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Over the past 8 years, we've purchased and tested some of the highest-rated bike trailers on the market with 8 top contenders in this year's lineup. From smooth city greenway trails to rugged singletrack and washboard dirt roads, we used and abused each trailer to find their limits and see where they shine. After hundreds of miles, some flat tires, and a few microbrew-fueled picnic debates, we have the results of how each trailer performed. Get ready to hitch up your bicycle's new soul mate and head to the hills.
These trailers are specifically for cargo. If you're looking to tote your kids behind your bike, check out our best bike trailer review.
Editor's Note: Our bike cargo trailer review was edited for clarity on May 23, 2023.
The Burley Coho XC is uniquely durable and can haul large loads compared to other one-wheeled trailers. It offers a wide range of customizable features for different terrain or touring styles — anything from a quick grocery run or a week-long bike tour is easy and more fun when this trailer is along for the ride. We appreciate features like a kickstand and one-handed hitching meet, as well as an admirable towing capacity. Assembly is also straightforward. Whether you need something for the paved bike trails through your town, a dirt road, or even singletrack, this trailer is our favorite of the bunch.
While the Coho XC sets the bar quite high in the versatility department, we had a few bones to pick. The rugged design makes for a pretty heavy product, despite only having one wheel. There is also a large gap between the bike's rear wheel and the trailer's cargo bay, so careful packing is a must to avoid wag or sway. However, these negative features are far outweighed by this top-scoring trailer's versatility, durability, and ease of use.
The Aosom Wanderer can carry the most weight of the trailers we tested, and it is also uniquely affordable. This trailer demonstrates that a rugged, durable, sturdy, and unrelenting design doesn't have to break the bank. We are also impressed by the versatility, ease of setup, and how nicely such a simple trailer can pull.
On the flip side, this was one of the heaviest and most rattly trailers in our test group. The construction isn't shoddy, but it's less refined than some of its high-dollar rivals. However, these annoyances don't detract from the Wanderer's overall functionality as an urban hauler, and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone hunting for a heavy-duty option at an approachable price.
The Burley Flatbed is a surprisingly versatile trailer capable of hauling 100 pounds of cargo (and likely more) while maintaining a slim 14.5-pound trailer weight. This is a unique trailer not only for the cargo/trailer weight ratio but also for its simple design, open-ended bed, and attention to detail. There is likely nothing another bike cargo trailer can haul that the Flatbed couldn't haul, too.
There are absolutely more efficient trailers for long-distance touring or even lighter trailers for quick trips to the grocery, but none are so lightweight and efficient while still being able to haul such a large payload. While keeping the weight low, the small wheels detract from overall ride smoothness when on gravel, but this is a small gripe for such an excellent trailer, and we wholeheartedly recommend the Burley Flatbed for those who regularly haul heavy loads.
The Burley Travoy is a specialist explicitly designed for around-town endeavors. It's best suited for grocery runs because of its integrated tote bag and the option to unhitch the trailer and wheel it straight into the grocery store. All these features are user-friendly, and we especially like how easily you can fold the trailer up and store it in the tote bag when you're done.
The updated Travoy solved some of the frustrating issues of the past and added a much burlier hitch. One big addition is the extendable attachment point which allows for extra clearance between the rear wheel and trailer, which previously caused some rubbing issues. The most frustrating update is the previously included attachable tote bag is now an accessory that must be purchased separately. That aside, this is an around-town specialist that helps wrangle weirdly shaped items and makes grocery-getting pretty fun.
We initially checked out more than 40 models of bike trailers before settling on the best of the bunch to purchase and test. For ease of towing, we hitched up each model in succession, comparing performance side-by-side. Ride quality was tested over various surfaces, from smooth pavement to washboard gravel to singletrack trails. All of this has meticulously taken place over many months in order to bring you a truly comprehensive assessment of cargo trailer options. Read on to learn about our testing metrics and how each trailer performed in these key areas.
Our testing of bike cargo trailers is divided across five rating metrics:
Capacity (30% of overall score weighting)
Ease of Use (20% weighting)
Ease of Towing (20% weighting)
Smoothness of Ride (20% weighting)
Versatility (10% weighting)
OutdoorGearLab Senior Review Editor Katherine Elliott spearheads this review. Kat is a prolific gear testing expert at our home base in Tahoe. She enjoys lots of outdoor pursuits, many of them facilitated with a bit of extra bicycle carrying capacity. She is joined by former Yosemite Search and Rescue member and SAR technician Brian Martin. Brian is a mountain athlete for all seasons and can be found on everything from alpine ridge climbs to ski tours to bike-packing ultra races. His work with Search and Rescue often involved maintenance and selection of equipment, which required a sharp eye for many types of outdoor gear.
