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Best Overall Bike Trailer
Burley D’Lite X
Ease of Use8.0
Weight: 28.4 pounds | Converts to Stroller: Yes, must purchase an additional stroller kit
REASONS TO BUY
Great safety features
Best hitch connection
Comfortable for passengers
REASONS TO AVOID
Awkward suspension adjustment
The Burley D’Lite X is at or near the top of the pack in every metric we tested. The only situation where it doesn’t truly excel is a sustained downpour. Its safety features impressed us: a comprehensive roll cage, substantial ventilation, UV-resistant windows, and a top-notch harness system with plenty of padding. Burley’s hitch setup is the best we tested because it makes it easy to hook up the trailer and the bike while providing a stable, lurch-free towing experience. Our passenger testers were “d’lited” with the D’Lite X’s comfort, reclining seats, and smooth ride quality. This model is outstandingly versatile — not only do its seats fold flat to accommodate dogs, camping gear, over-sized cargo, or anything else you can think to throw in it, but multisport families can purchase optional walking/hiking, jogging, and cross-country ski kits as aftermarket add-ons (not included).
Though they aren’t immediately apparent, the D’Lite X does have its drawbacks. The trailer isn’t entirely watertight, so if rain doesn’t spoil your biking plans or you live in a climate with lots of cold, wet weather, you may want to look into a trailer with total rain protection. It also has an adjustable suspension system that is difficult to adjust mid-ride and a few connecting loops that are not as durable as they could be. Still, the Burley D’Lite X is our top recommendation for those in the market for a trailer that does everything well and most things best.
With the seats removed, the D’Lite X swallows a pop-up tent, foldable chair, foldable table, sand toys, a hammock, a large cooler, PFDs for the whole family, and towels. Everything you need for a trip to the beach!
We recommend the Burley Bee if you’re hunting for a high-quality trailer that is light on your legs and your wallet. The Bee is less than half the price of our top award winner, the Burley D’Lite X, but comes standard with many of the same great features we expect in a top-of-the-line Burley trailer. The Bee is just as simple to set up, attach, and tow as the D’lite X and just as easy to use, even if it doesn’t sport all the bells and whistles. One of the Bee’s best features is that it is the lightest trailer we tested, yet it also has one of the largest cargo spaces, so it’s an excellent option for commutes or running errands around town.
The Bee’s passenger experience isn’t as plush as what you get with a more expensive model; the seats are unpadded, and there isn’t any suspension. Additionally, this contender is a single-function trailer with no options for additional strolling or multisport conversion kits. A few design features in the Bee are susceptible to everyday wear and tear, such as a fabric bottom that tends to rip if stepped on when it’s resting on the ground. If you’re looking for a nimble, fun, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive solution for biking with kids, the Burley Bee is a truly outstanding buy, so long as you don’t need a trailer that can serve double duty as a stroller or a jogger.
The Bee’s light weight made it an easy trailer to tow.
Although the Thule Chariot Cross didn’t quite beat out its closest rival, the Burley D’Lite X, this is a great bike trailer. The Cross comes with a range of abilities and a depth of thoughtful design that will leave most families very satisfied. Its fantastic suspension takes the jolt out of potholes and curbs better than any other competitor. Meanwhile, its rain cover keeps passengers completely dry even in truly miserable conditions. Its seats are comfortable, its harness straps are easy to adjust and stay in place well, and it’s surprisingly easy to set up it’s time to ride.
Unless your parenting is as ultralight as your backpacking, you may struggle to fit all your gear, as the Chariot Cross only offers a tiny cargo bag to store extras. It’s also not light on your wallet, so those who aren’t committed to biking regularly with the kids (or who have kids who will soon outgrow a trailer) would be wise to look elsewhere. That said, this trailer supplies steller quality and a full range of multisport options.
The large and adjustable sunshade keeps the kids cool, but may also upset children who don’t want to lose sight of Mom or Dad.
By excelling in every aspect of the passenger experience category, the Hamax Outback impressed us enough to become our top choice for a comfy ride. Those riding in the Outback are in for a real treat: they’ll enjoy wide, comfortable seats, large windows to take in the view, a secure footwell design that makes climbing in and out a cinch, and an adjustable suspension system that lets you dial in a smooth ride. Like the Burley D’Lite X, the Hamax has seats that can unclip to lie flat, which allows you to tow just about anything you can think of in its roomy interior. Our friends over at BabyGearLab also really like the Outback in its jogger guise.
