Bike Trailers: What to Look For


Trailers are the perfect option to get the family out and about on their bikes.  Before you purchase a trailer, it’s important to consider how and when your family will use your trailer.  From weather-tight, all-terrain trailers to basic day-trip trailers, there are plenty of options to meet every families needs.

Stroller Attachments

The most common complaint about trailers involve their stroller attachments.  If you plan to use your trailer as a stroller, be sure to purchase a trailer that converts to the type of stroller you desire.  The simplest stroller attachments, a mere wheel on the end of the trailer arm, serve the purpose of a stroller, but receive the most complaints from parents.  Jogging attachments are also common, but can be burdensome to turn when used for everyday outings.  The higher-end trailers convert to a four-wheeled stroller, which receive the most praise.  All Chariot models come standard as a four-wheeled stroller, except for the Chinook which comes as a three-wheeled stroller.

Bike Trailer Stroller Types2

Conversion Kits

Beyond the use as a stroller, Chariot and Burley trailers offer additional conversion kit for the multi-sport family.  More detailed differences between the Burley and Chariot trailers is outlined in Chariot vs. Burley Comparison Guide.Chariot conversion kits

Size of Trailer

Beyond merely transporting one or two kids, the size and age of your kids should be a determining factor when purchasing a trailer.  While many trailers come in single and double versions, the internal cubic dimension of the trailer (i.e. the amount of space your child has) varies greatly between the brands.  Not surprisingly, the higher-end trailers tend to provide more space than lower-end trailers.  Chariot trailers generally provide the most leg room, while Burley higher-end trailers (D’Lite, Solo and Cub) have bowed out sides that provides additional shoulder room.

Various Sizes of Bike Trailers

**The Chariot Corsaire 2 has been discontinued.  The widest trailer currently available is now the Croozer 2 with an internal width of 27.2″**

 Weatherproof & Venting

While riding in the rain is rarely someone’s intentions, keeping your child dry and warm is of concern for many living in wet climates.  The door panels of trailers very greatly and range from a simple mesh covering with elastic tie-downs to a thick waterproof covering attached with sealed zippers.  All-weather covers with waterproof zippers are available on the Burley D’Lite, Solo and Cub.  All Chariot models come with a weather cover, but a separate rain cover is available for heavier rains. During rain, or colder weather, trailers also tend to fog up due to lack of air circulation. To prevent fogging and to provide air flow, the side windows of the Thule Cougar’s and CX’s partially or completely open up.

Storage

While every trailer on the market provides storage, the amount of storage and its accessibility are key.  Unfortunately, very few manufacturers provide the actual dimensions of the storage space available, so determining the size available can be challenging (Burley does have their cargo dimensions listed on the specification page for each trailer).  If however, you are planning on using your trailer to haul goods during kid-free errands, then an upgrade to a Burley D’Lite, Solo, Cub or Encore is in your best interest.  The 2013+ edition of these trailers have release buckles that allow their seats to lie flat, thereby providing additional storage space.

burley's release buckles

Folding

While all trailers fold down for easy storage, some fold down easier and smaller than others.  If you have a small trunk, or limited space, be sure to check the dimensions of the folder trailer to ensure it will fit in the space you desire.  Quick-release wheels is also essential feature if you plan on folding your trailer on a regular basis.

Brake

All trailers that are sold with an option for a stroller are required to include a brake.  The types of brake range from a simple strap around a tire to a hand-activated drum brake.  While brakes are of minimal concern when used as a trailer, as a stroller, a well-designed parking or hand-brake can make the world of a difference.

Bike Trailer Braking Systems2

Bottom of Trailer

The material upon which your child puts his or her feet is perhaps the most telling feature of the quality of the trailer.  Lower-end trailers, such as the InStep Sierra, use thin, essentially see through fabric, while higher-end Chariots use thicker versions of the same type of fabric.  For increased durability, a stiff rubber bottom is available on the Via Velo Montalban while a hard-bottomed base is available on the Burley Cub.Trailer bottoms

Suspension

If you plan on sticking to the pavement, a suspension system isn’t worth the extra money, but for those hitting the fire trails, it can mean the different between a blissfully happy ride and a whiney, “I want to go home!” ride.

