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I am planning a long bike and canoe trip (bike tows canoe, canoe carries bike and cart), There are a couple of purpose built products for towing a canoe with a bike dumb stick & woody hitch but they each have short comings. There are hub connections used by standard tow a kid trailers, but they are not designed for the heavier usage of towing a canoe, and replacements must be mail ordered.

There are around 100 different home made approaches pictured on the internet. Many of the home grown solutions involve welding or special fabrication solutions, the remainder only have pictures and stories from when the idea was conceived. There are a few stories about long bike & canoe journeys but the ones I found do not have detail about the trailer connection. I have seriously spent hours looking at posts and problem solving. Based on research I have a solution that uses off the shelf parts from the local DIY store, but my solution (unique I think) does not yet have a proven history.

On a journey of thousands of miles (Pittsburgh, PA. to New Orleans, LA.), it is reasonable to expect that every component may fail at least once. The more specialized it is the more difficult it will be to replace or repair on the journey.

I am looking for a bike to canoe trailer connection, (I am using the Seattle Sports ATC Cart but not the hitch or tongue) that has a proven (100s to 1,000s of miles) design, that can be built or repaired with materials commonly available in hardware stores and with simple hand tools.

Update per request in comments My bicycle is a disposable ($100 new) from a box store (target possibly), My canoe is an older 17 foot Coleman it weighs about 75 pounds empty but will probably have another 50 pounds of gear at journey onset. The wheels/cart are centered so there is ~1-5 pounds tongue weight. (The dolly is rated at 300 pounds so tongue weight should always be 10 pounds or less)

The current solution only has about 5 miles on it. A schedule 40 PVC 1 1/4 (or 1 1/2?) to 1 inch connector is used as the hitch, the bike has a quick release for the seat, so loosen the seat pull the post out and center the connector and restore the seat = Connected, (takes like 5 seconds).

The support arm is a 4 foot section of schedule 40 PVC 1 inch pipe, structural strength is added by inserting a 4 foot length of 1 inch dowel, slathered (during insertion) with silicone sealant for water proofing, and adhesion to the inside of the pipe. Connection to the canoe is via two J Hooks with wing nuts (drill through pipe and dowel). The bow connector seemed like it would have more strain, and there was a slide over T connector (not water tight) with a screw in connector, I cut the screw in part off and used it to add strength to the center/bow connection. Joining the T to the tube is with PVC cement and a small (3//16?) bolt and nut is placed through the 1 inch junction of the T, Tube & Dowel.

Everything is off the shelf (Lowe's), Because the seat post is at about a 15 degree angle, the hitch self-centers and tends to stay fairly stable.

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  • What bike do you have? How heavy is the entire trailer with its load? What's the tongue weight? What's your "unique solution" that you alluded to? – John Zwinck Dec 22 '14 at 3:26
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    A few things strike me as being issues: Is the PVC pipe really durable enough given shifting loads? What happens when the slope changes - could the bow or stern bottom out (looks like it to me)? How does it handle down hill (I'd consider some form of drag brake on the trailer that you could set at the top of the hill to provide some friction - even a spoon brake)? How would you repair all the custom parts and the dolly on the journey? Can you actually go round corners? It looks like a nice simple solution, so these thoughts are meant to help in limited words. – Chris H Dec 22 '14 at 13:55
  • @JohnZwinck posted updated to address your questions. – James Jenkins Dec 22 '14 at 15:17
  • @ChrisH Still learning the answers to all those questions, I have couple of related 1 & 2 All in all it handles MUCH better than it looks like it would. My test track was in my neighborhood which is not level. The back tire is much closer to the bow (3-4 inches) than it looks in this picture, so the biggest risk is dragging the back. The dolly is one of the highest commercially available, I chose it because of the solid frame, the only at risk parts on it are tires and wheels. – James Jenkins Dec 22 '14 at 15:26
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    @ChrisH I am planning on providing my own answer to What are the safety concerns of a high vs a low mount trailer hitch? after I get more miles in, I have been taking it pretty easy max about 15 MPH down hill. So far I am very happy with the handling. – James Jenkins Dec 22 '14 at 17:26
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I now have over 100 miles towing the canoe with my homemade trailer hitch pictured in the question.

A schedule 40 PVC 1 1/4 (or 1 1/2?) to 1 inch connector is used as the hitch, the bike has a quick release for the seat, so loosen the seat pull the post out and center the connector and restore the seat = Connected, (takes like 5 seconds).

The support arm is a 4 foot section of schedule 40 PVC 1 inch pipe, structural strength is added by inserting a 4 foot length of 1 inch dowel, slathered (during insertion) with silicone sealant for water proofing, and adhesion to the inside of the pipe. Connection to the canoe is via two J Hooks with wing nuts (drill through pipe and dowel). The bow connector seemed like it would have more strain, and there was a slide over T connector (not water tight) with a screw in connector, I cut the screw in part off and used it to add strength to the center/bow connection. Joining the T to the tube is with PVC cement and a small (3//16?) bolt and nut is placed through the 1 inch junction of the T, Tube & Dowel.

Everything is off the shelf (Lowe's), Because the seat post is at about a 15 degree angle, the hitch self-centers and tends to stay fairly stable. If I am away from home, a quick trip to the local hardware store will have me back on the trail in a couple hours.

