Bike Canoe Trailer: It's a Cinch!
May 31, 2009
I've long wanted to create a simple trailer for towing a canoe behind a bike.
A lot of times when I'm biking and I come across some tasty water I suddenly want to get paddling---especially when the waterway is going my way or when it's a shorter way to go my way.
To me, the two joys fit together--the glide of a bike and the glide of a boat.
So a great canoe trailer would be a literal way to put the two together.
I've thought that the mission could be solved more simply than the many options I've seen, all of which seem heavy, clumsy, complex, Rube Goldbergy, and slow. (I have a report at OYB, I think, with several links to the better solutions, but they're all fairly lame.)
But I've been deluded in terms of the physics involved. Today I finall realized this. You see, I've been pining away to attach a bike front fork and wheel to the stern of a canoe then lift the bow and attach it to the seatpost of a bike by way of an aluminum canoe-pole "strut." Today I fabricated such an installation and gave it a whirl. When I lifted the bow of the boat and it reared up onto its rear wheel, the boat simply tipped over. ...You can't balance a boat on one wheel if the front of the boat can pivot. Now, maybe you CAN and I just have the wrong physics in my set-up. What needs to happen to avoid the "tipping" action?
The only solution I see right now is to attach the bow of the canoe rigidly to the bike in terms of axis, so it works like a BOB-trailer and can't tip, so the rear trailing wheel works like a 3rd bike wheel. A yoke would have to be installed vertically and rigid inside the bow of the canoe then arch over and attach to 2 points on the bike (on the long seatpost of a folding bike, perhaps). The yoke tubing might need to have a sizeable diameter to resist torsion.
So maybe this is why the bike-canoe trailers I've seen have 2 wheels.
I've also thought that a 2-wheel rig could be simpler than I've seen. You could mount a wheel on an axle set into a block of wood which is cut to fit the curve the canoe hull on the side away from the axle. You'd put one of these wheel-rigs on either side of the boat and connect them and hold them in place by way of a strap under the bottom and across the top.
See, I want to use the canoe itself as the trailer frame.
I could just go out and buy threaded rod pieces that're, like, 4" longer than you need for a hub for a wheel and use those as axles. Then set the excess length into your curved blocks of wood. Would that work? How much bearing surface would the blocks have to provide? I'd want to go with a *minimum*.
My notion is to use a quality, lightweight folding bike for the bike and light wheels for the towing rig (maybe sewups!). And a light, small, Kevlar canoe for the canoe. This could be an easy-pulling, almost high-performance rig, methinks. My C1 canoe weighs only 25 lbs. That's an easy towing weight! --A kayak would catch even less sidewind...
Then when you want to paddle, you stash the bike , wheels, blocks and strap, in the boat and away you go. I prefer canoe poling, so I'd use a canoe-pole as my trailer "yoke-strut." (I'd bring a paddle, too.) But one could use a shorter section of tubing if desired.
My dream is that one could even tour with such a rig. Stash your 15 lbs of UL camping stuff right in the canoe. Use the boat just like a bike trailer, like a BOB-trailer.
But my first notion flopped, literally.
My pole-yoke also slipped around some. I quickly resolved that with a wrap of extra-sticky, stout duct tape under the bungie cord at the seatpost. My Brompton has an extra-long extending seatpost that has a QR on it and a collar. The pole rests securely on it and doesn't slip down. I also gave a wrap of tape to my 2 other bearing surfaces in the boat, giving the yoke plenty of friction and stability. So that was taken care of. I suppose there are better ways---but I'd just bring the roll of tape with me to re-attach everything for the ride back.
After my fiasco, I glanced around the garage at a way to put two wheels into action, side-by-side, to avoid this extreme wheel flop. My eyes lit on my old Burley trailer. We've taken the roof section off of it. So now there's a kind of fabric hammock slung between a U-section of frame with wheels on either side. A canoe trailer!
I popped the canoe into the trailer---it fit great. I re-attached the pole-yoke to the folder seatpost---back in action!
Now to deal with the yoke of the Burley laying on the ground under the canoe... I just tied it up under the canoe. I centered it with a fixed-length rope going from the yoke to a thwart on each side. That kept the trailer wheels pointing straight ahead.
Hey, this works!
I gave the rig a test ride. Perfect!
I went around the yard then around the block. A wide turning radius is the only hitch. But I can do a U-turn on a one-lane road. What's neat there is that the rig jackknifes wonderfully. The canoe even BACKS UP a bit at the sharpest part of the U-turn before it starts going again. Yet the forward-moving bike is unimpaired! I don't even notice it!
Neighborhood people gave it the rig the thumbs up after inspection. "Darn, that looks good!"
It's a simple solution, using items at hand without modification. Yeah!
The only thing that could be better is if our Burley trailer was a folder as well. Most of them fold nowadays, right? Is that a simple task? My recollection is that there are clevis-pins involved---a bother. But whatever. I'd love to be able to stash a light folding trailer and a light folding bike into my boat and...AWAY I GO! ...On water or road!
...I suppose the curved-block idea might still be a good one: simpler, lighter and more compact. ...One of these days! In the meantime, I have a rig that WORKS. YEAH!
The rig and the kids.
Canoe trailer view from the rear.
Bike canoe trailer, view from the front.
- , posted on Aug 06, 2009|
|Very cool. I'm repairing/restoring an old Nautiraid folding kayak and have been thinking along these lines: Hmm, wouldn't a folding bike & trailer go well with this boat? Hmm.|
Jeff in Atlanta
- Williamston, MI, posted on Aug 07, 2009|
|Yeah... foldboat, foldbike, foldtrailer... oooh!|
(Try to find a bike and trailer that will fit tidy and out of sight, snug in some aft hold of the kayak. Gotta have small wheels.)