Trailering a Canoe from a Bicycle

I live about 1/2 mile from a river, and it seemed like a lot of trouble to put my canoe on top of a car just to take it that short distance.  So I tried to find a trailer to tow it from my bike, and they were all expensive, so instead I bought a portage cart from LL Bean, and made my own hitch.  For longer distance canoe transport, I use a home-made rack on a Honda Insight.

Update August 2005:  Wike now has a canoe trailer kit for a reasonable $200.   That more than the parts for this, but it's less work!

The cart is made by InStep, and has much bigger wheels than most (16 inch), and they are real pneumatic-tired bike wheels.  It is heavy steel, but seems to be reasonably well made, and it even comes with a pump!  I first tried to buy it from the lowest bidder on Froogle, but they strung me along for weeks saying it would be available soon; I finally cancelled and got it from LL Bean very promptly.  It is important to tie the canoe on securely.  I use the strap it came with and a second similar one from my local hardware store, and separately tie each side to the center seat of the canoe (it's a solo) with diagonal strap routing, so that the cart can't swivel.

I made a tongue to hitch the canoe to the seatpost of my bike.  It's a 2x4 with wood clamps that are tightened by wing-nutted bolts, and clamp to the inside of the aluminum gunwales.  There are two clamps so that it will be rigidly attached without flex.

Just in case the clamps don't hold (e.g., when I brake hard), there's a big dowell pin that lowers just forward of the handle and prevents it from sliding back.  The handle is wrapped with rope to protect it from getting banged up.  The clamps can't slide forward no matter what becuase they are made to just fit into the width between the gunwales.

The tip of the tongue has a U made of two L brackets that swivels left/right, with an eyebolt that accepts a pin hitching it to the part of the bike.  You can see the messy glue job I used to put in an insert sized to accept the pin without too much rattling.  In the midle, you see the hitch attached to the bike.  The part on the bike is actually half of a hitch for a commerical bike trailer, make by Farrington Chariots, which doesn't seem to exist anymore, or at least isn't on the web.  It's a very simple clamp that attaches to the seatpost with a quick-release of the type used to clamp a seatpost in frame.  The final picture on the right didn't come out too well, but it shows the tongue hitched to the bike. 

It works out well for me.  I can leave the canoe on the trailer all the time in my garage, and just hitch it on the bike and go when I want to take the canoe out.  The only thing I don't like is that it has to be customized for each canoe--I'd need to make another tongue to fit on my other (tandem) canoe if I wanted to do the same with it.