Types of Bike Trailers
Bike trailers come in two main styles: standard trailers and pedal trailers. Our full review focuses on standard, enclosed trailers, but pedal trailers are fun options that are worth considering, especially for older children.
With a standard trailer, the child can relax and enjoy the ride or take a nap as you get some exercise. Standard trailers, such as the Burley D'Lite, have an enclosed compartment for either one or two children. They typically come with a 5-point restraint harness that is suitable for carrying children one year and up, but the addition of an optional infant harness can allow many models can bring younger children. Most have cargo compartments for snacks, diapers, sunscreen, and bottles, and many can convert into a stroller for use without the bike.
Pedal trailers are not enclosed, can only fit a single child, and do not offer as much protection for the child as a standard trailer. Pedal trailers offer the passenger the option to pedal and contribute to the progress of the ride, which provides a lot of fun and enjoyment for kids. They are ideal for older children who are either bored with standard trailers, not quite ready to ride a bike on their own but who want to play along, or for kids who can ride a bike but want to go on a longer or faster ride than they are capable of on their own. This style attaches at the seat post of the adult's bike and has one wheel with a seat and crank system that allows the child to pedal too. Some models, such as the WeeRide Co-Pilot are shaped more like an actual bike, while others, like the Weehoo iGo Pro straddles the line between trailer and bike, and gives the child the option of pedaling or just sitting and enjoying the ride.
So You Are Ready to Buy…
First, a bit of background on the models we included in our test group: all of the standard trailers we tested are 2 child units. Most manufacturers make similar models for a single child. However, we feel that the vast majority of users will benefit from the purchase of two-child trailer, even if you only have one child. The only tangible benefit of the single trailers is their narrower profile, so if you plan on riding narrow trails, this may be a selling point, but the single trailers are still too wide for most single track trails. The smaller profile may also make storage easier if you are tight on space. The advantage of the double trailer is more cargo space and the option of carrying more than one child. Being able to carry two allows a family room to grow, or allows you to take a friend along.
First: Single Function or Multi-Function?
The first step is deciding whether or not you need a stand-alone, single-function trailer such as the Burley Bee or a multi-function model such as the Thule Chariot Lite 2 that comes with or has accessory options. If you already have a jogging stroller, then we recommend a stand-alone trailer such as the Burley Bee, which is less expensive. If you do not have a jogging stroller, and you think you would use one, then it is worthwhile to look at multi-function trailers such as the Thule Chariot Lite 2 or the Burley D'lite. These premium models have many accessory kits that can be purchased separately including: jogging kits, cross country ski kits, and double wheel stroller kits.
Second: What is your Primary Use?
Next, consider what your primary use will be. For example, if you are looking to use the trailer to keep up on your fitness or training when you have the kids, then the Thule Chariot Lite 2 is the one for you. It is easy to set up and tows well in the wind, as well as off road. If you are planning to use your trailer mainly for commuting and as a means of transportation, then we recommend the Burley D'lite. It has the most cargo space of any model we tested, and is the best for stop-and-go towing. The Burley Bee also excels for commuting duties, with ample cargo space and good stop-and-go towing characteristics. If you need a trailer for occasional light duty use, then the In Step Take 2 is an affordable option.
Third: Conditions of Use
Will you be using the trailer in the rain? If so, we recommend the Thule Chariot Lite 2, the Burley D'lite, or a model with protective covers. Both these test models have excellent covers that were effective at keeping cargo dry during our testing. If you will be using it on dirt roads or trails, then we recommend getting a trailer with suspension. Our first choice would be the Thule Chariot Lite 2 with its class leading adjustable suspension system, our second pick would be the Burley D'lite, which has an elastomer suspension system.
Bike trailers can be quite expensive. Top-of-the line units such as the Thule Chariot Lite 2 retail for $830 (as tested). The more expensive versions, as a general rule of thumb, can be converted to strollers or ski trailers. You pay more for a broader range of functions, but in the end maybe save a bit of money and space in your garage by not needing to purchase a jogging stroller as well. If you are not likely to use those additional features, then you can save some money and buy a single function trailer such as the Burley Bee for $299. But, keep in mind that the Burley Bee does not have suspension like the higher priced Burley D'lite and the Thule Chariot Lite 2. On the low end of the price spectrum are trailers such as the In Step Take 2 with no suspension, smaller wheels, and a more difficult assembly, but these models adequate for an occasional user.
We tested all of the trailers in the review behind a variety of bikes, and nearly any bike can tow them. That being said, if you are planning to tow with a bike that does not have a standard 9mm quick release rear axle, then you should check with the manufacturer prior to purchase to confirm compatibility. Many manufacturers offer conversion parts for different axle types. Always remember that towing a trailer puts extra strain on your brakes, and your bike will handle differently when towing. It is important to ensure that your brakes are in good working order prior to towing. Your local bike shop is a great resource for ensuring that your bike is up to the task of towing.