No matter what kind of bike you have, there’s almost certainly a way to attach a bike trailer to it!
For the most part, bicycle trailer brands and models can be attached to bikes in a similar way. It's usually a simple and quick process. When you've attached your trailer to your bike once, it becomes significantly easier each time after that ‒ just like riding a bike!
Here, we aim to provide the most comprehensive, illustrated guide on how to attach a bike trailer to any bike, even if you’ve lost the instruction manual (or the manual is so confusing that it has you lost!)
I'm sure you're eager to get started, so let's get right into it!
No matter what brand or model of bike trailer you choose, there are two key things to consider before you attach it to your bike.
You will want to know:
Don’t worry, we'll explain what these mean and how to go about checking in the next sections. Once you know, you'll be able to attach a trailer to your bike with confidence!
A wheel axle is a threaded metal rod that attaches the wheel to the bike while allowing the wheel to spin. The threads are there so that the axle bolts and bearing crown races can be screwed on to secure the axle.
Your bike has two wheel axles ‒ one for the front wheel and one for the rear ‒ but today we're just looking at the rear wheel.
There are three main kinds of wheel axles, and the difference is important when it comes to how to attach a bike trailer to your bike: quick-release axles, bolt-on axles, and thru axles.
With a quick-release axle, you shouldn't have any problems attaching almost any bike trailer to your bike. But the skewer must be long enough to accommodate the additional thickness of the bike hitch. The skewer nut should engage the skewer with 5 complete thread. If it does not then you will need to purchase a longer skewer from your local bike shop. If your bike has hooded dropouts you may require a spacer to give more room for a bike trailer hitch - but I'll talk more about hooded dropouts later.
Most bike trailers are designed for quick-release axles, but many of them can also be attached to bolt-on axles with the right tools. You just need to be able to loosen the left side nut to attach the bike trailer hitch.
Thru-axles that are at 12 mm or thicker in diameter are usually too big to fit through a bike trailer hitch’s attachment hole, so you'll need an adapter.
The dropouts are the two slots through which the wheel axle is attached to your bike frame. While there are many different types of dropouts, we can group them into two general categories:
Chances are your bike will have standard dropouts that will give you no trouble when it comes to attaching a bike trailer to your bike. If your bike has hooded dropouts, you’ll need to talk to the manufacturer of your bike trailer to find out whether they offer spacers that you can use.
Most bike trailers come equipped with the following key components you’ll need to attach the trailer to your bike.
In most cases this is all you will need to safely connect the trailer to your bike, unless you’re dealing with a thru axle, which likely requires a special adapter.
As a first step to attaching a bike trailer to your bike, you'll need to set up the bike trailer hitch or coupler so it can attach to your bicycle. These steps apply to Wike bike trailers and bike axle/dropout:
Once you are ready, move on to the next section based on the type of axle you are dealing with:
Watch a video demonstration: Connecting your Bicycle Trailer: Quick Release
Attach the tow bar.
Good news! You'll only need to do this once. Since the bike trailer hitch is small and light, there's no need to remove it when you’re riding without a bike trailer. You won’t even notice it’s there.
Watch a video demonstration: Connecting your Bicycle Trailer: Bolt-on Hub
A bike trailer can be attached to a bolt-on axle similarly to a quick-release, so the images above can serve as a helpful reference in addition to the video demonstration.
You won't need to remove the hitch when you're not towing a bike trailer because it is small and light. The hitch won't interfere with your regular riding at all!
Thru axles bigger than 12 mm in diameter will usually not fit through the hole of the hitch that comes with your bike trailer.
To attach a bike trailer to a bike with a thru axle, you’ll need to purchase a thru axle adapter that is correctly sized for the axle and dropouts. To find the right fit, you’ll need to know the diameter, length, and thread pitch of your thru axle. You’ll find this info in the user manual that came with your bike or remove the thru-axle from your bike’s wheel and check the numbers printed on its side. Following that, you can also try looking up your bike with this bike axle identification tool.
Any good bike trailer is designed with failsafe's to keep it attached to your bike at all times. Here are a few small but important safety tips to follow when hooking up your bike trailer and hitting the road!
Check your hitch before each use and during long trips until you are confident of how it operates and how to use it. Use your trailer only if you are sure of how to use the hitch.
At Wike, we recommend replacing your bike trailer hitch once every 3 years, or whenever it shows clear signs of wear and tear. Our replacement bike trailer hitch will only run you around $20. A small expense that helps ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers!
All bike trailers should be equipped with a safety strap. No exceptions! In the rare event your bike trailer hitch fails, this accessory can literally save a life by keeping the trailer attached to your bike long enough that you can come to a safe stop.
Although the instructions above apply to most bike trailers, we cannot guarantee that all bike trailer models will work in the same way. If you have questions about how to set up your bike trailer, you should contact the manufacturer. If you have a Wike, that’s us! Contact us by email or call us and we’ll be happy to help you get up and running.