Thule Coaster XT Review
The Thule Coaster XT is the quality of the Thule name at a fraction of the cost. No bells and whistles – just a high-quality, basic trailer/stroller for a good price. Read the full review for the details on why it’s so affordable.
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Families who need a high-performing trailer/stroller for use primarily on paved trails.
TRAILER CAPACITY: Double
TRAILER ARM: Included
JOGGER KIT: Not available
STROLLER KIT: Included
Trailer or Stroller Only
Single Swivel Wheel, Trailer Arm Wheel
|Trailer Quality Level||
Baby Insert, UV Windows
Pros & Cons
- Exceptionally smooth ride for biking
- Single stroller wheel tucks in closer to trailer body
- Modern, taut lines for a sleek look
- Padded seats and shoulder pads
- Sunshade - only trailer to have one at this price point!
- Rear canvas folds up for better ventilation
- Ball and joint hitch system is easy to use
- No tire upgrades for use on rough terrain
- Difficult to fold
Thule Coaster XT Review – Results of our Test Rides
The Coaster XT is Thule’s basic trailer that also converts to a stroller. While basic in features to keep costs down and the price tag affordable, realistically, nothing Thule does is “basic”.
With clean, sleek lines, padded seats, UV windows, and the quality Thule is known for, the Coaster XT is a smooth ride for both pulling parent and passive passenger.
The Coaster XT is very similar to the Cadence, which is Thule’s entry-level “trailer only” (can’t convert to a stroller). But for an extra $100, you’ll get padded seats and the flexibility of using the Coaster XT as a stroller as well.
Burley’s Honey Bee is the most direct competitor to the Coaster XT, and I’ll make a few comparisons throughout this review. While both Burley and Thule trailers pull with exceptional ease, they do differ in minor features. Understanding these differences will help you make the best decision between these options.
After testing eleven other bike trailers in the past 6 months, I can tell a lot about a trailer just by looking at it. I also am painfully familiar with the difference between a trailer that’s easy to use, and one that’s more of a pain than it’s worth. And certainly the experience of riding with a trailer is not the same for every brand or model. The Coaster XT is easily one of the best basic trailers on the market.
The Coaster XT excels in ease-of-use and performance as compared to entry level brands like Allen, Schwinn, and InStep. With a $430 price tag, it’s also $200 – $300 more expensive than those trailers. That extra cost buys you a much higher quality trailer that will last through many years and multiple kids. It also buys you a quiet, smooth ride in both trailer and stroller mode.
We took the Coaster XT out for a test ride at our favorite testing grounds. This local park has a wide variety of terrains that allows us to get a great feel for the trailer’s performance in a wide variety of situations.
From smooth paved trails to pot-hole-ridden asphalt, loose gravel and compact dirt trails strewn with tree roots, the Thule Coaster XT kept my 22-month-old giggling behind me. With no suspension, the Coaster XT is certainly a smoother ride on less-bumpy terrain, but it still held its own, no matter what terrain we chose. If you’re planning on going off-road frequently, you’ll want to upgrade to a trailer with suspension, but if it’s an occasional venture, the Coaster XT can definitely keep up.
As a Stroller
The Coaster XT rolls smooth and easy in stroller mode. Its single stroller wheel out front is compact foam, very similar to a foam balance bike tire. It’s wider than any other trailer stroller wheel I’ve seen. While this doesn’t really affect the smoothness of the ride, it does make the stroller a bit more stable when going down over a curb and balancing the entire load on just that front wheel.
For convenience of never accidentally forgetting the stroller wheel at home, the stroller wheel can store on the tow arm when in bicycle mode. Simply take the wheel off, flip it over, and secure it in place with the locking pin. If you want to leave it at home, you have that option too.
While not a reason to not get the Coaster XT, we do prefer the Burley Honey Bee’s stroller wheel storage system. On Burley trailers, the single stroller wheel doesn’t have to be removed and is simply pulled up or down into place.
The handlebar of the Coaster XT can be flipped to allow for two different height settings. While the Burley Honey Bee’s continuously adjustable handlebar allows for a more precise fit based on your height, the dual-height of the Coaster XT will suit most people just fine.
