Introduction: Convert a Child's Bike Trailer Into a Cargo Trailer.

Picture of Convert a Child's Bike Trailer Into a Cargo Trailer.

After 7 years of loyal service, our bicycle trailer was of no use anymore because our children cycle by themselves. However, as our type of cycling trips shifted to longer distances (multiple days), we required a luggage trailer instead.
Instead of investing in a cargo trailer or building one, I decided to convert the old one.

This instructable will show you how to convert a Burley Child's trailer (d'Lite) into a Cargo trailer, with a mininmum of new components and no welding.

The picture below shows the modified trailer on our 4-day trip along the Canal du Midi in Southern France. Because we were pretty sure the weather would be nice, an ordinary rucksack did the trick, but there are many water proof bags available.

Step 1: Stripping the Trailer

Picture of Stripping the Trailer

Although it doesn't look like this in the picture, the fabric of the trailer is severely worn after 7 years. We have used the trailer on many holidays, but for commuting and transporting our groceries as well. However, the frame is still in excellent shape.

The trailer is constructed with a minimum of welds, so disassembling is quite easy. Basically it is a flat frame with wheels in it with a hinged cover mounted on top. To convert the trailer to a cargo trailer you need to:

1 Reduce its height as luggage does not need to be stowed as high. This can be done by cutting the top frame at the right place (step 2 of this I'ble)

2 Reduce the wheel basis (width) to have a more agile trailer. This can be done by cutting the base frame in the front and rear end and installing a bolted peg (step 3 of this I'ble).

Disassembling is quite easy: remove the fabric first (by cutting the stiches). Now the construction becomes very clear. 

Step 2: Reducing the Height.

Picture of Reducing the Height.

Cut the frame just above the horizontal bar that runs above the tyre. This is about the heigth of your luggage. Install rubber plugs on the 4 cuts.

Step 3: Reducing the Width.

Picture of Reducing the Width.

Basically you need to remove a piece of tubing on the front and the end and reconnect it with a peg (and bolts). The peg is made of wood and fits exactly into the tubing of the frame.

In this step it is important to make sure that the "new" width still allows the trailer to be folded!

Step 4: The Connection to the Bike.

Picture of The Connection to the Bike.

The bike connector is excellent, there is no need to mess about with it.
However, now that the trailer is slimmer, the current hinge forces the trailer to the left, giving it an ackward shift with respect to the bike.
This is solved by relocating the tube connector to the outside. It's just a matter of reversing (un bolting) the rig up.

Step 5: Base Plate

Picture of Base Plate

An Aluminium sheet is used as a base plate. Existing holes and bolts are used to attach the plate to the frame. First I made a plywood base plate to see if it would work and to figure out the exact dimensions as there are quite some cuts to be made in the base plate.

Note 1: Tie Rib = Tie Lock = Zip Tie

Note 2
The maiden voyage was 250 km over fairly rough terrain and it held good. Most of the damage was done by an angry French Train Guard who tried to force the thing into an already filled train. I would recommend to drill a few more holes (than suggested in this I'ble) through the frame and base plate so you can apply a bit more tie ribs (on one occasion one of the tie ribs snapped while hitting a bump).


Yard Sale Dale (author)2011-12-08

You can find inexpensive replacement hitches for these trailers at amazon, for $10 to 15. They also work on some cheaper trailers or home-made ones. I am using Amerityre foam tires (got mine from noflattires net). They roll very fast and make it great to never have to worry about flats on the trailer. I like your build. I think narrowing the trailer was really cool.

Ian01 (author)Yard Sale Dale2017-06-11

"Amerityre" seems like an oxymoron to me

florianblau (author)2016-09-10

What ist the fork drop out of such standard kids trailer? Since I would use it with my heavily loaded electric cargo bike, I would love to ad a spare motor as well to the trailer, but the motor needs a bit over 100mm fork drop out. Would it be bendable, if too smal by default. What do you think? Thanks for the Help Florian

bertus52x11 (author)florianblau2016-09-12

I'm not sure if I understand your question correctly. The trailer as a special connector:

Look at the "classic" one. It does not interfere with any drop out as it is attached to the cycling frame. Just let me know.

florianblau (author)bertus52x112016-09-12

I was meaning the drop out in the trailer, the space arround the axis of the two weels, since I like to ad an elctric motor in one of the weels of the trailer.

bertus52x11 (author)florianblau2016-09-12

Ok, I understand. The distance between the pads of the drop out is 9,9 cm. The pads themselves are approximately 4 mm thick.

Hope this helps.

Bugstomper2000 (author)2016-05-09

What thickness of aluminum did you use and how much weight can it hold?

I used 1,5mm thickness of Al sheet. The bag I transported was around 25kg as the weight was nicely distributed. If you would concentrate this weight, the sheet would certainly bend. Another tip: add some few extra Zip ties (read my Note 2 in step 5).

