Category Archives: Bicycle Trailers

Raleigh Mule Trailer

Raleigh Mule Trailer

Raleigh Mule TrailerWeekly shopping usually consists of small mixed items, and if you travel by bike these can usually be packed into a rucksack or panniers. Larger items can be more awkward to transport – I think the largest item I have carried strapped to the top of my pannier carrier was a king-size duvet. It was big, but light, so it didn’t effect the handling too much. Heavier items like bags of compost, cement, plaster, barrels of beer (needed after all that digging and cementing), televisions, beehives, and broken microwaves can’t be safely strapped to the rack… Or at least, not all at once.

Recently, I needed to transport a 25kg bag of plaster and strapped it to the front carrier of my Brompton, and although it affected the handling, I got home safely by putting my weight well back. It showed the amazing versatility of the Brompton, but this method wasn’t ideal.

When I saw the Raleigh Mule trailer in an Argos catalogue, the load-carrying bug bit me. I could see myself cruising down the road with my fully-laden rig, swapping ‘smokey bear’ tales on the CB radio. I couldn’t wait, and at only £89.99 I thought I’d give it a try. I might never need to ask a car-owning friend for a lift again!

A local bike shop kindly agreed to sell the trailer for £85.When it arrived, I was surprised how quickly it went together and I was soon off down the road to pick up a load from the local supermarket.The Mule has a 40kg weight limit, but with no means of weighing your shopping it’s easy to inadvertently exceed the limit.When I got home, I found I had been hauling 45kg, but the trailer suffered no ill-effects, proving that limit can be exceeded for short periods.The trailer itself weighs 11kg, but it’s very cheap. Lighter trailers (some weigh less than 6kg) can cost between £100 and £400.

Problems soon became evident when I tried carrying smaller loads.The Argos catalogue describes it as a ‘hard case’, but that should really read ‘hard base’.The base is plywood, but the sides are made of a thin fabric.With no means of securing the load, it can slide around and push the fabric into the wheels.This is not good.

…I solved the problem with some scraps of reflective material…


Raleigh Mule Trailer Hitch

The tow-hitch is a crude but effective clamp. Power-assistance is not essential, but it helps!

I made some small slots in the base of the trailer for straps, which help to secure larger loads. For loose small items, I simply add a box.To keep the fabric away form the wheels, I added some thin plywood side panels, velcro’d to the steel frame for quick removal, but plastic mesh bases from baker’s trays might do for this – there are all sorts of options.

Raleigh Mule Trailer Folded

The Mule makes quite a compact package.

The hitch is a simple but effective clamp, which secures to the nearside chainstay on the bicycle. It’s plastic-covered and doesn’t seem to harm the paintwork.The trailer is mostly black, with a bright yellow cover. I was concerned about how well it would show up after dark, and solved the problem with some scraps of reflective material from my sewing box. With LED light attachments sewn into the cover, side reflectors from an old Sam Brown belt and Nimrod reflective mudflaps sewn onto the rear, it looked more finished, and I would be happy to tow it after dark.While I was at it, I sewed a large pocket on the inside to hold a spare 16-inch inner tube. I have seen cyclists without lights pulling unlit trailers, so clearly everyone is not as law-abiding as myself.Years of cycle commuting have made me cautious.

Stopping and restarting on hills can be awkward with a loaded trailer, so you need to make sure you are ready in the lowest gear.There is no parking brake, so the trailer can run away down a steep slope and drag the bicycle with it. Most trailers have this drawback, but you can always park against a lamp-post or choose somewhere flat. For someone prepared to undertake a bit of customising, the Raleigh Mule is a good buy. It’s strong, rolls well, and it folds away for storage when out of use. Not a bad buy for £85.

Raleigh Mule cargo trailer £89.99 . Distributor Raleigh Parts & Accessories tel 01623 688383 web

A to B 48 – June 2005

Burley bicycle trailer

Bicycle Trailers


One of the most adaptable trailers is the 5-in-1 from Orbit Cycles, here in freight mode

Bicycles can carry astonishing loads, but there’s a limit to the amount you can pile on the bicycle itself.That’s where trailers come in. Living without a car, we’d be severely disadvantaged without a bike trailer – they are wonderful things. Alexander usually trailer- bikes to school these days, but in a typical week, our trailer still ferries heavy loads to the local tip, recycling to the bottle bank, collects shopping from the town, meets rail passengers carrying a spare folder, and numerous other tasks. It’s hard to say how many miles it does, but it’s probably two-thirds of our total electric bike mileage.We use a two-wheeled trailer exclusively – they’re easier to hitch and unhitch than a single-wheeler, carry more and can be wiggled through surprisingly small gaps.

