Looking for the best bike trailer you can buy in 2019? Need to squire your kids around town in style while providing protection and convenience? To find the right option for you, we looked at 30 different models and selected 10 of the best. We rode over 500 miles with them, swapping between trailers for crosstown missions and rug-rat-hauling field tests. Then we brought them into the lab, setting up an accelerometer to measure how each trailer takes rough terrain like broken-up pavement and curbs. We also rated the overall experience that each trailer offers both the pedaler and passenger.
The Best Bike Trailers of 2019
|Price||$639.19 at REI|
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|$279.19 at REI|
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|$649.00 at Amazon|
|Pros||Best hitch, lightweight, full roll cage, versatile, sun protection||Durable, easy to set up, comfortable for passengers, weather-proof||Easy to set up, rainproof, easy to maneuver||Lightweight, best hitch design, water-resistant, excellent value||Comfortable seats, large passenger space, adjustable interior, great safety features|
|Cons||Difficult to stow, not watertight, noise from parking brake||Heavy, expensive, fixed configuration||Heavy, fixed interior configuration, expensive||No passenger padding, no bottom reinforcement, lacks versatility||Extremely heavy, large and bulky to store, not water-tight|
|Bottom Line||The D’Lite is an all-around excellent trailer with standout safety features and unmatched versatility, making it a clear pick for our Editors' Choice award.||Our Top Pick for Athletes, the Chariot Cross 2 is impressively durable and is designed to keep passengers comfortable during long rides in tough conditions.||A more pared down version of the Chariot Cross, theLite 2 has great safety features and is one of the easiest trailers to set up and tow.||The nimble Bee earned our Best Bang for the Buck award for being safe, durable and the easiest trailer to tow at less than half the price of the high-end trailers.||Our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride, the Outback offers a smooth, roomy ride for passengers, but bikers will struggle to pull this heavy trailer uphill.|
|Rating Categories||Burley D'Lite||Chariot Cross 2||Chariot Lite 2||Burley Bee||Outback Multi-Sport|
|Passenger Experience (20%)|
|Biker Experience (20%)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Burley D'Lite||Chariot Cross 2||Chariot Lite 2||Burley Bee||Outback Multi-Sport|
|Converts to Stroller?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Number of Children||2||2||2||2||2|
Best Overall Bike Trailer
The D'Lite is at or near the top of the pack for every metric we tested, and we can't think of a single application where it wouldn't excel, except maybe in a true downpour. Its safety features impressed us, with a comprehensive roll cage, UV-repellent windows, substantial ventilation, and a secure, padded five-point harness. We love Burley's hitch mechanism because it makes it easy to connect the trailer to the bike and provides a stable, lurch-free towing experience. Our passenger testers were "d'lited" with the D'Lite's comfort, smooth ride quality, and ample interior storage pockets. The D'Lite is outstandingly versatile — not only do its seats lie flat to accommodate dogs, oversized cargo, and anything else you want to tow, but it has optional strolling, jogging, and cross-country ski kits for multisport families.
The D'Lite does have its drawbacks, even if we had to squint pretty hard to find them. It's not totally watertight, so all-weather riders in wet climates may want to look into a model with better rain protection. It also has a parking brake that rattles when you ride, which can get annoying on otherwise serene trails. Still, if you're in the market for a trailer that does everything well and most things best, look no further than the Burley D'Lite.
Read review: Burley D'Lite
Best Bang for the Buck
If you're hunting for a high-quality, user-friendly trailer that won't sting your wallet, we recommend our Best Bang for the Buck, the Burley Bee. The Bee is less than half the price of our Editors' Choice award winner, the Burley D'Lite, but it has many of the same great safety features and is just as simple to set up, attach, and tow. The Bee is the lightest trailer we tested but has one of the largest cargo spaces, so it's a great option for commutes or running errands around town.
