DIY bike trailers are becoming increasingly popular. This trend may be due to the high prices of many commercial bike trailers on the market.
Bike trailers can be anywhere from $100 to $1000. If you want to buy a high-quality one, you will most likely be spending above $300.
While the price may be worth it to some people, it can be a little ridiculous for others. However, building anything by yourself has its downsides as well as its pros.
Will a DIY bike trailer be worth it?
If you have been asking yourself this question, you have come to the right place.
This article will cover what you can use a bike trailer for and describe whether it is safe or not to ride with a bike trailer.
Furthermore, we will give you step-by-step instructions on how to build a DIY bike trailer.
If you are ready to get out your tools, let’s get started.
What Can You Use a Bike Trailer For?
There are several things you can use a bike trailer for, some more popular than others. Let’s take a look at the most common ways that cyclists use bike trailers.
Bike Trailers for Kids
One of the most popular ways to use a bike trailer is to seat your kid in the trailer. Child trailers allow you to bring your child along with you for the ride.
There are dozens of trailers out there for kids. The trailers will typically come with one or two seats and have 5-point seatbelts. Your child will be able to sit down and not have to worry about peddling.
Bike trailers are normally built for children aged 1-6. There are several models available, some that are great for off-roading, others more suitable for pavement.
Bike trailers for kids are normally fully enclosed and have a mesh covering that prevents bugs from entering and protects the child from the sun. These trailers will also stay standing even if the bike tips over.
Bike Trailers for Dogs
Another common way to use bike trailers is for dogs. Many dog owners hate leaving their furry friends at home while they go on long afternoon bike rides.
Luckily, there are many trailers you can buy that work well for dogs. Dog bike trailers will look similar to bike trailers for kids.
The main difference is that dog trailers normally have a hole or opening near the top for their head to stick out. Some owners will also leave the front flap open for the dogs to enjoy the weather.
Bike Trailers for Cargo
The last popular way to use bike trailers is for cargo. Many cyclists love to go on long journeys with their bikes, whether it is for a full day or a week.
When cyclists go for rides that span hours to days, they will need some equipment such as food, water, or even camping supplies.
Cargo trailers have nothing in them; no seats, seatbelts, or cup holders. The trailers are designed to hold all the cargo you will ever need. Some people will even strap tents on top of cargo trailers.
Since the purpose of this trailer is to store items, the trailer will typically be fully closed with zippers.
Furthermore, you will be able to unhook cargo trailers easily. Cyclists can then use the cargo trailer as a cart and roll it around.
One last thing to note about cargo trailers is that it will be easier to build a DIY bike trailer for cargo than for passengers.
This is because you will not need to worry about installing seatbelts, comfortable seats, and any other safety features.
Is It Safe To Ride With a Bike Trailer?
One of the most common questions regarding bike trailers is if it is safe to ride with a bike trailer.
The short answer is yes, it is safe to ride with a bike trailer.
However, there are a few things you may experience when traveling with a bike trailer.
Longer Travel Time
Longer travel time is inevitable with a DIY bike trailer. Trailers will add a lot more weight to your setup.
Due to the added weight, you will not be able to go as fast as you would with a single bike. Even so, if you are riding with kids or pets, you will probably not want to go as fast.
Regardless of what you are towing, expect to add 10 or 20 minutes to the total travel time for a regular afternoon ride.
Difficulties Maneuvering and Handling
Another possibility of using a DIY bike trailer is that you may experience difficulty maneuvering and handling the trailer.
Since the bike’s center of gravity will change when you throw a trailer in the mix, you may have to change the way you steer and stop.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that it will take longer to stop with a trailer.
Gone are the days where you can stop at the drop of a penny. You will need to give yourself an extra few seconds to fully and safely stop.
It might also be a bit harder to turn. You will need to practice turning to get the hang of it since you will need to take wider turns.
Not only will the added weight play a big factor in the way you maneuver the bike, but you will also need to account for the length of the setup.
While the length won’t be a big deal on bike trails or back roads, it will make a difference on a busy road with other vehicles around you.
You will need to monitor how much space you’re taking up; you may also take up the entire bike lane with a DIY bike trailer.
It might also be more challenging to pedal since the trailer adds more wheels to the set-up. These wheels will add more resistance.
How To Stay Safe With a Bike Trailer
After reading all of the possible side effects of biking with a DIY bike trailer, you may be a bit hesitant. However, there are a few things you can do to stay comfortable while riding with a trailer.