Which trailer?

We’re great advocates of child trailers for all purposes, partly because they keep sleepy motorists awake. As a general rule, cars will give a child trailer a wide berth – we’ve certainly had fewer ‘incidents’ with a trailer attached than riding without.

The best all-round designs fold quickly, carry two children plus a couple of shopping bags, or 40 to 50kg of freight. Many such trailers exist.We’re still using a US-made Winchester of 1997 vintage (better known today as the Kool Stop Original Mark 2). These cost nearly £300, but there are a number of Far Eastern alternatives for less than £100.The cheaper trailers can be heavy, but if you don’t expect to lift it, that may not matter.There are an increasing number of freight-specific and dog-specific trailers available too – worth considering if you only expect to use a trailer for one task, but a child-trailer does most things quite well.

For public transport, light weight and compact folded size are the primary requirements. By far the best is the little Burley Solo which used to weigh just 7.3kg (16lb), but is probably a little heavier in its new guise (tinted windows, etc).The Solo is small enough and light enough to take just about anywhere and has no real competition, but for buses, in particular, do use a bag or cover. Bus drivers and railway guards can refuse to carry trailers if they think they might be a nuisance. Enough already – for a full list of all the trailers on the UK market, see our web site

Common sense

common-sense-bicycle-trailersThe use of trailers with motor vehicles is heavily regulated, but surprisingly, cyclists are free to pull any weight on one, two… even a train of trailers, provided they are reasonably sensible about it. Common sense suggests a few basic rules.

It stands to reason that the towing bicycle should be in good condition. Brakes must be powerful, but not overly fierce, and the wheel, steering and suspension bearings must be free of play (looseness to non-engineers).The extra stress from a laden trailer can turn an old, but apparently rideable, bicycle into a wobbly jelly, so do check the machine over carefully.

Power assistance makes a great difference to the viability of pulling big loads in hilly areas.With muscle power alone, it’s deceptively easy to tow your own weight or more on the flat, but the slightest gradient will knock your speed back to a walking pace. Even limited power assistance can make a big difference – for years we used a Zap friction- drive kit to help pull big loads, and these days our heaviest trailer-fulls (primarily A to B magazines from the printers and to the Post Office) are shifted behind our Giant Lafree. This isn’t the most powerful electric bike around, but for towing you need slogging ability rather than outright performance.The same applies to muscles and indeed diesel engines.

Many types of tow-hitch exist, but not all are up to dealing with heavy loads.The least satisfactory design for heavy hauling is the seat post hitch, and as a general rule, the higher the connection, the worse it gets. As the trailer pulls back and forth and from side to side, this type will try its hardest to push you off the bike.We’ve towed unlikely weights with the wrong type of hitch fitted in the wrong place, but this is something of an acquired art.

In our experience, a hitch that mounts on, or close to the rear axle is the best kind, and our favourite is the Burley ‘alternative hitch’, available in quick-release or hub gear variants.These are quick and easy to swap from bike to bike, rigid, and easy to use. Other good hitches exist, such as the Weber, but look for something that allows movement in all planes without flexing. Some use a spring or flexible tube, which can work well with light loads, but may oscillate or ‘snake’ from side to side at speed with heavier loads. As with a car, you generally don’t discover that your ‘outfit’ is prone to snaking until you’re travelling fast enough for it to be a problem. If oscillation gets out of hand, particularly on a corner or while braking, the towing vehicle can be flipped off the road.

The best way to prevent calamities is to load heavy objects as low down, and as close to the centre of the trailer as possible – preferably just in front of the wheels.The idea is to have a small percentage of the trailer load supported by the rear of the bike, which helps to improve adhesion when cornering or braking.Too much weight may cause the tow-hitch to bend or flex, which can start the trailer snaking.Too little – or worse still, negative weight (a load behind the trailer axle) – may cause the rear wheel of the bicycle to leave the ground. In motoring terms, the general rule is to put 10% of the trailer weight on the tow hitch, and that sort of ratio is about right for a bicycle trailer too.

Another cause of instability is a long load. Most trailers will safely carry 40kg packed tightly in the middle of the vehicle, but try towing 40kg as a pile of three-metre timbers, and most bike trailers will become very unstable. If you intend to carry long loads (such as a canoe) on a regular basis, you’ll need a trailer with wheels further back than normal and a very rigid hitch – this combination will put more weight on the back of the bicycle, which is inconvenient, but generally more stable.

…a 33kg payload – two smallish children or quite a hefty supermarket shop…

Maximum weight


Our personal favourite is the Burley alternative hitch.The ball-bearing allows a Brompton rear frame to rotate into the parked position, without removing the trailer.

