Child Trailer With Skis on the Cheap! - Winter Ski Conversion Hack

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If you’re like me, you like to ride bikes all year round.  If you have kids you just might have a bike trailer to take them on mini adventures while getting your daily miles in.  Child bike trailers are fun and can be super convenient. On an almost weekly basis, we ride to the farmers market as a family.  With a 2 and 5 year-old, it is much easier to bring the trailer along, not only because a tricycle is very slow, but because after you purchase veggies and of course the beef jerky, with a trailer you now have a place to put all of it (in the back of the trailer for the ride home)!

I have had and used the trailer since our son was around 6 months old.  When the first winter arrived I immediately searched for ways to utilize the trailer even when the roads were covered with snow.  I have a fat bike to ride in the snow so why wouldn’t I want to take my son along for some of the snow storm fun? Upon looking at options for skis I realized that A, there was not a specific option for our model of trailer and B, the options I could retrofit would be very expense, as in, close to the entire cost of the trailer expensive.  These expensive ski options looked pretty cool and were made of shiny metal bits, but for the price, it had better pull me in the trailer too.

My next course of action was to see what I could come up with on my own.  I of course did what any parent does when trying to save money on a DIY project, the ubiquitous google search and also a search of the Pinterests, how tech savvy of me!  My exhaustive 2ish minute search of the interwebs led me to a sight called OutsideMom.com.  I believe there is a Pinterest pin for this project as well.  This family did something very similar, and a bit fancier than what I ended up with, but they both get the job done.  By job, I mean a fun means of transportation for you and your kids when the snow starts falling.

Update 12/29/17: As I recently went back to check for other fun winter DIY projects, the site appears to have been discontinued.  If this is incorrect, let me know.  Anyways, I just wanted to make sure to give credit for the inspiration where it is due.

With a bit of backstory out of the way, on to the project! 

Some Items You Will Need:

Tools! 

I am fortunate to have a healthy selection of tools and a wife that bribes me with more tools to get DIY projects done quicker. I have included options for tools as a starting point if you do not have the  necessary items on hand already.  These suggestions are what I use and they have served me well over the years.  You can always find less expensive options, but I find spending a bit more will get you a tool that is more effective (and easier to use which can often be safer to use as well) and lasts longer.

Before you start, don’t forget the safety goggles.  Getting a wood or metal sliver in your eye is no bueno.  It is quite painful and guarantees a trip to the eye doctor where they place some scary looking tools close to your eyeball.  Be sure to ask me how I know.  After said traumatic experience (yes, I'm being overly dramatic), I prefer the types of safety goggles that are fully enclosed like the ones below, especially when grinding or cutting metal.

For this project you don’t need much, but what I found helpful was a good drill along with a small drill bit or two (depending on hardware and predrill preferences) as well as a screwdriver bit (again, the type depends hardware selections. I recommend torx if possible even thought I used Philips here). 

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A couple of wood clamps or large C-Clamps will be helpful when trying to hold the boards to the skis while drilling holes and installing hardware.

Some type of reciprocating saw is also useful for cutting the wheel channels into the lumber.  It would be difficult with just a circular saw or hand saw. As you will see in the steps below, I started with a small handheld jig saw, but needed an upgrade in both size and power and switched to a heavy-duty saws-all with wood blade and made the task of cutting arches into a 4x4 much quicker and easier.

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I used a miter saw to get all fancy and put 45 degree beveled edges in the 4x4 lumber (mainly to reduce the number of sharp corners and potential splinters), but it isn’t necessary.  A simple circular saw or hand saw can accomplish the same goal.

Hardware and Materials

My goal was to build this on the cheap.  Since our minions seem to have the attention span of fruit flies, I didn’t want to go too big on this toy.  As it happens, my son did tire of the trailer quickly, but it found new life with my daughter, who to this day loves going on bike rides with me in the trailer.

For hardware, the type and size are really dependent on your board/ski selection as well as preference.  I will go over what I used later on in the post.

Materials were the only part of this project that cost any significant money.  We sourced the old skis from our neighbor for 10 bucks.  Who knew Yamaha made skis (I’m sure someone knew, but I didn’t)? 

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To hold the wheels in place, I used some Quickfist straps originally bought for our Jeep, but then were repurposed for this project.  I purchased three packages with a pair in each package.  You could probably make due with four total (2 per side).  They are available on Amazon and I will link to the type and size below.  You can use other methods, such as the ski boot straps mentioned in the website article above, or even rope (results may vary).  The Quickfist straps were chosen for a few reasons.  They are flexible to absorb the inevitable bumps and obstacles I will run into as well as the ability to work in very cold weather.  The wheels can also be strapped in and removed quickly so that if the snow melts we have our regular trailer with functioning (rolling) wheels. 

