There are an overwhelming number of bike cargo trailers on the market these days. Sifting through the competition can be daunting. After putting seven different models through various testing scenarios that lasted well over three months, we understand what makes a reliable and efficient cargo bike trailer for any use.
Types of Cargo Bike Trailers
Cargo bike trailers fall under two main designs, single wheel, and double wheel. There are also different models for bike touring compared to the all-around-town errand runners.
Single Wheel Cargo Bike Trailers
Single wheel bike cargo trailers are well known for their maneuverability, especially through tight or narrow passages. The weight distribution between your bike's back wheel and the trailer offers better traction and handling, especially while traveling on dirt roads. It is one of the factors that set them apart from two-wheel trailers.
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 that can be as heavy as 70 pounds, 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, whereas two wheel trailers offer better usability for stop and go around town riding.
Two Wheel Bike Cargo Trailers
Having two wheels means that two-wheeled trailers are wider and more stable at a standstill. This means more room for packing, but then you've got to pull it all behind you. The weight is distributed between the two trailer wheels, so there is less torque on the bike. This makes it easier to perfectly balance and arrange a load.
Attaching and detaching the two-wheeled trailers wasn't a team sport as it was with 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 laying flat or 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?
First, 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 and all-around town use is something you are looking for, 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 hundred dollars. In our opinion, the quality and durability of the product is always worth the price. You also usually pay extra for certain features. For instance, the BOB Ibex plus goes for around $439 but comes equipped with a durable, water-resistant dry sack and also has built-in suspension in the back that provides a very smooth ride on and off paved roads.
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.