For two years in a row the Thule Chariot Cross has won our Top Pick for Athletes award, falling slightly short of the coveted Editors' Choice award which again went to the Burley D'Lite X. These were the top two trailers we tested and picking a winner between the two was not easy. The Cross is truly weather-proof and very comfortable for passengers even on long rides, making it a great choice for athletes who will be using it to train in all weather conditions. However, the Cross doesn't offer quite as much versatility or storage space as the D'Lite X and is slightly less enjoyable to tow.
This trailer is bomb proof in adverse weather conditions, even spring snow storms in the mountains. Not only does it keep out rain and snow, it keeps passengers warm with the rain cover keeping heat in and wind out.
The Thule Chariot Cross was one of our best-scoring products in this category and was only narrowly edged out by our Editors' Choice award winner, the Burley D'Lite X.
Like all of the trailers we tested, the Cross meets the safety standards set by the ASTM. It exceeds those standards by coming equipped with a permanent top frame bar, UV protection, and a handlebar that folds forward to provide an additional roll bar in case of a flip. The five-point harness is padded on the shoulders and designed so that the padding can't slip down, which happened frequently when testing other models. With a trailer that is capable of braving the elements, having solid safety features is especially important, as one may be more likely to need them during a rain or snow storm than during fair weather.
The six clips can be attached anywhere along the sides of the rain shield and ensure rain and wind will not penetrate the passenger compartment.
The Chariot Cross keeps passengers warm and dry in foul weather. The full rain shield covers both the top and front of the trailer, and this year's model comes with additional clips that secure the shield to the frame, allowing for an almost air-tight setup. No matter how fast you ride or how strong the wind blows, this cover is staying in place. 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 footwell vents in the Cross’ newest model address the concern that the passenger compartment lacks airflow when the rain shield is deployed. Though small, the vents are effective.
Previous versions of the Thule trailers had been criticized for the lack of airflow when the rain shield was deployed, and concern was expressed that the passenger compartment could become too stuffy or even dangerously unventilated. An upgrade to the 2019 model is dual air vents in the front of the footwell that can be opened or closed depending on the weather. Though small, the vents do allow for additional airflow through the passenger compartment without letting water in.
The large and adjustable sunshade keeps the kids cool, but may also upset children who don’t want to lose sight of Mom or Dad.
The Cross also protects passengers from the sun. The adjustable sunshade was the largest we tested, so little ones can be shielded from harmful rays at all hours of the day. Like the shade that accompanies the Burley D'Lite X (which is slightly smaller), the drawback to the shade is that some children will not like that they cannot see out of the trailer as well when it is deployed, especially if it blocks their view of the biker hauling them.
This model has a suspension system that's 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 X, the Chariot Cross features a suspension system that you can adjust based on terrain and the weight of your passengers or cargo. As with the D'Lite, the suspension is not easy to adjust without first removing the wheels, a real hassle if you are switching terrain or adding/subtracting weight mid-ride, such as a stop at the grocery store. It was slightly easier for testers to adjust the suspension on the Cross while on the go compared to the D'Lite, but neither system is a slam dunk.
Ease of Use
The thoughtful design put into the Chariot Cross by the team at Thule has resulted in a simple, intuitive trailer that is a pleasure to use. Along with the Chariot Lite, the Cross took our highest rating in this category.
The set-up time for the Cross (nearly 37 minutes) is longer than with most trailers tested, but the payback comes with each subsequent use. Stowing the trailer and re-assembling it for your next adventure is simple, intuitive, and fast. All the buttons that you need to push are clearly marked in blue and the button that collapses the frame is adjacent to a green/red color-indicator that make it clear when the rig is ready to go. A safety cover on one side makes it difficult if not impossible to collapse the trailer by accident, such as when a child is still inside. There is a satisfying click when the frame is pulled upright into position, and another when it gets folded up for storage. An integrated clip keeps the frame stowed, which makes it much easier to pick up than other trailers we tested, enabling loading in the back of a car or maneuvering between vehicles in a garage a breeze.
The Thule Chariots have the easiest frames to set up and break down in our test group. Setup 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 plastic 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. Unlike the Burley hitch (the best we tested), the hitch only accepts the tow arm from the front, not the side or rear. This makes it slightly more difficult to get the two pieces attached. The leash that acts as a backup connection device between the bike and the tow arm is only just long enough to wrap around some bike struts we tested. This meant a fair amount of pressure was needed to pull the leash in place, which made securing it more difficult than it had to be.
The ball and socket hitch system on the Thule trailers is excellent, but ultimately proved less easy to use than the Burley system.
At 32 pounds, the Chariot Cross is among the heaviest trailers in our group, even though it lacks a large rear storage compartment. The lightest trailer we tested, the Best Buy award winning Burley Bee, weighs in at only 20 pounds and has ample storage.
