Tow hitch for The Fire Bike, part 2 – 26 Jun 2016.

Well, late the other evening, I had a phone call from Eifion at Tobruk Engineering to say that my new pannier frame/towing bracket was ready. I set off the next day on The Fire Bike to fit it at his works. It’s only 20 minutes each way but, before I got very far, the heavens opened and we had a welly-filler of a shower so I had to don all my waterproof gear.

I was impressed with the workmanship. Eifion has produced a copy of the original pannier bracket but in steel bar instead of tubing. He has added the lower strengthening points as we agreed but not the upper diagonal braces as he felt it was strong enough already. Having seen the finished article I am inclined to agree. At the back, of course is the 6mm thick plate to take the tow ball.

We offered the bracket up to the bike and it bolted straight on. Quite a bit of time had been spent getting it right. It’s not just the welding. All the bends, brackets and mounting points had to be accurate. Eifion built a jig first using the original rack and got everything spot on.

It wasn’t so wet on the way home but somehow the bike and I ended up filthy. It looks like we were covered in wet sand. Within half an hour of getting the bike in the garage, the new frame had begun to rust – Welsh rain and sea air!

Of course I had to offer the trailer up to the bike to see how everything would sit. By now the sun was shining in through the windows.

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Once again I got my wife to measure the height of the tow hitch while I balanced on the bike. After adding on the height of the tow ball, I calculated that the distance from ground to the mid point of the ball was 388mm. This is 23mm higher than I had worked out originally (365mm). This actually makes things better as we get closer to the 35mm difference I had been aiming for. Trailer coupling height of 420mm less bike tow ball height is 32mm. That’s good enough for me.

I fitted the panniers to the new rack after making rubber pads to go between the pannier boxes and brackets as all but one was missing. The panniers fitted straight on.

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Now everything had to come apart again so that I could paint the new bracket. Being made of steel bar it’s heavier than the original rack but, surprisingly, not that much.

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The following day I had to drive past the works to do the supermarket shopping and called in to pick up my original rack. Here are the two together for comparison. You can see the extra bracing between the lower loops of the framework.

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Since then I have spent an hour rubbing the metalwork down with emery cloth before giving my new bracket two coats of red Hammerite Smooth paint.

Painting that thing wasn’t very easy. I put a threaded rod through the two front mountings to give me something to hold on to and then clamped it in the vice by the tow ball plate. That meant I could paint everything apart from the plate and turn it round to get to the other side.

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While the paint was still new and a bit soft I scraped off the paint that had got onto the tow ball mounting plate. This was so I wouldn’t get a line when I painted that part. That last bit then got its two coats of paint as well.

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I’ll need to leave the paint to harden before trying to fit the rack to the bike and even longer before I try and rub the runs down – oops. In the meantime I’ll have to make the electrical connections and will be back with part 3 soon. The colour of the Hammerite isn’t far off the bikes original but it’s a bit too orange.

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