How to hitch a bike trailer- a simple guide

How a trailer attaches to your bike can often be an afterthought, resulting in you getting lost in online forums and trawling through websites that aren't specific to your bike or your trailer. 

If you’ve invested in a trailer to tow your kids and have adventures, this article is here to help you with some handy hints, tips and jargon-busting to get you on your family bike rides ASAP!

There are a lot of complicated variables when it comes to hitching a trailer to a bike. This article isn't going to cover every one of them, but provide a list of things to consider and be aware of when buying a trailer, and signpost to more resources and experts. 

If you are researching buying your first trailer to tow your kids, we're here to let you know that hitching the trailer might require some research and thinking and may require purchasing an additional part that doesn't come with the trailer, so please do bear this in mind when budgeting for your new trailer.

If you're a trailer-hitching pro, or think we have missed something from this guide, please do comment at the bottom or get in touch. 

Things to think about when hitching a trailer:

how to hitch a bike trailer flow chart
bike trailer black hitch

The bike trailer hitch

Most child trailers will come with some sort of metal bracket that attaches to the rear of the adult bike bike. This piece of metal, often referred to as the ‘hitch’ attaches on to the adult bike and stays on the bike, regardless of whether the trailer is attached or not. 

Like towing a caravan, the car has a tow bar, which the caravan hitches to. The 'hitch', like the black metal object in the picture to the left, is the equivalent of a cars tow bar!

While different trailer manufacturers have slightly different hitches, all the common, well-known brands attach these hitches to the adult bike in basically the same way. Hitches usually have a hole in the metal bracket, to be bolted through and attached to the bike. Working out which type of axle your bike has will enable you to know how this hitch attaches to your specific bike.

There are three common types of axles

Knowing what sort of axle you have will help you work out how the hitch is attached to your bike and if you need and adaptor or not.

If you don't know what a rear axle is, an axle is a piece of metal that holds your wheel in place. The bit of metal goes through your hub (the central bit of a wheel that enables it to spin) and secures the wheel in place. 

Quick release/skewer axle

A common type of axle. The quick release axle has a lever that clamps the axle in place with a nut on the opposite end. The bit of metal that goes through the middle of the wheel is thin, and thinner than a pencil. This sort of axle is common on older mountain bikes, hybrids and commuter bikes. These axles usually have a simple unscrew-by-hand mechanism with no tools required. 

If you have an axle like this its unlikely you'll need an adaptor, but you will need to ensure there is enough spare length in the skewer to fully tighten with the addition of the hitch. Some trailers come with a spare longer skewer axle, or they are easy to buy online.

quick release skewer

Thru axle

Thru axles are thick and hollow. They are common on newer bicycles with disc brakes, electric bikes and mountain bikes. They are thicker than a pencil - more like a whiteboard pen! They usually require an Allen key to undo or have a quick-release head for them to undo by hand. The thru axle has to be fully removed from the bike in order to take out the wheel.

If you have an axle like this you'll likely need an adaptor.

two thru axles

Bolt-on axle

The bolt-on axle has a nut on both sides and requires a spanner to remove the wheel. It is common on fixed gear and single speed bicycles, as well as internally geared hubs.

If you have an axle like this you may need an adaptor.

bolt through axle

Other things to look out for when hitching a kids bike trailer

Hooded Drop Out

Some bikes have a metal hood above the axle hole, these are called hooded dropouts. These are more common in Titanium, steel, custom or handmade bikes.

If your bike frame has this, you will need an adaptor: selecting the right adaptor.

Burley's guide explains hooded drop outs further if you think your bike might have this.

hooded drop out

Cargo bike

Hitching a trailer to a cargo bike can either be done with the thru axle, as explained above, or if its a Long Tail cargo bike, the bike may have additional points to mount the hitch. Tern have produced a handy guide explaining the additional holes they have added to the longtail, a trailer hitch can be added directly to these holes with a simple nut and bolt that can be easily purchased from a hardware store.

If you think you need an adaptor to hitch your kids bike trailer

If you need an adaptor to hitch a trailer to your bike, the Robert Axle Project has created a tool to make it easier to find the one you need, which we think is incredible, and they have a 100% fit guarantee! 

Learn More

Where to buy:

The Robert Axle Project are a US based company, so if you're in the UK you'll need to use the axle finder just for the part number, and buy through a UK distributor. Bike Trailer Hire stock most common sizes of hitches and adaptors.

Buy Now

How to fit the kids bike trailer hitch

This video from Burley is useful for all, even if it's not a Burley trailer you have as most hitches mount in the same way.

If you've bought a new thru-axle for your bike, this video from the Robert Axle Project is really descriptive and easy to follow.

Other useful trailer hitching resources

  • The trailer brand Burley have a really useful guide, which explains hooded drop outs and the different types of axles really clearly
  • Bike trailer hire have a useful guide if you are thinking of hiring a trailer, you can hire a thru axle too!
  • Tern have a excellent guide if you are looking to tow a trailer on a long tail cargo bike
  • Thule have a hitch guide that is useful if you have a Thule trailer 
  • Croozer have a really easy to follow hitch finder if you have a Croozer trailer
Two parents cycling side by side, one with a trailer and one with a child on a tagalong
Two twin girls laughing and smiling in a bike trailer


  • Hitch: the piece of metal that attaches to your bike that the trailer arm attaches to.
  • Rear axle: the piece of metal that holds your wheel in place, that goes through your hub (the centre of a wheel) and secures the wheel in place.
  • Thread pitch: the pattern of the spiral metal on the axle that interlocks with the same thread pitch on your frame. The Robert Axle Project have a handy video that explains thread pitch well.

Still stuck or need more help

  • Get in touch with your trailer manufacturer, drop them an email or give them a call and they can help with your specific trailer and bike.
  • Pop into your local bike shop, they will be able to help you work out what axle you have and hopefully order in any adapters you might need.
  • Ask other families, ask around if anyone can help you, or head to the family cycling UK group for some more guidance.
  • Comment below, or email [email protected]. We can't promise to have all the answers, but we'd love to help if we can.
trailer hitch


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