A Utility Cycling Trailer Interview

One of the main purposes of Utility Cycling.org is to celebrate the many ways in which a bicycle can be used to accomplish a wide range of tasks. In fact, the potential for utility cycling is so vast, in our Year in Review, it became apparent that we really haven’t even yet begun to scrape beneath the surface during our first half year of existence. We have spent a lot of time talking about broad categories of utility cycling in order to set the stage for its potential, but we haven’t spent a ton of time talking about the nitty-gritty details. Like what kind of equipment might you want to use for bicycle delivery, or how do you start a mobile bike business, or how do you carry gear by bike once you’ve decided what kind of bike to ride for daily bike commuting?

So one of the things we are excited to start in 2010 is a series of interviews with other utility cyclists. One of our main hopes for this site it to help make utility cycling more possible for more people, and also to highlight all of its benefits and joys. To that end, we have a handful of great interviews lined up with people who are practicing utility cycling, helping make improvements to encourage others to ride, and generally spreading bike love.

Our first interview is with Rodney, who writes for the Commute Orlando blog. Commute Orlando is a great site dedicated to riders in the Orlando, Florida, area who want to use or are using their bicycles for transportation. Rodney, one of the contributors to the site, noticed one of our posts – Getting Mulch with the Cargo Bike – and mentioned that he too, has a great trailer he uses to haul gear by bike. We were excited to learn more, so read on to find our first interview with Rodney about his custom bike trailer.

rodneyRodney & Trailer – Photo by Keri of Commute Orlando

We are looking forward to more interviews in the coming weeks, one of which will be dedicated to a very cool re-purposed bike trailer! If you have an idea for an interview or a story to share, please contact us or comment below.

Interview with Rodney of Commute Orlando

Rodney works for a major airline as an aircraft maintenance technician. Since taking up commuting and riding bicycles in October 2007, he has accumulated over 3200 miles pedaled to date. He enjoys riding the Central Florida/Orlando area trails, long road rides, and running errands around town with his grocery-getter bicycle trailer. Check out Rodneys photos in the gallery. (Bio from Commute Orlando).

Utility Cycling: How did you initially become interested in utility cycling?

Rodney: Once fuel became outrageous by U.S. standards, I began commuting to work by bicycle in an attempt to save on fuel and vehicle costs. The Camelbak I used in the beginning made me all icky so I invested in a seat post rack to increase my comfort and carrying capacity.Later, I visited www.walkscore.com and www.2milechallenge.com, and made an amazing discovery. 90% of the businesses I trade with were obtainable by using a bicycle.I found seven grocery stores, two home improvement stores, five big box stores and a number of county parks within a 2-3 mile radius. The seat post rack all of a sudden failed my overall needs.Utility Cycling: What is your favorite mode of carrying things by bike?Rodney: The seat post rack, along with a small plastic bucket, allows me to carry my lunch, fresh work clothes, and shower supplies on my daily commute. This setup allows for light grocery trips as well. For anything larger than a reusable grocery sack or too heavy for the rack, I break out my trailer.

rodney-trailer-and-bikePhoto Credit (and header photo): RodneyUtility Cycling: Why did you select a flatbed trailer as opposed to an enclosed trailer or a single wheel trailer? Rodney: I saw some really neat bike trailers on the internet. The idea of a weather resistant tote on wheels got my attention. With most of these designs, usage options would be severely limited. It was then decided to build a flatbed to be of multi-use and therefore more versatile. This allows the use various size totes to accommodate my needs at the time.

My tool bag/box exceeds the carrying capacity of the seat post rack and the trailer meets the need for transporting between hangars.

Utility Cycling: What do you typically carry with your trailer? How often do you use the trailer?Rodney: For the most part, I use the trailer to/from the grocery store. With a large tote strapped to the deck, I can easily haul 10-12 fully loaded reusable grocery bags. Every few weeks or so, I make a trip to the recycle center with my cardboard, newspaper, plastic bags, and other recyclables.Her maiden voyage safely and efficiently yielded two 40 pound bags of dry dog food.

