Over the past several years we have churned through a smorgasbord of bike cargo trailers to figure out which ones are worth their metal, and which ones should get a one-way ticket to the scrap yard. Our expertise and experience in bike touring, commuting, and living off a bike have given us the insights necessary to accurately examine the abilities of each trailer.
Types of Cargo Bike Trailers
As you can see, there are two main types of bike cargo trailers available on the market, one wheel and two-wheel. In general, two-wheel trailers can handle more sheer weight while single wheel designs are more efficient but can't handle extreme loads.
Single Wheel Cargo Bike Trailers
If maneuverability and efficiency are high on your list of necessities when considering a cargo trailer, a single wheel model is probably where you want to start. The single wheel cuts down on drag, tracks directly behind your bike, and ultimately offers better handling than two-wheel models.
They also minimize drag since they are streamlined behind your bike. In wind tunnels, cyclists who draft behind another cyclist save 27 percent of the energy they would have otherwise used without a windbreak. The same principle applies to anything you pull behind you.
There are a few drawbacks to a single-wheel trailers. First, you as the rider must balance the weight of both your bike and trailer when stopped. With a fully loaded trailer, this can be very laborious. Also, when attaching the trailer to your bike, it usually takes two people or leaning the trailer and the bike against something to get it properly attached. As you might imagine, this makes single wheel trailers better suited for long stints in the saddle with few stops. Two-wheel trailers offer better usability for stop and go around town riding.
Two Wheel Bike Cargo Trailers
Double your pleasure, double your fun", - Double Mint Gum. Two wheels offer a significant boost in stability, durability, and overall hauling capacity. As you can see in the main testing article, single wheel trailers top out at about 70lbs whereas two-wheel models can handle more like 100lbs.
Attaching and detaching the two-wheeled trailers wasn't a team sport as it was with some single wheels. In some cases they could be attached and removed with one hand, allowing you to hold groceries with the other hand. This is the case for the Burley Travoy.
While most two-wheeled trailers are horizontal, there is also an upright golf bag variation. This design allows you to keep groceries and fragile items from getting jumbled up during your commute.
On the downside, that width also creates more drag on you and the trailer. They also take up more space on and off of the trails and are less stable when making sharp turns and going on and off the pavement. Overall, the two-wheeled trailers we tested tended to be better for around town commuting and hauling larger loads than were their single wheel counterparts.
Ready to Buy?
Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the decision-making process. Think about how you're going to use the trailer, whether you'll need suspension, and how much you're willing to spend.
First: What will be your primary use?
Think about the primary purpose of getting a bike trailer. Are you going to be doing longer overnight bike touring or are you simply looking for a way to transport items around town? Do you want a trailer specifically for shopping? Does having the option to go off-road matter, or are you going to be staying on paved streets?
As we explained above, single-wheeled trailers are more streamlined and maneuverable but are harder to balance. Two-wheeled trailers are easier to handle and can have more carrying capacity but require more room and can encourage overloading.
If you are looking for a trailer to haul heavy and uneven cargo, then the wagon-like Burley Flatbed may be a fit. It took home our Top Pick award and can carry up to 100 pounds. With its open front and back design, it's easy to load and unload. If you are looking for a trailer to tour with, the two-wheeled Burley Nomad or BOB Yak are good options, depending on whether you want a single or double-wheeled touring bike trailer. If off-roading on single track roads, then the BOB Ibex with its three inches of suspension and streamlined design would suit your need just fine. If around town grocery shopping will be a primary task the Burley Travoy is a well-adapted urban solution.
Second: Suspension or no suspension?
Having a cargo bike trailer with suspension can be a huge benefit, especially while traveling on and off the dirt paths around town. Of course, it costs more, so make sure you need it.
The BOB Ibex has three inches of adjustable suspension that allows for a smooth ride. The Aosom Solo also has suspension, although it was not as smooth as the Ibex. If your use will mostly be on paved roads, then the suspension-less BOB Yak or rigid Aosom Wanderer might be a great choice.
The BOB Yak is similar to its brother the Ibex, but with the added weight and trail-smoothing skills of the suspension in the back. It makes for a great travel companion and tracks well behind the back tire of your bike.
Most of the cargo bike trailers on the market today are well over a couple of hundred dollars. In our opinion, the quality and durability of the product are always worth the price. You also usually pay extra for certain features. For instance, the Burley Coho XC rings in at $449.00 which seems incredibly expensive. It does, however, have excellent build quality and offers everything you could want in a bike cargo trailer. It also has some options such as a fat tire add-on and even extra panniers to expand the cargo space.
On the other end of the price spectrum, you have the Aosom Solo at around $100. It's a single wheel design like the BOB Ibex or the BOB Yak but for around half the cost. The overall construction and build of the Aosom Solo didn't hold up as well as some of the more expensive models, but it would be totally adequate for lighter cargo and use around town.