Friday, September 27, 2013

"In A World..." Making a Trailer (not that kind)

I made two things this week. One of them is seen in the photo above (I'm getting my Breaking Bad series finale party favors together early). 

The second thing I made came about because I looked into getting a trailer kit for my Bike Friday New World Tourist. You can order it from their web store. Here's what it looks like unassembled.

You already know from this blog that I pack my Bike Friday in a large Samsonite suitcase and take it with me on the plane and unpack it in my hotel room - like I did recently for the California trip. The brilliant creators of this folding bike also created the trailer kit: you put the two black wheels in your carry-on bag and the rest of the gear goes in the suitcase with the bike as checked luggage. When you land, you collect the suitcase reassemble the bike at the airport exit, build the trailer, attach the suitcase - which now contains your carry-on bag - to the bike, and you pedal off away from the stunned onlookers who are paying $16 a head for the SuperShuttle

I am counting on at least one chance for me to try this before Folding Bike Week 2014 and I will write about that experience then. But I really wanted to check out this genius piece of engineering before winter, so I put it together this week and thought: there has to be some other use for it other than carrying the suitcase. 

Sure enough, everything went together the way it should. Light, stiff, strong and the wheels rolled easily. In keeping with the whole brilliance of this thing, the trailer hitch mechanism is made from the same connectors that I've seen before on air hoses (in fact, here it is next to one)

Thread it through the rear axle and you've got a trailer hitch.

A Bike Friday representative assured me I'd be able to drill holes in the suitcase to accommodate all three bolts that would fasten the suitcase. I decided to do a dry run with a plastic tub from IKEA…and I ended up with a nice little grocery/light duty bike trailer. 

The Bike Friday people are really onto something here, I thought.

I then thought about the last time I had used a bike trailer: it was just a few weeks ago to bring my office bike to the Bedford Street Diner so I could take a Cycling With Candidates-related ride with News 12's Kathryn Hauser. It did its job, but as you recall from that post, the trailer is a bit cumbersome and makes quite a din. 

I then went into my welding room and picked out several pieces of aluminum for the Bike Friday Trailer Accessory I wanted to build next.

Now I should preface the remainder of this post by making an open comment to Thule and to Bike Friday: The two of you should get together, and when you do, please write me a check as sort of a 'finder's fee.'

As it turns out, I have a couple of rooftop Thule racks that I never use. After all, I have my custom interior bike rack that I made. But if I see these things at yard sales and they are priced at $15 or less, I'll tend to pick one up. 

This build didn't take too long since all I really had to do was drill holes in some very specific places, and then adjust things so that the bike would be balanced. This is what I ended up with. 

Moving it around the shop with my hand, it rolled easily and silently. Also, unlike my other bike mover, no need to take the front wheel off. 

When I hitched it up to the Bike Friday, it sagged down in the back since the hitch was high. But since, as you know, the trailer coupler is the same thing used on air hoses, I was able to build something to deal with the problem.

It's a little on the heavy side (this is steel) but this way I can put it on almost any bike. It's not perfect, but it is a respectable prototype. So respectable, in fact, I anticipate a Bike Friday representative putting a little smiley face on the memo part of the royalty check. 


The coupler worked, and I couldn't wait to try it out. As you know, this week Pope Francis, Bryan Cranston, Lady Gaga and Speaker of the House John Boehner arrived at the Stamford train station at the exact same time. 

Or, perhaps maybe, our beloved train set is broken.

Yes, the Metro North outage is awful, but I think this helping of Inconvenience Porn - particularly on Thursday morning - was a little too graphic for my taste. Not to go all Aaron Sorkin, but can we have the same swarm of satellite trucks in a couple of months when a local food bank announces it's running short on donations before Christmas?


Since I follow Kathryn Hauser on Facebook, I knew the Wednesday morning I had pedaled to work why there was a helicopter hovering over the Greenwich border. Today, there are still people who have long wait times at the station and, even worse, are using their cars to get around even more. That meant DIYBIKING.COM needed to swing into action as only DIYBIKING.COM can.

This morning, I hitched up and pedaled the Bike Friday down toward the Stamford train station. Once again, I have to give thanks to the folks at Bike Friday: the trailer was quiet - almost unnervingly so. It tracked well and didn't make a peep. The Thule rack also held the bike securely - so I must give thanks to those good people as well. 

I pedaled tentatively since this was still a maiden voyage for the trailer, but I ended up arriving at the Stamford station rather quickly. Three things I noticed: a several people waiting for a train, not as many news vehicles, and a Brompton that was locked to the bike rack. I was appalled. Who locks up a Brompton? Honestly? 

I had a couple of cabbies express interest in what I was towing behind me and some curious looks, but I ended up pedaling back to my house with the Schwinn still onboard- first stopping by Fairway and West Beach - finishing the little excursion with about five miles under my belt. At home I unhitched the trailer and went another 24. Didn't even know the coupler was still there. 

So, Thule, meet Bike Friday. Bike Friday, meet Thule. Agree to this joint venture, settle on a generous finders fee for DIYBIKING.COM, and enjoy a long a fruitful partnership. As for everyone who is waiting for Metro North to work again: please be patient, support new rail infrastructure, and try to choose to ride a bike in the meantime. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


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