The 9 Best Bike Trailers for Kids

Our kid testers loved this trailer!
Looking for a bike trailer that will squire your kids around town in style while providing protection and convenience? To find the best option for you, we looked at 30 different models and selected nine of the best for hands-on testing. We rode over 500 miles with them, swapping between trailers for crosstown missions and rug-rat-hauling field tests. Then we brought them into the lab. Here, we set up an accelerometer to measure how each trailer takes on rough terrain like broken up pavement and curbs. Some offer your child a much smoother ride than others. We also rated the overall experience that each trailer offers both the pedaler and passenger, including how well each held up to a sprinkler test. Looking to haul less precious cargo? See our bike cargo trailer tests.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Joanna Trieger
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
April 19, 2018

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Updated April 2018
We just added the Hamax Outback Multi-Sport trailer to our review, and it quickly became our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride thanks to its plush passenger cabin and excellent suspension. However, it couldn't quite match the high scores of our Editor's Choice, the Burley D'Lite. Get the details about both trailers, as well as the seven additional models we tested, below.

Best Overall Bike Trailer


Burley D'Lite


Weight: 28.4 pounds | Converts to Stroller: Yes

Great safety features
Versatile
Easy to set up and tow
Comfortable for passengers
Not watertight
Noisy parking brake

The D'Lite was at or near the top of the pack for every metric we tested, and we can't think of a single application where it wouldn't excel, except maybe in a true downpour. Its safety features impressed us, with a comprehensive roll cage, UV-repellent windows, substantial ventilation and a secure, padded five-point harness. We loved Burley's hitch mechanism because it makes it easy to connect the trailer to the bike and provides a stable, lurch-free towing experience. Our passenger testers were "d'lited" with the D'Lite's comfort, smooth ride quality, and ample interior storage pockets. The D'Lite is outstandingly versatile — not only do its seats lie flat to accommodate dogs, oversized cargo and anything else you want to tow, but it has optional strolling, jogging and cross-country ski kits for multisport families.

The D'Lite does have its drawbacks, even if we had to squint pretty hard to find them. It's not totally watertight, so all-weather riders in wet climates may want to look into a model with better rain protection. It also has a parking brake that rattles when you ride, which can get annoying on otherwise serene trails. Still, if you're in the market for a trailer that does everything well and most things best, look no further than the Burley D'Lite.

Read review: Burley D'Lite

Best Bang for the Buck


Burley Bee


Weight: 20.0 pounds | Converts to Stroller: No

Feather-light
Rainproof
Excellent value
No suspension
Unpadded passenger area
Bottom fabric may rip
Not versatile

If you're hunting for a high-quality, user-friendly trailer that won't sting your wallet, we recommend our Best Bang for the Buck, the Burley Bee. With an MSRP of $299, the Bee is less than half the price of our Editors' Choice award winner, the Burley D'Lite, but it has many of the same great safety features and is just as simple to set up, attach and tow. The Bee is the lightest trailer we tested but has the largest cargo space, so it's a great option for commutes or running errands around town.

The passenger experience in the Bee is pretty basic, with unpadded seats and no suspension, and this is a single-function trailer with no strolling or multisport conversion kits available. There were also a few design features in the Bee that could lead to unnecessary wear, such as a fabric bottom that tends to rip if rested on the ground too often. But if you already have a stroller or a jogger and you're looking for a nimble, fun and relatively inexpensive entry into biking with kids, the Burley Bee is a great buy.

Read review: Burley Bee

Top Pick for Athletes


Thule Chariot Cross


Thule Chariot Cross
Top Pick Award

$758.95
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

Weight: 32.0 pounds | Converts to Stroller: Yes

Made for rugged use
Totally rainproof
Quick to set up
Comfortable passenger area
Relatively high weight
Very high price

The Thule Chariot Cross may have been knocked off the Editors' Choice pedestal by the Burley D'Lite, but make no mistake: This is an outstanding bike trailer with a range of ability and a thoughtfulness of design that will keep any family satisfied. The Cross is durable enough to handle very rugged terrain, and its rain cover keeps passengers and belongings completely dry, even in downpour conditions. Its seats are comfortable, its harness straps are easy to adjust, and it's delightfully easy to set up when you're ready to ride.

