Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meet my new associate, 64A!

I have been toying with the idea of a bicycle trailer for a while. In a recent post, I even mentioned how I was toying with the idea and entertaining the notion further by testing the installation of a trailer-hitch on the Thorn MKII. After researching a variety of trailers, including Bob, Avenir, Burley, etc., I finally made up my mind and ordered the 64A model bicycle trailer from BikesAtWork last week.

Part I : Assembly of the trailer
FEDEX delivered the unassembled trailer kit package at our door today.
Contents of the package --- the unassembled trailer (to be called 64A, from now on)! Every piece in the package came very nicely packaged. No fancy packaging material was used and I was so happy to see that old newspaper was put to good use by BikesAtWork. Most of the packaging was recycleable. The coffee in the blue "Peace" mug, was not part of the package from BikesAtWork.

I have my reservations about putting together furniture, entertainment centers, etc., primarily because of bad experience with many a manufacturer. Here are some of my experiences:
  1. I found that a key piece or two was missing in the kits.
  2. The diagrams / instructions were horribly written.
  3. The same generic assembly diagram was provided for each make and model of the product.
  4. More than one person was required to assemble the unit, contrary to the manufacturer's claim.
I have to say that my experience with assembling bicycle accessories, such as racks, kickstands, saddles, has been very positive. But, it is also a fact that many of my bicycle accessories came from Germany and England and very few of them were made in China.

I was very impressed with BikesAtWork's Quality Control. Everything was meticulously labeled.
BikesAtWork did not beat around the bush when it came to recommending using tools other than what was supplied by them as a part of the kit. For instance, they were not bashful in pointing out that a racheting tool will expedite the assembly process.
BikesAtWork reused bicycle tube packaging material and rubber bands made of inner tubes, to package their spare parts for the trailer! Brilliant recycling!
The design of the trailer is a very clever one, IMHO. By using the grooves in the channels of the trailer, BikesAtWork made the use of a second spanner/wrench unnecessary. I did not have to recruit my wife to help me during the assembly and I did not have to act as a contortionist during the assembly.
I did use my racheting wrench, which made tightening all the bolts and nuts, much easier.
I am proud to display the BikesAtWork logo on my trailer. It exudes good quality, American workmanship, all over.
It took me roughly an hour and a half to complete the installation, to my fullest satisfaction. Here is the assembled 64A trailer on the Thorn Nomad MKII.
Next, I took the 64A for a test ride to Home Depot. I needed some potting soil and most importantly some plywood to make the floor for the trailer.
20 Gallon plastic tubs were on sale at Home Depot, so I grabbed a couple of them and a couple of Rubbermaid Roughneck 18 gallon tubs. Added to the list were two bags of Organic potting soil. You may notice the odd positioning of the flag on the 64A. This flag is from my Cannondale T-800, which I parted with, last summer. I have to make a bracket to mount it on the 64A. You can see the 1/4" plywood on the 64A, underneath the plastic tubs and the potting soil. However, the floor has not been properly installed on the trailer yet. You can read about the floor installation in Part II of this post.
I tested the 64A on a ride of about 6 miles today. I did not have any problems at all.
It is not very hard to maneuver the 64A in turns. However, I find it a bit hard to push the bike backward, akin to getting out of a parking spot in reverse, for instance, a little bit hard, for now. I am sure I will figure it out eventually.
The 64A does not make the ride wobbly, unlike my experience from my last trip to PetSmart. It is true that I did not carry 70 LBS of cargo today. However, even if I carried that much or more, I doubt it will be a problem with the 64A.
I did not find hauling the 64A strenuous. I was hoping it would not be strenuous, but I really wasn't sure until I hauled it around a bit today and to my relief it wasn't hard!
Initial Observations:
  1. The 64A is a very well-made bicycle cargo trailer. It has a cargo capacity of roughly 300 LBS and it is built like a tank:
    • The 64A is build on custom-extruded 6061-T6 aluminum frame channel.
    • The 64A uses 16" Skyway wheels, which are mounted on a galvanized steel axle.
    • The 64A uses pneumatic tires with Kenda tires as the default option. I may upgrade these to Schwalbe Marathon/Plus, like I have done with Meera and Brahma, when the Kendas wear out.
    • The 64A has a oversize towbar (6 cm) which reduces flex. When I rode today, I did not feel any flex at all.
    • The 64A attaches to the bike using a TIG-welded stainless steel hitch, which uses a 3-point attachment system, making it really secure.
  2. One of my fears was that the trailer would be hard to haul, but it is certainly not the case with the 64A. I am not saying that the trailer is featherlight, but for its intended purposes, it is definitely not too heavy and it rolls pretty good. I actually do not want a trailer that is featherlight, given I intend hauling a lot of cargo on my bicycle trailer.
  3. The 64A is can be configured in two different ways, in order to carry shorter versus longer loads:
    • for heavy, short loads less than 5' 6" (1.67m) long --- move the axle forward
    • for loads from 5' 6" to 9' (1.67m to 2.44m) long --- keep axle at the very end (as I have setup my 64A)
      • read this for more details
  4. The 64A can be made shorter into a 32A (cargo bed length: 32") or expanded into a really long 96A (cargo bed length: 96").
Part II : Installation of the Trailer Floor
While I was at Home Depot, per BikesAtWork's recommendation, I purchased the following items to install a plywood flooring on the 64A:
  1. two 32"x15 and 7/8" pieces of 1/4" thick plywood
  2. 3/4" pipe clamps - 6 pieces
  3. 1/4"x 3/4" bolts - 6 piece
  4. Locknuts and washers  for the bolts in # 3 above
The installation of the flooring was actually very easy. The pipe clamps are attached to the support beams and the axle, which are in turn attached to the plywood flooring using the bolts and locknuts. It is easy to see how it was done from the pictures below:
Close-up of the top of the flooring. The shiny object above the wheel is the mudguard/fender.
Another view of the top of the flooring!
Remark:
All plywood is not made equal: I thought I bought two pieces of plywood that were very true and had them cut using the precision saw/tool at Home Depot. However, to my disappointment, the plywood pieces were a bit warped, in spite of two sets of eyes examining them for warp. As a result, the flooring is not 100% flush and even, but the plywood is only 1/4" thick for Pete's sake. So, it is not a major boo-boo, but I will probably be more cautious, if and when I replace the flooring.

I plan to use this trailer every weekend, for getting groceries and other household items. I will keep you updated of my findings along the way.

I hope you are having a great week!

Peace :)

 PS. I have been off work for the last 3 days due to a minor glitch in my health. I am almost back to normal and I plan to get back to work on Thursday this week!

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