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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 09-15-06, 06:57 PM   #1
G5Ti
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Towing another bicycle

I've searched around on the forums, but I must not be using the right words to narrow my search. So I used that as an excuse to draw up a very rough sketch of my idea/question:

Does a product exist that would allow me to use my road or commuter bike to tow my mountain bike to a trail head? I have two local mountain bike trails that are 4.5 and 8 miles away from my home. I don't mind riding the mountain bike to those to go riding. However, there are trails that are in the neighborhood of 15-30 miles away that I would be comfortable riding to and from, but NOT on stubbies. Also, this would be a great option for taking my mountain bike to the shop when I break things, and in all cases avoiding driving a car. I often have difficulting mentally resolving the concept of DRIVING to a BIKE trail.

Here's the sketch. Anyone have any ideas? Improvements? Does a product exist, or will I be making my own? The idea is to only catch the front wheel (but securely) so that the frame and rear wheel are free to turn (a la any other "trailer"). Many thanks!

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Old 09-15-06, 07:06 PM   #2
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If you could make a mounting bracket which could to a bike off of dropouts or the seat post, I'm pretty sure it would sell.
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Old 09-15-06, 07:07 PM   #3
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http://www.trail-gator.com/
Maybe that'll work.

Nashbar sells it, but indicates that it will fit 14" - 20" wheel size children's bicycles.
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Old 09-15-06, 07:30 PM   #4
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Actually, I've been thinking about how to do the same thing. Securing the front wheel was the problem I kept running into. Then I thought, take the wheel off, and all you have to secure are the forks. And they make stuff for that!

I'm thinking I could mount one of these on my rear rack. If it's secure enough for a roof rack, it's certainly secure enough for a rear rack on a bike. As for the towed bike's front wheel, all I've come up with so far is to zip-tie it to the towed bike's frame. I suppose that in a pinch you could just hang it from the towed bike's bars.

Anyway, that's where I've been heading with the idea. Won't have to try it for a couple of months, so I don't know exactly how well it will work. But for $20, it's worth a shot.
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Old 09-15-06, 07:54 PM   #5
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It doesn't seem worth it to me. You're still going to have the weight of the bike, and the resistance of at least one knobbly tire.
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Old 09-15-06, 08:03 PM   #6
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There was a system years ago that attached the front forks of a second bike to the rear axle of a first bike. It was touted as a cheap way to have a tandem. Can you open the rear quick release on you road bike far enough to fit the front forks of your MTB? There are special trailer units for towing canoes and kayaks behind bikes. Try adapting one of them. Or just break down and buy a normal bike trailer. Then bungee your MTb to the trailer.
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Old 09-15-06, 08:07 PM   #7
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Thanks for the comments so far.

Yeah, i thought about the trailing knobby, and thought it might be worth creating a tiny platform for that. Something like roller-blade wheels that are relatively cheap and have low rolling resistance, as well as holding up well. All I'd need is a simple axle and mounting frame to tie to the rear wheel.

I thought about removing the front wheel and using a fork mount, too. I hadn't thought of zip-tying the front wheel to the frame though! That's actually a really great idea, but it does require carrying zip ties with me. At least the plastic can be recycled.

It may not prove to be worth it as a short-distance idea. I think having something like this would be worth it enough simply to tow a bike to the shop with another bike. I do think it would be worth it for me for a longer-distance trip, and may actually entice me to consider biking to farther-away distances for long-weekend vacations.

I suppose it is definitely something I'll need to try out to see if the road bike plus drag resistance and weight of towed bike actually proves more efficient than mountain bike alone.

Always good to think of different options. I'd like to move to a more car-light sensibility, so I'm trying to think of every option possible.
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Old 09-15-06, 08:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ken cummings
There was a system years ago that attached the front forks of a second bike to the rear axle of a first bike. It was touted as a cheap way to have a tandem. Can you open the rear quick release on you road bike far enough to fit the front forks of your MTB? There are special trailer units for towing canoes and kayaks behind bikes. Try adapting one of them. Or just break down and buy a normal bike trailer. Then bungee your MTb to the trailer.

