The Water Trolley

Note: The contents of this page were derived from this blog post. However, this page is kept up to date with my current setup and practices.

I used to spend two weekends per year working behind the scenes in support of two bicycling events. 🙂  My local bicycling club, the Peninsula Bicycling Association (PBA), hosts two major events each year, “Pedal for the Pig” in May and the “Surry Century” in September. I started driving a support vehicle (aka “SAG” vehicle) instead of cycling these events in 2012 as a way to serve the club. It became a tradition for me; I even served as SAG coordinator from 2013 to 2016. SAG vehicles patrol the roads to retrieve riders with mechanical failures or those whose day just isn’t going as well as they had hoped. SAG drivers used to shuttle water as needed as a secondary duty, which became more of a challenge as our events grew. Eventually, I took control of ALL water delivery so that I could eliminate gaps in our event’s water supply.

What was my process for making this work, especially with a compact car? PBA has 25 water coolers. I would clean, bleach, rinse, and dry the coolers after each event. I inspected them thoroughly before each event when I was preparing to fill-up. I’d load my “baby trailer” with 12 full water coolers the evening before the event, which were filled with a dedicated RV water hose and inline filter. Contrary to popular belief, water coolers are NOT watertight and will leak as water sloshes during transport. Therefore, the 13 remaining coolers rode empty inside the car and got filled on site (I traveled with the hose and inline filter mentioned above).

Large amounts of ice had proven very popular on hot days. I used an “ice house” that dispenses freshly bagged ice near my home as well as a second ice house near the venues. I would carry ~225 lbs of bagged ice in extra-large ice chests that rode on top of the water coolers in the trailer. I’d carry another 150 lbs of ice in a pair of rental ice chests that rode on a Yakima OffGrid cargo basket. Once on site, I had the option to carry another 260 lbs by loading each of the 13 empty interior water coolers with 20 lbs of ice. Loading the interior coolers with ice instead of water minimized the chances of getting anything wet inside the car.

I would leave my house before 5:00am, drop off coolers and ice at the first rest stop, then go to the venue to drop-off more ice and coolers. Once the other rest stops were  stocked, I would then move the empty water coolers to the trailer, fill them with water at the venue, then deliver them to the rest stops. As rest stops closed for the day, I’d move the leftover coolers to other locations to avoid shortages. The rest stops were over-watered, even with 350 riders on the roads. No one ran dry on my watch.  🙂

What was the total strain on my little car? The load on the roof was less than 100 lbs, the interior water coolers (with ice) weighed ~325 lbs, and the trailer’s tongue was ~150 lbs. That’s well under the car’s GVWR. The 12 filled water coolers on the trailer totaled ~540 lbs. Adding that and ~350 lbs of ice to the weight of the trailer results in a total load of ~1450 lbs, which is below Volkswagen’s 1500-lb threshold for unbraked trailers.

My car has plenty of power and torque, an upgraded clutch, and powerful brakes. Therefore, this relatively light load is not over-stressing anything. A truck may have greater capacity, but I don’t need the full-time penalty of owning a truck for the part-time benefit of having one available. The car and trailer did a great job! The combination was also more maneuverable than a truck and still averaged ~25 mpg throughout its typical 250-mile day of support driving during the event. Also, the trailer’s ultra-low deck made loading and unloading a cinch. It was probably the coolest water trolley ever! But I’m biased.  😉  See the album below for more photos. See this video for a walk-around of the setup.

“That’s Some High Quality H2O!” [/Bobby Boucher voice]


Here are my different setups, starting with the latest first and going backwards to the oldest…