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14' janky cat (Los Dos), 9.5' Thundercloud (Pumpkin Butt), 44" Rocktabomb (Time-Out Tube)
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

This may be filed in the stupid question category of the internet, but I was wondering if anyone has any experience towing a (small) inflated raft behind a bike?

I have the distinct privilege of living within a mile or so of a river that has a bike path along the whole thing. This spring / summer, I would like to be able to take out my 9.5' Thundercloud to do R1 laps after work. While I could definitely just run a traditional bike shuttle, I'd like to see if I can do it completely sans vehicle. I have been staying up late at night trying to figure out how to rig up the raft as a bike trailer so I can bike to and from the put-in / take-out with my boat. I know this is probably a part of why packrafts were invented but I want to work with what I have and stupid designs are part of the fun of life.

One consideration thus far is towing the boat with gear on my gravel bike- figuring 85ish pounds (77lb boat with some random gear / paddles in it) behind the bike - it seems doable but I am also not very experienced with towing things on a bike so I don't quite know how to assess feasibility. I think my gear ratio will support this and I won't tip over?

Second biggest consideration is being that jackass on the bike path who is taking up at least 72" of a well-used, multi-use route... but I figure that I can move out of the way when folks pass and hopefully there will be some leniency for the element of novelty. I can only imagine the serious spandex road bike squad getting super pissed at having to slow to a crawl to wait to pass me (no judgement on spandex though).

Third (and probably most significant) consideration is design. I have been thinking of a 72-75" long 5/8" pipe that will have wheel barrow wheels fitted to both sides (67" wide boat, plus a few inches on either side for wheel width). When rafting, I can mount this over the rear thwart and then rig my bike to the pipe and the stern (the wheels will be sticking out on both sides and thus making any kind of stern / obstacle bump potential more significant). When biking, I can mount it under the raft aligned with the back two d-rings or rigged to the bottom of the floor to the bailing holes to serve as the axle. Then I can hoist the bow up onto my bike's gear rack and strap it from the front d-ring.

While I am waiting until some warmer and sunnier weather to mock this up to see how it might actually work, it seems like, in theory, it might have a chance. The biggest concern I would have with the design would be the interface between bike rack and the bow of the boat. I don't know how well it will handle turns and it might create some significant rubbing on the rubber. I also don't know if the rocker on the bow will drop too low or how well the raft will support its own weight suspended between the axle and the bike rack. If it needs extra support, I was thinking of trying to rig up a way to use two paddles- potentially strapped by the handles to the axle in proximity to the wheels and running under the boat to be secured by the blades to the rack (maybe small holes drilled in the blades to fit a pin mounted on the rack??).

Thoughts? Is this a worthwhile endeavor? Am I a fool? Anyone tried anything like this before?
 

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I dig this post. Great adventures come from crazy ambitions. Seems like you have the right mind to make it work.

My initial thought was get a proper bike trailer and use it to haul a rolled boat. An electric pump doesn't add a lot weight to the package. I've never pulled a trailer on my bike but people do it every day around the world. I was watching some Africans load bicycles with 200 pounds of bananas and ride them into town while screaming down steep hills. Thanks, YouTube.

If the river calls, you must go.
 

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That's a super cool project. I'm much more familiar with biking than rafting, so will chip in my $0.02.

  • Maybe think about a hitch that incorporates your rear bike axle, rather than your rear rack. This helps triangulate the load more and will keep the center of gravity lower.
  • Lateral stability is important. If the raft tips over in a crosswind or hitting a rut, it'll take you over with it.
  • I'm guessing your road is paved and hopefully mostly flat? As long as your legs are strong and your gearing is low enough, the limiting factor may be loss of traction on your rear wheel if it's trying to pull too heavy of a load.
  • Also guessing that you're not going to be speeding along too fast, where wind resistance of a nose-up raft will act like a huge sail. And also not flying downhill, where all that extra weight will overcome your brakes (hopefully you have discs on the front)?

