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The Do-It-Yourself Bicycle Cart

For the urban or suburban shopper with a load of groceries to carry home, the bicycle cart is a helpmate you can make yourself.

| January/February 1983

  • bicycle cart - closeup of brace fitting
    The top of a brace as seen from the inside of the cart.
  • bicycle cart - climbing a curb
    The MOTHER EARTH NEWS version of the bicycle cart in action.
  • bicycle cart - original version
    Wendell Gautschi's original bicycle cart design featured four large wheels on a shopping cart, which differs slightly from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS version.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff
  • bicycle cart - closeup of axel
    Close-up of the wheel axle, showing the various components in place.

  • bicycle cart - closeup of brace fitting
  • bicycle cart - climbing a curb
  • bicycle cart - original version
  • bicycle cart - closeup of axel

While millions of Americans are complaining about the high price of gasoline (and the rising cost of automobile insurance), many others are trying to get along — either all the time or as often as possible — without using a car. And, obviously, marketing day can be a real chore for such folks.

Well, not long ago reader Wendell Gautschi wrote in describing one solution to the problem: he simply converted a discarded shopping cart into an easy-to-push carryall! We were so intrigued by the photos of Wendell's contraption that our research crew decided to build a bicycle cart themselves. And it's been quite a hit with the rest of the staff. In fact, the more we look at the thing, the more ideas we get for using it.

If you'd like to duplicate our "shopper," you'll need a retired supermarket cart, of the kind all too frequently seen abandoned in gullies, landfill operations, and back alleys. Of course, you shouldn't just "adopt" a deserted derelict (it still belongs to the market), but you'll find that many stores have damaged carts that they're willing to give away to folks who can make good use of them (ours was a gift from a local supermarket). And although a castoff carryall is likely to be in poor shape, it may still be perfectly salvageable. After all, for this project you'll need only the basket, frame, and swiveling front wheels.

In addition, you'll have to round up two 26-inch bicycle wheels (check junkyards and bike repair shops for these) and an assortment of pipe, rod, and fittings. The exact sizes of these components will vary according to the size and style of the cart you come up with, so you'll need to measure yours to determine the correct dimensions. We can, however, at least give you the specifics of the parts used for our model.

The axle assembly is made up of a 28 1/4-inch length of 3/8-inch threaded rod, an 18-inch length of 1/2-inch electrical metallic tubing (E.M.T.), a piece of scrap wood measuring 3/4-by-1-by-15 1/2-inch, four 3/8-inch copper pipe flare fittings, four 3/8-inch nuts, two 3/8-inch washers, and three stainless steel 2-inch-diameter hose clamps.

The side braces consist of two 19 1/2-inch lengths of 1/2-inch E.M.T. (start with pieces a bit longer and then trim them to fit), four 1/2-inch body washers, two 1/4-by-1-inch eyebolts with nuts, and two 1-inch long 10-32 bolts.

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