Poor Man's' Watch Forum

An Off Topic post especially for Bob Makus: Proof that I don't need a Goldwing. Smiley Post contains Picture(s) Post contains Link

Posted By: Ricky Lee McBroom
Date: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, at 11:32 p.m.

Couple of weeks ago I bought a Harbor Freight trailer (lightly used, $100) with the intent of turning it into an inexpensive bike trailer. Didn't do anything with it for more than a week, at which time Google turned up this page.

And what a find that was.. Yippee!

I worked on the trailer all this past weekend, and it's about 98.4% complete. It's fully functional as-is, mind you, but there are a couple of wee enhancements I'd like to make to make it more user-friendly. Cut to the chase, I pulled it for the first time this morning:

And now All You Ever Wanted To Know About Ricky's Motorcycle Trailer, But Were Afraid To Ask... Smiley Laughing out loud! Rolling on the floor laughing my a.. off!

My trailer started life as a Harbor Freight kit, as his did Mr. Gadgets, and not only were his tips and tricks invaluable, but the mere existence of the page provided the motivation to get off my butt and make it happen. Wink

It breaks down like this:

* Trailer, used - $100

* Extended the tongue by 24", using the 2 x 2 main beam from an old engine stand - had it laying around so it was free, basically. But I did pay something like $15 for it at a garage sale some years back.. so call it $15

* Removed the 2nd leaf spring, added rubber hose to rear spring shackle bolt (great tips there!) - $0

* Trashed the existing tail lights, installed a Peterson lighting kit from Wal-Mart - $24

* Installed rubber grommets at every point where the wiring passes through the frame channels. I had these laying around, in the form of a huge assortment pack bought from JC Whitney years ago.. call it $2.00

* Fabricated a cooler carrier frame using an aluminum truck running board that's been in my junk pile for years. It looked a little shaky, so I added support brackets made from 1" steel L-channel, again, from the junk pile. It's solid as a rock now! Cost was $0

* I particularly liked the wire sheaths Gadget used at the tail lights and, lo and behold, had something similar laying around. Did have to buy a 24" wire sheath for the hookup at the front. Cost of both, and I'm way overestimating, was $5.

* My trailer had a folding 'kickstand' on it when I bought it. Way different concept than Gadget's, though, being a length of 1" round steel tubing that's bolted to the CENTER of the original tongue, and pivots up into the open bottom section of the tongue. It was a little shaky, so I rebuilt the pivot. Pretty slick setup, but having that mechanism in such close proximity to my wiring harness worried me. Didn't want the wires t' get pinched! So I ran a section of hose all the way down the tongue, then ran the wires through that. Good to go! I even added a foam cradle which the stand nestles into when it's folded up, hoping to pre-empt any nasty rattles from that area. Total cost $0

* Sears X-Cargo cartop carrier. I bought this back in the mid-1980's, and it looks great.. once I cleaned off the pigeon droppings it had accumulated sitting in the barn for a decade. I don't know how to put a price on this, really.. I'm tempted to say that it's already paid for itself, and put a $0 cost on it. Smiley But I did do the chain trick on the lid, replaced the weatherstripping, and a portion of the hardware. Let's call it $25

* My trailer, which was already painted black when I got it, has a deck made from medium-gauge steel sheet. spot-welded to the trailer frame. Now, it MIGHT have been OK bolting the X-Cargo drirectly to that.. but better safe than sorry, I say, so I fabricated support beams that pass under the X-Cargo mounting points, and bolt directly to the trailer frame. I used 1" steel L-channel, same source as the support brackets for the cooler carrier. Cost was $0

* Greased the wheel bearings. The trailer came with Bearing Buddies already installed, so I just got out the grease gun and shot about 6 ounces into each wheel. Call it $2

That's about it. Well.. I did touch up the paint. And bought some misc. nuts 'n' bolts and other doodads:

* Can of paint, misc. doodads - and this is probably way over-estimated - but let's call it $20

The Grand Total, then, comes up to $193. Not bad! Even If I'd had to buy the X-Cargo, I feel sure that I could've brought the whole project in for under $300.

'course, I DID drop $57 on the Hoppy #46255 Electronic Power Taillight Converter, but that goes on the tow vehicle, so we don't count that. Got the Hoppy at NAPA.. I could've saved $15 or at Wal-Mart or AutoZone.. IF they'd had it in stock. NAPA did have it, when I needed it, so I don't mind a forking over a few extra bucks.

All in all a fun project, and IMHO a much better value than dropping $4,000+ on a trailer from Brand B. Or even $600 on a Piggy Backer which is, basically, the same setup as I ended up with. Call it the Poor Man's Motorcycle Trailer. If they were watches, the Bushtec 'd be a Rolex, the Piggy Backer a Seiko, and mine's a $20 Wal-Mart quartz. Nothing wrong with that, IMHO! Smiley Laughing out loud! Rolling on the floor laughing my a.. off!


