Build a Bicycle Trailer

Whether carrying groceries or building materials or a child, you'd be surprised how many chores a two-wheeled bicycle trailer like this can handle.

| July/August 1981

On a typical busy summer day I might go shopping with my daughter and bring back a full month's supply of groceries. Then, after unloading, I might take my kayak in for repairs and return home with, say, 100 pounds of lumber. Now there's nothing very earthshaking about these chores, but most folks are surprised to learn that I handle the bulk of such household hauling tasks with my bicycle!

The fact is, with a good cart in tow, a bike can be every bit as useful as a car is. Furthermore, a well-designed bicycle trailer is neither difficult to pull nor awkward to maneuver. I've found I can cruise level roads in high gear, even while pulling a full load.

Unfortunately, most ready-made bicycle carts sell for upward of $200. Worse yet, many of the haulers lack well-thought-out safety features and the capability of handling loads heavier than those that can be carried in saddlebags or baskets.

My homemade cart on the other hand should cost about $20 to build (if you have a pair of old used bicycle wheels around), will carry 100 pounds or more, won't turn over if the bike takes a spill, has a padded seat for a passenger, doesn't allow a young rider's fingers to reach the spinning spokes, and can be built by anyone who has access to a drill, hammer, saw, and screwdriver!

The Wheel Things

The most potentially expensive—and often the weakest—components of any bicycle trailer are the wheels. Buying two new ones, with tires, could set you back $60 or more, so your best bet will probably be to scavenge a pair from a broken bike. While choosing them, however, look for relatively small wheels with thick axles in order to make this crucial part of your cart as sturdy as possible.

The carrier I designed uses 26-inch wheels, which are slightly stronger than 27inch units would have been. To make your hauler sturdier still, try to locate a pair of 20 inchers. Those from children's "motocross" bikes are the best. (If you use the small wheels, though, remember that—while they'll lower the center of gravity and thus make your cart more stable — they'll require a tongue support that's about three inches longer than the one specified in this article.)

Rear wheels, it should be noted, are both heavier and stronger than "fronts" (the back rollers generally have 3/8"diameter axles rather than 1/4"). My plans call for using one front and one rear wheel, since that combination is what most folks will have on hand or be able to buy inexpensively. If you want to use two rear or two front units, you'll have to modify the plans to account for the changes in width where the axle bolts attach to the cart's frame.

Framing the Trailer

Once the wheels are on hand (and the plans modified, if necessary, to suit them), you can begin construction of the frame. It consists of eight lengths of 1 X 2 (half are 341/2" long, while the rest measure 31" apiece), notched and bolted together. The grooves themselves are all 1/2" deep and 3/4" wide, and are positioned as follows:

Each of the four 31 " lengths of 1 X 2 will have a notch spaced 1/2 inch, at its outer edge, from each of the board's two ends.

Janet Michaels
5/7/2018 3:46:44 AM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to build my own trailer – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

7/25/2013 2:24:06 PM

Are the drawings on a seperate website?

3/26/2007 2:20:06 AM

Bob, you have my fullest sympathy as it took a good long while before I realized to click on the picture top right of the article for the illustrations.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard