Monday, March 24, 2008

The trailer is fully functional!

I've spent the last week working on the trailer and getting everything going as smoothly as possible. That included remaking the inner wheel plates this morning. Now, everything bolts on tightly and there's absolutely no wheel wobble.

Here's the finished trailer, unloaded and by itself. It really doesn't look like much. Basically, it's a frame made of EMT conduit, bent with a pipe bender. The bed is 3/4" plywood. The overall dimensions are about 57" x 20" of usable cargo space. The toolbox is bolted on, and it holds a bunch of bungee cords, some tarp tie-downs, some ratchet tie-downs, and a cable lock to lock the trailer to the bike.

Here's the hitch I used. Basically, it's a 4" x 4" electrical box cover folded in half, then bolted onto the left chainstay. It's got a screw eye in the lower part of it. The trailer side has a U-hitch with a screw-shut gate that goes through the screw eye. The backup is a bungee cord attached to the cargo rack.

This hitch setup works remarkably well. The only thing I'd add to this would be some electrical tape around the screw eye and the U-hitch to lessen the rattling sound, which isn't all that bad, anyway. The main problem that I have with this hitch is that it's a chore to disengage it after a ride, since the screw-shut gate tends to tighten down a little during the ride. It requires a wrench to open it. So, I added one to the toolbox on the trailer.

Here's everything attached, bike and trailer, but unloaded. The trailer is about as long as the bike, and it makes the footprint a little wider, which annoys a few drivers on Crater Lake Avenue, the main road up to my house (with no shoulders, no bike lanes and sidewalks on only 1 block, I might add). But I think it tends to get me seen a little better, too, since drivers aren't used to seeing a big darn trailer attached to a bicycle. That's always a plus in my book.

I put two lights on the back of the trailer, one on each side, so when I drive the thing at night, it gives drivers a good sense of how wide the thing is, so they don't think it's just two bicycles in a row and clip the edge of the trailer. That makes one light on each side that I'll leave solid, and one blinker on the back of the bike in the center, one handlebar mounted headlight, and one helmet-mounted light. I prefer the handlebar light most of the time because I ride mostly a straight line, and I don't like to blind folks with my headlamp.

Finally, here's the whole thing with my normal grocery setup. I've got two plastic bins for groceries, two rack-baskets for the side of the rack, and one cooler. I also have two cooler bags that I can use when I'm getting a lot of cold things that need to be home quick. I can do a whole week's worth of shopping at Safeway's, Melello's and anywhere else.

Funny part of this is when I ride with the trailer, I'm darn near as big as a car, at least I'm about as long as a compact car. I'm about as wide as half a compact car.

So, I rode to the coffee shop to pick up our bi-weekly pound of coffee and realized that their bike rack is really badly positioned for a bike with a trailer. Either I'll block the entrance, or I'll have the butt of the trailer in the drive-thru. So, I decided if I'm as big as half a car, that should entitle me to at least one parking space, so I took one. Everyone thought it was rather amusing. Fortunately, Safeway's has better positioned bike racks. Lowe's, on the other hand, doesn't even have bike racks, so I lock the bike up to the lawnmowers.

Next up, I'm going to finish the box on the trailer, giving it 12" high sides and a tailgate. Something to put stickers on. Since it's plywood, I can plaster it with bumper stickers to my heart's content!