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Hands-on Gear Review
Thule Chariot Lite Review
Cons: Heavy, fixed interior configuration, expensive
Bottom line: A more pared down version of the Chariot Cross, the Chariot Lite still has great safety features and is one of the easiest trailers to set up and tow.
The Thule Chariot Lite is a more basic version of its fancier sibling, the Chariot Cross. Like the Chariot Cross, the Chariot Lite has great safety features, is delightfully simple to set up and use and offers outstanding protection from intense rain and sun exposure. It's lighter than the Chariot Cross, which makes for an easier towing experience in hilly terrain. In terms of passenger comfort and versatility, however, the Chariot Lite falls behind the Chariot Cross, and ultimately we didn't think that this pared-down trailer justified its high price tag.
In this review, we focus on the differences between the Cross and the Lite. You may also find it helpful to check out our full review of the Chariot Cross, our Top Pick for Athletes.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Thule Chariot Lite offers the same great safety and protection features as its higher-end sibling, the Chariot Cross, with the both Thule's earning 9 out of 10s, bested only by the Burley D'Lite, which earned a 10 out of 10. Like all the trailers we tested, it meets the minimum safety standards set by the ASTM. Beyond those standards, it features a full roll cage with a handlebar that comes forward during rides to provide extra protection and a five-point harness that's a cinch to secure. The Chariot Lite has the same adjustable and fully removable sun shade as the Chariot Cross, and with mesh backing behind the passengers' heads to encourage airflow, it's one of the most well-ventilated trailers we tested.
Ease of Use
The Chariot Lite is almost identical to the Chariot Cross regarding ease of use, and both trailers scored at the top of the pack here. Our testers loved the simplicity of the Chariot Lite's frame, which comes together in two easy clicks and has a colored indicator panel to let you know when it's correctly assembled. The Thule Chariots were the fastest trailers to set up and break down: The Chariot Lite took just 29 seconds to go from folded with wheels on to attached and ready to ride. We found the ball-and-socket hitch design used in all of the Thule trailers to be straightforward and quick, but slightly less user-friendly than the bracket design in the Burley trailers. Rarely but repeatably, manipulating the rubber piece that holds the cotter pin in place in the Thule hitch required enough force that we pulled the bike over, which didn't set a good tone for the ride.
Weight is a significant factor for the person towing the trailer, and in this area, there is a real difference between the 32-pound Chariot Cross and the 27.5-pound Chariot Lite, mainly due to the Cross' adjustable suspension system. When the trailers were empty or had minimal cargo, we found the Chariot Lite to be noticeably lighter to tow. When we added a 40-pound kid or two into the mix, the extra four-and-a-half pounds saved with the Chariot Lite didn't make much of a difference. The Chariot Lite is a tiny bit lighter than our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite, which weighs in at 28.4 pounds.
Beyond its weight, the Chariot Lite is a pleasure to tow. It tracks the bike well, and its 20" wheels make short work of rocks and obstacles off road. Like with the Chariot Cross, we experienced some feedback from the trailer to the bike while towing the Chariot Lite, specifically a lurching feeling as the ball on the tow arm moved back and forth slightly in the socket of the hitch adaptor. This wasn't a major hassle, but if you're looking for a trailer with zero motion transfer, we'd recommend trying the Burley Bee or the Burley D'Lite.
Passengers in the Chariot Lite are in for a comfortable ride, though not quite as comfortable as the Chariot Cross. The Lite has a basic bench seat where the Cross has strategically-placed padding, and the Lite's seat back is fixed in place, where the Cross has seats that can not only recline but do so independently of each other. The Chariot Lite also has no suspension system, so it's not as smooth of a ride for passengers as the Chariot Cross or the Burley D'Lite.
That said, the Chariot Lite has the same giant front panel as the Cross, giving passengers an unrestricted view of the scenery around them. Like the Cross, it does a fantastic job of protecting passengers from wet weather, with a rain shield that covers the entire top and front of the trailer and didn't let a single drop of water into the interior during our rain test. The Chariot Lite features a leaf spring suspension. Unlike the Thule Chariot Cross and Burley D'Lite, its stiffness cannot be adjusted. This had little impact on test results and it still performed very well.
The Chariot Lite comes with a stroller conversion kit, which testers appreciated for the increased versatility it provided once they arrived at their destination. However, the Lite is not equipped for add-on jogging and skiing conversion kits, as the Cross is. Like the Cross, the Chariot Lite's cargo compartment is on the exterior of the trailer, rather than incorporated into the main interior as with all the other models we tested. The Lite's cargo space is one large open-topped fabric and mesh pocket that spans the width of the back of the trailer. We found this to be less than ideal for hauling paper bags of groceries and other items that want to sit on a flat surface. However, for items that can get a little squished, the pocket is enormous, and we found that even a large messenger bag disappeared at the bottom of it. A gym duffel or a work briefcase would also certainly fit.
The Chariot Lite isn't a front runner in any one area, but it does everything pretty well. We think the Lite's durability and ease of setup and breakdown make it a great option for daily use. It's not ideal for off-road towing because it lacks the suspension system of the Cross, but it could travel on paved roads for thousands of miles without showing signs of wear. Road athletes and daily bike commuters would get the most use out of this trailer.
At $850 retail, this one of the most expensive trailers we tested, second only to the $1,050 Chariot Cross. While the Chariot Lite is undeniably a well-constructed and user-friendly trailer, it is fairly basic for passengers and lacks versatility, and in the end, we don't think it justifies such a high price. If you're going to be spending serious money on a trailer, we think it's worth it to invest the extra $200 to get a product that's more versatile and much more comfortable for passengers with the Chariot Cross. The Burley D'Lite is also less expensive than the Chariot Lite and outperforms it in all but one of our testing metrics, making it a better value in our book.
The Thule Chariot Lite is a durable trailer that's easy to use and tow and offers superior weather protection. However, in terms of passenger comfort and versatility, it's a substantially pared-down version of its fancier sibling, the Chariot Cross. While we don't think you'd regret purchasing this fine trailer, we think the Chariot Cross and the Burley D'Lite make more sense at a similar price point.
— Joanna Trieger
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