Custom Cycling Camper Continues Car-Free

If you own a camper or RV, you might think twice when taking it out after giving gasoline prices a look. Towing all that extra weight and wind drag along can really eat into your fuel efficiency. [Drew] decided to keep the camper but take gasoline out of the equation by building a teardrop trailer he pulls behind his bike.

It’s a relatively simple idea. A 1″ by 1″ steel tube frame makes up the bottom, which [Drew] welded together. On top of that, plywood walls were built up over a plywood base. The wheels were stolen from an older bicycle and the top was made with many bending techniques using a portable fabric steamer for clothing. [Drew] found used doors and windows right in his backyard, which helped lower the cost. The trailer is insulated with sheet foam because it’s cheap and easy to cut.

In addition to the creativity, there’s a big focus on waterproofing and durability throughout this build. [Drew] applied caulk to the threads of every screw to prevent water from getting in and rotting the plywood. Canvas was used instead of fiberglass to save cost as it provides a fairly high level of protection from rain when finished properly. Cheap LEDs and a USB battery pack created stylish and functional lighting inside.

Overall, we think it turned out quite well, and we would love to bike somewhere and camp out in our own teardrop trailer. It’s a gorgeous example of welding, woodworking, and some plain ingenuity in the face of adversity. We’ve seen solar-powered trailers for e-bikes and campers for custom motorcycles before, and we think [Drew]’s trailer would fit right in. Video after the break.

35 thoughts on “Custom Cycling Camper Continues Car-Free

  1. About 20 years ago I lived about a half mile from a lake, and a quarter mile from a lumber yard. I built a bike trailer to haul my paddle boat to the inlet of the lake and to be able to go to the lumberyard and pick up sheets of plywood and what not. The town I lived on is on a really steep hill and I lived at the bottom and worked at the top so I was used to going up the hill every day, and the lake and lumberyard were more or less level. Let’s just say I used the trailer about twice. With what ever I had for a bike back then I never got it out of the granney gear, and it was near impossible to get started coming out of the lumber yard that was downhill to the road and you had to stop before turning. Good luck with this. Been there, done that, and it does not work out near as well as you would think, even without factoring in getting creamed by a car.

        1. I am not a specialist, so I’d appreciate an explanation. Just looked up examples of the drag coefficients and it looks like the one for the “broadside” cube is higher than the one for the same cube at 45 degrees by about 1/5th.
          Not apples-to apples, obviously, but it “feels” like at slow speeds the “broadside” of this trailer would be less aerodynamic.

          1. Most of the drag is not from pushing aside the air at the blunt front. It’s the vacuum it induces at the back that produces the drag. Tapering the wedge at the rear to allow the air to smoothly rejoin at the back eliminates that abrupt pressure drop at the trailing edge.

          2. Aerodynamic drag analysis needs to take speed into account. As Paul noted, pressure drag from flow separation off the back of the object is a major source of overall drag. However, you have to be going fast enough for the flow to separate, before this is a problem, and I bet this setup isn’t going that fast.
            I’d post a link but then my post won’t show up until tomorrow. But google “wake drag” and look for a paper hosted on princeton dot edu called “Drag of Blunt Bodies and Streamlined Bodies”

    1. Yeah, I live in SW Virginia and just me on a bike vs hills are bad enough. My commute to work would be downhill the entire way, but uphill for the return. The final hill is the showstopper, and the irony is less than a 5 min drive.

      But there are areas of the country flat enough to make this a go.

    2. There was a biker in the PNW somewhere that had added a 3-speed rear hub to an 18 speed, gave better gear selection on hills with his bike trailer. I lost the link to his page years ago, unfortunately.

    3. I didn’t get my license until I was 20. When I was 19, I was semi-dating a girl who lived in up in “the hilltowns” of Western Massachusetts.

      She was 22 miles away and 1,400 feet up. It took me 3 hours to bike there and 45 minutes to get home.

  2. I wonder how many miles per pizza he gets?
    Discounting the capital cost, It’s a fair bet that even a dinosaur juice burner will get more miles per dollar of fuel.
    And (say) a Telsa Model 3 will be much better miles per kilojoule, and has an air conditioned sleeping area.

    1. You’re grossly oversimplifying the issue. Whatever difference in price the “fuel” costs is not only completely obliterated by the health benefit and reduced healthcare costs but riding a bike connects you with the world and your community.

      1. You don’t need to convince me. I commute and get groceries by bicycle, putting more miles on it than my car: I’ve put less than 4000 miles on my car in the last 5 years.

        But you’re rose-tinting the issue. The CDC reports that, per trip, you’re twice as likely to be killed on a bicycle than in a car. Per mile, it’s seven times. Healthcare costs related to bicycle traffic injuries were $23B in the USA last year, despite cycling accounting for only 1% of the trips taken.

  3. Nice build.

    I think that it would be more practical and towable if it was a folding “clamshell” trailer, with a hard roof and soft sides, so that the wind profile and weight are minimized when towing. All in all, a regular bike trailer to carry a convential puptent and the camping gear is still more doable and practical for most people.

    An e-bike and extra batteries in the trailer sounds like an idea with potential. (get it? ;-) )

          1. There’s a great “Far Side” comic showing 2 polar bears around a damaged igloo, and one bear is saying to the other “I love these. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chew on the inside: :-)

  4. This is an inspring build – everyone here is thinking about how they’d do it and that’s the sign of a great idea.

    I would try a variation on the idea of collapsible clamshell but the entire roof would be a solar panel and batteries in the (aluminum) frame, and then have the trailer wheels be hub motored to give just a touch of assist That way the bike could stay standard.

    You’d have to code out the tendency of the trailer to sway when it’s pushing the bike, which would be an interesting challenge in itself.

        1. Right, you could have a spring loaded mechanical surge brake. … though if you’re going somewhere hilly you might need a few sets of brake blocks as it might set a few on fire for long downhills.

          1. The weight of this system would make regenerative braking economically feasible. It’s not usually on bicycles, because the efficiency losses exceed the utility.

  5. In my experience, you never want your trailer to push your tow vehicle. But what if keep the trailer power, let the trailer wheels provide regenerative braking on downhills, and just run a power transfer cable to feed – and boost – the bike?

  6. While this is a nice project, for me it’s also just a small box on wheels. It could be so much more. A spattering of neat storage solutions for camp and bike suff. Certainly a solar panel and whatnot. Active ventilation – maybe heat recovery. Some way of keeping beer cool…

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