The Best Bike Trailer Review
Which bike trailer is best for toting your child? We took four of the best models on the market and put them through a yearlong gauntlet of hauling kids, dogs, and cargo. We utilized multiple families for testing, giving us valuable feedback from a wide range of users. All of the products we tested were evaluated for: child protection, ease of use, towing, ride quality, and versatility. At first glance, many of the competing trailers seem similar, but the harness and frame design and hidden features make a big difference in safety and overall ease of use. Continue reading our full review to find out which model is right for you. Don't have kids? See our Bike Cargo Trailer Review.
For more information on styles of trailers and tips on how to choose the right one, reference our Buying Advice article.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Bike Trailer
Thule Chariot Cougar 2
Best Bang for the Buck
Top Pick for Bicycle Commuters
Best Pedal Trailer
Weehoo iGo Pro and the WeeRide Co-Pilot. Both are very maneuverable and much more fun for the child than a standard bike trailer. The Pro offers more protection for you child and has much more storage. It is also heavier and more expensive. The Co-Pilot is much more like a bike without a front wheel. It gives your child more of a feel that they are assisting and can be a good way to transition into your child independently riding a bicycle.
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Analysis and Test Results
Is the new addition to your family putting a damper on your outdoor activities? Trying to figure out how to continue your bike commute when your child needs to be dropped off at daycare on the way? A bike trailer may be the solution you have been looking for. It is easy to get into a rut with small children, it often seems easier to just stay home than venture out with the rolling circus of toys, diaper bags, and bottles. Trailers allow you to get out on the bike with your kid in tow, and as an added bonus, most children seem to enjoy it. You get some much needed exercise and fresh air and your child gets some early exposure to cycling or a nap. Towing a trailer behind your bike can be challenging, from both a physical and technical standpoint, but with a bit of practice and regular use, even a novice cyclist can master it.
Types of Bike Trailers
Bike trailers come in two basic configurations: standard trailers and pedal trailers. Our review focuses solely on standard trailers, which have two wheels and an enclosed or partially enclosed compartment for one or two children. Pedal trailers have one wheel and can only accommodate one child at a time.
InStep Take 2 have either a one or two-child capacity in an enclosed compartment. All of the models we tested have a 5-point restraint harness and are suitable for carrying children 1 year and up. With the addition of an optional infant harness, many can carry younger children. Most have a cargo compartment for extra gear, and many can convert into a stroller.
Weehoo iGo Pro and the WeeRide Co-Pilot, are not enclosed and do not offer as much protection for the child as a standard trailer. However, they do allow the child to pedal and contribute to forward momentum. This can be more fun and engaging for a child that gets bored sitting inside a standard trailer. They are ideal for older children who are either not quite ready to ride a bike on their own but want to participate, or for children who are already capable of riding their own bike but can't go quite as long and fast as a parent when on their own bike. This allows a parent and child to have a longer, more enjoyable ride together than if the child was on their own separate bike. This style of trailer attaches at the seat post of the adult's bike and has one wheel with a seat and crank system to allow the child to pedal.
Criteria for Evaluation
Protection for Child
Safety is our top priority, and during testing it was the subject of our most important rating metric. We took many factors into account when evaluating the level of protection each product provides, such as the restraint system, frame construction, cover material, and hitch design. All the products we tested meet ASTM Safety requirements, but ASTM is the minimum required standard. Some manufacturers go above and beyond these requirements. Note: All manufacturers recommend that children wear a helmet while in the trailer!
Our top-scoring product for safety is the Burley D'Lite, winner of our Top Pick Award. All Burley trailers exceed the ASTM standards for bicycle trailers intended for human transport. Burley also highlights their extensive in-house testing on their website. The D'Lite features a full aluminum frame and has an adjustable handlebar that folds down and doubles as a roll bar. The frame itself also has a horizontal member that sits farther to the rear of the trailer, this gives the D'Lite more overhead protection in the case of a roll-over than any other model we tested. In addition to roll-over protection, the frame of the D'Lite also features more side impact protection, in the form of aluminum frame tubes that run from front to back, than any other in our test group. The durable cover with UV protected windows, a retractable sunshade, and a five point padded harness complete the package.
Our Editors' Choice Award winning Thule Chariot Cougar 2 comes in a close second, with a full aluminum roll cage, a padded five point harness, and a well designed cover with a retractable sun shade. It does not offer the same level of roll-over protection or side impact protection as the Burley D'Lite, but it still offers a high level of protection for the child passenger.
Ease of Attachment, Storage, and Assembly
Overall ease of use is hugely important. Getting out and about with children is challenging enough, and no parent needs any undue hassle from his or her recreational equipment. An intuitive product that is easy to assemble from the folded position, attach to the bike, and store at the end of the day is worth its weight in gold to busy parent. The easier the product is to use, the more likely we are to get out and actually use it. The top-scoring model in this category is the Thule Chariot Cougar 2. Assembly and set-up is a breeze with the ezFold™ system. The release knobs for folding up the trailer are outside of the cover, making them easy to access. The wheels use push button axles and slide on in seconds. After some practice, we were able to assemble the folded trailer, with wheels and tow bar removed, in 1:30. Attaching the Chariot to a bike is also simple, using the ezHitch™ which is threaded onto the bicycle's quick release axle.
The Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee came in a close second and third with a set-up time of 2 minutes, and 2:10 respectively. Both the D'Lite and the Bee use similar wheels with push button axles and have easy to install tow bars. Folding and unfolding, however, require partial removal of the protective cover in order to access the internal frame latches. This process is a bit more cumbersome and time consuming than the Thule system. The hitch system used to attach the Bee and the D'Lite to a bike is also a bit less user friendly than the Thule.
Ease of Towing
All of the products we tested will increase your energy expenditure when compared to riding a bicycle unencumbered by a child. But our testers found significant differences in how the different models towed. We took into account several factors that impact how easy and enjoyable the trailers were to tow. The Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee came out on top, narrowly edging out our Editors' Choice Thule Chariot Cougar 2. Below we break down the factors affecting towing.
The design of the hitch plays an important role in towing dynamics. Our testers preferred the hitch design of the Burley models; both the D'Lite and Bee use the same system. When towing the Burley Trailers there is no clunking or lurching when accelerating. The tow bar is connected to the hitch via a cotter pin and there is no play in the system. By contrast, the Thule Chariot Cougar 2 uses a hitch that accepts a rubber ball on the tow bar. A cotter pin prevents the system from decoupling, but there is fore and aft play between the hitch receiver and the ball. The result is a noticeable lurch and clunk during fast accelerations as the ball slides to the back of the hitch receiver.
Towing a trailer is hard work, but when the wind is blowing it can be a downright suffer fest. Without a wind tunnel to test in, we can only go on the anecdotal experience of our testers. When looking at all of the trailers side by side, the Thule Chariot Cougar 2 appears to have the most aerodynamic profile, and as we expected, our testers found it to be the least affected by both head and crosswinds. We also expected that the InStep Take 2 would fair well in the wind, as it is the lowest to the ground and the shortest height-wise that we tested. Unfortunately, the cover fits quite loosely, and as a result catches a lot of wind, making the wind drag both unpredictable and noisy. Both of the Burleys towed well in the wind, but were noticeably more affected by crosswinds, likely due to their more expansive side profile as compared to the Chariot.
Wheel Size and Suspension:
The Thule Chariot Cougar 2 and both the Burley D'Lite and Bee use 20" wheels. The InStep Take 2 is the only model we tested that has 16" wheels. On pavement there is no discernable difference in towing between the two wheel sizes. When towing off road, the InStep Take 2's smaller wheels were more apt to get hung up on small rocks, and it was more difficult to tow through rough sections of road or trail. Suspension does not have a huge impact on towing, but can tone down the feedback you get from the trailer through the bike frame when towing over rough roads or when encountering potholes. The Thule Chariot Cougar 2 seemed to benefit the most with its adjustable suspension, where the elastomer suspension of the Burley D'Lite did not have a big impact on towing.
Smoothness of Ride
Our youngest testers/passengers weighed in, and the Thule Chariot Cougar 2 came out on top. The Chariot suspension system is the most affective at smoothing out the ride and dealing with small bumps. It has an adjustable leaf spring suspension system, and the spring tension is adjusted by weight via an adjustment knob. The Burley D'Lite was not far behind with its elastomer suspension. The elastomer is not adjustable, and is more effective with a heavier load, over 50lbs. The others we tested do not have suspension, and rely on tire flex to smooth out the ride.
All of our test models are designed for transporting children, but when the kids are too old to ride, they can still be used for carrying cargo and pets.
Other factors impacting the versatility of a trailer are the available accessories. Both the Thule Chariot Cougar 2 and the Burley D'Lite can be equipped with double wheel stroller kits, XC ski kits, and single wheel jogging stroller kits. This enhances their versatility and makes them usable throughout the seasons for those in colder climates. While both the Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Cougar 2 are standouts in this category, the nod goes to the Chariot. The Chariot employs the Versawing™ system, letting you carry stroller wheels on the exterior of the trailer while towing. With this system, you tow your child, and then can turn the trailer into a stroller once you get to your destination. As an added bonus, the tow bar stows in a built in bracket on the side of the trailer once you convert it to a stroller.
Alternatives To Trailers
Firmstrong Beach Cruiser ($260) and dedicate it to the seat. We have tested the WeeRide Kangaroo and love it.
Bike Cargo Trailer Review
Many of the models we tested can be converted into a stroller, making them a versatile option for all of your wheeled kid transportation needs. All weather covers and sunshades allow use in almost any weather. Cargo compartments allow you to bring along almost anything you would need for a full day of adventure, and as all parents know, almost any activity with young children can quickly become an adventure. They either attach to your bike via a tow bar at the rear wheel, or in some cases, to the seat post of your bike. Virtually any bike with good quality brakes and gears can be used. A single speed will work, but may result in calf muscles so massive that you will need to purchase new pants. We hope our side-by-side testing has helped you narrow down the best product for your particular needs. If you're still having trouble deciding on the best product for you and your family, please see our Buying Advice article.
— Curtis Smith
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