A couple of boards to mount the skis to will be needed as well.  I have a couple of short 4x4 scraps laying around, so I used those.  The length is dependence on your ski size as well as the trailer size/hitch arrangement.  I went with longer boards than needed since I did not want to cut down the skis (fiberglass dust is itchy, and I hate itchy) and I thought I might add a platform behind the trailer at a later date for my wife to stand on and crack the whip (see Ben Hur or google search chariot racing).

Last and certainly not least is the trailer itself.  We splurged a bit when our son was born and bought a new 2-child Chariot (I believe the Chariot company is now owned by Thule, so I guess we actually have a Thule Chariot) from the local bike shop.  We figured a second child was highly likely so we went with the 2 child version.  It's much larger and roomier and works well even with one child due to multiple harness mounting locations.  However, if you want to be more frugal (aka sensible), do a quick search on eBay or Craigslist and you will probably find many options at a fraction of the cost being sold by parents with older minions trying to free up some valuable garage space.  This ski design is great due to its simplicity. It can be made to work with pretty much any type/brand of child trailer.

Examples of available trailers:

Beer (or pop, coffee, hot chocolate)

I completed this contraption on a cold winter day.  If your conditions are similar, a nice double IPA or Stout would work well.  A Belgian white is always nice too, but I digress…  Whichever your beverage preference, hydration is often the difference between success and failure…

Yum...

*I don’t actually condone the use of power tools while consuming alcohol, so do so at your own risk.

How I Did It:

Step 1

Locate your acquired materials.  Cut both boards to your desired length and miter cut those 45 degree bevels if the mood strikes you.

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Step 2

Use the outer edge of one wheel and a pen or pencil to mark where you want to cut the arc into the board.  Make sure to position the wheel with enough ‘depth’ in the board, but not so much so that you are close to cutting all the way through at the bottom of the arc.

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Step 3

Have at it with the reciprocating saw!  If you’re using a saws-all it won’t take long at all.

Step 4

Once the first board has been cut, use that board to mark the second and repeat step 3.

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Step 5

Now that you have both boards cut you need to attach them to the skis.  If your donor skis still have their bindings attached, you will need to remove them.

I would highly recommend some sort of clamp to hold the boards in place on the skis once you get them positioned.  The skis are rather slippery on both sides (go figure) and will tend to walk on you while drilling unless clamped down.  I clamped mine directly to the saw horses once I had the ski and board placement equal.  To get the positioning right, I simply lined both assemblies up right next to each other, no measuring required.  After all, we aren’t building a rocket, are we?

Step 6

With the boards/skis lined up and clamped in place, predrill some holes through the bottom of your skis.  Predrilling the holes will make the screws go through the skis much easier since they typically consist of various materials in many layers.  The diameter of the pre-drilled hole will depend on the screws you are using. 

I would recommend counter sinking the screws as much as possible as shown below to delay the onset of a spark show behind your trial when sliding over the inevitable concrete until the skis wear down significantly.  Of course, if you’re going for that low rider, chassis dragging style, then never mind the countersinking.

Step 7

Once your holes are pre-drilled, install the screws.  Be mindful of the length of screw you are using as you do not want it to protrude through the top of the lumber.  If a screw does protrude you could be dealing with a flat tire or more importantly an ouchy and hesitation next time you want to go for a snowy bike ride with the minions.

Step 8

Install your choice of wheel/tire clamps with the proper hardware. Before installing the clamps, make sure they will fit all the way around your wheel/tire when fully inflated as shown below.  If you are using the Quickfist clamps, be sure to use the included plastic, rectangular washer in between the head of the screw and the clamp, otherwise the screw will go right through the soft rubber allowing the clamp to fall off.  Again, please be mindful of screw length.  Using to long of a screw will allow for the sharp tips of the screws to protrude through the bottom of the ski.

Step 9

Line each of your board/ski assemblies with a side of the bike trailer and tighten the clamps around the wheel/tire.  Some adjustment may be necessary, but the whole process of clamping on or removing the skis becomes quicker each time.

Step 10

Wait for snow…

Step 11

Get those blinky lights on your bike and go for a ride with your minions in your new ski trailer and enjoy the fresh powder!  I recommend going for coffee (only for you, not the kids, ever see Gremlins?) hot chocolate, and donuts on your maiden voyage.  A stop at the park is always nice too!

Step 12

Have a blast!

Enjoying the snowy weather with the minions!

Enjoying the snowy weather with the minions!

Step 13

Repeat steps 10-13 as often as possible!!!