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How To Build A 1000$ Bicycle Trailer For $450

Written by Boston Biker on Oct 24

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:

This beautiful trailer can transport 600lbs of anything you wish to put onto it…the only problem is it costs nearly $1000.

I had a dream, a dream that would become this:

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5oolbs of carrying capacity for only $450!!!!

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.

 

20141024_130314I 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.

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I also moved the included reflectors from the side to the back, as they would do a lot more good back there.

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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:

 

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The entire works (this is the box the cargo carrier came in, all these parts were actually packed in a very tiny box)

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The entire list (buy it all here):

Bicycle trailer axle $60

Bicycle trailer hitch $50

Trailer hitch pin $4

Towbar $120

tubes for tires $7

Tires $26

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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)

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Move the axle back and forth until the same out sticks out of both sides, mark with a marker.

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Flip the cargo holder back over, measure how far in the mounting hole goes from that mark.

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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.

20141024_154430Drop the bolt into the hole.  Do the same on the other side.

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.

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The bolts handing from the top.

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The axle mounted with the nuts attached.  I found it easy to hold the nuts with pliers while cranking the nut above with an adjustable wrench
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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.

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Attach the (included) spacer.

 

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Slide towards the cargo holder.

20141024_155830Slide on your assembled wheels (the bearings come already seated, no need to put them in!), and attach the (included) pin that keeps the wheels from sliding off.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This is the little magic mount that keeps your trailer rock solid, use the (included) hitch pin to attach to the trailer bar.

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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.

 

Tool List:

dremel with cutting disk attachment

drill and drill bit

Phillips head screwdriver

adjustable wrench

pair of pliers

marker

ruler

eye protection

ear plugs

dust mask

Parts list:

Bicycle trailer axle

Bicycle trailer hitch

Trailer hitch pin

Towbar

tubes for tires (x2)

Tires (x2)

Wheel rim with bearings (x2)

Cargo Holder

Total Time To create:

3 hours

Total Cost:

$450 (minus the magic $300 I got = $150 for me)

Total Cargo Load:

500lbs

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:

none.

 

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!

 

 

 

 


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Bike Light Shows Your Speed

Written by Boston Biker on Mar 20

I think I would crash right into something because I would be fascinated with looking at my speed in the light, but pretty neat hack.


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Getting Organized

Written by Boston Biker on Nov 11

I saw this lovely set up on Reddit. Made from an old box spring frame.

It reminded me of my much less awesome helmet and lock organizer (its also where I keep head badges and metal working stuff I have just finished).

Simple copper wire, bent and placed through a black box (it was part of a fruit basket). It keeps me from throwing my helmet and lock on my bed every day when I get home, and I always know where they are when I need them.

Have you build anything to organize your bike stuff? Share pictures in the comments.


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More DIY Bike Goodness

Written by Boston Biker on Dec 13

Spotted this bad boy near the Brattle, amazing setup, wonder how much it can hold.


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Awesome DIY Recumbent Seen In JP

Written by Boston Biker on Nov 30

image

image

Saw this in jp, awesome!


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New Years Crafting: Toe Clip Leather Protectors

Written by Boston Biker on Jan 01

It’s cold, and the nights are long, the perfect time of year for staying in and creating some awesome bike crafts!

Mauspad from the BostonFixed forum has created this amazing how to, for DIY toeclip leathers.

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I got tired of my metal toe clips scuffing up my nice shoes, so I made my own toe clip leathers of scrap leather and thought other people might be interest in what turned out to be a very quick and easy DIY project. These obviously aren’t as nice as the ones you can buy from Velo Orange, but they do the trick.

You will need:

Scrap leather, a ruler, a pushpin (or an awl, if you have one), a needle with a largeish eye (embroidery needles are great), a pen, scissors, and waxed thread. If you actually have waxed thread, great! If not, embroidery floss and a hunk of candle wax, which is what i’ve used here, works in a pinch. So does dental floss (up the punx).

Oh, and, uh, toe clips.

Step 1: Cut the leather. The dimensions will depend on what size toe clip you wear. I found that 2cm x 8.5cm rectangles fit perfectly for my medium MKS clips; You will have to add or subtract a cm or so from the length if you have larger or smaller clips.

Step 2: Turn the leather over to the sueded side. Take your ruler and measure 4-5mm from the edge and mark a dot every quarter of an inch or so down both long sides. Make sure that the dots on both sides line up– You’ll be joining them together when you sew!

Step 3: Take your push pin or awl and, pulling the leather taut, make a hole at each dot.