Finally, now I have laid a loose sheet of PE on top as Al gives nasty stains to the fabric of your bag.

JairH1 (author)2016-04-09

Hey totally random but does anyone still have their fabric? My canopy is torn and my fabric near the top has a small tear. Would pay for shipping if anyone is willing to let it go or sell it.

bertus52x11 (author)JairH12016-04-10

Sorry. I kept it for a few years for "you never know". Then I moved houses and cleaned up my garage...
Good luck!

tdrev82 made it! (author)2016-03-02
bertus52x11 (author)tdrev822016-03-02

Very nice!

bertus52x11 (author)tdrev822016-03-02

Nice !

RC Instructables (author)2012-09-18

i actually did the same thing 2 years ago, i couldn't afford to by plywood for the bed ,so i went to my friends house and we couldn't really think of something until he grabbed a roll of duct tape and it all came together. I can sit on it and not fall through. i mainly use it to return cans. every year i put a few more layers on to make it stronger. so far ive turned in over $200 in cans. Great Build :)

SaraH20 (author)RC Instructables2015-09-01

What a brilliant idea! I'm about to convert one and I'm going to buy some duct tape now!

Very nice!
Wasn't the plywood more expensive than the duct tape at the end?

we have only spent around $5 in the end, i believe we have around 7 layers of duct tape on both sides

aclanclan (author)2014-12-29

I have the exact same trailer. I removed the side rails because I had a plastic bin that fit without them. instead of the sheet of aluminum, I found a lightweight steel crib bestial. I left it wide because it hauls so much. (it has been hit by a car, cause there is a dent in the curved rail and with wheels off it is slightly torqued) I tested the crib rail set up by towing 200lb landlord around the block. I didn't even need to shift into low gear. please look. at my instructible. luv Ya bye.

mcheung (author)2013-11-07

Does the aluminum sheet base make the trailer loud when towing it empty?

bertus52x11 (author)mcheung2013-11-07

If you mean a "wobbling" sound because the sheet resonates, the answer is no. The sheet is too thick (or the surface area is to small) to really resonate.
With thinner sheets you probably have a good point, but then the sheet has to be so thin that your luggage will fall trough it when loading the trailer.
Having said that, any empty trailer will make some noise (depending on the roughness of the road and your speed).

Hypnocrow (author)2013-01-10

Fab trailer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

c3ralki1l3r (author)2012-09-27

could you add some elastic cords to the front and back or mesh so your stuff wont fall out?

bertus52x11 (author)c3ralki1l3r2012-09-27

Based on my experience, I would definitely reccommend that!

jscampoli (author)2012-05-23

How did you move the bolt on the trailer arm to the other side? Mine seems to be soldered in place. Thanks for the help!

bertus52x11 (author)jscampoli2012-05-25

No, mine was just bolted. I would be surprised if yours was bolted AND soldered. Maybe it is just corroded a bit and stuck.
Just a stupid question: are you turning it counter-clockwise? (just checking)

jscampoli (author)bertus52x112012-05-25

haha yes, lefty loosey, righty tighty. I've removed the nuts from the threaded ends - It's definitely corroded, but I've soaked it in CLR remover, and really worked on loosening it, but it still won't budge. No worries, I'll just keep mine nice and wide! Thanks for the reply!

bertus52x11 (author)jscampoli2012-05-28

Post an I'ble or pictures of your poject and I'll send you a patch.
(help me remember though!)

jscampoli (author)bertus52x112012-05-29

Hey bertus, no worries, I'm just going to leave it nice and wide. Thanks for the reply though!

lloydrmc (author)2012-05-07

Fine job! Your English is quite excellent, and your 'ible is well done and informative. I recently acquired a bike trailer, and am glad I came across this again.

alexsb (author)2010-08-20

I have an old Burley trailer collecting dust in my basement and was wondering what to do with it -- I considered using it "as is" for cargo, but it's a bit of a wind sock, as I'm sure you know. This is a great conversion, and very well laid out as an Instructable. I can't really tell from the photos, but did this model of Burley trailer have the plastic "seat base?" (not sure what to call it) The one I have has a pretty sizable plastic base, with seatbelts, etc. I am guessing that the plastic base contributes a lot to the weight. I'm curious, how much lighter is the trailer now? Also, are the tubes aluminum? And if so, any problems with drilling holes in them for the bolts? And what did you cut the aluminum plate with? Thanks for a great instructable!

bertus52x11 (author)alexsb2010-08-22

Wind sock sums it up nicely...
You don't want to convert just to reduce the weight, because the trailers do not weigh very much (compared to the load) and unless you're climbing hills, weight is not an issue (wind drag is). Anyway, I haven't measured the weight difference...

My model did not have a plastic base, but I have seen the ones you mention. I suspect that part of the strength of the trailer comes form the plate, so trimming or removing it is very tricky. Unless you master glass fibre, epoxy and vacuum bagging techniques.
You could consider just removing the fabric and just reduce the height as I did. I recall that the models with a plastic base plate are not as wide as the one I had anyway. 