The passenger experience in the Bee is pretty basic, with unpadded seats and no suspension, and this is a single-function trailer with no strolling or multisport conversion kits available. There are also a few design features in the Bee that could lead to unnecessary wear, such as a fabric bottom that tends to rip if rested on the ground too often. But if you already have a stroller or a jogger and you're looking for a nimble, fun, and relatively inexpensive entry into biking with kids, the Burley Bee is a great buy.
Read review: Burley Bee
Top Pick for Athletes
Thule Chariot Cross 2
The Thule Chariot Cross may not quite match up to its closest rival, the Editor's Choice Burley D'Lite, but make no mistake: This is an outstanding bike trailer with a range of ability and a thoughtfulness of design that will keep any family satisfied. The Cross is durable enough to handle very rugged terrain, and its rain cover keeps passengers and belongings completely dry, even in downpour conditions. Its seats are comfortable, its harness straps are easy to adjust, and it's delightfully easy to set up when you're ready to ride.
The Chariot Cross is not a light trailer, so parents and other kid-wranglers will need iron legs to pull it up hills. It's not light on your wallet either, so those who aren't sure if they're going to be biking with kids often, or whose kids will soon be past towing age, may want to look elsewhere. That said, if you have a highly active family and are looking for a trailer that will bring you quality time with your young ones while sticking to your training plan, the Thule Chariot Cross is the one for you.
Read review: Thule Chariot Cross
Top Pick for a Comfy Ride
Hamax Outback Multi-Sport
Elements of the Hamax Outback impressed us enough to earn it our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride. Passengers in the Outback are in for a treat: They'll enjoy wide, comfortable seats, a secure footwell design that makes it easy to climb in and out, big windows to take in the view, and a smooth ride thanks to an adjustable suspension system. Like the Burley D'Lite, the Hamax also has seats that can unclip to lie flat, so you can tow just about anything in its roomy interior. Our friends over at BabyGearLab also really liked the Outback in its jogger guise.
While the Outback has its upsides, we have to weigh the negatives as well — literally. This trailer weighs a ton, so the biker pulling it is in for a tough workout. Its weight is enough to limit its versatility, since carrying large loads is infeasible with such a heavy product. Some aspects of this trailer's design are also a challenge, from a crucial zipper that's lacking a stop, to its unwieldy size when folded. But if you're not too concerned about weight or slick design and you just want the plushest possible ride for your little ones, the Hamax Outback might be the right choice.
Read review: Hamax Outback Multi-Sport Bike Trailer
Top Pick for an Ultra-low Budget
The Schwinn Echo is one of the least expensive trailers on the market, and among the very cheapest trailers, it performs the best. This model is compact and easy to tow, it has larger, sturdier wheels than similarly priced trailers, it's well ventilated, and it has a generous amount of cargo space. If budget is your top priority, this trailer is worth your attention.
But as we all know, you get what you pay for. You won't pay much for the Echo, and what you'll get in return is a saggy footwell that's hard for kids to step into, a difficult and annoying cover attachment system, virtually zero protection from inclement weather, and a cramped passenger compartment. If you're going to be using this trailer daily, you'd be wise to look to a product that's more user-friendly and functional. But if you're only planning on occasional rides in good weather and you don't have much to spend, the Echo may be all you need.
Read review: Schwinn Echo
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editor Joanna Trieger. Joanna uses her home base of Reno, Nevada as base of operations for various Sierra Nevada excursions, like trail runs, skiing, and mountain biking. A safe streets advocate, you can find her bike commuting on work days, which she has done without exception for the past two years. Even off the clock, she is often still on the bike, towing her neice around town. Having a dedicated, cycle-centric lifestyle gives Joanna the keen eye and experience to understand the funtionality of a bike trailer.
Working on this review started with copious amounts of market research into which products to purchase and test. We wanted models at a variety of price points, and the best ones available in those brackets. We scoured online reviews, and distilled a pool of 40 inital models down to the 10 best we could find. We also thought carefully about how to judge the trailer's performance and named several key metrics to focus on while testing. For each metric, a test protocol was tailor made, such as the protection test involving an accelerometer fixed to a camelbak while the trailer is pulled across rough terrain, which was meant to compare smoothness of ride among the different models. It all adds up to a comprehensive study that will help you make a more informed choice in your purchase of a kids bike trailer.