Bike trailer suspension

Type of Seat

If you are hauling two kids, the strength of the seat is essential to prevent them from sliding into one another.  Lower-end models create a seat using simple nylon straps, which loosen with time, causing two kids to be squished together.  High-end models have a bench-style seat that prevent sagging.

Bike trailer seats

Infant and Baby Inserts

While it is not recommend to haul kids less than a year old in a bike trailer, many trailers convert into excellent stroller and joggers. To provide additional support for infants and babies, Thule, Burley and Croozer offer various inserts for use in stroller mode. Lower-end trailers do not offer inserts and are not safe to use with infants and babies.

Cougar with inserts

Adjustable Handlebars

If you plan on using your trailer as a stroller shared by your spouse or partner, an adjustable handlebar is a must. Most trailers/strollers offer at least two handlebar heights, while the Burleys offer multiple heights.

Non-Toxic

Babies and toddlers almost always chew on the straps of trailers. Burley and Thule trailers claim use only non-toxic materials, but Croozer trailers are the only brand to be certified as non-toxic by an outside agency.

Warranty

No one wants to be stuck with a lemon.  If you are debating between two trailers, don’t forget to pay attention to the warranty offered by the manufacturer or the reseller.

Which trailer is best for you?

Now that you know what to look for, head over to our Bike Trailer Finder or our Bike Trailer Comparison Charts for help finding the trailer that best matches your desired features and your budget. Looking to buy a Burley or a Chariot?  Be sure to read our Burley vs. Chariot Comparison Guide for a complete comparison of all available models.


  • emsmom

    What are your thoughts on the Thule Coaster?

    • While I have not a chance to use the Coaster, but I did have a chance to quickly look at it. The quality seems on par with the price, as the fabric, firm seating and padded straps seemed to be of much higher quality than the InStep or Schwinn trailers. One feature that I especially liked was the ability of the trailer arm to set back into the trailer when used in stroller mode. This certainly makes the wheel less of an obstruction and much more user friendly. One downside I saw was the lack of leg room, especially for taller kids. Without a recessed floor, kids will longer legs might find the trailer to be a bit snug, but for there average kid, I don’t think it would be of major concern.

  • Kokomom

    Should I be worried about the Max Capacity mentioned on the owner’s manual of Croozer?
    The Max weight capacity
    “Croozer Kid Plus for 1 — 77 lbs (35 kg)”
    “Croozer Kid Plus for 2 — 100 lbs (45 kg)”.

    Yet, on the same manual, they said Maximum Weight of Passengers for
    Croozer Kid Plus for 1 is 33 lbs (15 kg), max. 1 child.
    Croozer Kid Plus for 2 is 2 x 33 lbs (2 x 15 kg), max. 2 children.

    So if the child is over 33lb, we shouldn’t use Croozer even though the Capacity much more than 33lb?
    I don’t know if any other trailer states the passenger weight and total weight capacity differently like Croozer.
    Do you have any info on this issue?
    On reviews on Internet, I see many people putting more than 40lb kids in Croozer.
    I wonder if I should worry about this.

    • Yep, all trailers need to include a maximum load capacity as well as a maximum passenger weight in their owner’s manuals. While these numbers do directly correlate to the quality and design of the trailer, the CSPC limits the total maximum weight a manufacturer can list. In most cases, even if a trailer can hold more weight, the manufacturers usually list a much lower number value in order to fall into the required guidelines. So should you worry about the maximum weight capacity of the trailer? Yes, as it is there to prevent you from overloading the trailer, but can the trailer hold a 40 lb. child? Well, while I can’t tell you yes, I won’t tell you no :)!

      • Kokomom

        Thanks Natalie. I cannot find Max passanger weight on Burley or Chariot website. Can you lead me to where I can find those info?

      • Kokomom

        All I can find on Burley website is SOLO (Capacity 1 child, 75 lb/34.0 kg), D’LITE (Capacity 1 or 2 children, 100 lb/45.4 kg).
        Does that mean, Children up to 75lb for Solo and 100lb for D’LITE?

