A Chariot at my back?
December 19, 2011 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Help us figure out which bike trailer to buy.

We have two kids, 3.5 and 1, and most of my trips with them are just a few miles each way, if that. Our town is flat and pretty bike-friendly, and I'd like to ditch the car as much as possible and bike with them instead. So we're looking at bike trailers, but the range of alternatives is enormous. Are fancy suspensions and reclining seats worth it, or needless frippery? Is it worth it to splash out for a Chariot, or a higher-end Burley? We don't really *need* it to convert to a stroller or any of the other options that Chariots allow. On the other hand, I'd like to use it daily if possible, so I want something that will be comfortable for the kiddos and relatively easy for me. I'll be pulling it with a 24-speed hybrid.

We'd like to hit the sweet spot on the value curve, where we get the most bang for our buck, without spending more than we need to.
posted by ambrosia to Shopping (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have several, and the only noticeable difference is that the higher-end ($350ish) Trek trailer that we got for $10 at a yard sale is a little bit better only because it clamps to the chainstay instead of needing a piece of hardware that attaches to the rear wheel by the dropouts. This makes it more versatile if both parents will ever use the trailer on different bikes, or you have more than one bike. Having used both, I vastly prefer the clamping kind. And that one or the cheaper burley one we have are really not so different in the passenger compartment, since they both fit two kids, have the same rain covers, etc. I have no specific suggestions, however, except used/craigslist is a wonderful value as long as you make sure all the parts are there.
posted by kpht at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2011

Best answer: Oh man. We loved our Burley d'Lite so much. But that was 10-20 years ago, I can't say if they're still the clear leader. I can however tell you the design elements that really sold us on it.

1) Excellent clamp hitch, with complete 3-d mobility. We could fall right off our own bike (and did) without risking tipping the trailer. Some hitches - if you fall off, the trailer can tip. Not with this one.
2) Dished and angled wheels. Two very subtle things that put the rubber on the road about five inches wider than it would have been with regular, straight wheels. And I didn't notice any horrible extra wear on the tires. I only rolled the trailer once, when I took a corner at speed and one wheel went up the wheelchair ramp. No injuries, but that was a lesson for me.
3) Easy and quick folding frame - even without popping off the quick-release wheels, we could make it a lot smaller in an instant.
4) Cargo bay. At first it was diaper bags, then it was two full grocery bags. And the carrying capacity - I think it was over 100 lbs.
5) Divided seat (I carried 2 kids, same ages).
6) Sturdy mesh screen and removable rain fly that rolled up. You need the screen to protect their little faces from gravel flung up by your wheels, so it should be less than ephemeral.

Anyway, we paid extra for that trailer, particularly for the safety features, and felt it was well worth it.
posted by zomg at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

sheesh, I'm not thinking straight - more than ephemeral, for the screen.
posted by zomg at 2:36 PM on December 19, 2011

I've tried both and prefer the type that clamp through the axle rather than onto the frame. Our Wikr trailer from wicycle.com came with two hitches, so my wife and I each have one on our bikes.

It's hard to go wrong with either Burley or Chariot. Wike is great as well.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:49 PM on December 19, 2011

Best answer: We also used an older Burley until our kids were able to ride their own bikes or too big to tow. They're now 7 and 10, so that was several years ago.

The Burley was great for exactly the reasons that zomg listed. Ours was a bit older and tracked a little wider than the newer units, but it was relatively light and well made, folded up easily, and allowed one to lay the towing bike on its side without tipping the trailer. We bought ours on CL, and it held its value well enough that we were able to sell it on CL several years later for not much of a loss.
posted by mosk at 3:55 PM on December 19, 2011

I'm afraid I don't remember much about my research on this, but whatever I did led me to the Burley d'Lite, and I was really happy with it. Plenty of room in the back to carry gear, extremely stable (as zomg says, the bike can go down and the Burley stays upright) and it has a pretty narrow profile, too -- it's no wider than the handlebars of your bike, and it tracks the bike really nicely on turns, so you never feel you're swinging your kid out into traffic when you turn.
posted by escabeche at 4:03 PM on December 19, 2011

We have a Chariot2. It has been great. It's 3 years old now and still in awesome shape. We use it as a trailer and jogging stroller. Like the Burleys it won't tip if the bike falls (had heard this but found out the hard way last summer when I got my feet stuck in the toe clips. No toe clips when riding with kids any more.) It is light and folds up to fit in the trunk of our compact car. We got the basic model, which was still around $600cdn if I remember correctly. So they aren't cheap.

We aren't quite ready to sell it yet but figure we will be able to do reasonably well on the resale.
posted by Cuke at 7:46 PM on December 19, 2011

Best answer: I'm an exceptionally happy owner of a Chariot Cougar. So much so that this answer will likely read like a paid advertisement. (It's not, and I have no connection whatsoever with the company.)

I often remark that I think it has been the single best purchase I have ever made.

Having said that, I have never ridden with a different trailer. But I closely examine the design of nearly every other trailer I ever come across, often ending up in wide-ranging discussions with other owners about our respective trailers. And were our Chariot ever to get stolen or lost I would replace it with another identical one immediately.

We first started riding with it when our boy was six weeks old. At the time ~AUD$600 felt like a big gamble (I had never seen one - they weren't sold in Australia at the time - and only knew about it because just after we found out my partner was pregnant I'd stumbled upon a review on cyclingnews.com). Knowing what I do now I would pay ten times that.

We use it nearly every day, because we don't own a car. And the only reason that we don't own a car is because we happily use it every day. (It can swallow a shopping trolley's worth of supermarket goods if I leave the child at home.)

Inspired by our family's obvious enjoyment of it four sets of friends have also bought Chariots. Two are hardcore cyclists, but two are women who barely rode a bike before having a child.

I consider the suspension almost a necessity for a young child's head - would you drive a car without suspension, or ride a bike if you weren't able to stand up over bumps? In the beginning I was constantly looking over my shoulder to observe him when i rode over tram tracks or a kerb, but it seems to do a decent job of smoothing out the worst of it. My rule of thumb is still to make sure I remain seated whilst negotiating obstacles on my road bike; if I'm tempted to stand up I figure I'm going too fast.

The coupling system for the Chariot is brilliant. Easy to get on and off, and the mounting bracket on my bike is barely noticeable when it's not attached. The ball-and-socket design almost certainly helps contribute to the wonderful handling. Towing the Chariot is nicer than riding my partner's bike with four litres of milk in the rear basket - the centre of gravity is kept low, and the bike handles completely predictably, both in and out of the saddle.

We don't use it much as a pram these days, but even now my son will fall asleep in it occasionally, and being able to convert it is great. Our 2005 model used big nuts for the front wheels, but the newer models use quick-release buttons. And the few other minor things that have begun bugging me about our trailer's design have all been addressed in subsequent updates.

Over the course of its life our Chariot has probably cost us about 30 cents a day (and occasionally that has worked out at just 0.3 cents per kilometre). But if we didn't own it we would have bought a car, so I like to think it has saved us tens of thousands of dollars, and kept both of us fitter at the same time.

It truly is about the best thing I have ever bought. If you envisage using it nearly every day then I'd say "the sweet spot on the value curve" will likely be at the peak! Paying a bit more might be the difference between using it all the time, and having it sit in the back of the shed.
posted by puffmoike at 7:53 AM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: Update: we wound up buying a Burley Bee, and we love it. I have been kicking myself for not getting one sooner. Thanks everyone for your input!
posted by ambrosia at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2012

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