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What are Bicycle Trailers?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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A bicycle trailer is a two-wheeled cart with a long tongue. It is mounted to the rear axle of a bicycle and allows the cyclist to tow a load. There are three main types of bicycle trailers: designed to carry gear, children, or pets.

Gear Bicycle Trailers: If you want to haul gear only, a gear trailer is designed to do just that, and do it well. Some models resemble standard flat-bottom trailers, while others are completely enclosed to keep your cargo dry. Many have convenient designs like top-mount racks and others collapse for easy storage. If you plan to take a gear trailer into rugged terrain for activities like off-road backpacking, you might want to consider a high-end trailer with shocks. Bicycle trailers with shocks will smooth out the ride for the cyclist, minimizing residual tugging by the trailer.

Passenger Bicycle Trailers: Manufacturers generally recommend that children between ages one and five can safely ride in bicycle trailers. These passenger models are enclosed with nylon fabric panels, screen windows and zippered access. Often tear-dropped in shape, they resemble miniature tent trailers on wheels. Passenger bicycle trailers come in bright colors including red, yellow and blue, and are designed to carry one child or two. Seats are cushioned and fixed with harnesses. Reclining seats are a desirable feature as children are much more likely to nap if they can lie back. Adjustable sunshades are also available.

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Bicycle trailers range in size to accommodate children of varying ages and are rated for weight capacity. Be sure to pick a trailer that fits the size and weight of your child or children, and one that leaves room for growth. Some models come with an optional kit to turn the trailer into a jogging stroller, complete with hand brake. Note that once children are too old to ride in the trailer, it can be used as a cargo trailer to haul items like groceries, beach accessories, sporting equipment, or a picnic spread. If well kept it can also be resold in the local classifieds, or on eBay or other online outlets, to recoup a large portion of your investment.

Pet Bicycle Trailers: Another popular type of trailer is made to haul animal companions. The main thing to look for in a pet trailer is a hard floor that can easily be hosed out. These bicycle trailers should have interior leash tethers or provide a harness to secure your furry family member. They should also offer shade. Don't forget to pack a portable dog dish to provide water for your pet when you stop to rest.

No matter the model, wheels are arguably the most important feature of bicycle trailers. There are two kinds of wheels available: aluminum and molded plastic. Aluminum spoke wheels look like bicycle wheels and enthusiasts claim they ride better, are lighter, can be trued, and are preferred. The only downside is that aluminum can bend under harsh conditions, while molded polymer is tougher. However, for paved roads, boardwalks, strands and maintained trails, aluminum wheels provide a superior ride for the cyclist, while molded wheels are more economical.

Bicycle trailers range in price from about US$200 - $700 with the main differences being overall quality, wheel type, weight capacity, and extra features like adjustable sunscreens and optional jogging kits. They are available at discount department store chains, at bicycle shops, and from online vendors.

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