A bicycle trailer for camping and sleeping on.

Discussion in 'Tandem and Other Bikes' started by delport, 10 Jan 2011.

  1. delport

    delport Guest

    A bicycle trailer for camping and sleeping on

    Anyone interested in this subject of building a bicycle trailer that can be used as a bed?

    I'm currently building one, after looking at what could be bought for around £100, and seeing trailers for carrying very little weight and fairly small too.The argos trailer at £100 is an example of small and unable to carry much weight.
    Mine will be 6 1/2 feet in length, and be able to carry above 13 stone in weight.Visibly the trailer will only appear to be 4 feet long, the extra 2 1/2 foot platform will fold into the first section of the trailer,i may just use hinges for that section.This part is my own concept, partly influenced by something i saw on the web.

    I have recently wild camped 23 nights in a row, so i thought it time now to create something solid to sleep on rather than just sleeping on any old patch of grass with tree roots and rocks under me.

    Cost of the trailer so far has mostly been made up of buying power tools, as i had next to nothing before i began.
    Cost of wood and materials has been above £50 but under £100 so far.

    I found 2 bike frames over the last few months, and 2 wheels.So that part is free.

    The difficult parts i find of building a trailer are setting the wheels up correctly, so that they can be safe and not beyond control, sometimes i go down hills at 30 to 40 mph, i don't think i'm going to get away with those speeds with a trailer though.I am probably going to fit brakes.The trailer arm is the other tricky part.

    After lots of thought, and some advice, i've worked out a way to secure the wheels using the headset of the 2 old bikes, this involves using part of the frame of a bike, and the headset and fork.This in theory should provide an ultra strong set up, only the headset and the fork will be visible at the side of the trailer, the main frame of the bike goes under the trailer and provides strength to the headset and fork.
    A person suggested to put the wheels as far back as possible on the trailer rather than up at the front, to help with steering so i am doing that.

    So far i've been doing a lot of cutting and sanding.My base is made of 4 foot by 2 foot plywood cost £17, and i cut up an aluminium step ladder to use somewhere on the trailer, i have 3 aluminium ladders so didn't need the one i cut.Step ladders can carry 15 stone in weight,and is lightweight, so that was my logic behind using it.So far i've used the aluminium as a trailer handle, it also gives me something to design the trailer arm around.
  2. mark barker

    mark barker New Member

    Swindon, Wilts
    I've built a couple of trailers in the past, and once you get the basic frame sorted they really do come together quickly. Not sure about using plywood as a base, sounds pretty heavy for little gain. A while back I saw a trailer/tent combo that had a fabric (nylon?) base. This seemed to work well. I am curious about how you're planning on running the brakes on the trailer...
  3. OP

    delport Guest

    Haven't thought a lot about the brakes yet, but i have seen a similar sized trailer with brakes working fine.Here is a picture of that bike trailer i saw
    the owner and i cycled together for a few hours.
    p.s: he doesn't sell ice cream or hot dogs out of the trailer.:biggrin:
    The trailer carries a guitar and amplifier round europe for months on end.The owner spends nearly all year cycling round europe.
  4. mcshroom

    mcshroom Bionic Subsonic

    Egremont, Cumbria
    I'm trying to figure out how the brake works on that thing. Do you have a third lever or is it attached to the rear brake in some way?
  5. OP

    delport Guest

    not sure how it works really.
    Here are 2 more photos of that trailer

    I've just noticed he has a gold handled 3rd brake lever in the middle from what i can see in the 2nd picture.

    I took some video footage of him and the trailer to check how it ran, but the video is all from the back.

    His trailer cost £250 to put together and he set the wheels at an angle rather than setting them in a traditional way.
    The trailer handled quite well, though it was very heavy and he struggled on hills.
  6. mark barker

    mark barker New Member

    Swindon, Wilts
    Having a small amount of camber on the wheels (top of the wheel leaning in slightly) does make quite a difference to the stability of trailers, but it can add a lot of wear to tyres and bearings if overdone.

    Assuming the brakes are cable operated, I guess the easiest way to make them work would be to use a spring mechanism in the towing arm so that the brakes are applied automatically if the trailer starts to accelerate towards the bike (ie the bike has slowed down or is going down hill). The same concept is used on braked trailers for cars.
  7. mcshroom

    mcshroom Bionic Subsonic

    Egremont, Cumbria
    That would make sense, and would solve the problem I could see that any connection to the bikes braking system would mean messy cable fiddling every time you wanted to disconnect the trailer
  8. mark barker

    mark barker New Member

    Swindon, Wilts
    The trailers I've built had the arm attached as per your picture (ie to one side of the bike frame, attached using the rear wheel nut). I've found that with an empty trailer this is fine, but if the weight starts to increase it can cause curious handling, especially under braking. I also have a trailgator for towing my daughters bike, and this attaches to the seat post and feels far more stable. Not sure if this type of attachment could be used for a trailer, but might be worth considering. I've also seen a trailer being attached to the centre of the rear of the bike by using a bracket fitted to the rear of the bike (it looked a little like a tow bar on a car), again fitted to the rear wheel nuts, but this time on both sides. I figured this would reduce the handling issues with the traditional fitting.
  9. chillyuk

    chillyuk Guest

    I wouldn't waste my time. just go the whole hog:

    My link

    maybe some interesting (and serious) ideas here if you haven't already seen it:

    Camping trailers
  10. Here's one I built a couple of years ago; there have been others, but this one's my favourite and I still have it (now it's powder coated bright yellow).

