GL1800Riders Forums banner

1 - 20 of 28 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
124 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
So as most of you know (at least those following my HF trailer saga), I am in the process of completing my trailer build. Well no sooner am I putting the finishing touches on when my neighbor (who also rides) comes over to scope out my project. After telling me that he is impressed with the build, he goes on to say that a local couple was just involved in a major accident because of their "trailer going out of control". The result was the wife did not survive and the husband is in critical condition.

Always one to do my homework, I went and researched figuring I could find info in the papers if this was a local incident and sure enough, I found the story. Since it was only a blurb in the paper, there were very few details except that the accident was caused by the trailer losing control. Now, I realize that there are lots to consider when trailering such as load, balance, weight distribution etc. But I must admit, it got me thinking and did take a bit of the wind out of my sails. And I got thinking, can my home made trailer that cost me around $500 to make really be as safe as one of the $4,000 ones that have advanced suspension and other fanciness? :shrug:

So I come, once again, to the more experienced to simply give some thoughts, advice or opinions on the matter of staying safe with the trailer. I know there are many here who have done the HF thing or some other fabrication and had many successful miles.

Thoughts?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
129 Posts
trailer

Any of us that have been riding for a significant amount of time know the risk involved trailer or not. If that is a mental block for you maybe you should consider another hobby. People die in car wrecks everyday but we get back in the car. Just the cold hard truth.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18,580 Posts
Well I am one of those that have one of those $4000+ fancy trailers. This was the reason I purchased a Bushtec in that it was designed specifically for motorcycles and had a Bushtec hitch that was designed for my bike specific. With that said I don't think you have to spend $4ooo for a safe trailer. I have ridden behind homemade trailers and some are fine, and some have a little side by side movement that troubles me. If I were making a Harbor Freight type trailer I would first talk to the people who have made several and personally I would get the model with the largest tires available. Smaller tires will wear out faster and are a heavier load on the wheel bearings. I would stay up to date on changing wheel bearings and tires. I probably would modify the trailer suspension (leaf spring removal)for a smoother ride in that these were designed to be pulled behind a car and not a motorcycle. And the designer of the trailer would think the load would be 500 lbs. I would never load more than 200lbs in the back. I would consider widening the axle width and possibly lengthing the tongue a bit. Hope this helps a little. I am sure someone who has done this will have many suggestions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,606 Posts
I have pulled a Neosho Starlight for well over 90,000 miles before it was destroyed by a Nissan Sentra, and now have pulled a Bustec for a similiar number of miles. Never replaced a bearing or tire on either.

Like the above poster I have seen many handbuilt trailers that seemed to tow fine. Probably the biggest key to towing a trailer is to realize you need extra space for stopping so going a little slower may be the best move.

A good friend, a motorcop who could outride the guy who sells the videos, bought a bunkhouse trailer from another friend and was towing it on the first trip into a campground and tried to slow and lost it and the trailer caused him to go down. The three of us in front of him had no problems. Mike just made an inattentive mistake.

You might also want to pick up a copy(I have no interest in this at all) of the book, Pulling Your Tail by Jim Victor and Bill Brobst. Bill actually wrote the original back in 1982 and Jim recently updated the book and republished it. YOu can get it from: www.customcruiserchrome.com

The book is published in Canada. And I think it sells for about $18.00 but it is a good read and covers a lot of stuff a newbie to towing should know.

Also if you are a member of GWRRA, they offer driving courses for folks with trailers, usually at Wing Ding if you are so inclined.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,890 Posts
When I built my HF trailer I made these modifications: I narrowed the axle and trailer ( I think it was 4" total), I moved the tongue forward (I moved it forward to the next set of bolt holes) to lengthen the tongue, I took out 1 leaf spring from each side, I repacked the grease in the bearings. That is the only structural type mods I made. I pulled it to FL last summer (1600 miles round trip and up to 90mph) and I have pulled it up and down some pretty steep grades here in TN. No wobble, no bounce, no problems.

