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I have always wanted a huge ass bicycle trailer. Something I can pile improbable amounts of stuff on, something I can use to grab dumpster dived treasures, something I could move to a new apartment with. Something that can transport all my dreams! In short something like this.
There is only one problem…I don’t have $975 (plus shipping) to blow on a bike trailer. For that kind of money I could buy a really nice road bike, or you know, eat food and pay rent.
But as so often is the case,where there is a will there is a way. After looking at this picture for a while:
I had a dream, a dream that would become this:
Not only was 1/2 the cost, but it was fall off a log easy to construct!
I started off my journey thinking that I could take an aluminum ladder, and mount some wheels on it. And you know what I could have done that, and it would have worked, and it wouldn’t have been too bad. But it would have been a lot less beefy, and I wanted beefy. I wanted something that would carry a stack of 2×4’s, or a bunch of boxes of stuff, or a kitchen table, something with a contained cargo area, and something that would look nice. so I kept thinking.
I knew I wanted it to be aluminium, it would be light, strong, rust proof, and wouldn’t require welding. I wanted it to be an awful lot like that $975 Bikes At Work trailer.
While combing their website for pictures to get ideas, I saw that they actually sold most of the accessories I would need to make a cheaper trailer, if only I could find the perfect trailer bed.
So I went to Google and typed in “extruded aluminium” and low and behold this bad boy popped up on amazon.
I started reading…aluminum check, strong check, 500lb load limit check, side rails check, and bless my nippers the perfect size…no really like absolutely perfect to interface with all the accessories I was going to buy from Bikes At Work.
If that wasn’t enough, the stars had aligned to provide me with $300 of cash I wasn’t expecting. Making the final cost for this entire thing a scant $150 out of my pocket. It was a sign.
I ordered one and it was here in three days, took about half an hour to assemble. The only changes I made to the design was I removed the trailer hitch (didn’t need that), which involved simply pulling it out and setting it aside.
I also moved the included reflectors from the side to the back, as they would do a lot more good back there.
Moving the reflectors was as easy as swapping a two holed piece of aluminum, with a one hole piece. All you need to assemble this cargo rack is a screw driver, and an adjustable wrench, it comes with all the hardware you will need.
Next up was the accessories needed to turn what was supposed to be attached to the back of an SUV, to the back of my bike.
Here is what I ended up buying from Bikes At Work:
The entire works (this is the box the cargo carrier came in, all these parts were actually packed in a very tiny box)
The entire list (buy it all here):
Bicycle trailer axle $60
Bicycle trailer hitch $50
Trailer hitch pin $4
tubes for tires $7
Rims with bearings $85
With shipping the entire thing came to $370 + $80 for the cargo holder (it was on sale when I got it) = ~$450.
Now the fun part, putting it all together!
First thing I did was bust out my air pump and tire levers and assemble the wheels.
Easy, but if you have never assembled a tire to a rim simply search youtube for many good videos.
Next I got the axle and measured for the mounting holes to hold it to the base. The axle comes pre-drilled with the two holes and the hardware you will need to mount it, all you need to do is drill the correct sized hole in the base of the cargo holder. Aluminum is soft, and I used a hand drill (not even an electric one) and was done in a couple minutes.
The axle fits perfectly into the hole left from the trailer hitch bar. Simply center, measure, and drill. Its easier if you leave the larger side panels off for this, as it allows you to get in there with the drill easier.
Center the axle (doesn’t have to be perfect, but does have to be the same on both sides so the axle is straight, could have just as easily shoved it to one side)
Move the axle back and forth until the same out sticks out of both sides, mark with a marker.
Flip the cargo holder back over, measure how far in the mounting hole goes from that mark.
Measure that far in and drill a hole large enough to hold the bolt that comes with the axle. To be clear you drill the hole in the top of the cargo holder, not the underside, there is no need to alter the underside. Take extra care on this step as its the one of only two parts you are going to alter, measure 4-5 times, drill once. The extra time you spend will keep your trailer with a minimum of extra holes in it.