Step 4 (optional): If you’re using embroidery floss, take this opportunity to wax it. Embroidery floss tends to slip and waxing it helps it grip itself and stay in place. Just press the wax onto the thread over a hard surface and pull the thread through. Repeat until you have a nice coating. I couldn’t get a good picture of this step since it requires both hands, but you get the idea.

Step 5: I experimented with several stitching techniques and found that the original Velo Orange instructions are not only the simplest and easiest to follow, but also the most secure and attractive. You can find them here.

What you end up with should look something like this:

Anyway, like I said, this is a really quick and easy weekend project. If you’re not drunk like I was last night and keep having to re-cut the leather and/or stabbing yourself in the hand, it’ll hardly takes any time at all. I used a relatively thin leather cut from an old jacket my housemate gave me and it was a very easy material to work with. I’d imagine that if you’re using thicker leather (I believe Velo Orange makes theirs from upholstery leather), you might actually need an awl to perforate it.


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Using The Iphone For More Than Texting Your Friends

Written by Boston Biker on Nov 07

So you know all them cool kids with their Iphones, this has got to be the best possible use I have seen yet for one.

Using a simple ap, and a custom bag addition (more info to come soon), this intrepid biker has created what has to be one of the slickest safety lights yet.

The best part is, the ap is customizable, want it to look like a fire truck, how about a police light, maybe you just want to the light to come on while you move (it can do that as well).

I asked how it is on battery life, and apparently it is not bad. I have seen this working in real life and can tell you it is highly visible from a long ways away.


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On Bike Air Conditioning

Written by Boston Biker on Jul 11

Man what I wouldn’t do for one of these bad boys.

ice shirt

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In fact I think I can build one, it’s been so freaking hot out that this sort of thing would be fantastic. In the winter you can run hot water through it to keep you warm.

My first idea is something like this. Small tubes (like the kind used in a fish tank), runs ice water from a water bottle held in your bottle rack. A small pump and some batteries are stored in a small bag under the seat. Whalla on bike air conditioning!

I will let you know how it turns out.


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The Word On The Street

  • RSS Here is what people are saying

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      Tweetwww.cyclelicio.us/2011/tom-menino-bicycle/ … We only wish Tom Menino had found riding a bike a bit sooner in his life. He may well still be with us given the health benefits of riding a bike. Sadly he got hit by a car … Continue reading →
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    • 14th Annual Boston Halloween Bike Ride Is Tomorrow! October 30, 2014
      TweetGreg Hum (Contributor) plays drums on his bike, gets people together for really big midnight and monthly bike rides, and is easily distracted by shiny things and fried potatoes. He shares stories and more on his personal bike blog, The Humble … Continue reading →
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    • 14th Annual Boston Halloween Bike Ride Is Tomorrow! October 30, 2014
      TweetGreg Hum (Contributor) plays drums on his bike, gets people together for really big midnight and monthly bike rides, and is easily distracted by shiny things and fried potatoes. He shares stories and more on his personal bike blog, The Humble … Continue reading →
      greg
    • Mayor Menino Has Passed Away. October 30, 2014
      TweetThomas M. Menino, the longest-serving mayor in Boston’s history, has died. He served as mayor from 1993 until 2013. The Boston Globe reports: Thomas Michael Menino, who insisted a mayor doesn’t need a grand vision to lead, then went on … Continue reading →
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      TweetSometimes you gotta love other commuters. Yesterday – riding – and it’s tuesday, so I do interval training on my 45 lbs commuter bike, loaded with packs. After a good session with my hear rate up into the 170+ zone … Continue reading →
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    • TRUCKIN’ ON: Reducing the danger of Trucks and other Large Vehicles October 29, 2014
      Trucks are only 4% of vehicles in the United States but cause about 7% of pedestrian fatalities and 11% of cyclist fatalities. The disparity is even higher in urban areas – a London analysis found that the 4% of vehicles that were trucks were involved in nearly 53% of cyclist fatalities. In Boston, 7 out […]
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    • People’s Pike or People’s Pillar to Post? October 27, 2014
      TweetHow would I like to think of the People’s Pike? I want to see a bicycle path and an adjacent footpath which avoid crossing and turning conflicts, passing under the ramps to the Turnpike and to the proposed West Station, … Continue reading →
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    • People’s Pike or People’s Pillar to Post? October 27, 2014
      TweetHow would I like to think of the People’s Pike? I want to see a bicycle path and an adjacent footpath which avoid crossing and turning conflicts, passing under the ramps to the Turnpike and to the proposed West Station, … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • People’s Pike or People’s Pillar to Post? October 27, 2014
      TweetHow would I like to think of the People’s Pike? I want to see a bicycle path and an adjacent footpath which avoid crossing and turning conflicts, passing under the ramps to the Turnpike and to the proposed West Station, … Continue reading →
      jsallen