The Chariot Cross is not a light trailer, so parents and kid-wranglers will need iron legs to pull it up hills. It's not light on your wallet either, so those who aren't sure if they're going to be biking with kids often, or whose kids will soon be past towing age, may want to look elsewhere. That said, if you have a highly active family and are looking for a trailer that will bring you quality time with your young ones while sticking to your training plan, the Thule Chariot Cross is the one for you.

Read review: Thule Chariot Cross

Top Pick for a Comfy Ride


Hamax Outback Multi-Sport


Top Pick Award

$649.00
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 44.0 pounds | Converts to Stroller: Yes

Spacious passenger area
Comfortable seats
Versatile interior
Extremely heavy
Occasional sloppy design
Large when folded

The Hamax Outback is new to our review in 2018, and elements of this trailer impressed us enough to earn it our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride. Passengers in the Outback are in for a treat: They'll enjoy wide, comfortable seats, a secure footwell design that makes it easy to climb in and out, big windows to take in the view, and a smooth ride thanks to an adjustable suspension system. Like the Burley D'Lite, the Hamax also has seats that can unclip to lie flat, so you can tow just about anything in its roomy interior. Our friends over at BabyGearLab also really liked the Outback in its jogger guise.

While the Outback has its upsides, we have to weigh the negatives as well — literally. This trailer weighs a ton, so the biker pulling it is in for a tough workout. Its weight is enough to limit its versatility, since carrying large loads is infeasible with such a heavy product. Some aspects of this trailer's design are also a challenge, from a crucial zipper that's lacking a stop, to its unwieldy size when folded. But if you're not too concerned about weight or slick design and you just want the plushest possible ride for your little ones, the Hamax Outback might be the right choice.

Read review: Hamax Outback Multi-Sport Bike Trailer

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
92
$689
Editors' Choice Award
The D'Lite scored at the top of the pack in every metric we tested and provides unrivaled protection for passengers and outstanding versatility.
89
$1,050
Top Pick Award
Those willing to tow the weight of the Chariot Cross will be rewarded with an exquisitely designed trailer that can handle all terrain and weather conditions.
84
$850
The Chariot Lite may be the less fancy sibling of the Chariot Cross, but it's still one of the safest and most user-friendly products we tested.
80
$299
Best Buy Award
The Bee is light and easy to use and delivers the durability and design quality Burley is known for at a bargain price.
76
$799
Top Pick Award
Kid passengers will love this well-cushioned, roomy trailer, but their parents may have a tough time pulling so much weight.
56
$300
The most basic trailer in the Thule line, the Cadence is lightweight and rain-resistant but doesn't provide a very cushy experience for passengers.
54
$200
The Allen Sports Steel is a solid, affordable option for parents seeking an entry-level bike trailer for occasional in-town use.
46
$140
The Take 2 is an inexpensive option for parents who want to roll with their kids but don't want to break the bank.
40
$299
We were impressed with the weeGo's safety features and roominess, but found it difficult to set up and too bulky to tow easily.

Analysis and Test Results


We started with eight of the most popular bike trailers for kids and rode them daily for three months in a side-by-side test. We've been watching the market, and these models are still the best in the field. But we were also curious about another popular option, the Hamax Outback. So we put it through the same rigorous testing to see how it stacked up.

Trailer testing is a rough job  but somebody has to do it. Here  our passenger tester is stoked to go for a ride in the Burley Bee.
Trailer testing is a rough job, but somebody has to do it. Here, our passenger tester is stoked to go for a ride in the Burley Bee.

We weighted each testing metric according to its contribution to the kid-towing experience, then used our weighted ratings to score each trailer on a scale from 1-100, as shown above.The right trailer for your family isn't necessarily the one at the top of the chart. Below, we analyze how all the products performed in each metric and discuss where each stood out.

Value


Price matters, but if you want to get the most out of your trailer and enjoy tons of riding options, we think you'll get more value by springing for a suspension model. The more pleasant experience will encourage you to use it more often, lowering the cost per ride over time. The Burley D'Lite is our top recommendation for its stellar performance at a reasonable price point.


But the most incredible value award goes to the Burley Bee. For $300, the Bee gets you the quality design and durability that comes with the Burley brand for less than half the price of the D'Lite. It's true that the Bee isn't as plush for passengers as the D'Lite, but it's a fantastically easy trailer to set up and tow. It also has solid safety features and is light enough to remain useful as an around-town cargo trailer long after your kids are grown. Each trailers' scores are compared to its price in the chart above. The Bee is in the sweet spot in the lower righthand corner.