With 22″ of shoulder space and 22.5″ of seat width, the Thule Coaster XT and Thule Cadence are basically identical in size. They are also equivalent in size to high-end trailers like the Burley Encore.
In the images below we have a 3.5-year-old and a 22-month-old, both on the solid side. They are cozy, but still comfortable in the trailer. However, you can see that it wouldn’t be comfortable if two older/larger children were squeezed inside.
While the Coaster XT doesn’t have as much legroom as a trailer with bench-style seats (Thule Chariot Cheetah XT) or a dropped footrest space (Burley Honey Bee), headroom and legroom are still sufficient for the age of kids that will most likely be riding in this trailer.
22-Month-Old with 3.5-Year-Old in Thule Coaster XT
Mesh Helmet Recess
There are very few trailers these days without a mesh helmet pocket. This pocket is necessary so that the back of your child’s helmet has a place to rest. This allows your child to sit up straight without their head getting pushed forward by the back of the trailer.
The Coaster XT’s helmet pocket is very loose, allowing for a gracious amount of space for your child’s helmet. It also starts very low on the back of the seat, which better accommodates the youngest and shortest of riders. Most helmet pockets (even on high-end trailers) start much higher, which isn’t as ideal for young riders.
That said, because the helmet pocket starts lower, it also doesn’t go as high. This means your child won’t be as comfortable in trailer mode as they get older, while the Burley Bee (on the right below) is better for older kids. For reference, the Coaster XT’s helmet pocket starts 8″ above the seat bottom, while the Burley Bee’s starts 10.5″ above the bottom.
Coaster XT vs. Burley Bee Helmet Recess
Seats and Trailer Bottom
The double capacity Coaster XT accommodates two passengers on a hammock-style seat. While the Thule Cadence, Burley Bee and Burley Honey Bee don’t have seat or shoulder pads, the Coaster XT has both. It’s a nice upgrade that your little rider will surely appreciate.
Hammock-style seats are standard for basic trailers, but they do sag and are minimally supportive. As far as hammock seats go though, the Coaster XT has the best quality and most supportive we’ve seen.
Bench-style seats are found on more expensive models. The bench is much more supportive and comfortable and doesn’t sag. This is especially helpful when riding with two passengers who can end up sagging to the middle together on a hammock-style seat.
It also makes loading and unloading kids easier. If you’re interested in bench-style seats, you’ll have to spend quite a bit more and get the Thule Cheetah XT or the Burley Encore.
Thule Coaster XT vs. Burley Encore
Despite the Thule Cadence and Coaster XT being almost identical, they have completely different buckle and harness systems. The Cadence’s system actually has two separate buckles which is a bit of a pain.
The Coaster XT’s system is infinitely better with a standard and easy-to-use 5 point harness system. It closely mirrors the buckle and harness system used on the higher-end Thule Chariot Cheetah XT. We especially love that the waist straps are wider than on the Cadence or the Burley Bee/Honey Bee, so they don’t dig into that little baby fat on the sides of the waist.
Keeping it real here (because that’s our job!), there is something a little strange about the harness system on the Coaster XT. The top of the shoulder strap can be un-buckled, and we can’t figure out what the purpose of this buckle is.
Functionally this buckle doesn’t really matter, except that you can still feel the hard buckle under the shoulder pad. While with other trailers you can be a bit sloppy in shoulder strap placement, you have to be more precise with the Coaster XT so that the buckle doesn’t press down uncomfortably on your child’s shoulder. Just make sure that the shoulder strap is raised high enough on the seat back so that the buckle is not right on top of the shoulder.
I love both Thule and Burley trailers, but if you have a craving for clean lines and everything put in its proper place, Thule is the brand for you. The way that Thule designs their trailers allows all exterior covers to be pulled taut and clean for a crisp precision that’s oddly satisfying. 🙂
Both the mesh front cover and the rain cover roll down over the front and are secured at the bottom corners by velcro. The rain cover rolls up and is secured at the top by elastic bands when not in use.
