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  1. #1
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    Help with my Seatpost Trailer hitch/mount design

    First off, I apologize for not having pictures right now. I'll try to take some and upload tomorrow.

    OK, so I'm making a seatpost mounted single wheel trailer, similar to a trail-a-bike. My goal is to use bike parts from the local co-op as much as possible. This goal has made creating a two axis hitch and mount at the seatpost challenging.

    The body of the hitch is a thick BMX stem. A front quick-release hub is clamped in place of the handlebars. The trailer is mounted to the front hub using a front fork with the steer tube extending back to the rest of the trailer. The front hub provides freedom of movement in pitch. I enlarged the steer tube opening in the stem and pressed 1.125" headset cups into this opening. Bearings and a threaded headset race go on next for each cup. I used 1.125" headset parts so that my 27.2mm seatpost could fit down through the assembly without contacting anything.

    Now comes the part I'm struggling with. How can I keep those threaded headset races tightened down with a good amount of preload while keeping them in place against the seatpost without damaging the seatpost? I'm currently using a shim made from a aluminum can wrapped around the seatpost several times so the threads of the headset races have something to dig into while the rest of the hitch is free to rotate. Unfortunately the mount tends to jostle around and spread the threaded headset races apart until the headset is really loose. I'm trying different sorts of clamps around the seatpost above and below the headset races but none have held for long. Currently the aluminum shim extends past the headset races and under the clamps. I'm thinking there might not be enough friction. To resist the forces this hitch'll see. I haven't even loaded the trailer yet!

    So what sort of clamps might work? Clamp the shim or just the seatpost? Use a thicker material for the shim so the headset threads grip more? Don't clamp the seatpost and try something else? I'm trying to imagine something that would sandwhich the headset down without interfering with the freedom in yaw required for the trailer.

    Thanks for reading.

    edit: I've attached a picture.
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    Last edited by Enthusiast; 05-01-09 at 06:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    Sounds lke a lot of mowing parts and heavy / complicated solution. Found a picture of a seatpost hitch on some website: Take a stem (modrn type, not quill) and cut off the part that holds the stem. Clamp the remaining piece to the seatpost (instead of on the fork tube) with the hollow tube that is remaining pointing backwards.

    Drill a hole trough from top trough to bottom. Stick the trailer bar inn there and secure with bolt or similar.

    The trailer to bar needs to have a short piece of something flexible in it. I`ve seen a strong spring used (no good) and I think on this one was used a piece of STRONG rubber, like from the wall of a car tyre or simlar.

    Difficult to explain. I`ll try to look for the site.

    Edit: This is close to what I mean http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/M...?ModelID=25870
    Last edited by badmother; 04-30-09 at 01:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by badmother View Post
    Sounds lke a lot of mowing parts and heavy / complicated solution. Found a picture of a seatpost hitch on some website: Take a stem (modrn type, not quill) and cut off the part that holds the stem. Clamp the remaining piece to the seatpost (instead of on the fork tube) with the hollow tube that is remaining pointing backwards.

    Drill a hole trough from top trough to bottom. Stick the trailer bar inn there and secure with bolt or similar.

    The trailer to bar needs to have a short piece of something flexible in it. I`ve seen a strong spring used (no good) and I think on this one was used a piece of STRONG rubber, like from the wall of a car tyre or simlar.

    Difficult to explain. I`ll try to look for the site.

    Edit: This is close to what I mean http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/M...?ModelID=25870
    I see what you're going for. I'd only seen ~$50 versions of these hitches before so I hadn't considered them as a viable alternative. It readily accomplishes the left right yaw I'm going for but how does this allow the trailer to pitch up and down? I'm also leary of using pivots that aren't bushings or bearings. Won't a simple bolt pivot have some slop which will only get worse?

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    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    I see where you're going with this. I like it.

    How about using a threadless headset?



    once you have it all set up all you have to do is put a little weight on the saddle before tightening the seat post clamping bolt on the frame.
    There are 10 types of people in the world - the ones that can count in base 2, the ones that can't count in base 2, and the ones that didn't expect this to be in base 3.