How will you do the shuttle? Bike it up to the take out, and then throw the bike on the back of the raft with tow system as well?
Don't pay the Lycra Lizards any mind. They should be giving you mad props for such a crazy awesome endeavor.
 

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14' janky cat (Los Dos), 9.5' Thundercloud (Pumpkin Butt), 44" Rocktabomb (Time-Out Tube)
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well shucks, I'm glad y'all didn't just say to scrap the project!

@Rightoarleft - I was thinking about this too but I was confuddled when I got to the part about putting the trailer on the raft for the downstream bit. Its a pretty small boat so unless the trailer folded up pretty small and fit underneath the bike, it think it would be a bit too much load. Also, I think that in order for this idea to be worth it, it needs to be fairly easy to transition (i.e. I'm too lazy to want to inflate / deflate the boat every time). I like your "load the boat on top of the bike like a roving rural RMR peddler" concept though... that might have some potential!

@Endopotential - This is all very helpful. I have seen the hitch systems for some bike trailers that attaches to the rear fork (do you call it a fork when its in the rear?) but I would be worried that the raft would then be too low to the ground with the significant rocker. Although it would probably work if I had some sort of underlaying structure- I would just need to figure out how to attach the hitch to the "under the boat" part of the trailer system. The reason I had wanted to use the paddles was to minimize having a ton of gear involved and having the things I do bring be multifunctional, but I could also maybe integrate two more metal pipes to serve as the understructure and attach to a hitch of some sort. Although limiting factor would be storing those pipes while rafting as they would probably have to be longer than my boat is wide.

As far as the path goes- its the old train grade that was paved over to make a bike path so any elevation transitions are super gradual and its mostly river grade the whole way. Pretty dang idea- no big hills, paved, mostly up- or down-valley wind without any significant chance for catastrophic cross breeze. I do have disc brakes and don't think I would ever get moving fast enough or uphill enough to make it scary for traction or wind (I think).

Thanks for the input!
 

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I think you're referring to the "rear triangle" which consists of the upper diagonal seatstays and lower horizontal chainstays.

Are you thinking about dangling the raft from a support beam above it, or sitting on top of the trailer axle? I think the latter would be more stable.

How about using some long threaded bar to replace your rear axle. Use nuts to secure it in place instead of the skewer. Which leaves you with overhanging bars on either side, to which you can strap your oars. Between the oars and your axle, you've got a basic triangle there.

I'll cheer you on from the safety of my couch!
 

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You should definitely go for it and not worry about fellow bikers. I used to trailer my kayak behind my bike when in grad school and I never got anything but good feedback, even though I was definitely taking up more than my fair share of the path at times. People dig novelty!

As far as weight, you'll be fine. I've done a fair bit of bike touring with a trailer and 75 pounds is nearly normal for some folks who pull touring trailers. Depending on how rigid your frame is, you may feel some 'wiggle' at times, but you'll get used to it in no time. Just give yourself extra time to stop and make sure your tires have some tread on 'em.

I'll echo what was recommended above in terms of attaching to the rear triangle/dropout/axle and NOT the rear rack or any brazed on eyelets. Those are not made for a load like that. You might consider right at the base of the seatpost if you need vertical lift to keep the nose off the ground. That'll hold the load, but as mentioned above, the leverage gets considerable, so you'll have to be careful about controlling your load. IF you go that route, look for an inexpensive seatpost rack to adapt to. The clamps are nice and burly and probably just as easy as anything else you'd come up with.

If it were me doing this, I'd go with the single crossbar you mention and then run a second one from that up the center of the raft and connect that to my rear triangle or axle.You can get solid connectors for both if you look for beat up old kiddie trailers on your local want ads. The wheels from those trailers could work well too. You probably don't need two long bars as you mention above. The connection does not have to be symmetric (I've done this with a dog trailer that carried a 75# dog routinely). Even if the trailer sits a little off center, you won't notice it at all.