The Thule Chariot Cross and its little sibling the Thule Chariot Lite are on the pricier side. If you're going to spend that kind of money, go all out and get the Chariot Cross. The Cross has strategically padded seats that recline individually, an adjustable suspension system and a rain-proof cargo pouch. Either one is a serious investment, so we think you might as well invest in the best.

Even in a super-secure trailer like the Thule Chariot Cross  children being towed should be at least one year old and should always be wearing a helmet.
Even in a super-secure trailer like the Thule Chariot Cross, children being towed should be at least one year old and should always be wearing a helmet.

Protection


Keeping kids safe is a top priority, so we considered passenger protection to be our most important rating metric. All of the trailers we tested meet the minimum requirements set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), but some treat those standards as a baseline and layer on more extensive safety features. We considered factors like roll cage coverage, overall construction quality, harness effectiveness, rain and sun protection, ventilation, and suspension as we evaluated each product in this category.

Towing children under one year of age in a bike trailer is not recommended and is illegal in some states. According to our friends at BabyGearLab and pediatrician Dr. Juliet Spurrier, children younger than one-year-old simply do not have the neck strength to take part in running or biking activities. Their brain development is too fragile to handle the inevitable jostling that comes from being towed in a trailer. Even at 12 months and older, children should always wear a properly fitted helmet while riding in a trailer, and the trailer should at a minimum meet the standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (as do all the products we tested).

We performed tests and observed our (appropriately aged) passenger testers to determine which model offers the smoothest ride. However, we do not recommend even the smoothest ride in the safest trailer for children younger than one, and we never recommend towing a child that's not wearing a well-fitted helmet.

A note about helmets and head position


Even though the Thule Chariot Lite doesn't have pleats behind the passenger's head  she still maintains a comfortable head and neck position.
Even though the Thule Chariot Lite doesn't have pleats behind the passenger's head, she still maintains a comfortable head and neck position.
All manufacturers recommend that passengers wear a helmet while riding in a trailer. We agree. In the past, we were disappointed that trailers didn't always easily accommodate helmets. The seat backs tended to be relatively straight, so a bulky helmet would push a kid's head forward uncomfortably. Manufacturers seem to have taken note, and, in most of the models we tested, our passengers maintained a comfortable head and neck position with a helmet. Some seat backs, like the ones in the Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee, have expandable pleats behind the passenger's head specifically to make space for a helmet. Other trailers, like the Thule Chariots, have a more reclined overall seat position so a helmet doesn't push the head forward. The Hamax Outback has a removable pad behind the passenger's head, so this can be taken out if helmet bulk is a problem.



Suspension


As you can see in the video above, some trailers are better than others at providing a smooth ride over rough patches. We found that the adjustable suspension systems in the Hamax Outback, the Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Cross absorbed a lot of the bumps in the trail, making them a passenger favorite on gravel roads. None of the other models we tested had built-in suspension, and we found that we had to slow way down and ride cautiously to avoid bouncing our passengers around in the non-suspended trailers. If you're going to be doing extensive off-road riding, investing in a model with a suspension system is a good idea and will keep your kid passengers much more comfortable.

To test the trailers' suspension, we simulated riding with a 6-9-month-old child. That's the minimum manufacturer-recommended age for bike trailer passengers. But, again, our BabyGearLab friends don't recommend towing children under one year. To do so, we loaded a single 20-pound bump-test-dummy into the trailer and used a hardtail mountain bike to test each trailer under virtually identical conditions.

20" wheels and an adjustable suspension system make the D'Lite easy to tow and comfortable for passengers.
20" wheels and an adjustable suspension system make the D'Lite easy to tow and comfortable for passengers.

We conducted two tests: one was a visual assessment of shock absorption, and the other was a quantitative measurement of acceleration over a series of bumps on asphalt. For the visual test, we mounted a rear-facing camera to the seat post and towed the trailers over a series of bumps at controlled speeds while filming the test dummy. The amount of jostling was much lower in trailers with suspensions than those without suspensions. You can check out the results of our visual test in the video above.

To measure suspension performance, we mounted an iPhone with an accelerometer app to the test dummy and towed the trailers over several prominent bumps at identical speeds. The primary purpose of this trial was to obtain quantitative results that we could compare with the results of our visual test. The test also demonstrates how the jostling in a bike trailer has the potential to affect a 6-9-month-old child. Again, we do not recommend towing a child younger than 12-months in a trailer.