Watch how you load your's to keep the tongue weight around 10%-15% of your total weight. Don't load it up and take out on your epic adventure, start small and work your way up. Pulling a trailer changes some of the dynamics of riding even when you "can't even tell it's back there". After you load it the first time, get someone to follow you in a car so they can watch what the trailer is doing at various speeds. Does it bounce? Is it wobbling? Probably it will be smooth as glass but you need to know. These things are true whether you are pulling a HF or a Tailwinds. And don't let stories keep you from doing something that is fun and relatively safe. I've seen trailers cause wrecks in cars, trucks, and 18 wheelers but people still pull them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
224 Posts
trailer safety

I have pulled home made trailers with bikes scince 1976 starting with a 75 gl 1000 and a trailer made out of an old boat trailer axel and car top carrier and no suspension with a home made hitch and actually the red trailer in my signature I used the same axel and the bags left over from when I triked my 1800, I have pulled this one over 20,000 with the trike and up to 110 mph. When I had the gl 1000 I worked at a factory in Corbin Ky. (a dry county) and all the guys at work would have me make a beer run, I haved hauled 20 cases of beer with my gl 1000 with no problems just a little hard to stop, my point here is that its more important with your weight distrubutation and taking time to learn how to pull a trailer before heading out on a long trip.
Larry
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,530 Posts
Some thoughts...

First, don't believe everything you read in the media! HA!

There seem to be two points here:

1) is pulling a trailer with a motorcycle inherently "dangerous"
2) are some trailers more or less "safe"

I will not address point # 1 as it will lead to lots of rhetoric and opinions to which we should all agree to disagree.

However, for point # 2 I think one can unequivocally state YES! I believe that a trailer and hitch system specifically engineered and manufactured for my motorcycle are "safer" than some others be they homemade or "commercially" manufactured.

Consider the person who scavanges an old baby carriage or shopping cart, removes the wheels and attaches said wheels to a sheet of plywood...then uses an old broom handle and bailing twine to hitch up to the rear of the motorcycle....certainly noone can deny that this is not at all safe.....and extreme example, I know, but the point is if one does not build it correctly a trailer can be dangerous.

I think that your homemade trailer can be "safe" provided you build it correctly....build it wrong and you are asking for trouble.

Will your homemade rig be as safe as a purpose engineered unit....hmmm...tough question to answer...perhaps in certain situations yes....in the majority of cases, probably no (realistcally)

I would suggest it will not "perform" as well as a purpose engineered trailer but that does not mean it is inherently less safe.

All that siad...we always need to ride within the limits of our skill set and the vehicle we are riding....those two issues are most important

Best to you!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
487 Posts
I've had my harbor freight trailer for around 3 years. I've pulled it all over Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The trailer weighs around 175lb empty..I carry around 100lb of camping gear...I keep the tires at 25lb...I keep the tongue weight around 30lb...I took one leaf of springs off and reversed the other one..I also moved the tongue forward. I pulled it those 3 years with a 1100 Shadow and could never want a better pulling trailer. That's not to say there may not be some out there but I haven't pulled any of them and I'm totally satisfied with mine.

I got caught in a heavy rain storm while on one trip and the trailer actually helped stabalize the bike.

I don't ride anybody's bumper and I'm very careful pulling it. The longer you pull it, the more you will love it. Just like anything else: be careful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,809 Posts
Not enough fact here to determine what cause him to loose control of the trailer. But in most cases the wiggle is the cause of a trailer loosing control and that is cause by one of two things 1. not enough tongue weight 2.Tongue to short.

I have pulled a home made trailer many miles with no problem, I now pull a bushtec with no problems. Yes speed can be a factor a small defect in design can have a major impact at high speeds.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,358 Posts
I've two trailers, one being a home made and the other being a piggybacker. Thus far I done well over 10K with both of them. The longest trip was with the piggybacker and that was a once around the US trip. The home made have been from trips around the house to several trips from MA to SC or MA to TN and back. One doesn't seem to pull better than the other. The biggist thing is that you remember YOU have a Trailer attached to your bike. No different than remembering the same thing if you have pulled a trailer with a car or truck. When ever you have a trailer attached to a primary mover (car,truck,bike) you have to make sure it's loaded properly, maintaned, pulled within YOUR confort speed limits and your overall driving habits are adjusted to the effects that a trailer has on the primary mover, IE starting, stopping, speeds. You have to take in account other factor as wind, trucks passing you and weather. All of these have to be considered no matter if you pull a $50 or a $60K trailer by a car, truck or bike. If you would like, I'll look for the piece that was in Wing World on trailering and send it to you. It's has some good information about trailering.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
275 Posts
If you would like, I'll look for the piece that was in Wing World on trailering and send it to you. It's has some good information about trailering.
Could you please send me the trailering article

thanks
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,692 Posts
Hey Chick...I, like many others here have pulled both a home built and a $4000 trailer. I had my HF trailer and Hannigan both at one time and had just as much faith in my HF as I did the Hannigan. If you built it right then don't ever place doubt on its ability to do what you want it to. It and you will be fine. Just start slow, pay attention to how you load it and your confidence level will increase quickly. Have fun.

