Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Grocery Hauler- v.2

After reading my recent story about my Woodie homebuilt trailer, my work compadre Jim K. free-cycled a complete jog stroller and saved it for me, thinking that at least I could use the wheels off it for a future project.  Being in the afterglow of the Woodie project, I took it thinking I would not have a real need for the parts, but the wheels were nice.  So it sat stashed in the garage for the last few months.

One night last week I was reclined on the couch reading a magazine, and BAM! like a bolt out of the blue I had the urge to make something out of the stroller.  Do not know where that came from or why, sometimes it happens that way, like a dormant seed pushing itself up through the soil to find the light.  So down I went into the garage and opened up the stroller.  It was a big dude: canvas seat, sunshade, backpack storage, 16" wheels, mostly aluminum frame.  It had a third smaller front wheel on a fork, the fork made of steel.  Nice stuff.

I started by tearing it apart.  Before I did that, I considered giving the stroller away to someone who might need one.  I could just leave it on the sidewalk and it would disappear overnight.  Nah.  This was given to me to re-purpose, so re-purpose it became as I took my Ryobi screwgun and drilled out the frame rivets, removed all the canvas parts, and disassembled everything into three piles:  aluminum parts, steel parts, and wheels.
Low center of gravity, bigger wheels, and flexible tubes yield a smooth ride

Now at this point I should disclose that the Woodie, while successful, and very cool looking,  is not a brilliant design.  For one thing, it's HEAVY:  I was shocked when I weighed it and the result was 32 pounds!  That's as much as a full suspension mountain bike.  Secondly, it's very stiff, and with it's relatively small diameter wheels, it bounces over pavement wrinkles, and porpoises noticeably.  ( a rythmic shifting of weight forwards and backwards)
Third, it's BIG!  I can't wheel it through doorways or narrow spaces so it lives in the garage, taking up space.

It was great when I had exchange students, you can see from the pics that I filled it with stuff.  Now that the kids are gone, Flashette and I use far less resources, and I have been doing my shopping on the Dutch bike, filling the panniers and a box I bungee cord on for shopping.  So my limit is 3 grocery bags, and also large items are a problem. So those are the reasons that congealed to form a new trailer idea, a smaller, much lighter trailer that would allow me to carry 4-5 bags of groceries, and/or larger items.
Flashblog's organic strawberry field to the right of the rig

Once I had the parts disassembled and on the floor, I started dry fitting frame parts and soon enough it was clear that the stroller handle would fit right into the rear axle assembly, forming the chassis of a small trailer.  Too easy!  Then I took another aluminum section and cut it into two crossbars, and bolted them onto the handle part.  I decided to greatly simplify the hitcharm by using a piece of steel lawnchair frame that I bent into shape, painted black, and attached to the left side of the unit.

So far this project was flying together, and looking very promising.  The crucial item that required the most thought was the hitch mount to the bike.  I really wanted to keep it simple.  The re-purposed bicycle fork method I used on the Woodie is heavy, clunky, and just a tad bizarre.  So, using a variation of two eyebolts that I used with the Woodie, I've created a very minimalist attachment:  1 P-clamp, 2 eyebolts, and a combination lock serving as a hitch post.

It works.  It allows not only swiveling, but also leaning if necessary.  I took the trailer out for the September East Bay Bike Party night ride, and banged it over all manner of ruts and potholes, expecting it would fall apart rather quickly if the design was flawed.  It held up fine!  The P-clamp loosened up a bit, but further tightening fixed that. Voila!  So now I have a 12 pound trailer that is light and flexible, that is so smooth I can't even feel it behind me when I ride, even with 30 pounds in it.  ( I do feel the overall weight)  I think it looks good behind the Kaptein, and I painted the hitch arm and wheels to compliment the black aspects of the bike.  (The Kaptein is a much more appropriate tow bike with it's long, stable wheelbase.)   The blue storage box is what I had on hand, and works great, but something more stylish that matches the bike could present itself as well.  Finally, I can detach the trailer and easily carry it into the house or wheel it from room to room... much more practical.

So my original hope of leaving the car home and biking for all my around town needs has been refined.  When I made the Woodie I was thinking too big, but I had a lot of fun with it, and it is still here for those really big loads.  I could have just purchased a trailer and felt good about that too.  But there's nothing like the feeling of creating something new from something old, with zero cost and only using my hands, tools, and brain to fulfill a dream.

Let's Green Our World My Friends!


  1. Mom would be proud! Grab a can of spray paint and personalize it. Flames?

  2. Jim, If you have a lid for the blue tub you can even ride your bike to shop in the rain! The cover will come in handy to keep all of your parcels nice and dry....

  3. Lynnie: yeah, flames to match my glasses!

    Gaylyn, haven't found the lid yet, buried in the garage somewhere I hope. I'd like to find a less plastic-y box, something cooler looking, more aesthetic. I have something in storage that looks like a treasure chest....hmmmm...

  4. You are so creative. I totally agree with you that this is more practical. Based on the size of the Woodie, I think you could have give me a ride to the Oakland Airport with my two pieces of carry-on luggage and my bike and bike bag.

    OK, not really. I alone would be too much weight for your precious knees and back let alone adding my luggage and bike to your 32 lb trailer. You're gonna' get a lot of good use out of this version.