The tubes are made of Aluminium and drilling is no problem if you follow the following steps:
1. take an iron file and flatten the tube a little bit where you want to drill (just enough to get a flat surface).
2. Take a hammer and a nail and "tag" the aluminium with it. This will give a good starting point for your drill to "bite".
3. Drill trough...

I have cut the aluminium sheet with something that looks like a pair of scissors, but is as robust as a pair of pliers. It is specially designed to cut metal sheet (I don't know the English name). 

Let me know if you have more question.

lloydrmc (author)bertus52x112012-05-07

I believe we would call those "tin snips" in American English.

alexsb (author)bertus52x112010-08-23

Thanks! Very helpful response. I think I will leave the plastic base intact, and just cut down (or even remove) the vertical aluminum tubes, i.e. make it more of a 'flatbed" trailer & use bungees to secure cargo.

bertus52x11 (author)alexsb2010-08-23

Post a picture, slideshow or even an Instructable when you're done!

matthewpetty (author)2010-11-09

I'm mostly done with this project, but I had one more question before I secured the dowels.

Did you find that the aluminum sheet added enough stability such that you no longer needed the bottom crossbar?

bertus52x11 (author)matthewpetty2011-01-07

How is your progress?

mpetty (author)bertus52x112012-03-25

Finally finished, years later. Image here

bertus52x11 (author)mpetty2012-03-25

Really nice! Have fun with it!

bertus52x11 (author)matthewpetty2010-11-09

Good point, but I haven't really noticed any difference. I get a feeling that the crossbar you are referring to, is more to protect the feet of children in case you hit a bump than it is to add stability (otherwise it would be just parallel to the base plate, rather than curving down).
The only thing I have experinced is that you require a few additional zip locks (some of mine snapped when riding over very rough terrain and the luggage "smacked" on the base plate).

hereusethis (author)2011-10-19

Awesome project!

I'm having trouble figuring out what thickness of alu sheet to use so it will be stiff enough but not too heavy (or expensive). Do you remember what thickness you used and would you go thicker or thinner if you have to do it again?

bertus52x11 (author)hereusethis2011-10-20

I have used 1,5 mm Alu sheet. This is strong enough for a bag of around 30 kg provided that you have sufficient connection points (4 zip ties on the long side, 2 zip ties on the short side. Don't forget the bolts either). It's strong enough for my groceries and the occasional crate of beer as well.
However, if you have large weights with a small footprint is is better to install some kind of beams underneath.
Wood is a very strong and cheap alternative, but not as good looking. That's the reason I chose Alu.
Hope this helps. Good Luck and post some pictures when you're done.

hereusethis (author)bertus52x112011-10-20

Thank you! I have plywood I can use, but it's really rainy here and I'd rather have something that I don't have to worry about sitting in the rain.

ijohnson2 (author)2011-08-08

Wow. Where were you in the photo with the river. Its beautiful

bertus52x11 (author)ijohnson22011-08-08

It was along the Canal du Midi in France (just follow the link in the introduction).

BillBiker (author)2011-01-21

I really like this one! If you think about it bigger wheels can be used! Like 20" maybe bigger!

bertus52x11 (author)BillBiker2011-01-22

Yes, that's true, although not unlimited (the trailer is slightly tilted with larger wheels).

BillBiker (author)bertus52x112011-01-23

That's true could one take that into consideration if wheels were added?

bertus52x11 (author)BillBiker2011-01-23

I'm not sure I understand your question...

BillBiker (author)bertus52x112011-01-24

So sorry I kinda left out that, you could modify the hitch angle to meet the larger wheels tilt factor??

bertus52x11 (author)BillBiker2011-01-24

The hitch "sits"in the corner of the frame (see picture). You can't move it up or down as it is "locked" in the triangle of the frame. Don't let the position of the bike in the picture distract you (the bike didnt stand up straight). The trailer rod (the bar between the hitch and the trailer should be horizontal).
However, the hitch is connected to the trailer rod by an elstomer (a cilindrical piece of rubber) that allows the trailer to move vertically when you hit a bump.
The bicycle wheel in the picture has a diameter of 26,4", the diameter of the trailer wheel is 16,4" (sorry for the odd measures but converting bicycle tyre specifications is a pain). With these wheels, the connecting rod (between the hitch and the trailer) is horizontal.
If you increase the trailer wheel size, the elastomer will allow the trailer to tilt. Is this bad? Depends.
Say you replace the trailer wheels by the same size as the bicycle, then the axis of the trialer wheels raise 4,9" ((26,4-16,4)/2).
The rod is 37'' long, so a simple calculation: arctan(4,9/37) = 7,5 degrees. This is the angle that the trailer will tilt. Whether this is bad, it's up to you.

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