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Buying a Bicycle Trailer (Part 2)

What to Look for When Buying a Bike Trailer

Material – Cost, quality, style.

  • The frame – will either be steel or aluminum. Aluminum will always be the better choice. It’s lighter, and is more corrosion resistant. However the weight difference between the aluminum frame and steel will probably be small as it shouldn’t weigh a lot to start with. The frame material basically comes down to what you can afford.
  • Cover – Generally you have three types of cover; Plastic, polyester and canvas. Plastic – should be waterproof, but tends not to sit so well on the trailer, i.e. becomes crumpled and wrinkly. They can split, though this can depend on the quality of the plastic.
  • Polyester – This is like tent material. Can be thin and lightweight and look quite nice when fitted. If you plan to go scraping past bushes though, the thin lightweight versions may not be so hard wearing. In regular use, it may need re-proofing to maintain its weather resistance.
  • Canvas type – This tends to be a thicker material and can be quite hard wearing. It may have an additional coloured ‘rubber’ type coating on the inside to help prevent against water ingress. In regular use, it may need re-proofing to maintain its weather resistance.

What Tow Hook Does it Use?

There are two main types. Those that clamp to the bike and those that fix to the bike via a socket attached to the rear wheel nut. There are also additional types specific to some trailers.

  • Clamp – If you have an ordinary bike it should fit fine, though if you have any large or odd shaped tube where the clamp fits then you may have problems. These clamps may not fit if you have disk brakes. If you have particularly large feet and pedal on your toes, then your heal can catch some types of clamp as you pedal. You only normally need one clamp and can swap the whole unit from bike to bike.
  • Socket – You are normally provided with a socket which you fit to the bike via the rear wheel nut. The bicycle trailer clamp then fits to this socket. The clamp is normally placed further back on the bike, so if you do have big feet or cycle on your toes, then you have more clearance. The down side is that if you swap the bicycle trailer from bike to bike then you’ll need another socket.

All clamps should come with some sort of restraint, so if the clamp should ever fail, then the trailer stays with the bike. The tow hitch should also allow the bike to rotate, so if your cycle should fall over with the bike trailer attached, then the trailer stays upright. (Note that the part that rotates may be quite stiff as a bike or cycle trailer can provide a lot of leverage).

Type of wheels

  • Main Wheels – These may be metal or plastic. The more expensive are likely to be alloy. I’ve not seen any solid tyres, but just in case; make sure the tyres are pneumatic.
  • Jogger or stroller Wheels (if fitted) – It’s always better to have a pneumatic jogger/stroller wheel of a reasonable size that is positioned centrally. Some come with the swivel type solid buggy wheels fitted to the towing arm. These would only be suitable for light use on well surfaced area’s travelling at walking pace.

How does it fold?

Important if storage and transportation is an issue. How long does it take and what do you need to do to take it apart. What bits are you left with? Will they easily fit into the car? What else do I need to fit in the boot at the same time?

Size?

How many children do you intend to take? Do they have friends? Do they have a large teddy that goes everywhere, what do you intend to take with you (picnic etc). Are you likely to pick up any shopping? If it converts to a stroller, do you need room for the wheel etc, so you can use it when you get to your destination?

Roll bar ?

Many trailers have a frame that surrounds your child. This can provide extra protection. Is this something you desire? If so, how strong is it? If it uses hinges and brackets, how strong are these?

Brakes?

Bike trailers (on their own) don’t normally have brakes unless they’re the more expensive types. However, if you intend to use it as a jogger, a brake should be supplied, as this helps you control your speed when going downhill. (A jogger should be used with a safety line ‘wrist strap’. Should you trip and fall; it ensures the trailer doesn’t carry on without you – especially downhill!). Some bicycle trailers come with parking brakes (not to be confused with brakes that slow your speed). These can either be something that locks the wheel(s) or a simple strap that loops through the wheel. Therefore if you intend to use a bike trailer as a combined trailer/buggy, remember you don’t always get a parking brake as on a push chair.

Spares?

Any warranty issues should be solved by the supplier. However individual parts may be hard to come by depending on the make and model? The more expensive bike trailers do normally have a ready supply of spares, but if it’s a ready built item imported into the country via China… Though this is no different to many, low cost imported items. Having said that, if you’re fairly handy, most things can be repaired, or someone can repair it for you (a bicycle trailer is not normally a complicated, specialist piece of kit).