- Do not turn suddenly – You can turn as quickly as you want with a regular bike set-up. Turning quickly with a DIY trailer could end badly; the trailer could easily tip. Since bike trailers add extra length and weight to the set-up, never turn quickly. Always take your time to avoid an accident.
- Stay at a moderate pace – An easy way to increase the ease of handling is to bike at a moderate pace. Biking slower will lower the amount of resistance you feel, help you steer easier, and make it easier to stop. It will also be safer for your passengers.
- Keep an eye on your cargo – When you bike with a DIY bike trailer, you add to the things you need to be responsible for. Whether that is camping gear, children, or pets, you are responsible for keeping those things/people safe. Every few minutes, take a look behind you to make sure your cargo or passengers are safe. Consider buying a rearview mirror for your bike; this way, they will be in your view at all times.
- Plan your route – A great way to stay safe while biking with a trailer is to plan your route. If you are not used to biking on roads alongside motorists, plan your trip to avoid busy roads.
- Use a safety flag – Bike trailers will often sit much lower to the ground than your bike will. This could make it difficult for other motorists to see the trailer and possibly lead to a fatal accident. To avoid accidents, attach a tall safety flag to your DIY bike trailer. You should also consider using a bright-colored material for the trailer so people can easily see it.
All in all, it is safe to ride with a bike trailer if you take the proper precautions. Take your time out to get a feel of biking with a trailer before you go on a long trip. Try to go slow, avoid turning suddenly, keep an eye on your cargo and plan your route.
Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Bike Trailer
Now we know what you can use a trailer for and how to stay safe while biking with a trailer. Let’s take a look at how to build a DIY bike trailer with this step-by-step guide.
One thing to note before we get started: if you want a trailer to carry a child or a pet, I would strongly recommend buying a trailer.
You will need a lot more safety features for a passenger trailer than you would with a cargo trailer. (5-point seatbelt, comfortable seats, strong metal structure, high-quality wheels, etc.)
Step One: Choose Your Trailer Material
There are several different materials you can use to build a DIY bike trailer. The most common is to build it from scratch using lumber.
However, you can use several other materials such as a panel of wood, PVC pipe, or metal.
If you want the most simple option, you can also use a large (sturdy) plastic container and attach it to a golf bag caddy.
Step Two: Plan the Trailer’s Measurements
Now that you have your materials, it is time to draw out a diagram of the bike trailer. You will need to figure out how big you want it.
If there is a specific item that you want to tow, use that as a reference. Measure out the item and build the trailer a few inches larger.
If you have no idea how big you want your DIY trailer to be, don’t worry. The general size that many people use for bike trailers is 32 inches by 22 inches.
Step Three: Build the Frame
Now that you have your materials and dimensions, it is time to build the trailer frame.
To build the frame, you will need to cut pieces of wood or whatever material you are using and lay the frame on a flat surface.
You will then have to put the frame together with screws and nails. Finally, add a piece of plywood on the bottom.
If you are unsure of how many pieces of wood and the dimensions you need, start out with six pieces of wood, each 1 x 2 inches, if you are following the recommendation above (32 by 22 inches).
Once you have the pieces cut, you can further cut them to fit your desired width and length.
Step Four: Attach the Wheels
To attach the wheels, you can use metal electrical box plates as the wheel support braces. You can then install the wheels by bolting them in place.
You can use whatever wheels work for you, but the most common wheel size to use will be either 16 inch or 20-inch wheels. Consider using 20-inch wheels if you will be hauling bigger items.
Step Five: Install the Trailer Arm and Hitch
The last step will be to add the trailer arm and hitch. You will be able to buy these online.
To install the trailer hitch, attach it to your bike’s wheel hub on the left of the rear wheel. Remove the nut from the hub and install the trailer hitch in its place, using a nut to keep it in place.
Now you can attach the trailer arm to the outside of the left side of the frame. Try to put the trailer arm as far forward as you can. Install the piece with metal screws.
Couple the hitch and the arm per manufacturer’s instructions. Each set will be different, but you will just have to slide the arm into the hitch and use a pin to secure it in most cases.
DIY bike trailers will take some time to build.
If you already have woodworking or building experience and need a heavier-duty trailer to carry big items, then a DIY bike trailer will be worth it. It will also save you some money in the end as well.
However, if you do not have a lot of building experience, then a DIY trailer will not be worth it. You will end up taking too much time trying to figure out each step.
Furthermore, we don’t recommend building a DIY bike trailer that you intend to use for passengers; it will just not be safe.
If you are looking for a high-quality, safe and secure bike trailer, consider buying one from a reputable manufacturer.
Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic