Child bike trailers – what are they, and is one right for your family?

Child bike trailers are a brilliant way to transport your kids when they are too young to ride themselves. They’re perfect for year round use, and most young children seem to revel in the opportunity to ride in one, helping to make every trip exciting.  

Bike trailers are also good for transporting shopping when you don’t have passengers with you!

In this article we’ll introduce you to what child bike trailers are, what’s good (and not so good) about them and help you through the decision process if you’re wondering whether a trailer is the right option for your family. 

If you’ve already decided you want a trailer either to buy or lease then head straight over to this page where we’ll talk you through the specific kids bike trailer brands and features available.

Child bike trailers – what are they, and how do they work? 

Child bike trailers resemble a chariot or carriage with (usually) a single wheel on either side of the seating area. There are a few models of bike trailer that do have a single wheel. 

At the front there is an arm or boom that secures onto the bicycle frame by a connecting kit that comes with the trailer.

If the bike trailer is to be pulled by more than one bicycle, then look for brands who sell additional hitch kits, so there’s no need to keep swapping the fixings over. This is really useful if both parents need to use the trailer – say one dropping off at nursery / school and the other collecting.

Some models of trailer can also be used as strollers or joggers – you can see in the photo below the smaller wheels at the front of the trailer which are tucked up out of the way when it’s in cycle mode. 

Visibility for the little passengers inside a trailer is usually good,  with windows to the side, front and rear.  Many quality children’s trailers also have little flaps to improve airflow.

In the summer, the front flap can be rolled up and secured, thereby giving the occupants the feeling of ‘open-topped’ trailering and allowing them an improved view of the outside world. Some trailers have a netting to stop bugs getting inside. 

Inside the trailer you will find a bench type seat complete with safety harnesses to keep things in order and little ones in position. Some trailers have internal storage pockets which can be useful for securing drinks, snacks or favourite stuffed toys.

At the back of the trailer there may be a storage pouch that has a flap cover fixed in place by either a zip or velcro.

As with everything in life, the more you spend the more features you’ll get. Your budget and planned usage will help guide you to your decision. 

Renting a more expensive trailer before you buy can be a good idea if you’re not sure of the benefits. 

Single or double trailer – which do you need?

Most kids bike trailer brands come either as a single or double version. 

A single trailer is lighter, narrower and easier to store when not in use, and is a good choice if you’re certain you won’t need to pull more than one child. 

However a double trailer allows for luggage, a growing family plus friends can come along for a ride too.  For this reason some parents with just one child still choose the double option. 

Obviously there’s a cost factor too, as the double version will be slightly more expensive than the single.

 

What age can I put my child in a bike trailer?

Children can travel in bike trailers when they are able to support their heads unaided. This is usually from between 9 to 12 months, but every child is different, and you know your child best.   If you have any concerns or queries as to whether your baby is ready to go in a trailer check with your GP or Health Visitor first. 

Inside the Bumper Solo Explorer single seat bike trailer

Some premium trailers come with special inserts or seats which allow you to carry a younger child which are particularly useful if your child is aged under 12 months of age. Always read the manufacturers instructions carefully and make sure the insert is properly secured.  Some inserts are designed for cycling, others only for strolling / jogging, so check each one carefully. 

The oldest your child can be whilst you’re pulling them in the bike trailer will depend on the weight limit specified by the manufacturer, and how fit you are!  If you use an e-bike with a trailer then you’ll probably be able to keep going for longer than someone with a standard pedal bike. 

Sizes and weight limits are different for each trailer model, so do check the suitability for your child/children/ shopping before purchasing.

Also look at how roomy the trailer is inside because you don’t want your growing  over because headroom is limited, or squashed in like sardines because it isn’t wide enough.   

Why buy a bike trailer for cycling with your child?

It’s fun!! Preschool kids love going in a bike trailer, and you may find your kids friends queuing up for rides!

They’re much cheaper than a car, more environmentally friendly and keep you fit.

Bike trailer design is improving all the time.  Whilst you can still by cheap trailers that are designed for occasional off road use there’s now a wide choice for trailers that are suitable for heavy use. These come fitted with roll-cages for safety protection, plus additional comfort features for the passengers. 

Protection from the elements is a major benefit of bike trailers over bike seats, and means you can cycle with your children for the majority of the year.

If you enjoyed an active, outdoors lifestyle before you had your child, then a trailer provides the perfect way to get back to what you love, with your little one coming along for the ride.  You can start out on small mini adventures from your home, and work up to multiday adventures if it works for you all. 

The stability of a bicycle trailer means that if you’ve got appropriate tyres on your bike and the confidence, fitness and desire then you can cycle in more challenging conditions. For example, Cycle Sprog’s Chris trailered the kids to school every day throughout the snow of a particularly harsh winter!