Next up you need to mount the axle. Put the cargo holder top side up on a table, and look through the hole, line up the bolts with the hole and affix the nuts.
The bolts handing from the top.
Get them nice and snug. The nice thing about both the cargo holder, and the accessories is they both come with locking nuts that have an anti-vibration rubber gasket in them to keep them from working loose from vibration. Did I mention that you wont need to buy a single nut or bolt for this project, literally every single part you need comes included.
Next up attach the wheels.
Attach the (included) spacer.
Slide towards the cargo holder.
Now the tricky part. The Bikes at Work trailer hitch ALMOST fits perfectly on this rig, but you will need to make some minor adjustments. Specifically you will need to cut four small holes into the end of the cargo holder that will hold the hitch (the end that doesn’t have the reflectors).
I used a dremel with a cutting disk, and while it was loud (where ear plugs) and dusty (use a breathing mask and safety goggles), it only took about 10 minutes and as aluminum is soft as butter was easy too.
The hitch comes with two mounting bars, but the included u-bolts to hold the hitch are not long enough to mount them without the cut outs. The way the cargo trailer is built cutting larger cut outs would have potentially weakened it, which I didn’t want at this important connection.
You can see the finished product below.
This is what it looks like from the front, you can see the two mounting bars are “inside” the beam. They are actually mounted in a bit of overhang. The square aluminum bar they are mounted into has a flange that sticks out for extra rigidity and I didn’t want to simply make cut outs that went all the way through the flange as I was worried it would buckle, or make a weak point, so I cut the slots as close to the main bar as I could without piercing it. This way they set right up against the main bar, and leave as much as the flange intact as possible.
The view from above showing how the bars are mounted back from the edge. The flange actually starts right on the right side of the bars. This allows the forward force from bicycle to be transferred right into the largest strongest part of the bar, rather than into the thing fragile flange system, while at the same time puts minimum strain on those flanges by only cutting out a small slot.
A side view, you can see that the round hitch is simple centered in the middle of the bar (the top part is more flange), and then using all the (included) hardware clamped down. Use these instructions (pdf) from Bikes at Work to see how the hitch bar attaches to the trailer (with some modifications of course). You will have one small piece left over that was designed to interface with the BAW trailer, you can do whatever you want with it.
That’s it! You just made a trailer my friend! Next up just mount the bike half of the hitch with (the included) hardware. Use these instructions (pdf) if you need help.
Yes I am mounting it to my fixed gear, that’s the only bike I have right now. I will buy a cheap mountain bike for this bad boy for really big jobs.
This is the little magic mount that keeps your trailer rock solid, use the (included) hitch pin to attach to the trailer bar.
Look at that beauty!
I did some testing and found that you might have to slightly bend the bottom of the pins that hold the wheels on to keep them from rubbing on the wheels (two seconds with a pair of pliers), you will also want to be careful about how you load the weight, as the pivot point is right in the middle, really heavy loads should be placed in the middle or the front, or even better distributed evenly throughout.
I rode around the neighborhood, taking tight turns, going off curbs, and even placing a bunch of boxes of heavy stuff in the back of the trailer, and I have to say, this thing is solid as a rock. Nothing creaks, nothing shifts, nothing even makes noise. Obviously I was limited to just the one gear, but even with the totally wrong gearing it was easy as pie to carry even heavy loads with this guy. The weight is there yes, but you barely feel it, the hitch arm gives you acres of room for even tight turns, in short this trailer is my new favorite thing. If you see someone hauling a shit load of stuff all over town with a crazy grin on their face, it might just be me.
