A Buying Guide for Bike Trailers for Kids

By Eric Awwy, 04 Jan 2020

Before we delve into how to choose the best bike trailer, we have to tackle a bike trailer dilemma that most parents face. Although we have been discussing what age is appropriate for kids to ride in a trailer in our previous articles, it is good to state it once again here.

Evidence-based research shows that bike trailers can only carry children aged from 1-6 years. Below that age, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against the use of bike-towed trailers, as the shaky movements can affect brain development in kids.

Furthermore, all bike trailers have a weight limit ranging between 85 and 125 pounds, depending on the brand and number of passengers. If you stretch beyond this limit, it is possible to tamper with the bike trailer's structure.  We are talking of having ground clearance lowered to the extent that the kids’ bike trailer becomes useless.

But these are but a few features that can help you find a good trailer; there is more, and without delay, let us dig into it!

Kids on a bike trailer during summer

Classification of Bike Trailers

Before looking at some of the factors to consider while buying a bike trailer for your kids, let’s have a look at the types of bike trailers available in the market. Bike trailers can be categorized by trailer type and by size.

Size of the Trailer

The size of the trailers is defined by the number of kids it can accommodate by default. Depending on the number of kids you wish to take to a ride, there are two types of bike trailers:

  • Double child bike trailer/ two-child trailers
  • Single child bike trailer/one-child trailers

In short, there is either a single or double-capacity trailer.

Single trailers accommodate one rider or passenger and are by far the best. Our test and customer surveys have the advantage of being lighter, affordable, and aerodynamic (due to being narrow).

On the other hand, as the name suggests, the double trailer can accommodate two riders or passengers. However, the two should not exceed 85 to 100 pounds. Advantage-wise, it has more storage compared to its single capacity counterpart. Regardless, it is weightier, extensive, and comes at a higher price. If you have a family with twins or one that is growing, it can come in handy.

Type of the Bike Trailer

The objective of buying a trailer should be the first parameter to guide your choice. When selecting a bike trailer for kids, always remember that there are those that you can convert into joggers or strollers. You can opt for multisport, trailer plus jogger/stroller, or trailer only. The difference is how many wheels each has.

 There are accessories to convert a standard trailer into either of those. The multisport trailer is high-end bike trailers and can convert into both joggers and strollers. 

The second batch is the trailer that comes with a stroller or jogger wheels. This group suits the parents who only use trailers as strollers or joggers occasionally.

Stroller and jogger type bike trailers only come as a flat trailer with no additional attachments. It is always good to go for the high-end models due to superior qualities such as padded seats and large wheel sizes.

When purchasing a multi-use trailer, choose one which can allow you to convert the trailer into either a stroller or a jogger. In this case, you will have to purchase the stroller attachments and the jogging wheels.

Jogger/stroller type bike trailer for kids

Factors to focus on when finding the best trailer for your Kid (s)

If you are an avid cycling dad or mum, you will appreciate the essence of having the best bike trailer. Depending on the number of kids you have, you might choose the single-passenger or the double passenger option. Nevertheless, before you rush and make a decision that will later be regrettable, have a look at some of the essential features that make a good bike trailer.

Bike trailer buying guide visual

The Trailer’s Cabin Dimensions

As part of the safety check, assess the internal cabin dimensions. Different trailers come in different sizes. If you are shopping for older and tall riders, a difference in one inch could determine whether you pick a given brand.

Some trailers are designed to have a smaller cabin. In this case, the headspace and the shoulder space for riders are small. Only the high and medium-end trailers come with the largest cabins.

When checking the headroom, consider the height from the seat to the top of the trailer. There are 23” to 30” variations to choose from, depending on the child's height.

As the cabin dimension controls the weight, it is also pertinent to check the trailer's weight capacity. Most of the trailers have a weight capacity of between 80 to100 lb.

You should also check the distance from one shoulder to the other. They vary between 22” and 25.5”. Your choice of the best brand should be guided by the trailer's ability to offer the best shoulder room for comfort. The next thing then is the type of seats on the kids’ trailer you are choosing.

