Sunday, July 30, 2006

Big Homebuilt El Cheapo Bicycle Cargo Trailer

First off let's give credit where credit is due. This is not an original idea. It is a modified design from an original post on MAKE that shows you how to build a $30 trailer. Mine came out at $34, not bad.

The main body

I used 4 pieces of 1 X 2 lumber and some left over plywood I had. I built a ladder type frame by using 90 degree brackets and screwed everything in. I then used steel cover plates for electrical boxes for my wheel support braces. Everything was screwed and glued into place.
The trailer arm

I recycled a cheap car bicycle rack that I wasn't using anymore, bent and cut the thing into shape. I got the part I needed and some sweet revenge for all the times that the thing made me scream and yell! The finished arm was bolted tight to the frame and seems pretty solid so far.

The hitch

This is the part that makes every homebuilder sweat! You need something solid and that will allow for all the free movement that bikes are known for. I think my solution is pretty simple and cheap as well. I used one of those electrical cover plates that I folded in half, made a hole and bolted it on to the wheel and frame of my bike. I then bolted an eye bolt on that bracket. I think it's a bit too big, but it does the job well. I put a U-clamp that can be locked in place with a screw that I put in a hole that was drilled in the trailer arm. There is a lot of play and you can feel some jerking motion when you pull the trailer. But hey! That itch cost less then $5 to make, it's strong and allows all the free movement that you need. You will never flip the trailer while doing a crazy slalom maneuver. I've put some electrical tape over the eye bolt to kill the clanking noise that is inevitable with this set-up.

Wheels and hardware

The wheels are a pair of 16 inchers that were lying around my backyard. I need to get some matching tires now. I always build my projects with the strict minimum of new parts. That way if the project fails, I'm not out by too much money. I put in some eye screws to hold the cargo with bungee cords. I might make sides to the thing, but I have to paint it first since it will live outdoors.

In closing

I built this cargo trailer pretty big because I wanted to be able to carry big stuff. I don't do that everyday, but I now have something I can use instead of the family, gas guzzling, money pit mini van. By the way, I don't know how much the trailer weights, but it's lighter than one of those minvan seats. I will be building a smaller version with two plastic containers bolted to the frame for grocery runs. If you decide to build one, do it the size you are most comfortable with. A rule of thumb for the width is not larger than your shoulders, this way you can safely use the trailer on bike paths. I will update this post everytime I make changes to the big el cheapo cargo trailer and I'll make a new one for the smaller trailer.

Safety note

This trailer is designed for cargo only. I do not recommend building one for carrying your kids. A good used one would be a much better solution. When the kids grow out of it, you can still use it to carry groceries, treasures found at garage sales or a complete kit for a picnic with your significant other. However, if you plan to do this anyway, make sure that the kids cannot get their hands in the wheel spokes. Also, test the living daylights out of your contraption before by loading it with twice the weight, ride in the worst possible road conditions and do the craziest stunts. If the thing is still in one piece after that and hasn't tipped over, then you might want to trust the health of your kids in your contraption. I wouldn't.


If you want to build a small grocery getter trailer for your bicycle, check out this artcile on how to build one.

Tip of the day: reuse, repair, recycle and have fun doing it!


paul said...

Looks neat!
A question about the hitch:
Have as the plate caused any stress to your axle, chainstay, or quick-release, or bolt?

Gerry Lauzon said...

It hasn't so far., but I will check for the bolt axle tightness before the beginning of the riding season. It is also important to tighten it real hard, no half measures.


mike said...

that's great
i'm working on one now
but with small snow blower type wheels
so it'll be more like a flatbed
wheels won't get in the way
and still low enough
good idea about shoulder width though
and your hitch is great
i was really conflicted about that part
thanks a lot


Joss said...

Just made this trailer its great ! plans are dead dead good !!!
thanks for makeing the blog
its so handy

Gerry Lauzon said...

Happy to hear it Joss. That makes it 5 trailers that I know of that were built using the blog. Pretty cool.

Gerry :)

Steve said...

Awesome plans (and site)!
I hope to start on a trailer soon (just need to acquire some wheels).
One question: what are the dimensions of the trailer? I know I can probably use anything within reason, but I like to have a starting point.


Gerry Lauzon said...

3 feet wide by 5 feet long. Send me a pic when you're done.

Gerry :)

wifisherman said...

Im making a trailer for my inflatable fishing raft. It's about 8ft. by 3ft. so it is pretty big. All I need is the tires, then Im done. Thanks for the inspiration!

Emily G said...

Did you end up putting sides on it? I just have to finish the hitch tomorrow and then mine is all done! It came out great, especially for an inexperienced builder like myself. The trailer will be used to deliver plants and produce for a local non-profit that does gardening for healthy living in the community. It really needs sides to keep the flats of plants in, but I'm not sure what would work best. Would appreciate any input, thanks for the great how-to!

Gerry Lauzon said...

Happy to hear that another one was built Emily. A local community bike shop built one here and they used plywood to build up sides to it. The important thing to remember is to cover the wheels so that nothing gets caught in them.

Gerry :)

Emily G said...

I haven't figured out the side walls yet or painted and there are some changes I'll probably have to make to the hitch, but here are the pictures so far.

