Building Bicycle Trailers
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Although most of the general public doesn't know it yet, there is a huge need for bicycle trailers. With trailers, bicycles gain a major leap in their climb to accepted transportation. Many people stick with engine-powered vehicles because of their cargo carrying capability. Trailers behind bicycles can pull several cubic feet, and up to seven hundred pounds on fairly level ground.
The only remaining problem is that there are few suppliers of industrial-quality bike trailers. Perhaps you can fill that need. You will have to have welding and cutting equipment, and a good design or two. Make and show some prototypes, and the rest of the selling job ought to be easy.
I once made a trailer for an organic bakery. They used it every morning to bring their flour from the mill to the bakery, and then to deliver the bread to the stores in the afternoon. Lots of people saw that trailer, and I had several more orders because of that one trailer.
If necessary, you can even make trailers at low-cost or give them away to certain agencies or individuals if you think the visibility this brings will help your business.
Bicycle trailers are easy to design. They must be as low as possible so they do not tip over. They should be fairly narrow to negotiate traffic safely, but not so narrow that they are tippy. Because weight is a consideration, you'll want to design them with no suspension or lightweight suspension. Suspension is a good idea, because unloaded trailers do get very tippy when hitting bumps.
The trailers should hook to a spot as low as possible on the bicycle, but not behind the bike. If the trailer connection is behind the bike, the bike's performance in a quick stop is not desirable. The usual points of attachment are the left chainstay near the dropout, or under the seat. The actual connection has to flex in all directions, since the bike will lean around a corner, while the trailer remains on-plane. A common connection technique is to tie a connector mounted the bicycle to the trailer with a leather strap or rope. A better connection, in my opinion, is to use a universal joint such as is used in truck gearshift mechanisms or perhaps the universal coupling used in mechanic's 1/2" socket sets.
You can use either of two types of wheel attachments. In the outrigger design, a standard bicycle wheel is spoked to a one-sided hub. The axle must be strong, and therefore heavy, in order to avoid bending. A better design may be to use a fork design to mount the wheels. This way, you can use regular bicycle hubs, and your trailer is likely to have a better strength to weight ratio.
Custom trailers sell for more money than you might realize. Industrial customers such as airports, restaurants, delivery services, and large manufacturing facilities save a lot of money when they can take an engine vehicle out of service and replace it with a people-powered vehicle. Good trailers start around at least four hundred dollars.
Unlike custom bicycles, the welding or brazing does not have to be filed to perfection, and the paint is not expected to be bullet-proof. The customers know what the trailers are going to look like in a few months, and generally wouldn't want to pay for such frills anyway.
So far, I have talked about the frame and general design of trailers. If you can design a nice cargo holder, that will make a big difference to your customers. A flat bed trailer in which the user must tie in cardboard boxes is not nearly as elegant as one with nylon, wooden or metal sides. On the other hand, you want to keep your manufacturing costs down, keep the trailer weight down, and the wind resistance down, while keeping the elegance up to some degree. Some customers may want to attach signs to their trailers. Perhaps the signs can be incorporated as part of the cargo area design.
Selling trailers can be done in a huge variety of ways. Once you have samples, you can photocopy pictures of them, you can have your trailers appear in use around town as well as at shows, and you can post web pages on the Internet advertising your trailers. You might even make a video demo showing your trailers loaded with ridiculous, or huge payloads. I'd find a video showing a bicycle trailer pulling a bunch of live turkeys interesting.
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