Some cabins come with baby and infant inserts, which can offer room for babies.

Buckles and Harness trailer seats

This variation offers extra comfort for the kids. It is a preserve of the high-end bike trailers and comes with padding attached to the buckle. The shoulder straps also have padding.

Handlebars and Suspensions

When converting the bike trailers into joggers, it is essential to check the handlebars.

Most trailers come with an adjustable handlebar. Depending on the types, some handlebars swivel to adjust the height. If you have different heights and are strolling and jogging in turns, go for one with swivel handlebars as it offers multiple heights.

Like bikes, the bike trailer suspensions delineate a smooth from the bumpy ride. Kids love smooth rides. Mostly, if you have a nagging kid, such rides can only make them sad. That is not what cycling is about; that has never been the case. Thus, it is essential to consider a trailer with a suspension system to avoid the fuss, especially for those riding on off-road terrains.

Whether it is a double suspension or not, it makes no difference. However, choosing an adjustable suspension can help if you are carrying children with different weights in turns.

The Types of Seats

Seats are a comfort factor in bike trailers for kids. Whether you are planning for one kid or two, always go for the best seat. The weight of the kid should control the type of seat you consider. There are three types of seats at your disposal:

  • Hammock-style seats
  • Bench-style seats
  • Buckles and Harness trailer seats

Buckles and Harness trailer seats

This variation offers extra comfort for the kids. It is a preserve of the high-end bike trailers and comes with padding attached to the buckle. The shoulder straps also have padding.

Hammock-type trailer seat

It is mostly found in low-end trailers. It comes with pure nylon or plastic straps that attach and support a nylon or canvas set that is non-padded. In this design, comfort is sacrificed for volume. If you get this, be sure of your kids being squished. However, it can be an excellent choice for a single rider.

Bench-type trailer seats

Again, you can be lucky to get the bench with padding for high-end trailers to give resilience. They are the most comfortable, as per our tests. Besides, they offer large legroom for the kid(s).

Remember, the type of seat on your child's bike trailer defines the strength of the trailer. If you want comfort for your kids, the high-end variations are the best choice.  Children love eating stuff. Therefore, ensure that the straps of the bike trailers are made of non-toxic materials.

Wheel Size, Ground Clearance, and Speed

The size of the wheel of a trailer plays a great role in your choice of any given trailer. Notably, as one of our readers noticed, some trailers have wheel sizes that limit your fun and that of your kids.

Mainly, trailers come with size 16-inch and 20-inch bike-type wheels. These wheel dimensions are very important as they determine the trailer's speed and the terrain limitations of a particular trailer.

For example, the size 20” inch trailers will better handle different terrains thanks to the relatively high ground clearance compared to size 16” wheel bike trailers.

As well, the 20-inch bike trailer wheels cushion the kids better as they absorb the shocks on the bumpy surfaces better than size 16-inch tires.

Mostly, size 16-inch wheeled trailers will have a plastic rim, which despite hardening, is not as resilient as the aluminum or steel rims that come with the size 20-inch trailer tires. This means that the 16” tires of a bike trailer are prone to cracks and can also warp, which reduces their life cycle.

In terms of speed, 16-inch wheeled trailers will drag as they need to make many revolutions but have better maneuverability. In essence, this means more work being done by you as the parents in pedaling to cover more distance. On the other hand, with the larger circumference of the 20-inch tires, the parent pedals less, and the trailer rides faster.

We have not personally measured the speed. However, evidence from those who have indicated the maximum speed for size 16 and 20-inch trailer wheels as 10 and 15 mph, respectively.

Bike Trailer's Braking System

Another critical factor is the brake system. If you plan to convert the trailer into a stroller, look at the type of brakes it comes with if they can allow you. Although brakes make little difference, the presence of one is an additional safety feature.

When functioning exclusively as a bike trailer, you do not entirely need brakes. However, when you convert and use the trailer as a jogger or stroller, having a functional braking system is imperative.