Jordan W said...

Would there be any problem makiing this trailer with 26 or 27 inch wheels?


Gerry Lauzon said...

Nothing stopping you Jordan, the trailer will just sit a bit higher so you'll have to adjust the the trailer arm for that.

Gerry :)

joe said...

i have a question for you gerry, Ive built the whole trailer already (with 24" wheels)and now i need to do the hitch arm, what else do you think i could use besides one of those bars

Gerry Lauzon said...

Joe, use anything that is already bent and then just cut to size. Tent poles come to mind or metal table legs. Really, anything can do, as long as it's strong enough for the weight you intend to carry.

Gerry :)

joe said...

thanks gerry ive got it done now and i cant wait to take it for a run

fim said...


Just thought I would say thanks for the bike trailer idea and plans! Almost finished mine!


Gerry Lauzon said...

Great to hear. I still use mine. Send me a pic when you are done if you can at: xddorox(at)gmail.com

Gerry :)

maelcolm said...

What's the heaviest load you have put on the trailer?

Gerry Lauzon said...

That would be 150 lbs

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

If the trailer is 5 feet long, where along that 5-foot line did you install the wheels? Doesn't look halfway--how did you decide?

Gerald said...

The wheels are at the halfway point. You need to do that to avoid excessive load on the hitch. You also need to balance the load when you put stuff on the trailer to avoid that.

Gerry :)

Henrietta Foster said...

Gerry, I'd like to make a small utility trailer using your instructions. I expect to use 1"x2" wood from the home improvement store. Do you think poplar or maple would be a better choice? I'll probably paint the trailer, so I'm not too concerned with how the wood looks, but I want to make sure it is as robust as possible.

Gerald said...

Using a hardwood is definitely a better choice than my pine job. You should see how twisted it looks now, although it's still works.

Good Luck with your build.

Gerry :)

Karl said...

finished the trailer last weekend. a bit more extensive of a project than i initially anticipated, but they usually all are. trailer works awesome. i've noticed a lot of people asking about railings, so i'll post a picture of the trailer i built. i used 2x4s that i ripped into 1/2" slats with a table saw. i used slats for the flooring as opposed to plywood because they are lighter, it is easier to clean and less likely to warp/rot. had a lot of trouble finding a good hitch. ended up going to a family friend who has an awning company and getting a used pre-bent piece from him which worked perfectly. the attachment to the bike could use some work, as the one in the instructions doesn't incorporate all of the possible movement of the trailer. should the bike fall with the trailer attached, the hook-up would more than likely bend or break. i used 26" wheels and they work really well. the bigger wheels help to accommodate for the weight as well as allow for a smoother ride. When attaching the wheels to the pre-fabbed brackets i recommend adding several washers on either side of the wheel axles to prevent the metal from bending when tightening. anyone with any suggestions for creating a more universal attachment would be much appreciated. thanks for the instructions and best of luck everyone!

Karl said...

Here is the link to the trailer I built:


Craig said...

I'm in the process of designing my own trailer, building hopefully over easter and in full preparation for a huge cycle trip in the summer!!

Check out my flickr photos for progress so far!

Things I've changed, mainly to do with the hitch:

-o- Using a plate - attaching a plate to the side of the frame! Secure the plate in at least 3 places (triangle is the strongest shape).

-o- Sidewalls to the trailer - on my long distance ride, I want to have sides and possibly a canvas/plastic covering. I don't want my stuff to get wet!!

I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes!!
Current progress - searching for wheels. Once they're found, then I'll buy the wood and start building!!

Tell me what you think to my plate idea and pictures!! Seems a stronger and more secure fixing to me!

Anonymous said...

do you think i could haul a push lawn mower on this trailer? thanks

Gerry Lauzon said...

You can haul up to 200 lbs with this trailer, so I would say yes.

Gerry :)

Fergus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fergus said...

do you think if I had a eyebolt that fits into the threaded bit used for a bike back rack, i could just thread it in there without using a metal plate secured to the axle. The only problem i see is that it is hard to find 5M thread eye bolts. But maybe it wouldn't be strong enough.........

Gerry Lauzon said...

Strenght of the attachement should be your main concern. Make sure you have a plan B in case it fails. A loose trailer in traffic is not a funny thing...I know.

Gerry :)

Garett Brown said...

Hi my name is Garrett and I was directed here from www.biketrailershop.com. Here is my pickle, I have an instep 2 seat child trailer that i use roughly 15 hours a week march to august hauling my 4 and 1 year old. We are expecting a third child this summer and I am looking to the future with us being able to ride. Tanjor it seems was the only maker of a 3 child trailer and they have gone OOB. I have considered either trying to modify the existing one or build something along the lines if the current one only larger.

do you have any recommendations for making a 3 kiddo trailer? I know you said don't use this one.


Gerry Lauzon said...

Whatever you do, overbuild everything. Just remember that you are carrying your most precious cargo while building or modifying what you have.


Aksoy Reklam İzmir said...



Anonymous said...

Just letting people know that it's a good idea but depending on how your back wheel is connected, putting the cover plate may shift the wheel and screw with the breaks. There is a way to shift the wheel back with the plate on by rotating the bolt on the middle but it's kinda difficult.