Although the Outback has some great features, we have to literally weigh the negatives as well. This trailer is flat-out heavy. It weighs more than any other trailer we tested and more than twice as much as its lightest competitors. This means whoever is spinning the pedals is in for a challenging workout on all but the flattest rides. We believe its weight is enough to limit its versatility since carrying large loads simply isn’t feasible with such a heavy baseline weight. Other aspects of this trailer’s design are also a challenge. From a crucial zipper that’s missing a stop to its unwieldy size when folded, this trailer just doesn’t exhibit the same design quality as some of its competitors. However, the Hamax Outback might be the right choice for those not concerned about weight or slick design and those who just want the plushest possible ride for their little ones.
Since the seats fold flat, canine tester Banner could stretch out for his ride to the park.
Field testing the Schwinn Echo with passenger on board
Credit: Joanna Trieger
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editors Joanna Trieger and Chris Binder. Joanna uses her home in Reno, Nevada, as a base of operations for various Sierra Nevada excursions, including trail runs, skiing, and mountain biking. A safe streets advocate, you can find her bike commuting every workday, which she has done without exception for the past three years. Even off the clock, she is often still on the bike, towing her niece around town. Having a dedicated, cycle-centric lifestyle gives Joanna a keen eye and the experience to understand a bike trailer’s functionality.
Chris has been putting his outdoor gear through the wringer for fun and profit worldwide for nearly two decades. In his adventures, he has thru-hiked big-name trails, lived and adventured on four continents, and biked across America (twice). He enjoys life in Lake Tahoe, where he taxis his daughter and dog around the mountains, always exploring new challenges.
Like everything we do at OutdoorGearLab, this review started with copious amounts of market research into which products were best suited for purchase and testing. We always want to choose models at various price points and then focus on the best products available in each bracket (pricier doesn’t always mean better, plus everyone has a different budget). We scoured buyer reviews, manufacturers’ websites, and gear forums to distill a large array of 40 initial models down to the best we could find. We also carefully planned how we would judge each trailer’s performance, narrowing in on several key metrics that will resonate with families in the market for bike trailers. A custom testing protocol was developed for each metric, such as a protection test using an accelerometer fixed to a water bladder while towing the trailers across rough terrain meant to compare the ride smoothness. In the end, we can provide comprehensive results that should help your family make a well-informed choice, even if that means you decide a new bike trailer isn’t right for you right now.
Analysis and Test Results
We chose a diverse set 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. These trailers were hauled along city streets, on urban bike paths, over rough forest roads, and through grassy parks. We towed everything we could think of, from beach gear, dogs, and camping equipment, to groceries, gardening supplies, and — of course — kids. After months of rigorous testing, we’re confident in our analysis of how these trailers stack up.
Each testing metric has been weighted according to its contribution to the overall experience of using a trailer. Then we used our weighted ratings to calculate the overall score for each bike trailer. The right trailer for your family isn’t necessarily the one at the top of the chart, especially if you value one or more of our metrics more than we do. It’s worth your time to pause, consider which metrics matter the most to you and your family, and plan how much you’re willing to spend. Below, we analyze how the competition performed in each metric and discuss some standout models.
Let’s face it: price matters. We think you’ll get the most value by springing for a trailer with suspension so you can enjoy the full range of riding options. This is also smart if you’re thinking ahead to potentially reselling a trailer after the kids have moved on to their own bikes. All the models we tested with suspensions are near the high end of the bike trailer price spectrum. If you can afford to shell out more money upfront, the more pleasant experience of the suspension models will encourage you to use it more often and lower the cost per ride over time. For its stellar performance at a price point toward the low-end top-performing products, the Burley D’Lite X is our top recommendation.
By far, the best value award goes to the Burley Bee. Purchasing the Bee gets you the quality design, ease of use, and durability that usually comes from the Burley brand but at less than half the price of the D’Lite X. Sure, the Bee isn’t as fancy or plush for passengers as the D’Lite X, but it’s still an incredibly simple trailer to set up and tow, and the kids aren’t likely to complain about it. It’s also fitted with solid safety features and is light enough to remain useful as an around-town grocery hauler and cargo trailer long after your kids have outgrown it.