        So as, Chariot. They don’t say Max load and passenger weight separate or differently unlike Croozer.

        CX1 Weight capacity (kg/lbs):34 / 75CX2Weight capacity (kg/lbs):45 / 100

        • First, sorry for my delay in getting back to you as I have been traveling. To answer your question, I was also not able to find the maximum passenger weight on Burley or Chariot’s website as well, but only the maximum capacity of the trailer itself. In my Chariot Cougar user manual is does, however, list the weights as separate maximum passenger weight, 49lb., and maximum load, 100lb.. The 2014 dealer guides for both the Chariot and the Burley also do not list the maximum passenger weight, so more than likely you are going to have to contact the companies directly in order to get the info. I know that Burley’s customer service is amazing on the phone (800-311-5294) but I am not as familiar with Chariot’s (1.800.262.8651). Hope that helps!

  • eaymom

    What would you say is a good price for a used Burley D’lite 2007 model in excellent condition? Comes with trailer arm no stroller attachment. Thank you.

  • Paul Forsythe

    If you are thinking at all that u might go off road even on country paths then I recommend a hard bottom or some sort of ptotected bottom trailer. I had sticks pierce the bottom twice when going through wooded areas. one went right through and up under the arm pit of my 4 year old and brought us all to a halt. Could have easily gone through her stomach or chest. Bought a burly cub after that.

  • Amanda

    I had a horrible experience with Thule customer service
    after I purchased a $1250 Chariot Chinook.

    It is an awesome child carrier but has a design flaw and
    Thule has horrible customer relations. I bought this stroller last month.
    Exactly 30 days from receiving it I noticed two holes in the fabric above the
    reclining lever/handle. It looks like there are two screws (or two pieces of
    plastic – I can’t tell which since I can’t move the fabric out of the way to
    see underneath) pushing through the fabric. I contacted the company I purchased
    it from and they gave me Thule “dealer service” number call. I contacted the
    dealer service number – Samantha wanted photos of the entire carrier. I took 20
    photos and emailed the photos to Samantha. She emailed me and said it wasn’t
    covered because it could have “rubbed against something”. My $1250
    carrier stands upright in my living room and I’ve only had it for thirty days. Even
    if it had rubbed up against something (which it hadn’t) a $1250 carrier shouldn’t
    get a hole in the fabric in less than 30 days. Also how can it have “rubbed up
    against something” or been abused when there isn’t a scratch or any sign of
    wear on the entire carrier except for those two holes caused by some badly
    placed screws? I’m sorry that I saved money for three years to buy a carrier manufactured by a company with such horrible customer service. I thought I got what I paid for and I paid the highest price and absolutely did not get what I paid for. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY. I wish I’d rather have bought the cheap walmart brand – at least they will return just about anything.

    • Ugh, sorry to hear that you didn’t get the service you deserve and thanks for bringing this to my attention. How a company responds to problems plays a significant role in which products I recommend, so I am very interested in how they responded to your concern. Would it be possible to add the pictures of the damage fabric, as well as the screws (or whatever it is) in a reply comment below? Plus, did you try to contact the company you purchased the trailer from to see if they would be willing to work with you? Once I can see what you are dealing with, I might be able to contact some people I know over at Thule to see if they can be of any help. I certainly can’t promise anything, but I can try.

      • Amanda

        Yes, I contacted the company I purchased it from. They told me that they contacted their dealer rep who said that they wouldn’t warranty it. He gave me an 800 number to Thule’s “dealer service” department if I wanted to pursue the issue further. The company I purchased from (Bike Hub Shop) also advised that I could not return or exchange the carrier because it had been opened, and when I told him I might look into disputing it with my credit card company, he told me “you can do whatever you feel the need to do”. He didn’t show a single ounce of empathy or concern about the whole situation.