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    Senior member Dan Burkhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclaholic View Post
    I see where you're going with this. I like it.

    How about using a threadless headset?



    once you have it all set up all you have to do is put a little weight on the saddle before tightening the seat post clamping bolt on the frame.
    Do you have a solution for affixing the crown race to the seatpost? This could work, but would require some custom machining, putting it beyond a reasonable cost.

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    For the sleeve, instead of wrapping a thin shim around the seat post, try to find a short length of tubing or conduit that is a pretty close fit on the tube, then cut a lazy spiral around it, maybe 1/2 turn in the length. Often a shim will leave bends in the metal that will keep closing up and need constant snugging.

    (EDIT: with the spiral cut into it, the clamps can easily close the cut you made allow even clamping pressure)

    A set of 'pretty' seat clamps for a larger post should work and look decently.

    I'm wondering if you'll be happy with that design, the way the seat post is angled, it's going to change the way the trailer follows in turns. It may try to lift the rear tire on the bike when turning.
    Not sure of the angle on your bike so it may be a liveable effect.

    Ken.

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    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart View Post
    Do you have a solution for affixing the crown race to the seatpost? This could work, but would require some custom machining, putting it beyond a reasonable cost.
    I just had another look at a threadless I have here and yeah, there may be some machining involved. All I could come up with is to use two top bearing assembly from two headsets.
    There are 10 types of people in the world - the ones that can count in base 2, the ones that can't count in base 2, and the ones that didn't expect this to be in base 3.

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    Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems like you're missing one of the 3 required rotations. It doesn't seem like this hitch would allow the trailer to twist in relation to the bike, like when you're turning or on uneven ground. Is that rotation built into a different part of the hitch?
    The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. -Juma Ikangaa

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sturmcrow View Post
    Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems like you're missing one of the 3 required rotations. It doesn't seem like this hitch would allow the trailer to twist in relation to the bike, like when you're turning or on uneven ground. Is that rotation built into a different part of the hitch?
    You're not crazy, if my trailer had two wheels I would require one more rotational degree of freedom, but since I'm going for a one-wheel trailer, I definitely don't want to allow twisting! The trailer would flop right over!

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    Quote Originally Posted by kendall View Post
    For the sleeve, instead of wrapping a thin shim around the seat post, try to find a short length of tubing or conduit that is a pretty close fit on the tube, then cut a lazy spiral around it, maybe 1/2 turn in the length. Often a shim will leave bends in the metal that will keep closing up and need constant snugging.

    (EDIT: with the spiral cut into it, the clamps can easily close the cut you made allow even clamping pressure)

    A set of 'pretty' seat clamps for a larger post should work and look decently.

    I'm wondering if you'll be happy with that design, the way the seat post is angled, it's going to change the way the trailer follows in turns. It may try to lift the rear tire on the bike when turning.
    Not sure of the angle on your bike so it may be a liveable effect.

    Ken.
    I thought that a thicker shim might make a difference but I only had the aluminum can available at the time. The seatpost is 26.8mm in dia, and the 1 1/8" headset is 28.575mm (say 28.5mm), requiring a shim with .85mm wall thickness. I was considering either buying an appropriately sized bit of tubing from a metal supplier and having the local bike shop thread it (the co-op only has 1" dyes), or cutting a 1 1/8" steer tube and either boring or lathing out the center. I'd have to make friends with someone who has a nice machine shop, and I dont think the steer tube walls are thick enough to handle the requisite machining. I could use a threadless headset if I could get ahold of one.

    I'd been wondering how the seat tube angle (~72deg) would affect handling, but no longer think it'll be a problem. Having the seat post pivot at an angle effectively couples yaw and pitch (which is bad) but the horizontal pitching pivot will rotate when I yaw in turns so I don't have to worry about lifting the rear tire. What I'll feel is the position of the pitch pivot moving vertically as I yaw, changing the angle of the trailer to the bike, affecting the wheelbase. I haven't ran the numbers but my eyeballs are telling me that we are dealing with a sine function with changes of small fractions of an inch for the first ~15 degrees of yaw, which I believe will be acceptable. This is because there's such a short distance between the yaw pivot and the pitch pivot.