I'll have to check that out this weekend.... that's not a bad idea either!
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Old 09-15-06, 09:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ken cummings
There was a system years ago that attached the front forks of a second bike to the rear axle of a first bike. It was touted as a cheap way to have a tandem. Can you open the rear quick release on you road bike far enough to fit the front forks of your MTB? There are special trailer units for towing canoes and kayaks behind bikes. Try adapting one of them. Or just break down and buy a normal bike trailer. Then bungee your MTb to the trailer.
The difficulty with this arrangement is that you cant lock the front dropouts of the rear bike as you have to allow for vertical movement of the trailing wheel over bumps.
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Old 09-15-06, 10:09 PM   #10
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I know that this is not what you had in mind, but on the chance that it might be useful . . . I sometimes need to haul an additonal bike to or from a bus station or school. I use our Burley trailer folded flat. Then I put the extra bike on top, upside down. I use toe clip straps to attach the handlebars and a bungee around the seatpost to stop the bike from sliding around. It's fast and easy. Even loosely secured, the extra bike rides pretty well.
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Old 09-16-06, 12:32 AM   #11
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I've done it... Towed an old lugged steel five dollar bike home about 8 or 9 miles. I just strapped the front wheel to a fold out grocery rack on the bike I rode in on as well as possible with four bungees. The handling was really wierd, because the odd angle that the towed bike's headset was at would cause the towed bike to lean at odd angles in turns, which caused a little rear steer input. It's nothing impossible, just don't stand on the pedals while the bike(s) is(are) in motion.

Try this first: Stand in front of your bike, grab the bars, and lift the front wheel off of the ground. Walk around with it, but keep the bars level and the front wheel airborne. All of that wierd twisting force is what you'd be working against while towing a bike.
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Old 09-16-06, 12:44 AM   #12
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If you break something on your bike, it may not be possible to tow it to the LBS anyways. Just a thought.
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Old 09-16-06, 02:48 AM   #13
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Haven't had need to try it yet, but I have thought of a possible way to tow one or two bikes behind another using my Burley Flatbed Trailer.

Put a cross piece on the front and the rear of the bed rails of the trailer.

Attach two cross pieces to these that run the length of the trailer (four for towing two bikes). Space these so that the front wheel(s) of the bike(s) to be towed will fit between them.

Place the front wheel of the bike to be towed on the trailer, between the lengthwise cross pieces and tie the front wheel securely to the trailer.

I have considered if a set up like this would have a tendency to tip over, but with a two wheeled trailer like the Burley I don't think this would be a big problem for a single bike if it were centered on the trailer. If towing two bikes, the back wheels would add to stability. I think. Like I said earlier, I haven't tried this.
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Old 09-16-06, 04:05 AM   #14
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G5Ti I have two comments...

1) I would use a trailer to carry the bike

2) The bikes in your sketch look like they're copulating (c'mon guys, admit you thought the same thing )
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Old 09-16-06, 06:23 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G5Ti
I thought about removing the front wheel and using a fork mount, too. I hadn't thought of zip-tying the front wheel to the frame though! That's actually a really great idea, but it does require carrying zip ties with me. At least the plastic can be recycled.
Or you can use something reusable like velcro straps...
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Old 09-16-06, 06:45 AM   #16
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There is this option:

http://xtracycle.com/gallery/view_ph...ave_gray_s_rig

And you might notice that my avatar is my bike caring another bike (plus a kid, plus snacks, plus ... )
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Old 09-16-06, 06:46 AM   #17
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I had a gadget years ago that we built. It clamped to my rear rack and hung down a bit. It was similar to the bed rail fork mounts that you buy today. Then the front wheel was bungied to the frame of the rear bike. Worked pretty good, but got stolen a while back and I have never bothered to replace it. Handling was affected but as long as you watched where you were riding and kept the speeds sensible it worked.

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Old 09-16-06, 09:01 AM   #18
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I would like to figure out how to use my Scooter to transport my bicycle. That way I could use it instead of the car; I use the car for the first few miles of my commute, then park and ride in to work. The first few miles are too dangerous for my sensibilities. I could scooter them easily, though.

I would save some fuel using the scooter, vs. my fuel-efficient car.
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Old 09-17-06, 08:38 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ducati
I would like to figure out how to use my Scooter to transport my bicycle. That way I could use it instead of the car; I use the car for the first few miles of my commute, then park and ride in to work. The first few miles are too dangerous for my sensibilities. I could scooter them easily, though.