        • Thanks for the pic, that helps. So from what I can tell, it looks like there is certainly something underneath the fabric that caused it to rip (most likely the plastic housing for the reclining mechanism). After looking around online, the attached picture shows that there is certainly something there, so I see you point of view, but I can also see theirs as the fabric appears to be dirty around where the holes were made. If the trailer hadn’t had contact with anything else, how would it have gotten dirty? Did you by chance fold it up and put it into your car? If so, then the fabric could have rubbed against the plastic housing as you drove, causing it to tear as well as appeared worn and dirty on those spots. If that was the case, then I would consider the issue to be a design flaw that should be addressed as you were using it as instructed as a trailer as $1,200 trailer/stroller should not be damaged from regular use. If not in the car, was the trailer folded up and stored any where else? If so, I would contact Thule again and explain that yes, the trailer did rub against something, BUT that it was done so during normal use and therefore shouldn’t have torn. Prior to contacting them again, I would fold up the stroller and take a picture of where the fabric was making contact with the ground (truck, etc.) as to demonstrate your point.

      • Amanda

        Here is a close up photo

      • Amanda

        Here is a photo zoomed out a little bit

      • Amanda

        I had to downsize the resolution in order to post them here. If you can’t see the photos or if you want the higher resolution versions I can email them to you. Thanks a lot for your help. I have a letter written that I am going to send over to their executive offices if your contact can’t help. I’m crossing my fingers!

  • jonichole

    I am in the market for a bike trailer, have been for a while actually. but the price tag has had me a lil shy on buying so, I’ve been watching for a used one for about a year 🙁 I currently have a 15 month old and will probably have number 2 on the way in about a year or so. We mostly bike on paved paths (with a dog attached too!!!) but also would like to not be limited to ONLY paved paths. I fancy the idea of a camping/biking trip…. but, mostly paved, who am I kidding! Anyway, I Ive been looking at the some of the Burley and Chariot trailers but honestly the price tags are a little scary to this mom : So, Ive been looking for a used one and finally found a possibility, a 2007 Burley Encore with the 1-wheel stroller kit (asking “$225, obo”).
    So, the big question here is…..should I jump on this used one, is it worth it (or ask for the $ to be lowered)? or bite the bullet and buy new??? I was originally looking at the Burley Encore and D’lite but am tempted by this craigslist find!!! although the 2007 seat and straps do not seem nearly as nice as the newer ones 🙁 Please, HELP!
    features that are important to me are :
    sturdy and holds up with frequent use (when the weather is good, we go on 15-20 mile rides 1-2x per week, the 1-wheel attachment so I can detach the bike once I get to a location, seat recline or recesses for helmet, comfy for kid, safe for kid, easy to get kid in and out, double for future kid, wind/rain/sun protection. and a sun shade would be nice (the one I’m currently borrowing has none and the lil gets blasted by the sun sometimes). Also, on a side note, the one I’m currently borrowing (an InStep) has decayed straps that just snap when pulled on. I rigged up a temp fix to remedy that…. but it brings a tid bit of concern when buying used, however, I read somewhere that the material Burley uses shouldn’t behave this way.
    Thanks!!!

    • First off, any Burley you get is going to be much better in quality as compared to an InStep, so no worries there. As for the used Encore, since Burley is constantly updating their trailers, it’s hard to know what features the 2007 model, making it difficult to determine if it is worth your investment. Before you buy the trailer, I would call Burley’s customer service at 800-311-5294 and they should be able to walk you through the difference between the two. If you decide the 2007 Encore is not for you, let me know and I can certainly try to help you find the best trailer for you.

  • Shylo

    Hi there, I’m searching for a double bike trailer/stroller combo for my 4yr old & 1yr old. My main concern is finding something that either (1) keeps the stroller wheel(s) on even while being used as a bike trailer or (2) allows the stroller wheel(s) to attach very easily, without tools – so that I can go riding with the kids, park/lock the bike and then detach the trailer/stroller and walk with them in the stroller with ease.

    I’ve been going through your site (excellent guides btw!) and I think from what I’m reading the only one with stroller wheel(s) attached while being used as a bike trailer is Burley. Is this correct?

