Learn about the differences between a bike trailer and a cargo bike to get your kids and/or gear around town! Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
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During the first 14 months of our carfree lifestyle I used a trailer to haul our kids around town. About one year ago I descended the rabbit hole of family biking and decided to buy a brand new cargo bike. People ask me all the time which I like better and why we switched to a cargo bike. Today I am going to address this issue of cargo bike vs. bike trailer for kids. I’ll start with the bike trailer since that is what we started with.
Bike Trailer for Kids
(Please note, my only experience with a bike trailer is with the Chariot Cougar 2. It is top of the line, high quality stuff. It’s the only trailer I recommend for families who are biking more than just to the park and back on sunny weekends. The Chariot Cougar 2 is for families who are serious about using it as a primary mode of transportation. If you are looking for a trailer to use just a few times a year, I am guessing anything will do. Please note: the bike trailer kit must be purchased separately from the chassis.)
- The kids are totally protected from the weather. The trailer has a rain shield that you can pull down so they stay completely warm and dry. I biked on some really cold days (below freezing type of cold) and gave the kids hand warmers and blankets and pulled the rain cover down. When we got to our destination they were warm, rosy-cheeked, and cozy. On sunny days they can pull open the little vents and enjoy the warmth while remaining protected from the sun’s UV rays.
- It’s relatively inexpensive compared to cargo bikes. You can easily get a brand new bike trailer and a brand new bike to haul it for around $1,000. If you buy used you can get all set up for much less than that still.
- The bike trailer can be converted into a stroller. We loved this feature when we biked to a nature preserve and were able to lock up my bike, convert the trailer into a stroller, and walk around the trails together. This also came in handy because we were able to get rid of all our other strollers and use the Cougar for walks and shopping trips. I always enjoy a good 2 for 1 🙂 You can also use it as a jogging stroller or a cross-country skiing trailer if you buy the additional kits!
- The trailer collapses down almost flat. You can easily store it in a closet or even under a bed.
- It gets heavy really fast! Even though the Cougar glides effortlessly and even has shocks, it gets really difficult to drag 100+ pounds of dead weight up a long hill. We used our trailer until the kids were 2 1/2- and nearly 5-years-old. They both fit comfortably still, but they weighed about 85 pounds together. We were pushing the weight-carrying-capacity once I added our gear for the day!
- I found it to be a pain to have to get everything set up every time we went out. This is primarily due to the fact that we live in a small apartment so I had to collapse the trailer down every time we got home and then set it all back up again the next day. It only took a few minutes, but still, it got on my nerves day in and day out. I suppose this wouldn’t be a factor if you have a garage that you can just store everything in and pull it out intact when you are ready to go.
(Please note, my only experience with riding a cargo bike is with the Xtracycle Edgerunner. I chose it over other cargo bikes for a variety of reasons that I can address in a different article.)
- The carrying capacity is much higher than that of a bike trailer. The Edgerunner can carry up to 250 pounds of kids and/or cargo. This was necessary for our growing family.
- It is so much easier to carry those heavy loads! The kids sit right above the back wheel. On the Edgerunner, specifically, the back wheel is smaller than the front so the kids actually sit down a little bit, lowering the center of gravity.
- Not only is the cargo bike capable of carrying heavier loads, it is capable of carrying more stuff in general. We have two saddle bags that can fit a crazy amount of stuff in them. When we go to the store I can literally haul the equivalent of a trunk full of groceries on my bike. I’ve seen people haul everything from other bikes to Christmas trees on their cargo bikes!
- Having the kids up on the bike with me makes it easy to chat with them as we ride. Some of our favorite things to tell each other are knock-knock jokes, math problems, and our observations of what we see as we bike.
- Since the bike is one solid unit it is easier to get it in and out of the apartment and to lock up when we get to our destination. There are fewer things that can go wrong as well, since there are only two wheels vs. four wheels with the bike + bike trailer combo.
- The price is the major downside here. We spent over $2,000 for our cargo bike including the child seat, the hooptie, and the saddle bags. If you want more features you will, of course, be paying more. Buying a used cargo bike is a good way to save money.
- There is no good way to protect the kids from the weather besides getting them high quality individual gear. We invested in some great rain coats and boots for the kids. My husband and I bought Rain Legs, which are amazing at keeping our pants dry. On sunny days we just have to make sure to have sunscreen on arms and legs!
If you have any questions, please comment below! I am always happy to discuss the differences between a bike trailer and a cargo bike in more detail. If you have experience with either set-up please let me know!