I am so pleased with how easy this was! If not for the extra $300 bucks I had come into I probably would have made this out of cheaper parts, but I didn’t and I am so happy with how rock solid all of this is. I will post a followup in a couple weeks with what I have used it for.
dremel with cutting disk attachment
drill and drill bit
Phillips head screwdriver
pair of pliers
Bicycle trailer axle
Bicycle trailer hitch
Trailer hitch pin
tubes for tires (x2)
Wheel rim with bearings (x2)
Total Time To create:
$450 (minus the magic $300 I got = $150 for me)
Total Cargo Load:
Outer Dimensions (including tow bar, and wheels):
70 inches long, 29 inches wide, 17 inches tall.
Total Cargo Space:
49 inches long, 23 inches wide, 6 inches tall (cargo can be loaded higher if you use tie downs, or boxes).
Extra hardware needed:
Having a cargo trailer really opens up a world of options for the bicycle owner, I highly recommend building one if you ever carry big things.
Please do let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Tags: awesome, bike trailer, bikes at work, cargo holder, DIY
Posted in bostonbiker, crafts, Mechanical | 3 Comments »
Should be nothing but more and better, but let me know if anything seems strange.
For blog owners you should notice some new fun features when making blog posts!
Tags: site update
Posted in bostonbiker, news | No Comments »
Seriously check these amazing bike friendly buildings out!
A bike valet will offer tuneups and tire changes to spandex-clad commuters and residents at Hassalo on Eighth, a multiuse residential and office complex in Portland, Ore., expected to be completed next year. At the new Vélo North Loop, a high-end rental building in Minneapolis, tenants can use the “bike kitchen”—a bicycle repair area with tire pumps and spare chain links, as well as a bike wash. A shop with trail maps and energy bars is in the works. The Cliffs, a series of golf-resort communities in North and South Carolina, has enlisted a 17-time Tour de France rider to offer group rides for homeowners and potential buyers through the surrounding countryside of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The rising popularity of cycling is driving a new type of housing: the luxury, bike-friendly development.
As cities, suburbs and rural communities race to add bike-share programs and lanes and trails for cyclists, developers and home builders are rolling out amenities designed to woo more bike riders and stand out from the competition. And by bulking up on bike-friendly amenities, developers can go after both ends of the demographic spectrum—20- and 30-somethings who want to live closer to work as well as older baby boomers looking for a more walkable, bike-able lifestyle.
Seattle’s Velo building in Fremont is built right off the Burke-Gilman bike and recreation trail. Opening this weekend, the 171-unit building, like Vélo North Loop, takes its name from the French word for bicycle (the two buildings are unrelated). It offers a bike-maintenance area as well as a bike wash and storage, both in the garage and on the main level. Apartments will also have bike-storage niches.
I don’t even care if its a “luxury” apartment, in fact I would prefer if it was an affordable one, as I am not rich. But its so easy and cheap to include bike friendly aspects to your housing design and I wish it was the standard practice for all new housing being built around here.
Things like bike rooms, bike storage areas, secured outdoor parking out of the elements, and more are easy and cheap to include in large apartment complexes, or condo builds. There is no reason that they shouldn’t be as standard as parking spaces.
Tags: bike condos, de-lux apartment in the skyyyy, moving on up
Posted in bostonbiker, news | No Comments »
Twice in the last two weeks I have been a part of a lovely thing. While riding to work I look around and see way…way more bikes than cars. I think it is a product of the lovely riding weather we have been having, the increase in ridership, the infrastructure, and an overall shift in mode share. It was Utopian, it felt good to outnumber the cars, it made me feel powerful, and safer.
There were perhaps 25 cyclists, and maybe 10 cars on the road, and yet the cars still monopolized most of the space, but the cyclists had carved out most of the right hand lane, and were in large enough numbers that we could hold it easily. Traffic moved much better, and many more people were able to travel on the limited amount of streets available.
That is after all what streets are for, they are a public utility designed to move people around. It just so happens that the most popular way to use them (one person in one car), is the worst way to use that public utility. But that seems be changing.
Tags: bike utopia, less cars, more bikes
Posted in bostonbiker | No Comments »
Howdy folks, I have roughly 10 Mini Mum Vertical Bike Hangers with Security Cable.
