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Thule Chariot Cross Review

Our Top Pick for Athletes, the Chariot Cross is impressively durable and is designed to keep passengers comfortable during long rides in tough conditions.
Thule Chariot Cross
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $1,050 List | Check Price at Amazon
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Pros:  Durable, easy to set up, comfortable for passengers, weather-proof
Cons:  Heavy, expensive, fixed configuration
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Joanna Trieger ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 1, 2017
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89
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 9
  • Protection - 30% 9
  • Passenger Experience - 20% 10
  • Biker Experience - 20% 8
  • Ease of Use - 20% 9
  • Versatility - 10% 8

The Skinny

Our Top Pick for Athletes, the Thule Chariot Cross, is a workhorse of a bike trailer that is durable and ingeniously designed enough to handle anything an active family wants to throw at it. The Chariot Cross scores toward the top of every metric we tested, but we found it to be truly outstanding in the passenger experience and ease of use categories. Passengers in this trailer are in for a supremely comfortable ride, with strategically padded seats and harnesses, an adjustable suspension system that excels on uneven terrain and seats that recline individually for a tailored experience. The Chariot Cross is faster to set up for daily use than any of the others we tested, and Thule's thoughtful design features make it a cinch to break down and stow.

The Chariot Cross was just barely edged out of the top place by our Editor's Choice, the Burley D'Lite, which is significantly lighter and which we feel has better safety features and offers more versatility. The Chariot Cross is the priciest trailer we tested, but you can get the same durability and ease of use for less with its pared-down sibling, the Thule Chariot Lite.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Previously the winner of our coveted Editor's Choice award, the Thule Chariot Cross was defeated in the rankings by the Burley D'Lite in our 2017 review update. While we think the Cross offers the best experience for passengers, it's the heaviest trailer we tested, making this a product best-suited to athletic legs.

Performance Comparison


The padded harness and full roll cage of the Chariot Cross earned it a nine out of 10 in the protection category. Even in trailers with excellent safety features  manufacturers recommend that passengers wear a helmet.
The padded harness and full roll cage of the Chariot Cross earned it a nine out of 10 in the protection category. Even in trailers with excellent safety features, manufacturers recommend that passengers wear a helmet.

Protection


The Thule Chariot Cross was one of our best-scoring products in this category and was only narrowly edged out by our Editor's Choice award winner, the Burley D'Lite.


Like all of the trailers we tested, the Cross meets the safety standards set by the ASTM. It also has a solid roll cage, with a permanent top frame bar and a handlebar that folds forward to provide additional protection. The five-point harness is padded and very easy to adjust, so passengers can be snugly secured without feeling squished. We thought these safety precautions would be especially useful for hard-core athletes who may have the highest chance of rolling the trailer.

The Chariot Cross also keeps passengers completely dry in foul weather. The full rain shield covers not just the mesh front of the trailer, but the top as well, and it secures tightly at the bottom of the entry space so that no rain can get rooster-tailed in from the bike's back wheel. When we subjected each trailer to our rain test, the Chariot Cross and the Chariot Lite were the only ones we felt would keep the interior completely dry indefinitely. The only concern we had in this area is that when the rain shield is deployed, it's almost too efficient and may keep some airflow out along with the rain. However, since the rain shield will likely be used during cooler rides, we didn't find this to be too much of an issue.

The Cross's large sun shade clips onto the trailer's frame and can be completely removed or adjusted depending on the angle of the sun. This is the same sun shade that comes with the Chariot Lite  and it's bigger than the shade on the Burley D'Lite.
The Cross's large sun shade clips onto the trailer's frame and can be completely removed or adjusted depending on the angle of the sun. This is the same sun shade that comes with the Chariot Lite, and it's bigger than the shade on the Burley D'Lite.

The Cross also protects passengers from the heat. The adjustable sun shade was the largest we tested, so little ones will be shielded from harmful rays at all hours of the day. The Burley D'Lite also has an adjustable sunshade, but it wasn't quite as large. The Cross is well ventilated, and mesh backing directly behind the child's head encourages airflow all the way through the trailer.

The Chariot Cross has a suspension system that's easily adjustable for various weights  so you can dial it in to make your passenger as comfortable as possible over varied terrain.
The Chariot Cross has a suspension system that's easily adjustable for various weights, so you can dial it in to make your passenger as comfortable as possible over varied terrain.

