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As the title says. You would be pushing the 'trailer' rather than pulling it. Does this exist?

The one advantage over a trailer would be you can see your cargo.

My very basic design idea is to attach the cargo carrier to the axle of the front wheel (allowing up and down tilt to get over curbs) and have one free to castor 20" wheel in front. Steering would be harder since you have to move the whole "trailer" but it's hard to say by how much.

In summary I think it's possible to build and ride around with such a thing. But does it exist as a commercial product or diy project?

ETA: Apparently my wording was not clear enough: I'm not looking for a cargo bike with the cargo in front (like a bullit or backfiets or babboe or flying pigeon or or or ...) but for something that attaches to the bike unlike a trailer, namely in the front. Also I'm honestly at loss what to do with the answers - most of you point out relevant problems, none tackle the actual question (though the answer is likely no, and this is always hard to answer).

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  • 1
    With a castor front wheel, do you believe a person would be have the strength to maintain control of the steering? Have you ever tried to push a loaded supermarket trolley across a slope? Roads always have a slope....
    – mattnz
    Nov 7 '21 at 20:15
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    And even if you have roads without slopes, (as happens in some cities,) roads have humps and holes (and often potholes which are big enough to eat most of a 20" wheel.
    – Willeke
    Nov 7 '21 at 20:20
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    This made me think of..well, I don't know what its called, but basically an ice cream bicycle which is similar to what you're describing. However, this is not a detachable trailer..it's built in so perhaps off the mark.
    – rob
    Nov 8 '21 at 13:44
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    It's impossible to prove a negative, that is, it's impossible for anyone here to prove that such a trailer doesn't exist. However, there are fundamental problems with the idea that lead me to think that it would not be commercially viable.
    – Adam Rice
    Nov 8 '21 at 17:34
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    I don't understand the advantage of seeing your cargo. If you're worried that it might fall out, then it should be secured better so that can't happen (which is true whether it's a child, a dog, or groceries). If it falls out of a rear trailer, you can go back and pick it up, if it falls out the front, you're going to run over it. But if you really want to see your cargo, I can keep an eye on my dog in the trailer using the mirror on my sunglasses, I just tip my head up.
    – Johnny
    Nov 8 '21 at 21:33
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There is technology for this, has been there for many years, called 'bakfiets' in Dutch. A bike with a big load bed in front of the rider.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bakfiets_openluchtmuseum.jpg

The problem with containers which are not on the bike/trike itself but running on their own wheels is that you need pretty big wheels for the container to move over uneven bits of the road, and you need a good connection to the part of the bike you sit on, with a good option to steer, as you will need both parts to move together and turn the front part or the wheels under it in a way that will steer the whole of the combination.

As a recumbent rider I have ridden some 'strange' bikes/trikes and in the past I have rented a 'bakfiets' as the one in the picture (see link above.) And I have moved many loads on their own wheels as well while walking in front of them and behind them, and never found it easy to steer a load in front of me.

That brings me to two reasons to have big loads behind the rider.

  • you do not need to see over the load.
  • you have an easier time to steer a heavy load.

For smaller loads there are many different kinds of bikes, with load beds in different positions, before and behind the rider, before, above or behind the steering wheel(s). But I have never seen or heard about a kind of bike that takes up containers on their own wheels.

With one exception, there are several ways to combine a wheelchair and a bike behind it, sometimes using the big wheels of the chair, (tilting the chair so the smaller wheels are off the ground,) and most of those are a dedicated combination, where only one brand/make of wheelchair and only one kind of bike can be used to make a working team. A google search revealed at least three but no usable photos for here.

5
  • Good answer, but I think the problems with this design would be very different from the problems with a bakfiets. I think it would actually handle uneven bits much better, simply because the load is distributed over two wheels. But how well the steering would work, I have no idea. Nov 7 '21 at 21:44
  • With a traditional bakfiets the load is distributed evenly over two front wheels but heavy loads make for heavy steering.
    – Willeke
    Nov 7 '21 at 22:51
  • I've heard about those, "Urban Arrow" brand for example...
    – NoBugs
    Nov 8 '21 at 3:05
  • Urban Arrow are modern transport bikes. Traditional ones are a lot bigger and can load a lot more but are also heavier and harder to ride
    – Willeke
    Nov 8 '21 at 5:08
  • A well-built 3-wheel bakfiets is easy to steer, but requires some retraining of a cyclist's natural instincts and muscle memory. The first time I rode one, it took me all of 10 minutes before I crashed at full speed into a fence. But with a few days of practice, I could pedal it across terrain and roads all over Europe with little difficulty, with a load of almost 300 kg. Nov 8 '21 at 12:41
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What you're proposing would not work: your design would effectively be steering from the middle of the (combined) vehicle. You would need to transmit the turning action to the frontmost wheel, which is what a bakfiets does. There are cargo bikes with small front wheels and load decks above them (and conversion forks for same), and there is a converter that turns the bike into a trike with a load deck between the front wheels.