Related: How We Tested Bike Trailers
Analysis and Test Results
We took 10 of the most popular bike trailers for kids on the market and rode them for hundreds of miles in a series of side-by-side tests. We hauled these trailers along city streets, over rough trails, and through grassy parks. We towed gear, dogs, groceries, gardening supplies, and — of course — kids. After months of rigorous testing, we're confident in our analysis of how these trailers stack up.Related: Buying Advice for Bike Trailers
Related: The Best Bike Cargo Trailer Review
We weighted each testing metric according to its contribution to the kid-towing experience, then used our weighted ratings to score each trailer on a scale from 1-100, as shown above. The right trailer for your family isn't necessarily the one at the top of the chart. Below, we analyze how all the products performed in each metric and discuss where each stood out.
Price matters, but if you want to get the most out of your trailer and enjoy tons of riding options, we think you'll get more value by springing for a suspension model. The more pleasant experience will encourage you to use it more often, lowering the cost per ride over time. The Burley D'Lite is our top recommendation for its stellar performance at a reasonable price point.
But the most incredible value award goes to the Burley Bee. The Bee gets you the quality design and durability that comes with the Burley brand for less than half the price of the D'Lite. It's true that the Bee isn't as plush for passengers as the D'Lite, but it's a fantastically easy trailer to set up and tow. It also has solid safety features and is light enough to remain useful as an around-town cargo trailer long after your kids are grown.
Not to be ignored in the value department is the Schwinn Echo, which snagged our Top Pick for an Ultra-low Budget in our 2019 review update. This is a decidedly basic trailer, but it's easier to tow and has better components than other trailers at its low price point, like the InStep Take 2 and the Allen Sport Steel. The Echo is less than half the price of the Burley Bee. The Bee is much more user-friendly and durable than the Echo, so we still think the Bee is a better value. But if you don't want to spend a penny more than you have to to get rolling with your kids, the Echo is a solid choice.
The Thule Chariot Cross and its little sibling the Thule Chariot Lite are on the pricier side. If you're going to spend that kind of money, go all out and get the Chariot Cross. The Cross has strategically padded seats that recline individually, an adjustable suspension system, and a rain-proof cargo pouch. Either one of these trailers is a serious investment, so you might as well invest in the best.
Keeping kids safe is a top priority, so we considered passenger protection to be our most important rating metric. All of the trailers we tested meet the minimum requirements set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), but some treat those standards as a baseline and layer on more extensive safety features. We considered factors like roll cage coverage, overall construction quality, harness effectiveness, rain and sun protection, ventilation, and suspension as we evaluated each product in this category.
We performed tests and observed our (appropriately aged) passenger testers to determine which model offers the smoothest ride. However, we do not recommend even the smoothest ride in the safest trailer for children younger than one, and we never recommend towing a child that's not wearing a well-fitted helmet.
A note about helmets and head position
As you can see in the video above, some trailers are better than others at providing a smooth ride over rough patches. We found that the adjustable suspension systems in the Hamax Outback, the Burley D'Lite, and the Thule Chariot Cross absorbed a lot of the bumps in the trail, making them a passenger favorite on gravel roads. None of the other models we tested had built-in suspension, and we found that we had to slow way down and ride cautiously to avoid bouncing our passengers around in the non-suspended trailers. If you're going to be doing extensive off-road riding, investing in a model with a suspension system is a good idea and will keep your kid passengers much more comfortable.
To test the trailers' suspension, we simulated riding with a 6-9-month-old child. That's the minimum manufacturer-recommended age for bike trailer passengers. But, again, our BabyGearLab friends don't recommend towing children under one year. To do so, we loaded a single 20-pound bump-test-dummy into the trailer and used a hardtail mountain bike to test each trailer under virtually identical conditions.
