SURLY TED TRAILER
Trailer assembled 9.8kg Hitch assembled (with QR skewer) 3.4kg Silver and Black £699.99 (trailer) £279.99 (hitch)
Surly’s Ted Trailer is the short-bed sibling of long-bed Bill. With a maximum payload of a mighty 300lbs, adjustable to be a perfect fit for most bikes, and the sort of rugged construction you’d expect from Surly, it certainly has much to recommend it. At this asking price, you’d expect it to be very good, but you’d also want to be pretty sure that it is the trailer for your excellent adventure.
Pros: Very well-made, flexible, sturdy, adjustable.
Cons: Its virtues do not come cheaply. More points for fixing lights would be handy.
With a max load of a whacking great 300lbs, around 136kg, Surly’s Ted is the short-based version of big brother Bill. even so, the bed is a big - 32x24 inches (max width of trailer including bash guards is a smidgen under 30 inches). Obvious applications spring to mind hefty or large loads in urban delivery settings or in any circumstances when that bit of extra ooomf is required, may extend into other sphere’s - family cycling tours with one parent hauling the camping gear, everyone’s clothing, cuddly toys, and kitchen sink, spring to mind. Other two-wheeled flatbeds or box-trailers may suit you better, and a single-wheeler remains my preference for longer solo touring trips. Yet, good old Ted offers tremendous flexibilty in load carrying, weight, and adjustment.
Note, what you get is a flat bed trailer. Its up to you to get creative and build a solid platform, box, cage, etc. How permanent any of those are is up to you, too, but remember that one of Ted’s virtues is his ability to be adapted.
Constructed of TIG welded 4130 cro-moly - longevity is literally built-in - but Surly recommend a dose of frameprotector. I’d be inclined to agree There are threaded mounting points around which you can construct your own platform, box, cage, whatever you want really. They’ve also come in handy for slim bungee hooks, though have a care not to damage the thread. Get down the hardware store for bolts, threaded rods, and get to work!
Maxxis Hookworm 16x1.95 tyres sit on Alex DM24 rims. Its MTB counterpart was once described as the “original urban assault” tyre, and designed to suit the “most aggressive urban warrior.” You’d expect it to deal pretty well with Ted’s demands. Fundamentally, there’s plenty of air to carry the weight, and to vary pressures. Just check your pump head or chuck will fit between the spokes. Maybe I'll swap tubes to some with an angled valve.
Hubs are held tight by solid flanged bolts - these are drive and non-drive specific. There’s been no hint of any loosening or wobble. Stout stuff, Surly. Protective wheel arches can also be used to attach after market add-on fenders - mudguards. Attention to detail also runs to bash-guards which fit on the forward side of the wheel.
All so far is tidy and rugged. Perhaps the real genius is in the hitch. This is sold separately and there are alternatives for attaching to your bike, so check out what you need. Initially, the thing looked a bit cumbersome, but is surprisingly light and very effective. Surly claim that it will work on bkes with disc brakes and full suspension, whilst racks and mudguards present no problems. Certainly, there’s been no issue on my disc-braked tourer with its sturdy Tubus racks. Attaching to the bikes axle - and held in place by tightening two bevilled screws - there’s plenty of clearance. Surly offer mounting sysyems for QR skewers and for 10x1mm threaded axle, not 3/8th threaded.
Axle mounted trailers generally track better than those hitched to a chain-stay or a seat post. Surly’s hitch has the added advantage of allowing the trailer to be aligned on the centreline of the bike on hubs between 120 and 145mm width, a real plus for handling. Detailed instructions are given, but things are largely intuitive.
Centring adjustment is matched by a simple system for adjusting the slope of the trailer, generally to keep it level. Surly claim that wheels from 20-29 inches will be fine. I’ve hitched it to a friends twenty inch wheels with no problem. I have gone as high as 28 inch, and there was a little more to go. Again, the screw adjustment is pretty intuitive, but instructions are given.
Tyre variety and size being the spice of bike life, its worth mentioning that whilst Surly promise the hitch will go as big as 29x3 inch tyres, it won’t fit a Fatbike. Not sure, have a chat wth them.
The massive 300lbs weight limit is wildly above what most riders require (though you might want the longer wheel-based Bill if shifting long loads). Huge loads are really in the realm of the eco-warrior, but the flexibility of design and ability to go above the usual 40k weight limit of most trailers gives it wider appications in family touring, utility and business cycling. Likewise the bigger area of the flat-bed.
Tongue weight? If your not familiar with the term, this refers to the downward weight through the hitch onto - in this case - the axle. Too little and the trailer is going to sway, too much and steering will suffer. 50lbs is the max for Ted, but be sure to get the minimum above zero. Easy enough in most circumstances with sensible loading, but if unsure get a strong spring balance and weigh it. This is a must under very heavy loading. Tyre pressure will influence handling, too.
In most countries, trailers are required to have their own lighting system after dark. As with the box, platform or whatever you construct on the trailer, you need to use a bit of ingenuity to fit a red light or two on the back. Reflectors are provided. Given the width of the trailer, it may well be worth sorting out a white blinkie or two for the front, if you are abit of a night-tripper. Fixing lights to the trailer base increases flexibility, but a permanent structure could have light fittings built in.