Free to whoever wants one or all of them. They don’t have mounting screws, but you can get those at any hardware store.
The only catch is you have to come pick them up down town around the park street T stop between 9-5 Monday through Friday. I can meet you in the common with a box of them (they are heavy so if you are going to bike off with them bring a rack or a trailer or a big back pack.
Contact me if you want them, they all have to be out of here by next Friday September 19 2014.
Tags: bike hangers, free stuff, take my stuff
Posted in bostonbiker, Merch | No Comments »
For those not in the know, the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), is a yearly ride across Iowa. Now in its 43rd years, it is sort of like mid-west burning man on wheels. A rolling party of 15-20,000 people having fun in the corn. If you have never tried it, I highly recommend it.
The route changes every year, and this year was widely hyped as “the shortest, and flattest.” For the last three years I have ridden a fixed gear, and figured this would be an even better year to do so again. So I began the ritual dance that has become a familiar part of RAGBRAI for me.
Figure out what airport is closest to the start, buy one ticket from Boston to that airport, find a shuttle bus that will take me from the airport to the start. Find another airport close to the finish, figure out how to get to that. But a separate ticket for a different airline. Deconstruct the bike, pack the bike, ship the bike. Take a train to the airport, take a large plane to a small plane, to a shuttle bus, to a bicycle, ride for a week, repeat in reverse. On the face of it its a logistical nightmare, but in reality it always goes smooth as butter, and every single person you meet along the way is very nice and makes you happy. It’s hard to return to Boston with its cranky drivers and dirty air. You miss the corn when you leave.
That’s not to say that this year was without its challenges. Here is a day by day break down.
Day one: Rock Valley To Okoboji
After a pleasant night spend in a tent on soft grass I awoke to a glorious Iowa sunrise, and it just felt good to be on a bike. The winds were calm, the temp was decent, the corn was growing (in the places that had not been killed by the recent floods). The Town was decked out in bike finery and everyone waved at us as we left.
The 70 miles flew by in a flash, town after town flying by in a blur. That isn’t to say we didn’t see some awesome stuff.
Check out this 36er!
These guys rode these things the entire time…
Some people over did it on their first day…this man is asleep in the center of the beer garden, when I went to make sure he wasn’t dead, his wife (!!) told me to leave him be because it was funny…he wasn’t dead. Our camp ground was in an awesome super soft field, I slept like a baby.
Day 2: Okoboji to Emmetsburg.
I awoke to this outside my tent.
Bike udder in the morning, cyclists warning. But the portent proved not to be true as today was another PERFECT riding day. As you rode out of town you got to see every single state flag flapping in the glorious Iowa sunrise.
The day was short, only 40 miles, but I still managed to see some cool stuff.
Checking out old barns while eating ice cream.
A lot of people do this ride…from horizon to horizon nothing but cyclists. This little traffic jam was caused by the ice cream man. Ice cream is serious business on RAGBRAI.
You might not know this but Iowa is a leader in wind power…hmm all those wind turbines I wonder if it ever gets windy around here…I probably should have seen this for the ominous sign that it was.
I was not going to be eating nasty fried food all week. 1 box of salad, one apple, one package of goat cheese, some dressing, and some blue berries, everyone was jealous. I went to bed happy.
Day 3: Emmetsburg to Forest City
The century day! I always like this day, it feels like a proper day of riding, and you get to see a lot of beautiful country. I awoke to a nice calm beautifully blue Iowa sky. There was a slight breeze, as we pedaled to the pancake man for breakfast.
Pancake man is not fucking around, he can make 200 pancakes every 3 minutes, and you are allowed to eat as many as you want…so good. While we ate the wind slowly increased, so gently we didn’t even notice until we got back on our bikes.
They call it the Iowa mountains, head winds so steady and strong that it feels like you are always going up hill. The wind turbines were spinning merrily creating loads of energy but all I could feel was a steady never ending push against me that started off refreshing, but slowly, ever so slowly, began to steal my strength. What started off as a 20 mph wind, grew to 25, then 30.
