The Traverse City Bike Plow: A DIY Instructional
Below is a How-To instructional written by Bob Otwell, NORTE! board member, former executive director at TART and master bike plow builder. We hope this will help others in TC and elsewhere bring the awesomeness of bike-powered snowplowing to their neighborhood.
Traverse City Bike-Powered Snow Plow Efforts
by Bob Otwell
Following is a short description, photos, and parts list for two different types of bike plows that we have been using so far this year. All of the materials can found at the local hardware stores except the ball joint for the hitch, and the wheels. This is still an experimental program and these plows can be improved, be creative. More photos of our plows can be found HERE.
We use two different types of hitches – use whatever you can to attach the plow linkage to the bike. One hitch we use is modeled after a simple hitch designed to pull bike trailers. It will fit most bikes, with quick-release or threaded axles. The hitch is placed on the left side of the rear wheel.
We also recently started using a hitch from Kanner Karts. They’ve been working great so far this winter.
2. Link to plow
We link the hitch to the plow with two links, the first is a length of ½” electrical conduit bent as shown to encompass the rear wheel. Use a 2” x 3/8” bolt and three nuts plus lock washer as shown. Tighten the 3 nuts as you compress the conduit. The bolt then goes into the ball joint, and uses another nut to secure the link to the ball joint. The second link we are using on the wedge plows is a length of 1” x ¼” steel, which is bolted to the conduit, and then to the plow, with ¼” U bolts, washers and nuts.
Link to ball joint
Bend the link to accommodate right turns and fatbikes.
The Auer Wedge
Dr. Tom Auer, TART Board member and community health advocate, came up with this simple plow design. It is effective, quiet, durable and inexpensive. It is based on two, 2-foot long push brooms. Simply cut the ends of the two brooms at a 30-degree angle so the two brooms fit together at a 60-degree angle, which is the leading edge of the plow. The two brushes are then bolted to a piece of plywood that is 24” on each of three sides, to form a triangle. Use two 2” by ¼” bolts to hold each broom to the plywood. We have used a piece of 2” X 2” wood or 1” by 1/8” steel for the tongue. If you use the steel, need to twist it 90 degrees to attach to 2nd link. We have also used a few variations of plastic for the sides. The primary purpose of the plastic is to make the plow taller so that snow does not travel over the wedge, but gets pushed to the side. About 4” extending above the plywood seems to work. The blue plastic on the first wedge we made was just a cut up 5-gallon pail.
Auer Wedge parts list:
2-foot long push brooms
2’ x 2’ x 2’ piece of ½ inch plywood
2” x ¼” bolt – four of these
2” x 2” wood or 1” x 1/8” tongue piece, about 18 inches long
Plastic for the sides walls, and screws to attach to broom
Bottom of Auer Wedge
Two existing wedges with different tongues and plastic sides
Dave Peterson, an engineer with Fermi Lab in Illinois, developed a wheeled plow over the past decade. Dr. Auer took his design to a local wood shop and had one made last winter. This winter I slightly re-designed the plow to keep similar operational features, but make it simpler to build with common hand tools. The 1st plow made was 18” wide; our second plow is 24” wide.
Wheeled Plow parts list:
12″ x 48″ piece of shower board
3 wheels – 100 mm – Razor Scooter
10 feet of 2” x 4” wood
6 feet of 1” x 1/8” flat steel
1 piece of ½” plywood, about 18” square
Phillips head, 2 1/4” x 6 course thread dry wall screws, about 20 of them
1 ½” screws (T-25 head) – 15 of them, with 8 large washers
5/16” threaded rod – 16 – 18 inches long for rear axle
2 ½ ” x 5/16” bolt with washers and nuts for front axle
2 ½” x ¼” bolt with washers and nuts – two of these to hold front axle support
2” x ½” steel brackets- two of these to hold rear axle
The plow geometry is somewhat complicated, a 60-degree point to the plow in the direction of travel, and the two sides slope up at 45 degrees from the ground, then curve up to 90 degrees. I have two photos with some of these angles and dimensions shown. The plow is generally a 2’ x 2’ x 2’ triangle.
I started by cutting the two lower 2 x 4’s with a 45-degree side angle along the length, and then a 30-degree front edge where they combine like the brushes to form a 60-degree leading edge. I then attached the front piece, and the two cross pieces. About 9 inches of the front piece is cut to accept the front wheel. Then attach the rear axle and wheels. I put a piece of PVC between the wheels as a spacer, and bent a bracket around the rear axle, to be attached to the lower board (see photo). Use nuts and washers on the outside of the wheels to hold them in the proper place. Attach plywood cover piece with two 10 inch pieces of 2” x 4” attached on top. The front axle is supported by 4 pieces of flat steel as shown in photo. I set the wheels so the blades are about ¼” from the ground. The plastic and lower steel edge is the last thing added.
Side view with plastic off
We encourage you to build a bike plow and start clearing your neighborhood sidewalks/trails the awesome way. We only ask that you use bike plow to “foster the growth of youth as cyclists” as Dave Peterson asked. And maybe consider a $5 donation to NORTE! for these instructions, too. You can donate via Paypal HERE.
Read more about our Traverse City Bike Plow efforts:
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.