Ted has provoked a good deal of gossip - so would Bill - in the Seven Day Cycling Bunker. Ignoring those who won’t look at more than one wheel on their trailer, there’s been a good deal of discussion. Single-wheels will always track better and reamain, in my opinion, a better choice for general, solo touring. Having said that, shorter, less technical outings - I recall family camping trips - have made some look at Ted more favourably. Enthusiasm has been prominent amongst the gardening and DIY clan, who see themselves tugging their nice, new decking home form the retail park. Most have admired the workmanship and Surly’s attention to hardy detail. However, all have puffed at the price. Yes the trailer is worth the money, but all agree, that you need to be sure that Ted is the one for you. Mind, once yours, you will probably have Ted in tow for life.
Deeper discussion has beaten about braking power. Surly recommend, rightly, that you make sure your bike-tractor has sufficiently powerful brakes for heavy loads. Disc brakes might be a must once the scales start to rise - Vee-brakes for some loads. Leading us into the world of physics, we puzzled about the point at which a trailer should have an independent braking system.
It has been suggested that half the weight of the rider and bike on the front should provide the max marker. Well, in my case, that allows for some fifty kilos; hardly a challenge to Ted. Others suggetsed that a closer equivalance of weights was ok. Still within Ted’s capacity. Given that none of us really liked the idea of pulling over 100kg by bike - puny-pedallers that we are - this was largely academic. However, with heavier loads braking power has significant safety implications.
Concluding that a lot depended on your bike, its brakes, tyres, the terrain, distances, and speeds, it’s encumbent on the rider to ensure that the set-up is safe and appropriate for their purposes.
Full instructions included. Follow them, as the order in which things is done does make a difference. They are accurate and simple to follow, so no excuses really. Surly recommend applying an appropriate grease to relevant parts. Given that, for me, this was a test item, I used a simple medium weight lube. Ownership would bring some thing more weighty, as well as a frame protection potion on the inside.
Getting started with no load is a good idea, especially if trailers or two-wheelers are a new venture. The peculiarities of cornering, accelerating, braking are all worth discovering before heading out under load.
Compared to other two-wheelers I’ve tried out, the Surly Ted tracks very well. You’d not expect it to do that as well as a single-wheeler, but the centring device did its job. Not a major advantage under light load, but a marginal gain. Increasing the load, keeping the trailer centred certainly aided stability and traction on rougher cycle paths. On that note, I was pleased to find it fitted through all the A frame obstructions on my regular commuting route.
With 40kg of shopping on board, apart from the extra weight, cornering and manouverabilty reamined solid as a rock. With cantilever brakes this was pretty much the upper-end weight-wise, for me. Vee-brakes or discs, in myopinion, for anything more. Overcautious? Well having been shoved down a short, but steep slope by an overloaded Bob Yak tribute and suffering the undignified and painful results, I tend toward the “easy-does-it” school of trailer-towers.
Loading is important. Surly offer plenty of suggestions about getting a good balance. Fundamentally, the heavier the load, the more important it is to centre the mass over a line drawn between the axles. The quality of the ride with 50kg plus loads, is likely to reflect your ability to load it as much as the trailers ability to behave obediently as you roll along.
Talking of rolling, Maxxis suggest inflation to 110psi max, but for most loads this may add to the trailer’s desire to bounce around - common to all trailers. Heading to town for the shopping there were far too many speed bumps for comfort. Surly suggest going as low as 35psi to start with and seeking out a sweet spot. Needless to say, go too low and progress may become stodgy and unpredictable. In the long run this is a matter of balance. Around the fifty kilo mark, I’ve found 70-80psi about perfect. Experimenting is important, and an awareness of terrain, too. In the long run, there are numerous variables, so it really does come down to personal preference.
Personally, I’m unlikely to reach Ted’s 136kg/300lb max load. Piling stuff on to the tune of 220lbs, handling was still pretty good. The rider was probably under-powered and there were issues with braking on descents, but neither of those can be blamed on Ted.
On the whole, I was happy with a pleasant twelve to fourteen mph with well-adjusted cantilever brakes and 40kg of shopping, along the road and cycle-track home. With heavier loads, I’d drop that to ten or less. Discs or vee-brakes would be a different matter, but, Ted is built for comfort rather than speed.
On that front, rutted rough-stuff trails a mor the province of single-wheelers. Ted has taken forest roads, rough tow-path, and cart tracks in his stride. Surly say there's a maximum drop of six inches, but aim for as shallow as possible to avoid scraping Ted's bottom.
Storage is more complex than the old Bob Yak tribute that hangs on a big old nail in the shed. Easy enough to stow on its side sans box or whatever’s fixed to the flat-bed, those with limited space shoud think carefully about where Ted will feel secure. Probably not one for the bedsit, I’d consider a big tarpaulin and a spot in the corner of the garden. A good locking point with a hefty chain, too.
“Stalwart” is the word for Ted. Just what you’d expect in terms of Surly solidity, with a touch of their genius, too. Ted, and Bill, go well beyond what most trailers can cope with. Having considered usage, storage, the price, you may decide that Ted is for you. If you do, then you’ll have a hard-working, loyal friend. Look after him, and he’ll probably be about to carry you to your final resting place. Bodacious!
Verdict: 4.5/5 What my 4x4 off-roader friends call, “A serious bit of kit.” A significant financial investment, but in the class of government bonds.
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2018