    • Glad to be of help. You are right in that the Burley Honey Bee does have the flippable wheel that will easily convert the trailer to a stroller. Since your kids are a couple years apart in age, if it was in your budget, I would suggest looking at the Thule Cougar 2 instead. While the Cougar has many upgrades, the main feature is the stiffer seat, which will prevent your kids from being pushed against one another is the hammock style seat of the Honey Bee. The Cougar also has a place to store the stroller wheels while riding and a place to store the trailer arm while walking. Switching between the two will take more work than the Honey Bee, but can certainly be done in a couple minutes.

  • Liz

    Hello, I have been looking into double trailers for a few months now. I have been trtrolling my local CL. There is a new in box croozer kid for 2 or an excellent condition burley encore with jogger wheel kit and baby snuggler for $400. Which would you recommend? I have an 18month old and baby on the way.

    • It really depends on the year of the Encore. It if it a newer model (within the past 3 years), I would go with it. The Burley feels much lighter behind the bike than the Croozer, plus, I found it much more comfortable to push in the stroller mode. The Croozer, however, will be better when you baby is born as they have a sling available.

  • Dalena

    Is there a cheaper trailer that has a bench seat other than these 2?

    • I’m sure they are some out there, but I don’t know of any for sure. The cheapest ones that I know of for sure are the Wike XP ($300 w/shipping) and the Thule Cadence ($300 w/free shipping).

  • Zeno Petrovich

    Good morning, thanks for the wonderful forum. I would be interested in buying a trailer for my son a few months old. I’m torn between two models: the Thule coaster and Croozer Kid 2. What are the major differences between the two products? The Thule coaster has a good quality and safety? Thule coaster seem to have a great value for money. Thank you.

    • Between the two, I would go with the Croozer if you plan on using the trailer often as a stroller and a jogger as well, and would go with the Thule Coaster if you plan on using the trailer mainly as a trailer (with some use as a stroller). The Croozer is heavier and bulkier than the Coaster, but also has suspension, which comes in handy when riding over rough terrain. If you plan on riding on mostly paved paths, then I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the suspension.

  • nathanb131

    Thank you so much for this site. By far the best resource I’ve found on the net for bike trailers and I’ve really looked! I’m looking for a decent bike trailer (25%) and great runner/jogger (75%). My question is about suspension and if the cost is worth it. Let’s say you are jogging at a decent pace down an average sidewalk. Bump, bump, bump as you cross all those cracks. A running stroller with no suspension is obviously horrible in this situation and the baby’s head will bobble over every tiny bump (our Graco ‘runner’ is just fine on streets/paths but sidewalk is horrible). I THINK that the average aluminum bike trailer with 20″ wheels would go over those little sidewalk cracks much more smoothly but the kid would still definitely know they were on a sidewalk if they had their eyes closed. I just can’t figure out by reading reviews if the suspension systems are for REALLY rough bumps like potholes or if they make the average sidewalk pleasant instead of just tolerable. For even-but-bumpy paths like sidewalks, grass, and gravel roads is there a BIG difference in bumpiness between the Cheetah2 and Cougar2? If non-suspension ones are ‘smooth enough’ then I think the Allen Premier 2 at $300 seems like a great value for us. Otherwise my wife and I will need to have a serious talk about the health benefits of enjoying runs with dad in a Cougar, Wike, or D’Light.

    • I have ran with trailer with and without suspension, and while I admit I am not much of a runner, I actually prefer running without the suspension as the handlebar always stays in one place, versus slightly going up and down with a suspension. As for the bumps on the sidewalk, etc., the larger wheels on the trailer, when used with the larger, stationary jogging wheels, do MUCH better than the standard stroller, even those with air tires. So, no, the suspension doesn’t make a huge difference on sidewalk cracks, but does make a huge difference with curbs, potholes and dirt trails. Since you are using it mainly for running, you also need to think about how you will push the trailer. I ran while pushing with just my right hand (except when turning when both hands are required to pop up the front tire to turn the trailer), I wanted to be able to center my hand on the handlebar. While this was really easy on the D’lite, the lack of padding on the center of the Cougar’s handle, made it uncomfortable. The center of the Allen Premier is padded, so no worries there. I will say with the Premier, that I didn’t like holding on to the extra fabric over the handle, but that can be flapped forward. The jogging wheel on the front of the Premier, also does get out of alignment pretty easy, but it isn’t hard to fix. Hope that helps!

