Bicycle trailers

After the demise of one of the wheels of the Roland Traveller, I decided to look for another and thought it might be useful to write down my experiences.


Use of a trailer vs. panniers

I always have panniers on my daily bike, which is enough for groceries, taking clothes + backpack on a bike ride to famliy, etc. But a trailer is useful to transport bigger stuff (I took for example 2 old dishwashers to the local recycling centre with one of the trailers, picked up building materials from a DIY store, etc. which other people would do with a car, but I'm not interested in cars), or a small child, or even 2 children, and dogs.

You can use a trailer for children to transport boxes too by removing the seat, but I will get to that further on.

What I have used a trailer for is to transport stuff that other people would transport with a car, but as I'm not interested in cars I prefer to use a bike trailer..

You can also use a bike trailer for touring. I have not done so though I briefly owned a single wheel bike trailer for this purpose, the Bob Ibex.

Bike trailers that I used

Overview of points to keep in mind in selecting a trailer

Optimal size: Total width (determined by the width of obstacles such as doors, garden gates, traffic gates)

Note The widths of doors and gates are measured not between the frame but such that any hindrance from the doors is included (such as when it can't fully open and the width of the door takes away from the opening width):
Bridge to my house: 1.01m
Width of garden gate at relative 1: 83 cm
Width of garden gate at relative 2: To be measured.
Door to shed: 76 cm.
Back door: 90 cm
Front door 83 cm
Road under a bridge narrowed recently from a road for cyclist + cars into a road only for cyclists, with 2 separate lanes for each direction for cyclists. Each lane is ca. 1.70m wide so this is no issue at all for trailers.
Road with 2 narrow sections where cyclists can ride: 1.00 m. This is the maximum of trailer width in NL and if the trailer is that wide you need to aim it perfectly! You could ride in the middle of the road there and avoid the narrow passage, but you then may need to stop for motorised traffic to pass so I suggest ca. 80 cm as a useful maximum width for trailers in NL so that you can easily ride everywhere.
Width between bollards: To be measured in a few places. These are likely no less than 1.00m.

A total width less than 75 cm means you can get it through most doors, garden gates/doors. 70 cm is perhaps optimal for this, not too wide and narrow enough to get through gates. 75 cm is about the useful maximum, more than that and you may get issues.

Optimal size: Inner height (determined by what you may want to transport

For useful transporting of not just small but also from time to time bigger items I would consider a height of 40 cm of the inside box (in case it is not a bare platform trailer, such as the Carry freedom Y, Roland Carrie M) to be the minimum. This comes from my experiences with the Roland Traveller (30 cm high), and the Columbus trailer (40 cm high).

Optimal size: Inner width and length (determined by what you may want to transport)

I will give some examples of what I would want to transport:

From these sizes, and how to stow them, which useful size would that give?

1. Take house moving box 1, sideways, to put 2 on a trailer, this means 49 cm * 80 cm.
2. Taking the other big boxes it would be nice to have a width of 52 cm, and a length of 81 cm to be able to transport them flat in the trailer.
3. To accomodate all these: 81 cm long x 52 cm wide.
4. Add 1 cm extra for a bit of extra room which gives: 82 cm long x 53 cm wide
That size should be useful for many purposes, and 82x53 cm is possible while keeping the total width within 75 cm.

Now to height: I found the height of 40 cm that the Columbus trailer was very useful (you can easily transport bicycle wheels for example, which stay stable within the box because of that height, but it was also useful to stack various boxes on top of each other), so I suggest the minimum inner dimensions of a bicycle trailer for useful transporting of bigger items:
82 cm long x 53 cm wide x 40 cm high
This is just a bit wider and a bit longer and a lot higher than the Roland Traveller, which I found was not quite long enough and esp. not high enough.

A variable size box could be useful, which is possible for example by making 2 size boxes that are to be mounted on a flatbed trailer.

Wheel size and ground clearance, ride quality

For a rough general estimate of ground clearance I will deduct ca. 5 cm from the axle centre for tubing and hitch mount on the bike trailer.