Like the Burley D'Lite, the Chariot Cross features a suspension system that you can adjust based on terrain and the weight of your passengers or cargo. It has a leaf spring suspension with a stiffness adjustment for a range of passenger weights. This trailer offered the most supple suspension of our review, with unparalleled shock absorption. The large 20" wheels on the Cross also help to smooth out rough roads and trails, so passengers in this trailer are in for an overall smooth ride.

Ease of Use


The Chariot Cross is a dream to use and, along with the Chariot Lite, took our highest rating in this category.


At 40 minutes, this trailer did take us the longest to assemble, but once it was put together we were repeatedly impressed by the small touches Thule includes to make this product user-friendly. The frame gives a satisfying click and has an indicator that turns from red to green when it's properly in place, so you know you've done it right. There's also a safety cover over one of the frame release buttons so you don't hit it accidentally and collapse the trailer onto your children. When you go to break the trailer down, Thule has included a clip that keeps the frame folded, even when it's stored upright. We really appreciate this feature.

The Thule Chariots have the easiest frames to set up and break down in our test group. Set up requires two quick snaps to lock the frame into place  and breakdown is accomplished with the push of a button  as shown. A small indicator panel  shown as red in this photo  clicks over to green when the frame is properly secured  giving parents peace of mind.
The Thule Chariots have the easiest frames to set up and break down in our test group. Set up requires two quick snaps to lock the frame into place, and breakdown is accomplished with the push of a button, as shown. A small indicator panel, shown as red in this photo, clicks over to green when the frame is properly secured, giving parents peace of mind.

Each of the trailers we tested attach to the bike with a steel adaptor that's clamped to the frame by the rear quick release skewer, and the Chariot Cross is no exception. The Cross uses Thule's patented "ezHitch" system, in which a rubber ball at the end of the tow arm slides into the socket of the hitch adaptor and is then corralled in the socket with a cotter pin. We found this system speedy and relatively easy to use, but we had to apply a fair amount of force to the rubber fastener that secures the cotter pin in place. Yanking this fastener around was occasionally enough to knock the bike over. Ultimately, we liked the bracket hitch used in the Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee a little more than the Thule system.

Tugging up on this rubber fastener  which holds the hitch's cotter pin in place  was pretty tough  and occasionally we had to exert enough force that we tipped the whole bike over. Otherwise  the Thule hitch is quick and easy to use.
Tugging up on this rubber fastener, which holds the hitch's cotter pin in place, was pretty tough, and occasionally we had to exert enough force that we tipped the whole bike over. Otherwise, the Thule hitch is quick and easy to use.

Biker Experience


At 32 pounds, the Chariot Cross is among the heaviest trailer in our group, and it's the main reason our testers developed some seriously menacing quads by the end of this review.


If you're looking for a great endurance training workout, you can't do much better than hauling your young'uns up a steep hill in the Cross! That said, we found this trailer to be a little on the heavy side for around-town use. If you're looking for something lighter (or should we say Lite-er?), the pared-down Chariot Lite is 27.5 pounds, and the Burley D'Lite weighs in at 28.4 lbs. Our Best Buy Award winner, the Burley Bee, was the lightest trailer we tested at a mere 20 pounds.

This trailer is nimble and aerodynamic  but man is it heavy. At 32 pounds  this was the heaviest model we tested. For comparison  our lightest model  the Burley Bee  was only 20 pounds.
This trailer is nimble and aerodynamic, but man is it heavy. At 32 pounds, this was the heaviest model we tested. For comparison, our lightest model, the Burley Bee, was only 20 pounds.

In spite of its weight, the Chariot Cross is smooth to tow and tracks the bike well. Its 20" wheels and excellent adjustable suspension system allow for easy pulling off road, and the ball-and-socket hitch make this a very nimble trailer. We did notice some feedback from the trailer to the bike due to the play in Thule's ezHitch system as the ball moves back and forth in the socket. This has been particularly apparent while standing up on hill climbs. If you're looking for a trailer that transfers less movement to the bicycle, we found the Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee to be rock solid in this area.

The ball-and-socket hitch design of the Thule trailers allowed for some back-and-forth play in the hitch  which created a lurching feeling while riding.
The ball-and-socket hitch design of the Thule trailers allowed for some back-and-forth play in the hitch, which created a lurching feeling while riding.