Trailers come with a footbrake, which is mostly used in stroller mode. Hand brakes on bike trailers come in handy when jogging or stroking as they engage instantly.

You will notice that the high-end trailers such as Thule Chariot Cheetah XT and the Thule Chariot Cross or even the Hamax Outback come with standard sunshades and rain covers. High-end trailers such as Thule Chariot Lite and Hamax Outback come with add-on brake systems you have to purchase separately.

Weather Covers and Trailer protection

No one can predict the weather. Therefore, also check the trailer covers. Some trailers we have reviewed come with plastic rain covers.

It is also recommendable to check whether the trailer has a sun cover. If the trailer has an option of attaching those, you can purchase them as add-ons, which might attract extra costs, but it is a worthy move.

The Bike Trailer Windows

What is the fun of an outdoor adventure when confined from seeing the scenic views? Kids are visual creatures; they see to experience, praise and believe. This means that your best trailer of choice must have side windows.

While these windows primarily play a role in allowing visibility, they similarly act as a UV protector.

Thanks to Thule, Hamax, and Burley's thoughtful designs, the UV-blocking windows are standard in their trailers. Some bike trailer brands such as InStep and Allen Sports do not come with a UV-blocking window.

Bike Trailer's Storage Space

Nobody wants to pull a bike trailer and have a back park. Instead, when pulling trailers, parents should be as free as possible. Manufacturers and designers figured this out and included some storage space behind most of the trailers.

As you bring two or one passive passenger with you on a ride, you might want to carry some of their accessories such as raincoats, helmets, balance bikes, towels, sweaters, jackets, snacks, and other essentials.

If this is the case, decide on the best bike trailer to purchase based on the storage space you need. These storage compartments can carry anything, including camping materials. A useful hint that determines the storage space is the shape of the bike trailer.

You will also have the handlebar console storage space in some trailers that can also come in handy in holding some valuables such as keys, money, glue, tubes, phones, and earphones. However, the storage space is more useful when in stroller mode than when cycling, although you can still use it.

Note that some trailer storage can affect how you stride, especially if you plan to stroll or jog with the trailer.

Bike Trailer Frames

The frame carries the weight of the entire bike trailer, including that of the kids and a few items in storage.

When finding the best trailer, consider the frame design and material. The bike trailers whose frames are made from steel are more expensive and durable than those made of aluminium or alloy.

Whichever choice you make, ensure that the frame is sturdy enough to support your needs.

The best frame design is that which offers a roll cage/bars, which resiliently protects the trailer in case it topples or rolls over.

Note that you cannot guarantee that a vehicle collision will be shielded despite these frames' sturdiness, so always take care even when you have the toughest frame for your bike trailer.

Reflectors or Flags on the Bike Trailer

For safety when cycling, visibility is a significant factor. Having a reflective cover material, reflectors, and reflective flags can significantly reduce collision with joggers, cyclists, and other people on your path, sometimes even pets. Ensure that the trailer you eventually choose has a reflective strip, reflector, or flag to increase its visibility.

Foldability of the Bike Trailer

Even as you think of this feature as negligible, it comes into play when storing your bike trailer.

Sometimes you are off for bike camping or bike tour and want to fit your trailer in the trunk. If it is not foldable, it might take a huge space, limiting what you bring along with you.

However, a foldable bike trailer will take a small space. Some of the factors that determine Foldability include quick-release wheels and quick-folding mechanisms. Go for one that is easy to fold.

Also, check the dimensions when folded and choose whether it is a necessity or a nagging problem post-purchase.

Is the trailer Specific- or all-terrain Capable?

Although overlooked, it is always good to go for trailers to handle the terrains you frequent with your kids. Like bikes, different trailers can work well in different landscapes.

If you are a parent who loves long off-road adventures with kids, a good choice would be a trailer with a suspension system. Consider the trailers with inbuilt suspension systems that make them easy to tow.

