Monday, October 17, 2011

Child trailers for people without children

Don't cry for me because I don't have a child - it was completely intentional.  But I do like children and have enormous respect for moms.  In fact, I have quite a few of both in my family, the closest of whom live down in Phoenix.

Several months ago my cousin, Angie, decided not to get a child trailer to attach to her bicycle.  She admitted to being pretty nervous about hauling Camille around on the car-centric streets of Phoenix.  Since then, she's had a change of heart, which I attribute to her increased comfort with pedaling around town on her Electra.  She uses bike lanes and has learned to research routes to find the most bikable streets when the most direct route doesn't feel as accommodating.  She told me last month that she had purchased a used trailer that she found on Craig's List for a good price.  We decided to take trailer and Camille to the farmer's market the next time I was in town.
So, last weekend I folded up the Dahon and loaded it up into the rear of the Element and off to the Valley I went.  I arrived at 10:30 a.m. to find Camille still sleepy-eyed from her nap and quite a bit taller.  Sleepy or not, she was happy to help me unload the car and hold my cute Nutcase helmet u-lock while I wheeled my little red bike on to the front porch.  She commented on how pretty it was.  Ah, the seed is being planted young, so the roots will grow deep.

Angie sets up the frame of the trailer.
Angie arrived around 11 and suggested we go ahead and head out to the farmer's market since it closed at 2 p.m. and the temperatures were already heating up.  We pulled bike and trailer out of her bike garage and commenced to hooking it up. 

Since I don't own a bike trailer and have never used one, all I could do was watch and, of course, photograph her labors. 

My cousin, the once novice rider, has gone where I never have in utility cycling; she can attach her own bike trailer in 8 minutes flat! 

Damn!  I had no idea how easy it was.  Honestly, I thought it would be such an ordeal that I found it a little hard to imagine that I'd ever own one (for groceries or the dogs).

A handmade basket is the best way to carry home heirloom tomatoes.
The farmer's market appeared to be clearing out when we arrived, probably because of the heat.  We were wiping our brows by the time we arrived.  To distract us from the temperature, we thought about having a refreshing caprice salad later in the afternoon and hit the vegetable stalls in search of heirloom tomatoes and basil.

So easy, even a non-mom can do it!
After we found the vegetables we decided to head back to Angie's house.  Since I've never biked with a trailer attached I asked if I could give it a try, a little nervous that I'd wimp out in exhaustion within five minutes.  Angie consented but said to let her know if Camille and trailer were too heavy, since she said that she found that she pedaled a little more slowly with the added weight.  After securing Camille in the trailer, I climbed on Angie's Electra and took the trailer and an experimental spin around the large patio where we locked up our bikes.   Amazingly (at least to me), I couldn't feel any additional weight from the loaded trailer.  Perhaps the fact that I live at high elevation gave me a bit of advantage but I was quite shocked at how easy it was to pedal with the trailer.  No problem, I told Angie, I'll do the hauling all the way home.  Oh, the excitement!  Now I was one of those women hauling hauling une enfante on my velo!  Okay, I was a total fraud but I know I made it look so easy.

So anyway, both of us noticed that the trailer had a rather significant lean to the right.  We stopped and inspected it for safety.  Nothing appeared loose so we decided to push on until we got back to Angie's house.  She and her husband Doug could work on straightening it out before the next ride.  The other thing I noticed was that the trailer was a bit difficult to back up and turn around on a curve.  At one point, I had to lift the trailer in order to change directions.  Camille doesn't weight much so it wasn't particularly heavy, just awkward.  I like to check out some other trailers to see how this problem is resolved on other designs.  I suspect that a trailer with a single wheel might be easier to navigate.

Someone wishing she had a bike trailer in her life.
While still no plans to get with child, I can see Bob and I purchasing a trailer at some point.  A trailer would definitely be a good investment if we were to go car-free, still a goal of ours.  If nothing else, we could use a trailer to carry the dogs with us for trips to the vet or Petsmart.  A neighbor, a senior gentleman, carries his two little Pekineses in a trailer on his daily bike rides.  It's a pretty cute sight.  He's a big guy with a beard but those little dogs are his precious babies.  Bob and I aren't too far behind in our devotion to our little dogs - we took them with us on a recent trip to Las Vegas.  Surely Jade and Ashby are also worth the cost of a trailer.  We could take them everywhere!


BB said...

I do dream of loading the beagle into my 2-wheeled trailer some days. Then I spend a couple of minutes asking her to do something and realise, "Who am I kidding? She's a beagle!" - Sigh!

bikeolounger said...

