The Thule Chariot Lite 2 is a first-class product that will appeal to families looking for a high-end, weather-proof trailer that lacks complications. Essentially, the Chariot Lite is a more basic version of the Chariot Cross. It has all the same safety features, provides identical (and outstanding) protection from the elements, and offers an excellent riding experience. The major differences between the two models are that the Chariot Lite has less storage capacity and rated significantly lower in passenger experience. If you are going to spend $1000 or more on a bike trailer, our testing suggests you might as well drop the extra cash to get the Chariot Cross, which is a better value.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.
Thule Chariot Lite 2 Review
Cons: Expensive, not adjustable, little storage
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The safety and protection features of the Thule Chariot Lite are identical to those found in the Chariot Cross and are outstanding. 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.
Thule trailers rise above all competitors' trailers we tested when it comes to protecting passengers from the elements. The rain shield and sun shade on the Lite are exactly the same as those on the Cross, and this year's model has added rain cover clips to ensure a leak-proof ride. The updated model also incorporates new ventilation screens in the footwell, which serve to increase air-flow when the rain shield is on. This feature is likely in response to earlier criticisms that the passenger compartment was too stuffy with the rain shield on. The new vents do help, so kudos to Thule to listening and responding to user feedback.
Just like the Cross, the Chariot Lite features a leaf spring suspension. However, the suspension is not adjustable, a feature found in both the Burley D'Lite (and D'Lite X) and the Cross. This means that there is not always as much travel as there should be with a light load, but it still performs much better than the trailers without any suspension at all.
This year's Cross and Lite models come with a rear light kit, which improves visibility and safety in low light conditions (anyone biking in such conditions should use front and rear lights, especially if pulling a trailer with children in it). However, for the high cost of these trailers, we had hoped to see more of the optional add-ons included, such as the lock kit or storage cover. If purchased separately from the Thule website, the rear light kit is $30 (you can get a similar product for less than half that price elsewhere) and is the cheapest add-on available.
The Chariot Lite is not as comfortable for passengers as the Cross, but it still offers a great ride. Similar to the Burley Bee, the Lite has a basic seat and harness system that lacks the padding of the Cross. The seats don't recline (both the D'Lite X and the Cross have independently reclining seats, while the standard D'Lite has a bench recline system), but test passengers enjoyed having mesh backing behind their heads and had no problems with having their helmets pushed forward at an awkward angle.
There is a 4-pound difference between the Cross and the Lite, with the Lite living up to its name. The cargo carrier on the Cross is larger than the small rear pocket on the Lite, which both adds some base weight and provides more space to carry extra stuff, which will also add weight. However, since few people bike around with empty trailers, the real test comes after adding in a couple of 40 or 45-pound kids, at which point the 4-pound savings in the trailer's base weight makes a negligible difference. While the Lite is also about a pound lighter than our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite X, that weight savings is definitely compounded by the fact that the D'Lite has heaps more cargo room that inevitably gets filled up with spare gear for kids and parents.
The Thule trailers performed virtually identically when it comes to the towing experience, which is to say that they perform very well. Though there was minimal feedback from the trailer to the bike, its occurrence was notable only because it compared negatively to the experience of trailing Burley products like the Bee and D'Lite X which had zero motion transfer. Compared to other trailers on the low-end of the trailer spectrum, the Lite was a joy to haul and is demonstrative of the higher quality experience that comes with a high price tag.
Ease of Use
The Chariot Lite and Chariot Cross scored at the top of the pack in this category, racking up points with their simple, intuitive design. Both trailers feature indicators that turn from red to blue when the frame is assembled properly, and which double as buttons to show where to apply pressure to break-down for storage. The parking brake is a simple but effective kick lever and the tow bar slides easily into place with additional indicator coloring to show when it is properly installed. The click-in-place tabs where the mesh screen meets the footwell keeps everything lined up, and the high-quality zippers on the screen will last for years without snagging or catching. The rain shield fits tightly over the passenger compartment but doesn't take undue force to secure. Overall, the experience of using the Cross or the Lite is top-notch and again is demonstrative of the quality that is lacking in lower-priced trailers.
The Chariot Lite can be converted into a jogger or cross-country skiing trailer with the same (pricey) kits that are available for the Chariot Cross. For multi-sport families, these potential additions are valuable options for getting the most out of an expensive investment. Like the Cross, the Lite also comes out of the box standard with two removable front wheels that allow it to be used as a stroller. The Lite lost points in the versatility category because it has very little cargo space, and what it does have is not ideal for families with kids. The cargo compartment is a mesh and fabric pocket on the rear of the trailer, and parents will have to plan carefully in order to find enough space in it to bring spare clothing, food, gear, and other required kid paraphernalia. During testing, it was common for the bike rider to carry an additional backpack full of gear in order to feel prepared for a longer outing, even with only one child in the trailer. In addition, the pocket does not perform well at accommodating groceries or other items that do best sitting flat and not being squished.
The Chariot Lite is a high-quality trailer that is best-suited to families that appreciate well-designed and constructed gear that doesn't come with complications. While some people (including the testers) found the lack of options to be a negative, if you crave simplicity without sacrificing quality this rig may be a good choice, particularly for a daily bike commuter who doesn't have a need to haul much other than a kid or two.
This one of the most expensive trailers we tested, second only to the $1,150 Chariot Cross. For the extra cost, the Cross offers more versatility and customization, and we think it is worth the additional money to expand what the trailer can do and to improve passenger comfort. After all, if you're going to go all out on one of the most expensive lines of trailers on the market, you might as well get the best one. The best value for top-of-the-line trailers, however, is the Burley D'Lite X, which generally outperformed the Thule models and is slightly easier on your pocketbook.
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 X make more sense if you are investing in a top-performing trailer.
— Joanna Trieger