For cars, the safe maximum weight for an unbraked trailer is considered to be half the weight of the towing vehicle, and for most purposes this is a useful guide to the weight a bicycle can tow in safety. If we take a bicycle and rider weighing 90kg, the total trailer weight should be kept below 45kg. Assuming a trailer weight of 12kg, that leaves us with a 33kg payload – two smallish children or quite a hefty supermarket shop.With a trailing load of half the rider/bike weight, you should barely notice the trailer is there, provided you take account of the greater stopping distance, width and lack of acceleration when pulling out into traffic.


If you can afford it, the Weber is the Rolls Royce of cycle trailer hitches

We regularly tow a lot more with our long-suffering Winchester – up to around the same weight as the rider and bike – and with a bit of care, anyone can do the same.With a trailing load of 90kg, you need to read the road with some care. Riding uphill will always improve stability, because the tow-hitch is pulled straight and rigid.Without power-assistance, hill-climbing can be painfully slow, but you’ll get there in the end with the right gearing.

Going downhill or braking (worst of all, both) is more complicated, because now the trailer is trying its hardest to overtake, and if over weight or poorly balanced, it may begin to oscillate. Fortunately, you’ve put the load just forward of the axle (you did remember to do this, didn’t you?), and this carefully positioned load allows you to make heavier rear brake applications without skidding. By contrast, the front brake should be used with real caution, because a front brake application will take weight off the back wheel. Similarly, keep your bottom firmly rooted in the saddle to put your weight over that crucial tyre contact patch.

…Children should be…instructed not to stand up and wave at passers by…

common-sense-bicycle-trailers-1As a general guide, loads of 50% to 100% of the bike/rider are permissible with care, but beyond that, you’re on your own. In theory, a bicycle trailer can be fitted with over-run brakes just like a large car trailer. This would make heavy loads safer, but we’d still advise keeping gross weight below that of the rider and bike.

Finally, when you pull up at journey’s end in front of an appreciative crowd, do remember that the load may have shifted, turning a positive towbar weight into a negative one.This is fine until you hop off, causing the rear of the bicycle to leap up and everything to fall into a heap.


Winchester bicycle trailer

We’d usually have the cover on, of course! Here the Winchester is carrying 900 straps yourself magazines, a gross weight of over 90kg. OK with care


Trailer suspension doesn’t need to be sophisticated. Our Winchester axle pivots against provided the occupants don’t find the a pair of bunjee cords



The Cateye LD600 is powerful, but slim enough to be bolted permanently to a folding trailer frame


As most bicycle trailers are designed for the litigious US market, manufacturer’s advice can sound extremely cautious.Take no notice – in many years of doing stupid things with over-loaded trailers, we’ve never, ever so much as lifted a wheel on a corner. Obviously common sense plays a role here. Avoid clipping kerbs with the inside wheel whilst cornering hard, in fact, avoid bumps generally. Children should be strapped in, or at least instructed not to stand up and wave at passers by. As roll-overs are rare, the primary purpose of a child safety harness is to keep the occupants still, making the trailer (and children) easier to handle. Do the same with freight – we use a pair of small 25mm ratchet straps, designed for car roof-rack or motorcycle loads. Bind everything down firmly, because if it can move, it will fall over or blow off at speed. Always check the and recheck after a mile or two if going any distance.You are entirely responsible for the load, and despite the lack of cycle trailer legislation, if the police really want a conviction, they can draw on a number of archaic laws from the days when penny-farthings frightened the horses.

…even the best trailers come with nasty cheap tyres that attract thorns like magnets…

If you’re not familiar with trailers, it’s worth practising riding techniques before venturing out, especially with children on board. Road positioning will be slightly different to normal, and you’ll need a lot more room to clear kerbs and posts.Try riding with a critical companion behind to give a running commentary. As a general rule, a well made and properly loaded trailer will do anything the towing bike can do in perfect safety.

Bumps & Rebounds

Cyclists are hard-wired to avoid pot-holes, or lift their weight out of the saddle if a bump is unavoidable. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until Alexander was old enough to complain that we realised the trailer occupant was unable to see the bump and thus unable to brace himself.We made life easier by fitting suspension – the previously rigid Winchester axle now pivoting against the spring force of a pair of bungee cords. Although rather crude, this system has excellent anti-roll characteristics (‘proper’ independent suspension would allow the trailer to lean outwards when cornering) and gives plenty of suspension movement. Manufacturers please take note and listen to what children are saying.The same applies to dumb loads. Carry a laptop in an unsuspended bicycle trailer and you’re asking for trouble. Place frail items on cushions, and lower the tyre pressures…