UV Windows and Sunshade
One of the benefits you get when buying a “basic” trailer from Thule or Burley is UV windows! Any trailer below these price points and you just get standard plastic with no sun protection. UV windows are such a benefit for active families that are frequently outdoors and need added protection from the sun.
Sunshades are also a huge lifesaver, especially in the summer. Sunshades are usually only found on more expensive trailers, but the Coaster XT (and Cadence) have a clever back flap that doubles as a sunshade. The back cover of the trailer can be flipped forward and secured with velcro. This sunshade is small, but certainly better than no additional protection at all.
Storage Compartment & Rear Venting
While the more expensive Thule trailers have minimal rear venting, the Coaster XT and Cadence have pretty awesome ventilation. When the back flap of the trailer is flipped forward as a sunshade, the upper mesh seat back allows air to flow through the trailer.
If you choose to use the sunshade and get that extra airflow, be aware that your storage space is less secure. The boxed storage area at the bottom is much shorter than those found on Burley trailers, so you can’t securely store as much stuff back there. When walking the kids to school, one backpack fits just right, with no chance of it falling out. And there’s still a little extra space.
Rear Storage and Venting in Coaster XT
The Coaster XT‘s 20″ wheels on metal rims are the same as the Cadence’s. They are good-quality and pretty standard for basic trailers. While they’ll certainly do just fine on occasional dirt trails, they are designed primarily for sticking to paved roads.
If you know you’re going to do some off-road adventuring, the more rugged-feeling Burley Bee’s wheels would be a better bet. Burley also offers a Fat Tire upgrade for more serious terrain.
Mesh Cup Holders
While I’m a huge Thule fan, I can’t say that I’m usually a fan of their cup/snack holders. Even in the $1000+ Thule Chariot Cross, the cup holders are not great. Too wide and placed too far forward, my 22-month-old daughter’s sippy cup consistently falls over in the mesh pocket and she can no longer access it.
I was especially pleased to find that the mesh cup holder in the Coaster XT is much closer to the child, and significantly easier for them to access. My daughter had no issues grabbing her sippy cup. There is, however, only a snack pocket on one side of the trailer, so two kids would have to share.
Thule Coaster XT vs. Cheetah XT Cup Holder Placement
Despite all the great things about the Thule Coaster XT, one downside is that it’s hard to fold down. In theory, you pull the red knobs on either side inside the rear storage area and then just push down on the frame to fold. It took me many tries to finally be able to do it without the help of another person.
Once folded down, however, the Coaster XT stores and transports very compactly.
A hitch system may seem like an afterthought in y0ur decision process, but after testing so many trailers, we assure you it’s not. Every other hitch system requires you to line up the holes at the end of the tow bar with the holes in the hitch. Only after perfectly aligning them can you thread the locking pin through. Getting everything aligned just right while keeping your bike absolutely straight can cause you to break a sweat.
Thule, on the other hand, has a ball and socket system. The ball at the end of the tow arm slides smoothly into the hitch socket, and is then locked into place by a pin and rubber lock. It’s one of those things you use and think, oh yeah, Swedish design, this makes sense. While not a make or break, if you were totally on the fence between the Thule Coaster XT and the Burley Honey Bee, the Thule’s excellent hitch system is an argument I would use to sway you.
The tow arm of the Thule Coaster XT fits snuggly and securely to the body of the trailer so that there’s no rattling or play between the arm and the trailer.
The Coaster XT actually has two arm length settings – one for trailer mode and one for stroller mode. To put the tow arm in stroller mode, you simply remove the pin, push the arm further into the tow arm receiver, and re-secure the pin when the holes are again aligned.
This shortens the tow arm and allows the stroller wheel to be tucked in closer to the body of the trailer. As a result, the stroller is easier to maneuver, especially in crowded areas. This feature is not available on the Honey Bee, and is another point of awesomeness for the Coaster XT.
Trailer Arm in Stroller and Trailer Mode
A basic trailer with nice upgrades like padded seats and shoulder straps, as well as a single stroller wheel that tucks in closer to the trailer body, the Thule Coaster XT is a perfect option for Thule lovers that don’t want to pay for the extra bells and whistles found on more expensive models.