So you just got an amazing new bike trailer – congrats! Those things are game changers for bringing kids, pets and gear along on rides. But now you’re realizing your bike doesn’t have the right coupler attachment to hook the trailer up. Uh oh. Don’t sweat it, we’ve all been there.
Attaching a trailer without the proper coupler can seem daunting, but with some simple tips and alternatives, you can DIY a secure attachment in no time. In this guide, we’ll walk through all the methods for attaching your trailer if you don’t have the standard coupler. You’ll learn:
- Why couplers are so important in the first place
- When you may need a coupler alternative
- Easy bolt-on and clamp styles to attach the trailer
- How to DIY your own coupler
- Safety considerations for riding without a coupler
Let’s dive in and get you and your new trailer out on the road!
Why Couplers Are Usually Necessary
The coupler piece is what securely attaches your trailer to the bike frame. It’s a small device that clamps on to your bike’s rear axle or frame and provides a ball or hook that the trailer can latch onto.
Couplers are designed for two main purposes:
Safety – The coupler keeps the trailer firmly attached as you ride so it doesn’t sway or detach, preventing a dangerous runaway trailer!
Stability – By preventing swaying or wobbling, the coupler helps stabilize the trailer so you can ride confidently without tipping.
Couplers also make it super easy to quickly hook up and detach the trailer as needed. So in most cases, it’s really important to have the properly fitting coupler for your specific bike and trailer. But in some situations, you may need a workaround…
When You May Need Alternatives
There are a few instances when it can be helpful or necessary to rig up a DIY coupler alternative:
- Your coupler broke or is missing
- You bought a used trailer that’s a different brand from your bike and the couplers are incompatible
- Your bike frame doesn’t have room to install the coupler due to disc brakes, kickstands or a small space between the rear wheel and frame
In these cases, you have a few options to securely attach the trailer without the OEM coupler. Let’s look at some easy alternatives.
Bolt-On Hub Alternatives
One popular coupler alternative is to use a bolt-on hub connector that replaces your regular axle nut. Brands like Burley make couplers that bolt onto your axle in place of the normal quick release skewer.
Here’s how to install a bolt-on coupler hub:
- Remove the regular axle nut from your rear wheel
- Replace it with the longer bolt-on hub, tightening in place of the nut
- Ensure the trailer ball arm is lined up properly
- Insert the securing pin or clip
- Attach the safety strap as a backup
Bolt-on couplers are super secure, but do require some mechanics skills to install. Make sure to test thoroughly and check that the trailer sits level before your first ride.
Another option is to use a clamp that mounts to your bike’s chainstay rather than the axle. The clamp acts as the attachment point for the trailer hitch.
To install a chainstay mount coupler:
- Position the clamp on the chainstay and tighten in place
- Ensure the clamp is secure and properly aligned
- Insert the trailer hitch arm into the clamp socket
- Attach safety clip and strap as needed
Chainstay mounts work on most frames and don’t require removing your wheel. Just be sure your chainstay has a flat enough section to securely clamp the trailer piece.
Seat Post Hitch
Attaching a coupler collar to your seat post is another easy and versatile coupler alternative. There are many seat post hitch options from brands like WeeRide and Burley.
To mount a seat post trailer hitch:
- Loosen the seat collar on your seat post
- Slide the hitch clamp in place and tighten the collar securely
- Insert the trailer hitch arm and secure with a pin or clip
- Test for stability before riding
Seat post hitches work on almost any bike frame style and are super easy to install. Just be sure to check compatibility for your specific trailer model.
DIY Coupler Option
Feeling handy? You can definitely DIY your own coupler using some basic hardware parts and metal tubing if you have the skills and tools.
Here’s an overview of how to make a DIY bike trailer coupler:
- Gather necessary supplies – metal tubing, hose clamps, bolts, washers, ball trailer hitch piece
- Cut the tubing to size and drill holes to bolt on the trailer ball
- Cut a middle section of tubing and drill holes on each end
- Use hose clamps to attach the middle tubing section to the bike’s seat stay
- Test and tighten all connections, checking for stability
With some mechanical know-how and the right parts, fabricating your own DIY coupler is absolutely doable. Just be sure to thoroughly test it before towing precious cargo.
Certain bike styles like disc brakes or thru-axles can create compatibility issues for some trailer couplers.
If your bike has:
- Disc brakes – you may need an adapter to ensure proper spacing from the rotor to the coupler
- 12 mm thru-axle – will require a special thru-axle compatible coupler
- Quick release axle – can use standard quick release couplers
Always check that the coupler or adapter suits your particular bike axle and frame style. And be sure the coupler works with your trailer brand – some are brand specific.
Safety Best Practices
While riding without a proper coupler can be done, it’s crucial to take extra precautions. Here are some key tips:
- Carefully test the trailer attachment stability before your first ride
- Start off slowly, taking corners with caution
- Ask a friend to watch for swaying as you ride
- Avoid heavy loads or high speeds until you’ve tested thoroughly
- Tighten bolts and clamps regularly to ensure security
Take the time to dial in a secure fit and assess the handling before relying on your DIY coupler for important trips.
With all the coupler options out there – bolt-on axle mounts, seat post hitches, chainstay clamps and even DIY rigs, you’ve got plenty of ways to securely attach your trailer if you don’t have the standard coupler.
Always prioritize safety by thoroughly testing your setup before hitting the road. And invest in a compatible, high-quality coupler when possible for the most secure ride. But in a pinch, with some mechanical skills and the right hardware, rigging up your own road-safe coupler is totally doable.
Now get out and enjoy the ride with your bike and trailer – coupler or not! Just take those corners slow and steady. Let us know how your DIY coupler works out!
Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.