A double trailer is a good way to transport two children on one bike, and additional hitches make it easy to swap  between different 

Most children’s cycle trailers come with storage pockets. This is great as it provides flexibility to carry or purchase items on your trip. Given all the extras you need to take with you on even a  short trip out with a little one, this can be a major bonus compared to a front or rear seat.  Remember though you do have to pull your load, and heavy additional objects can affect the tipping point (see below), and must be included when calculating the overall load.

E-bikes are making it easier to use a trailer, especially as the load gets heavier, or if you need to travel further or up hills. 

They’re a great way to keep cycling in you have children of different ages – older children can ride their own bikes and younger children go in the trailer.  

 

Is a cycle trailer right for you and your family?

Whilst a cycle trailer might be the right option for your family there are some downsides to consider.  These may not be a problem for you, but it’s worth being aware of some of the potential issues before you buy. 

One good option is to lease a trailer for a few weeks first, on a “Try Before you buy” scheme

  • Bike trailers for cycling with children are much heavier than front or rear seats, so you do need a reasonable level of fitness before using one. Transferring from a rear bike seat with one child to a trailer with two children is quite noticeable, especially if you’re still recovering from pregnancy.
  • Even the slightest hill is magnified when pulling a trailer loaded with passengers, so unless you’re super fit you’ll need a bike with a good range of gears to get you to the top, and don’t worry if you need to get off and push. The alternative is to consider an e-bike. They are coming down in price and improving in quality all the time.
  • All children’s bike trailers have a tipping point – something that is more likely to be reached if you’re transporting two kids and all their bags etc. As your load gets heavier, be wary when stopping or going over kerbs. It can be a struggle to right the trailer again on your own.
  • Being wider than a bike, trailers can be troublesome in tight spaces. They also need a lot more space when parked up and can’t handle narrow off road paths, so you do need to plan your routes with care.
  • Your child / children are in an enclosed space behind you. This means you have no idea what they are up to, and be prepared for surprises when you open the trailer door. Never ever leave them with chocolate or felt tipped pens.
  • Being low down and enclosed the view from a trailer is very restricted. Whilst you may be seeing wonderful views over hedges and fences whilst doing all the hard work, expect some “we’re bored” whinges from your ungrateful passengers.
  • Being quite a distance behind you, deciphering shouts from the trailer can be difficult, especially if there is a lot of traffic noise. Factor in time for stops so you can understand and resolve these calls for attention. This leads on to the next point….
  • If you’re kids fight and argue when they are at home, they are unlikely to stop when you strap them into a confined space next to each other.  You’ve been warned…….
  • As your children grow, they can start to open the trailer door, and poke limbs out. A leg hitting the rear wheel of your bike signals it’s probably time for a big talk about cycle safety. Repeat offenses and you’ll probably be starting to think about a tag-along or first bike.

Thinking of buying a children’s bike trailer – what next?

If you’ve decided a kids bike trailer is for you, then head on over to find out our recommendations on the Best Kids Bike Trailers.

If you’re interested in finding out more about longer term leasing of kids bike trailers read this article

If you’re still not quite sure, then you might want to read our article on things to consider before buying a trailer to help you decide. 

We’ve also got advice when using a trailer on the road for the first time.

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Comments

Lainey

“Children can travel in bike trailers when they are able to support their heads unaided. This is usually from between 9 to 12 months”

Sorry but this is horribly inaccurate. Most infants begin raising their heads around 4 weeks old and can do so fully unsupported by 4 months. Most can sit, crawl and stand by 10 months.. if an infant isn’t able to support its own head by 9 months this is serious cause for concern.

I’m not sure how seriously the advice in this article can be taken when the author lacks very basic common knowledge about child development..

Karen

Thank you for taking the time to comment on the article Lainey. Here at Cycle Sprog we are always trying to make sure we are providing up to date and safe advice for parents. If you could please share with me links to the advice / studies that show the vast majority of children can sit up unaided (and could do so for the duration of a bike ride) by the age of 4 months, then we can consider whether to update the article. Thank you, Karen

Gavin

I’ve been riding with my 4 yo son to nursery for about 6 months and it’s been great, Me on my bike he on his. Now his younger brother (2yo) will be joining him at the same nursery and I want to continue to ride as it’s only a 15 minute cycle. I was hoping to get a Burley trailer for them both but I’m concerned that combined they’re too big for it, and it’d be a bit of a squash. Do you have any comments or advice for this?

The other alternative would be to have the 2 yo on my bike in a seat (which I already have) but the 4 yo needs towing up some of the hills as his legs aren’t strong enough yet! So this would make for a dangerous situation for us all. Ideally I’d like them both sitting together.

Penny Millar

Hi Gavin
Thank you for your comment. Great to hear you and your son are enjoying the ride to nursery each day! Getting a trailer for them both to be in until they’re a little older and able to power up the hills under their own steam makes sense. The Burley website will advise on the dims and maximum weight info on trailers but it is also worth asking the question on the Family Cycling UK page on Facebook. You’ll find many cycling families on this page and lots will have experience of cycling with two children in trailers so they’ll be able to advise first hand. We hope this helps and happy cycling! Penny.

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