Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Attaching an umbrella to a bakfiets

Update: This worked great until my wife took a ride on a really windy day and the umbrella blew inside out with a strong cross-wind. Still working on an alternative.

I bought a rain cover for my bakfiets when I ordered it, and it's great in the winter because it keeps all the wind out so my son stays warm. But in the summer, it's like a greenhouse and just cooks in there. Unfortunately, I have to use it a lot in the summer because there's a good chance of thunderstorms everyday in Colorado.

My first thought was to add zippers on both sides of the canopy like a tent and just leave the sides rolled down unless it's raining (see picture below with cude red line where the zipper would go). I went to a local gear sewing/modification shop and they quoted me $100 per zipper, so I scrapped that idea.

I also thought of building a frame and somehow attaching a cover over just the top, but then I remembered a cool umbrella video I saw awhile ago. So I ordered a Senz smart stick umbrella off amazon and figured I could find a way to attach it once it showed up. After brainstorming in my garage for a bit, I came up with a pretty simple PVC piping holder that uses the bobike mini for attachment. Here's the end result:

For parts, I found that 1 1/4" PVC tubing fits the umbrella handle well, so that's what I went with.
  • 1 1/4" PVC tubing
  • 1" PVC tubing (to fit inside the 1 1/4" tubing)
  • 1 1/4"  tee (Home Depot was out of tees, so I got a cross and hacksawed off one port)
  • two 1 1/4" 90 degree angles
  • 1/4-20 all thread
  • 1/4" nuts
  • umbrella
  • set screw, thumb screw, or wing nut screw
  • hacksaw, wrenches, measuring tape, marker, PVC glue, drill, drill bit

I assembled the PVC parts in this shape, selecting the lengths to set the right angle and get a tight fit in the bucket. The separate length of 1" PVC goes inside the main vertical tube.

 Here the PVC is sitting in the bucket, ready for the umbrella. The main tube is held upright by the allthread inserted in holes in the bobike mini leg bars. This won't work if you have the foot rests all the way up, so in that case you might have to use cable or zip ties.

It works pretty well without gluing the PVC, so I could have left it just press fit together, but I ended up gluing all the joints since I had the PVC glue lying around. You can't see it in any pictures, but I dropped a length of the 1" PVC pipe down the main umbrella holder tube to act as a spacer and set the height of the umbrella.

Here it is with the umbrella inserted. I added a 1/4-20 wing nut screw that presses into the umbrella handle to keep the umbrella pointing forward since unlike most umbrellas, senz umbrellas have a front and back.

During the week when I'm riding to and from daycare in the morning and evening, I just leave the umbrella out of the tube and lying in the bucket as my backup rain cover. On the weekends I tend to use it as a sun shade because we usually end up riding in the middle of the day.

It's easiest to remove the umbrella to get my son in and out. Since I'm always using the wing nut screw, I'll probably eventually replace it with a large thumb screw that's easier to turn. And probably choosing a thread that is more coarse than 1/4-20 would be better. I'm also going to be on the lookout for good padding to add over the PVC tube.