We were headed east, and the wind was blowing west. But it was gorgeous, and the temps were not too high. So we pushed against the pedals, and the wind pushed against us. If you look at the map you can see we had some brief lovely breaks from the constant wind, just enough to allow us to rest, and the day went by as days like this do. Slowly but steadily.
Want to ride a tandem, don’t have a partner? Build one!
Not only did this town have a bitching Camero, but they also have a tradition of tossing toilets for distance. Not a plastic toilet, but a real deal porcelain throne. It seemed unlikely a bunch of tired cyclists was going to beat the town record, so we didn’t even try. If we had though we would have gotten a free t-shirt. Oh Iowa.
There was also this dapper gentleman, a bold fashion choice indeed. He rode the entire day in the sun like this. I am guessing it had something to do with the fact that his entire crew were drinking “special” water bottles that looked to my untrained eye an awful lot like rot gut.
100 miles later the wind no longer had anything to push against, because my ass was done pedaling. Tired and HUNGRY I rolled into camp, set up the tents, and found myself something made out of vegetables to eat. After double helpings of some sort of noodle thing, some more ice cream, a cookie, a couple power bars, and some sort of smoothie I passed out feeling good.
Day 4: Forest City To Mason City.
It wasn’t even 40 miles…we laughed, we dawdled, we spent a lot of time lounging, it was a good time.
There were big ass wind turbines!
And Kittens! I named the grey one smokey, and the black one Beelzebub.
Pikachu made an appearance.
And of course ice cream!
Even though the millage was the shortest of the week, we spent the most time on the road. Mostly having fun and goofing around.
Day 5: Mason City to Waverly.
Its a funny thing about Iowa, it will go from Flat as a pancake to hilly as hell in a moment. We went up, we went down, we went up again, and down again. The same 300 feet of climbing and decent over and over again. It was nice, the landscape was gorgeous, rolling hills, verdant greens everywhere.
The day went by in a blur of lovely vistas and big ass hills. That night we camped in yet another soft and lovely field, we went to bed feeling lucky for yet another awesome day. While we slept, clouds gathered, and winds increased.
Day 6: Waverly to Independence.
We woke up and it was cold, just barely 70. We had been enjoying temps well into the 90’s even 100+ so 70 felt cold. The sky was black and ugly, like it had gotten into a fight the night before and was bruising. The wind tugged at our jerseys, and made taking our tent down hard. We were going to catch a whoopin.
The maelstrom held off until about a mile outside the first town, and then it let fly with both barrels. First the wind kicked up, and then the temp dropped. It went from 75 to 59 in half an hour. The rain started off fierce and only got worse. Driven by 35 mph wind it hit you in the face with a significant force. It felt like ice, even though it wasn’t frozen. It stung and made you turn red. The wind was blowing north, so we either got it full in the ear, or dead on in the face. This was not pleasant, in fact, it was the opposite.
I had nothing on but a jersey and some shorts. The moment I stopped for any reason my entire body started to shake with the shivers. I actually took refuge in a Kybo (Iowa for porta-potty) just to warm up. As the storm worked up its rage the winds got stronger, 35 mph with the rain, with gusts into the 40’s. It would grab you and toss you around, like a bit of fluff. Luckily at that point all the riders had spread so far out that you could get blown all over the road without hitting anyone else.
The corn was bent nearly sideways, and we had no choice but to move forward against the wind. No one moved fast, and many didn’t move at all. There were a lot of people waiting in each town for the SAG bus. Each mile was a triumph of the will over nature. Hands and fingers went numb, you could see your breath, it was cold and extremely windy, and the whole day was a grind.
