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I was chatting with the owner of a local farm of which I am a subscriber, and he mentioned that he was considering hauling boxes of veggies between work sites using a bicycle or tricycle. There is of course variety of cargo bikes and trailers in the world to choose from, but most utility bicycle equipment is oriented towards paved surfaces. Thus trailers with 20-inch wheels might not fair so well on unimproved trails.

Are there styles of bike, trike, or trailer that are already in use on farms that you've seen or heard of? How much trail improvement should he undertake, since his roads are mostly driven by his tractor and delivery van?

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The huge apple trucks in Washington State have the boxes loaded on springs to prevent bruising on highways. I suggest looking for a trailer to which springs can be added. –  Ash Machine Oct 24 '11 at 17:03
    
Springs are an interesting idea, next time I see him, I'll ask if bruising is a concern. –  memnoch_proxy Oct 26 '11 at 3:28
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Here's a bunch of interesting examples of farm trailers: bikecart.pedalpeople.com/gallery.html Most of them have 26-29 inch wheels, which is a feature I had not previously considered. –  memnoch_proxy Oct 26 '11 at 4:05
    
This thread on Bikeforums.net brought up some good ideas as well: bikeforums.net/showthread.php/… The description of the trike losing traction is very telling. Also, I should get to talk to my farmer friend this weekend. –  memnoch_proxy Dec 1 '11 at 6:07
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3 Answers 3

Trailer

There is a big difference in what you can use on a graded surface or dirt road versus an ungraded track or single track.

If the primary use is graded at about the width of a car and relatively smooth you can get away with almost any single or double wheel trailer.

If they are mostly rough or single-track you will do best with a single wheel bicycle trailer. The better single wheel trailers I have seen are the Bob Yak and Weber Monoporter. You do have to avoid overloading them or as they sway they will steer the bike.

Bike

I would think that any quality hard-tail 26" or 29" bike would work fine.

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I had not considered a singlewheel, rather the first type of trailer that I thought of was the long aluminum trailers a-la Bikes at Work bikesatwork.com/bike-trailers/features.html However my concern with those is with them getting catching center-high or grinding on the tow bar or trailing edge. –  memnoch_proxy Oct 26 '11 at 3:33
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I would suggest using longtails or boxbikes.

Longtails are bikes with the rear wheel farther back, so that you can have a huge rack and probably some boxes. Most of them are strong and kind of "already mountain bikes". My favourite examples are the Kona Ute and the Yuba Mundo.

Another possibility are the "remote steering" box-bikes, much used in Denmark and Netherlands, where you have a giant box between you and the front wheel. Examples are the classical Bakfiets, and the more modern Bullitt.

In any case, I don't mean you should buy any of these brands or models, but rather be aware of their existence, so you can perhaps order a similar solution to a local builder, or something like that.

I would not carry apples on a trailer as a first choice, because of the extra size, extra effort and extra-rattling compared to a loaded bike, but it depends a lot on your terrain, indeed it might actually be the best solution, so you only need a proper trailer to use with a regular bike. In this case, a two-wheeled trailer probably would be the best option.

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Do you have any experience with using these in an off-road situation? I don't but I would think that they would be harder to maneuver than a bike with a trailer, but I may be wrong. –  Gary.Ray Oct 24 '11 at 17:32
    
@Gary.Ray I have ridden tandem and have already ridden a home-made trailer, both with my kid, not to say loaded regular bike. The long wheelbase makes the tandem much more stable than a solo (similar would happen with longtail, I think), and if your brakes are good, you have brakes in every wheel. With the trailer, there was a brakeless wheel, one more wheel to hit potholes, and the shaking from the trailer "contaminated" steering and balance a bit. –  heltonbiker Oct 24 '11 at 18:58
    
Handling a load in muddy conditions would be a typical scenario. I've ridden my XC with my son on the back up some steep soggy lawns and thank goodness for a 22x34 gearing. I can imagine that hauling a trailer up a muddy slope might be just as hard, if not harder, because each dip would bog the trailer down more strongly than the larger tired bike. I do like how much more stable the long wheel base of my XC handles in snow and ice (yes, studs), so I certianly see merit in a fat tired Yuba. –  memnoch_proxy Oct 26 '11 at 3:39
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For the most extreme conditions he'd want something like the Pugsley. For less extreme conditions any "mountain" bike should work fine.

In a way, the trailer is probably less critical than the bike. So long as the tires are large enough in diameter to not get caught in potholes, and so long as they are sufficiently wide to not sink into the soil (given whatever load they carry), a decent trailer will follow along behind fairly nicely. It's mostly a question of finding something durable enough for the duty.

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I assume he would want to start with a bike that had a 22x34T gearing. I presume that a Pug would have such a gearing, if not lower? –  memnoch_proxy Oct 26 '11 at 4:03
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22/32/44t and 11-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32t –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 26 '11 at 11:35
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