Monday, March 26, 2012

where we are going, we don't need automobiles

Tim Johnson's Ride on Washington last year for the 2011 National Bike Summit helped get my mind back on track thinking about bicycling more than just fitness and competitive racing. It took until near the end of 2011 for me to realize the full meaning of what Tim and his com-padre's were doing. That experience and the cause for what they were riding for got me thinking again about my past and my future.

Taking that experience in early 2011, as well as my many other experiences throughout the remainder of the year, got me thinking about what I wanted to do in 2012. My day job has been one large rollercoaster lately, starting last year and this year is on track to be worse. The day job does not allow for proper riding and rest so my fitness suffers. I felt like I was yo-yoing all year last year. I need something more consistent. How will I get my riding in?

One observation I did have last year surrounds my time spent riding/racing my mountain bike for eight straight days. In the various mountain bike stage races I have done over the past few years I have noticed that I seem to get stronger towards the end of the races. As DAN DURLAND said to me, I could start the stage races a few days early. Good idea but I think its time for a break from stage races. 

It was sometime in late 2011 when I decided I wanted to ride my bicycle to the mountain bike races I plan on competing in during 2012. I figured that would build upon my stage racing experiences but on a different level. The only thinking about this I initially did was along the lines of

"I've [raced] multiple days in a row before so this isn't that much different"

"It'll be an adventure."

"If I do anything, it will be turning heads and getting people to think about the bicycle and why we do what we bicycle racers do."

At first blush it sounds both awesome and like a far fetched idea. Hmm, must put some feelers out and see what I get (knowing once I say a word of this to anyone I pretty much have to commit). As a result, I started asking some friends of mine. Almost instantly I received a unanimous

"Yes. Do it!"

followed by

"You are crazy, but I like it!"

With the help of a carless friend (Tony) and the inspiration from another carless friend (Salem, whom never ceases to amaze me with his fitness) and many others I figured out a plan. Carry the mountain bike, race gear and camping equipment via a trailer. Tony found me a trailer for free at the town dump. It was missing the other half of the piece that attaches to the frame so the trailer sat for months while I casually researched how it works. I eventually realized all I was missing was a $9.00 part. My trailer started life shaped such that it can carry one to two children.
I ripped everything off of it except the frame and mag wheels. From there I started thinking of what to do. Tony has a similar trailer with plywood for a floor but I wanted something lighter and more weather resistant. Enter a donated sheet of 12ga aluminum (thanks Rob!).
From there the floor began to take place. I kept the floor as low as possible to keep the center of gravity low. Bolted in place by an assortment of stainless steel screws that go through the metal frame.
Now that I had a plan for a floor. How was I to carry my gear?

Adopting one method of transporting my bicycles on my car I figured I could install a fork mount bicycle tray to the trailer. I could also mount a rubbermaid container to carry my gear like Tony has on his utility trailer. The one problem was all my bike trays are designed to clamp on round cross-bars and I didn't want to add any cross-bars as the more stuff I bolt on the heavier it gets.

Some internet searching and an inquiry into my local bike shop revealed a donated Yakima bike tray (thanks Pedal Power!). While I was at Pedal Power picking up the bike tray I also bought a pick-up truck fork mount block. Trimmed the bike tray to clear the disk brake and I was golden. A toe strap holds the rear wheel in place on the tray.
Next up was fitment. Where do I place the rubbermaid container and where does the singlespeed's front tire go? The Rubbermaid container was mounted as best as I could get centered over the rear axles. It is also biased to the bicycle's nondrive side so I can clear the singlespeed's pedals. It is bolted directly to the aluminum floor with four stainless steel machine screws and fender washers to spread the load out.
The singlespeed's front wheel can then sit on the trailer rail alongside the bike. Three toe straps tie it down to the trailer and to the singlespeed so it will not move and interfere with the trailer tire. The axle skewer is less than a centimeter from the singlespeed's crabon downtube but an aggressive offroad and onroad shake-down ride proved this was adequate without any contact between the two.

The next dilemma was what do I tow this trailer with? My road bike has regular chainrings (39/52) and a 12-27 cassette. That sounds like a steep set of gearing for towing a loaded trailer well in excess of 70miles to an event. After some discussions with friends I decided I needed a touring bike to take advantage of the long wheelbase and wide ratio gearing. Enter the Trek 520 with some full length fenders from High Gear Cyclery.
Given the rear rack and fender mounts on the 520, I had to modify the trailer bracket slightly. I probably did not need to be so generous with clearancing but oh well. It works.

For safety I bolted two reflectors onto the trailer and opted to mount one of my Planet Bike SuperFlash rear tail lights to my singlespeed's seatpost. This places the light in an easy to view height for automobiles. I can also attach my other SuperFlash light to the back of my helmet. I have a Planet Bike Blaze 2watt headlight as my main stay. If I feel I'll be riding late into the night I also have an HID light as a back-up. The wheel reflectors on both the Trek 520 and the trailer mag wheels were rtained as side visuals are equally as important.