To put this in perspective, my bicycle has a ground clearance of pedal/crank when it's down, of ca. 10.5 cm, so all these are quite enough in most situations, even going over speedbumps.

Smaller wheels mean a lower centre of gravity which means more stability in curves, and as the wheels are smaller they can withstand sideways forces better so for heavier loads smaller wheels have advantages. With those smaller wheels the ground clearance is still good enough for the obstacles that I encountered.

I found the ride quality fine with small wheels. I also never felt the need for suspension.

Hitch types

With heavy loads of 80 kg and more I noticed when going up hills with low gears that even with a hitch that has little play, you get forward-backward movement of the trailer which is caused by the non-continuous pedalling forces. With a typical low quality ball-joint type hitch attached to the seat post this is worse, it happens quite noticeably with almost any load on flat terrain, caused by the play in the ball joint which is significant. There are better hitches for mounting there that have almost no play, but this problem is about the common type that you can find. I don't recommend such hitches. [ I will add a picture of such a joint later. ]

More to come, including pictures...

Regulations (for trailers, and for using them)

For Germany: In 1999 a 'Merkblatt' was published, based on e.g. research by BASt, about the German rules for trailers, which are not incorporated in the rules, i.e. they have not become official. Kirschbaum's StVZO commentary mentions that the maximum width of a trailer 1.00 m can be deduced from the requirements for a trailer for a moped (in the sense that if that is the maximum allowed for them, then why should it be allowed to be more for bicycles?).
The 'Merkblatt' says:
- Allowed towed load behind a bicycle is 40 kg, 80 kg if the trailer has brakes (an automatic brake what in German is called 'auflaufbremse' (a 'running into' brake, i.e. this is activated by the trailer getting closer to the bike, which means that some mechanism needs to be in place in the hitch bar or in the attachment between bike and hitch bar) is possible, it need not be a lever activated brake. I wonder if that works well with heavy load up a hil in which case you get backward/forward movements that will activate the brakes...)
- Max width: 1.00 m
- Max length is 2.00 m (and up to 4.00 m for trailers for the transportation of sports equipment, e.g. kayaks, javelins).

In any case these proposed rules introduced the requirement of having an axle height mount for trailers for children, which is why trailers have almost all become equipped with such mounts even though these rules never became official rules. Such a mount has an advantage of stability esp. when going up hills with a heavy load.

More to come...

The different hitch mounting positions and issues with them

There are several types of mounting position:

Cargo trailers: Listing of some that seem interesting and good quality, and DIY

I was looking at DIY too as many cargo trailers are too limited and good quality ones are expensive (often 500 EURO and more). Here is a list of some cargo trailers that I may consider in a few months, listed in order from their features, size, cost, approximately such that the ones that most appeal to me are listed at the start of the list.

Ready made (though with flatbeds you may wish to add your own structure on top, so some DIY is still possible or needed depending on your preferences)

DIY kits and parts to make your own trailer

My choice

I've not decided yet, that will come in a few months, but at this moment the following appeal to me for the given reasons, in creasing order of appeal so the first appeals to me most:

  1. Carry Freedom Y large: 75 cm wide, just narrow enough to get through every door/gate I'd want to take it and it would give a good platform to build some box on, with tubing + canvas or from wood.
  2. Wike high sides DIY kit. I could make it to my exact wish in width, length, height.
  3. Croozer Cargo Pakko. Fairly good size and no need for DIY.
  4. DIY using axles and wheels from Hinterher.

Update 2023-4-13: In 2022 I bought 2 2nd hand trailers to try out some options. The Croozer Travel, and a trailer frame from a Winther person trailer which has some sort of suspension, but very stiff. I will add pictures and information soon and what I am using them for (which is experimenting).

Some examples of cargo trailers that don't appeal for reasons of price, quality, design, size

Some types that don't appeal to me for some reason, such as low quality, or high quality but too small and/or far too expensive (with features that most people don't need, such as automatic brakes), and/or because of some design decisions, but which you could have a look at for a reference:

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