Saturday, September 23, 2006

Many folk asked us for Bamboo Trailer plans for this years Burning Man. This is a photo of one Bamboo Bicycle Trailer that ended up as a camp bed.

Its basically a bamboo trailer that has been stretched longer, and then an A frame has been built over the load bed to create a tent with funky fabric.

This is Greg, the guy who built it.

Burning man
is an annual art festival and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

You can see more photos of the trailer at the burning man here:

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is it possible to use the 18" Birdy wheels on a Y-Frame bicycle trailer?

This is trickier than it sounds, but it is possible.
The Birdy rim is 24 hole, while the Y-Frame rim is 20 hole, so it is not possible to simply lace a birdy rim to a Carry Freedom hub. The Birdy front axle is 10mm, while the Y-Frame is 12mm, so it is not possible to use a complete Birdy wheel on a Y-Frame axle. Getting hold of undrilled 18"rims is tricky and I haven't come across 20 hole drillings on the 18" rims. I also suspect it is a fiddle to get 20 hole hubs with bearings with a 12mm center hole.

Therefore the most practical way to do this is to buy complete Birdy front wheels, and then fit these with bearings with an inside diameter of 12mm. You would need to check with R&M about buying two complete front wheels, and we can source suitable bearings. At a guess the bearings would cost between 5-10GBP/unit, so a total of 20-40GBP.

I own a Birdy and use my Y-Frame with it. I do not find the differing rim sizes too much of an issue with my Birdy/Y-Frame. The tyres I use on my trailer is Schwalbe big apples, whereas I use Schwalbe Stelvios on my Birdy. The big apples are good for load bearing unsuspended vehicles like my trailer, while the stelvios are ideal for suspended fast bikes, like my Birdy. The trailer would bounce all over the place with stelvios, and big apples are heavy for a suspended Birdy, and their max pressure is too low for me. So even if the rim sizes were the same, I would not run the same tyre on bike and trailer unless really really desperate.
Does Carry Freedom make any bicycle trailers that can fold out to become a sleeping area with a mini-tent attached that could sleep one person?

Its a common idea to make a trailer that can convert to being a tent, but to my knowledge none of these get beyond prototype stage. Carry Freedom has concepted out a few of these, but with no great enthusiasm.

There are a couple of reasons that a product such as this has never realy taken hold

1) Its expencive to build, and therefore expencive to buy.

2) The market for people who only use thier tent only when cycling alone is small.

3) There is no great advantage of using this type of product over a seperate tent and trailer.

The closest I can think of is the tent made by topeak which uses the bike to support it. This is a nicely engineered one person tent, but it is not very wind/waterproof and is heavier, slower to put up, and more expencive than good one person tents.

For example the two person Terra Nova tent I use is 2.2kg, and is suitable for use in wind speeds up to about 120mph, and it will keep all rain out no matter what. That and I can have it up(single handedly) in under a minuite. Also this tent comes with a full lifetime guarantee, and is rather nice to live in. By our estimate a single person trailer tent would weigh about 4kg more than this tent combined with our normal trailer, and it would cost about 200GBP more than a trailer/good tent combination.

When touring solo I tend to take a homemade Gortex bivibag (900grams)/sleeping bag combo, as this is reasonably hassle free. My main complaint of tents when touring are they are a sod to get dry the next day after condensation/rain, wheras a bivi bag tends to be less hassle.

I only really use my tent now for extended stays in the same place, ie for more than an overnight stop. All this said a Y-Large can make a good sleeping platform you make two plywood bases 60cm wide by 90cm long. These are hinged so they would create a 180cm by 60cm sleeping base. This hing point would also be where a number of support poles hinge about to create the structure to support the roof. The plywood would need to be drilled for lightness and ventilation, and you'd need some form of foam mat glued onto them for comfort.

This type of trailer pops up every now and again in Velovision they should be able to tell you whether there are any trailers of this type in existence just now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


How do I stop loosing my rubber hub caps on my Y-Frame trailer?

There are two ways to guard against this.

1) put a drop of superglue between the hub cap and the hub, just a drop mind. This will stop the cap escaping, but be small enough for it to be forced apart for occational maintainence.

