Home Design Concepts Ultralight Teardrop Trailer – For a Bicycle!

Ultralight Teardrop Trailer – For a Bicycle!

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Well if you didn’t think I was crazy before… let me introduce you to the teardrop trailer for a bicycle. Don’t get too excited and whip out any credit cards this is just a crazy idea and I’m certain many bicycle enthusiasts will tell me a some very good reasons why this is just plain silly… but it was still fun to draw and day dream about.

The idea is simply to have a tiny habitable trailer that is lightweight and aerodynamic enough to be pulled by a bicycle. I found a few cargo bike trailers on the web but Logan at RowdyKittens pointed me toward a little company in Eugene Oregon called Human Powered Machines that makes some very stout bike trailers that can carry up to 500 pounds. Logan and Tammy at RowdyKittens have been living car-free for quite some time now.

To build such a trailer you’d need to start with a heavy duty custom bike trailer that is about 8-feet long and 3-feet wide. I’d then put down a floor and erect two curved side walls made from thin plywood (or OSB) and bond a sheet of polyisocyanurate foam board to the outside. Then I’d cover the arch with more wood, build the doors and window, and finally cover the exterior with a thin layer of aluminum. Since the length is just under 8-feet and the height is 4-feet, each side wall could be cut from a standard 4′ by 8′ piece of material.

The interior is long enough for a 6-foot person to sleep and their feet would tuck under the kitchen area. There’s a little shelf or cabinet inside for personal items too. Around back the kitchen area would provide a place to store and prepare food. The rear hatch hinges up like most traditional teardrop trailers.

You could add a couple small solar panels on the roof but you’d probably want to spend the extra money and buy lightweight batteries. Lead acid batteries would probably become a real bummer after the first few miles.

Is this totally crazy? Could this work? How can you imagine using such a trailer?

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100 COMMENTS

  1. I was looking to design and build a foldable house to attach to a rowbike. All the materials will be used from recyclable scrap. You and your readers have given me plenty of ideas. Fiberglass seems to be my solution for a sturdy floor. What do you think of using razor handles glued together as a floor or as walls. The size will be 8 x 10.

    Your design would be great for college students.

  2. In theatre sets we use a lot of a thin plywood called luan, which is generally stocked at Home Depot and runs in the neighborhood of 10 bucks for a 1/8th” x 4′x8′ sheet. It also comes in 1/4″ thickness as well. It’s pretty darn sturdy stuff, bends decently on reasonable curves, takes paint, glue, varnish etc nicely and may be a good lightweight option for the shell of such a trailer. Cool concept!

  3. This has actually been done and it looks like some of the other commenters have already posted the links. I don’t think the idea is crazy at all. I hope you have as much fun building and using it as you did dreaming and drawing it. I also hope you post pictures when you actualize it.

  4. We have a winner, almost.
    While browsing around I came across this bicycle camper trailer made by Dethleffs. Sadly it was a prototype, a one off and wont be put into production.
    As you can see from the photos its hooked up to a tandam and an electric bike, which you’d probably need to haul such a big – full fronted camper.

    http://partneryahoo.photobucket.com/albums/ad291/Giraut/Dethleffs%20Biker%20bicycle%20camper%20trailer/

    Now all we need is someone to make a popup version of this like the Lambretta Scooter caravan. I still like the scooter camper idea for its solid wall construction, no flappy tent billowining the wind…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxUpDrtBCO4

    Regards
    Tom

  5. Here’s another small camper, this one is in production though a bit pricey at £5500
    Qtvan mobility scooter caravan.
    The Qtvan is designed to be towed by mobility scooters but it can also be towed by a bicycle. It is rather small and looks to be a bit topply when towed by the bike in the video.

    Mobility Scooter.
    http://www.eta.co.uk/2011/04/17/mobility-scooter-caravan-built-beat-royal-wedding-queues
    Bicycle.
    http://www.eta.co.uk/2011/06/23/caravan-designed-be-towed-behind-bicycle

    Regards
    Tom

  6. The design is more like a small Airstream Bullet miniature RV then practical bike trailer, but all ideas and efforts are encouraging. I design things for a living and build bikes as a hobby for my friends. There is folding technology that should be used for this solution and geometrical patterns which will make the enclosure bear proof. Yes I said bear proof. If your traveling country side you have to be in a shell if your out like a light and not minding your surroundings. I would design a trailer using folding technology and test it with some bears buy placing tasty food and watch how the bears shuking it open like an oyster shell and reengineer those sections and bate it again and again till they can’t get into it. Seriously.