This chart highlights the performance of each contender in our peak acceleration tests  which we conducted using an iPhone and accelerometer app. These results are an indication of how jostled our dummy baby was during testing; lower numbers are better.
This chart highlights the performance of each contender in our peak acceleration tests, which we conducted using an iPhone and accelerometer app. These results are an indication of how jostled our dummy baby was during testing; lower numbers are better.

This test answered a few of our key questions about trailer suspension systems. Here's a summary of our findings:
  • You get what you pay for — Yes, the substantial price jump (from around $300 to between $650 and $1,000) to a suspension trailer provides measurable benefits in shock absorption and ride smoothness. The peak acceleration of our test dummy was typically more than two times greater in trailers that did not have suspensions.
  • Some suspension designs are better than others — The Thule Chariot Cross has a much more supple suspension than both the Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Lite. The Hamax Outback also offers a superior ride. The difference is noticeable but not too significant. Any one of these three trailers offers a far better ride than a trailer with no suspension. The Thule Chariot Cross and Burley D'Lite both have adjustable suspensions, which enable users to adjust spring stiffness based upon passenger weight.
  • Is it worth spending more to get a better suspension? — Yes, we believe it is worth paying more to stack the deck towards safety and comfort in the event of an unexpected pothole or bump in the road, especially if the passenger is on the younger end of the recommended age range.

How fast do you need to book it home when it looks like rain? We've got the answers.
How fast do you need to book it home when it looks like rain? We've got the answers.

Weather


We soaked each of the trailers with a sprinkler to test their rainy day chops. We placed the sprinkler head specifically to mimic road slick coming up off the bike's back tire since this sludge tends to make its way under their front covers. The Thule Chariots won this test with ease. Both feature a rain shield that covers the entire front and top of the trailer. Fasteners also direct runoff to the exterior of the trailer, like wearing rain pants over the top of rain boots. By contrast, none of the other models have rain covers that stretch over their tops, so saturation in heavy rain is inevitable.

The Burley Bee stood up great in our 5-minute sprinkler challenge  but it's not quite as bomber as the Thule Chariot models.
The Burley Bee stood up great in our 5-minute sprinkler challenge, but it's not quite as bomber as the Thule Chariot models.

The Burley Bee, Thule Cadence, and the Burley D'Lite remained relatively dry inside throughout our rain test and would be okay for a prolonged ride in drizzle, but we don't think they'd stay completely dry for more than 15 minutes of heavy rain. Among the higher-end trailers, the Hamax Outback stood out for how poorly it performed in this area. After five minutes under the sprinkler, the Outback's footwell had been soaked from underneath thanks to a small canvas patch at the front of the trailer, and there was enough seepage through the top of the trailer to partially soak the seats. The Outback could probably keep passengers dry through a light drizzle, but not serious rain.

On the other end of the spectrum is the sun. Some trailers go above and beyond to protect children from sun exposure. The Burley D'Lite has an adjustable sunshade, UPF 30 windows, and proper ventilation with a mesh-covered window in the back to encourage air flow. The Thule Chariots also did well here, with an even larger adjustable sunshade and mesh backing behind the passengers' heads for ventilation. The while the sunshade on the Hamax Outback isn't adjustable, the trailer does feature great ventilation and UPF 30 windows.


Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite, took the top spot in the protection category. The D'Lite features a full aluminum roll cage, including extra framing to protect against side impacts, with a handlebar that folds down during rides to provide even more top-side protection. It has UPF 30 windows and an adjustable sunshade, and it's well-ventilated for rides on hot days. Its suspension dampens the ride, and its rain performance is acceptable. The Hamax Outback and the Thule Chariot models gave the D'Lite a run for its money in this category, but they scored just slightly lower because their frames didn't include side-impact protection. The Weehoo weeGo and the Burley Bee had well-developed roll cages combined with secure harnesses, both are safety standouts.

The basic safety features in the lower cost models like the Thule Cadence could work for you if you'll mostly take short rides on mellow bike paths.
The basic safety features in the lower cost models like the Thule Cadence could work for you if you'll mostly take short rides on mellow bike paths.

Safety and kid protection are obviously important considerations in every trailer purchase, but the need for additional protective elements varies based on the type of rides you plan on doing. If you're not planning to do anything more rigorous than short rides over smooth secondary roads to the neighborhood park, some may consider it overkill to insist on a full roll cage. The trailers that scored lowest in this category, the Allen Sports Steel, the InStep Take 2, and the Thule Cadence all meet ASTM requirements and can still be great options for mellow applications.