2) Put the hub cap in place as normal, then loop a Zip tie between two opposing spokes, so the zip tie passes over the top of the cap. This is soft enough to allow button function of the wheel, but can be cut of for access if needed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


How would I build a very large flatbed bamboo cart that could be hitched to 2-3 bikes. I imagine that this vehicle would serve as the base for a human-powered "artcar", to be taken to Burning Man, ( and would ideally be able to support up 6-12 people sitting on the structure, along with a cooler, and small music system.

What we describe is how to built a flat eight foot square platform trailer supported by castor wheels, and towed by three bikes on rope. Any superstructure can then be built onto the flat platform. Everything will unbolt easily for moving it. If anyone is daft enough to build what we are just about to suggest we take absolutly no responsibility for the shape they may end up.

1) Build the platform
Imagine this as an oversized wooden pallet, the build style is exactly the same just bigger.
Make the stage floor from two 8'X4' sheet plywood, say 3/4" thick layed side by side to create an 8'X8' stage. Lay these sheets on the ground with the long axis so it runs front to back. Lay three 8' long 4"X3" beams widthwise, one at the front one at the back and one at the center(the beam depth is 4", width 3"). Now lay three 8'long 4"X1" planks ontop the 4X3 beams, this time running front to back, one left one right, one center. This creates a stage with basicly the same structure as a large wooden shipping pallet. Tack this layout together with nails, in such a way that the nails can be removed later. Everything will be held together by the bolts that hold the wheels on.

2) Attaching wheels
You will need nine 250-350mm Diameter phneumatic castor wheels six must swivel, three must be fixed, they should be the type that can be bolted with four bolts to a flat surface. These can be bought from companies like Northern tools at a reasonable price.

The left right beams and the front back beams cross in nine places. At each of these crossings bolt a castor wheel. The three castors that run accross the rear should be fixed to face forwards the other six should be able to swivel. This allows the trailer to turn, but not slew.

Make sure when placing the wheels that at least two of the bolt holes will pass through the left right beam, front back beam and plywood floor. Use offcuts to make sure no bolt goes trhough thin air. Drill all holes and number/mark all pieces so you know where they go. Then bolt the whole rig together through all these holes.

3) Brake
You will need to slow this thing down, the brake we suggest is more of a parking brake, and is not intended to be used at speeds over 10mph.

Hang an 8ft width wooden beam just ahead of the rear three wheels, this should be suspened by two pieces of rope at its left and right extremity. These ropes should be long enough to let the beam rest on the ground. If the beam rests on the ground when the trailer is moving the beam is dragged back and jams between the rear wheels and the ground. Rope length is critical, too short and the brake will not jam the wheels properly, too long and the wheels may ride over the beam and make it useless. Next tie a rope to the center of the beam, this will be the control rope. Drill holes through the top middle of the middle and front beam, and pass the control rope through this. When the rope is pulled tight by someone at the front the beam swings of the ground and away from the rear wheels, when released the beam hits the ground and slows the rear wheels.

This is not a sensitive way to control trailer speed, you have been warned.

4) Hitching to bikes
Hitching to multiple bikes is easy. They could either tow single file or three abreast. Assuming decent ground and walking pace a assume about 200kg/bike. You can use rope to connect bike(seatpost) to trailer, and bike(headset) to bike(seatpost). Remember though with rope there must be someone on the rig to brake it, as the bikes can't.

Three bikes abreast would probably do, two tied to the outside corners of the front and the thrid in the middle. Experiment with rope lengths to get the best distance between bike and trailer. This thing needs teamwork to ride it. Best to have a brakeman on the trailer who is not cycling, and three cyclists. One needs to be captain.

Thats pretty much it, you can slap on any top you want, even put a skirt around the wheels to make the trailer look as if its floating. What weve suggested may not be the best way of doing things. Imagination and inteligence should overcome most problems.

I'm doing some research on bicycle trailers for medium and long
distance touring in somewhat remote locations, and saw your page about bamboo trailers.

Would this be useful for this application?

There are two key things to keep in mind about touring bicycle trailers. Firstly if it aint reliable you will learn to hate it. Secondly the efficiency gains offered by a two wheel trailer are only valid if the trailer has good tyres, and both wheels point in the same direction(ie the track is true).

