Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Cycle Caravan

I came across this recently, and I thought I'd share it with you.

It's a Pathe news clip from 1939, and it shows two people pulling a small caravan by bike. Then after that I will describe what "modern" options exist.
Not on a tandem - there are two regular bikes shackled to the caravan, much in the fashion that a pair of horses (or mules or ponies or oxen) would be.

The caravan looks pretty small, and I suspect that most things in it need to be folded up and the bed laid out on top of it all.
But, for all that it looks much more luxurious than a small tent, more waterproof too, and you could always hide in the caravan if you encountered a sudden heavy shower of rain!

Anyway, here it is, so enjoy!
1939 cycle caravan in Britain

And as a bonus, Pathe also has a clip about two men with a cycle caravan in Tasmania, also from 1939.
This one is a lot more aerodynamic, and is much less of a "shed on wheels" than the first.
But it is even smaller!
Very cosy is perhaps putting it optimistically.
Again it is towed by a pair of bikes in a similar fashion to a horse-drawn setup.
1939 "aero" cycle caravan in Tasmania

Bringing us more up to date, "green" insurance company ETA commissioned a caravan for use with a cycle - this time a one person caravan. But it cost a whopping 5500 pounds to make! (that's  US $8800, or 6600 Euro!)
Might give you a few ideas if you fancy a bit of extravagant D-I-Y :-)
modern ETA cycle caravan

There is also the IKEA Transportfiets, the base vehicle of which is the Vrachtfiets Cargo.
the Cargo is a bit like one of those 4-wheeled bikes that takes two riders that used to be found in sea-side resorts, except that the Cargo has a load box which is 2 metres long (6' 6"), 0.9m wide (3' 1"), and 1m high (3' 3"). It seems like a good basis for a mini-camper conversion.
Of course, being an all-in-one machine, it would be more of a "camper bike", than a cycle caravan.

If you are looking to build your own caravan, you might want to look at the Surly Bill trailer - it's rated at 300 lbs (136 kg), so that should be enoughto build a light trailer caravan AND still have enough weight capacity left to sleep in it without the wheels falling off!

This is an example of what you can build yourself on a trailer base - apparently the young man who built it covered 1200 miles (1920 km) in 14 days.

If you would prefer something ready-made, how about the Teardrop Sleeper Standard, which is the lightest caravan I can find, and it weighs in at 145 kg unladen (that's a bit over 300 lbs), so that is going to be some decent haul behind 1 (or even 2) bikes! It costs about 3000 pounds (4800 US Dollars, 3600 Euros).

Other than that, it is a case of sourcing a trailer designed for a car, and adapting that (and some of those are HEAVY!!! - but the smallest and lightest might be worth a look) or building your own!

Just try not to make it look to much like a coffin on wheels - or, come to think of it, maybe THAT is a good idea for a cycle caravan! :-)

On a related note, although it is more of a "camper-bike" than a caravan, Chen Guanming has apparently cycled all the way from China to England in a cycle rickshaw, and has slept in that. He has curtains he draws round it, and judging by the layout, he stores his stuff in the back, but at night the stuff goes in the passenger footwell (behind the saddle) to form a surface, along with the rear compartment, to sleep on.
So, some variantion on a cycle-rickshaw with a folding or take-apart bed platform that stows away in the back is a possibility too!

Update 13th April 2014:
There is now a Facebook Group called Bike RV Project, started by Alexander Main. As well as a look at Mr Main's homebuilt bicycle caravan/rv, some other folks have also added other suggestions and links.

Update 8th June 2014:
Here is another homebuilt bicycle caravan, and this one has fold-down support legs for extra stability while "parked". It is pretty roomy, but I would be interested to see how it fared in high winds...

Update 5th August 2014:
Thanks to Ian Howard for bringing this folding gypsy-style cycle caravan to my attention. The folding design tackles the issue of crosswinds while towing it. One would still have to find a pretty sheltered spot to park it in overnight, though!

Update 4th January 2015:
Came across this while browsing the "Web",
It is a well-finished trailer for a bike or a recumbent (the rider in the clip rides a recumbent).
It falls into the "glorified coffin" category - but I am sure a more friendly description would be a "sleeping tube".
You could store wuite a bit of stuff in it if you weren't using it for sleeping!

And, another one. This one looks like part of a small "demountable" caravan stuck to a bike front to make a two person bicycle camper with some similarities to the IKEA Vrachtsfiets Cargo I mentioned above.

Meanwhile, a selection of designs are showcased in the Bicycle Houses clip.

One of the best I have seen yet has to be the Foldavan from Wooden Widgets - at just 30kg (claimed weight) for a two-person camper, there isn't much to match it.
To be fair it is more like a teardrop tent on a trailer, rather than the rigid-sided contraptions some folks concoct. The sides are also supposed to be removable, which, as well as allowing easy access, should also address many of the concerns one might have about side winds!
Indeed, for the adventurous, Wooden Widgets even reckon you could carry one of their folding dingies inside the Foldavan! Great for a cycling holiday to the Norfolk Broads, perhaps? (or one of those many small lakes in Michigan!).
Just one catch - Wooden Widgets sell you the plans, and you have to build it yourself!

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