Off-road bike trailers, which are all-terrain bike trailers, perform well if they have a wheel size of 20”, which negotiate rough terrain with ease. The 20” wheels absorb bumps on the rough roads better and have better ground clearance. They are also mostly metallic-rimmed and durable. These 20” wheels have a maximum speed of 13-15 mph, which is fairly fast compared to 16” wheels.

Our test with 16” wheels on rough terrain did not go quite as planned. One shortfall of the 16” wheels is the plastic rims' warping and cracking. Besides, the 16” does not do well in rough terrains. Still, it only has a maximum speed recommendation of 9-10 mph. However, if your preference is daily commuting or rides on smooth pavements and roads, the 16” will serve you just fine!

Is the trailer compatible with the adult bike pulling it?

Before even thinking of a bike trailer, we should always consider the adult bike. Even with the best trailer, incompatibility with the adult bike used in rigging the trailer can render the trailer useless.

Luckily, most of the recent bike trailers' designs can work with different adult bike brands. However, this does not necessarily mean that yours will correctly work with your bike.

When assessing the bike-trailer fit, you should focus on the hitching mechanism of the bike trailer. Different brands have different hitching systems, and incompatibility could only mean modifications or buying a compatible adult bike.

Note: Some of the gear trailers come with exchangeable hitching systems that make them compatible.

With all the features, does the trailer fit your budget?

When all is said and done, the budget or the financial factor either breaks or makes your choice. Having a budget range for a bike trailer is not bad; it will give you a scope of choices from where you can make a final choice. Even though a budget is a personal affair, read out our thoughts, helping you decide on the trailer to purchase.

As we live in an economically difficult time, considering durability and budget is not optional. Most of the trailers range between below $100 and $1000. Mostly, the highly-priced trailers come with a performance, durability, and quality advantage.

Premium trailers indeed win when it comes to safety and comfort features. It is also true that they make the ride smoother. However, like the adage, good things like high-end trailers come at a substantial cost.

On the contrary, the low-end bike trailers afford most families riding on flat surfaces and pavement the pleasure of riding with babies on board. Nevertheless, the low cost comes at a compromise of safety, quality, and performance capacity – choose your poison wisely.

Therefore, we would advocate and persuade you to purchase mid-range and high-end trailers any day, especially if you are a parent who prefers safety, durability, and high quality.  Remember, budget buys can come in handy if your kids are likely to outgrow the trailers faster, and there is no one to pass it.

Lastly, like any other product, always check for the warranty. It could be the only difference that can make you overcome the chooser’s dilemma.

The Great Debate: Are Bike Trailers Safe?

In our article on child bike seats vs. trailers, we put to rest the debate of safety. Yes, bike trailers are not as lethal as most people tout them to be. Most parents, who are our readers, have expressed their worry about kids' safety on bike trailers.

From an expert’s point of view, we would answer that trailers are safe, but the safety depends on safety precautions and the mindful use of bicycle trailers.

Compared to bike seats, the risk levels of a bike trailer are low. A study on Tikes and Bikes that involved retrospective data analysis concluded that bike trailer injuries are rare. Some trailers come with roll bars or cages that cushion kids when the trailer rolls, which is an extra safety feature.

Besides, trailer seats also have padded straps and come with a standard 3-point of 5-harness systems that secure the passengers into place.

Another contentious issue is on wearing helmets while onboard a trailer.  According to experts, bike trailers have enough safety features. Thus, only when extra safety is required should the children use lightweight helmets. But it is not a must!

With everything else falling into its place, allow us to introduce you to some of the eight best bike trailer brands.

The top 8 Best Trailer Bike Brands

bike trailer

Like any other market, the bicycle trailer and trailer cycle market are dominated by different brands. Here are the best bicycle trailer brands as per our research.

1. Thule

Thule has also made a name as a major bike trailer brand. Talk of bike trailers such as Thule Chariot Cross 2, Thule Chariot Lite 2, Thule Chariot Cheetah XT2, Thule Coaster XT, and the Thule Cadence multisport trailers, and you will bring close the memories the Thule bike trailers have created in families across the world. With these multisport trailers, you and your kids can share your passions, regardless of the seasons. Talk of biking, jogging, skiing, and even strolling thanks to the conversion kits, these are the trailers that you buy and pass down the family history to create more and more generational memories.