Both of these considerations are very important on deciding whether a homemade trailer is a wise choice for a tour.

If the two wheels are not pointing in the same direction then the tyre's slide slightly sideways as well as rolling forwards, this grinds the tyre tread to nothing very fast and uses your energy to do it. This is not a serious issue for local cycling, but for touring the extra effort/expense soon adds up. This is true with whatever trailer you end up using, but home made trailers are particularly tough to get the wheels lined up on. The plans for the bamboo trailer do detail how to true wheels so they track straight, but our Y-Frames wheels are near perfect out the box, and the reduction in hassle/energy loss may offset the pain of paying for something that is easy to make.

Same comments apply regarding the reliability of a trailer. The first City by necesity was homemade. I built it using aluminium display sheet and wood, and fencing wire. I pulled the trailer all the way across Europe, but I was forever having to tinker to keep it on the road, and this was only bearable because I was seeking its faults. Something that works well without question is a wonder when touring. Thats what you pay money for, peace of mind.

A home made trailer will be easier to repair in the field, especialy the bamboo trailer, but it will also be much more liable to go wrong. In a money no object world i'd choose a Y-Frame with a Chariot hitch fitted to it, and Schwalbe big apples, as the best touring trailer. This is a bomb proof and reliable set up if ever I saw one.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I'd like to use a trailer to tow my surfboard. I read that this is possible with the small Y frame. Is this a permanent change to the trailer or a temporary attachement?

Ideally I think that I would like a City but but with some way to adapt it to the board when needed is this possible?

Surf boards on trailers is easy, but so far we have only done this for the Y-Frame. The change is temporary, we supply a longer handle that can be fitted in place of the standard handle. this allows the surfboard to sit on the load bed, some of it hanging out behind, some to the front. A box can also be mounted on the load bed, and the surfboard strapped above this, thus giving space for wet suit etc. The load bed needs padded.

If its occasional use rather than main use then the City will take a surfboard. Wrap pipe insulation around the trailers frame tubes, the surf board can then be placed on top of the trailer. The trick is to angle the board so its nose sticks out to the front left, and tail to the back right. By angling the board like this it can be aranged to lie along side the bikes rear wheel, and not interfere too much with the bike when turning corners. And make sure to strap the board down well. The front of the board can be protected by a piece of fabric taped onto it where the bike wheel might touch, this will stop the tyre marking the board if it accidently touches

Hope this illuminates, and sorry we have no pictures.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I've just bought a large y-frame trailer and think its a great design but bringing it home unladen from Oxford - the rattling was getting to me. Is there a way of stopping the arm from rattling in the frame?? I was thinking of fixing it permanently with self-tappers.
There are three causes of rattle on the Y-Frame. The hitch, where the handle meets the frame, and where the wheels meet the frame.

There are three causes of rattle on the Y-Frame. The hitch, where the handle meets the frame, and where the wheels meet the frame.

HITCH The U bracket that hooks onto the bike bracket is usualy adjusted so its two faces are slightly wider than the bike bracket. This bolt can be tightened to give a snug fit.

SPRING PINS The spring gated pins hit of the frame and rattle during use. The best solution is either to sleeve the spring part of the pin with a rubber tube, or to wrap it with electrical tape.

HANDLE/FRAME The Handle/Frame joint is a loose fit, to make sure that even if the handle is damaged it will still fit Ok. some people pack this with grease to cut down the noise, also electrical tape applied along the four edges from front to back helps. If securing permanently use rivits rather than self tapers. Use four rivits two on the top face, and two on the lead face. Two rivit should be close to the end of the handle(where it sits inside the frame), and the other Two should be close to the frame end.

If riviting also use electrical tape, or ptfe tape, or plastic strip tape to create a tight fit.
We would recomend using an M6 bolt through the existing hole rather than creating new holes for self tappers or rivits.

WHEELS This is often overlooked, but is also a source of noise. The wheels can move slightly to the left/right on their axle, and hence hit of the frame. This looseness is to make sure the axle engages properly. The easiest solution is to face the end of the frame(where the wheel hits it) with electrical tape. Alternatively tighten the axles as tight as possible making sure the axle still engages properly( the push button should pop out once engaged).

