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Hands-on Gear Review
Burley Bee Review
Cons: No passenger padding, no bottom reinforcement, lacks versatility
Bottom line: The nimble Bee earned our Best Bang for the Buck award for being safe, durable and the easiest trailer to tow at less than half the price of the high-end trailers.
My oh my, did we love the Burley Bee! This is the basic model in the Burley line, but it earned consistently high scores in almost every metric we tested and frequently performed at the level of the deluxe trailers, making it the clear winner of our Best Bang for the Buck Award. The Bee isn't as cushy for passengers as its more sophisticated sibling, the Burley D'Lite, due to its lack of suspension and its unpadded seating area. However, it has great safety features, it's lightning-fast to assemble and set up for daily use, and it was the lightest and easiest trailer to tow. This is a purpose built, no-frills bike trailer, but it gets the job done, day in and day out. Read on for our full review to see how the humble-yet-mighty Bee measures up to the competitors.
RELATED REVIEW: The 8 Best Bike Trailers for Kids
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
For the second side-by-side test in a row, the Burley Bee has earned our Best Bang for the Buck Award. The interior of this trailer is basic, but the overall package is light, nimble, safe and durable.
As you can see from the chart below, the Bee's scores were in stinging distance of trailers more than twice its price.
For a detailed review of the Bee's performance in each of our testing categories, check out our analysis below.
The Bee scored well in this category, on par with the Weehoo weeGo and only slightly behind the Thule Chariots, and our top-scorer, the Burley D'Lite. Like all of the trailers we tested, the Bee meets the rigorous safety standards set by the ASTM. They also go beyond those standards in a few key areas, which we'll discuss below.
The roll cage on the Bee is solid, with two aluminum frame bars coming together at the top of the trailer to form one reinforced bar over the passengers' heads. However, there is no extra side framing, as there is in the D'Lite. The D'Lite and the Thule Chariots have handlebars that fold forward while riding to reinforce the roll cage, and the Bee lacks this feature. The Bee's harness is unpadded, but it's the same five-point system as the D'Lite and is easy to size and adjust.
Like the Burley D'Lite, the Bee's windows are rated UPF 30, so they protect passengers from harmful rays. However, the Bee lacks the built-in sun shade that we really liked in the D'Lite. The Bee provides adequate ventilation, but again, it doesn't match the full performance of the D'Lite, which has an extra back window with mesh underneath to encourage air flow throughout the trailer.
One issue that came up repeatedly in our initial research into the Bee is the potential for the fabric stretched over the front bottom frame of the trailer to rip. When the trailer is not attached to the bike, this fabric rests on the ground, and we did find that it started to show some signs of wear even after light use. This kind of built-in dysfunction is uncharacteristic of the Burley brand, and we hope to see it corrected in future versions of the Bee. However, after months of testing during which we actively tried to exacerbate this problem, we concluded that it's not severe enough to pose a safety issue.
Ease of Use
Compared to the range of trailers we tested, the Bee is intuitive, simple and easy to use. It doesn't quite match up to the superior user-friendliness of the Thule Chariots, but it still earned high marks in this category.
The Bee took just 12 minutes to fully assemble, from in the box to attached to the bike. This was far faster than the other trailers we tested — the slowest trailer, the Thule Chariot Cross, took a full 40 minutes! Complete assembly is usually a one-time event, but if you plan on transporting the trailer often, or if you just want to start riding as soon as is humanly possible, the Bee is a good option.
For daily use, setting up the Bee from its stowed state requires reaching through the back of the trailer to pull two of the frame bars together. It's a similar system to the D'Lite, except that the Bee uses metal C-clips that you push down to fasten the bars, while the D'Lite's bars lock in place with sturdy plastic spring-loaded clips that you don't have to touch. We mention this because for early morning commutes, those C-clips are stiff and cold! We started putting on gloves to set up this trailer to avoid frigid fingers.
We found the Bee to be relatively quick to set up, taking an average of 48 seconds to go from stowed with wheels on to attached and ready to ride. Our leaders in this category, the Thule Chariots, performed significantly better, taking just under 30 seconds to set up. The Chariots have the simplest frame design of all the trailers we tested and don't require you to remove any part of the cover to assemble the frame, as the Bee does.
The hitch design of the Bee is the same as the Burley D'Lite, and it was our favorite attachment mechanism of all the ones we tested. Like all the trailers' hitches, it attaches to the bike with a steel adaptor that's clamped to the frame by the rear quick release skewer. The Burley hitch adaptor is a metal bracket that receives the rubber end of the trailer's tow arm, which is then held in place by a cotter pin. We found the attachment process to be quick and straightforward, and best of all, it didn't require perfectly aligning the bike and the trailer like the Weehoo weeGo, Allen Sports Steel, and InStep Take 2 systems did.
Man, did we love biking with this Best Buy winner! This light, quiet, nimble trailer was sweet as honey to our cyclist testers, earning a perfect 10 in this category.
