By Jeff Hoard – What the heck is that?! It’s been a common phrase here at HM Ranch for the last couple of years. I thought I would share what I call “P.U.V.” (pedal utility vehicle) or DIY cargo bike. A couple of years ago, I saw this design in another publication and thought I would build one. The results were the birth of “Lee.” (When you build something that looks like that, you have to name it!)
Lee’s full name is General Lee. I named him after the car on the Dukes of Hazard TV series. I’ve probably only seen two or three episodes, but I remember that I really liked that car. I use my DIY cargo bike multiple times virtually every day. I seldom walk anywhere anymore. I’ve built three of these and kept two. You can easily pedal up to 200 pounds of anything that isn’t kicking like crazy to its destination. They are great for bringing in the produce, moving sacks of grain, bales of hay, sick calves, manure, etc. I used to walk all over this ranch generally pushing a wheelbarrow or carrying a bucket of something in each hand. But now, to start out the day riding my DIY cargo bike and pedaling out back to do simple homesteading chores really starts the day out right. It starts the dogs’ day out too, as they love to run with me.
As you can see in the pictures, a PUV is just a garden cart married to a modified bicycle frame. After a couple of fabrication measurements are followed, each PUV can be customized to suit the individual’s size, wants and needs. The other PUV that we’ve kept is smaller (only 34 inches wide) and would work well in town for getting groceries, running errands, etc. That one uses a smaller cart, but I bought 26-inch wheels for it separately. I also put a sharper angle on the pivot point. This automatically leans the rider into a turn so the speed can be maintained. Lee is a slowpoke; the other is built for more speed, but both do the work we ask of them around the ranch.
Anyone with some metal fabrication experience can easily figure this out. The two important measurements are the length of the marriage arm and the 11-inch distance from the hub to the brace that welds to the marriage arm. Stick to those measurements and you will side step a lot of head scratching. When I made Lee I gathered the parts I needed and had a good idea of how I was going to put it together. The next morning I fabricated Lee’s main frame, modified and attached the garden cart. The top of the bicycle forks, along with a pipe and gusset, are welded to the cart’s axle (see drawing) along with moving the handles to fit the individual’s size. It all went together fairly easily and I was able to take a test drive before 11:00 a.m. The dogs really didn’t know what to think of the DIY cargo bike as I pedaled him around for the first time, but now, as I do, they see him as one of the family. Garden carts are kind of expensive (I would use one that has 26-inch wheels), but fortunately, used bikes are cheap, so if you build your own PUV. It shouldn’t cost an A and an L (arm and a leg!). This is a good useful project for all of you creative scroungers out there.
Homesteading today is much easier with a DIY cargo bike. Have you ever built one?
Originally published in Countryside January/February 2011 and regularly vetted for accuracy.