I wrote this article for Treehugger.com. You can see it in its original context here.
Until Now, A Limit to What I Could Do With My Bike
Here at Treehugger we talk a lot about cycling for transportation as well as recreation purposes. On a personal level, the bike has been my car for the past five years, during which time I have riding across the U.S., commuted to work and class, and ridden for every conceivable purpose and in rain, snow, hail and heat. However, one limitation has always bothered me: whenever I’ve needed to carry something larger than what can fit on my rack or in my panniers, I’ve had to rely on someone with a car in order to carry that object. In other words, I wasn’t living the “true” car-free lifestyle.
Well, that all changed last week when I received my new trailer from Bikes at Work. There are lots of different trailers out there, but I decided on this one because it is designed to carry up to 300 pounds and has an innovative hitch design. Not only that, but on their web site you can see amazing pictures of people hauling everything from fridges to sofas to lawnmowers–that’s the kind of trailer I want! I finally got to test out the trailer earlier today when I went to Office Depot to buy a new office chair. See how the trailer performed (as well as more photos) after the fold.
The Trailer Performed Beautifully
After I purchased the chair, I carried it to my bike, which was parked out front and getting quite a lot of attention. The chair was in a rather large box, but it still fit easily onto the trailer; a few bungee chords made sure that everything was snug. The ride from Office Depot to my apartment is only 2 miles, but includes a rather steep hill. Fortunately, the trailer was rock steady thanks to its two wheel design and massive tow bar. The low-gears on my bike enabled me to comfortably spin up the hill, and I was home in no time. Of course, I got lots of looks, comments and questions (all of them positive). When I got home I simply undid the bungee chords, carried the box in the house, and my first use of the trailer came to a successful end.
Granted, I could have paid Office Depot $10 to have them deliver the chair assembled–in a truck–directly to my house. First of all, where’s the fun and elegance in that? But secondly, and more importantly, I’m always eager to dispel the notion that bicycles are cute for kids, college students and racers, but are useless for real adults with kids and errands to run. Cyclists already suffer from an image problem; it doesn’t help when they have to bum a ride to go pick something up that’s too big to fit on their bikes. Now the tables have been turned. With a good trailer, a cyclist will almost never have to rely on a car to lead her life, and that’s good news all around (aren’t there already enough people relying on cars?).
Hauling Pretty Much Anything–With a Trailer
What’s so great about having the trailer is that now I can do all sorts of fun, useful, interesting things with my bike, such as helping friends move across town; carrying lawn and garden tools; and even hauling my race bike to the bike shop for repairs. However the most interesting use of the trailer may come when myself and several graduate students at Brown University start up a household food scrap pickup service for several dozen friends, neighbors and colleagues. We will use the trailer to pick up food scraps and take them to an on-campus community garden, which has a compost bin.
The trailer itself it made out aluminum and steel, and is extremely well made. Also, the trailer is modular, meaning that it can be made longer or shorter depending on the type of load that needs to be carried. In fact, the axle can even be adjusted so that the wheels are beneath the heaviest part of the load.
A close up of the steel hitch
A close up of the beefy towbar connecting the trailer to the hitch
A close up of one of the rear wheels and fenders
The office chair resting comfortably on the trailer
Via: ::Personal Experience and thanks to the great trailers at Bikes at Work