We conducted two tests: one was a visual assessment of shock absorption, and the other was a quantitative measurement of acceleration over a series of bumps on asphalt. For the visual test, we mounted a rear-facing camera to the seat post and towed the trailers over a series of bumps at controlled speeds while filming the test dummy. The amount of jostling was much lower in trailers with suspensions than those without suspensions. You can check out the results of our visual test in the video above.
To measure suspension performance, we mounted an iPhone with an accelerometer app to the test dummy and towed the trailers over several prominent bumps at identical speeds. The primary purpose of this trial was to obtain quantitative results that we could compare with the results of our visual test. The test also demonstrates how jostling in a bike trailer has the potential to affect a 6-9-month-old child. Again, we do not recommend towing a child younger than 12 months in a trailer.
This test answered a few of our key questions about trailer suspension systems. Here's a summary of our findings:
- You get what you pay for — Yes, the substantial price jump (two to three times) to a suspension trailer provides measurable benefits in shock absorption and ride smoothness. The peak acceleration of our test dummy was typically more than two times greater in trailers that did not have suspensions.
- Some suspension designs are better than others — The Thule Chariot Cross has a much more supple suspension than both the Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Lite. The Hamax Outback also offers a superior ride. The difference is noticeable but not too significant. Any one of these three trailers offers a far better ride than a trailer with no suspension. The Thule Chariot Cross and Burley D'Lite both have adjustable suspensions, which enable users to adjust spring stiffness based upon passenger weight.
- Is it worth spending more to get a better suspension? — Yes, we believe it is worth paying more to stack the deck toward safety and comfort in the event of an unexpected pothole or bump in the road, especially if the passenger is on the younger end of the recommended age range.
We soaked each of the trailers with a sprinkler to test their rainy day chops. We placed the sprinkler head specifically to mimic road slick coming up off the bike's back tire since this sludge tends to make its way under the trailers' front covers. The Thule Chariots were the clear winners of this rain test. Both of them have a rain shield that covers the entire front and top of the trailer. Fasteners also direct runoff to the exterior of the trailer, like wearing rain pants over the top of rain boots. By contrast, none of the other models have rain covers that stretch over their tops, so saturation in heavy rain is inevitable. If you're going to be riding a lot with kids in a very wet climate, you'll thank yourself for strongly considering one of the Chariot models.
The Burley Bee, Thule Cadence, and Burley D'Lite remained relatively dry inside throughout our rain test and would be okay for a prolonged ride in drizzle, but they probably wouldn't stay completely dry for more than 15 minutes of heavy rain. Among the higher-end trailers, the Hamax Outback stood out for how poorly it performed in this area. After five minutes under the sprinkler, the Outback's footwell had been soaked from underneath thanks to a small canvas patch at the front of the trailer, and there was enough seepage through the top of the trailer to partially soak the seats. The Outback could probably keep passengers dry through a light drizzle, but not serious rain. At the very bottom of the pack are the Schwinn Echo and the InStep Take 2. Their rain shields fit loosely and their fabric covers are barely water-resistant, so their interiors were soaked after five minutes under the sprinkler. These models are best for dry days only.
On the other end of the spectrum is the sun. Some trailers go above and beyond to protect children from sun exposure. The Burley D'Lite has an adjustable sunshade, UPF 30 windows, and proper ventilation with a mesh-covered window in the back to encourage air flow. The Thule Chariots also did well here, with an even larger adjustable sunshade and mesh backing behind the passengers' heads for ventilation. The while the sunshade on the Hamax Outback isn't adjustable, the trailer does feature great ventilation and UPF 30 windows.
Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite, took the top spot in the protection category. The D'Lite features a full aluminum roll cage, including extra framing to protect against side impacts, with a handlebar that folds down during rides to provide even more top-side protection. It has UPF 30 windows and an adjustable sunshade, and it's well-ventilated for rides on hot days. Its suspension smooths out the ride for kids, and its rain performance is acceptable. The Hamax Outback and the Thule Chariot models gave the D'Lite a run for its money in this category, but they scored just slightly lower because their frames didn't include side-impact protection. The Weehoo weeGo and the Burley Bee have well-developed roll cages combined with secure harnesses, so both are safety standouts.
