Red Baron Child's Bicycle Trailer




About: teacher. writer. inventor. innovator. slacker.

This instructable will detail how to make a small airplane bicycle trailer.  I make these for sale, but am glad if other people try their hand at it.  I make a plane, train, tank, taxi and tractor version of these.  My son loves this particular trailer (it was my first) and I bet your child will love it as well.  It is real simple - just knowing how someone else did it may make your day easier. 

For some reason, when I edit this, it will not let me embed video - so here is the link to my son riding down the driveway in tow.


Step 1: Find Materials (aka the Three Lives of Pine Boards)

Your first step in this process is to procure what you will need for the plane.  My main materials came from a bookshelf that I took down in one of our rooms.   I began this project to submit it for the instructable contest where something is used for another purpose - and as you can see I didn't make that deadline. 

Below is a list of what I used to make the little plane:
1.  1x12 pine boards (I used a handful of 30 inch long ones and two 10 feet long ones)
2.  2 wheels from Northern Tool
3.  small brads (1 inch)
4.  small screws (3/4 inch)
5.  one L bracket (4 inch)
6. two 5 gallon buckets with lids (you really only need two lids - I just used this project to justify buying two more buckets).
7. one length of 2 inch conduit
8. assorted switches and an old alarm clock.
9.  a one foot diameter concrete tube (or a compass...)

In regard to number 1 - the bookcase I had to take down had shelves thirty inches wide across and twelve inches deep - these dimensions influenced the dimensions of the plane because I didn't want to purchase any other materials.

Step 2: Getting a Grip on the Idea

When I first had this idea, I wanted to make it with a round fuselage.  That would look more realistic, so I went on the hunt for something round - I then settled on concrete tubes or pvc pipe. 

When I went shopping for them, I quickly decided that was not a great idea.  The pvc is pricey and they would only sell 20ft lengths of the cardboard concrete tubes which also made it a little pricey. 

So I went to Home Depot and they had 12in diameter concrete tubes for less than 12 bucks - I was determined to make this work.  Yet, despite my determination, it didn't work.

Step 3: Make the Fuselage

I soon discovered that 1ft diameter was too small - my son (or anyone else's) would easily fall out or lean over too much - At that I decided I would cut it once, and spread it out on a wood base - this again ended up too small.  So the round tubing was scrapped.

On a side note - I am not that great at cutting straight lines if I 'eyeball' something, so I drew a line straight down the concrete tube and cut it - I made sure my line was straight and even by putting it next to my door jamb.  I also used a dry-erase marker thinking that I could erase any markings it left on the door jamb.  I also found out that dry-erase markers do not erase from door jambs...

The first part of making the fuselage was determining how long I wanted it.  I settled for 48.5 inches long.  This made it long enough for the parts not to be crowded together, but remained easy to tow and easy to turn. 

I first laid one board on the ground and then built the riser for the seat.  The seat is 18 inches long.  At the 32 inch mark (measuring from the front), I affixed a 3.5 inch tall by 12 inch wide board and then I affixed another of the same dimensions at the 15.5 inch mark (once again measuring from the front).  I then placed the board on top of it to make sure it was all flush and then affixed the sides.

The sides were 30 inch long and 12 inch wide boards.  To maximize width, I didn't place these on top of the bottom board - rather beside.  This kept the inside 12 inches, but reduced the height to around 11 inches (the boards are 3/4 inch thick and the 12 inch boards are actually about 11 5/8). 

On the front of the fuselage and the back of the seating compartment, I cut two boards to fit on the ends.  The front and the end measure 12 3/4 inches wide and the front is the full width of the 12 inch boards and the back is actually 13.5 inches.

Next, I drilled a hole in the front with a 1/2 inch drill bit - I measured it to drill the hole dead center.  This will be where your propellor is attached.   

Step 4: Make the Wings

The measurement of my wings are from the 10 feet long boards that served as the ends of the bookcases.  They were 1x12 boards and I cut them to 50 inches wide.  I did so based solely on the width of our bike lanes in my hometown.  When the bike lanes cross a street, they have three large metal poles to block motorized traffic from coming on the tracks.  I made sure my wings could go through them without too much trouble. 

Then ends are rounded - this is where I actually got to use my concrete tube that I bought and could not use as a fuselage. 

Step 5: Make Tail Wing

The tail wing is made from two boards - the horizontal wing is 30" long.  The diagonal piece is 24" high.  Once I had completed the fuselage, I laid the fuselage on its side then laid the diagonal piece on top of it.  Once I had tilted it to a satisfactory angle, I drew a pen line along the edge of the fuselage - that is where I cut the board.  The diagonal piece is held in place with four L brackets that are 1.5 inches in length. 

The end is rounded off just like the wings - I used the concrete tube to set an outline to trace.  Then I cut it with a jigsaw.

Step 6: Make Tow Arm

The tow arm is quite simple - it is a length of 1.5" diameter conduit.  It is attached to the frame by way of two u-shaped brackets that hold it onto the frame.  I toyed with the idea of just using two bolts and drilling holes in the pipe - that would make it more stable and would allow it to swivel.  However, I liked the idea of it swivelling for two reasons - first, not all bikes are the same dimensions and this allows me a little room to adjust the tongue of the trailer.  Second, sometimes I use the trailer like a wagon - I just turn the tow arm and the bend goes up instead of to the left.  This allows me to walk with it and not be hunched over.