Another lesson we took years to absorb is that very light trailers require very little tyre pressure. Forget what it says on the side of the tyre – choose a pressure that will allow the tyres to absorb the worst bumps without going so low that the trailer begins to ‘wallow’ or becomes hard to pull. For a very small child, you may be looking at a pressure too low to register on the gauge. If you’re carrying gran home from the pub, you’ll need maximum and a bit more. And do try to remember just how boring a long trailer ride can be. As a cyclist, you can see over hedges and round corners, but the occupant of the trailer sees nothing but wheels passing by, which can become tedious very quickly. Alexander can survive a maximum of about an hour and a half without a break. A radio or cassette player works wonders, but don’t overdo the endurance thing.

One final point – even the best trailers come with cheap nasty tyres that attract thorns like magnets. Punctures are much easier to deal with on a stub axle (the tyre can be slipped straight off), but it’s still worth fitting decent hard-wearing tyres. As a last resort, a lightly loaded trailer can be ridden for miles with a flat tyre, ride too harsh.

Safety equipment

You may feel strongly to the contrary, but we’ve never used trailer flags.The annoying fiddly bits take ages to put together, the shaft whips about, threatening to thwack pedestrians, and there’s quite an increase in drag. Our general view is that flags are more trouble than they’re worth. On the other hand, we’re very strict about reflectors and lights – a trailer should have two well spaced reflectors and at least one powerful LED rear light on the offside (away from the kerb).The slim and ultra-bright Cateye LD600 is perfect. Twin lights are better, of course, and it’s quite legal (and probably advisable) to use flashing LEDs.There’s a theory that twin lights could be confused with the lights of a car much further away, but this may be a modern myth. Use light(s) at dusk, during heavy rain and any other time you feel vulnerable. If you habitually tow a large trailer after dark, there’s a good argument for fitting a front-facing white LED on the offside too.

Which bike?

You can tow almost any sort of trailer with almost any sort of bike, but some combinations can be hard work.When we had nothing more suitable, we pulled our big heavy home-made trailer with an old (and poorly braked) Brompton L3, using a hitch right under the saddle. No one ever fell off, but hills were hard work.These days, we generally use the Giant Lafree for heavier work, but it very much depends where you live. An electric-assist bike makes hills and road junctions a lot easier, and of course, safer.

Key trailer stockists & distributors

5-in-1 Orbit Cycles tel 0114 275 6567
Bike Hod Two Plus Two tel 01273 480479
Burley Fisher Outdoor Leisure tel 0208 805 3088
Chariot Amba Marketing tel 01392 840030
Christiania ZERO tel 020 7486 0379
Mission Mission Cycles & Components tel 01622 815615
Phillips Raleigh Parts & Accessories tel 01623 688383

Croozer Cargo

Croozer Cargo Bicycle TrailerOwning both a Giant Lafree and a Powabyke I’d always felt they would be ideal for pulling quite a sizeable amount of gear about, and that without a trailer, I was not making best use of them.The Croozer Cargo from Zwei plus zwei seemed to promise a lot (lightweight but reasonably strong construction, easy fixing to most axles, 30kg payload and a reasonably straightforward fold) and at £125 it wasn’t too expensive. Having never even ridden a cycle and trailer combination before I was understandably apprehensive about taking it out and about on West Yorkshire’s often busy roads.

One month later and I’m wondering why I ever doubted the practicality of using a trailer in general and the Croozer in particular. First-off, if you are after a heavy duty, ‘bomb-proof’ trailer for light industrial use the Croozer isn’t for you; the combination of mild steel frame and nylon sides with a plastic base is clearly built to be light (10.5kg) and manageable and as such is ideal for shopping and other everyday ‘convenience’ use (and 30kg is still a very decent maximum payload).This is a remit it carries out excellently.


The hitch is bolted onto the rear axle. A clevis pin provides a quick release

Assembly from the flat, folded item is pretty quick; pull out the sidewalls and secure with the ‘griphead’ bolts then fix on the wheels with the spring clips before slotting on the towbar and securing it with two more spring clips. Fix the coupling attachment to the bicycle hub axle and you are away – the only tool needed is a spanner to release the axle nut, unless it’s quick-release, in which case this is a tool-free operation!

The problem when riding with a moderately loaded Croozer attached to an electric bike is that you forget it’s there – potentially costly if passing through narrow access points on cycle paths.The trailer is allowed to swivel and pivot freely behind the bike by means of a spring fitting which in general works excellently, though it delivers a peculiar ‘pull-push’ effect carrying a heavy load up a steep hill as the spring stretches and compresses (the only time I noticed this was pulling a 25kg sack of compost up a steep hill with a Brompton that was not geared for hill-climbing). Attached to the Lafree this problem is much reduced.The Croozer sits nice and level behind the Brompton because of its similar 16×1.75″ wheels. As an added bonus, both trailer and cycle will take the same inner-tube.

