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Bicycle Trailers - What To Consider When Buying
Bicycle trailers of all kinds are becoming more and more common. Especially loyal cyclists who do not want to leave their environmentally conscious vehicle behind after the addition to the family resort to the practical trailers.
Anyone who can cycle can usually manage with a bicycle trailer. Depending on their level of physical development, children and teenagers can also use bicycle trailers. However, they are not allowed to transport children in the trailer, for this a minimum driving age of 16 years applies.
This brings us to the question of what can be moved in a bicycle trailer. Well, mainly toddlers, dogs and shopping are transported. Everything is possible, the limits are only set by weight and volume. In the vast majority of trailers, the maximum load is around 40 kilograms.
Some bicycle trailers would withstand loads of up to 400 kilograms, but this would be hopelessly overtaxing the vast majority of bicycles, braking systems and riders. A look in the manual of the bicycle is worthwhile, some manufacturers recommend with their bicycles no trailers to pull.
Basically, the weights of the rider, the bicycle and the trailer including the load must "fit together" to some extent. The towing bicycle and the person driving must not be too light in relation to the planned transport load. If they weigh too little, the rear wheel of the bicycle can break away during braking due to the lack of pressure on the road surface. In addition, pulling a trailer load that is too heavy puts undue stress on the joints of a light person.
WHAT ARE BICYCLE TRAILERS USEFUL FOR?
Bicycle trailers are suitable for leisure and vacation as well as for everyday life and professional use such as courier trips. On a trip to the lake or the park, thanks to the trailer you can pack a lot of swimming things, toys and gadgets. At the supermarket, you can do your weekly shopping without having to drive. Craftsmen, hobbyists and gardeners can transport their hardware store purchases or things like firewood or garden waste in a sturdy cargo trailer.
For urbanites and big city dwellers, all of this works best. In the countryside, distances are greater and bike paths are sometimes lacking. Of course, you can get from A to B there too, but you often have to use busy roads and bumpy dirt tracks.
WHAT TYPES OF TRAILERS ARE THERE?
The choice of types and manufacturers is wide and it continues to grow. The main categories are child trailers, transport trailers and dog trailers. Many manufacturers already weave the area of use into the product name with designations like "Kid", "Cargo" or "Dog". We're focusing on child trailers here, as that's where there's the most to consider.
Youngsters now find themselves in a huge range of seats and trailers, and safety technology is approaching that of a car. Five-point harnesses and roll bars are now commonplace, and helmets have long been mandatory in the cabin as well.
Child trailers are available as one or two-seaters. Some models are foldable, which is an advantage when traveling or when storage space is limited.
Who decides for a child trailer, gets in comparison to the widespread bicycle seat many advantages, but also some disadvantages into the house. The corresponding considerations can be quite extensive and usually include the following points (for the sake of clarity, we will leave out the alternatives of pull-along bikes and cargo bikes here):
Advantages of the child trailer over the child seat:
- you have to pay less attention to balance, so there are fewer difficulties with lane changes, tight turns, fidgeting children, as well as when starting and driving slowly
- trailers are more effort-saving to drive on long distances
- the trailer often fits two children plus additional luggage such as provisions and toys
- more comfort and relaxation for the children, playing and also sleeping is possible
- lower risk of injury in case of accidents due to lower drop height
- children are protected from wind and rain
- Trailers can often be converted to a stroller or jogger
- can be stressful on narrow bike paths and in heavy traffic
- more complicated handling
- takes some getting used to when braking and maneuvering
- not every trailer fits to every bike
- there is not everywhere space to park the trailer
- more expensive than the bike seat
- limited communication between parents and children while driving
A flatbed or a box with wheels and drawbar: that's a simple description of most transport trailers. Often they also come in single track, meaning with only one wheel. Provided the intended loads are not too heavy and bulky, this is a good solution. However, if they are to carry heavy loads, two tracks with at least two wheels are required.
Large transport trailers can also be equipped with two axles or four wheels. This makes it easier to control the load, but it makes the truck harder to maneuver and less maneuverable.
HOW ARE BICYCLE TRAILERS CONSTRUCTED?
This brings us to the finer distinctions of bicycle trailers, which are mostly based on the different construction details.
The cabin or passenger compartment on child trailers consists of a solid aluminum or steel frame that often serves as a roll bar. The floor is made of either sturdy fabric or a rigid tub of metal or plastic. The frame of current models has a tube running around the side that serves as a bumper and crumple zone.
