People are pedaling back into the cycling scene, cruising down bike paths and bicycle lanes to stay fit, be hip, or go green. Singlespeeds, track bikes, and fat-tired cruisers are fast becoming the choice of transport for city-dwellers, both for commuting and recreation.
But there's a point at which most of us grab for our car keys: the lack of room on bikes to carry lots of stuff. A shoulder bag is great for personal gear, a DIY bike basket is handy for carrying a bit more, and panniers will hold groceries, but what about when you want to haul big bulky stuff? You need a trailer.
Build or Repurpose a Bicycle Cargo Trailer
A bicycle trailer is just the ticket for the urban bicycling lifestyle, letting you get away without having to drive your car every time you have the need to haul something heavy or awkward. They can haul gear, groceries, even your Greyhound dog if you like. With a good bike and a decent bike trailer, you'll be leaving the car parked more often.
When you first think about getting a trailer, and go to price them, you may be surprised at the cost. If you have the cash to simply purchase one, there are certainly plenty of great ones for sale (I like the BOB trailer), but for many, the price is just too high - although if you could invest in a new one, you would probably recoup the cost over a year in reduced gas expenses.
For the frugal and crafty, the next best thing would be to repurpose an old trailer, such as the kid carrier trailers that can be found at thrift stores or yard sales. When the nylon covers get bleached and dried from being left outside too long, they get shredded, making it useless for carrying children, but perfect for a DIY bicycle trailer. Build a platform that mounts to the frame, and you've got a mini pickup truck.
If you want go further, or you can't find an old one to rebuild, a number of very ingenious cyclists have posted pictures, plans, and instructions for DIY trailers, and most of them are free to use for personal use.
If you live in an area with access to bamboo, these bamboo bicycle trailer plans are for you. Other regions with plentiful tree saplings for cutting may find a replacement (perhaps willow?) The author only asks to know what you'll use it for, and will give you the plans.
If you have access to a conduit bender (or an electrician friend), this DIY bicycle trailer is made from electrical conduit, and the parts should be pretty affordable. If you live near a ReSource or Habitat for Humanity store, it'll be even cheaper. You still need some wheels for your trailer, but can be scavenged from a couple of old kid's bikes.
Another great bicycle trailer on Instructables will haul 200 pounds, and cost $30 to build, says the author. 1/2" conduit makes the frame, and requires brazing skills to construct.
The International Bicycle Fund bicycle trailer is made out of square steel tubing, and looks to be able to stand up to rough use and heavy hauling. For full plans, contact IBF.
For the ultimate in touring, check out the radical single wheel trailer for tandem bicycles. It's an involved project, but for tinkerers and builders, this trailer is a work of art. It carries the weight low and tracks directly behind you.
Don't let the price of a new trailer stop you from owning one, because for the price of a meal at a restaurant, you can pick up a used one and rebuild it, or get together with some mechanically-minded friends and make a new one. I've seen ones made from old grocery carts, and from angle iron and chain link fence, using a child's bicycle fork as part of the frame.