…the experience has made me a trailer convert… motorists tend to give you more space…


The Croozer takes five minutes to fold - not a day-to-day job

The smart red nylon cover looks flimsy but strategically placed velcro provides a reasonably firm fit and at least some resistance to rain, though it’s certainly not fully waterproof. Indeed, the longevity of some of the components was my only concern. In commendably honest fashion the instructions give very helpful information on wear and tear; in particular rims, spokes and hubs should be kept as dry as possible and maintained well, as water (particularly salt water) will corrode them very quickly. Happily the straightforward construction lends itself to easy repair and modification by a competent home mechanic, for example more solid, durable sides could be fitted if heavy pointed or sharp items were a regular load.

The experience has made me a trailer convert; if anything the presence of a trailer whilst cycling makes me feel a little more at ease, as motorists tend to give you more space. It also encourages you to ride further out from the curb and take a wider line around corners – this more assertive riding style itself being a safety feature. I’m now firmly sold on the idea of towing by cycle.


Croozer Cargo £125
Weight 10.5kg (23.1lb)
Maximum Load 30kg
Cargo Hold L76cm W47cm H34cm
Cargo Hold Volume 121 litres
Folded size L85cm W60cm H15cm
Manufacturer Zwei plus zwei web
UK Distributor AMBA Marketing tel 01392 840030 mail

DIY Lafree Trailer

Large capacity cycle goods trailers are generally rather ugly contraptions, particularly if home-constructed, so I thought you might like to see the matching trailer I made for my Giant Lafree.The basis is a 13kg French Vantly cargo trailer bought from discounter Cycle King of Croydon for just £79! The original steel surround was removed, and this much larger aluminium frame attached with four coachbolts.The materials used were two Beldray 7-tread step ladders on offer at Do-it-All for £15 each, plus an old 2-step ladder.


Step ladders sound an unlikely raw material for trailer construction, but if you think about it, they're cheap, well-finished and light. Tony has since produced a longer body using the same construction. Several suitable cheap trailer chassis have come onto the market recently

The ladder’s rubber feet were attached at the rear, so the trailer stands on it’s tail whether loaded or not.The construction is pop-rivetted and amazingly strong.

The weight with the hitch is 14kg – only 1kg more than the original trailer, despite the huge increase in capacity.The hitch is designed to put the trailer directly behind the bike to help negotiate the many combined pedestrian/cycle paths in my heavily-trafficked home town of Croydon.The low pulling point and accurate tracking make the trailer a pleasure to use. On the bike, the load is spread between several points on the rack – I expected to add a frame brace, but in two months, carrying loads of up to 70kg in this hilly area, it hasn’t proved necessary.

Incidentally, I fitted the non-standard crossbar (a length of chromed-steel tubing) on the Lafree because dealers only had stocks of the step-thru ‘ladies’ bike when I bought it. One operational point – the Lafree’s rear ‘horseshoe’ lock makes an excellent handbrake when parking the outfit on hills.

Total cost of the trailer was £120 – completely out of proportion to the interest attracted by its co-ordinated appearance. I’ve ruled out a matching silver lurex leotard though! (Shame. Eds)


Bike-Hod Carryall Deluxe

bike-hod-carryall-deluxeThere aren’t many genuine innovations in cycling. Look hard enough and you usually find that a similar machine wowed the audience at the 1897 Cycling Expo, or was widely patented in Uruguay in 1953.The principle behind the Bike-Hod may or may not have popped up before, but it remains more or less in a class of it’s own today. Most bicycle trailers, whether of one- or two-wheel construction, might be termed horizontal load carriers, whereas the Hod has a vertical bag, like a shopping trolley for bikes.

The history of the Bike-Hod is a little convoluted, but worth a brief resume.The design first saw light of day back in 1980 as a collaborative venture between industrial designer Derek Hendon and interior designer Stuart Morris. According to Stuart, Hendon went on to, ‘make lots of dosh, while I’m still selling Bike-Hods.’ That’s true enough, but Stuart also runs the innovative cycling emporium Two plus Two from premises in Lewes in East Sussex (the company is now divorced from Zwei plus Zwei of Switzerland, but that’s another story).