    A couple of points come to mind.

    Brakes on the trailer seem like a good idea, but they're going to add quite a bit of complication, especially if you try to come up with some sort of automatically-applied mechanism, like the overrun brakes on car trailers. I think to make such a thing would need quite a bit of engineering know-how, and loads of maintenance and adjustment.

    If you add an extra brake lever to the bike, the problem will be that when you really need the trailer brakes, your hands will be full with working the bike's own brakes. What might work would be a drag brake on the trailer, similar to the setups some people have with a third brake on a tandem. Sometimes these are worked with an old-fashioned friction down-tube gear lever. The drag brake is engaged at the top of the hill and disengaged at the bottom - no further attention needed.

    On a trailer, though, you'll also need a brake for each wheel. And if they aren't precisely balanced, the trailer will tend to slew to one side. Keeping them balanced could be tricky - unless you apply more engineering and further complication. (Look at caravan or car trailer brakes to see how they're balanced - but there's no weight concern there! - and they still tend to malfunction unless scrupulously maintained).

    If your trailer is going to use 700C wheels, and sit above the axles, it's going to ride fairly high off the ground. If you're planning to carry any serious weight on it, consider using smaller wheels which will give the whole thing a lower centre of gravity. That will make it very much more stable. Smaller wheels are also generally stiffer and stronger.

    A lower-riding trailer will tend to affect the towing bike's handling less than a tall one.

    Having the trailer wheels behind the balance point is a good idea, as you don't want the trailer to be tail-heavy. If it's tail-heavy enough, when you get off the bike, the trailer will see-saw and lift the back of the bike off the ground. Trailers in general handle better if they're slightly nose-heavy. BUT if it's too nose-heavy, you're putting a lot of load on the point of the bike to which it's hitched. Make sure it can handle the extra load. Load the trailer thoutfully. My advice would be to have around 2/3 of the load in front of the axle. You'll see my trailer has the axle 2/3 of the way along its load bed.

    If the bike frame can handle the downward weight of the trailer on the hitch, consider too, that, without brakes on the trailer, on a downhill there'll be quite a bit of force pushing forward from the trailer onto the bike frame. On an uphill, the same force will be dragging back on that point.

    And while I'm talking about forces, consider too that dynamic forces from a trailer moving along the road can be several times higher than the static forces you see when it's standing still. They get a hard time and need to be tough.

    Trailers also tend to waggle and vibrate a bit on their small wheels, so anything fastened to the trailer will need to be fastened in a secure and vibration-resistant way. The same applies to fastenings that are part of the construction of the trailer.

    Keep the weight on the bike (you and any load) more than the weight on the trailer. Towing a trailer that weighs more than you do can lead to the tail wagging the dog in a seriously scary way!

    For all these reasons, I'd urge you to consider the following:

    Make a steel frame for your trailer. Steel is cheap, tough and elastic (handles and absorbs vibration well). That's why it's always been used for bike frames! Weld it or braze it together or find someone who can do that for you. It needn't cost much.

    Use small wheels.

    Don't load the trailer too much - split the load between the bike and the trailer so that the trailer will be lighter. (That'd save you having to unload it before you slept on it anyway).
    classic33 likes this.
  11. snorri

    snorri Legendary Member

    Hi delport, do you realise you have given access to 272 of your pics with that link?
    I haven't looked at them, well I did look at 3 of them.:smile:
  12. psmiffy

    psmiffy -

    The guy towing it wasn't a scot was he? Looks like a posh version of a trailer that was behind a bloke I met on the Col Mont Cenis about 15years ago - contained about 10 litres of cheap red wine - he had also infilled the frame of the bike with aluminium cabinets which contained his tool kit
  13. OP

    delport Guest

    No, he was a Londoner,,born in the east end

    He spends every year cycling, doesn’t have a home,

    The picture shows trailer mark 3, mark 1 was a basic halfords type trailer that wore out.

    I think his trailer looks great.There are solar panels on it too.

    Thanks for all the comments,I’m still reading them.

    To poster Uncle phil
    thanks for all the advice, unfortunately i began building the trailer a few days ago, and the base is plywood.Which i've started building around, at the moment i'm cutting space for the bike frame to go under the trailer.
    The only wheels i have are mountain bike wheels, the idea was to try and make it all for something near £100.I realise mountain bike wheels aren't ideal,i would have preferred something smaller.

    I do need help with the trailer arm, how to make a trailer arm without welding?I was planning to have the trailer connected up centrally, i've bolted the top section of an aluminium ladder to the very top centre of the plywood.

    Although the plywood is 2 foot across, i don't feel limited to only having that amount of space.2 foot is barely enough room to breathe, there are ways to make the trailer temporarily wider,something that can fold back onto the base of the trailer,ideally i'm looking for it to be as wide as a 2 man tent for night time use.
    I'm trying to keep the trailer narrow as cycle paths often have bollards that i feel the trailer would catch on.

    And i'm beginning to go off the idea off having brakes on the trailer, after what you said.
  14. OP

    delport Guest

    yes no problem, i knew, i don' t have anything to hide.
  15. ufkacbln

    ufkacbln Guest

    For a true nomadic bike lifestyle... BEHEMOTH!
    The trailer carried:

    THe bike carried:

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