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Building my kid’s loft bed by bike

A water pipe burst inside the wall of my kid’s bedroom a week ago, so it has been a stressful and expensive week of sleeping at a friend’s house, cleaning stuff and waiting for stuff to dry. So much waiting.

However, the whole fiasco did give me the push I needed to finally build the loft bed I had been promising the kid for at least a year. After drawing out the plans with my friend Danny (who knows a lot more about carpentry than I do), we headed to Dunn Lumber to acquire the materials: One sheet of dry wall, two sheets of 3/4″ plywood and five 2x4s. When the salesperson asked what vehicle I drove so the lumber yard person could find me, I said, “A bicycle trailer.”

I love hauling stuff by bike. Not only is it fun, it’s also often easier than using many motor vehicles. A lot of cars can’t fit a full 8×4 sheet inside, so your only option is to try to strap it to the top. And driving with stuff on top of a car isn’t fun, it’s stressful. A pickup truck or large van can fit lumber just fine, but where’s the adventure in that?

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Bike with a trailer loaded up with lumber.
I pulled the trailer with the e-assist cargo bike, which did make the hill-climbing quite a bit easier.

I brought the trusty Haulin’ Colin trailer (made in Seattle by Cyclefab), which I’ve used to haul bookshelves and queen size beds and all kinds of large, awkward objects. It’s also what I use when doing weekly food rescue for Byrd Barr Place as part of a Pedaling Relief Project team. It’s a very heavy duty trailer with rails that form a level surface on top, perfect for laying sheets of lumber flat. Just plop them on, secure them with a strap or two and it’s good to go.

I biked it all about a mile uphill to my friends’ house, where they graciously let us utilize their garage wood shop for most of the cutting and painting work.

A kid painting a ladder pink.
The kiddo chose the color.

After cutting and painting the pieces (and waiting for the wall to dry, then the drywall patch to dry, then the paint on the patch to dry), it was time to haul them the short distance to our house for final install. This time, the kiddo rode along.

Photo of a person on a bike with a kid in a child seat and a trailer full of lumber.I would describe my carpentry style as “amateur with a shaky jigsaw.” I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I enjoy doing it. And the finished product usually ends up functional, very over-built and a bit rough around the edges. This project was no different. After a few last-minute redesigns to get everything to fit right, I’m happy with how it turned out. And the kid slept through the night, so that’s a good sign.

Sleepy kid in a lofted bed.
Sleepy kiddo.

Big thanks to Danny, Adam, Robyn, Christina and Rob for helping us out so much this past week.

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4 responses to “Building my kid’s loft bed by bike”

  1. asdf2

    Great to draw attention to the fact that ebikes are physically capable of carrying surprising loads.

    The catch is that the trailers to do it are expensive to buy, not needed all that often, and take up a lot of garage space to store. Ideally, this would be something you’d rent when you need it, but the market is too niche for any business to actually offer bike trailer rentals (at any price).

    What this means in practice is that, even if a bike and trailer can physically do the job, the economically optimal solution ends up being to use a motor vehicle, simply because most people already have them and, for those that don’t, a truck is much easier to rent than a bike trailer. (I believe Home Depot even offers truck rentals for people carry home bulky merchandise).

    I’m curious if things are different in a real bike city like Amsterdam? In Amsterdam, can somebody pull up to a Home Depot on a bike, order some lumber, and rent a bike trailer to carry it home? I can’t imagine Home Depot ever offering such an option here. Their Bellevue store can’t even be bothered to install a bike rack in the parking lot, even though they sell lots of stuff that can fit in nothing more than a small backpack.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Yeah, the heavy-duty bike trailer is definitely a niche thing to own if you don’t have a regular use for such a thing. However, the costliness depends on your priorities. You can get a very high end e-assist cargo bike and a heavy duty trailer for significantly less than the cost of the cheapest, crappiest new car.

    2. Conrad

      The haulin Colin trailer is awesome but yes a bit of investment. I had a Burley D lite that I bought used for not much money that I carried a lot of kids and stuff with for many years. I gave it away when my kids started riding their own bikes. Recently I wanted a way to haul my paddle board/fly rod and I found a used yak trailer at recycled cycles. Doesn’t have quite the capacity of yours but it’s a great trailer and was cheap. And FYI the west Seattle ebike shop had a killer Surly big dummy for a great price too. Point is, you can get in the cargo game cheap if you want to!

  2. eddiew

    Ryan Hashagen, Portland, has extensive experience with cargo bikes; he has or had a related company.

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