    I'm working on an alternate design right now that has more distance between the pivots (but requires no machining!) so there may be a bigger effect with the new design. Right now I've only got the new design in some 3d modeling software so I can't post pictures. I could post a rendering tomorrow if you don't want to wait until the weekend to see the new design.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    You're not crazy, if my trailer had two wheels I would require one more rotational degree of freedom, but since I'm going for a one-wheel trailer, I definitely don't want to allow twisting! The trailer would flop right over!
    It's amazing how helpful reading comprehension can be. I coulda sworn that you said you were building a 2-wheeler, but looking back the closest I see is single-wheel followed closely by two axis. I musta made a freudian slip.
    The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. -Juma Ikangaa

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    I've attached a photo of the new hitch design I'm considering. The computer model is sloppy since I'm just using it for quick concept development. The piece clamping to the seatpost and to the vertical hub is off a car roof rack. It's original intention was to clamp to the rack and then to a spindle which held the fork mounted on the rack.

    Next comes a fork with zero rake, preferably off a kiddy bike so it isn't too long, maybe 10". Zero rake would be nice so I don't have to bend the steer tube so it's inline with the fork ends. Using a 10" fork will keep the distance from the first pivot to the second pivot smaller than with a full size fork. There is no welding required so I may experiment with different fork lengths to see how that affects handling.

    The next component is a stem attached to that fork. I'm trying to decide on the correct stem length and whether to use a quill or a threadless stem. A longer stem will give me more ground clearance for cargo(what sort of ground clearance do you all prefer?), but I'm worried that a longer stem will create a more powerful torque on the stem in turns, possibly leading to slippage. Would a quill or threadless stem be more likely to resist such a torque, all things being equal?

    Instead of a handlebar, the stem clamps to another front hub. The trailer connects with a fork and continues back. I think I'll give this hub a solid axle for extra safety and security, but keep the other hub quick release to ease trailer attachment.

    One thing I like about this design is how the hitch can fold back on the trailer, shortening it for storage. Coupled with the folding bike frame I'm using in the rear, this trailer should collapse from 9' long down to 5'. I just had my last exam of the semester (grad school) so I should make quick progress now. Wait until you see the rest of the trailer! I've tried to keep it light and simple while allowing internal cable routing for a trailer brake for long descents, adaptable load carrying, an option for giving people rides, and the ability to be used as an instant hammock and tent/shelter for whenever I want to rest on my bike tour.
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  13. #13
    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I've attached a photo of the new hitch design I'm considering. The computer model is sloppy since I'm just using it for quick concept development. The piece clamping to the seatpost and to the vertical hub is off a car roof rack. It's original intention was to clamp to the rack and then to a spindle which held the fork mounted on the rack.

    Next comes a fork with zero rake, preferably off a kiddy bike so it isn't too long, maybe 10". Zero rake would be nice so I don't have to bend the steer tube so it's inline with the fork ends. Using a 10" fork will keep the distance from the first pivot to the second pivot smaller than with a full size fork. There is no welding required so I may experiment with different fork lengths to see how that affects handling.

    The next component is a stem attached to that fork. I'm trying to decide on the correct stem length and whether to use a quill or a threadless stem. A longer stem will give me more ground clearance for cargo(what sort of ground clearance do you all prefer?), but I'm worried that a longer stem will create a more powerful torque on the stem in turns, possibly leading to slippage. Would a quill or threadless stem be more likely to resist such a torque, all things being equal?

    Instead of a handlebar, the stem clamps to another front hub. The trailer connects with a fork and continues back. I think I'll give this hub a solid axle for extra safety and security, but keep the other hub quick release to ease trailer attachment.

