The Donkey Cycle Trailer

The Donkey is the first commercially available cycle trailer I’ve ever used. The UK dealers, PCL Products, kindly recently lent me one to test. I thought I’d pass on my experiences.

Fitting the Trailer

The glossy leaflet claims

‘The standard towing rack fits most bikes. There’s also a special universal fitting for bikes with fat stays, and three legged pannier racks.’

I started with the standard towing rack, but this wouldn’t fit around my bike’s pannier rack, so PCL Products posted me the universal one instead. Sadly, this meant I wasn’t able to try out the trailer in time to collect the Campaign’s December newsletter, which was what I’d really hoped to do.

Once the replacement rack arrived, I set about putting the thing together, with the help of Campaign member Mark Clarke. Two wing nuts are used to fit the towing rack to the seat stays. With the line drawings supplied, we eventually figured it out. It’s actually quite a simple fitting, and because of the bulk of the towing rack, I think I’d probably only put it on when I intended to use the trailer. For a few weeks I’ve been riding around with the rack fitted, and my D-lock has been harder to use as a result.

Photo of Donkey Trailer (13k)

PCL Products place great emphasis on ensuring that customers don’t overload their bikes whilst using the trailer. Bike frames are designed to withstand a certain maximum load, and it’s apparently possible to overload most UK frames, if you carry maximum weight in both panniers and trailer.

Photo of Donkey Trailer Hitch (5k)

Once the rack is fitted to your bike, attaching the trailer is pure simplicity. A clip just snaps over a universal hook. Very clever. I did find one time, however, that I got over-confident, and the clip came apart in my hands. Gulp. The trailer has a nylon strap which can be used as an extra safeguard, in case the clip comes loose. I’d recommend it is used!

Handling

This has been the hardest part for me to write, as I can’t compare this trailer with any others.

My first observation was that, as I cycled along on the flat, the trailer rocked backwards and forwards ever so slightly. One moment I felt as if I was being pushed forward, and the next I was being dragged backwards. I quickly got used to this sensation when cycling on smooth surfaces, although I felt I had to slow down a lot for Cambridge’s potholes, and most of all for the speed bumps on Stretten Avenue. I’m told by friends who own trailers that this sensation is par for the course.

The Donkey is claimed to be the safest trailer on the market, as the anti-roll bar is designed to prevent it jack-knifing or tipping over. It certainly seemed to help, and it stopped me turning corners too tightly. However, I found that if I hit bumps or potholes at a certain speed, one of the two wheels lifted off the ground slightly, and the trailer oscillated sideways for a few seconds. Although this was a bit disturbing, the bike never ran out of control.

Specification

Model Donkey Cycle Trailer (Model 850.00)
Manufacturer Winther, Denmark
Construction Steel tube frame, with polyester moulded box
Features Anti-tip bar built into the towing rack. The trailer can be wheeled around like a small shopping trolley
Waterproof? Yes, with nylon cover
Wheels Two 16 in x 1.75 in, and a single jockey wheel for walking with the trolley
Overall dimensions Width 61 cm, length 100 cm including the handle
Internal dimensions Height 60 cm, width 38.5 cm, depth 37.5 cm
Weight 10.5 kg, rack approx. 1.4 kg
Maximum load 50 kg
Carrying volume Approximately 68 litres
UK suppliers PCL Products, 9b Muspole Street, Norwich, NR3 1DJ. phone 01603 661860, fax 01603 621505
Cost £199 including VAT

Conclusion

I loved the extra freedom that having a trailer gave me. I could take a load of recycling on the way to the shops, off load it, and come home with a full load again. I enjoyed not carrying fully-loaded panniers around, too.

If you’re thinking of getting one, and have a rack on your bike, you’ll probably need the universal rack.

Thanks to PCL Products for the loan of the Donkey, and to Mark Clarke for help trying it out.

Clare Macrae