I put my head on my handlebars, got as small as possible, and pushed for all I was worth. The rain fell, the wind blew, and I creaked slowly across Iowa. By the end I just wanted to go to sleep, but in an irony lost on no one, just as we pulled into camp the damn sun came out and the wind died down. Nature had a good belly laugh at our expense, but at least we didn’t have to set up our tents in the rain.
The end town that day had a cool dam, bursting with all the rain we had gotten that day. We had Chinese food for dinner, it was cheap…and surprisingly tasty. Which might have been because we were dying of hunger, or because for some strange reason we had found good Asian food in the middle of Iowa. I fell asleep in a heap, I don’t really remember much more than being tired to the bone.
Day 7: Independence to Guttenberg (Pronounce Gut-n-burg):
I awoke and found my bike to be strangely heavy. When I titled it upright about 4 cups of water ran out of the frame. It had been driven into it yesterday. Once drained I started on the last day of riding.
The winds had blown, the rain had fallen, but Iowa had saved the best for last. This part of the state is mind blowing-ly pretty. There are actually trees, and the Amish have made many homes here. We saw old fashion barns, and old fashion farming methods, and a whole crop of little Amish kids let out to watch us crazy folks in spandex ride by. Each of them had the same exact hair cut, and each of them smiled and waved at us as we went by.
The first order of business for the day was WAFFLES! All you could eat, 20 different kinds of syrup, fresh made whipped cream, and butter in a dispenser!
Nectar of the gods! This man was making waffles so fast that even the line of hundreds was only taking up one row of his waffle empire. It wasn’t until another hundred or so people got in line the he fired up that back row. But each waffle was so big that you could really only eat two before giving up, so he kept the line moving at a rapid pace.
I saw a giant strawberry, in Strawberry Point.
An Iowa farm bicycle.
Some local political flavor.
And a whole heap of gorgeous rolling hills…oh right Iowa has hills.
To the untrained eye that might not look very hilly…but glance over to the right there. See those ominous dips. Those are some big ass hills. There was 3k feet of climbing on this day, almost all of it in the last 5 miles. The climbs were not so bad…it was the downhills that nearly killed me. A fixed gear bicycle is great for riding in Boston, its relatively flat, not too much in the way of screaming madness inducing downhills…which is exactly what this part of Iowa comes standard with.
While screaming down the first of a series of three massive downhills a rather suicidal police officer informed me (while walking out into the middle of the street in front of hundreds of careening cyclists) that we could “slow down and take in the view.” So we did,with the help of the top layer of my brake pads, and some judicious swearing, we were not disappointed.
My aunt and uncle rode down the second hill with me and said that they were “afraid my legs would fly off and kill them both.” We hit 50 mph for about 20 seconds, which is about 19 seconds longer than I ever want to move my legs that fast ever again. I actually had to pull over and rest after that downhill, it crushed all the life out of me, but in a good way.
We made it to the mighty Mississippi, and dunked our front wheels into it, symbolically and figuratively completing our trek from river to river (Missouri to Mississippi) that marks the start and end of every RAGBRAI.
I stayed with some Iowa friends that night and was treated to the best in vegetarian Midwestern culinary tradition.
Then it was asleep in a tent for one more night, up with the dawn to fly out of the tiniest airport I have ever seen (gates 1,2, and 3 all shared the same door), to a larger plane, to a bus, to a train to my own bed again. My poor bike only showed up a week later, having to suffer the indignity of traveling by UPS.
My fourth year in the corn was a memorable one, I am already planning for my 5th.
Tags: 2014, awesome, corn, iowa, RAGBRAI, rain, wind
Posted in bostonbiker | No Comments »
Just a quick site update last night…shouldn’t be noticeable other than a bit of performance tweeks, but if anything is up let me know.
Tags: site update
Posted in bostonbiker | No Comments »
I spent last week riding my bike across the fair state we call Iowa, or as the natives of Iowa call it, Iowa.
I had a really good time, and am in the process of catching up on things, expect a post with pictures soon!
Tags: Oh Iowa, RAGBRAI
Posted in bostonbiker | No Comments »