Time to ride.

The initial shakedown ride included some offroad terrain as my method of simulating long term pavement durability.
We passed the test with only one action: add one floor bracket near the rubbermaid container as the floor likes to flex under load. That will be as simple as a 4inch long L shaped piece of aluminum bar tied to the trailer frame and one of the rubbermaid mounting points. Minimal added weight.

With this endeavour, time and distance would limit me on the races/events I partake in this year. Distance mainly as I can take vacation days from my dayjob for travel but the longer the distance, the harder it will be on my body. As a result I am not traveling beyond the northeast. No stage races this year. I've pretty much made my own.

The events I plan on riding to thus far are as follows:
~ Up to Boston to do a 70mile dirt/pavement ride/race with T-Hom Parsons (97miles to T-Hom's house)
~ Out to southern NY to the Darkhorse Cycles' Singlespeed-A-Polooza (100-110miles)
~ Down to the northwest corner of New Jersey for the Bearscat 50 (probably 140miles)
~ Non trailer but a bike ride to the CT coast to hop a ferry to Long Island for the Ride on Montak
~ Back to southern NY for the Darkhorse 40 (100-110miles)

VT Gravel Grinder and SSUSA we will drive up to. As much as I want to, I don't have 10+ days of time off this year to ride to Burlington VT and back.

I have a few other events tentatively planned for later in the summer but before I commit I want to get through some trips with this set-up to see how it works for me.

That's the next thing. I certainly won't be 'fresh' for the events but the more I think about this the more I really do not care how well I place in said events. This is about something different. This is about the experience of riding across CT, Mass, NY and such... Racing mountain bikes with friends and then hoping back on the bike to ride home. It is also about changing the way people think about transportation in this country.


Blogger skullhead said...

Dude, this is killer. Couple 'from-the-hip' suggestions, take 'em or leave 'em:
-Those two reflectors are super low to the ground. Not bad as back up, but they definitely can't hold a candle to blinky lights. I would suggest a couple more flashy lights, especially on the side that will be closest to traffic to give motorists a better sense of how wide your trailer is. The more you're lit up like a Xmas tree, the more room you'll get with cars passing (cause they won't know what the F you are).
-How bout a 'cranker' strap just as a fail-safe to keep the lid on your rubbermaid container? They double up nicely as straps to hold shit together when it inevitably falls apart out on the road as well. Best of luck dude! Can't wait to hear about your travels!

3/26/2012 11:17 PM  
Blogger CB2 said...

Enjoy the trip!

Since you've got all that real estate on the back of the bin you should put some reflective material on it. I picked up 2 long strips at the auto parts store for under $5 to do up my fenders (I only used about 1/3 of 1 strip).

You're always welcome to jump in the truck for the ride home at any events we're both doing.

3/27/2012 7:53 AM  
Anonymous mandy said...

very cool, worthwhile endeavor. thanks for sharing the details on your maker process

3/27/2012 8:15 AM  
Blogger dougyfresh said...

All very good points and I've been thinking about that since before this post was written.

Definitely going to plaster the rubbermaid container with reflective sticker stripes.

Agreed that the more lights the more visible I'll be. I thought about adding a flag.

I was going to bungie the top of the Rubbermaid container but it latches in place very well. More testing with a full load will tell me if I need a secondary hold down.

Thanks everyone!

3/27/2012 8:44 AM  
Blogger jeff said...


3/27/2012 8:48 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

That is a really clever set up. I have a folding bike that I keep in my trunk for riding after work - but with something like your setup, it would be pretty easy just to tow it behind another bike!

3/27/2012 10:05 AM  
Blogger ThirdGear said...

You crazy. Love it!! I think the flag thing is a good idea and I agree that the more you're lit up like an Xmas tree the more room you'll receive. We have 'American Flag Guy with Sweet Boom Box'. I've seen him for years but I still give him plenty of room because he still scares the crap out of me when I see him! He he has a flag, is lit up like Times Square and also, he's a little insane :>). Muttering to yourself and flailing your hands will also get you more space. Enjoy the ride.

3/27/2012 10:49 AM  
Blogger TheMutt said...

This has to be the best idea ever. You're making me think about modifying my trailer for the same purpose.

I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

3/27/2012 10:51 AM  
Blogger wcrissman said...

Doug - Well done! I'm so impressed by the idea, the engineering to make it happen and the guts to go for it. I hope we'll be riding on the same team for the Ronde with T-hom in a couple weeks so we can catch up some. And I'll see you at SSAP and likely at a couple other events, too - I'm in for SSUSA and Darkhorse 40 though I think they're the same day.
Can't wait to see your rig in action. Continued good luck and good work.

3/27/2012 11:03 AM  
Anonymous KenD said...

I'm going to the Bearscat race on June 3rd. If you need anything shuttled to the race or back to CT let me know. 860-585-4116

5/22/2012 9:39 PM  

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