My Safety Bar Fixation
Many years ago I removed the seat from a Burley D’Lite trailer to pull Edison around during our bike rides. He was too big for our B.O.B. Trailer but Jessica was still small enough to ride it. As it turned out we never really used either trailer as much as we thought we would, which is how things typically go for many of us.
Now that me and Deborah have a lot of bikepacking trips planned, the trailer has once again become important. Jessica is 14 and has a heart condition so is unable to walk into the wilderness like she use to. We do not know how much longer she will be with us so have decided to bikepack instead, this way she can continue to do the things she really enjoys.
To better our chances of safety while riding on roads that can be hostile at times I began designing a safety bar that would place flashing lights higher and hold a slow moving vehicle sign giving us much better visibility to motorist.
It has taken two versions and a lot of design changes but I have finally finished a successful setup that allows me to easily take it apart and assemble it for when I need to get the trailer in a vehicle.
What I Wanted To Accomplish…
One thing I learned during my years of owning a bike shop and being exposed to bike culture is that motorist only see warning signs that pertain to them.
For example, a small cloth caution triangle from a bike shop means nothing to a motorist. However, a large orange plastic slow moving vehicle sign like the ones you see on tractors, they understand. So I decided that the larger sign is what I was going to mount on Jessica’s trailer.
Piecing Together The First Design…
I am one of those people that design everything in my head instead of on paper. It works for me and allows me to revel in my failures and successes with equal admiration. I’ve never understood that saying about if you don’t have a plan, you are planning to fail. Of course I’m planning to fail, that’s the most important step in success.
So in my usual way I began churning an idea around in my head about how to improve our chances for safety while riding amongst motorist. A contraption made of 1/2″ copper pipe is what I came up with.
The left and right riser bars were bent to allow the trailers cover to be installed. They were held in place at the base by a 1/2″ hole I drilled in the tubing of the trailers frame. Then I drilled two holes for a couple bolts with wing nuts to attach a crossbar.
Instead of capping the copper tubes I had a brilliant idea of mounting two solar garden lights. This would give us some light in camp and we later discovered that when placing the light on top of the Nalgene bottle, we had a nice lantern.
After painting the copper pipe with safety orange, I wrapped DOT reflective tape in various places around both the trailer and the safety bar.
Attaching the slow moving vehicle sign was done by drilling three holes and using paracord to tie off three points of the sign between the opening. This created a bit of a sail effect but my concern was for Jessica’s safety, not how fast I was going or how difficult it was to pedal down the road. I am more concerned about the journey, not the destination.
Jessica's Trailer and Surly ECRTaking a break at Umpqua Lighthouse. Trailer with all the lights and slow moving vehicle sign. Also added a bottle cage to hold a Nalgene bottle as a place to put trash and doggie bags.
My first design lasted nearly the entire Oregon Coast ride but I had to spend some time at a hardware store parking lot while making a repair with JB Weld. My mistake was bending the copper tubing to fit around the tubes of the trailer. The side to side movement while riding down the road eventually weakened the bends and one of tubes broke in half.
The repair worked up until the last day of our ride when the other tube snapped. I successfully used paracord to hold up my contraption like the rigging of a sail boat.
Upon returning home from the Oregon Coast, I began working on a better design that would avoid the discovered weakness from my first attempt.
A Better Design
A few design changes that have proven to be much nicer.
Welds Worked Better Than Bending
Instead of bending the tubing I welded 90° bends that not only made the risers stronger but also allowed more space for the trailers cover to fit better. Another advantage was the stiffness that eliminated a lot of the side to side movement.
I also welded the main safety frame that holds the lights and sign.
Lights Attached To One Piece
The main safety section is now one piece that attaches to the top of the riser bars. When disassembled all the lights and sign can now be stored together.
I bolted on the slow moving vehicle sign to create more rigidity to the frame which is an improvement from using cord to tie it on.
All The Extras
Originally I had mounted the bottle cage for the Nalgene on the left side. This may seem minor but what I discovered was that the bottle was in the way of my mirror so it was difficult to see cars behind me. Moving it to the right side was a huge improvement.
The bottle became necessary when we realized that we needed a place to store doggie bags and trash when one was not available. The bottle also doubles as a lantern when placing one of the solar garden lights on top of it.
The original solar garden lights I used were always failing. Fortunately Do It Best kept replacing the defective ones but we always seemed to have only one working at a time. After ordering a set of Frostfire lights from Amazon we have had no issues since. They appear to handle the road vibration much better and hold their charge longer.
It Was Worth The Effort
I am happy with our safety bar and think that it does make a huge difference navigating traffic. What we’ve noticed is that motorist are giving us more room when passing and seem to be much more courteous.
As we all know, sharing the road is not the first thing that comes to a vast majority of motorist minds. In many areas I have noticed improvement with uncivil drivers becoming less and less. But for the minority I like to be seen and I think our safety bar does a lot to improve our visibility.
The two items I haven’t resolved yet is a way to hold a sunscreen over Jessica and a mount to hold solar panels. Both of which I will work on next.
Keywords: australian shepherd, bike safety, bike trailer, bikepacking, burley trailer, dog, journal, safety, touring, travelogue, with a dog
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Our Journey's Flow...
FamilyDeborah, Tim, and Jessica