Testing the off-road capability...
Testing the off-road capability of the Trailer Toad on our first journey.
After completing a 4,000-plus-mile road trip, the jury is finally in on the Trailer Toad. The Trailer Toad took everything I could throw at it, including exploring the desert of Utah, experiencing hurricane-force crosswinds and tire blowouts, and tackling twisty grades and passes meant for much smaller rigs.
But let's back up a minute to explain how I arrived at using the Trailer Toad. I drive a Ford F-550 with a rather large Bigfoot slide-in camper that extends 3 feet past the rear bumper. I use a custom-fabricated 36-inch basket/hitch extension that moves the location of the hitch behind the camper to give me adequate clearance between the trailer and camper.
I had put aside six to eight...
I had put aside six to eight hours to set up and dial in the Trailer Toad for my unique application. Much to my surprise, I was finished in less than an hour.
This setup worked well for the 16-foot enclosed trailer I used in the past, which combined a distribution hitch and relatively light tongue weight. But as my motorcycle business grew and the need increased for transporting more bikes and products to events I do around the country, I began researching my options for towing a larger trailer.
The truck camper setup really fit my lifestyle, and with the extensive improvements I have made to the truck and camper lift system (StableLift), I had no desire to start over with a different tow rig or RV. After researching the pros and cons of different setups, I determined that the Trailer Toad seemed like the best option. There were a few sleepless nights after purchasing both a new 24-foot trailer and the Trailer Toad, hoping they were going to work together, but things actually worked out fine.
Here's the front of the Toad....
Here's the front of the Toad. Notice the kickstand!
With the deadline to leave for my first event of the year fast approaching, not only did I have bikes to prep, I now had a new trailer to set up as well as complete the buildup on the F-550. I hadn't even unpacked the Trailer Toad until two days before I planned to leave for the trip.
Basket extension with height-adjustable...
Basket extension with height-adjustable bar from distribution hitch.
I had put aside six to eight hours to set up and dial in the Trailer Toad for my unique application. Much to my surprise, I was finished in less than an hour. I simply bolted on the two fenders and split the distribution hitch so that the arms were bolted to the rear of the Trailer Toad and the height-adjustable hitch on the front. Both the front and the rear of the Trailer Toad are height adjustable, so it can be set up to meet the needs of virtually any setup. A distribution hitch is required for the Trailer Toad to work properly. Fortunately, it is compatible with most distribution hitch designs.
The First Experience
Here I am putting on the finishing...
Here I am putting on the finishing touches of assembly.
The first stop on my journey was at an industry event in the Utah desert. I only had GPS coordinates and very poor directions to find the "secret location." Once I arrived at the turn-off from the highway, instead of the location being a half-mile off the highway, I discovered I had 15 miles of rough dirt road still to go, much of which was tight switchbacks with a few gullies thrown in for good measure. Needless to say, negotiating a 53-foot, 26,000-pound rig through these conditions was entertaining. Once I arrived at the entrance to the location, I had a half-mile of sandy two-track to drive over. Then I had to turn the rig around and find a camping spot. Time to lock in the four-wheel-drive, engage the Eaton front diff locker, and hope that my Toyo Open Country M/T tires were up for the challenge. Encountering deep sand and not having to break out the winch was definitely an added bonus and allowed cocktail hour around the campfire to start that much earlier.
It takes some practice to...
It takes some practice to get it hooked up properly the first time, but after a few attempts it becomes second nature.
The Trailer Toad handled it all flawlessly. I quickly disconnected the trailer and Trailer Toad from our tow rig to position the camper for easier access. One lesson I can offer is that you must unhook the trailer from the Trailer Toad in order to disconnect it from the tow rig. I initially thought I might be able to unhook the Trailer Toad from the vehicle and leave it connected to the trailer, but this would have been very difficult to do and almost impossible to reattach. This added an extra step to the process of hooking up and disconnecting the trailer, but by the end of the trip it became second nature. After some practice, it only took a few minutes to attach the Trailer Toad to the tow vehicle then attach the trailer to the Toad. Although the Trailer Toad is heavy, it is actually easy to maneuver by turning the tires and walking it around on the provided "kickstand." I also found that by using the distribution hitch arms as leverage, it moved with some ease.
In a large parking lot, you...
In a large parking lot, you get an idea of just how long my truck and trailer is (53') and why I needed the Toad.
The entire trip included interstate driving as well as two-lane highways. I discovered, especially at higher speeds, the Trailer Toad was much happier with added tongue weight on the trailer, otherwise it tended to sway a bit. Once I moved several hundred pounds to the front of the trailer, it tracked great and was very stable. Usually with previous setups, I was always trying to move weight to the back of the trailer to reduce the tongue weight. Since the Trailer Toad takes all of the tongue weight away from the tow vehicle, this was no longer a concern.
One of the more eventful moments of the trip happened when the two left tires on the trailer blew out seconds apart at 60 mph. It got our attention very quickly. I was able to pull over on what little shoulder there was on the side of the highway and safely come to a stop. The Trailer Toad handled it well by helping stabilize the trailer and minimize the effect on the tow vehicle. I think this scenario could have been much more dramatic without the Trailer Toad.
Stopped at a remote camp in...
Stopped at a remote camp in Utah's desert.
Getting into some of the remote locations I have to access for motorcycle events, I encountered quite extreme departure angles as well as severe off-camber terrain. I was amazed at the articulation of the Trailer Toad, which prevented us from dragging the hitch and trailer tongue over some more challenging obstacles.
I did manage to break one of the two stabilizer shocks, but given what I put the unit through I feel this was definitely an acceptable loss. It was easily replaceable at a nearby auto parts store, and the unit was still functional with one remaining stabilizer shock.
Other learning from the trip is that the Trailer Toad does much better at three-point turns than it does with U-turns. On a couple occasions in unknown areas, I was forced to make a U-turn in locations that were not designed to turn around a 53-foot rig. I jammed the tires of the Trailer Toad into the tongue of the trailer. While there was no damage to the vehicle, it did take some time to extricate it from the situation.
On my way again, safe and...
On my way again, safe and secure.
Backing up by using the dual lock system was much easier. I also found that the rig did not have to be perfectly straight to lock in the dual reversing pins, which was one of my initial concerns before using the equipment. I simply rotated one of the tires as needed and the pins dropped in. When I was finished backing up, I had to stop and remove the reverse pins, which is an extra step required when using the Trailer Toad, but I feel this slight inconvenience is well worth the extra safety and security that it provided. If I were not using the Trailer Toad in this situation, there was a very good chance that I could have damaged both the camper and the trailer.
Overall, I am very impressed with the operation, performance, and build quality of the Trailer Toad and look forward to years of use. I suggest it anytime you plan to do any extreme towing.
Editor's Note: Kurt Forgét is a contributor to RV and owner of Black Dog Cycle Works. He lives in Sandpoint, Idaho.