2. Burley

Burley Company traces its past to its founder Alan Scholz, and it is associated with unmatched quality. The outdoor company designs fun, innovative, and creative bicycling products that offer safety, comfort, functionality, and versatility. You can never go wrong from conversion kits to replacement parts and trailers by choosing a trailer designed and manufactured by burley. In terms of trailer portfolio, some of the Burley products that stand out include Burley D’Lite bike trailer, Burley Encore X trailer/jogger, Burley Bee, Burley Minnow, and the Burley Honey Bee.

3. Hamax

The Hamax AS Company is famous for its bicycle trailers, child bike seats, helmets, and sleds. For more than six decades, the company has received awards and accolades for its innovative products that assist in hauling the children. It has made a name for its high-end, high-quality, durable, and high-standard products for serious cycling parents and families. As for trailers, check out our in-depth review of the Hamax Outback Multisport Bike trailer. Again, it is a trailer you can pass down so many generations.

4. Croozer

Croozer is a famous household name for cargo, kids’, and dogs’ bike trailers. The company's innovative products fly off the shelves, given their durability, reliability, and high quality. Look for the Croozer 525 Double Bike trailer or the Croozer Designs 737 3 in 1 trailer, or the Croozer Mini Bicycle Trailer; you will be lucky to find these products.

5. InStep

InStep Company is also a renowned bike trailer brand with innovative, durable, and affordable trailers that will make you want to enjoy those trails with your little ones. If its trailers such as InStep Sync and Take 2 and InStep Quick N-EZ Double. These bike trailers are reliable, agile, affordable, and, most of all, popular.

6. Schwinn

Schwinn is a household name in the cycling history and industry, bringing inspiring products such as bikes, helmets, and trailers. Established in 1895, the company has also carved a name for itself in the cycling industry. In terms of trailers, Schwinn has a variety, including Schwinn Trailblazer Bike Trailer and Schwinn Joyrider. It also prides itself of cargo bike trailers such as Schwinn Day Tripper and Schwinn Rascal Bike Pet Trailer. If you are shopping for a bike trailer and see the brand name, do not get confused whether it is old or new, you can trust its products.

7. Allen Sports

Allen Sports is a trusted outdoor company that boasts as a leader in hitch bike racks. Well, it has also carved a great name in the trailer and joggers market through its wonderful products such as Deluxe steel child bike trailer, Deluxe trailer plus stroller, premier child bike trailer and stroller, High-Viz child bike trailer, and the Premier Aluminum jogger.

8. Wehoo

The Wehoo Company is headquartered in Colorado, USA. The company’s mission is to inspire child-like curiosity and endless adventure. And it surely does that through its wide range of trailer cycle products such as the Wehoo iGo Blast, Wehoo Thrill, and the Wehoo iGo Two, which inspire kids to enjoy the outdoors while accompanying their cycling parents.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Bike Trailer

Like any other purchase, owning a bike trailer comes with its brighter and darker sides. Here, we present some of the pros and cons of owning a bike trailer.

Benefits of Owning a Bicycle Trailer

Congratulations on purchasing a bike trailer for kids for your family. If you are yet to make that decision, here are some reasons to buy one:

Advantages of a Bike Trailer

Congratulations on purchasing a bike trailer for kids for your family. If you are yet to make that decision, here are some reasons to buy one:

