Well, this is a really general question. Right off the bat most people will assume that you’re talking about bike trailers for kids and what makes a good bike trailer for children doesn’t necessarily make for a good bicycle trailer for say, hauling your canoe.
We’re going to break this into a series so that you can get the best possible advice for your particular situation. But before we do that, we’ll lay out basics for what makes a good bike trailer.
We can go on all day about features and design but what it really comes down to in a good bike trailer is quality. Your bicycle trailer will no doubt be roughed up a considerable amount over its lifetime. Potholes, rain, gravel, being tipped over, swapping accessories, it all adds up to a lot of wear and tear. A quality built trailer should give you a decade of trouble-free operation.
If budget is your main concern, consider the after market before you consider a cheap new trailer. Some types of bicycle trailers are only used a few years before they are outgrown so a good used on should be fairly easy to come by and will last longer than a cheap new one.
And trust us: you’d rather not have a component fail at the worst possible time over a few dozens of dollars.
No matter what your hauling, stability is king. Whether it’s kids, your kayak, or a load of paving stones, you want a trailer that tracks straight and true and won’t make your job as the engine of the train harder. As a general rule, good sized alloy wheels with stainless steel spokes and a decent track width (the distance between the wheels) will make your trailer more stable overall. A low center of gravity placed just slightly ahead of the trailer wheels will reduce the possibility of roll-over.
The biggest safety risk when using a child bike trailer is that it will become disconnected from your bicycle… travel into vehicular traffic… and encounter a car or truck. The strength, durability, and simplicity of the entire connection link between the trailer and the bike is paramount. Other considerations are roll cage frame design and seat belt strength.
Not everyone needs accessories for their trailer. But maybe you want to take the kids for a ride and a jog. Or you want a cargo bike trailer you can take into the grocery store without any fuss. Size up your needs and pick a trailer that can grow to meet them. There are definitely trailers on the market that can meet every need right out of the box but no two people or families are alike.
So you’ve got a fantastic trailer at a good price. But there’s something missing from the box. What now? Well, call the dealer! Or maybe not. The manufacturer? The designer? With luck, you’ve bought from a company with a good track record of supporting its customers but there are many times where you may be stuck in a loop on the phone or, worse, can’t reach anybody at all.
The same applies to parts. Can you get parts easily? Will the manufacturer continue to support the product after it’s been discontinued? While it’s true that some trailers have a fairly short lifespan, others, like cargo bike trailers, can go for years and even decades. And even if you don’t think you’ll be hanging onto that child trailer for long, knowing that there’s good support behind it can mean peace of mind for you and be a selling point for the person who buys it from you.
So there are the basics. Look for these things when you’re in the market for a new bike trailer and you’ll be off to a very good start.