I would save some fuel using the scooter, vs. my fuel-efficient car.
I do something similar, depending on the time of day. The first 2 miles of the commute are on 55-mph curvy road with no shoulder, then 1 mile on a 6-lane 45mph stretch. I usually just drive through that, then park at a sports complex and ride the remaining 12 miles (which is almost all bike path). If it's really early, or at least reasonably light out (both to and from), I'll ride the whole way. Gotta have the lights charged and ready though.

The scooter idea is fun... I would imagine it would be even easier to employ the trailer suggested mentioned here with a scooter.

If I get some time, I may play around with the towing thing more. I talked with one of my friends, and we came up with some goofy ideas for ways to support the front and rear wheels of the bike to be towed (so that the bike being towed doesn't have to actually function at all), along with adjusting for the steering axis of the towed bike.

Again, it's probably more effort than it's worth. But it's fun.


I'll pose one more thing - for bike maintenance, do you most of you actually use a bike stand? I thought I could just take a 3-4' length of metal pipe, attach a 90-deg join and then another 12-18" section to that. Mount the long section to a stud in the wall, and voila! A bike stand (to support under the saddle) that can fold flat against the wall. I'm sure someone's done something similar...
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Old 09-17-06, 04:32 PM   #20
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HA! I'm in Columbus, too. Gotta love those Cols. rush-hour soccer mom's on their phones (not). The first part of my ride is on Old Worthington Rd; 50mph avg traffic 2-laner with no shoulders. I've had some real scares. I'm done with that.

Gotta figure out that scoot thing.
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Old 09-17-06, 04:36 PM   #21
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Recently, we threw together a brakeless race bike for a cruiser class 'Little 100' relay race at the local oval. Not wanting to street it across town to get there (and wanting the team to arrive in style) I came up with this:
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Old 09-17-06, 04:51 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ducati
HA! I'm in Columbus, too. Gotta love those Cols. rush-hour soccer mom's on their phones (not). The first part of my ride is on Old Worthington Rd; 50mph avg traffic 2-laner with no shoulders. I've had some real scares. I'm done with that.

Gotta figure out that scoot thing.

I actually sent you an e-mail through your .Mac account.

We must live very close, as my commute starts off on E. Powell, continues on to Old Worthington and then to Polaris Parkway en route to Cleveland Avenue. When that stupid construction project on Africa is done, it won't be so bad... 'cause there's a cut-through there to avoid Polaris Pkwy (my most feared obstacle) altogether.

As far as the trailer goes in the above post, that ROCKS! Time for me to bust out materials and get to work....
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Old 09-17-06, 10:15 PM   #23
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The rolling resistance of the MTB tire wouldn't be so bad since there is very little weight on it.

Basically, the knobbie tire has a higher friction coefficient and the Force (to propell the wheel) = friction coefficient x Weight.

I don't have a good mounting idea though
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Old 09-18-06, 07:58 AM   #24
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What would be wrong with mounting it high on a rear rack? One of my bikes has a big milk crate on the rear rack- if you rested bike #2's top tube along the top of the crate (so it was perpendicular to bike #1) and tied it down there, I don't see any major problems that could arise. I mean, you would have to be real careful about your balance, but otherwise it would be just like an ordinary car rack.
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Old 09-18-06, 11:04 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Topher_Aus
It doesn't seem worth it to me. You're still going to have the weight of the bike, and the resistance of at least one knobbly tire.
You obviously haven't towed a bike before.

Here are some of my experiences. It's amazing what you can do with a simply rack and electrical insulation tape...

The first picture shows my touring bike with the MTB attached. The front wheel of the MTB fitted neatly between the right pedal and the frame and was secured with insulation tape on the top tube.

The second picture shows how I secured the front fork with simply insulation tape. Four or five rounds of it in each location. The seat was taped across the top of the rack. I towed the MTB around 20km, including 2km on a rough gravel road.

The third picture shows a tandem, a fixie, a road bike and a frame or two on a trailer I built for various duties... it ended up moving my household stuff to storage. It did carry up to six MTBs for training courses at one stage.

The fourth picture is a close-up of the front fork drop-out clamp that I fabricated. It would be easier now to go to a bike shop and get the type for roof racks.

So, yes to the OP, it is entirely possible to tow bikes. For your purpose, a drop-out clamp bolted to the back of a reaer rack probably would be ok. The only problem you might experience is going over significant bumps (gutter crossings), but assuming you have lawyers lips on the bottom of the MTB's forks, you may be able to leave the quick release a little loose to compensate for this.
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