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    Additionally, the trailer would be pushed from one-side of the front axle, so its not even in-line. However it would be easy enough for OP to test by bolting a towball/hitch to the front wheel and try it in a wide-open isolated safe space with no obstacles. There's a certain finality to discussions when the theoretical is made real.
    – Criggie
    Nov 7 '21 at 18:15
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    @Criggie right. The more I think about this, the weirder it gets. In an articulated, leaning three-wheel, one-track vehicle, the middle wheel would probably bounce off the ground in turns and the vehicle would oscillate side-to-side around the middle wheel. It might be interesting in a sort of circusy "can you control this?" way.
    – Adam Rice
    Nov 7 '21 at 18:34
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    It would also depend on whether the "trailer" (leader?) was rigidly connected to the fork, or to the frame, or it swung freely. If it swung freely, it would jackknife immediately (like a semi backing up). If it was rigidly connected to the fork, it would be impossible to steer. If rigidly connected to the frame, I think you'd get the bouncing effect I described.
    – Adam Rice
    Nov 7 '21 at 20:36
  • @OP Do it! Take video if you can. Worst case I can try this in the weekend.
    – Criggie
    Nov 7 '21 at 20:40
  • @Hobbamok if I understand the original question correctly, it's describing something very different.
    – Adam Rice
    Nov 8 '21 at 14:11
4

Most of the steering on a regular bicycle is done by tilting the bike and letting the tilt turn the front wheel, so simply attaching a two-wheeled cart to a regular fork would not work. It would also be difficult to do a more radical aftermarket addition by replacing the entire front wheel because you would need to put weight on the steering mechanism of the cart.

In conclusion, you would be looking at a replacement of the fork itself and face some challenges in keeping the cart body steady in relation to the frame, so you would probably be better off getting a purpose built cargo bike or making the modification fairly permanent.

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    My thinking was one wheel, free to castor, for the reasons given by you.
    – mart
    Nov 7 '21 at 12:31
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    Um, that about “letting the tilt turn the front wheel” is nonsense. On the contrary, what you do is you turn the handle bars to get the bike into a tilt in the first place, and then also to turn through the corner. Nov 7 '21 at 21:34
  • 2
    Countersteering is one way to tilt into a corner, but the other is ... just leaning. In that case, shifting your centre of gravity leads and the wheel follows. They both work, but the answer isn't wrong.
    – Useless
    Nov 8 '21 at 18:08
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    @Useless You cannot really shift your center of mass on a balanced bicycle because you can't exert any lateral force. That said, in the precarious balance a bicycle presents it takes only the flap of the wing of a butterfly to begin leaning ;-). Nov 8 '21 at 19:07
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    (Walking a bike by holding onto the saddle works in a similar way, and is a useful skill to learn. And, unlike riding with no hands, it works at any speed since you're not relying on momentum to help you straighten out of a turn. But it definitely demonstrates that you can steer a bicycle without turning the handlebars, or without any significant gyroscopic effects.) Nov 9 '21 at 0:28
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Do cargo "trailers" mounted in front of the bike exist?

Later

But does it exist as a commercial product or diy project?

The design description in the original post:

My very basic design idea is to attach the cargo carrier to the axle of the front wheel (allowing up and down tilt to get over curbs) and have one free to castor 20" wheel in front.

Here is a rough sketch of the device in question.

enter image description here

An attachable "preceder" (since it does not trail the bike it can't be a trailer) will be difficult if not impossible to steer. The amount of leverage the handlebars provide to control the front wheel is much less than the leverage exerted by the preceder. With the added weight of cargo the situation becomes much worse.

Riding with 5 pounds of cargo in a handlebar bag dramatically effects steering but it's manageable. This would be orders of magnitude worse.

No, an attachable wheeled cargo device that mounts to the front axle does not exist as a commercial product or a diy project. (unless you start your own diy project)

It is much easier, cheaper and safer to attach cargo to the front of the bike using one of the multitude of front racks, baskets or panniers available.

Here examples designed for larger loads:
enter image description here
enter image description here
enter image description here

It would be wonderful if you built one and rode it with video of the whole experience. Please be sure to post a link in your question.

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  • Ok you are probably the first to actually understand what I meant. Your criticism of my idea is sound - I don't think the analgoy with a front basket is 100% accurate, as with the preceder (great term) the weight would much lower (I think the problem with a heavy frontbasket is in tilting to the side while cornering). But: lower height, more weight = same problem.
    – mart
    Nov 9 '21 at 16:25
0

Even aside from bikes, i cannot think of any cargo trailer in a push setup. Not with cars, trucks or any other wheeled vehicle. The inherent problem with pushed trailers is that you always have the extra pivoting point that you´d have to control, the same one that makes reversing a car with trailer more difficult than driving forward.

The only setup that i know of with pushed cargo is a push barge where a pusher "tug" pushes loaded barges along a river. This setup is only viable because:

  1. The barges are fixed to the front of the pusher, creating a rigid setup without pivoting points
  2. A ship naturally steers from the rear. Which makes this setup similar to a rear wheel steered bakfiets ;)
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  • One of wheeled vehicles I could think of are forklifts. They carry their cargo in the front as well.
    – Alex
    Nov 9 '21 at 14:58
  • When you learn to ride a forklift truck they teach you to go backward in many circumstances, like when you have a big load and when you go on a road open for other users.
    – Willeke
    Nov 9 '21 at 16:08

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