Analysis and Test Results
To fully assess our lineup of trailers and determine the right model for every user, we determined five testing metrics: capacity, ease of use, ease of towing, smoothness of ride, and versatility. Following is a discussion of these metrics with the results of how every model performed in each given area.
Among the many important things to consider when purchasing a bike cargo trailer, price is omnipresent. There was a significant gap in price and value between the field of trailers we tested. We're talking hundreds of dollars difference between the most affordable and the most expensive. The price doesn't tell nearly the whole story, as your intended use and the trailer's overall performance are critical components in determining value for you and your cargo-hauling needs.
Value, from our perspective, is that sweet spot where price and performance balance each other in the perfect way for your needs. While there are some amazing trailers in our review that scored highly across all our tests, some of them are a serious investment. If you don't need to fanciest thing out there — you just want to get your groceries from the store to your house or bring a bunch of toys to the park without breaking the bank, consider looking into the extremely fair-priced Schwinn Day Tripper, Retrospec Rover Hauler, or Aosom Wanderer.
We placed a high value on each trailer's capacity, which, after all, is the entire point of purchasing a bike trailer for overnight camping or a week's worth of groceries. Two-wheel trailers generally have a much higher capacity, but they also have more rolling resistance. Single-wheel options have less capacity but less rolling resistance and can haul stuff more gracefully — though packing these can be a bit more finicky and require a bit more zen-like balance.
The impressive Aosom Wanderer offers the highest stated weight-bearing capacity of all trailers we tested — 110 pounds. This is a lot of weight, much more than you would want to haul for an extended period of time. Think hauling firewood down a dirt road or taking your oversize dog on a camping trip.
The Burley Flatbed and Burley Nomad offer 100 pounds of carrying capacity. The Flatbed rises above the Nomad just a bit because it's significantly easier to roll things like giant firewood rounds onto the bed with its open front and back end. An honorable mention in this capacity category is also the Aosom Elite II, which doesn't boast a 100-pound weight allowance but still can hold a huge volume of material.
Trailer Loading Tip
Attach single-wheeled trailers to the bike when they are empty — when they are much more stable, light, and easy to handle — and then load them. At first, attaching the trailer to the bike usually requires an extra set of hands or a sturdy wall for support to lean your bike and trailer against. Then, with practice, you will likely be able to do it yourself.
Ease of Use
When we get down to brass tacks, a trailer that is hard to assemble, has unintuitive attachment points, or is more trouble to operate than it is fun to use will sit in the garage and collect spiderwebs, dust, and sadness. To test this metric, we paid special attention to the time and effort that went into assembly/first use as well as subsequent hitching/unhitching for quick use.
The Burley Coho XC is very easy to hitch once set up, even one-handed. However, it requires determining the correct thru-axle size and threading, which set us back a few days waiting for delivery, so be sure to look into Burley's bike fitting guide to ensure compatibility upfront. From there, loading is easy (aided by a kickstand), and a stretchy cargo net helps keep everything safely secured.
The two-wheeled Nomad and Flatbed have an easy-to-use trailer attachment as well. It's a forged steel hitch that mounts directly to your bike frame via the back wheel. It also has a quick-release pin that holds the trailer in place and allows it to move freely from the bike. Additionally, these trailers come with button-activated, quick-release wheels, so taking them on and off for storage or travel is easy and fast.
This year's update saw the addition of the Schwinn Day Tripper and Retrospec Rover Hauler, which were both surprisingly easy to assemble, hitch, and use day-to-day. Both trailers have relatively small and light hitching points, which can easily be left on a top-rated electric commuter bike without really noticing, allowing for quick and easy attachment whenever you need your trailer. These trailers utilize pins/clips to assemble the collapsible side rails, and both went together easily.
The wheels on the Aosom Wanderer are mounted with bolts on the trailer, so they take more time to adjust. With a pair of pliers, we managed to straighten out the back connector and get it attached to the quick-release skewer and the bike. The initial setup and connection took around 15 minutes altogether, and besides the bent back connector, it was a rather easy setup.
Ease of Towing
To tackle the broad spectrum of trailers tested, it's essential to recognize the difference between one and two-wheeled options. As you might imagine, two-wheeled trailers are stable and require a bit less attention when packing. Just throw everything in, make sure it isn't heavily loaded at the back, and it will generally tow just fine. Single wheel trailers, as a rule, require much more meticulous packing — keeping heavier items low down and on the centerline is critical. Overloading one side or the other, or even having a top-heavy load, can make things interesting. For example, when stopping at a red light, an awkward load in a single-wheel trailer will frustratingly pull the bike to whatever side is overloaded.
