A Bike Trailer For Any Expedition

One of the greatest challenges for a hardware hacker relying only on a bicycle for transport lies in the regular need to carry more than can be slung from the handlebars or on the luggage rack of your trusty steed. One of our favourite YouTube creators in our sphere, [Laura Kampf], has addressed this problem with a trailer for her electric bike made from a pair of second-hand wheelbarrows. She uses their buckets to make a clamshell box, and their wheels alongside a custom steel chassis to make the rest of the trailer.

As always with Laura’s work it’s a delight to watch, with some careful use of the cutting wheel to install hinges and vents in the upper bucket. Finishing touches are a chequer plate top for the trailer and a spare wheel mounted on the back for that extra-rugged look. Experience with wheelbarrow wheels suggests to us that the slightly more expensive ones with ball bearings are worth the investment over the plastic ones, but either way this is a bike trailer that means business.

We don’t see as many bike trailers as we’d like here at Hackaday, and those few we have are old enough to have succumbed to link-rot. Perhaps this project might tempt a few people to try their hand?

30 thoughts on “A Bike Trailer For Any Expedition

      1. Doesn’t look totally waterproof either. There’s no overhang around the lip.

        Fun though it is, an old roof box might be a better starting point.

        If building something like this, extra batteries to range extend the bike, or power other stuff, might be good.

      2. The top bucket is heavy enough that it’s not going anywhere. Remember, it’s being pulled by a bike, not a car, there’s no way it’s going to be bouncing around enough to overcome the weight.

  1. That was a good build!
    In Quartzsite Arizona one winter I was stopped to make a left turn, in front of me was a bike & trailer. The trailer had a full solar panel on top, for the electric bike I’d imagine. I thought that was a good idea.

  2. Seems like it might be unnecessarily heavy. Carry a spare wheel for a tire that’s never going to go flat? Hmmmm. I guess e-bikes have made it possible to do all sorts of crazy stuff that you’d never consider if you had to pedal it.

      1. Indeed, though you just know the tyre that goes flat now is on the bike every time – your not carrying the spare for that one too…

        I’d also somewhat disagree with mrehorst – I used to haul around stupid weights on my bike all the time, not that I would suggest doing so, its certainly more work doing so, which the extra electric oomph probably does wonders for…

    1. Do you have any idea how a retroreflector works? They basically work from any angle, what really matters is the difference in angle between the light source and the person watching (i.e. they work less from a truck where a driver is far away from the headlights).
      Off course them being at this angle halves the apparant size, but as long as you don’t have ppl comign at you at 100km/h, it’s not the amount of light that counts, but the attention value. These are already 4 times the size of what I have on my bike.

    1. It’s an e-bike, so the motor is doing most of the work.

      I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too hard to find plastic wheel barrows or other suitable boxes to use instead of steel. It would be much lighter and there would be no worries about rust. For utility, I think a couple gasketed plastic boxes that can sit in a bespoke aluminum frame would be both lighter and more versatile. You wouldn’t have to worry about rain soaking/ ruining whatever you’re carrying.

      But it might not look the same, and I think the look is a big part of this particular project.

  3. A hobo in Texas made an e-bike e-trailer that had a large plastic box sitting on top of a metal frame. The frame contained over 100 Ah of batteries, somewhere around 72 VDC, powering both the e-bike and the e-trailer. The bottom impact shield was an old traffic sign. The e-trailer had two, then four, and sometimes six powered suspension rear wheels off of sit-down style e-scooters. He rode around with his two dogs in the trailer, surprising motorists at red lights when, instead of holding them up when the light turned green, he’d be off easily up to 40 mph. He also had a cell-phone linked hot-spot and the e-bike ran Alexa to manage his selection of tunes for the e-trailer while he rode along. The e-trailer had a vertical tube at each rear corner, complete with throttle and brake for each side – e-trailer doubled as an e-wheel-barrow for work he’d get cleaning up at minor construction sites. It also made the trailer self-propelled if the driver was also the payload… but the reach back and up to the controls was difficult; didn’t stop him from doing it. Of course he added a pair of DIY light bars made with LED strips inside white PVC tubes, and fed control input from the music, a la disco lights; installed at the rear corners of the e-trailer, they made for high-observable collision avoidance.

    1. I find this bewildering.

      How does a “hobo” acquire the tools, materials, and shop space to fund, build and maintain something like that?

      In Africa, a “poor” person eats bugs and gnaws on sticks to stay alive. In the USA, a “poor” person has has an EV with a high-speed broadband connection, Alexa, and disco lights…oh.. and he can somehow afford to feed two dogs.

      1. There’s a big gap between affording a house and affording food. Housing in first-world countries is *expensive*, and if you have any income at all and don’t need to spend it on that, then you can potentially make yourself quite comfortable.

        Also, can you be any more offensive? Poor people in Africa do the same things as poor people everywhere – whatever is necessary.