    One thing I like about this design is how the hitch can fold back on the trailer, shortening it for storage. Coupled with the folding bike frame I'm using in the rear, this trailer should collapse from 9' long down to 5'. I just had my last exam of the semester (grad school) so I should make quick progress now. Wait until you see the rest of the trailer! I've tried to keep it light and simple while allowing internal cable routing for a trailer brake for long descents, adaptable load carrying, an option for giving people rides, and the ability to be used as an instant hammock and tent/shelter for whenever I want to rest on my bike tour.
    I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the trailer.

    If you're for that much carrying capacity (a human) I don't think hitching to the seatpost is the best option. A more conventional hitch design to the rear wheel axle would be much stronger and more stable. Is there a reason you specifically want to go to the seatpost?

    Anyhow, here's a suggestion for a 2-hub hitch design....
    There are 10 types of people in the world - the ones that can count in base 2, the ones that can't count in base 2, and the ones that didn't expect this to be in base 3.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclaholic View Post
    I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the trailer.

    If you're for that much carrying capacity (a human) I don't think hitching to the seatpost is the best option. A more conventional hitch design to the rear wheel axle would be much stronger and more stable. Is there a reason you specifically want to go to the seatpost?

    Anyhow, here's a suggestion for a 2-hub hitch design....
    Arghh, my office blocks photobucket. I'll head to a coffee shop tonight to check out your 2-hub hitch design.

    Why would a rear wheel axle hitch be stronger than a seatpost mounted hitch? I can see that it would be more stable. I haven't determined an upper weight limit for the design. I'll normally be hauling < 50 lbs but I'd like the option to give people rides. I think it'd be so cool to stop in front of a hitchhiker when I'm out on tour and offer them a ride.

    My reasoning behind the seatpost design: 1. I thought the seatpost mounted hitch would be easier to build out of bike parts than the axle mounted design. This means that the trailer could be build out of scrap bikes and might be a cheaper, less advanced design. Better for replication. 2. I wanted to be able to switch the trailer from bike to bike and all the axle mounted designs required that there be a piece attached to each bike or that the bike be modified in some way to accept the trailer hitch. 3. The bike I'm touring with is a 1972 Masi Gran Criterium with thin walled Reynolds 531 tapered seat and chain stays ending in Campagnolo dropouts. This rear triangle wasn't designed to take the kind of forces it'd receive if I clamped a single wheel trailer near the rear axle. 4. The seatpost mounted trailer should distribute the weight of the trailer more evenly between the bicycle's wheels than a rear axle mounted trailer would. This should reduce rear wheel spoke breakage. This position might also reduce the chances of having problems with the trailer over-taking the bike on long mountain descents. I'm considering installing a trailer wheel brake to combat this as well.

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    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    How's this project coming along?.... any progress to report?
    There are 10 types of people in the world - the ones that can count in base 2, the ones that can't count in base 2, and the ones that didn't expect this to be in base 3.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclaholic View Post
    How's this project coming along?.... any progress to report?
    I've cut and fitted the seat/chain stay extensions so I can use a Dahon Folding frame with 700c wheels. I'll be welding it up tonight hopefully. I'll post pictures of that portion of the trailer. I keep trying to add extra functionality to the trailer so the whole project is taking a while. Currently I'm working on making the trailer extendable as well as foldable so that I can hang a full size hammock so I can sleep more comfortably on tour, while keeping the trailer short enough to maneuver in traffic. The hitch is basically sorted out, though not assembled.

    I'm leaving town on June 1st so the trailer has to be done by then!

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    Here are some images I took of my trailer after last night's efforts. As you can see it is quite long. The purple tube will be shortened but I'm not yet sure by how much. How long is too long for a trailer? At least it can fold up!

    The close-up of the trailer's triangle shows the as yet unwelded stay extensions. I have a seatpost collar on the end of the purple tube so I can slide that sanded tube in and out for ~18" of trailer length adjustment. I'll drill holes for pins to keep the tubes from slipping. Yes thats a spoke holding the fork and tube together; I promise I'll replace it with a real bolt!