The Schwinn Echo is another trailer that shouldn’t be ignored in the value department, snagging our top choice for an ultra-low budget option. This is definitely a basic trailer, but it’s easier to tow and has sightly better components than other trailers in its price range, like the Allen Sports Steel and the InStep Take 2. The Echo is less than half the price of the Burley Bee. The Bee is much more stylish, user-friendly, and durable than the Echo, so we still think the Bee is a better value. Still, the Echo is a solid choice if you don’t want to spend a penny more than necessary to get rolling with your kids.
The Thule Chariot Cross and its pared-down version, the Thule Chariot Lite are unmistakably on the pricier side. If you decide that it’s worth it to spend that kind of money, you might as well get the Chariot Cross. The Cross has strategically padded seats that recline individually, a rain-proof cargo pouch, an adjustable suspension system, and a flare that can’t be beaten. Since both these Thule trailers are a serious investment, you might as well spend a little extra to get the best. Just don’t forget to buy a lock to protect that investment.
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 additional safety features. As we evaluated each product in this category, we considered factors like construction quality, roll cage coverage, rain and sun protection, harness effectiveness, ventilation, and suspension.
Towing children under 12 months in a bike trailer is not recommended and is illegal in some states. According to our friends at BabyGearLab and pediatrician Dr. Juliet Spurrier, children younger than one year simply do not have the neck strength to take part in running or biking activities. Their brain development is too fragile to handle the jostling and bouncing from being towed in a bike trailer. At 12 months and older, children should always wear a properly fitted helmet while riding in a trailer, and the trailer should meet the standards set by the ASTM at a minimum (as do all the products we tested). Remember, most bike trailers are not recommended for children five and older, and most 5-year-olds will be too big to comfortably enjoy a ride in a trailer anyway.
Our testing took place with appropriately aged passenger testers. The input from children near the high end of the age spectrum for bike trailers was essential in determining which models supplied the smoothest ride. However, we still do not recommend the safest trailer with the smoothest ride for children younger than one year, and we never recommend towing any child not wearing a well-fitted helmet.
A note about helmets and head position
All bike trailer manufacturers recommend that passengers wear a helmet while riding in their products. We couldn’t agree more, and all of our kid testers wore helmets for every ride, even if we weren’t on pavement or were just going around the block to induce a quick nap. In the past, we were disappointed that trailers didn’t easily accommodate helmets. Some seat backs tended to be relatively straight, so a bulky helmet would push a kid’s head forward, resulting in an uncomfortable neck position. Recently, manufacturers seem to have taken note of this problem, and in most of the models we tested, our passengers were able to maintain a comfortable head and neck position with a helmet (indeed, some seemed like they would have been uncomfortable without a helmet). Some seatbacks have expandable pleats behind the passenger’s head, like the ones in the D’Lite X and Bee Burley models, which leave space specifically designed to accommodate a helmet. Other trailers, like the Thule Chariot models, have a more reclined overall seat position, so a helmet doesn’t push the head forward. The Hamax Outback has a removable pad behind the passenger’s head that can be taken out if helmet bulk seems to be a problem. Two of the lowest-price trailers on the market, the Schwinn Echo and the InStep Take 2, have pleats behind the passenger’s head, but the way the pleats are sewn means that they can’t expand very well to accommodate the helmet. This makes them ineffective when it comes to helmets (though it does help with ventilation). We found that there simply isn’t sufficient helmet room in the lower-end trailers with some of our taller passengers.
Some trailers in our lineup are better than others at providing a smooth ride over rough terrain. We found that the adjustable suspension systems of the Hamax Outback, Burley D’Lite X, and Thule Chariot Cross were exceptional at absorbing many bumps in the trail, making them a passenger favorite on dirt and gravel roads. None of the other models we tested featured suspensions, resulting in very slow, cautious riding to avoid bouncing our passengers around in the non-suspended trailers. Investing in a bike trailer with a suspension system is a good idea if you’re considering riding off paved roads and/or bike paths, and it will keep your passengers much more comfortable and happy.
We simulated riding with a 6-to 9-month-old child to test the trailers’ suspensions. That’s the absolute minimum manufacturer recommended age for bike trailer passengers (again, our BabyGearLab friends don’t recommend towing children under one year). For this test, we loaded a 20-pound bump-test dummy into each trailer and pulled it with a hardtail mountain bike to test each model under virtually identical conditions.