The Hamax Outback has super plush seat pads  a flat  rubberized foot well  and a roomy interior. Result? Our passenger is stoked.
The Hamax Outback has super plush seat pads, a flat, rubberized foot well, and a roomy interior. Result? Our passenger is stoked.

Passenger Experience


If your kids aren't happy in the trailer, chances are you're not going to get much use out of it. With that in mind, we took a close look at the way our kid passengers experienced each of the products we tested. We evaluated how easy it is for kids to get in and out of the trailer, how comfortable the seat and harness are, and how much space passengers have. The Hamax Outback won category. It was so good that we dubbed it our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride. The Thule Chariot Cross was also outstanding, with our Editors' Choice, the Burley D'Lite, not far behind.


All of the trailers we tested are stable enough when attached to a bike that kids can climb in and out on their own, but each of them takes a slightly different approach to the design of the entryway and foot well. Our top scorer in this category, the Hamax Outback, is low to the ground and has a firm, flat, rubberized foot well that makes it super easy and stable for little kids to climb in and out by themselves. The lower front panels of the Burley D'Lite, Burley Bee and Allen Sports Steel unclip so that little legs can quickly step up into the trailer. However, the sharply slanting floors of the Burley models make it a harder for kids to find their footing. The Thule Chariots and the Cadence are relatively low to the ground, so while their front panels are fixed and easy for kiddos to navigate. Like the Outback, the Weehoo weeGo provides a flat, rubber-reinforced footwell. The weeGo was a little tippy and unstable for kids to get into, but they find firm footing inside.

Our passenger testers appreciated being able to step easily in and out of the Allen Sports Steel.
Our passenger testers appreciated being able to step easily in and out of the Allen Sports Steel.

Once passengers are in the trailer, comfort is key. Again, the Hamax Outback, the Thule Chariot Cross and the Burley D'Lite shine in this area, with strategically padded seats and harnesses to prevent little bodies from getting sore or chafed, even on long rides. We found the seat and harness pads in the Outback to be the plushest, and each of the pads is removable and machine washable, so inevitable dirt and spills won't become permanent. The Outback also had the widest interior of the trailers we tested, giving little ones plenty of room to relax. Most of the other trailers, including the Burley Bee and the Thule Cadence, have unpadded bench-style seats and unpadded harnesses. A well-adjusted harness — one that holds the child in place but doesn't crush them — is essential for a comfortable ride, and we found the five-point systems in the Hamax Outback and the Thule Chariots to be the easiest to adjust.

Not only do the seats in the Chariot Cross recline  but they can be adjusted separately -- chariot  indeed! This feature is especially useful on the long training rides of the endurance athlete  but it's pretty great for snooze cruises around the block  too.
Not only do the seats in the Chariot Cross recline, but they can be adjusted separately -- chariot, indeed! This feature is especially useful on the long training rides of the endurance athlete, but it's pretty great for snooze cruises around the block, too.

One reason the Thule Chariot Cross scored so highly in the passenger experience category was its impressive adjustable seat feature. Both seats in the Cross can lean back independently of each other, so if one of your passengers is ready for a nap and the other one wants to sit up and see the world, you don't have to compromise. The seat backs in the Burley D'Lite and the Hamax Outback are adjustable, but only as full units, so if one kid relaxes, the other one does, too. The individually adjustable seats of the Cross are probably most useful for users who plan on doing long rides.

At just 20 pounds  the Burley Bee was the lightest trailer in our test group. That low weight and its aerodynamic design made this the easiest trailer to tow.
At just 20 pounds, the Burley Bee was the lightest trailer in our test group. That low weight and its aerodynamic design made this the easiest trailer to tow.

Biker Experience


All of the products we tested will increase your energy expenditure compared to riding a bicycle without a child in tow. However, we did find noteworthy differences in how each model felt to pull. Weight was one of the biggest factors in this category, as was feedback from the trailer to the bike. We also paid close attention to whether the trailers made noise while being towed, how easy they were to tow off-road and on uneven terrain, and how well we could maneuver the bike-and-trailer rig while walking through and around obstacles. Our Best Buy Award winner, the Burley Bee, was a clear favorite in the overall biker experience category, followed closely by our Editors' Choice, the Burley D'Lite. We'll explain why below.