    I'm disappointed with how low the trailer is. I might not have enough ground clearance when I'm laying in the suspended hammock. I'm blaming how the silver fork is set at the seatpost angle. I'm thinking about shortening the top fork blade to bring the steerer up to horizontal.

    I'm concerned with the trailer's attachment to my bike. The silver fork clamped to that first hub is held in place only by the quick release and that makes me nervous. I'm considering making it a more fail-safe connection but then I'd have to always be unscrewing the roof-rack clamp I'm using to clamp the seat post. Can you think of long term consequences to repeatedly dissassembling this clamp? Which would be safer?

    Oh yeah, since its not there yet, I'll mention that there will be a hammock of either netting or canvas hanging from the trailer into which I'll chuck my gear. I plan on using a handlebar through the folding frame's bottom bracket to keep the hammock from swinging around. I'm designing the trailer for touring, where I'll be able to roll up to a prospective camping spot, jackknife the trailer and lock the wheels to create a tripod, drape a fly over the trailer's frame and relax in my instant shaded hammock. Bug netting optional. I have no idea if this concept will work but am really excited to try!
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  18. #18
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    That is very rad. I'm not so sure about putting a person on it, though, unless you put the seat right over that wheel. (banana seat, anyone?). Are you welding those sleeves in the chainstays/seatstays of the folding bike, or are those somehow glued or something? If you are welding, it seems fairly trivial to cut some length off the fork blades so you don't have such a huge linkage back there.

    Anyway, the whole thing looks pretty cool, but it seems that you'll be putting alot of load on your hitch, which might not be the best thing.

  19. #19
    Ron Shiseiji's Avatar
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    Have you looked at something like the CycleTote hitch?
    http://www.cycletote.com/frame_hitch.html
    Ron
    Jack of all trades, dangerous in most
    1988 Schwinn High Sierra (haven't killed it yet); 1994 CycleTote (great trailer, $ well spent); 2006 Montaque Hummer (some good points & some not so hot); 2006 Fuji Crosstown (commuter & grocery getter, so far, so good)

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    Josef Taylor, I did weld those sleeves into the chainstays. I've been considering trying to shorten the forkblades of the silver fork but I have moved in preparation for my tour and no longer have access to welding equipment. I did modify one fork blade slightly to improve the angle from which the fork juts away from the seatpost. I attached a picture. The trailer rides very well as is. Extremely stable in turns and at higher speeds. At low speeds the length gets annoying since it tracks so far in on slow turns.

    There is one aspect of the seatpost mount that I didn't anticipate: A heavy weight in the trailer makes the bike want to pop a wheelie due to the moment about the rear wheel; I'll have to watch it on steep grades and dismounts!

    As you can see from the pictures I'm messing around with hanging the hammock netting and getting it configured for camping. As pictured, with the trailer extended and all wheels anchored, it makes a decent camping hammock. My next steps are to trim up the netting so it doesn't look like the hammock was just pulled up from the bottom of a lake, make a alternate hammock from canvas, and lessen the setup time required.

    Josef Taylor, I agree with you about the hitch, it's the component I'm most worried about. I'm working on eliminating all play from the seatpost/first-front-hub clamp, which should improve it's life-span.

    Ron, I did look at that hitch but it allows the trailer to rotate about the longitudinal axis, which would be really bad for a single-wheel trailer(flops over).

    As soon as I make friends with someone who has a decent machine shop with a mill, I'm ditching all the hubs/forks/clamps and making a hitch and clamp that are compact and robust. Heck, if I had a bandsaw, drill press, and a set of taps, I'd make a bolt-together setup. As much as I love the challenge of repurposing old bike parts, I'd trade it for the piece of mind of touring with a better built rig (built by me of course!).
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    Ron Shiseiji's Avatar
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    Ron, I did look at that hitch but it allows the trailer to rotate about the longitudinal axis, which would be really bad for a single-wheel trailer(flops over).
    Ops, in my half asleep state a little voice was saying "This is different." Thanks for the non-flame on my oversight, good luck. There are "reasonable" small tap and die sets, I think I paid $12 for one from Northern Freight.
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