My wife and I have two child trailers we use for cargo (her daughters are adults). One was found on Craig's List, the other in a Goodwill store ($25!!). Both were in excellent shape.

Going up a hill with the maximum rated load, you will feel it back there. Backing is like backing any trailer--it takes practice, and these are very short making them much more responsive to input than, say, a Bikes at Work 8' cargo trailer.

Dedicated cargo trailers are available, but I find that the kid trailers are often less expensive (used ones, anyway). Service for either is about the same.

Since most kid trailers seem to have nylon fabric floors, those wanting to carry dogs might consider a plywood floor with cheap closed-cell foam camping mat material applied with contact cement. With a bit of finesse, this can be removable from the trailer. In any case, it will help give the pooch more solid footing, making the experience better for all involved.

snailstitches said...

I don't have kids and my dog would never consent to getting into a bike trailer, so I opted for the Burley Travoy trailer. I use it for groceries and on Mondays for taking in my weeks' worth of clothes, etc to work.
The Travoy folds down into a pretty small package, making it easy to store. It's not too heavy, although obviously what kind of load you're carrying affects the weight.
This is starting to sound like a sales pitch, but I just really love the trailer and I think it's a great alternative to the traditional cargo trailers on the market.

MamaVee said...

I think you know my thoughts on the subject. it starts with box and ends with bike. that is all. Try one and you'll never go back.

She Rides a Bike said...

Thx for the comments everyone. My dogs might indeed object to being carried in a trailer -on at least one would, I'm fairly certain. As for hauling "stuff" we have a friend who uses a BOB that looks pretty reliable and manuveurable.

DAN said...

I bought that same kind of trailer and made it into a utility trailer.

G.E. said...

I always think my dogs would object to a trailer, but I think if it became the norm, they would adjust? Maybe I'm just kidding myself. Of course, I think it would be quite difficult to find any trailer to haul 170 lbs of dog anyway (3 of them, not 1-170 lb dog - but boy, that would be some dog!), so until I find a dog shrinking device, I think I'm stuck having a car to transport them longer distances. In the future, I think this will play a role in the size and number of dogs we have though. Being able to transport by bike would be so much easier, and, as you point out, make for the possibility of losing a car (or maybe even both). I'm always curious about the box bikes too, as pointed out above. They seem somehow sturdier and easier to maneuver, but then you cannot un-attach the trailer portion. I suppose it depends how much one uses it to transport people/things.

She Rides a Bike said...

GE, one of our dogs is a Smooth Fox Terrier, which is the equivalent of 3 hyperactive children. She does okay in her little hard side kennel during long car trips but not w/out some initial anxiety so I'm a little worried that a nylon sided trailer would get torn apart. The other is a calm little traveler, a Schnauzer-Bassett mix, who would do quite well in a box bike like MamaVee's.

Rachel said...

The issue with turning is likely more related to the long wheelbase that this trailer has.

The shorter the wheelbase, the more maneuverable the trailer will be. The single wheel trailers probably aren't stable enough for an active dog, but they are pretty sweet, as are the Xtracycles. is a really cool trailer site. They've got a farmer's market trailer that is really nice and turns well.

bikeolounger said...

SRAB, your friend Katie here in Louisville has a Bikes at Work trailer that is long enough to carry dog crates for all of their dogs. It will haul far more weight than the dogs represent, too. Her husband has pulled it, with the dogs in crates on it, during at least a couple of the Mayor's Rides. They refer to it as a bulky barky cargo.

Ted Johnson said...

I can see you with a Burley Travoy, although it's native environment is really a big city with public transit, escalators and elevators with which to contend. You kind of strike me as metropolitan trapped in a backwater town by her wanna-be farmer husband. If I'm wrong it's a great premise for a TV show.

Are there any escalators in Flagstaff? I can't think of a single one.

SuperKat said...

ill have a baby just to tote the lil one around in one of those!

She Rides a Bike said...

Ted: I am not aware of any escalators in Flagstaff but I have counted three elevators. You have me well pegged so I'll check out the Travoy.

She Rides a Bike said...

Ted: I am not aware of any escalators in Flagstaff but I have counted three elevators. You have me well pegged so I'll check out the Travoy.

Char said...

Years ago, I had a Burley kid trailer and got it specifically to carry my cat in it for short bike rides...because I had seen someone who took their dog in a trailer with their bike. My cat enjoyed it a lot. :) After moving, I got rid of that trailer, but got a flatbed trailer by Wadertec Bongo Bike trailers and I put a large Rubbermaid plastic crate on top of it, strap it down with the 4 straps, and go stock-up grocery shopping with it. It can haul 150 lbs. It does very good, and the wheels come off to store the trailer easily. Trailers are great!

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