Thursday Bicycles

An Electric Cargo Bike/Tractor-Trailer for heavy loads – the new, electric “Fresno Stretch”

I got a request a number of years ago from a lady in Fresno for a heavy-duty, industrial strength cargo bike frame. She was a nurse. Go figure. Anyway she was going to donate the frame to the local community free bikes shop, Tower Velo in Fresno

The bike had to be able to haul a mobile shop trailer to neighborhood parks and schools. I couldn't come up with a better name for it than the "Fresno Stretch." That was then. I guess it worked out OK.

Since the move to Portland I have been able to garden like a monster on our 1/3-acre house lot. You have never seen weeds until you have tried to raise a few vegetables in Portland! The only thing that keeps them down is mulch, and the best source of free mulch is autumn leaves. I built this bike and trailer setup so I could haul a LOT of them, like a cubic yard at a time.

A lot of the people who pick up cans and bottles and stuff in Portland use a bike-trailer combo. The ones who seem to have it together the best use a high mount to the setpost or top of the seatstays, above the rear tire. If it works for them it will work for me, I thought. I had some old helicopter parts with big "heim ball" fittings, so I used these for my trailer hitch, and welded up a little tower above the seatstays as a mountig point for them. The Heim ball allows the bike to bank deep in a turn while the trailer stays on the ground, is compact and stronger than all getout.

The bike itself is based on the Vida Loca 26 inch park model frame, modified with a mounting cage for a Shimano "Steps" engine, battery and wiring, and a simple high-mount trailer hitch point. The rear drive is a 26" wheel Shimano Saint downhill unit. I used 203mm disc brakes front and rear with Avid BB7 calipers. It stops just fine, no matter how heavy a load you are hauling. The bike has a welded-on kickstand, salvaged off an old Chicago Schwinn to keep it from falling over while you are loading the trailer. The mounting cage for the Steps unit was a big investment-cast thing and it was not happy being oxy-acetylene welded, so I brazed it into the frame. The rest of the frame is welded. The fork uses Reynolds 853 blades designed for disc brake loads on a wide crown. Th frame will take a plus-size 26" tire, but on this bike I'm running WTB 2.5" Mutanos. The overall look of the thing just screams "motorcycle," which is what a 'lectric actually is.

The bike sans trailer weighs a little under 40 pounds - extremely light for what it is... I hauled a dozn tull loads of leaves last fall. With the high sideboards on the trailer I could haul 1.1 cubic yards (30 cubic feet), maybe more if they were heaped up. The heaviest load I hauled was a heaping full trailer of wet leaves which had to be at least 900 pounds. The Shimano drive doesn't have a throttle control so you have to get the whole shebang moving under muscle power before the 'lectric kicks in. Once it does, you can roll right along, and it will pull uphill with no problem if you gear down.

Geometry and Specs

Angles: headtube and seat tube, 71 and 71 degrees
Top tube length: 22.5" effective
Chainstay length: 17.5"
Bottom bracket height: 11.75"
Wheelbase: 41.6"
Standover height: 27.5"

Fork: Reynolds 853 blades, Pacenti wide twin-plate crown

Tube specs

Downtube: 1.5" x .9-.6-.9 chrome moly
Seat tube: 1.25" x .035" aircraft grade chrome-moly
Top tube: 1.375" x .9-.6-.9"
Chainstays: .875" x .035"
Seatstays: .75 x .035"

Price: Frame, fork and hitch: $2,250