Several missions have delivered discarded bicycles to our local bicycle collective. When riding with my family, I take the flatbed along to hold the cooler, tackle box, fishing poles, lawn chairs, and picnic basket. My wife hitches up the child trailer and hauls our children.

Just recently, I could be seen hauling 5 gallons of diesel fuel, a 5 gallon water bottle, and two cases of motor oil…..all at once!

rodney-trailer-w-loadPhoto Credit (and header photo): Rodney

Utility Cycling: How much weight is your trailer rated to carry?

Rodney: My trailer is rated up to 150 pounds. I think I may have just exceeded that.Utility Cycling: Can you tell us more about how you built the trailer? Rodney: This is a DIY trailer kit from www.wicycle.com. When the
kit was ordered, I upgraded to the 20 inch premium wheels from the 16 inch mag wheels and ordered an additional hitch for my wife’s bicycle.I procured the aluminum tubing locally. I used 23 feet of 1 inch square tubing with 0.125 or 1/8th inch wall. The trailer platform measures 27 inches wide by 48 inches long. The original decking was standard plywood and was replaced, rather quickly, with used aircraft composite flooring. By doing so, I increased the useful load by 9 pounds. The empty trailer weight is about 24 pounds.Utility Cycling: Do you encounter many other people using bike trailers in your area?Rodney: There are daily sightings of the ever popular child trailers. Many of such carry double duty as a child/utility trailer (grocery/box store shopping). There was an older gentleman using what looked like a hand dolly attached to his seat post moving a small chest of drawers. I’ve seen a couple of touring cyclists passing through with the single wheel versions.Utility Cycling: Do you have any recommendations for someone looking to haul stuff by bike?Panniers would have been my first option. However, my bike doesn’t have the necessary dropouts and would not support racks on either the front or rear. I have seen the Grocery Bag panniers in action and they haul a good deal of stuff.If you decide to invest in a trailer, think about what will be hauled and how often it will be used. Bicycle trailers allow you to haul items ranging from school books, a cooler, a duffel bag, a full size sofa bed, an office desk, or even a standard refrigerator.Some bicycle clubs may offer trailers for rent to their members. If one is in your area, find out and take a “test drive” before you invest.Also, the bicycle handling characteristics WILL be different. Increased drag/rolling friction will be present. I could sense the difference just hauling an empty trailer. Understand this fact and your utility cycling experience will be a rewarding and enjoyable one!


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0 thoughts on “A Utility Cycling Trailer Interview”

  1. jason says:

    Cool post. I’d wonder if the weight of the trailer itself is worth its hauling capacity. I modified a Burley with some lightweight steel mesh and aluminum railing. I’ve comfortably carried nearly 75lbs, but the trailer itself is still relatively lightweight and managable under lesser loads. I definitely wouldn’t think to put 150 lbs in it and would wonder how often that level of transport is needed! I suppose you’d grow into it if you had that kind of capacity at your disposal. In any case the post and site are really interesting! Thanks–jason

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jason. There are definitely some trade-offs between the weight of a trailer and its carrying capacity, but I suppose if one plans to use it for carrying very heavy items on occasion, then its worth it to have the extra weight. Otherwise, someone might want to consider a nimbler trailer that cannot carry as much, but generally don’t need to. But indeed, I think you could probably grow into such a heavy-duty trailer and perhaps go car-free with it!

  3. rodney says:

    We did a Pet Parade and Bike Ride last weekend. Thinking participation would be more than it was, I took my empty flatbed to offer to a trailer-less pooch.

    One of the riders purchased the same kit I have. She built a slightly smaller dimensioned trailer to haul her two full grown Samoyeds and a big honking crate. She even went with the 1/16″ wall thickness and it held up great!

    Hopes are to have enough interest to hold a trailer building workshop this spring.

    1. josh says:

      Rodney,
      BikeTrailerBlog.com has a good list of DIY Bike Trailer projects that may provide some inspiration. Also BikeTrailerBlog.com is now looking for user photos of bike trailers.

  4. tOM Trottier says:

    Citizens for Safe Cycling has made its own trailer for booths and promotions – see the article on it in our newsletter:
    http://www.safecycling.ca/images/Chain_Mail/CfSC-Chain_Mail-Vol25_No02-2009_Fall.pdf

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