Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

Surly Bill Trailer

We recently ordered and built a Surly Bikes cargo trailer for a customer. This one is the so called Bill trailer. The shorter Surly trailer is the Ted. In typical Surly fashion these trailers are way better than they need to be. The beds and the hitch are made mainly of TIG welded 4130 ChroMoly steel. 304 stainless steel hardware is used where appropriate.

There are two sealed cartridge bearings on each wheel.

The trailers and the hitch are sold separately. The hitch will work with almost any bike by simply replacing the stock quick release skewer or thread on nuts with Surly’s proprietary parts. Surly’s own Ogre and Troll bike frames have a threaded hole in the rear dropout made to accept a 10×1 threaded bolt and the Surly hitch mount nuts.  The hitch and yoke assembly retails for $299.00. The Bill trailer retails for $750.00 and the Ted goes for $650.00

The Surly crew cultivates an impression of being a bunch of beer swilling louts and rad bro’s, but their engineers are top notch and these guys obviously ride bikes…a lot. And they actually use what they sell. It’s surprising to me and it bugs me when some manufacturers bring bikes or parts to market and the bike or part does not work as expected or advertised because of a minor, or not so minor, design flaw which could have been flagged and worked out if the the item had been ridden and used before being marketed. Here’s what makes me think these trailers were used in the real world before being sold:

You see the bent piece of flat steel bolted to the frame and to the end of the wheel guard mount? I couldn’t figure out what that was for. It obviously is not structural. Then I took the trailer for a spin and when I was rolling it back in through the front door the piece of flat steel hit the door jamb and neatly kept the wheel from smacking into it which would have resulted in a jolt. I’m guessing that actually happened the first time someone took one of these out.

The articulating arm and adjustable sleeve at the trailer attachment make it possible to get the trailer level on any bike.

A compound knuckle joint connects the hitch to the yoke.

The fingers on the ends of the hitch are troughed to cradle the sealed bearing which is part of the attachment nut secured to the bike. The needle thumb screw holds it in place.

These trailers obviously are not suitable for bike touring and that is not the intention. But on the days when we miss the UPS driver and my Bob Yak is overloaded with boxes to ship I think one of these would be nice. The customer who bought this trailer is a carpenter. It would be fantastic to see him going down the road with an air compressor and a dozen two-by-fours strapped onto the the deck. Made for people who are serious about Using (with a capital U) their bicycles, these trailers are designed and made to last for a very long time.

6 comments… add one
  • Douglas Coulter April 4, 2013, 9:18 pm

    I have been touring around the USA with 200 plus lb loads since 2005. The only problem with heavy loads is brakes on steep descents. Most bikes are not up to this and my own Greenspeed GTO with disc brakes is often put to the test. I burn through Avid BB7 pads in a few thousand miles.

    • david woodward March 19, 2014, 8:16 am

      BB7 pads are much less expensive than the rims I punish with a similar load and V-brakes. I’m switching to a set of Shimano hydraulic disk brakes in the Spring (winter means salt and early death for such parts). Love the trailer, though. Safe riding!

    • David Klug April 14, 2016, 10:10 am

      Hi Douglas,

      I have been pulling my new Bill around for about two months now (max load I’ve carried 100lb) and I continue to have an issue that I’m wondering if you’ve also encountered. Due to the pulling angle and resulting moment applied to the hitch when I turn left, the drive side hitch arm will rotate up slightly causing the hitch to end up askew. I have tried tightening the two bolts on the hitch arm, but it doesn’t seem to prevent it from happening. Have you encountered this problem, and if so, how did you remedy it?



  • david woodward March 19, 2014, 8:12 am

    You’re spot on about the Bill and Ted – have been using the Bill and “Dummy” hitch (works with both) from Surly and my only regret is that I didn’t buy one when they were still made in the US. But the one I’ve used is a good example of why Taiwanese manufacturers are competitive for quality as well as cost. It’s a really sturdy trailer, and no-one else makes anything like it. You’re right about touring – except it could be the support vehicle (with a head start on the tour group 😉 Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. dw.machen@gmail.com

  • Shane September 19, 2016, 11:43 am

    Is the hitch compatible with a Scram Dual Drives Clicker box?

    • Bike Hermit® September 19, 2016, 5:33 pm

      Wow, I don’t even know what that means. Sorry…… I just looked it up. A cassette bolted onto a three speed hub. Interesting.


Leave a Comment

Cancel reply