One of the most important considerations when selecting a single or double wheeled trailer is the efficiency and maneuverability of each. Even short sections of single track or rugged dirt paths can make a double wheel trailer nearly impossible to manage. Similar sections of trail may be passable with a single-wheel trailer with no drama simply because of the narrow profile and how closely behind your bike the trailer will track. Additionally, single-wheel trailers have significantly less rolling resistance and stay within the slipstream created as you slice through the air. Wider two-wheelers create additional wind resistance.
True to form, the single-wheeled Burley Coho XC is the easiest to tow. It tracks so well that you nearly forget it's behind you. The lower center of gravity allows for better maneuverability and handling with or without a cargo load. The single-wheel design also makes an excellent trailer for maneuvering through tight spaces or a crowded street. Unfortunately, it is easy to overload a single-wheel trailer, making hike-and-bikes and technical trails a bit challenging. Still, the Coho XC is a good choice if you plan to travel on bumpy dirt roads or singletrack. When carefully loaded and balanced, the trailer will offer a smooth, drama-free ride.
Throughout our two-wheel trailer testing, it became apparent that the Burley Nomad had a significant advantage over the competition. The mounting design is especially nice as the hitch mount allows the bike to pitch and yaw without moving the trailer off of level. While this doesn't sound that spectacular, when standing up to pump up a hill, the smooth pulling trailer is much appreciated.
The Burley Travoy also has some unique features, such as a padded handle that allows you to detach the trailer from its hitch, wheel it into a grocery store, and re-clip it to your bike. All with one hand. If you plan on urban grocery-getting commutes, this trailer will certainly make your life easier than most of the other options in our lineup.
Smoothness of Ride
As you might imagine, having suspension goes a long way to improve ride quality for bike cargo trailers. The Burley Coho XC offers smooth and efficient suspended one-wheel goodness. After using this trailer, it was difficult for us to want to tow anything else offroad as the rattle and perceived extra weight of a rigid wheel hitting a bump felt exhausting.
Two-wheel trailers, in general, are much less smooth. One wheel hitting a bump inevitably disrupts both wheels. Washboard gravel at high speeds causes something akin to the Jeep Wrangler "death wobble". In short, the smoother the ride, the less energy it takes to pedal the trailer. The Coho offers a quiet and smooth ride when compared to the rest of the field.
For non-suspension two-wheeled options, we found decent performances from the Burley Flatbed, Nomad, and Travoy. The Flatbed is smooth even when empty — something many trailers are not — and the Nomad is quiet and composed, even when on rougher terrain. The Travoy is also stable, though the small wheels make it less than ideal for non-pavement. It is very smooth if you stay in town, which is the environment it's designed for and where it is most at home.
Depending on what you have planned for your trailer, versatility could be an important added bonus. If you only plan to go a few blocks to the store on pavement, this metric likely won't be a big deal. But if you want the freedom to move seamlessly from asphalt to dirt trails or to carry all kinds of different cargo, this is a good characteristic to at least consider.
The Burley Coho XC is among the most versatile we've tested. The rugged construction, stretchy cargo net, kickstand, and one-handed hitching make most applications easy. From grocery runs to overnight camping, the Coho never seemed to run out of applications. The Burley Flatbed is also top-notch in this category with its open front and back. Add that to its stability, and you have the freedom to haul practically anything.
The Burley Nomad is worth mentioning as well, with its cargo cover that helps secure your load. The cover is easy to attach and detach from the main trailer body. If you are hauling large or uneven cargo, you just need to unclip the cover from the trailer, load, secure your items, and you're ready to roll — you'll still have plenty of room for larger or longer items to stick out of the back of the trailer. We were also impressed by the versatility of the Burley Travoy. Despite being optimized for the city with small wheels and a shopping-focused design, this trailer still performed decently with odd-shaped loads and on rougher, well-packed terrain.
Different Types of Bike Trailers
Single Wheel Cargo Trailer: Burley Coho XC
Two-Wheel Cargo Trailers: Burley Flatbed, Burley Nomad, Aosom Wanderer, Burley Travoy, Schwinn Day Tripper, Retrospec Rover Hauler, Aosom Elite II
There are hundreds of viable bike cargo trailer options on the market. We whittled down the field to options we feel will perform well and last. We hope our breakdown and assessment of these top-tier bike cargo trailers help you pick the perfect one for your needs and lifestyle. For other biking needs, we've got you covered. We've tested everything from the best cargo bikes and best mountain bikes to electric bikes, and essential biking accessories like the best bike pumps, cycling helmets, and best helmets for other types of cycling and other outdoor sports.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.