large wheels with large racks. There is also an optional rack mount should if the Travoy still doesn’t fit or if you’d like to be able to use your rack and the Travoy at the same time (say, for a particularly massive grocery haul).
The quick-release hitch can be attached and removed in seconds. It fits seatposts from 25 to 35 mm wide.

It changed my shopping habits. I went from doing small frequent shops at nearby limited and expensive markets to buying several weeks of groceries at locations further away.

I also used my bike to ship and pick up large packages rather than calling a cab. Sometimes, I didn’t even use it with my bike at all. I often used it as hand truck for taking my laundry across the street, or for picking up hardware from the Home Depot a couple of blocks away.

Credit: Burley
Folding the Travoy

What perhaps surprised me the most about the Travoy is how stable it is when loaded with cargo.

I used the Travoy on a few bikes, but mostly on the Juiced Bikes CrossCurrent X, a powerful e-bike that has no trouble hauling the cargo up hills. Despite its power, filling up large panniers and a front basket with weeks of groceries makes for a bit of an unstable ride. Turning requires extra care to keep myself from losing my balance due to the additional, often uneven load — my anxiety heightened above the usual on city streets.

With the Travoy, the experience is the opposite; the two wheels and tilted angle keep it stable from the outset, and adding more cargo only makes it more so. Over several months of usage, I never felt like I was at risk of having cargo tip over or compromise my stability. If anything, the extra wheels helped my bike feel more stable.

I picked up an office chair from staples with the older version of the travoy. Note I had to use separate cam straps as the uncluded tie downs straps were not long enough for this particular package.

There are some caveats to keep in mind though:

  • Despite the extendable tow arm, it still might not fit on your bike setup out of the box. I use a beefy suspension seatpost on the CCX, for example, which forces the hitch to mount too low to clear my bike‘s rack at my preferred seat height. I had to use the optional rack mount instead (or remove my rack).
  • There’s very little clearance between the rack mount and the rack. If you mount it at the front of the rack to minimize the setup’s footprint, there are might only be a few millimeters of clearance. I ended up using washers to elevate the rack mount a bit.
  • Because of those potential  difficulties, it would be nice if Burley sold a seat post hitch that simply extended from your bike at a higher angle instead.
  • The included cargo bag only covers the bottom portion of the Travoy. Accessories will cost you; the Upper Market Bag for groceries is $90. You can always just tie down a backpack or shopping bag with the included straps, but market bags are much nicer.
  • The stated weight limit is 60 pounds, so you won’t be hauling around refrigerators.
  • On that note, I wish Burley sold a Travoy XL for larger or wider loads – the wheel guards limit package width to about 15 inches. Burley sells plenty of heavy duty trailers for bigger items, but I’d like to see something in the Travoy’s more city-friendly hand truck format.
  • Not so much a caveat, but a suggestion for the next version: it’d be nice if we could use top portion of the Travoy as a platform. The part that runs parallel to the ground and over your wheel could have acted as an extra rack itself. It’d come in handy for items that need to remain flat, like a pizza. I’ve strapped down some lightweight groceries on this part before, but the Travoy isn’t really designed for it.

All things considered, these are minor caveats. The Burley Travoy helped me carry more than I ever thought possible with an e-bike, and it makes for a handy shopping cart too. At $300 it’s a pricey investment, but it’ll pay for itself over time with the money you save calling cabs for those heavy loads.

The Travoy is available from Burley.com for $299.99 in Black and ‘Cool Grey’ colorways (Cool Grey is featured in this review). For the same price, a limited-edition blue color, shown above, is available in partnership with the PeopleForBikes, a bicycling advocacy group. Burley will donate $30 to the PeopleForBikes Community Grant Program with each blue Travoy sold, funds that help advance projects for cyclists in the United States, including bike paths, trails, and other initiatives.

Travoy on Burley

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