Safety and kid protection are obviously important considerations in every trailer purchase, but the need for additional protective elements varies based on the type of rides you plan on doing. If you're not planning to do anything more rigorous than short rides over smooth secondary roads to the neighborhood park, some may consider it overkill to insist on a full roll cage. The trailers that scored lowest in this category, the Allen Sports Steel, the InStep Take 2, the Schwinn Echo, and the Thule Cadence, all meet ASTM requirements and can still be great options for mellow applications.
If your kids aren't happy in the trailer, chances are you're not going to get much use out of it. With that in mind, we took a close look at the way our kid passengers experienced each of the products we tested. We evaluated how easy it is for kids to get in and out of the trailer, how comfortable the seat and harness are, and how much space passengers have. The Hamax Outback is a top performer in this category. In fact, it's so good that we dubbed it our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride. The Thule Chariot Cross is also outstanding, with our Editors' Choice, the Burley D'Lite, not far behind.
All of the trailers we tested are stable enough when attached to a bike that kids can climb in and out on their own, but each of them takes a slightly different approach to the design of the entryway and footwell. The king of this category, the Hamax Outback, is low to the ground and has a firm, flat, rubberized foot well that makes it super easy and stable for little kids to climb in and out by themselves. The lower front panels of the Burley D'Lite, Burley Bee, and Allen Sport Steel unclip so that little legs can quickly step up into the trailer. However, the sharply slanting floors of the Burley models make it a harder for kids to find their footing. The Thule Chariots and the Cadence are relatively low to the ground, so while their front panels are fixed, they're easy for kiddos to navigate. Like the Outback, the Weehoo weeGo provides a flat, rubber-reinforced footwell. The weeGo is a little tippy and unstable for kids to get into, but they find firm footing inside. The Schwinn Echo and the InStep Take 2 do not perform well here — they both have ill-fitting, saggy fabric floors, so they don't provide stable footing for little feet. Older kids are generally alright with this, but some of our youngest kid passengers, who are just getting a feel for being upright, were freaked out by the wobbliness of the saggy footwells.
Once passengers are in the trailer, comfort is key. Again, the Hamax Outback, the Thule Chariot Cross, and the Burley D'Lite shine in this area, with strategically padded seats and harnesses to prevent little bodies from getting sore or chafed, even on long rides. We found the seat and harness pads in the Outback to be the plushest, and each of the pads is removable and machine washable, so inevitable dirt and spills won't become permanent. Most of the other trailers, including the Burley Bee and the Thule Cadence, have unpadded bench-style seats and unpadded harnesses. The Schwinn Echo, our Top Pick for an Ultra-low Budget, has a bench-style seat with a thinly padded harness. A well-adjusted harness — one that holds the child in place but doesn't crush them — is essential for a comfortable ride, and we found the five-point systems in the Hamax Outback and the Thule Chariots to be the easiest to adjust.
So we could compare apples to apples, we only tested double-passenger trailers in this review. (Note that most trailers also have a single-passenger version available.) Though all the trailers were designed for two passengers, we found that the interior space varied significantly when we measured the total width of the seats in each model. The Outback has the widest interior of the trailers we tested at a generous 24", giving little ones plenty of room to relax. The Schwinn Echo has the narrowest seating area at just 21". Unless they're tiny toddlers, fitting two passengers into the Echo would be a squeeze. The Echo does feature the ability to reconfigure the harnesses to secure a single passenger in the middle of its seats, so even though this trailer is cramped, solo passengers don't have to be squished.
One reason the Thule Chariot Cross scores so highly in the passenger experience category is its impressive adjustable seat feature. Both seats in the Cross can lean back independently of each other, so if one of your passengers is ready for a nap and the other one wants to sit up and see the world, you don't have to compromise. The seat backs in the Burley D'Lite and the Hamax Outback are adjustable, but only as full units, so if one kid relaxes, the other one does, too. The individually adjustable seats of the Cross are probably most useful for users who plan on doing long rides.
