Schwinn Echo Review
Cons: Small passenger space, saggy fabric, difficult to use, not weather-resistant.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Schwinn Echo picked up our Best Buy for an Ultra-low Budget. This is a decidedly bare-bones trailer, but it gets the job done, it's one of the least expensive on the market, and it offers some key advantages over other trailers in the same price range, like the InStep Take 2 and the Allen Sport Steel. Note that even though this is one of the cheapest trailers we tested, it didn't earn our Best Buy award, which goes to the product that offers the best value at a reasonable price. That honor went to the Burley Bee, and we definitely think you should consider the Bee if you're willing to spend a bit more to get a much better product. But if you don't want anything fancy and your budget is tight, read on to see if the Schwinn Echo is the right trailer for you.
Because it sticks to the basics here, the Echo scored toward the bottom of the pack in the Protection category.
Like every product in our test group, the Echo meets ASTM safety standards. Its roll cage is identical to that of the InStep Take 2, with aluminum hoops creating the shape of the trailer and one bar across the top that's held in place with a plastic clip. There is no extra framing to protect passengers from side impacts like there is in some of the higher-end trailers, like the Burley D'Lite.
Like most of the trailers in our test group, the Echo features a five-point harness, so it's possible to secure passengers snugly in place. Like all of the trailers at the lower price points, it's exceptionally well-ventilated because its front flaps and window covers are not tight, so there's plenty of opportunity for air to flow through the trailer. This is both a plus and a minus: air flow is great, but it's impossible to keep this trailer cozy on a blustery day. For an option that's adequately ventilated but that can be made more weather-tight, consider the Burley Bee.
The Echo doesn't have a sunshade or UV-resistant windows, so consider a different option to protect your kiddo if you plan to do lots of long rides on sunny days. The other low-budget trailers, the InStep Take 2 and the Allen Sport Steel, don't have sun shades or UV protection, either. By contrast, the Burley trailers feature UV-resistant windows, and the Burley D'Lite models, all the Thule models, the Weehoo WeeGo, and the Hamax Outback all come with sun shades.
This category is one of the main areas where the low-end trailers — like the Schwinn Echo — can't hold a candle to their high-end competitors, like the Burley D'Lite X or the Thule Chariot Cross.
Passengers are in for a basic experience in the Schwinn Echo. The seats in this trailer are flat and bench-style and don't feature any contoured padding, like the ones in the Burley D'Lite models and the Thule Chariot models do. The harness does have padding over the straps, which is a plus over the unpadded InStep Take 2 and Allen Sport Steel, but the harness pads on the Echo are fairly thin.
Entry and exit from the Schwinn Echo are made more difficult because the fabric on the bottom of the trailer is ill-fitting and saggy, so little ones will have trouble keeping their balance. This was also a problem in the InStep Take 2. Higher-end models, like the Burley Bee and the Hamax Outback, are much more precisely engineered so their fabric floors are taut, making it easier for kids to get in and out.
The seating space in the Echo is among the smallest we tested, with just 21" of total seat width and about 21" between the seat and the top of the trailer. The InStep Take 2 offers about 23" of seat width and 24" of height. One good feature of this trailer is that the straps can be configured to hold one passenger in the middle, so solo riders should have plenty of room, but fitting two kids side-by-side in the Echo is a real squish. Its low profile also means that taller kids' heads will bump up against the top of the trailer. Like the Take 2, the Echo has baffles behind the head area that are supposed to make more room for a kid's helmet, but the way the baffles are sewn makes them totally ineffective because there's no room for a kid-sized helmet to actually push into them. This means that taller kids' heads may push forward into the front screen of the trailer.
If you're going to be doing lots of riding in wet weather, your kids are in for a rough experience in the Echo. During our rain test, this trailer barely kept the weather out, so we ended up with water pooling in the footwell and running down the backs of the seats. By contrast, the Burley Bee does a great job of keeping the rain out, and the gold-standard in this area is the Thule Chariot Cross, which is basically a submarine.
The Echo surprised us here by performing well above its price point.
For the person riding the bike, the Schwinn Echo is pretty great. This is a small, low-profile trailer, so it takes less effort to tow than some of the bigger trailers like the behemoth Hamax Outback. It tracks the bike well and feels nimble. We noticed a little bit of lurching feedback when we stood up to pedal up steep hills, but otherwise, we could easily forget that the trailer was attached to the bike. This is also one of the quieter rides we tested — we could hear a little bit of rattling from the wheels, but none of the general racket and squeaking that came standard with many of the other trailers.