  • Eco-consciousness. You have the choice of using a vehicle. However, cars bring convenience at the expense of the environment. On the other hand, a bicycle trailer helps you navigate and appreciate nature and still leave it in its pristine form. A few weeks of cycling saves on gas and makes you an advocate for environmental conservation. Besides, the little ones also get to be eco-conscious.
  • Leave no one behind. Owning a bike trailer raises your confidence in taking the long-planned family ride with everyone. As long as the toddlers have attained between 1 and six years, they can always join the rest on a trip. Technically, everyone will enjoy the bike parking during the holidays. Some will suffer, we all know who, the one with the trailer! Altogether, it is fun, so go for it.
  • Active lifestyle. Training the children to enjoy the outdoors will make them active. As we continue to advocate for more outdoor time and less screen time, bike trailers can be a start. As soon as they develop their love for the outdoors, you can consider graduating them to balance bikes and other bikes as they grow. In the end, you will have a family that loves cycling.
  • Family time. If you are one of those parents nagging one another of change in routine after parenting got in the equation, adding a bike trailer in the mix can help. The whole family can resume riding, nature visits, and fun evening walks and runs. After all, the new family member can always enjoy it when in the bike trailer.
  • Eco-consciousness. You have the choice of using a vehicle. However, cars bring convenience at the expense of the environment. A bicycle trailer, on the other hand, helps you navigate and appreciate nature and still leave it in its pristine form. A few weeks of cycling saves on gas and makes you an advocate for environmental conservation. Besides, the little ones also get to be eco-conscious.
  • Leave no one behind. Owning a bike trailer raises your confidence in taking the long-planned family ride with everyone. As long as the toddlers have attained between 1 and six years, they can always join the rest on a trip. Technically, everyone will enjoy the bike parking during the holidays. Some will suffer, we all know who, the one with the trailer! Altogether, it is fun, so go for it.
  • Active lifestyle. Training the children to enjoy the outdoors will make them active. As we continue to advocate for more outdoor time and less screen time, bike trailers can be a start. As soon as they develop their love for outdoors, you can consider graduating them to balance bikes and other bikes as they grow. In the end, you will have a family that loves cycling.
  • Family time. If you are one of those parents nagging one another of change in routine after parenting got in the equation, adding bike trailer in the mix can help. The whole family can resume riding, nature visits, and fun evening walks and runs. After all, the new family member can always enjoy it when in the bike trailer.

Disadvantages of Bike Trailers

Despite the appealing benefits, bike trailers for kids also have their downsides.

  • There are age restrictions. Beyond 1-6 years, your child can no longer enjoy the trailer rides.
  • Trailers also come at a cost. However, all bike riding families view the price as a worthy investment.
  • Some terrains do not work for bike trailers. We are talking of narrow paths, sidewalk curbs, bumpy grounds, and wet trails. Riding through such ground can be a hassle.
  • Bike trailers are also cumbersome by default. They are bulky and cause a problem for first-time
  • Since the kids are always behind, you will still ride with a worried mind if they are not yet the talking age, which is not safe. You need your concentration to get everyone home safe and sound with memories aboard.

Bottom line

We are already jealous! Imagine the frustrations we went through trying to get the best bike trailers for kids back then. Given a chance, we would use this comprehensive bike trailer buying guide to make the best decision.

Bike trailers are a wonderful invention and a significant investment for families. We have researched, tested, and synthesized information for you. All you have to do is to read through and make the best choice. A brand is just a name if it never has features that satisfy you. These features are some of the most pertinent when shopping for a bike trailer.

Bike trailers are good for bike parking, adventure rides for new moms, family rides, and bike tours, just as they are for neighborhood strolls, jogging, and short rides with babies, toddlers, and kids on board. However, remember to always attach a flag behind the trailer for visibility.

In a nutshell, budget, storage space, ground clearance, covers, and all the features discussed should guide your choice. Caution! We only advise you on what to look for when buying. However, the decision is between you, your spouse, and the pocket. All the best!

Check out our review of the best bike trailers for kids that any cycling parent or family would be interested in. 

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Comments

bILL

Some trailers have wheel size limitations and you don't discuss them here! I wish you'd mention which brands are good for large bikes because I can't find any info

Reply
Awwy

Hi Bill, We will improve the article to capture that. We will incorporate bike trailer brands that are good for large bikes in our next update.

Reply
Awwy

Hi, again Bill. As we promised, we have updated the guide to make it more comprehensive and up to date. Please check and let us know your thoughts.

Reply