THE place for motorcycle trailer hitches

Messages In This Thread

An Off Topic or Non-Watch related Post post especially for Bob Makus: Proof that I don't need a Goldwing. Smiley Post contains Picture(s) Post contains Link (views: 57)
Ricky Lee McBroom -- Wednesday, 19 July 2006, at 11:32 p.m.
How about this kind ....... (views: 19)
Robmks -- Thursday, 20 July 2006, at 12:08 a.m.

Smiley Bob

That thing looks like it could pull a house! Post contains no message text (views: 3)
Dave P -- Thursday, 20 July 2006, at 3:24 a.m.
A house would be pushin' it... >>> Post contains Link (views: 4)
Ricky Lee McBroom -- Thursday, 20 July 2006, at 9:04 a.m.

But apparently a '95 Chevy 1-ton 4x4 is not out of the question. Laughing out loud!


Tale of a tow...

'Poor Man's' Watch Forum - Foro de Relojes Para el 'Hombre Pobre' - Horlogeforum voor de 'Arme Man'

06 August, 2006 Addendum

This li'l guy garnered a lot of attention on the Gap trip. Especially from the Miata guys, who were quick to realize "Heeeey. If he can pull that thing with a bike, then my Miata could certainly handle it." Smiley And if any car ever needed a trailer, it's a Miata. I daresay that, between my panniers and top box, my bike has as much (maybe more!) storage space as a Miata trunk! In any case, I decided that the trailer deserved a little more attention here.

Here's Dustin, welding in the tongue extension:
Extending the tongue
That's one of only a handful of actual construction photos I took. In retrospect, I should have documented each step, a la Mr. Gadget. Ah well, hindsight's 20/20. And it'd have been reinventing the wheel, really. Just click through to his page, like I did! Here's the finished tongue:
The Business End
Note that the extension is welded and bolted to the original tongue. "Belt and Suspenders", that's my motto!

This shot should also give you an idea of how the 'kickstand' works. It simply folds rearwards, and when underway it's held up by the bungee cord that crosses under the cooler carrier. While it's the same concept that the former owner used, I had to replace the stand itself. The original was made from thinwall steel tube, roughly following the same profile, but had been badly kinked at the bend. A few days before we left Pam tossed a 32-pack of half-liter bottled water onto the cooler carrier.. and the stand promptly collapsed. Yikes! Obviously it was not up to the job! The new stand started life as the handle from an old hydraulic floor jack. It's thick-walled, the bend is machine-formed and uniform, and it is very sturdy. Put it this way - I can now sit on the tongue, and it doesn't faze it at all. Thumb's Up! Best of all, it was free, as it was also sourced from The Junk Pile! Laughing! Just drilled a crosshole, bolted it up,
welded that 1-1/2" washer on the pavement end, and voilá! I love it when a plan comes together!

Here's a better shot of the cooler carrier:
Cooler carrier
The 1" L-channel which tie the two halves together on top are the same stuff that I used to make the support brackets underneath (not visible here). The latter were pure overkill, as this thing is now solid. You could probably carry the trailer's full rated capacity on the cooler carrier! The tongue-weight would go through the roof, but if you discount that, I'm pretty sure it'd handle it.

Oh, and see the two rectangular 'washers' which attach the rear carrier frame segment to the front trailer rail? Bit of a story there.. They're part of the original hardware (in it's original incarnation as a truck running board), and when we started all this stuff was filthy. I doubt that it was ever washed, as it was covered with an outrageously thick layer of red Mississippi clay. Tough stuff! Pam and I debated the best way to clean it. I was leaning towards a good wire-brushing, but Pam said, no, Greased Lightning was the way to go. So we had a little shoot-out, using those two parts. She put hers in a Ziplock baggie full of Greased Lightning, whilst I wire-brushed mine. I was done first, but after about a half-hour she took hers out and simply rinsed it off.. and hers looked better! Point for Pam! If you've got a tough cleaning job, give Greased Lightning a try...

Remember Mr. Gadget's wire sheaths he used at the tail lights? Here's my take on that:
The Tail End
I'm not crazy about the chrome finish.. black would've looked better, I think. But it certainly beats naked wires hangin' out in the breeze!

On to the tow vehicle. This shot shows the Hoppy unit, which is mounted under the seat, in the tail section's toolbox / storage area:
Hoppy #46255
It serves two purposes: First, it adapts the bikes 6-wire system (seperate tail / brake lights and turn signals) to the trailer's 4-wire system (integrated tail / brake lights and turn signals). Second, it's a powered unit, and pulls only a couple of hundred milliamps from the bikes lighting system. Not only does this prevent overloading the bike's rear lighting circuit (which is fused for a mere 6 amps, as I recall), but it eliminates any possibility that a trailer short could blow the bike's fuse. Or, God forbid, fry the wiring.