All else being equal, a lighter trailer offers less towing resistance, which means your legs won't be made of jelly when you reach your destination. At a mere 20 pounds, the Burley Bee was the lightest product we tested, and that's a big part of why it cleaned up in this category. Even going uphill with passengers and cargo, we could tow the Bee without shifting into our granny gears. Users will quickly see their legs sculpted to exquisite marble by the hefty Cross, which is part of the reason we named it our Top Pick for Athletes. The Hamax Outback was an outlier in this category with a weight of 44 pounds, which made it a pretty challenging trailer to tow, even with nothing in it. When we added kids, bags, and equipment, the Outback had us struggling on even the mellowest inclines.


Also, consider how much weight you're putting in the trailer. Most can carry up to 100 pounds except the InStep Take 2 (80 pounds) and the Hamax Outback (88 pounds). They are generally suitable for children between 1 and 5 years of age, after which multiple kids start getting too heavy for the trailer (and lots of kids want to ride wheels of their own).

Weehoo iGo Pro
Weehoo iGo Pro

Trailer Alternatives — The Best in Biker and Passenger Experience
If rider experience is at a premium, and your children are old enough, a two-pedal trailer might be the best option. They give the biker a faster and more maneuverable platform and open up trails that are too narrow for a typical trailer. They also engage the child who can choose to pedal, or not. The downside to this option is there is no protective cage and many options do not fold down as easily as standard enclosed bike trailers. We reviewed two models: the WeeRide Co-Pilot is a budget option that has no restraint system. The Weehoo iGo Turbo is a top-of-the-line model with a restraint system, storage, and many accessories, including a sun shade.

The ball-and-socket hitch design of the Thule trailers allowed for some back-and-forth play in the hitch  which created a lurching feeling while riding.
The ball-and-socket hitch design of the Thule trailers allowed for some back-and-forth play in the hitch, which created a lurching feeling while riding.

We paid close attention to any feedback motion we detected from the trailer to the bike, like lurching, shuddering/vibrating or lateral pulling, since these movements can make the cyclist feel unstable and can really tire legs out quickly, especially while climbing. The Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee were outstanding in this area, transferring virtually no movement to the bike. This is mostly due to the superior Burley hitch design, which attaches the tow arm to the hitch adaptor with a single super-secure connection point and allows for no back-and-forth play. The Thule trailers, the Chariot Cross, Chariot Lite and Cadence, all use a ball-and-socket hitch connection, and we noticed some lurching while testing each of these models since the ball has a little bit of wiggle room in the socket. The other trailers we tested all have springs in their tow arms, and this design also transferred significant motion to the bike.

Some trailers are better at rougher roads than other. The Hamax's weight made it challenging to venture to far afield.
Some trailers are better at rougher roads than other. The Hamax's weight made it challenging to venture to far afield.

We found some trailers to be easy to tow off-road, while others were not well-suited for this purpose. The Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Cross were top performers in this category due to their adjustable suspension systems, which absorbed a lot of the lumps and bumps of trail riding. The Hamax Outback also has a great suspension system, but its high weight made it challenging to tow over trails that weren't super smooth. None of the other trailers we tested had suspensions, and we found that the lighter trailers, like the Burley Bee and the Thule Cadence, tended to feel pretty jumpy on trails, even when towing passengers. Most of the trailers we tested had 20" wheels with pneumatic tires, and those big wheels rolled over gravel and dirt trails relatively easily and helped to smooth out the ride. Exceptions are the Allen Sports Steel and the InStep Take 2, which both have 16" tires. Towing these trailers over uneven terrain required more effort and made for a bumpier ride.

The 20" wheel of the Burley Bee (left) and the 16" wheels of the Allen Sports Steel (center) and InStep Take 2 (right). Towing 16"-wheeled trailers over rough roads was tough on bikers and passengers.
The 20" wheel of the Burley Bee (left) and the 16" wheels of the Allen Sports Steel (center) and InStep Take 2 (right). Towing 16"-wheeled trailers over rough roads was tough on bikers and passengers.

