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Can you bike on a trail with a bicycle trailer?

January 05, 2023

Ever wondered if you can use your bike trailer on a nature path? What about back country? We've answered these questions and more in this blog post.

Child bicycle trailers use 01

If you’re looking for new sights and sounds to explore with your children you might wonder which bike trailers work best on which trails. Or you’re a seasoned cyclist that likes to ride on scenic mountain trails rather than city streets and is thinking to move some weight from your panniers to a trailer. We can answer the question of what type of bike trailer for which trail type.

You're probably wondering:

  • Will the bike trailer be too wide?
  • Will my kids be safe and comfortable going over rougher terrain?
  • Am I going to ruin my trailer by riding over tree roots or washboard roads?

In this post, we’ll answer all these questions and more.

So… CAN you use a bicycle trailer on a trail?

The short answer is yes, absolutely! The long answer is also yes, but be aware and respectful of your fellow trail-goers.

Whether your bike trailer is carrying cargo or kids, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. You will take up slightly more space on a trail pulling a two-wheeled trailer and this makes a difference on narrow trails. Keep an eye out for other patrons approaching you, to ensure that you give yourself enough space to maneuver your bicycle and trailer so as not to force the other trail user into the bush or grass... I have yet to meet anybody who would be happy about getting clipped by a bicycle trailer in the middle of a forest.

It should go without saying: you also need a bell to notify people ahead of you that you are behind them. While there are few speed limits on trails, you definitely shouldn’t be cycling over 20 kph (12mph) while passing other trail users. Pedestrians can be (and usually are) very upset and startled to have a bicycle riding past them with no forewarning.

Do I need a special trailer for off-road cycling?

In terms of obstacles, a well-made bicycle trailer should be able to take the majority of what you want to throw at it. When riding on a trail with a bicycle trailer, you will most certainly encounter small rocks, uneven terrain, tree roots, sticks, puddles, and other common trail debris. An empty bicycle trailer runs the risk of bouncing over these changes in terrain and it can tip or flip over easily if pulled at speeds over 12 kph. A bike trailer with cargo or people in it, though, will typically keep it heavy enough to roll smoothly over these obstacles.

Be sure to cycle according to the terrain – if it’s extra rough and you’ve got kids in your trailer, they would probably more comfortable going a little slower. Even if you’ve got a bicycle trailer with suspension, rough terrain can be a challenge for anybody. If you’ve got cargo in your trailer, make sure you’re paying attention to large potholes or dips in the ground so that your cargo doesn’t bounce out of the trailer.

What about bicycle trailers for narrow trails? Do I need a special trailer?

You might! It all depends on where you are riding. Have a look on Google Maps or your favourite way-finding app to find out what terrain may lie ahead of you. If you’re riding single track trail, a single wheel trailer is the best option. Single wheel trailers are narrower than traditional bicycle trailers and are a good option for backcountry trails where the paths are just a foot wide in order to maneuver through thick brush and trees. It’s also important to acknowledge that single wheeled trailers often have a lower weight capacity and are less stable at higher speeds. They are typically only cargo trailers, with a handful of exceptions for seat-post mounted child trailers.

If you have a two-wheeled child or cargo trailer, and you’d like to take it with you on a backcountry trail or a trail with very narrow areas, you may want to see what information you can find about the trail first. If it’s not too much trouble, ride your bike without the trailer through the place you’d like to trailer to give you a better idea of what obstacles you might encounter.

The biggest issue with narrow trails and two-wheeled bicycle trailers is that the wheels can catch on tree trunks, wrapped up in long grass, or get stuck on branches overhanging the trail. Make sure to give your trailer space to make it through the path without touching the wheels. Going slow to ensure your trailer has enough space to pass through it is a lot better than racing through the trail and suddenly getting your trailer caught on a small tree trunk. Not only can this damage the components of the trailer, you’re at risk of getting thrown forward like Superman! Be sure to practice maneuvering with your trailer so that you can get a better feel for how wide it is and how much space you need to get past the extra narrow parts. Tight turns are difficult with one and two wheeled trailers as it is, and you probably don't want your first attempt to get you stuck in the middle of a forest.

Riding on Trails with Bicycle Trailers

So now that you know a bit more about how to ride on a trail with your bicycle trailer, you can get out there and enjoy the best of what nature has to offer. Trail riding with a bike trailer opens up so many new opportunities – pack up and go for an afternoon adventure, check out your local nature preserve, or ride over to your favourite grocery store using some city trail shortcuts! Almost every well maintained trail is wide enough for a two wheels trailer. If you’re planning to ride a lot on rough terrain, check out our Suspension Bicycle Trailer for one or two kids. The Suspension trailer has everything you need to get out and explore, in comfort and style. Trail riding doesn’t have to be scary and unfamiliar, just pick easy trails first to get some skill and knowledge under your belt. WIKE has got your back.

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