The Wisdom of Wheels

Someone recently asked me why the Onli Travel bag was designed with two recessed wheels, instead of four “floater” wheels that rotate any direction. That’s a fair question, as a large part of the market today uses “floater” wheels.

The advantage of “floater” wheels is that the bag is easy to push or pull in airports where the floors are flat, because it “floats” along side you. Also, when going down the aisle of an airplane, a “floater” can be turned sideways, which makes it easier to maneuver. We are aware of these advantages, and may try to offer a “floater version” of our products in the future.

However, for our first product, we went with two fixed and recessed wheels at the rear. We had four main reasons for doing this:

  1. Recessed wheels reduce the overall size or footprint of the bag. The “floater” wheels add about an inch and a half to total length, and they usually require a hard case to work well, which reduces flexibility. We wanted our product to “fit” in as many tight airplane places as possible, so the recessed wheels and semi-soft construction were better.
  1. Recessed wheels are a lot stronger, as they don’t protrude as far from the bag, and only have to turn in one direction (because they don’t have to “swivel”). All of that swiveling and protruding increases the risk that the wheels will break or malfunction. We wanted a high quality bag that was built to last.
  1. Recessed wheels work a lot better when you are pulling the bag on rough surfaces (think sidewalks, staircases, or cobblestones). While a floater might be nice if you are only going to travel in airports and on polished hotel floors, we wanted our bag to be “the only bag you need”, which means it had to work well for adventurous travel as well as business travel. This objective was best served by designing the bag with strong fixed wheels that can take a few bumps.
  1. Finally, we wanted our bag to be expandable, so that if you are coming home with more than you left with, you have the option to expand the bag and accommodate your needs. This is hard to do with a “floater” configuration because the spacing and stability of the four wheels will change when you expand the bag. Our two wheel design enables the bag to roll just as well whether expanded or not.

Finally, our bag is slightly smaller than the typical carryon, which makes it easier to maneuver down the airplane aisle. And, many of our customers use it as a backpack, so they don’t need to wheel it down the aisle at all!

So, we ended up opting for a smaller and more flexible footprint, greater strength and reduced risk of breakage, the option to pull the bag over rough surfaces, and supporting expandability when you need it. We think this is the right initial choice for “the only bag you need”.

We’d love to get your comments on this topic, and other topics,  to consider as we work on future products!


Thanks, and Happy Traveling!

Dave and the Onli Travel team