The cheap and practical Bike-Hod did well in the 1980s, thanks in part to Stuart’s knack for publicity, which included a mail-delivering ‘train’ of Hods.That one made the BBC national news.You’d think all would be well, but things began to go wrong in the 1990s, first when the business was sold to the frame builder Michael Tonkin, a good engineer (he still makes Hod frames today), but a less skillful publicist.Within a few years, the Bike-Hod had almost faded away, and Stuart took the business back

…a strange mixture of gawky practicality and elegant design…

Hard Knock number two came when Stuart teamed up with Zwei plus Zwei and manufacture was licensed to a German shopping trolley manufacturer called Andersons.This seemed a smart move at the time, but resulted in the elimination of the Hod’s elegant towing shaft, which meant adding a brace, which prevented the trailer folding. Big problem.

Meanwhile Stuart continued to produce his own superior version for the home market, and now makes ‘em all once again.Today, there are a number of options, ranging from a solid tyred basic version at £199, to a Deluxe job with spoked wheels and pneumatic tyres for £225 or £235, according to the bag spec.There’s also a timeless wicker basket-equipped Hod for the county set, but patience! We’ll come to that. Our test trailer is a Deluxe model with cheaper Carradura bag at £225.

What is it?


The hitch is simple and rugged

The Bike-Hod is a strange mixture of gawky practicality and elegant design.The frame is deceptively simple, but thought through with great care, so as to put the load in a stable position between the wheels, yet occupy as small a space as possible. At the bicycle end, the hitch consists of a small exhaust clamp (owners of early Minis may recognise this), welded to a short tube.The flexible part is a piece of automotive heater hose, fixed firmly to the trailer shaft, but able to pop on and off the exhaust bracket thing, secured by a quick-release pin.Three clamps are available: 28mm to fit most conventional seat posts, 32mm for the Brompton, and 36mm to clamp around frame tubes – particularly useful for the Moulton APB and other bikes with easily gouged alloy seat posts. Crude, or a masterstroke of design? There’s something very English about finding a solution amongstsuch humblecomponents.

The Japanese would spend long hours hammering away at their Computer Aided Design packages, then build something much too complex, the Americans would prefer a delightfully tactile but rather expensive light alloy casting, and the Chinese would produce an overweight monstrosity.The Englishman, on the other hand, makes a trip to the motor factors and it’s all sorted.

The trick is to load the heavy items at the bottom… and the light ones at the top…

Two minor disadvantages: you will curse the Hod hitch if you’re fussy about scratches and dents on your seat pillar (the clamp is easily over-tightened), and small or arthritic hands may find the hose difficult to connect. A little petroleum jelly helps with a new example, and the device ‘runs-in’ fairly quickly, but you’ll be cursing for a couple of weeks.

Apart from the hitch, there are few moving parts to worry about.The small 121/2″ tyres fitted to the Deluxe models are a bit tricky to inflate with the more cumbersome sort of pump, but they roll reasonably well – better than the ‘solid’ Greentyres fitted to cheaper versions anyway. In either case, maintenance should be minimal.

The Carradice bag is made from black waxed cotton, with orange or green Carradura fabric as slightly cheaper options. All of these materials can be considered rainproof (but not necessarily stormproof). As well as the main 60 litre bag, there are two large sidepockets, one above each wheel.

Best of all are the two delightful wicker basket options which Stuart claims, ‘…are made to order by journeymen basketmakers sitting cross-legged by a salt-water lagoon in Sussex.’ Somehow we’re not surprised that the baskets are produced by a group of elves in the Home Counties, but that’s Bike-Hod mythology for you. Unfortunately, they don’t work for a ham & cheese ploughman’s these days, so expect to part with £90 or £100 extra for the wicker option. For an upmarket delivery business or style-conscious picnicker, the wicker basket will no doubt be worth every penny.

On the Road


When weight is carried low down, it has to be lifted before the trailer will flip over. A higher load is less stable

Bike-Hods have a rather undeserved reputation for instability, but if packed and used with care, they’re perfectly safe.The trick (a sensible rule for any trailer) is to load heavy items at the bottom and lighter ones at the top.

With trailers, we tend to refer to wheel track versus seat height as a measure of stability. In other words, the higher the load relative to the distance between the wheels, the more likely that the trailer will topple over on a corner.With a heavy load on the floor, a Bike-Hod has a track to height ratio of almost 7:1, which is well into the stable zone. On the other hand, put a few heavy objects near the top, and the ratio can approach 1:1, which is asking for problems.

Instability is accentuated by the Hod’s rather upright stance, which tends to exaggerate bicycle movements, resulting in a certain twitchiness, particularly at speed on a bumpy road.This effect can be reduced by mounting the hitch as low as possible on the bicycle, which tends to lean the Hod forward.