Despite its weight, the Cross is still more enjoyable to tow than most of the other trailers tested. Smaller bikers, especially those with young, light children, will appreciate the weight savings of lighter trailers, and may feel that the Cross is best utilized for working out rather than commuting or running errands. However, strong riders who are going to be hauling older, heavier children anyway likely won't mind the extra pounds except on the steepest of hills.
This trailer performs well off-road due to its large wheels, suspension, and excellent hitch.
The Chariot Cross is smooth to tow and tracks the bike well. Its 20" wheels and excellent adjustable suspension system allow for easy pulling on and 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. Because the cotter pin does not go through the ball, but only prevents the ball from escaping the socket, there is a small amount of both vertical and horizontal movement in the system. This translates to small but noticeable amounts of feedback from the trailer to the bike in some instances, such as when pulling the trailer up a steep hill. If you're looking for a trailer that transfers less movement to the bicycle, we found the Burley D'Lite X 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.
While this may not matter to some users, the Thule Cross is arguably the best-looking trailer tested, particularly in its 2019 model year 'Roarange' color. If style a big concern for you, consider the sleek, aerodynamic design and flashy look of the Cross.
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. Its only true competitor in this area is the Hamax Outback.
Our test passengers kept asking for more time riding in the Chariot Cross. The only true competitors in this category are the Hamax Outback and the Burley D'Lite X. All three trailers offer comfy, well-padded harnesses and adjustable, reclining seats.
Along with individually reclining seats, the Cross sports padding on the shoulders, waist, and crotch straps, with additional padding on the top of each seat.
The seats in the Chariot Cross are well-padded on the shoulders, sides, and front so passengers can ride for hours without getting a sore tush. The seat position is comfortable and somewhat comparable to the Burley D'Lite X: passengers in the standard position are reclined slightly with their legs forward at less-than-right angles. There is slightly more behind-the-knee support for passengers in the D'Lite, which longer passengers will appreciate.
Not only do the seats in this trailer 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.
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. Upgrading to the D'Lite X for $100 more will buy you individually reclining seats. 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.
While the Chariot Cross is more versatile than the budget trailers we tested, it lost points in this category primarily because it lacked substantial cargo room. In its favor, the Cross comes with a strolling conversion setup, and additional configurations for jogging and cross-country skiing are available for purchase, though they are expensive add-ons. 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 entirely fixed except for the independently reclining seats. Unfortunately, when reclined there is a ridge of fabric between the seats. This helps keeps kids in their own space, but it limits the utility of the main compartment for hauling anything else, such as dogs or groceries. For hauling any cargo other than kids, the Cross is simply not as useful as the D'Lite which has seats that can be unclipped to lie flat.
Unlike the Hamax Outback and the Burley Bee and D'Lite models, the Cross does not have a rear cargo hold. Instead, a cargo pocket is provided on the rear of the trailer, a feature with limited utility. The bag is approximately 20" wide by 14" deep by 7" back-to-front. While better than nothing, the pocket consistently proved too small to accommodate as much stuff as was needed to feel confident in taking the trailer on long outings that included any activities outside of biking. The pocket is great for separating muddy clothes or bike repair gear from kiddos in the front but wasn't up to the challenge of swallowing a full contingent of beach toys and towels like the Bee or D'Lite. The bag can be clipped up to the top frame when used as a stroller or jogger to avoid getting kicked, though this feature isn't very useful when biking.
The cargo pocket of this model is smaller than most parents will want for full day adventures that include activities other than biking. It clips up to the top of the frame when the Chariot is used as stroller or jogger.
For those who need a way to bring the kids along on long rides while they train for a triathlon over varied terrain and through any kind of weather, the Chariot Cross is the best trailer we tested. It well-designed, durable, and will stand up well to thousands of hours of use. If you don't need the absolute top of the line gear and really just want a family-friendly trailer that will provide a smooth, safe, comfortable ride around town this rig is probably too expensive and more than you need.
This is by far the most expensive trailer we tested and is several hundred dollars more expensive than our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite X. The high price tag is justified for those who will take full advantage of its strengths, including its durability and outstanding performance in inclement weather. If you have (or will soon have) young children and plan on many years of biking for thousands of miles over rough terrain in all types of weather, it is worth considering the investment required for the Chariot Cross. Similarly, if you are committed to using this product as a stroller, jogger, and cross-country ski trailer, the amount of use it gets will make the price point seem a little friendlier. Still, we think a better value for a trailer that offers more versatility and is almost as well-designed and easy to use can be found in the Burley D'Lite X.
The Thule Chariot Cross is an outstanding product that scored close to the top of every metric we tested. Its durability, weather-proof design, 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.