      • nathanb131

        Thank you for this great reply. That really helps. Have you heard anything about Allen’s new jogger/trailer JTX-1? http://allensportsusa.com/products/joggerstrailers/aluminum-1-child–jogger–trailer-jtx-1 Seems like it might be fantastic for the price but not any independent reviews yet. It looks to have an adjustable handle similar to Burley. Seems like my biggest con with the Allen Premier 2 is non-adjustable handle since the suspension is no longer as big of a concern.

        • I hadn’t yet that new model, thanks for brining it to my attention, its looks great. You are absolutely right about wanting an adjustable handlebar, which is another reason why I prefer running with the D’Lite over the Cougar. Since the JTX-1 has an adjustable handlebar, plus a swivel jogging wheels, it sounds like a real contender. It also is only a single child trailer, which can be better for jogging as the child is centered in the trailer, vs. offset in a double. If you do go with the JTX-1, please report back as I would love to hear how you like it.

          • Just realized that the JTX-1 has 16″ tires vs. 20″, so it will be a bumpier ride than one with a 20″, but it does have suspension. The front wheel is also only a 12″. Lastly, it is also on the shorter side with a 23″ max height, which is a shorter than the Allen Premier.

  • Lamelon

    I’m going through some of the trailer recommendations you have here but I was wondering if you have had any experience with the Giant Pea Pod solo trailer? This is the only trailer any bike shop in my city has in stock and I was able to demo the trailer with my 3 year old in it. She loved the ride and I never felt the trailer but I am new to biking with a child and it was the first one I was even able to demo. Wondering how it might compare to some of your recommendations? I can’t imagine spending over $300 and not being able to test any of these trailers out and be stuck with a bad product. I’m a runner but only ran with child once so it’s not a huge requirement but if I’m going to spend the money an optional conversion kit would be nice since I only have an uppababy stroller which has 4 wheels.

    • Ahh, sorry I missed your comment a year ago! Hopefully you worked everything out, if not, please feel free to ask again 🙂

  • CarneConPapas

    Any recommendation between the Chariot 2 (older model GUC) and an older Burley D’Lite?

    • What version of the Chariot? The Cougar, the Cheetah or the CX. If it’s a Cheetah, I would go for the D’lite, if it is a Cougar, I would go for the Cougar if you plan on using it as a stroller in addition to a trailers. If is it a CX, I would get it unless you plan on hauling it in and out of a car, because it is heavy. The sun shade of the D’lite is much better than any of the Chariots, but but side venting on the Cougar and the CX is a lifesaver in cold temps to prevent the trailer from fogging up.

      • CarneConPapas

        Thank you, Natalie. Sorry, should have been more specific, it was a Chariot Cougar 2… and we ended up going with that so, you reinforced our decision. 🙂

  • ZK

    Burley Honey Bee vs. Burley Bee for twin girls that are just now 1 year. Thoughts, comments based on experience?

    • I would only get the Honey Bee if you plan on using it as a stroller on occasion, otherwise I would stick with the Bee. The differences in price on the Honey Bee are reflective in the stroller wheel and the handle, the rest of the trailer, I believe, is essentially the same.

      • ZK

        Thanks! Great advice and feedback. I don’t think we would use this as a stroller since we already have a twin stroller, but having that as an option might be nice. I need to figure that out and then make a decision. Which one do you have?

        • Over the years, I have owned the Honey Bee, the Encore and the D’lite, but never the Bee. I have seen the Bee at several bike shows and it is essentially the Honey Bee but without the stroller option. Another thing to consider is that the stroller arm on the Honey Bee sticks out really far, so you won’t want to use it in crowded places.

          • ZK

            Great feedback. Thank you! I would only use the stroller in the neighborhood and would leave straight from
            My garage.