To bend the conduit, first measure the length you need - I cut a length of 53 inches.  The bend is at the 20" mark.  I laid the pipe on the ground and then drove my car on top of the pipe.  Then I went to the end of the pipe and lifted.  I bent it about 20 degrees.  By bending it at the 20" mark, this gives almost ten inches of straight pipe in front of the plane before it starts to bend.  This allows you to make sharp turns without having your bike wheel hit the trailer.

To attach the tow arm to the bike, I just threaded an eye hook through the small hole in my bike where you normally attach a rear rack.  I then drilled a hole through the end of the conduit and put a bolt through it.  The bolt slips into the eye of the eyehook - then I attach a nut and start riding. 

Step 7: Make Dash

The dash is just a bucket lid cut in half.  This became problematic because my son is two and likes to push on the buttons really hard - so I reinforced the plastic by cutting a piece of luan wood to fit in behind the plastic. 

Once you cut out a half-circle shape piece of anything, paint it black and layout your buttons.  I guess if you are a good artist, you could draw on the dials - I just used some toggle switches I had laying around and an old alarm clock.  I wired it to hook up to a piezo buzzer, door chime and flashing lights, but there was no need.  My son just likes to mash all of the buttons.  

Step 8: Make a Propellor

At first I wanted to get fancy and use actual props from a hobby shop - these though had sharp edges and made me think twice.  I then went the opposite direction and cut a thick piece of wood to serve as my prop.  I grabbed a mug out of the kitchen and traced two circles on the ends.  I then took a juice glass and traced it at the center.  Then I used a ruler to connect the outsides of the circles to the middle.  After I cut out the general shape, I drilled a hole in the middle with a 3/4 inch drill bit.  Then I took a three inch bolt with a fender washer and inserted it into the front of the plane from the inside.  Then I placed a nut on it to hold it to the frame.  Then I slid on another bucket lid with a 3/4 inch hole drilled into the center (I painted this black).  After that, I put on another nut, the propellor and then another nut - I started to run out of room on the bolt, so I plan to replace the 3 inch bolt with a four inch later.

Step 9: And Paint It - I Chose Red.

My son likes red and blue.  I chose red.   Have fun choosing a color.

Step 10: The Wheels.

The wheels I used are garden cart wheels from Northern tool.  They work great - the bearings are real smooth and makes towing it a pleasure.  I used two 3.5 - 4 inch sections of angle iron to make a place to mount the wheels.  I mounted the angle iron flush with where the back of the seat is. 



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    44 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I was just doing some browsing at the outdoor instructables and saw this bike trailer and I had to say.. this is so cool... makes me want to be a kid again! But knowing me I probably would of builds this with four wheels with the idea that I can go down a steep hill and try to make it
    I read a comment about safety and before I read it I was thinking that maybe adding a roll cage around the cockpit making it look like windows and maybe adding plexiglass on it. That and a seat belt should make it a little safer in the case it will flip over. Just a thought incase someone desides to build one. I like to think of safety when it come to making things for kids. Just a thought I had!
    This is a great instructable build. Makes me want to go and build one!
    That propeller would be so cool if it rotate with the air when in motion.. =) Great choice of color too.. It reminds me of the Red Baron Biplane! So cool...


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I would love to see the tank and train. Any chance you will be submitting those either in a contest or just for viewing?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Your son has one pretty awesome dad. Oh, the memories this kid will have. Well done!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    awesome. You inspired me to build one as well.
    Since you are selling them, what type of safety regulations do you have to abide by? I know about the harness, reflectors, fail-safe on the hitch.. but if there are any docs or sites you could recommend i would appreciate it. police can be pretty anal around here. i'd like to make sure it's safe and legal.



    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It might sound odd, but Navy pilots are actually better. Hell, most of the pilots picked for the astronaut program were USN.

    Although, if the kid's in a Red Baron plane, he'll top everyone!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I know, I'm just teasing. In my opinion though, NASA missed out on some of the best personnel to pull from when they skipped over the submariners. I mean, think about it. Who better to handle being locked inside a cramped tin can for days on end in a hostile environment?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, true. I've meet some submariners, I was always so envious that they were all buddies and could do whatever cause they're underwater and no one saw them. I'd see pics of them hanging w/their skipper and beards. Beards! Like they're pirates =D


    8 years ago on Introduction

    "Is this a Winner?".....YES. I wish I had this when I was a kid, so much fun!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Love the design and effort that went into this, although i find the whole idea of children in bike trailers to be extremely dangerous and irresponsible. That said, i do like the ingenuity and craftsmanship.

    5 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I am sure some people consider having children in the first place 'dangerous and irresponsible' :)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Bike trailers are perfectly safe as long as the parent riding the bike is safe and responsible.


    I don't get what is dangerous and irresponsible here, looking at the picture, they are wearing helmets and are on back suburban/country road. I guess I really don't see the danger.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    That looks soo cool! Any kid would love to ride in one of those! LOL I still would! LOL

    I really like your project! I have never used a bike trailer before, but this has got me interested in considering making one. Thanks for sharing!