All of the products we tested will increase your energy expenditure compared to riding a bicycle without anything in tow. However, we did find noteworthy differences in how each model feels to pull. Weight is one of the biggest factors in this category, as is feedback from the trailer to the bike. We also paid close attention to whether the trailers make noise while being towed, how easy they are to tow off-road and on uneven terrain, and how well we can maneuver the bike-and-trailer rig while walking through and around obstacles. Our Best Buy Award winner, the Burley Bee, is a clear favorite in the biker experience category, followed closely by our Editors' Choice, the Burley D'Lite. The Schwinn Echo, our Top Pick for an Ultra-low Budget, also punches above its weight here. We'll explain why below.
All else being equal, a lighter trailer offers less towing resistance, which means your legs won't be made of jelly when you reach your destination. At a mere 20 pounds, the Burley Bee is the lightest product we tested, and that's a big part of why it cleaned up in this category. Even going uphill with passengers and cargo, we could tow the Bee without shifting into our granny gears. By contrast, riders will quickly see their legs sculpted to exquisite marble by the hefty Thule Chariot Cross, which is part of the reason we named it our Top Pick for Athletes. The Hamax Outback is an outlier in this category with a weight of 44 pounds, which makes it a pretty challenging trailer to tow, even with nothing in it. When we added kids, bags, and equipment, the Outback had us struggling on even the mellowest inclines.
Also, consider how much weight you're putting in the trailer. Most of our test group can carry up to 100 pounds, except the Schwinn Echo and the InStep Take 2 (both 80 pounds) and the Hamax Outback (88 pounds). The trailers are generally suitable for children between 1 and 5 years of age, after which multiple kids start getting too heavy to tow (and lots of kids want to ride wheels of their own).
If you, as a rider, value your own experience on the bike, and your children are old enough, a two-pedal trailer might be the best option. They give the biker a faster and more maneuverable platform and open up trails that are too narrow for a typical trailer. They also engage the child passenger, who can choose whether or not to pedal. The downside to this option is there is no protective cage and many options do not fold down as easily as standard enclosed bike trailers. We reviewed two models: the WeeRide Co-Pilot is a budget option that has no restraint system. The Weehoo iGo Turbo is a top-of-the-line model with a restraint system, storage, and many accessories, including a sun shade.
We paid close attention to any feedback motion we detected from the trailer to the bike, like lurching, shuddering/vibrating, or lateral pulling, since these movements can make the cyclist feel unstable and can really tire legs out quickly, especially while climbing. The Burley D'Lite and the Burley Bee are outstanding in this area, transferring virtually no movement to the bike. This is mostly due to the superior Burley hitch design, which attaches the tow arm to the hitch adaptor with a single super-secure connection point and allows for no back-and-forth play. The Schwinn Echo is also a top performer in this area. Its hitch and tow arm are secure, so the only time we noticed slight lurching was while standing up on the pedals to tow a heavy load uphill. The Thule trailers, the Chariot Cross, Chariot Lite, and Cadence, all use a ball-and-socket hitch connection, and we noticed some lurching while testing each of these models since the ball has a little bit of wiggle room in the socket. The other trailers we tested all have springs in their tow arms, and this design also transfers significant motion to the bike.
We found some trailers to be easy to tow off-road, while others were not well-suited for this purpose. The Burley D'Lite and the Thule Chariot Cross are top performers in this category due to their adjustable suspension systems, which absorb a lot of the lumps and bumps of trail riding. The Hamax Outback also has a great suspension system, but its high weight makes it challenging to tow over trails that aren't super smooth. None of the other trailers we tested have suspensions, and we found that the lighter trailers, like the Burley Bee and the Thule Cadence, tend to feel pretty jumpy on trails, even when towing passengers. The Schwinn Echo performed surprisingly well here — it's fairly light, but it's compact and solid, so we found it easy to tow-off road and felt very little feedback transferred to the bike (note that since this trailer doesn't have suspension, we don't recommend towing kids off-road in it — but that shouldn't stop you from hitting the local fire road on your way to the preschool pickup). Most of the trailers we tested have 20" wheels with pneumatic tires, and those big wheels roll over gravel and dirt trails relatively easily and help to smooth out the ride. Exceptions are the Allen Sport Steel and the InStep Take 2, which both have 16" tires. Towing these trailers over uneven terrain requires more effort and makes for a bumpier ride.