In practice, we never managed to lift a wheel, but the Bike-Hod can give some strange feedback to the bicycle when fully loaded, so it makes sense to proceed with caution, especially on bumpy or icy roads.

With the bag removed, this effete  picnic accessory transforms into a serious load carrier. Our personal record is 43kg of conti-board shelving, measuring 38cm x 183cm (15″ x 6′).We got that lot on the train too.The weight limit is 50kg (110lb).


Not very sophisticated this feature, but then it doesn’t need to be. Ready for the road, the Hod occupies an enormous 119cm tall by 96cm long, by 64cm wide, but by loosening one 5mm Allen screw, the tow hitch can be folded round and down, reducing the package size by two-thirds, to 91cm by 42cm x 64cm. At 245 litres, that’s pretty small, but more importantly, it no longer shouts ‘bicycle’ and can thus be taken just about anywhere.To all intents and purposes, once the tow hitch is folded down, the Bike-Hod becomes a slightly-larger-than-life shopping trolley. And even the most jobsworthy rail guard won’t bat an eyelid at a shopping trolley, so trains are easy, as are buses, provided they’re not too busy. It’s all an optical illusion, of course, because the Hod is actually quite a substantial trailer.

bike-hod-carryall-deluxe-3On the Deluxe model, the wheels can be detached by releasing two pins, producing a thinner 26cm package (150 litres).This is easily accomplished, although getting the pins back in can be a fiddly and curse-invoking operation.To get the full benefit, you’ll also need to remove the mudguards, a slightly less fiddly 5mm Allen-key job, reducing the width to 50.5cm and 119 litres. Fully folded, the Hod – which now looks like one of those ludicrously chunky backpacks favoured by young Australian tourists – would pose few problems on public transport.Transport is made easier by the Hod’s lightweight construction – our typical example weighed a relatively trifling 5.6kg, or a shade over 12lb.

Once at the shops, the ‘folded’ Hod trundles along like a shopping trolley, without causing too much inconvenience. A quick fiddle with the Allen key, stuff the heater hose back in and you’re cycling home in a trice. Two Plus Two is also testing a ‘Walk-Hod’ attachment – an S-shaped shaft that fits in place of the tow-bar and puts a rubber handgrip at a comfortable height. Price? About £25.

With the tow-arm folded back the Hod could be a large shopping trolley. Note the quick-release wheels


You can’t resist warming to the Bike-Hod. It’s quirky and quixotic, but a simple design that really works. It’s become something of a favourite with Brompton owners, because the machines work rather well together, especially where there’s a need to hoik the assemblage onto a train or into a car boot. A Hod is also ideal for the old trick of carrying a second Brompton to pick up wheel-less friends. And the 60 litre bag will swallow quite a big shop. All good practical stuff.


Bike-Hod Carryall Deluxe (c/w Carradura bag & 28mm hitch) £225
Weight 5.6kg (12lb)
TyresCheng Shin 121/2″ x 21/4″
Track 61cm
Folded volume 119 – 245 ltr
Spare hitch(28, 32 or 36mm)£14
Extra Carradura bag £69
Wicker basket £90 or £100
ManufacturerBike Hod Trailers tel 01273 480479 mail web

Leggero Twist

leggaro-twist-bicycle-trailer-1Child trailers come in all shapes and sizes, but the basic layout doesn’t vary much, with the majority being more or less based on early US examples, such as the Winchester. That means 20-inch wheels, a tubular frame of steel or aluminium, according to price, and a yellow and/or blue fabric cover.

The Leggero Twist, from Swiss manufacturer Brüggli, comprehensively breaks the mould.The Twist is built on a plastic shell, with a combination of steel and aluminium tubes forming a strong chassis and roll cage. For rainy days, a ventilated plastic cover clips over the top and sides, but in normal use there’s just an opaque flyscreen with open sides.

leggaro-twist-bicycle-trailer-2Although unusually tall, at 95cm overall, the Twist has a reasonably low seat height of 27cm and wide track of 84cm – a ratio of around three to one, making stability about average.While we’re toying with dimensions, the interior is 60cm wide, and provides some 63cm of headroom. It’s one of the roomiest designs we’ve seen and a comfortable ride for a pair of four-year-olds.The makers suggest that two five-year-olds can be carried, and for once, we’d say that was a reasonable claim.

Alexander, who knows a thing or two about trailers, was impressed with the fact that you climb in the side and sit in the Twist, rather than having a cover pulled down around you.Visibility is good too – the size and large  windows making most child trailers look distinctly claustrophobic. Occupants are restrained by a pair of three-point harnesses, with a spare centre buckle, enabling a larger single child to sit cuckoo-like in the middle.The impression is of a substantial safety cage – plastic shell below, and roll bars above.

