A child bike trailer is hands down the best way to introduce your kids to the thrill, adventure, and lifelong joy of cycling! Not only does it help your kids develop an active and healthy lifestyle, but it lets you get out on your bike without having to find a babysitter.
But here’s the thing: with literally dozens of child bike trailer brands out there (and opinions galore), there are probably some questions you need answered before you can pick the best child bike trailer for your family.
We want to make it easy for you. This article answers all of the above to help you sort through the clutter and gain a better understanding of what child and baby bike trailers are all about!
A child bike trailer looks like a stroller or buggy that you can attach to your bicycle and pull while you’re riding.
A child bike trailer has an towbar or boom that connects to your bike either through the rear wheel axle or through a connector attached to the frame.
Child bike trailers typically feature two wheels (rarely, a single wheel), a fabric canopy to protect occupants from the elements, and a bench or hammock-style seat.
The variety styles and features of child bike trailers are huge, so you can get one for just about anything! Here are a few examples:
Your best choice of child bike trailer is one that you will use the most! The features of a trailer are more important than superficial things like the price or color, since features are what ultimately decides how much use you get from it.
Below are a few key features to consider when choosing a child bike trailer for your family.
The most obvious thing to consider when choosing a trailer is whether or not it’s for one kid or multiple kids. Even if you don't have a second child yet, if you plan to have one soon, a double trailer might be a wise investment. You can always use a double trailer for a kid riding solo in the meantime!
That said, a double trailer has one key disadvantage: it’s difficult to maneuver through tight spaces. So, it makes sense that parents with only one child (and no plans for more) choose a single trailer instead of a double.
The two most common types of seats for child bike trailers are bench seats and hammock seats.
If it’s in your budget, choose a trailer with 20-inch wheels and aluminum rims and stainless spokes. You and your child will enjoy a much smoother ride on 20-inch tires because they absorb bumps in the road better than 16-inch tires.
Trailers at a lower price point usually have smaller, 16-inch tires. It is strongly advised to use metal spokes and rims at this size, some cheaper 16-inch plastic rims and spokes are prone to warping and cracking.
Most child bike trailers attach to your bike via the rear wheel’s left axle. This makes them compatible with just about any bike with a quick-release skewer or rear axle bolt on its rear wheel.
You will have to purchase a thru-axle adapter if you have a thru-axle on your rear wheel. They are available through the “Robert Axle Project”.
If you commute by bike every day or plan to ferry your kids to and from school, then you will definitely want a larger bike trailer with extra storage space for backpacks, briefcases, and more! Look for a child bike trailer like the Softie or Moonlite models that accommodate larger children and have both rear luggage compartments and interior pockets for toys and snacks.
Casual cyclists looking for the occasional outing might not care as much about cargo space, keep in mind how the extra storage could expand your horizons. You could bike to the park with snacks and drinks for an afternoon picnic in the summer. Or, go garage sale-ing with the kids and bring back some treasures. The possibilities are endless!
When parents shop for a child bike trailer, the first and most common question on their minds is: at what age can my child ride in a bike trailer?
In most cases, it depends. Here's the bottom line:
That aside, if you have a very young child, you'll want to be extremely mindful of their risk of head and neck injury. Trailers jostle, no matter how heavy-duty the suspensions and wheels are, and the bike helmet will add 226 to 283 grams (or 8 to 10 ounces) of weight to your child’s head.
With that in mind, a child should never ride in a bike trailer until they can confidently and consistently hold their head up. This is true regardless of the child's age, even if the trailer is marketed as a ‘baby bike trailer.’
The above is not medical advice. Check with your pediatrician and take their advice seriously on this issue. They know your child and can help educate you.
You know as a cyclist that riding a bike is generally a safe activity. But you also know that all sports, including cycling, involve some level of risk. The same goes for child bike trailers.
The good news is that high quality child bike trailers come with numerous safety features that keep your child safe so you can ride with confidence!
In fact, cycling with a child bike trailer attached is often safer than cycling without one because of these features.
Consider these important safety features when choosing the best child bike trailer for your family:
Lastly, no matter how old the child is or how leisurely the ride is expected to be, your child needs to wear a helmet! Not even the toughest-built bike trailer can replace the protection of a helmet.
Think NASCAR drivers ‒ they’re strapped in like no tomorrow, with the world's best roll cages, but even they still wear helmets!
Full disclosure: obviously, we love bike trailers. But even we know they’re not for everyone. So, let's take a hard look at the benefits and challenges of kids' bike trailers.
Bike trailers aren’t the only way to take your kids with you on the open trail. It's likely that you've considered other options as well when looking for a bike trailer. One of these options may actually be better for your family than a child bike trailer, depending on your circumstances.
Here is some information about child trailers, child bike seats, and cargo bikes that you can use to make an informed decision!
Child bike seats attach to your bike frame either in front of or behind your own seat. Child bike seats had their heyday in the late 20th century, so if you’re a new parent today, chances are you might’ve rode in a child bike seat when you were a tot yourself.
Child bike seats are generally less safe than bike trailers for children. In the unlikely event of a crash or fall, the trailer acts as a roll cage to keep your child safe. With a bike seat, on the other hand, if the parent crashes, the child crashes as well.
Children's bike seats also change the balance of your bike drastically, without the extra wheels to offset it. This means you are more likely to tip over or burn out. You can brace yourself for a fall if your bike takes a dive, but your child can't do the same since they're strapped to it. That's scary to think about!
A bike seat does have one point over a bike trailer: it's easier for parents and children to communicate. A child who needs constant reassurance may feel more comfortable in a seat right behind or in front of you than a few feet behind you in a trailer.
With a child bike trailer, communication is still possible, but you’ll either need to talk loudly or use a rear-view handlebar mirror. This could be an opportunity to teach your child some hand signals!
Cargo bikes are specialty bicycles that come with a carrier attached, either in the form of a basket or bucket at the front or rear. Although cargo bikes are more popular in Europe than North America, they are gaining traction in Canada and the United States as active transportation becomes more feasible.
Cargo bikes are the perfect solution if you plan on commuting with your kids by bike on a very regular basis. There’s more space, more options, and no need to detach and reattach a bike trailer ever again! Some cargo bikes, like the Salamander, even convert to a stroller so you can take it on transit, in stores, and more!
It is true, however, that cargo bike trailers are very utilitarian. You probably won't be taking a cargo bike up any steep hills unless they are e-assist, and certainly not on any beaches or backwoods trails. The majority of cargo bike owners also have another bike for other uses.
Cargo bikes are also expensive. With enough use, one can certainly pay off (especially if it's replacing car rides on a regular basis), but you need commitment to get the full benefit.
Although a quality child bike trailer can be quite a bit more expensive than a bike seat, it is still considerably cheaper than a cargo bike. Go with the trailer if you only plan to use it for a few years until your kids can ride a bike themselves!
There you have it, the basics of child bike trailers! Child bike trailers are safe, versatile, and extremely affordable ‒ especially when you consider the potential savings you can make by hitting the road on a bike rather than a car. To explore your options, check out our full catalog of bike trailers for kids!