While most of the time with bike trailers is spent, well, biking, it's essential for a bike-and-trailer rig to be maneuverable as it's being walked along a sidewalk or navigated to a bike rack. We evaluated the trailers' walkability by weaving them through tricky-yet-typical urban infrastructure. The Thule Chariots were standouts in this area — their hitches allow for maximal rotation, and their tow arms are sharply bent, which keeps the front of the trailer close to the bike while allowing for quick turns. The Hamax Outback has a similar tow arm with a sharp bend that made it nimble to maneuver, though it features a less flexible hitch. The worst performer here was the Weehoo weeGo, which has a very long and relatively straight tow arm that makes it very difficult to navigate tight spaces.

Assembling and setting up the Burley D'Lite requires squeezing the two halves of the frame together. While this required some muscle at first  by the end of the testing period we could do it with one hand.
Assembling and setting up the Burley D'Lite requires squeezing the two halves of the frame together. While this required some muscle at first, by the end of the testing period we could do it with one hand.

Ease of Use


Biking with your kids is all kinds of fun for the whole family, so hopefully, you'll be pulling your trailer out and using it often. Most people don't have the garage space to keep their trailer permanently set up and attached to a bike, so a good trailer should be easy to assemble, store, set up, attach to a bike and break down. We considered each of these steps for all of the trailers we tested and performed timed trials where we could to score each product on overall ease of use.


Most of the trailers took about 20-30 minutes to go from fully boxed up to assembled, attached and ready to ride. The quickest trailer, the Burley Bee, took just 12 minutes, and the slowest, the Thule Chariot Cross, took 40 minutes. Since full assembly is usually a one-time event, we didn't put too much weight behind this metric. In general though, we found that the more "deluxe" model trailers took longer to assemble than the basic ones. Some models, like the Hamax Outback, required a screwdriver for assembly, but none of the trailers we tested were any more complicated than that.

We defined the setup process based on what most parents will do every time they prepare to tow their kids: starting with the trailer in its folded state with wheels on and ending with the trailer attached to the bike, ready to ride. Since most users will go through this process every time they use the trailer, this was a significant focus of our testing in this category. Parents and caretakers of trailer-aged children will find that a product that comes together smoothly and quickly and attaches without drama is worth its weight in gold, especially when little ones are raring to go (or are reaching meltdown status).

The Thule Chariots have the easiest frames to set up and break down in our test group. Set up requires two quick snaps to lock the frame into place  and breakdown is accomplished with the push of a button  as shown. A small indicator panel  shown as red in this photo  clicks over to green when the frame is properly secured  giving parents peace of mind.
The Thule Chariots have the easiest frames to set up and break down in our test group. Set up requires two quick snaps to lock the frame into place, and breakdown is accomplished with the push of a button, as shown. A small indicator panel, shown as red in this photo, clicks over to green when the frame is properly secured, giving parents peace of mind.

The Thule Chariots have the most user-friendly frame designs and were outstanding performers in this category, with setup times of just 28 seconds for the Cross and 29 seconds for the Lite. For comparison, the Burley D'Lite took 52 seconds to set up and the Burley Bee took 48 seconds. While the Chariots were speedy to set up, we occasionally had to pull hard enough on one of the hitch components during attachment that we knocked the bike over, startling our young passenger testers. This was rare, but it never happened with the Burley models, which featured our favorite hassle-free hitch.

Some of the trailers were low-profile and easy to stow when not in use, while others were bulky and took up a significant amount of space. In general, the less expensive (and less tricked-out) models, like the Allen Sports Steel and the InStep Take 2, were slimmer and easier to slip into an unused space in the garage. The higher-end models, most notably our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride, the Hamax Outback, were heavier, bulkier, and harder to stow. The Thule Chariot models were the only trailers that included a clip mechanism to keep them securely folded when they were stored upright. We loved this feature and wished that every manufacturer in our test group had thought to include it.

Canine tester Banner could stretch out in the Hamax Outback because its seat backs unclip from the trailer frame to lie flat  opening up a range of cargo hauling possibilities. Unfortunately  this trailer was so heavy that towing Banner to the park was a struggle.
Canine tester Banner could stretch out in the Hamax Outback because its seat backs unclip from the trailer frame to lie flat, opening up a range of cargo hauling possibilities. Unfortunately, this trailer was so heavy that towing Banner to the park was a struggle.

Versatility


While the main focus of this review was analyzing how each product works for towing kids, we know that most users will end up going for at least a few spins with something else back there. Some parents discover that purchasing a bike trailer allows them to ditch their second car, so we evaluated each product for its ability to haul groceries, pets, and bulky items. The higher-end models can also convert into a stroller, a jogger, a ski sled, or all three. We only analyzed bike towing capabilities, but we noted where conversion kits for other sports and activities are available. Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite, ticks all the boxes and came away with the high score in this category. We'll explain why below.