Noise from the Y-Frame bugs a lot of people but it is only really noticeable when the trailer is empty. We traded noisiness for simplicity and robustness, though in the future we aim to formalize these noise solutions I have outlined above.

Carry Freedom launched their new bicycle trailer web site today. So we have a new easiler style of web site. Our old site relied heavily on nested frames, and proved to be difficult to maintain, and google unfriendly. This new site is easier to navigate, and can hold more content. Also because it is easier to see by Google, more people will see it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


After seeing your website and some of the initiatives you are involved in, such as the tsumani relief effort, I have a hunch, that environmental, social and economic sustainability is also of
interest to you. Can you please tell me a little more about the your Taiwanese Manufacturer and your company vis-a-vis sustainable practices. Look forward to your reply.

I am glad you approve of what we do. You touch on the ethical debate I frequently have with myself, sadly there are no easy or obvious answerers. Our manufacturer in Taiwan is Pacific Cycles. I feel there are four issues at play here, Taiwan as a country, Pacific as an employer, Pacific's environmental credentials, and the environmental cost of manufacturing location. I fear this is a bit long winded and rambling, but I owe you as full a picture as practical and hope there are enough nuggets of information to help you form a valid opinion about us. I'd also empahsis that all this is of the top of my head without research or reference, so take it with a pinch of salt.

IN SUMMARY In essence I would say all manufacturers look to the bottom line, but Pacific is small, responsible, and forward looking. We manufacture with them because economics drive it, but strategically we aim to manufacture as locally to the customer as possible. But wherever a product such as ours is manufactured the raw materials come from much the same place(they are after all a sophisticated form of oil & Bauxite).

CARRY FREEDOM AIM Firstly Carry Freedom is a manifesto/idea rather than a company or a product, score out the right letters and Carry Freedom becomes Car Free. I believe societies that cycle are happier, healthier and more benign than those that don't. I created Carry Freedom to makes it easier for any cyclist to carry even if they have no money. The sophistication of our offering is that it makes its case on practical/economic grounds with the positive environmental/social impact there but buried deeper.
Carry Freedom is the idea of Carry Freedom, other people such as Chariot USED and Extra sell the physical manifestation of the idea, and Pacific make it. We simply coordinate the brand, the design, and the vision, which is what we are good at. As an aside have a look at the USED web site their hook line is "if you wont use it, dont buy it". USED are our European distributor, and have a very progressive outlook/philosophy.

PACIFIC CYCLES I would say Taiwan is democratic, respects human rights has a social safety net, and looks after its Citizens. Pacific is small (120employees) family owned/run, and cares deeply for its employees as if they were family. Pacific is environmentally responsible(above average), but this is not their main focus. Most of their environmental practices are easy, and good practice, rather than progressive (except for their wooded garden that surrounds their factory). Also Pacifics develop niche bikes, with an indulgence of progressive but unprofitable projects like the ZEM (Zero Emissions Machine a Four wheel pedal car for four adults), and high quality folding bikes that work and genuinely make travel easier.

MANUFACTURING IN GENERAL In reality most raw materials in the world are mined either in Australia or South America, and processed largely in China. Significantly this also goes for US Aluminium and steel which is shipped into the US as ingot or pre drawn sections. Assembly then takes place wherever before being shipped to the end consumer in US or Europe. For low-labour/high-tech this will be in the west, high-labour/low-tech in the east. Simply put I can buy 20 Chinese hours for one US hour or 10 Taiwanese hours.

Its also worth noting that wherever a bicycle or bike trailer is made the bulk of it will in actuality come from China. For example to a trailer made by Chariot in Canada counts as made in Canada if 60% of its value was created in country. This means 40% can be bought directly from China. The Canadian companies who supply the 60% stuff can all buy their stock from China (eg nuts bolts wheels etc). So in Chariots case all generic components will be China origin even though they qualify as canadian content, while most of the specific bits (frames/tents etc) are made in China, so in reality Made in Canada simply means Assembled in Canada. And assembled in Canada is more to do with duty rates, quality control and inventory value, rather than freight mileage considerations. Fundamentally all raw materials originate in the same places, and make similar journeys around the world, just in different forms. I pick on Chariot not because they are bad, but because they are one of the most responsible companies I know, and an example of industry responsibility and best practice, yet even they are subject to the underlying driver of industry, cost.