Finally, if you decide to forego hauling the raft fully inflated, check out DIY "ladder" trailers and ones made from cheap hitch mount cargo carriers. Both of those are great sources of light but rigid platforms that are easy to attach wheels and mounting arms to.

Good luck with the project! I wanna see pics when you're done!
 

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14' janky cat (Los Dos), 9.5' Thundercloud (Pumpkin Butt), 44" Rocktabomb (Time-Out Tube)
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
@wdeutsch - I like the idea of a single bar up the center from the rear axle. That should keep the boat off the ground and hopefully the rear perpendicular axle would keep the horizontal weight stable. I need to get a tap measure out and draw but I wonder if I could get away with the center support pip being about the same length as the horizontal axle so that when rafting, I could just double them up to rig them as a bundle and then maybe find a T fitting that would easily allow me to assemble it for biking. Otherwise I am a bit worried about rigging up the whole assemblage if it doesn't compact nicely. I'm glad I'm hearing the recommendations for the lower hitch point as well- I didn't think about a load that high up and the stability of the attachment points of my rear rack.

@Rich I live in Carbondale, CO, and would love to be able to do from Catherine Store / Blue Creek or the 133 bridge down to Ironbridge or Glenwood (Two Rivers) on the Roaring Fork. I think I would leave the bike on pavement and just run shuttle for Shoshone laps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@T.O.Mac and @Chop Chop - those wold certainly make things easier than "redesigning the [thing that goes on top of the] wheel". However, I still am dubious that I will be able to find a pre-made trailer that will also be able to be rigged easily onto my boat for rafting. Its a pretty small boat (9.5' x 67" at its widest) and I can imagine with a bike strapped to the stern, it will feel even smaller. I think the design challenge here is rigability for on-water transportation combined with utility as a trailer.

That being said, I haven't done a lot of research into folding / collapsable trailers. However, I am also trying to keep my budget fairly low so anything pre-made would need to be super duper neat.
 

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having done some bike-packrafting, strapping your bike down to the stern of your packraft does make it seem a little smaller, but not intimidatingly so. If you are just doing r1 laps with no frame or large gear pile, strapping the bike and trailer behind you would work pretty well (I think) if you were able to get your weight a little further forward. Your original trailer idea would work, I think, quite well, but I would encourage you to look at other wheels...I bet you could scavenge some inexpensive trailer wheels from a bike trailer of some sort at the thrift shop, and end up with better bearings and the ability to use a disconnect mechanism. Best of luck and keep us updated on how this goes!
 

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@wdeutsch - I like the idea of a single bar up the center from the rear axle. That should keep the boat off the ground and hopefully the rear perpendicular axle would keep the horizontal weight stable. I need to get a tap measure out and draw but I wonder if I could get away with the center support pip being about the same length as the horizontal axle so that when rafting, I could just double them up to rig them as a bundle and then maybe find a T fitting that would easily allow me to assemble it for biking. Otherwise I am a bit worried about rigging up the whole assemblage if it doesn't compact nicely. I'm glad I'm hearing the recommendations for the lower hitch point as well- I didn't think about a load that high up and the stability of the attachment points of my rear rack.

@Rich I live in Carbondale, CO, and would love to be able to do from Catherine Store / Blue Creek or the 133 bridge down to Ironbridge or Glenwood (Two Rivers) on the Roaring Fork. I think I would leave the bike on pavement and just run shuttle for Shoshone laps.
Hey Jake!
these buzzards rarely rave but everyone seems to love a little crazy these days. I’ve biked the Shoshone shuttle and the Glenwood Canyon trail is windy and not particularly wide with lots of tourists. I can only imagine a fat booty trailer sending a Texan into the drink. Perhaps you could semi-deflate the raft, fold it in half held with a strap or two, and semi-inflate at the put-in. Kick ass COVID project! Hope to share a float this summer.
cheers,
Seth
 
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