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at 12:28 pm posted by Scott H

A short guide to using a trailer to haul your brother-in-law’s lawn mower (and other things) by bicycle.

by Roderick Van Speek

Bicycles are a fantastic way to get yourself from point A to point B. You’re getting exercise, emitting zero emissions, enjoying the outdoors, saving yourself a few bucks, and just generally experiencing the freedom of self-propelled travel. If you’re like many avid cyclists, you start hauling things on your bicycle.

It starts innocently enough with maybe work clothes or a few groceries. Then one day you find yourself trying to figure out how to get your brother-in-law’s lawn mower over to your place by bike. At this point, you can give up and use, ahem, some other vehicle; or you can step it up a notch and upgrade your bike haulin’ capabilities with a bike trailer!

Many people know about the usefulness of kid haulin’ trailers. In addition, you’re starting to see more of those one wheel trailers showing up behind touring bikes. But the uptake on trailers for hauling stuff around town seems to be slower than it should even though a well designed trailer is neither difficult to pull nor awkward to maneuver. Trailering possibilities are endless, a handy trailer is great for more than just haulin’ your brother-inlaw’s lawnmower. You can use a trailer for major grocery runs, carrying building supplies home from the architectural recycling centre, bringing a dead bike down to EBC’s BikeWorks for repair, carrying your tools and spares over to a friend’s place to help her fix her bike, bringing even more work home with you (well, maybe that’s not a great idea), creating a kickass Silly Summer Parade float, helping out in a bike move, bringing a swack of stuff to the recycling drop off, carrying a whole bunch of library books home in style ... and the list goes on.

One reason we don’t see more trailers on the road might be the relatively high cost of buying a manufactured trailer. Perhaps it’s hard to justify spending the big bucks on hauling a few extra groceries home. But there’s good news! The economics of the situation can be whacked firmly into the do-able realm by making your own trailer. For some folks, this is the ticket to greater car independence! There are a ton of DIY trailer designs out there and, for the tinkering masses, what could be better than designing your own custom trailer? A lot, if not all, of the raw materials needed to build a trailer are available down at BikeWorks and you’re bound to meet someone whose tried it before and has good advice.

When designing a trailer or picking one of the many DIY designs, you are faced with a number of choices. The major ones being whether to employ new or used/scavenged materials, whether to weld or bolt it together, and where to put the hitch - on the bikes axle or higher up on the seat stays or rack. Some of the commercial trailer manufacturers sell replacement hitches and other parts which can be complicated to build yourself. It’s quite common to see large plastic bins in use as weatherproof compartments on bicycle trailers, but make sure they are removable for those times you need a “flatbed” for hauling bulky stuff like an easychair or your brother-in-law’s lawn mower.

There are a few tips that make trailering safer. First off, don’t overload your trailer beyond your bike’s braking capacity or the trailer’s carrying capacity. Balance the load just in front of the wheel axles to keep just the right amount of downward force on the hitch. Secure the load with straps, especially on bumpy roads. When pulling, don’t go around corners too fast when the cart is empty - it’ll flip over. For that matter, don’t go around corners too fast when it’s heavily loaded either - the sideways force on the wheels might make them buckle. Axle-based hitch designs are more prone to damage if you jack-knife the trailer when backing up or taking a turn too sharp.

Happy haulin’!

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