UNDERLYING DRIVER Cost: whichever is demonstrably cheaper(more cost effective) will win out. Environmental responsibility works out as cheaper for the planet but generally more costly for the individual concerned(certainly in the short term). No individual manufacturer wherever they are will make expensive changes to their practices unless its an industry wide move (normally compelled by legislation) or if there is a distinct competitive advantage to be had. Sadly there are not enough individuals in the value chain willing to pay extra for manufacturing that prioritizes environmental sustainability. The scale and depth of the supply chain inhibit any quick movement in this direction (for just now). And the accountants inability to create an effective book cost for environmental harm inhibits companies to account for it. (exceptions include the Europeans move to commodity trade Carbon emissions so there is financial gain to be had from being progressive)

BACK TO US We are unusual because our care for our social/environment impact is our primary concern, and money is simply a means to this end. But for us as well as Chariot economics and competition dominate our day to day life. If we dont make proffit and grow, we will not survive when fighting with other companies that are. Strategically we know the oil price can only keep on rising, (there is no other option as supply's reduce and demand rises), so cost of shipping and raw materials will also rise, and at some point it will become more economic to manufacture locally than centrally. We plan for this with some of our lines being made in Poland now, and some more planned for production in Germany (where most of our customers are). So we are ready to manufacture local to our customers, and look forward to the day when we can afford to do so. Underlying any move though will be the economics of it. Extra direct costs affect our price relative to our competition and normal people will not pay that much extra for something that does not give them any direct benefit (apart from a warm right-on glow). Having said that we have an edge because we take more head to enviromental/social issues, and are genuinely driven by them.

Our bicycle trailers offer a technical practical alternative for haulage as the world transitions from cheap energy now to expensive energy in the future. We aim to be mainstream so we can help ordinary people who dont know/care of these things to live an environmentally positive life. Bicycle trailers by their nature encourage localism since they carry small packets of goods short distances.

The bamboo trailer is our proudest moment. Made locally from local materials to fit local needs, it turns the most efficient form of transport into the most efficient form of haulage, and it is created by the most efficient method. It subverts the whole system we are part of and that is deliberate. It is the extreme end of local manufacturing, and it is as popular in the west as it is in the developing world.

OUR SUSTAINABILITY Carry Freedom is actually part of a farm. The business itself operates out of a converted chicken shed which is now in its third life. This is wooden and well insulated, our power consumption is trace since we don't need to heat the building(well insulated) or light it (big windows). More generally the farm is a mix of livestock grazing and managed broadleaf woodland. The woodland creates shelter, the better trees are planked, and the poorer trees are burnt to provide heating for the farm. The livestock grazing is low intensity on unimproved ground.

We are planning to instal a wind turbine for our own power and to feed back to the Grid, and solar water heaters to reduce our wood consumption. Also Scotland is building a power station that is powered by willow trees, we may grow crops for this. In my spare time I toy with building sub earth buildings out of old car tyres, with a view to replacing our chicken shed with such a building when it reaches the end of its (long) life.

Our customers do amazing things with the trailers. For many individuals they are the final step in giving up their car, and many companies(who care nothing for the environment) use them in large numbers to reduce their transport cost/travel time. There is a notable number of people who are setting up businesses with our trailers at the core. Also one of our bike dealers experiments with fuel cells, he now uses our trailers as a platform since then there is enough separation between rider and the hydrogen to make the explosion risks acceptable/survivable.

I fear I have rambled far too long to answer what was a pretty straight forward question, but like I say with manufacturing there is no easy answer to all the competing /opposing issues. I feel we strike a good balance between best environmental practice and best economic practice, and I hope there is enough information for you to make a similar judgment. I would also note in regards to your project that if our products are not suitable we are happy to either adapt them specifically to suit your project, or create a custom solution for your need, this is after all what we are expert at.