Hauling a trailer is never going to be as easy as biking unencumbered, but some trailers strive for that goal a little harder than others. At a mere 20 pounds, the Bee is the lightest product we tested, and when it's empty, you barely notice it's there. Even when hauling kids or cargo, the fact that the Bee is fully 12 pounds lighter than our heaviest trailer, the Thule Chariot Cross, is noticeable and appreciated.
We already mentioned that we loved the Bee's hitch for its ease of use, but we also found that it created the best towing experience of all the trailers we tested. The hitch adaptor is super sturdy and creates a single point of connection with no play at the cotter pin, and this leads to a feeling that the bike and the trailer are one continuous unit. We felt no lurching, vibrating or lateral pulling while towing the Bee; in fact, we felt almost no transfer of motion from the trailer to the bike at all. The Bee's upscale sibling, the D'Lite, performed just as well in this area because it uses the same hitch mechanism.
Unlike its namesake insect, the Bee is not known for its noise. This was the quietest trailer we tested, with no general noise like the Weehoo weeGo, no hitch squeaking like the Thule Chariots, and no annoying parking brake rattle like the Burley D'Lite. The Bee is silent, lending a feeling of peace and tranquility to early morning rides. We loved it.
The Bee is comfortable but basic, so passengers aren't in for quite as delightful an experience with this trailer as the cyclists towing them. However, the Bee has enough to offer its occupants to earn it a slightly above-average seven out of 10 in this category.
The Bee features a suspended bench-style seat with no padding, similar to the Thule Cadence. It comes with a five-point harness that is also unpadded, so while it's easy to secure passengers snugly and distribute tension around the harness, there is a possibility of chafing. By contrast, the Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariots feature padding on both their seats and their harness straps, making them more comfortable for passengers.
At 22.5" across the middle of the seat, the Bee has one of the wider passenger seating areas we tested, on par with the D'Lite and the Weehoo weeGo and just behind the 23" InStep Take 2. The Bee lacks the D'Lite's bowed sides, which provide extra shoulder room, but two average kids should have no trouble fitting in the Bee.
There is no suspension system in this trailer, so passengers being towed on unpaved trails and over rough roads are in for a fair bit of jostling in the Bee. The 20" wheels do a lot to smooth out uneven terrain, but we would still recommend exercising caution while towing kids off-road in this trailer by slowing way down and avoiding potholes. The Bee does not have a suspension system and provided little shock absorption over large bumps and rough terrain. The Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Cross both come with suspension systems that are adjustable for weight, so we'd suggest checking those out instead of the Bee if you plan on taking to the trails.
The Bee performed surprisingly well in our rain test, with no water in the interior after five minutes of sprinkler blasting and only a little bit of seepage around the seams on the top of the trailer. Still, it couldn't compete with the Thule Chariots, which have plastic rain shields that cover the entire top of the trailer. If you're going to be doing long rides with kids in torrential rain (hats off to you), you'll probably start to see some water dripping into the interior of the Bee.
Like the Thule Cadence, the Burley Bee is a single-sport trailer: it's made for towing behind a bike and doesn't have any stroller, jogger or cross country ski conversions available. If you're looking for trailers that convert to strollers, check out the Weehoo weeGo and the Thule Chariot Lite. For trailers whose superpowers include strolling, jogging and skiing, look to the Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Cross.
The Bee's most versatile aspect is its cargo space, which was the largest we tested with a 23" by 11.5" footprint. With that amount of room, we found that we could easily fit passengers up front with our necessities for the day in the back, whether it was backpacks, a small load of groceries or beach gear. Without passengers, we found that the Bee could easily handle a large load of groceries, and its lightness made this a tester favorite for weekly trips to the supermarket. That said, the seats in the Bee are fixed in place and don't lie flat like those in the D'Lite and the InStep Take 2, which limited the size and dimensions of items it could carry. Our 60-pound canine tester could curl up in the front of the Bee, but he preferred the princely comfort of the more versatile D'Lite.
The Bee is durable, light and nimble, making it a great option for heavy use around town. Bike commuters with trailer-age kids will love this product for its rain resistance and its ample cargo space, which is big enough to accommodate backpacks, totes and laptop bags simultaneously. We also think the Bee should be a contender for anyone who lives in a hilly environment, since its feather lightness really makes a difference on the way up. This bike trailer is sturdy enough to handle off-road travel, but its bare-bones passenger seating area makes this a less-than-ideal option for extensive trail use. For riding on rough roads, we'd recommend the Burley D'Lite instead.
The Bee is less than half the cost of our Editors' Choice award winner, the Burley D'Lite, but it delivers way more than half the value. The Bee is a joy to use, it has great safety features, and it comes with the outstanding quality of construction that customers have come to expect from Burley. Based on our testing, we'd expect users to get thousands of miles out of the Bee before it started showing significant signs of wear. All this, for just $300! We think the Bee is an outstanding value, so much so that it earned our coveted Best Bang for the Buck Award.
The Burley Bee is a charming trailer that punches above its weight in passenger protection, ease of use, and towing experience. While its lack of suspension and basic passenger compartment aren't as suited as higher-end models like the D'Lite for off-road travel, we think this is a great option for extensive riding around town. At just $300, the Bee is a total steal, and we'd highly recommend it.
— Joanna Trieger
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