Saturday, January 03, 2009

walkin' the drums

Back in mid-December I had a gig near City Hall, about ten or so blocks from my place. Normally I'd just hitch the big trailer to the winter bike and off I'd go, but we were a few days into our transit strike and the traffic had been a bit nuts. With snowbanks at the roadside I could not easily slip past motor vehicles with the trailer, and I thought about walking it.

But the trailer has the standard flat hitch-arm to mount to a bike's left chainstay, so that's a bit awkward for tugging along behind. But in my basement I had the frame of an old Cannondale "Bugger" trailer (lovely name) that I'd been saving for a project. The plastic body was gone, as was the hitch clamp, but it did still have fabric stretched across the frame. The important part is that the hitch-arm is the old design that attached to the seatpost, which makes towing by hand doable.

The main thing was would my small jazz drumkit fit? As luck would have it, the largest drum case JUST fit in between those rails (which were gently bent up to keep the drums out of the wheels).

It all fit, so off we go! Of course as often happens during winter here in Ottawa the roads were in better shape than the sidewalks. It was a bit more of a slog than I would've liked, but I got to the gig just fine, and was rewarded with a stunning view of the moonrise over Lisgar Street, as this one was apparently the best one of the year (people were out with cameras on tripods).

The ironic thing was that for some reason traffic was no worse than usual (perhaps being a Friday night many left work early to avoid rush hour) and I could've biked / trailered without a problem!

Here's the quartet for the gig, with Kenny posing as Serious Bassist by using the bow:
And outside, ready to head home:
And yes, that's my suit bag on top. When moving drums by human power it can get a bit sweaty, and showing up in a rumpled suit tends to not impress the clients. No matter how much they are impressed / bemused / bewildered that the drummer arrived under his own power. ;)


scjody said...

It's interesting that here in North America, we've abandoned the seatpost hitch design whereas in Europe, they're still pretty common. For example, in Copenhagen, easily the most bike-friendly city I've ever visited, seatpost hitches are the norm for trailers large and small. The reason is exactly what you discovered: you can walk with the trailer a lot more easily, and people over there do. Ride your bike somewhere, lock it up, then wheel the trailer and your goods in to wherever you're going.

Why is it that we hitch to the chainstay or rear axle anyway? Less metal? Less of a boom?

Mark said...

From what I've both read and experienced it can be a safety issue, and I don't think one can even buy a seatpost-hitch trailer in North Amrica.

The seatpost mounting point has one major drawback: if you brake suddenly and are towing some weight the trailer of course pushes the bike as you slow down. If the connection point is up high this can result in either the rear of the bike being lifted or pushed sideways. If the mount point is down low then all it does is just push forward.

Granted, if one is just carrying a few bags of groceries this may never be an issue, but if towing a child or two or 100 lbs. of stuff then you'll feel this (as I once did when towing a friend's homebuilt with this hitch)

When I was researching building my own trailer the seatpost hitch was definitely the easiest to fabricate, but since I often carry more than just a few bags of groceries I did not want the trailer making life more challenging in an emergency traffic situation.

So yes, a seatpost mount would indeed make a trailer more off-bike friendly, but less so on the bike. And in my case most of my bikes have some sort of utility crate on the rear rack, which would prevent a seatpost hitch even if I wanted one. ;)