Thule Chariot or Burley? Which bike trailer is best for you and your family?
You really can’t go wrong with a Burley or a Thule bike trailer. Both brands perform significantly better than lower-end brands, such as InStep and Schwinn, and offer various models to fit your family’s specific needs. The trailer that is best for you really depends on your budget as well as how you are planning on using the trailer. Use the comparison charts below to compare the different features available for each model, and then keep reading for more detailed descriptions and additional pictures of the trailers.
Thule vs. Burley Mid-Range Trailers, $300 – $400
Thule vs. Burley High-end Trailers, $500 – $1,100
Both bike trailer brands also excel as strollers and joggers. One of the main differences between the brands is which stroller kits come standard, and which come as an optional upgrade. Thule’s come standard with stroller kits while Burley stroller kits are not included and must be purchased as an upgrade. Consider which features you’ll be using before making a decision.
3W Strollers: The Burley Honey Bee and the Thule Coaster XT come with a small stroller wheel attached to the trailer arm that can be flipped up when towing the trailer. The same flip-up trainer arm stroller wheel included on the Honey Bee and be purchased as on upgrade on the Burley Encore, Cub, and Solo/D’Lite. Thule’s does not offer the flip-up wheel on any models except the Thule Coaster XT. Please note that the Burley Bee and Thule Cadence are trailers ONLY and cannot be used as strollers or joggers.
4W Strollers: Burley offers a four-wheeled stroller kit as an upgrade for the Encore, Cub, and Solo/D’Lite. The Thule Cross, Lite, and Cheetah XT come standard with two small front stroller wheels to convert the trailer into a 4-wheeled stroller.
Jogging Kits: No Thule or Burley trailers come standard with a jogging kit, but they are available as an upgrade on the Thule Cheetah XT, Lite and Cross, the Burley Encore, D’Lite, and Cub, and the Burley Solo.
Handbrake Upgrade: Thule also offers a jogger/stroller hand brake upgrade on their Lite and Cross models. Burley does not offer a handbrake upgrade for any of their models.
Bike Hitch and Trailer Arms
Burley and Thule trailers both pull much more smoothly than lower-end trailers, but they do pull differently from one another. Thule designed their trailer arm to center the trailer on the bike, while Burley centers the trailer on the hitch.
This can be seen in the shape of the trailer arm. Burley trailers have an L-shaped tow arm, while the Thule Chariots have a C-shaped tow arm. The C-shape of the Thule (labeled “Cougar” below) centers the trailer behind the adult bike while the Burleys are centered on the hitch. As a result, all Burley models (trailer labeled “D’lite” below) stick out slightly to the left of the bike.
For most riding, this difference between centered or positioned slightly to the left of the trailer doesn’t matter, but when riding alongside traffic or through narrow gate openings, the adult rider pulling a Burley needs to be mindful of the offset trailer.
Buckles and Washable Seats
Due to changes in CPSC standards starting in 2015, trailers that can convert to a stroller can no longer offer a center buckle in a double trailer. The help keep the trailer centered, single rider’s should always ride on the right side of the trailer (to the adult’s riders right side when riding the bike).
The Burley Solo and D’Lite and the Thule Chariot Lite and Cross come with washable seat cushions, while all other models are wipeable, but cannot be removed to be washed. The Burley Encore, Cub, D’Lite and Solo also come with their new S.I.T seats with straps that spring open for easy buckling, and that prevent them from getting tangled.
The Thule Cross is the only trailer that offers a true, reclinable seat (orange trailer shown in the picture below). The Burley Encore, D’Lite, Solo and Cub models do allow the seats to slightly recline by loosening the nylon straps that adhere the seat to the top of the trailer cabin. The entire seat reclines in one piece and really does not recline like a real stroller. For use in hauling cargo, the seats on the Burley also fold flat completely.
While riding in the rain is rarely someone’s intention, keeping your child dry and warm is of concern for many living in wet climates. The door panels of trailers vary greatly and range from a simple mesh covering with elastic tie-downs to a thick waterproof cover attached with sealed zippers.
Burley: All of Burley’s trailers are made with a water resistant polyester material. Additionally, all-weather front covers with water resistant zippers come with the Burley D’Lite, Solo and Cub. The special zippers provide additional protection from water coming into the trailer from the front. In addition to protecting from rain, the covers allow for some venting to prevent fogging, while the Thule system does not. Given that the covers do not extend over the top of the trailer, if you’re in some serious rain, the water resistant polyester material of the trailer may not always prevent your child from getting wet. If you’re interested in waterproofing the top of the trailer, you can purchase a DWR (durable water repellant) spray to treat the material.
Thule: Thule’s higher-end Lite and Cross models come with a true plastic rain cover that extends over the top of the trailer and attaches with elastic for easy removal. The Cheetah XT, Coaster and Cadence come with a plastic door cover, but if you want a true rain cover to protect the top of the trailer, you’ll need to purchase the Coaster/Cadence Rain Cover, or the Cheetah 1 or 2 Rain Cover. Thule’s waterproofing systems do not come with waterproof zippers.
All Burley and Chariot models that come with handlebars adjust, but to various degrees.
While suspension isn’t a necessary feature, it will always provide a smoother ride when adjusted appropriately. You’re more likely to feel the difference if you’ll be doing a lot of trail riding, and it may not be worth the investment if you’re going to primarily ride on paved roads.
That said, the Burley Encore, Cub, Solo and D’Lite offer adjustable suspension with 5 different settings (light to heavy loads) with a maximum compression of 1″. The Thule Cross also has adjustable suspension and has a maximum compression of 2″. The Thule Lite offers suspension, but it is not adjustable. In our opinion, adjustability really isn’t that big of a deal unless you have a double trailer and regularly switch from the weight load of a single rider to two riders.
Both adjustable suspension systems require you to adjust the suspension on each wheel separately.
Thule and Burley Suspension Adjustment Systems
The sides of the Burley D’Lite and Solo are bowed-out, which greatly increases the amount of elbow room for kids. If you have two older kids, the wider shoulder width of the D’Lite will provide much-needed space.
Burley and Thule both offer inserts to provide support for younger babies. For babies from 1 to 10 months, Thule offers the Thule Infant Sling which creates a smaller, separate seat at a much lower incline for babies. For ages 6 months and up, Burley offers a Baby Snuggler which does not change the incline angle of the seat, but rather provides side support. Thule offers a similar Baby Supporter for ages 6-18 months. Both brands, however, do NOT recommend pulling a child less than 12 months in their bike trailers (stroller or jogger use is fine).
Handbrake Upgrade: Thule also offers a jogger/stroller hand brake upgrade, while Burley does not.
Fat Tire Kit: Burley offers a 16″ Fat Tire kit, making a trailer much more suitable for off-road conditions or snow. Be aware that it does make the trailer heavier.
All Thule Cheetah (not Cheetah XT), Cougar, Chinook and CX models have been discontinued. Many are still available online, but due to short supply, they have been removed from our charts. If you’re interested in the Cheetah or Cougar, be sure to check out our Thule Cheetah vs. Cougar and Burley D’Lite vs. Thule Cougar comparative reviews.
Bike Trailers: How to Choose: What to look for when shopping for a bike trailer.
Bike Trailers: Product Filter Tool – To view and filter trailers from all the brands, and read reviews.