How To Choose the Best Bike Trailer

Adapt your steed for toting gear, groceries, kiddos, and more.

Bikes are incredible tools for quick and efficient travel. That said, if you want to transport more than just yourself—say, groceries, a keg, kids, or touring gear—you’re going to need to adapt your bike for hauling. One of the easiest ways to do that is to use a bike trailer. These wheeled additions attach to the rear of your road bike or touring bike and follow you wherever you point your handlebars. And while some bike commuters rely on panniers or bike racks for carrying extra items, a bike trailer can withstand heavier loads and provide a smoother, more balanced ride. Here’s how to decide which bike trailer is best for your needs. 


There are a few different types of bike trailer out there. While many are made from similar materials (usually a steel chassis with aluminum or plastic rails and/or a canvas cover), each one sports different features according to its intended use. 

Cargo Trailers

Designed to carry heavy or bulky items, cargo trailers often have high weight limits and robust mounting points to help you secure cumbersome loads. Here are some of the most common varieties.


No cover makes loading and unloading easy. It also keeps the trailer low-profile and lightweight. If you don’t expect to carry fragile items or encounter adverse weather conditions, this is usually the way to go. Sometimes called luggage trailers, these haulers come in both two-wheeled and single-wheeled versions.


Consider a trailer with a hard-plastic, metal, or waterproof-fabric cover—designed to keep out weather and protect your cargo—if you live somewhere snowy or rainy.


For heavier hauling, you’ll likely want a two-wheeled cargo trailer. With its own axle, this type of trailer is a breeze to load and unload, plus it won’t tip at stoplights or as you dismount. The downside is they’re often bigger and wider than single-wheeled trailers, which means you’ll need more room to turn and pass, particularly on narrow roads and bike lanes.


Relying on a single wheel, often centered behind the trailer, this design reduces rolling resistance, which makes it much easier to move and turn quickly. As such, single-wheeled trailers are great for narrower routes, singletrack trails, and fast rides. However, loading can be difficult since you have to prop up both the bike and the trailer to keep them from tipping over.


Both one-wheeled and two-wheel trailers are available with suspension—essentially shocks or springs which help absorb bumps on rutted roads or trails, keeping your cargo from bouncing around. It also helps set your wheels on the ground, improving handling. 

Children’s Trailers

Designed to haul kids behind your bike, some children’s trailers are as simple as a single seat mounted over a wheel. But most are covered, two-wheeled chariots with a fabric top, plastic windows, and a roll cage to protect pint-sized passengers in a spill. Kids’ trailers usually have two seats and often come equipped with a beefy suspension to ensure a smooth ride. Factor a few especially important features:


First decide whether you need a trailer for one child or two. Then check the seat(s) for safety features. Each one should be equipped with a secure chest harness, much like a car seat. Some premium trailers also have seats that recline, which is great for encouraging a mid-ride nap. Others offer options for additional padding or baby-friendly seats, which will support a young child’s neck and head as they ride.


Check that it suits your needs and that of your child. If you live somewhere warm, make sure the cover is appropriately ventilated so your kids don’t get too warm in the back—a particular concern with trailers that use a lot of clear plastic. Some companies address this by providing mesh panels, which can be covered in case of rain, or shade covers. Beyond the cover, make sure your trailer has a full roll cage to protect your child in case of a bike accident. Also check the head room to make sure your child can fit comfortably inside, even with a helmet on.


Some high-end trailers can be converted into jogging strollers with the addition of a third wheel and a rear handle. (Even cheap trailers may have available conversion kits for an extra cost.) Others can be converted into tow-behind carriers for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, or into cargo trailers by removing the interior children’s seats. 

Animal Trailers

Similar to children’s trailers, but without the seats, animal trailers often have a canvas top covering, an interior leash-mounting point, and a padded platform for your dog or cat. Some pet trailers convert to jogging strollers, and the platform can be used to haul gear if your pet is at home while you ride.

As with children’s trailers, make sure your animal trailer has roll-down windows or mesh sides to keep the inside from getting too hot. 

Other Features

No matter what kind of bike trailer you choose, you’ll need to consider these common amenities.


Trailers attach to bikes in a variety of ways. One of the most popular styles uses a quick-release skewer, which acts like an axle and attaches to your rear wheel. These kinds of trailers often have an adapter or piece of hardware that slides onto the skewer. Be wary though: If your bike has a thicker, hollow thru-axle, it may not be compatible with this type of trailer attachment.

Trailers that don’t use the quick-release skewer usually attach to the frame of your bike. These types of attachments use a clamp and shims to grip the frame or seatpost. While this system may be more versatile, you may not get as secure a fit as you would with a skewer attachment. Frame and seat-post adapters usually require more regular adjustments to keep them from loosening over time.  


Wheel size can have a big impact on ride quality. For child and pet trailers, opt for larger wheels—usually 16 to 20 inches. Smaller wheels are common on budget trailers and are easier to store, but tend to result in a bumpier ride.

Pneumatic wheels—hollow tires filled with air rather than solid rubber—will also provide a smoother ride. They tend to be larger and more lightweight. Solid rubber wheels, however, are cheaper and less likely to go flat.  

Storage options 

When you’re not using your trailer, you’re going to need to put it somewhere. If you don’t have much space at home, look for a trailer that folds or breaks down into a more efficient package for out-of-season storage.  

Questions To Ask

Before you make your purchase, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I using this trailer for? Will this model suit my carrying needs?
  2. Is this trailer safe for my children? Does it have a harness and roll cage that will protect them in case of an accident? 

  3. Will this trailer work with my bike? Is its attachment system compatible with my rear wheel and/or frame? 

  4. Does this trailer have the suspension or wheel size I need to ensure a sufficiently smooth ride? 

  5. Will this trailer fit in the storage space I have at home? If not, can I find one that folds up or collapses when not in use?

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.