While most of the time with bike trailers is spent, well, biking, it's essential for a bike-and-trailer rig to be maneuverable as it's being walked along a sidewalk or navigated to a bike rack. We evaluated the trailers' walkability by weaving them through tricky-yet-typical urban infrastructure. The Thule Chariots are standouts in this area — their hitches allow for maximal rotation, and their tow arms are sharply bent, which keeps the front of the trailer close to the bike while allowing for quick turns. The Hamax Outback has a similar tow arm with a sharp bend that makes it nimble to maneuver, though it features a less flexible hitch. The worst performer here is the Weehoo weeGo, which has a very long and relatively straight tow arm that makes it very difficult to navigate tight spaces.
Ease of Use
Biking with your kids is all kinds of fun for the whole family, so hopefully, you'll be pulling your trailer out and using it often. Most people don't have the garage space to keep their trailer permanently set up and attached to a bike, so a good trailer should be easy to assemble, store, set up, attach to a bike, and break down. We considered each of these steps for all of the trailers we tested and performed timed trials where we could to score each product on overall ease of use.
Most of the trailers took about 20-30 minutes to go from fully boxed up to assembled, attached, and ready to ride. The quickest trailer, the Burley Bee, took just 12 minutes, and the slowest, the Thule Chariot Cross, took 40 minutes. Since full assembly is usually a one-time event, we didn't put too much weight behind this metric. In general though, we found that the more "deluxe" model trailers took longer to assemble than the basic ones. Some models, like the Hamax Outback, required a screwdriver for assembly, but none of the trailers we tested were any more complicated than that.
We defined the setup process based on what most parents will do every time they prepare to tow their kids: starting with the trailer in its folded state with wheels on and ending with the trailer attached to the bike, ready to ride. Since most users will go through this process every time they use the trailer, this was a significant focus of our testing in this category. Parents and caretakers of trailer-aged children will find that a product that comes together smoothly and quickly and attaches without drama is worth its weight in gold, especially when little ones are raring to go (or are reaching meltdown status).
The Thule Chariots have the most user-friendly frame designs and are outstanding performers in this category, with setup times of just 28 seconds for the Cross and 29 seconds for the Lite. For comparison, the Burley D'Lite took 52 seconds to set up and the Burley Bee took 48 seconds. While the Chariots were speedy to set up, we occasionally had to pull hard enough on one of the hitch components during attachment that we knocked the bike over, startling our young passenger testers. This was rare, but it never happened with the Burley models, which feature our favorite hassle-free hitch. This is one area where we noticed a big difference between the well-designed models, like the Burleys and the Thules, and the budget models, like the Schwinn Echo and the InStep Take 2. The Echo and the Take 2 both have maddening cover attachment systems that require parents to secure long strips of Velcro across the entire front and back of the trailer, and if this Velcro isn't aligned well, the trailer won't snap shut. Try doing this with a squirmy kid who's making a game out of ripping open the Velcro, and you've got yourself a hellish morning routine. We can't stress enough: If you're going to use your trailer for routine transit, spring for a thoughtfully designed model, like the Burley Bee.
Some of the trailers are low-profile and easy to stow when not in use, while others are bulky and take up a significant amount of space. In general, the less expensive (and less tricked-out) models, like the Allen Sport Steel, the InStep Take 2, and the Schwinn Echo, are slimmer and easier to slip into an unused space in the garage. The higher-end models, most notably our Top Pick for a Comfy Ride, the Hamax Outback, are heavier, bulkier, and harder to stow. The Thule Chariot models are the only trailers that include a clip mechanism to keep them securely folded when they are stored upright. We love this feature and wish that every manufacturer in our test group had thought to include it.