P.S. Still waiting for the pics!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
318 Posts
Perhaps they had a flat or hit someting that caused the trailer to wobble. If the rider was inexperienced pulling a trailer he might not have been able to react. I've pulled a home built for over 50,000 miles with no problems due to manufacture. I had a flat once, at 70 MPH, that caused the trailer to fishtail but got it stopped without incident.
I'd do as suggested and pull it on short trips to get used to it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
883 Posts
Well I am one of those that have one of those $4000+ fancy trailers. This was the reason I purchased a Bushtec in that it was designed specifically for motorcycles and had a Bushtec hitch that was designed for my bike specific
So being that a trailer is "specifically designed for motorcycles", we can ignore what tire manufacturers (see below) recommendation's are. What happens if you do have a crash while pulling a trailer & an insurance adjuster sees that you were pulling a trailer, even the tire manufacturer won't warrant their tires when pulling a trailer? Are you then SOOL?

Sleddog


Tires offering different load-carrying capacities are available. Consider carefully the weight of the motorcycle, the weight of any optional equipment and whether it will carry passengers. Remember, the load- carrying capability of the tires is also reduced by underinflation. It is possible to overload a tire even though it is the size specified by the motorcycle manufacturer. Maximum loads and corresponding pressures are indicated on the sidewall of all Dunlop street tires.

Never exceed the accessory restrictions and vehicle load capacity found in the motorcycle owner's manual, or the maximum load molded on the tire sidewall. Before a trip, be sure to determine the total weight of luggage, equipment, and rider(s) to be added to the motorcycle.

Trailers may contribute to motorcycle instability, grossly exaggerated tire stresses and overload. Such stresses and overload can cause irreversible damage resulting in sudden tire failure and accident. Dunlop does not recommend the use of trailers, nor warrants tires used on motorcycles fitted with trailers.

Sidecars should not be fitted unless approved by the motorcycle manufacturer.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,358 Posts
Well all I found two pieces on trailers that were submitted by others and printed in Wing World . One in on Wiring the other is about Tips about towing a trailer.

If you would like copies of these pieces please send me a note on the one (s) you want and your personal e-mail. I haven't figured out how to get a clear copy to post on the board itself.

My email: [email protected]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
124 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Hey Guys...thanks for all of the responses. And yes, I agree that our vigilance for safety should bever be lessened, trailer or not.

I have taken many of the suggestions and ideas that have been made here into account when building my trailer. And I believe it to be done correctly. i also agree that not enough can be said about gaining knowlege and information from those who have had experience. I fully intended to cross my t's and dot my i's before taking it out on a long trip. Trail runs are a must whenever we add anything new. Heck I'm cautions my first few miles when I get a new pair of gloves.

So again, I want to thank everyone for your responses and please keep them coming. We can always learn something from each other!
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,620 Posts
Well all I found two pieces on trailers that were submitted by others and printed in Wing World . One in on Wiring the other is about Tips about towing a trailer.

If you would like copies of these pieces please send me a note on the one (s) you want and your personal e-mail. I haven't figured out how to get a clear copy to post on the board itself.

My email: [email protected]
Milbear,
I read the articles that you so kindly sent to me. Interesting article on safety of pulling and stopping safely. I think some of the issues raised with a bike pulling a trailer are lessened if you are pulling with a trike, due to its greater rear end friction, dual disc automobile axle brakes, and better stability. However, since the towed trailer has no brakes, the momentum issue remains a big concern, even for a trike, but somewhat less. I learned a lot by reading those articles and will heed the advice given in the articles.

Ken
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,844 Posts
There is much misinformation out there about designing, building, and towing trailers.

Having patents in the suspension field and 52 years in grade designing, building, and towing trailers with motorcycles, I have come to being wary of armchair doctrines.

What looks like an innocent little device made of a box with two wheels and a drawbar, can in fact be a bomb waiting to snuff you out without apparent provocation.

One of the perils we face is that riders make assumptions and put them into practice with apparent success and no one that knows better is there to warn them until it is too late.

One of these assumptions is that if you balance a trailer with a light load on the hitch, that it will be better for the brittle aft aluminum frame of the GL1800. Operating with this premise has put several people in the hospital.

The Accident report goes something like this: "I don't know what happened. I was careful not to overload the bike and part of the way along my trip, the bike wobbled and threw us off, causing a blow out on the bike tire."

What really happened is that the rider thought that a 5 pound load on the bike lessened the chance of damaging the frame which is totally false. It is not the load on the hitch that damages the bike, it is the pitch inertia of the trailer that fatigues the bike frame and would not change if it was balanced at zero weight on the hitch.

