The Best Bike Trailers of 2017 for Kids
What is the best bike trailer you can buy today? We researched 20 models and then bought four and put them through 120 hours of side-by-side tests. In addition to our own testing by expert testers, we consulted another five families to get as much different user feedback as possible. We rated each trailer on how well it protects your child as well as ride quality and overall ease of use. We also looked for hidden features that can make all the difference. [bike cargo trailer | Not hauling kids? See our Bike Cargo Trailer Review]].
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated April 2017
This spring we have a new Editors' Choice winner. We also went through the existing products in our review to make sure there are no other changes to products.
Best Overall Bike Trailer
Thule Chariot Lite 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 your 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 to independently riding a bicycle.
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 a 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.
Standard trailers such as the InStep Take 2 have either a one- or two-child capacity in an enclosed compartment. All of the models we tested have a five-point restraint harness and are suitable for carrying children one 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.
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 rollover 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 Lite 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 rollover 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 Lite 2. Assembly and setup 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 setup 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 Lite 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 Lite 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 sufferfest. 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 Lite 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 fare well in the wind, as it is the lowest to the ground and the shortest in height of our test trailers. 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 Lite 2 and both the Burley D'Lite and Bee use 20" wheels. The InStep Take 2 is the only model we tested with 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 Lite 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 Lite 2 came out on top. The Chariot suspension system is the most effective 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 Lite 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 Lite 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.
— Curtis Smith
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