Trailer update

Homebuilt bike trailer

My homebuilt bike trailer using the Wike DIY trailer kit recently passed the 100 km mileage mark and I wanted to share some thoughts about it. First off, I have zero regrets about buying the kit and only some minor reservations about my construction. Mostly, I’m as pleased as I can be to have a nice big trailer that can haul virtually anything I want it to. In all, it’s saved me more than a dozen trips that would otherwise have required the car. Some of its duties since its June inauguration have included:

  • Making several trips with three big storage totes all packed full of stuff ranging from coffee makers to power tools. The trailer can easily carry anything I can put into three bins, plus a whole bunch more stuff on top.
  • Ferrying electronics, including a new computer and a large printer.
  • Hauling short sections of lumber. In the picture at the top of this post, a dozen 4-foot sections of cedar are heading off to temporary storage along with a couple of lawn chairs.  The trailer could easily accommodate 6-foot lengths; 8-footers would require a bit more care in loading and travelling, but it could still be done.
  • Carrying sheets of foam insulation and a heavy load of deck-building hardware.
  • And, of course, bringing home big boxes of cat litter.

There are also some things it hasn’t done yet:

  • Go to the farmers’ market. I’ve been satisfied with panniers and a backpack so far this year, but with only one week left, time is getting short to haul home backpacks full of local honeycrisp apples. I usually get a big bushel of them on the last day of the market, but I could pull five or six bushels home this year if I bring my trailer along.
  • Go downtown. The trailer has lived mostly on residential roads in the east end. Although it’s done considerable duty on Danforth,  Broadview, and other busy streets, it hasn’t yet crossed the Viaduct.
  • Haul something really heavy. If the trailer can handle 150 lb as Wike claims, its heaviest load so far has been only about half that.

Despite my early concerns, the pop rivets I used to bind the aluminum tubes to the kit brackets have held up well, and not a single one has come loose or broken. So far so good. I’m still prepared to replace them with screws or bolts if necessary. The oak cargo bed is also holding up well, with no noticeable wear, cracks, or other problems. Even though I planed it down pretty thin, it’s proven to be more than strong enough. This oak stuff is pretty tough; I bet you could make giant trees out of it.

I’ve used a single-wheel BOB Yak trailer for several years and find that using a two-wheel trailer requires a bit of an adjustment. In particular, the Yak tracks so beautifully behind the bike that I never have to worry where its wheel is when I’m riding: it’s always in line with the rear wheel of the bike. A two-wheel trailer, especially one as wide as mine, tracks very differently around turns. I haven’t yet bounced it into the curb, but it’s only a matter of time. And with a wheel off to each side of the bike, it’s that much harder to manoeuvre all three tracks around potholes and other obstacles.

If I were constructing this trailer today, I’d make some minor changes based on my experience so far:

  • I’d use small rubber washers between all of the wood-to-wood and wood-to-metal joints, and maybe dip all of the screws in glue before driving them in. Riding down the street, the trailer tends to squeak and rattle a bit. I know the joints are solid and I’m not worried about them, but I wouldn’t complain if rides were a little quieter.
  • I’d reinforce the front and back of the oak slats with additional crosspieces at each end. Only after I started using the handles at the front and the back as tiedowns did I realize that I don’t have the sturdiest construction at the very edges, which is precisely where the load on the tiedowns is greatest. A crosspiece tying the ends of the slats together underneath the tiedowns would better distribute the force. I haven’t yet encountered any problems with it the way it is, but I can feel the potential for weakness every time I cinch down a bungee cord.
  • I might make the trailer about four or five inches narrower. I’d still be able to haul the same number of storage totes, but would also be able pull the trailer through many more doorways. As currently constructed, the trailer is 34″ wide with the wheels on and thus can’t be pulled through narrower doorways. Still, I like the current bed width of two feet. It could go either way.

Also, I’m planning to make a couple of additions over the winter:

  • I’d like to make a removable pull handle so that I don’t have to stoop down just to pull the trailer around by hand. The handle would also have a stabilizing foot so that I can let go of the handle and still have the trailer rest in a level position.
  • I have a bad habit of loading and unloading on small hills, so I’ve been thinking about how to implement a simple and reliable wheel brake. Chocks would be fine, but I’d always forget to bring them. I need something that I can attach to the trailer and forget about until I need it. This could take the form of a decent kickstand attached to the bike or trailer.

2 Replies to “Trailer update”

  1. You have too much junk, if you have to rely on “temporary storage.”

    Give it away, and save yourself the hassle of trooping back and forth to storage.

    Trust me on this; I once had a unit full o’ crap.

    But that trailer looks pretty cool; you could roll it right up to your storage unit, even if you have a location on an inside corridor.

  2. I appreciate the storage advice, and actually agree with it. But this really is temporary storage: the stuff is on its way from one place to another and it’s easier for it to spend the in-between time in storage than in the basement.

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