The tube would occasionally rub against the back tire, I used a bungee cord around the pipe and to the seat to lift it a bit, this has worked fine.

On one of my early outings the canoe had gotten misaligned on the dolly and was travelling slightly sideways, while navigating between poles the canoe tipped over. Everything flexed nicely without breaking.

Of interest, I am on my second disposable bike with the same trailer hitch, the blue bike wore out. I tow with a disposable bike so if (when?) the canoe tips over and deposits the bike at the bottom a river, I don't need to worry about dodging tug boats to retrieve it, just go get another one.

Why don't I get a better bike? I carry the bike in the canoe. If me the bike and the canoe go over, the bike is going to drown. I have a life jack and the canoe has flotation. I tie the bike to the canoe, but unless the water is pretty shallow I am probably going to cut the bike loose, I can get a new bike every year for $100. When you get in a canoe, you should expect that the likelihood of overturning is 100% (it's not but is the safe assumption). Currently I am traveling some local water ways limited to about 15 miles per day where the return time is at 2 canoe miles per hour top speed. Everyday is potentially the last day the bike has to live.

Related

  • The bike 'wore out' after 100 miles? That should tell you something. Spend just a couple hundred more and get a real bike (or look for a used one). – Mike Baranczak Aug 24 '15 at 15:18
  • I do like the PVC tow bar. Simple, effective, and you can get parts anywhere. Keep us posted, and let us know how it goes. – Mike Baranczak Aug 24 '15 at 15:20
  • @MikeBaranczak thanks for the positive feed back. The old bike was a couple years old, when I started using it for this. It had maybe a couple hundred miles on it. But I carry the bike in the canoe If me the bike and the canoe go over, the bike is going to drown. I have a life jack and the canoe has flotation. I tie the bike to the canoe, but unless the water is pretty shallow I am probably going to cut the bike loose, I can get a new bike every year for $100. – James Jenkins Aug 24 '15 at 15:42
  • @JamesJenkins It's been six months, how are you going now? You should have your 1000 miles, and I'd like to hear how it worked. – Móż Mar 29 '16 at 21:50
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    @Mσᶎ Everything is going fine, well less then 1000 miles. I have not had it out during the winter. I plan to have it out again soon, also taking a sailing class this summer. Canoe with sail + Bike with canoe dolly = more fun options. If things work out well I should be posting an updated answer at outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/9362 – James Jenkins Mar 30 '16 at 9:59
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It's difficult to answer such a broad question, and what I'd like to say is too long for a comment.

  1. While the trip appears to be gently downhill, there are a few hills. How will you go up them with that rig, and how will you slow the thing going down them? That trailer doesn't appear to have brakes.
  2. everything you will need is specialised, and not widely available. At some point you will very likely have to mail order a part and wait for it to be posted to your current location. Not doing that will make your life extremely difficult.
  3. I suggest looking at cargo trailers rather than kiddie trailers. They are designed for heavier loads and longer trips.
  4. The trailer will exert considerable force on the bicycle at some point. With a design limit of 5-10 pounds you ensure that the trailer hitch will break at that point. Imagine hitting a pothole at 20mph, or a car door. Do you really want to see your canoe go careening off on its own path then?
  5. A BSO is a poor choice for any journey of more than a thousand miles. Those bikes are designed to be ridden short distances for a short time, then thrown away and replaced. It is very likely that the rear wheel will taco the first time you turn and brake, for example.
  6. What is your recovery plan when the canoe tips over? Bicycles sink.
  7. What is your recovery plan when the canoe gets dented on the trailer? Trailers tip over, wind gusts push them into things.
  8. What happens when it rains? You're towing a big bucket!
  9. I think 50lbs/45kg of gear is low for a trip this long, especially a mixed-mode one. You need gear for riding, plus canoeing, plus spares and tools for both, plus clothing and toiletries. That suggests to me that you will have the absolute minimum of gear and rely on buying every meal where you will eat it, and using accommodation along the way rather than camping. You could do that, but you should plan on spending at least one night cold and hungry when you fail to reach a destination.
  • While I appreciate your input this does not look like an answer to the question. The question is not overly broad, it is very focused, you have read much more into it than is asked. Look at some of my questions on Outdoors as well as here this is a small question about a much bigger subject. – James Jenkins Dec 23 '14 at 23:35
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    Your question is very focussed, but not answerable as yet. The current version appears to be "using only cheap items available in any hardware shop, make a hitch for my canoe. It doesn't have to be safe, durable or efficient, it just has to work for a few miles at a time. I expect to destroy bikes and canoes several times on my 1200 mile trip". Note how there's already 14 comments, most of which have resulted in you changing your question or disclosing more crucial information. These guessing game questions are hard on everyone. – Nuі Dec 26 '14 at 4:08
  • @JamesJenkins it looks to me that Nuі has thought more about this than you OP JamesJenkins. I'm not saying this a bad thing; trips like this take some free-wheeling and optimism! Fact is though, this is a good answer. – jqning Aug 24 '15 at 18:39
  • @jqning Nui's, #2 is the whole point of this question. Stuff breaks and I don't want to be stuck waiting for mail order. I have addressed most of the other points in related posts. My question in this post is how to make a trailer hitch that will not require mail order to repair. Not everything that is required for the whole trip, those are separate questions and answers – James Jenkins Aug 24 '15 at 18:57

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