Since the focus of this review is kid towing, we weighted this category relatively lightly at just 10% of each product's final score. If you're looking for a trailer that's exclusively devoted to cargo, head on over to our cargo trailer review.


The D'Lite scored exceptionally well in this category for one big reason; it allows for the full use of its ample interior space because its seats can unclip from the top frame of the trailer to lie flat. The Hamax Outback and the InStep Take 2 also offer this feature, which opens up the possibilities for what you can haul. Do you have a huge box that needs delivering to the post office? A large dog who wants to go for a ride? An elaborate replica of Mission San Rafael built out of sugar cubes that needs delivery to your kid's classroom? The D'Lite, Outback and Take 2's ability to break down the barrier between their cargo and passenger spaces means that they're more likely to be able to accommodate any of those needs than any of the other trailers we tested. It's worth noting here that while we love the Hamax Outback's convertible interior space, its weight limits how much you can haul. Towing a 60-pound dog with the D'Lite was doable; with the Outback, it was a struggle.

The open-topped pocket at the back of the Thule Chariot Lite is a good option for keeping things separated from the trailer's interior  or for keeping them handy. However  it has no flat bottom  so hauling groceries or bulky items with this trailer was not ideal.
The open-topped pocket at the back of the Thule Chariot Lite is a good option for keeping things separated from the trailer's interior, or for keeping them handy. However, it has no flat bottom, so hauling groceries or bulky items with this trailer was not ideal.

Most of the trailers in our test group consist of one ample interior space, separated by the seat-back into passenger and cargo areas. Exceptions to this are the Thule Chariots. The Chariot Cross has a back pouch with interior pockets, about the size of an average messenger bag, that's suspended behind the trailer and can be clipped up to the top frame bar when not in use. The Chariot Lite has one big open-topped pocket made of fabric and mesh that spans the back of the trailer. We found these cargo alternatives to be a mixed bag. They're smaller than the other trailers' cargo spaces, and they were an awkward fit for paper grocery bags or anything else that wants to sit on a flat surface. However, for things that need to be kept separate, like dirty gym clothes, or handy, like a purse, they were a great option.

Even with passengers present, having an ample cargo space increases the versatility and utility of a trailer. With a 23 inch by 11.5-inch cargo area footprint, the humble Burley Bee was a surprise winner in this category. The InStep Take 2 was a close second at 23 inches by 11 inches, and the Burley D'Lite also impressed us with a 22.5 inch by 11-inch cargo footprint.

The D'Lite's cargo space is large and easily accessible  so it easily accommodates groceries and potables for mom and dad.
The D'Lite's cargo space is large and easily accessible, so it easily accommodates groceries and potables for mom and dad.

The Thule Chariots and the Weehoo weeGo come with stroller conversion kits included, and the Burley D'Lite has an optional strolling kit available for purchase. While we weren't evaluating strolling capabilities, testers did find it useful to have the option to convert once they reached their destination, especially those with younger kids. The Thule Chariot Cross the Burley D'Lite and the Hamax Outback also have optional jogging and cross-country skiing kits available for purchase. Again, we didn't evaluate these kits, but we rated these trailers higher in the versatility category because they give parents the option to purchase one outdoor kid mobile instead of a potential four.

Our Top Pick for Athletes  the Thule Chariot Cross.
Our Top Pick for Athletes, the Thule Chariot Cross.

Conclusion


There is no shortage of bike trailers on the market today, and finding the right one for your family will depend on where you want to ride, how often, and how much of an investment you're planning to make. For an all-around trailer that performs well in every category and offers an incredible value for its quality of construction, safety features and versatility, we don't think you can beat the Burley D'Lite. We think the rugged Thule Chariot Cross is the best bet for hard-core athletes in training, and the Hamax Outback is your best bet if you are solely focused on kid comfort. The light and sturdy Burley Bee is a fantastic option for parents on a budget. Each of the trailers we tested has its strengths and weaknesses, and they cover the full range of best applications, from occasional rides to the neighborhood park to epic treks up mountain roads. We put each product through a bevy of empirical tests and relative rankings, riding them mile after mile so we could bring you the analysis above. We hope this helps you to choose the trailer that will get your whole family rolling. We'll see you on the trails!
Joanna Trieger

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