While the main focus of this review is analyzing how each product works for towing kids, we know that most users will end up going for at least a few spins with something else back there. Some parents discover that purchasing a bike trailer allows them to ditch their second car, so we evaluated each product for its ability to haul groceries, pets, and bulky items. The higher-end models can also convert into a stroller, a jogger, a ski sled, or all three. We only analyzed bike towing capabilities, but we noted where conversion kits for other sports and activities are available. Our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Burley D'Lite, ticks all the boxes and came away with the high score in this category. We'll explain why below.
Since the focus of this review is kid towing, we weighted this category relatively lightly at just 10% of each product's final score. If you're looking for a trailer that's exclusively devoted to cargo, head on over to our cargo trailer review.
The D'Lite scored exceptionally well in this category for one big reason: it allows for the full use of its ample interior space because its seats can unclip from the top frame of the trailer to lie flat. The Hamax Outback also offers this feature, which opens up the possibilities for what you can haul. Do you have a huge box that needs delivering to the post office? A large dog who wants to go for a ride? An elaborate replica of Mission San Rafael built out of sugar cubes that needs delivery to your kid's classroom? The D'Lite and the Outback's ability to break down the barrier between their cargo and passenger spaces means that they're more likely to be able to accommodate any of those needs than any of the other trailers we tested. (The InStep Take 2 also used to have lie-flat seats, but it appears that they've removed this feature from their newest models. Sad!) It's worth noting here that while we love the Hamax Outback's convertible interior space, its weight limits how much you can haul. Towing a 60-pound dog with the D'Lite is doable; with the heavy Outback, it's a struggle.
Most of the trailers in our test group consist of one ample interior space, separated by the seat-back into passenger and cargo areas. Exceptions to this are the Thule Chariots. The Chariot Cross has a back pouch with interior pockets, about the size of an average messenger bag, that's suspended behind the trailer and can be clipped up to the top frame bar when not in use. The Chariot Lite has one big open-topped pocket made of fabric and mesh that spans the back of the trailer. We found these cargo alternatives to be a mixed bag. They're smaller than the other trailers' cargo spaces, and they're an awkward fit for paper grocery bags or anything else that wants to sit on a flat surface. However, for things that need to be kept separate, like dirty gym clothes, or handy, like a purse, they're a great option.
Even with passengers present, having an ample cargo space increases the versatility and utility of a trailer. With a 23"x12" cargo area footprint, the humble Schwinn Echo is a surprise winner in this category. The Burley Bee is close behind at 23"x11.5", and the InStep Take 2 and Burley D'Lite also impressed us with generous cargo footprints.
The Thule Chariots and the Weehoo weeGo come with stroller conversion kits included, and the Burley D'Lite has an optional strolling kit available for purchase. While we weren't evaluating strolling capabilities, testers did find it useful to have the option to convert once they reached their destination, especially those with younger kids. The Thule Chariot Cross, the Burley D'Lite, and the Hamax Outback also have optional jogging and cross-country skiing kits available for purchase. Again, we didn't evaluate these kits, but we rated these trailers higher in the versatility category because they give parents the option to purchase one outdoor kid mobile instead of a potential four.
There is no shortage of bike trailers on the market today, and finding the right one for your family will depend on where you want to ride, how often, and how much of an investment you're planning to make. For an all-around trailer that performs well in every category and offers an incredible value for its quality of construction, safety features, and versatility, you can't beat the Burley D'Lite. The rugged Thule Chariot Cross is the best bet for hard-core athletes in training, and the Hamax Outback is ideal if you are solely focused on kid comfort. The light and sturdy Burley Bee is a fantastic value for parents on a budget, and for those who truly want to spend as little as possible, the Schwinn Echo is a solid option. Each of the trailers we tested has its strengths and weaknesses, and they cover the full range of best applications, from occasional rides to the neighborhood park to epic treks up mountain roads. We put each product through a bevy of empirical tests and relative rankings, riding them mile after mile so we could bring you the analysis above. We hope this helps you to choose the trailer that will get your whole family rolling. We'll see you on the trails!
— Joanna Trieger