Because it lacks suspension, we don't recommend taking your kids off-road in the Schwinn Echo. But if you are going to do some off-road riding — say, enjoying a local trail before you pick up your kid from school — the Echo is definitely the best low-budget trailer to tow over rough terrain. It has larger wheels than the InStep Take 2 and the Allen Sport Steel, so you don't have to expend as much effort to tow it over every lump and bump. Its hitch mechanism is strong and secure, so it doesn't bounce around and deliver a lot of feedback to the bike.
Ease of Use
It's in this category more than any other that you'll feel the difference between a super low-budget trailer, like the Schwinn Echo, and the even slightly higher-end models, like the Burley Bee.
The Schwinn Echo was one of the most cumbersome trailers in our test group to set up. Snapping the frame together is easy, but securing the front and back covers means snapping them in place at one end and then attaching a long, continuous strip of Velcro all the way to the other end before doing up another snap, which will only align if you've wrestled the two feet of Velcro into place just so. If you have an ounce of perfectionism in you, we guarantee that this will drive you bananas. Try to manage this whole process while your wiggly kid passenger makes a game out of undoing the Velcro, and you are in for a fun morning with the Schwinn Echo.
By contrast, the better-engineered trailers, most notably our Best Buy winner, the Burley Bee, are designed to be as easy to put together as possible. Attaching the front cover of the Bee is a matter of snap, snap, done. If you're going to be using your trailer often, and especially if you're going to be using it during typically rushed times like a morning commute, strongly consider spending a bit more to get a much more user-friendly setup experience.
The hitch mechanism on the Echo is secure, but it isn't the easiest to use. It attaches to the bike through an adapter secured by the rear quick release skewer, which is standard, but the hitch adapter is fairly wide, so it doesn't fit every bike (see our Buying Advice Guide for more details on this). The Echo's hitch adapter is much smaller and more convenient than the InStep Take 2, but it's still not as small or versatile as most of the others we tested.
Overall, the Schwinn Echo is not as versatile as most of the trailers we tested.
Let's start with the positives: Despite its compact size, the Echo has a surprisingly large cargo space — one of the largest we tested at 23" x 12". This means you can haul a good amount of stuff in addition to your kid, which ups the versatility of the trailer. It's also capable of holding a lot of cargo in the main compartment of the trailer (when you're riding sans kid) because the bench seat is not contoured at all, so things like grocery bags can easily fit upright on the seat. It's nice to have a slim trailer that's still capable of hauling a lot of stuff.
On the downside, the Echo's seats don't lie down flat, like those in the Burley D'Lite models and the Hamax Outback. (Note that the InStep Take 2 used to have this great feature, but they removed it in their most recent models.) Because the seats stay put, the interior of the Echo is fixed, so you're limited to carrying whatever you can fit on either side of the seat partition. This means that towing large dogs, or elaborate science fair projects with a huge footprint, is going to be very difficult in the Echo.
Per the manufacturer, the maximum total weight you can tow in the Echo is 80 pounds, which may be a problem for parents who want to tow more than one kid. The InStep Take 2 also has an 80-pound limit, but most of the other trailers we tested, including the low-budget Allen Sport Steel and the Best Buy Burley Bee, have a max weight of 100 pounds.
The Echo does not come with any standard conversion kits. For trailers that are adaptable to other sports and activities, check out some of the higher-end models, like the Burley D'Lite models, the Thule Chariot models, and the Hamax Outback.
The Schwinn Echo is ideal for occasional around-town use. It doesn't have a suspension system or a fully fleshed-out roll cage, so using it to tow kids on rough off-road terrain is not recommended. Its components and materials are basic and it doesn't offer the most refined user experience, so those who plan to put their trailer through rigorous or long-term daily use should look to a higher-end model.
This trailer doesn't offer a lot, but at its price, it doesn't ask a lot of you, either. The Echo is one of the least expensive trailers on the market and it's more versatile and has better components than the other trailers in its immediate price range, so we think it's a decent value. But if you do have a little more to spend and you want a trailer that's a delight to use and built to last, check out the best value out there, the Burley Bee.
If you're keen to start towing your kiddos but you don't have room in your budget for anything but the basics, you could do worse than the Schwinn Echo. This trailer won't offer the built-to-last materials or the pleasant user experience of the Burley or Thule models, but it will get the job done and odds are, your kids will love it. Happy riding!
— Joanna Trieger