Passenger Experience


Passenger comfort is key in a bike trailer — if your kids know their trailer is uncomfortable, they probably won't be too stoked when you suggest heading out for a ride. The Chariot Cross is outstanding in this category. It's only true competitor in this area is the Hamax Outback


The seats in the Chariot Cross are well-padded in strategic places so your passengers can ride for hours without getting a sore tush. The harness also has padding on the shoulders, sides and front, and it's easy to adjust so kids can be secured snugly without pinching or chafing. The seat position was comfortable and somewhat comparable to the Burley D'Lite: passengers in the standard position are reclined slightly with their legs forward at less-than-right angles.

Zonked! After a three-hour nap in the Chariot Cross  our passenger tester deemed its seating area very comfortable.
Zonked! After a three-hour nap in the Chariot Cross, our passenger tester deemed its seating area very comfortable.

One of the coolest features of the Cross is that each passenger seat can recline separately, so if you've got one sleepy kiddo and one who wants to sit up and see the world, the trailer accommodates them both at the same time. The D'Lite's seats can also recline, but the whole seat back moves as a unit, so they can't move individually like the ones in the Cross. While the Chariot Cross is an excellent choice for trips of all lengths and types, we felt that its outstanding seat comfort and customization make this an ideal option for endurance athletes who plan on doing longer rides over more varied terrain.

Not only do the seats in the Chariot Cross recline  but they can be adjusted separately -- chariot  indeed! This feature is especially useful on the long training rides of the endurance athlete  but it's pretty great for snooze cruises around the block  too.
Not only do the seats in the Chariot Cross recline, but they can be adjusted separately -- chariot, indeed! This feature is especially useful on the long training rides of the endurance athlete, but it's pretty great for snooze cruises around the block, too.

Versatility


The Chariot Cross comes with a strolling conversion setup, and additional configurations for jogging and cross-country skiing are available for purchase. When the strolling wheels aren't in use, Thule has provided exterior mounts for them on the trailer frame so you don't have to store them with your passengers in the body of the trailer or muck them in with whatever's in your cargo pocket. While we weren't evaluating these trailers for their strolling capabilities, we did find this to be a nice touch that makes it easier to bike to a destination and then stroll when you get there.


The interior of the Chariot Cross is mostly a fixed shape, and in this area we found it to be less versatile than its main competitor, the Burley D'Lite, which has seats that can be unclipped to lie flat. Although the Cross' seats do recline, they do so individually, leaving a ridge in the middle of the seat back that limits the utility of the extra space. The upright seat position of the Cross makes it hard for a canine passenger to fit unless they're fairly small or they're happy to stay curled up for the whole ride.

The cargo space in this trailer is a separate pocket at the back, and we found this to be a mixed bag in terms of versatility. At approximately 20" wide by 9" back-to-front, this is one of the smallest cargo spaces we tested, and it can't accommodate as much stuff as the trailers with cargo areas that were divisions of the main body. However, if there's something you want to keep separated for some reason — like mucky clothes or a phone you want easy access to — the pocket is ideal. We also liked that it can be clipped up to the top frame while not in use, which makes the trailer more aerodynamic.

The cargo pocket of the Chariot Cross is smaller than other trailers' cargo spaces  but it's great for keeping things separated. It also clips up to the top of the frame while not in use.
The cargo pocket of the Chariot Cross is smaller than other trailers' cargo spaces, but it's great for keeping things separated. It also clips up to the top of the frame while not in use.

Best Applications


The Chariot Cross is well-constructed, durable, aerodynamic and equipped to handle all weather conditions and terrain types. We think this is an ideal choice for endurance athletes who are planning to take their kids on long rides that may include hills, trails and any combination of wind, rain and sun. The Cross will indeed deliver a smooth and comfortable ride around town, but if you're only planning on the occasional trip to the neighborhood park, this trailer is overkill.

Value


At a cool $1,050, this is by far the most expensive trailer we tested and costs almost 50% more than our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite. For that price, though, you get Thule's outstanding quality of construction and a trailer that will probably outlast all those Twinkies clogging up the landfills. If you're going to be using your trailer to the full extent of its capabilities — hauling kids for thousands of miles over rough terrain in all weather — then the Chariot Cross is worth the investment. If you're dead set on a Thule but can't stomach the four-figure price tag, the Thule Chariot Lite gets you the same rugged quality without the bells and whistles for $850. For a more all-purpose trailer that is still exquisitely designed and built to last, we think the Burley D'Lite is a better value.

Conclusion


The Thule Chariot Cross is an outstanding product that scored close to the top of every metric we tested. Its weight, durability, and price make it best suited for athletes who will put it through serious miles in all conditions, but anyone who purchased this trailer would be hard-pressed not to fall in love with it.


Joanna Trieger