        1. Apparently you were too busy being offended to understand my point–that the term “poor” is vague to the extent of uselessness, and that it is absurd to equate American pan-handlers–many of whom are obese–with third-world poor who actually are on the verge of starvation.

          When I referred to “gnawing on a stick” and “eating bugs” I wasn’t trying to be funny. I meant that literally. The hypothetical African guy could probably eat well for a year on what the hobo spends on cigarettes and alcohol.

          1. Well, you were the one who introduced “poor” into the discussion.

            Hobo does not equate to poor, for some it is merely a lifestyle – they are not, necessarily, a “bum”, who refuses to work.

          2. Then perhaps you should refine your observation skills. Yes, you have a very good point. However, the socio-economic differences is the reason. A gfood example is the People’s Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “[I]n the DRC, about a third of the population lives with less than 2 USD a day, and 43% of children are malnourished (The World Bank, 2021)” An hour ago I bought a large Dr. Pepper at McDonald’s for $1.08. You’re right, that large soda won’t last me all day. It won’t feed me or house me. But this is in the US. Not the DRC. Again, social economics. It is you that is absurd.

      2. (sorry to reply so late)

        In short – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

        As FastEddy says, it was a lifestyle choice. Heavily influenced by some mental health issues. He made the lifestyle he could cope with, and worked hard to make the best of it.

        He did find occasional work cleaning up minor building sites. The condition was that he could bring his dogs, as he certainly couldn’t afford dog-sitting.

        People would often stop him to give him dog food, or a $50 for food. A pet shop would give him dog food from broken bags.

        He also had a cell phone. He’d stream on periscope. His answer to the common question was, “I’m homeless, not phoneless”. He had a cell plan that included unlimited data and kept grandfathering. Then a mobile CEO saw him on periscope and gave him a new iphone with unlimited service for as long as that phone worked. He also had a collection of semi-broken phones. He’d make his own hot-spot, then tether the phones, and Alexa, for his use. On hot summer days, if there was no rain risk, he’d go deep into storm sewers (large enough to drive the bike & trailer!), with the hot-spot phone hidden near the entrance, and the others dropped along the way in an extended tether so he had a working connection and he’d stream on periscope from there. Interesting to watch him drive and drive to get out, stopping to pick up the phones along the way, then pop out into the flood area, surprising bystanders seeing the e-bike, e-trailer with rider and two dogs suddenly appear.

        The cell data gave him access to the internet, hence to information on how to do the e-bike stuff. Plus a lot of trial and errors. Persistence. Ingenuity. Tools? He certainly wasn’t using $150 pro crimpers; vice-grips, used. No high-tech connectors: an outdoor extension cord took the e-trailer battery packs to the e-bike for driving its motor. Through email I’d give some advice and direction; like upgrading from a nest of marrets & electrical tape to screw connector buses.

        The battery backs and e-scooter parts came from trashed scooters. He made a lot of friends through periscope viewers. Some would give him money through various apps, so he could get, when needed: food, dog food, etc.. Usually $5 or $10 here and there. But some would “fund” a new e-bike motor (he bought cheap ones, so they didn’t last), or a new charger. For a time he was squatting in an old building in some woods. He invited another hobo to join him. A periscope viewer sent them a starter kit for bee keeping (amazon) so the second hobo (who’d researched on internet) could try to domesticate the bees living in the building wall.

        Charging: he’d plug in where he could scrounge a charge. For his phone was easy. For long enough to charge those e- battery packs was more difficult, but he’d drive around and know where to get that in his areas.

        Chargers, e-bike motor and various parts were often from amazon, as they’d deliver to amazon lockers in the towns he frequented.

        For the winter periods, where he didn’t have to worry about so many summer rattlesnakes biting him or his dogs, he lived in a 2000 gallon water tank (scrounged from a home being demoed) hidden out in the woods. He avoided the homeless camps and shelters, as he found those people too dangerous. Once when questioned on living in the tank on a periscope, he replied: “There’s no bed; no bed bugs. There’s so many other things I don’t (have to) deal with. Now sure there’s scorpions. There’s spiders. There’s rattlesnakes. You know what I mean. But like, you know, I might smell dirty, but like there ain’t no bugs living on me. They live around me, but they don’t live on me. They don’t live on my bed.”

        Other questions and answers:

        • Where would you like to live? …pause… – “In a Lego factory?”
        • You should be on Survivor. “I don’t want to be naked and afraid.”

        He had an elderly relative visit the city he was in. He had a friend take the dogs for the day and he put a chair and a blanket (wind-chill) in the e-trailer and spent the day giving his relative an extended tour of the city (and picnic), driving her all over, largely by the bike paths.

        Tons of stories. Largely of ingenuity.

    2. Cool. This reminds me of BEHEMOTH (Big Electronic Human Energised Machine, Only Too Heavy), a 1991 bike+trailer that was ram-packed with the top-end of portable electronics of the day (including a diskette drive)


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