Most likely, the trailer is negatively stable that he is pulling, but because he has the rear tire of the bike up to 41 psi, it is stiff enough laterally to avoid being set in an oscillatory mode in the conditions that he has so far ridden in.

Then he gets a puncture and the tire starts getting soft without his recognition. Then an event, like a passing semi, uneven lane surface, object to dodge, or what ever, happens and he is suddenly in a very divergent oscillatory mode which usually dumps the rider on the third swing.

Instability is insidious. We can get away with it for thousands of miles because there was no excitation, or we were below the threshold speed for sustained oscillation. The very strong likelihood is that a rider encountering oscillation will instantly make it worse because he is 90 degrees out of phase with the corrections he is making. In Aviation, it is called PIO, Pilot Induced Oscillation.

I spent 35 years designing aircraft and aircraft components and can tell you that a marginally stable airplane is no place for a marginal pilot. Early in a flight test program of a new aircraft, it is checked for low and high speed stability. The procedures are not so different from those that should be practiced by any rider with an untried trailer.

Load the trailer or aircraft to its most adverse position that will be allowed, which in both cases is aft CG. That does not mean it is really at an Aft CG, just that it is the most aft that will be allowed which is usually about 28% MAC in aircraft and about 10% hitch weigh in mid axle trailers.

Then abuse the control of the vehicle starting at low speed, and then increasing a small percent of speed and repeating the abuse. Each time, note how long it takes the vehicle to damp from the abuse after it stops.

As the speed increases in these small increments, the time to damp the oscillations will increase, and when the last small speed increase increment takes twice as long to damp, that is where to stop, called VNE, Velocity to Never Exceed, and back off an appropriate amount say 20%, from the last speed tried, calling that reduced speed VMO, Velocity Maximum Operating.

These are not casual tests that you do while adjusting your mirrors. These are dangerous tests. Unlike an airplane doing it in an air space, you would be doing it on a roadway that is always different, every foot of the way.

You only have to see a divergent oscillation once to be forever aware of its danger.

Mid axle trailers that have suspension motion that keeps the wheel always exactly in plane are the most inherently stable. Wheels that move out of plane during suspension excursion will have an effect on steering to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the direction and angle of the movement.

Solid axle trailers may at first appear to have wheels always in plane, but they are only in plane with themselves, not with the direction of travel or the trailer body to which they are attached.

The typical setup is that the axle is located by the forward half of the leaf spring to which it is attached. The forward half of the spring moves in an arc about the front spring mount, and the cord distance increases because the spring is changing from an arc to a straight line. These two factors together make the axle end on the side being depressed move aft relative to the other end in swaying situation. This causes the axle to steer in the direction of sway, assuming that the CG of the trailer is above the axle and that it then heels toward the outside of the curve. It is only because these leaf springs usually have the flexibility of a railroad rail that this is a useable situation. The more top heavy the trailer, the more it will heel during sway.

The "Q" of the circuit, its propensity to remain oscillating with very small excitation, has a lot to do with its stability. A high Q circuit will oscillate more readily. Suspensions with very good rebound damping in the hydraulic damper will always be more stable than those that do not if all other things are the same. The hydraulic damping makes it a low Q circuit.

Short drawbar trailers cause the trailer to steer in the yaw axis more drastically with the same side displacement as long drawbar trailers. The distance from the hitch ball to the axle should be at least 180% of the track width of the trailer. For all high speed reasons, the longer the distance is between the ball and the axle, the more stable the trailer will be. Also, the pitch inertia of the trailer that is imposed on the bike will be lower with the longer drawbar.

The penalties of a long drawbar are parking, and the side loading of the bike in full lock turns.

Therefore, there is always a compromise which makes it imperative that the trailer suspension be inherently stable, since it is impractical to have a very long drawbar. High pitch inertia trailers without a long drawbar or inertia relief, are a threat to the brittle rear frame of the GL1800. As a group, camping trailers have the highest pitch inertia and therefore care should be exercised especially on rough roads when pulling them with a GL1800.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,620 Posts
Tom, thank you for providing the trailer safety info. Is there an addendum you could add that would include pulling the trailer with a trike? In other words, how does trike make a difference on the oscillation recovery, etc?

Ken
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,358 Posts
Tom,
Ya just can't tell you're an engr. type person. :joke:

the bottom line is? Laymen terms?

There may be a few people that got their 9th grade diploma and their draft notice on the same day :shrug:
 
1 - 20 of 28 Posts
Top