Sturdy and tip-resistant designs have a low center of gravity, a wide wheelbase and sufficiently large wheels of about 20 inches. The larger the wheels, the more comfortable the ride.
The body is covered with sturdy fabric, which protects the occupants from rain and flying stones. In front and/or on the sides there are windows made of transparent plastic, usually there is also a fly screen. It should not be possible for the child to get his fingers into the spokes of the wheels from the passenger compartment.
There are two common types of couplings for attachment to the bike: rear axle and seat post couplings. Rather rarely, the hitch is via a clamp on the frame.
Most bicycle trailers are attached to the side of the rear axle. The weight is therefore behind the bicycle, which relieves its frame. In addition, the trailer remains more stable when riding due to the low center of gravity. Also, the power transmission is better and the braking distance is shorter than with other types of coupling.
In common models, joints are installed in the drawbar and on the coupling, so that the bicycle trailer remains stationary even if the bike tips over once. For child trailers, the coupling on the rear axle is generally recommended.
When attached to the seat post, the trailer is closer to the bike, so that tight turns can be driven better. In turn, the center of gravity is higher and the stability is lower. The trailer starts to sway more quickly on unpaved roads. The luggage rack can not be used, but the trailer can easily be used as a handcart.
THE BRAKING SYSTEM
Heavy bicycle trailers with a payload of more than 40 kilograms require hydraulic braking systems that function like the overrun brakes on car trailers. However, most trailers do not have their own brakes. Therefore, the brakes on the towing wheel must be powerful and in good working order. It goes without saying that you must always drive with restraint and foresight when towing a trailer.
Since 2017, special bicycle lighting for children's bicycle trailers has been required by law. Especially the rear lights are important, because the rear light of the bicycle is covered by the trailer.
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT TRAILER? WHAT DO I HAVE TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN BUYING?
The best way to narrow down the choice is to ask specific questions, the most important of which are listed below:
- Is my bike even suitable for towing trailers? According to the ADAC, around 15 percent of all bikes, such as full-suspension bikes (Fullys), bikes with carbon frames or with hub gears, are not suitable. At the same time, it is also important to clarify for which coupling systems the existing bicycle is compatible.
- What do I mainly want to transport? (Children? daily shopping? bulky waste? garden waste?)
- What is the average transport volume I need? For occasional shopping at the supermarket and short bike tours, a capacity of 50-60 liters is already sufficient. For tours of several days and camping trips with a tent, it can also be a trailer with 100 liters and more.
- Do I often transport the same things or do I need an all-rounder for everything?
- How often and over what distances am I traveling? Is average quality enough or do I need maximum robustness?
- Am I traveling on well paved roads or dirt roads? For longer and rougher trails, upgrades like suspension, V-reinforcement bars, and through axles should be installed.
- Does the size and weight of the folded trailer matter? Will the trailer need to be carried at times?
- Do I want to be able to park the trailer unattended? Does it have to be lockable and/or rainproof? Trailers for children and dogs are by default at least weatherproof and usually also rainproof. Cargo trailers are often supplied with bags made of water-repellent material, which, however, cannot withstand continuous rain. If you want to be on the safe side, you should buy a rain cover and/or waterproof panniers.
- What is the maximum weight of the trailer? Solid average values for cargo trailers are 10 kg empty weight, for child trailers about 20 kg. Those planning long mountain trips will want to save every gram, which of course will affect the price if the quality remains the same. With low-priced trailers, the necessary stability is "bought" via a higher weight. The existing bike must also be taken into account: how much weight is it allowed to pull according to the manufacturer's specifications. Too much weight can cause damage or even frame breakage, especially on bikes with carbon frames. The heavier the trailer, the better the bike's brakes should work. Due to the additional weight pushing forward, these are significantly more stressed.
HOW MUCH DO BIKE TRAILERS COST?
Finally, of course, the question of what all the fun costs.
Cargo trailers with rear axle coupling and a decent load capacity of 50-60 kg are available in good quality from about $150, simple and less robust models with a fifth wheel for half that.
Children's trailers are available from well-known names such as Croozer, Burley or Thule from around $400. Occasionally, you can find solid branded goods from manufacturers such as Trixie or Samax for as little as $200, but then you have to make concessions in terms of equipment and materials. Who wants the highest possible level of comfort, equipment and security for two children, must put between $800 and $1500 on the table.
Dog trailers are priced slightly below child trailers.