  7. Oh, almost forgot to add to my last comment/thoughts. I would make the shape a higher raised contour profile like the nose of the space shuttle. With a large pipe insert section attached along the length and lined with a secondary pipe insert reinforced and insulated (cold & ventilation control vents) by a ribbed skeleton. Essentially three pipes and the one sandwiched in the middle is made of equally spaced slices creating a compressed skeleton. Materials to think about should be aluminum tear drop sheets of an appropriate gauge or shaped PVC. Windows can be installed made of acrylic, silicates and lined with a break proof security film which is bullet proof. These are all light weight materials and I’m sure that there are many more types to be sourced. Folding solar panel kits can be draped over the to of the shell to recharge batteries for the evening or snow or desert conditions. Parts and the frame should be: 26″ heavy duty boxed rims, 48 hole cargo hubs with puncture proof tubes and 2.3 to 2.5 triple kevlar tires are suggested or solid rubber tires used on street vending carts should be looked at. Solid heavy duty cargo bike axes and parts are best with a two wheel limit for pivoting and turning agility. The housing/shelter is bolted and cradled into half round brackets supported by thick tubed welded chromoly carriage. Paint it in bright colors for hunters and car lights. The less parts you have the less you have to fix, that’s the touring road rule. I’m not married to the shape I suggested I’m sure there’s a better solution with someone much smarter then me on this issue. Think about the various crazy probabilities of conditions and make it into a game. Good Luck

  8. Build the trailer using these nifty, free plans
    carryfreedom.com/bamboo.html

    Use 1/4″ ACX shop-sanded plywood for the roof and it will bend nicely to a curve made by the sides.

    Use styrofoam for insulation instead. Polyisocyanurate slowly accumulates water (sorry, but true).

    Actually, with proper design, the foam could be the insulation and structural wall, too.

  9. Really this is a great idea, if you use thin plywood on both sides of a foam core you have a very light and stiff panel. I would use Dow blue foam or Owens Corning Foamular forget using the polyiso foam. To glue the ply to the foam use a water base contact cement so it doesn’t attack the foam. You really could get away with using 1/16 or 3/32 inch ply for skins but you would have to put cleats in the foam where you want to attach anything inside or outside.

    I wonder if it would be worth doing a how to on building something like this?

    Seeing how the idea is to tow this with a bike you need to keep it as light as you can… think small aircraft light!

    Femm

  10. I like it, Im going to build a teardrop trailer, think 1/4 ” lauan plywood covered with thin fiberglass, to keep it light the framework will be side rails from an aluminum ladder. Part of the roof will lift up, and the floor will fold out to the back and will have a popup tent section so that there is headroom when set up. Wish I knew how to use google sketchup so i could put some slides up.

  11. Your really going to need to use an aluminum undercarriage frame in conjunction with aluminum sheet siding to create a Faraday Cage effect to lightning shield it.

  12. ==========
    I’ve considered a similar approach but mine is intended to double as a small boat — only tall and wide enough in the front to sleep, roll over, etc. Towards the back end would an elevated area with glazing forward and on the sides = just tall enough for me to sit up and read, dink around on the ‘puter, etc. That back end wall is angled back for comfort. Entry would be through the roof which can be propped up or there is a crank-up (RV style) vent for bug country. My bike would mount to a lazy-susan style plate on bearings so I can slip a cover over it and use it like a sail for sailing downwind at least. The wheel bearings are food-grade plastic = unaffected by the water. One of the strongest, lightwieght approaches to building small boats and other stuff is stich-and-glue. Joints are drilled and wired together and then small amounts of fiberglass and cloth are used to reinforce the joint only inside and out. The wood itself is sealed against the water with oil-base paint. The flat back end makes a nice place for a sign like, “Precious cargo — move the frig over!”
    ==========

  13. I am loving all of the ideas here. i plan on building something for my bike.. my idea is maybe pvc pipe? i dont know, to heavy?

  14. The problem with all these covers, canvases, foams, bent thin ply wood is that though they may be much lighter to pull around with some cords through a few grommets and easier to cut out and make its not protective safy shell leaving you vulnerable and exposed both asleep or awake. I always build things like a paranoid person. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” “Better safe then sorry.” And all that other silly stuff.

  15. Fun idea – but you need to rethink the whole idea. why lugg around with such a heavy house?.. when you can do it with lighter material and with tent fabric?
    are you afraid of bears ? :) i think kids would love it though..

    just remember that the strait on the wheels are serious business ….

    • I agree some of the others have nice ideas , but it’s really pointless trying to make it bear proof or lighting proof it’s just not big enough . After all the bear or a person can just drag it away , that’s really the point of it being portable . I’ve already build a teardrop trailer from aluminum for cargo 2′x2′x4′ about 25 lbs . http://jarm13.deviantart.com/#/art/Tiny-tiny-teardrop-trailer-279581237?_sid=2ef8f511 But for my next trailer/camper I’m planing on using foam insulation for walls with some plywood reinforcing and a painted canvas top . Oh , and making the darn thing 7′ long . I’m tired of sleeping on the ground these days .

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