One of the best things about SUP is the possibility to paddle on any body of water – oceans, lakes, rivers and even man-made indoor water parks. Wherever you look there is a body of water just waiting to be explored by a stand up paddler. With that in mind, however, one of the largest challenges for paddlers is getting their board to the water. The boards are large and may be difficult for some paddlers to position on top of a vehicle. Others may live close to the water, but not quite close enough to carry a board from their residence to the shoreline. Sure you can drive, but there is still that long walk from the parking lot to the water’s edge. Enter the Wheele SUP.
According to the company, the first Wheele Surf Trailer was conceived in the mid 90s by a San Clemente, California resident seeking a convenient and reliable method to transport surf boards to the beach via bicycle. Fast forward to contemporary times, The Wheele Rack Company led by Mike Holland, a long-time entrepreneur, inventor and all around tinkerer, has delivered a rugged bicycle trailer as a thoughtfully engineered solution for stand up paddlers’ transportation woes.
The Wheele SUP
Close up of the hitch.
The Wheele SUP bicycle trailer is essentially comprised of four primary components:
Frame: The telescoping, square steel tubing frame can be adjusted to three settings to accommodate various board lengths. Three board racks made of high density rubber are mounted on top of the frame to support and cushion your board.
Wheels: The rims are constructed of one piece of high strength molded plastic which is mounted on 13 inch (33 cm) tires made from EVA puncture proof foam.
Bag & Cover: A heavy-duty, lightweight bag attaches on the underside of the frame and is large enough to hold a wet suit, leash and other gear. It even includes a side storage pocket for small items. The cover is lined with elastic and is easily attached by stretching the fabric around the top of the bag.
Hitch: A custom designed hitch which enables rotation on three separate axis for ultimate maneuverability.
SUP Examiner’s Take
The Wheele SUP is a terrific, well designed bicycle trailer suitable for anyone looking for an alternative to transporting your board to the water. This innovative bicycle trailer is sold in a space-saving flat pack that can be shipped directly to your door from the Orange County California-based company. If you shirk at the idea of self assembly, fear not. This kit is easier than Ikea with the aid of a well scripted, six-minute YouTube video posted by the Wheele Rack Company. Assembly is literally as easy as tying a pair of shoes!
We tested the Wheele SUP around Los Angeles for the past few months and found it to be a fantastic, eye-catching solution for transporting your SUP to the water’s edge. We used the rack with a 3-speed beach cruiser and it would also work well with a mountain bike. If there are any hills along your route you will definitely want a bicycle with gears. Our 3-speed beach cruiser got the job done in our area where we only really encountered one minor elevation rise.
The trailer looks good and will attract attention from bystanders as you make your way through the traffic to the beach. In fact, as our product reviewer was cycling through Marina del Rey yesterday afternoon after a session on the water, he spotted by a young couple each holding an end of their SUP as they made their way down the sidewalk. As he whizzed by with a smile he distinctly heard the young girl tell her boyfriend, “We need one of those”.
The Wheele SUP hitch slides onto your bicycle’s seat post. If you have a rear light on the seat post you may need to remove and/or reposition it when attaching the hitch. Make sure the tow bar has enough clearance over your rear fender; attach the cotter pin to secure it in place and you’re all set!
Included bungee cords.
The rack has three settings to adjust the length and is long enough to accommodate a 14’ board which is pretty cool. Positioning your board on the rack is easily accomplished, however, we found the included three bungee cord attachment system to be awkward to the point of frustration. First, the cords are attached to the underside of the rack and not conveniently secured around your board without the assistance of another person. Second, depending on the width of your board, there may be a lot of play left in the cords. We also found regardless of the board’s width, the bungee cords are simply insufficient to firmly secure your board (which is effectively balancing on the top of the trailer) resulting in a scenario where you board will shift from side to side on the trailer. Lastly, the plastic hooks and loops formed by taping down the cord on the ends of the bungees are not strong enough to hold up over time and eventually come detached.
To resolve this minor flaw in an otherwise well-designed product, we removed the included bungee cords and used basic nylon straps with quick release clips to secure our boards to the trailer. The result was a significantly improved user experience. The single length nylon straps are easy to attach without the assistance of second person as you can easily loop the strap around the board and trailer instead of battling with what essentially becomes six separate cords due to the manner which Wheele Rack Company instructs you to attach the bungees. You can also tighten the nylon straps to ensure there is not any side-to-side movement of your board as it sits on top of the trailer.
Back to the finer points, the Wheele SUP hitch articulates extremely well enabling you to easily make turns and navigate around obstacles. What impressed us the most, however, was the expertly engineered articulation points incorporated into the rear section of the trailer. The rear articulation points are the secret sauce that makes the Wheele SUP stand out by allowing the trailer to rotate side to side in a manner similar to the trucks on a skateboard. As a result, the trailer pivots naturally behind your bicycle instead of bumping along like a rigid, inanimate object.
View from back.
The EVA puncture proof foam wheels perform well and give the trailer a smooth ride. We’ve pulled the Wheele SUP over miles of concrete, dirt trails and rocks without any issues to the wheel assembly or frame. Wheele Rack Company includes a bag which attaches to the underside of the trailer like a large pouch. The rugged fabric has held up well and the size of the bag will easily accommodate a number of items, such as a wetsuit, towel and backpack. When parking your bicycle and trailer assembly, we found it is best to do so with the bicycle at an angle to the trailer. This provides stability and prevents your rig from easily toppling over.
Overall, this is a great product for paddlers looking for a pedal power solution to transporting their boards to the water. The design focus is clearly on the Wheele SUP’s performance as a bicycle trailer and while we don’t agree with the use and configuration of the included bungee cords to secure your board to the trailer, this is easily remedied with a set of inexpensive aftermarket straps that you can pick up at an outdoor store. We can really see the Wheele SUP coming in handy for paddlers living near a body of water in small towns and rural environments where the security concerns that come with leaving a bicycle trailer (and bag) on the shore are different from what one may find in a large urban area such as Los Angeles. Biking to the beach is a great warm up for your paddle and we found it fun and satisfying to make the trip under our own power.
Get out there!
Disclosure: Wheele Rack Company provided SUP Examiner with a Wheele SUP for the purposes of testing and review, however, the opinions expressed are our own.