Chariot Lite 2 Updates
Some small updates were made to this trailer since our testing period. It now includes a rear light kit to increase night visibility and safety, and features some additional vents in the footrest designed to control airflow. There are also removable rain cover clips included so that you can increase ventilation when using the rain cover. The updated Chariot Lite retails for $850 for the single seat option or $950 for the double. Since we haven't tested the version with the updated lights and added ventilation, the review to follow only reflects our experience with the previous Chariot Lite. However, we do link to the updated version above.
Hands-On Review of the Chariot Lite
The Thule Chariot Lite offers the same great safety and protection features as its higher-end sibling, the Chariot Cross. 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 rain shield on the Chariot Lite covers the entire top of the trailer, so there's no chance of wet weather soaking through the fabric in a downpour. Thule included an extra fastener, shown at the bottom center of this photo, to keep the cover in place.
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 also has the same adjustable and fully removable sun shade as the Chariot Cross. With mesh backing behind the passengers' heads to encourage airflow, it's one of the most well-ventilated trailers we tested.
The mesh area behind the passengers' heads in the Chariot Lite encourages air flow through the trailer.
The Chariot Lite features a leaf spring suspension. Unlike the Thule Chariot Cross and Burley D'Lite, its stiffness cannot be adjusted. So it's not as smooth of a ride for passengers as the Chariot Cross or the Burley D'Lite. This had little impact on test results and it still performed very well.
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. That said, the Chariot Lite has the same giant front panel as the Cross, giving passengers an unrestricted view of the scenery around them.
The passenger compartments of the Chariot Cross, left, and the Chariot Lite, right. Note that the Lite lacks the seat padding of the Cross, and the Lite's seats don't recline.
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.
We rode with the Thule Chariot Lite for dozens of miles to evaluate this trailer from the perspective of the person towing it.
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.
Ease of Use
The Chariot Lite is almost identical to the Chariot Cross in terms of 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.
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 open-topped pocket at the back of the Thule Chariot Lite is a good option for keeping things separated from the trailer's interior, or for keeping them handy. However, it has no flat bottom, so hauling groceries or bulky items with this trailer was not ideal.
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 adjustable 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 $950 retail, this one of the most expensive trailers we tested, second only to the $1,150 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.