The surface which the Hoppy's mounted on is a hinged 'door' which allows you to access the bike's tail lights and turn signals. In the event of a blown bulb, the routine is you remove the seat, release two catches, and fold the door forward, allowing you to reach in and change the bulbs.. provided you have Munchkin-sized hands. 
Smiley In any case, the dual-purpose nature of the mounting location required some care in sizing the length of the wire runs, to make sure that I could still fold it down to access the bulbs. Mission accomplished! I couldn't be more pleased with the location of the Hoppy - not only can I still get in there for a bulb swap, but it takes up very little space, so I still have room to stow my tool and tire-plug kits.

The wiring on the right side in the photo is the input side of the Hoppy. The outside (red and white) wires go directly to the battery, and the four on the inside tie into the bikes' brake / tail light / turn signal wires, downstream of the main connector plug. Tapping directly into the wiring loom itself, upstream of the connector, would have simplified things in that the wire runs would've been shorter. However, the former owner had already installed a brake light modulator downstream of the connector.. and he was a real cave-man about it! Frown. So since I already needed to repair those substandard connections, the choice seemed obvious. It meant, of course, that I needed to use a multi-prong connector plug, so that the OEM rear lighting unit would not be permanently hard-wired to the Hoppy, thus allowing it's removal as a unit. No problem - I found just what I needed on a junk CB750 out back of the barn.. worked fine, and the price can't be beat.

(Note that I removed the aforementioned brake light modulator, as well as the head light modulator. Two reasons for this - it seemed to me that the brake light modulator was very likely to interfere with the operation of the Hoppy, and the head light modulator was already on the way South. It had an intermittent internal short, or maybe a chip going bad.. sometimes it would not modulate the head light as it should and, worse, the low beam would occasionally go completely dark. Not good! The head and tail light modulator units were made by the same company and, on the theory that if one was kaput the other probably wasn't far behind, I decided the easiest thing was to deep-six 'em both.)

The left side of the photo shows the output side of the unit. That's a standard 4-prong trailer wiring connector built into the Hoppy, and those wires run through yet another plastic wiring sheath, over the top of the toolbox door, and connect to this guy..
Trailer wiring socket
..a standard 4-prong trailer wiring socket, sourced from NAPA. This was, in a way, the hardest part of the whole project. Not that the installation was at all challenging from a technical standpoint, mind you. But takin' a Dremel to the ST's plastic.. well, I'll admit that made me cringe. Smiley No goin' back after that! But after examining the alternatives, I decided that it was simply the only 'clean' solution. And, in the end, I'm pleased with the result. Hookups couldn't be easier, and the socket doesn't detract from the lines of the bike. I wish I could say the same for the hitch itself:
Classic Industries hitch
To be fair, I was impressed with the quality of the hitch, and with the service from Classic Industries. And the installation, somewhat to my surprise, was a breeze. But I'm having some trouble getting used to the mere fact of that whacking great chunk of steel hangin' off the back of the bike. I dunno. I suppose that, with time, I'll get used to it. And, of course, I could simply remove the hitch when I'm not planning on using it. It'd be perhaps an hour's job. But that also means an hour (or perhaps a bit more) to re-install it, and that pretty much guarantees that I'd never use the trailer on a spur-of-the-moment basis. And that'd be a shame. We'll see. If it turns that I pull the trailer only 2 or 3 times a year, then perhaps I'll go this route. If I find myself using it more often, then it doesn't make much sense.

And, it must be pointed out, rear tire changes will be greatly complicated by the hitch. I may be able to raise the bike high enough on my Craftsman motorcycle jack to accomplish it with the hitch in place. Maybe. But, if not, removing the hitch for tire changes is the only other option, as I'm 100% sure that the rear tire is not gonna come off with the hitch in place. As I average around 8,000 miles to set a set of tires, it's likely that I'll get plenty of practice R&R'ing the hitch anyway...

One other new addition got a fair bit of attention on the Deal's Gap trip, and that was the RAM Mount system. Specifically, the one for mounting the camcorder. I ran across several different riders who were rigging up improvised camcorder mounts with duct tape, bungee cords, etc. One in particular, an Electa-Glide rider, totally flipped over the cam-mount. So much so that I'm pretty sure I made a sale for RAM Mount.. wonder if I can get comission on that?
Smiley Anyway, here's a shot of the revised setup:

While that camcorder itself isn't pictured, that's the camera mount on the RH side. You'll not that I changed it a bit from the photo in the link, above. Two reasons for the change: first, the dual-arm setup proved a bit shaky. There was noticable camera jiggle, especially at low speeds. The single arm-setup is far, far more stable. Second, the dual arm setup put the camera out in the airstream, where it was vulnerable to bugs and/or rocks and other road debris. Not a Good Thing. With the new setup, it's behind the windscreen, and much more protected from the environment.
There's also a downside to this, however, which is precisely that it is behind the windscreen. Unless the camera's autofocus is disabled, and the camera manually focused, the camera will tend to focus on the windscreen, not the scenery beyond. And, of course, if the windscreen is less than spotless, the results will be less than optimum. Your viewers definitely will not enjoy being forced to look at that same bug-splatter for mile after mile... Rolling On The Floor, Laughing

So there ya' go! I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how well everything's working together. But it's all still relatively new.. stay tuned for the Extended Use Report!

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