…engineers will blanch in terror… the wheels are secured by one frail little allen bolt…

All this size and sophistication adds weight, but at 14kg the Twist is no heavier than average (for some reason, Brüggli claims a weight of 15kg, but our scales never lie).Where it loses out to most other designs is that folding involves at least 15 minutes wielding an Allen key, and for the space saved it’s barely worth the effort, so you need a lot of room to store it.

The tyres are yet another 37-406mm design called Mountain Tread, and they look just as one might expect. All we can say about their performance is that a tread-free centre section helps to keep noise down, they seem to roll fairly well, and they can be inflated to 70psi should conditions demand it.



This Allen bolt can drop out, allowing the wheel to come loose

It’s probably fair to say that the Leggero Twist is the most attractive trailer we’ve seen. In styling terms, it could be straight off the Terrence Conran drawing board (and may be so for all we know).The Twist comes in a variety of fruity opalescent colours, including blue, orange, lime green and yellow, with the sculpted curves of the plastic shell, the safety flag and even the go-faster hub caps colour coordinated.The effect is very striking.

Although a neat styling exercise, the hub caps have no more effect on the drag coefficient at 15mph than the go-faster colour scheme, and being secured by three little plastic widgets, they’re a devil of a job to get on and off.You shouldn’t need to do this too often because the bearing centre bolt is accessible through a little hole, and this single bolt removes the whole wheel assembly, making tyre repairs easy from behind.


Goggles are optional, but without sidescreens heads and fingers must be kept inside - the wheel is very close

Engineers will blanch in terror at the thought, but the wheels really are secured with one frail little Allen bolt, and there’s no safety catch, locking compound or lock washer. On our loan bike – bought by mail order and assembled at home – one of the bolts had escaped in a few tens of miles, allowing the wheel to drop down but not quite off, thank goodness.We’d suggest Leggero looks seriously at a redesign here – either a quick-release hub cap, or a safety system securing the centre bolt.

Talking of safety, the hitch is only so-so. Like numerous cheapo jobbies, the Becco hitch involves clamping two steel plates around the rear triangle of your bike frame, so odd-shaped folders need not apply.The trailer attaches via a plastic thingy that engages with a similar shaped thingy attached to one of the plates.There’s a safety strip too, but it’s a bit slow to remove and refit. Against the world-beating Burley axle-mount we’re familiar with, it’s all rather cumbersome, but safe enough. Wealthy types can purchase the Twist with the more sophisticated Weber system, and that’s so good it needs no safety strap. Or so the manufacturers tell us.


When we first saw the Leggero Twist a few years ago, it cost the best part of £400 – much as one might expect. Leggero also produces the Cuatro, a single-child version that sells in Europe for E740 or £525. Sadly, neither has caught on here.The Cuatro never arrived, and Orbit Cycles is selling its remaining stock of Twists at £145 apiece – a great bargain. Even when the discounted trailers have gone, we think the Twist is good value for the current retail price of around £250. Provided you can live with a non-folding trailer, this unusual example is tough, practical and supremely stylish. Even if Switzerland is out of your price bracket, you can at least afford the trailer.

Thanks to Julia and Joseph Rice for the loan of the Leggero Trailer


Leggero Twist £250 approximately
Weight 14kg (30.8lb)
Maximum Load 60kg (132lb)
Dimensions Overall Width 84cm Overall Height 95cm Seat Width 60cm Headroom 63cm
Tyres Li Hsin Mountain Tread 47-406mm
UK Importer Two Plus Two tel 01273 480479 web
Manufacturer Brüggli web mail

Chariot Cougar 1

chariot-cougar-1Hardly a day goes by when we don’t grumble about the lack of bicycle trailer awareness in the UK.The Dutch and Germans love ‘em, or so we’re told. On the Continent (and, to be fair, in some more enlightened pockets here), the School Run no longer means heaving a tonne of Volvo into a queue of other Volvos, to drop your tiny charges in the ‘Strictly No Parking’ zone outside the school gates, but a quick and hopefully stress-free cycle ride.

This sort of journey – generally a couple of miles or less – is a perfect candidate for cycling. A child seat is great in the summer, but for secure, all-weather transport, a trailer makes a better option. Hence our frustration – trailers are cheap to buy (bought a new Volvo lately?), economical to run (just work off that breakfast) and practical (no parking restrictions and very little queuing).

We’ve had experience with two classics in the trailer field – the Winchester (now manufactured by Kool-stop) and the Burley Solo, the latter fully reviewed in August 1999 (A to B 13). In the same test, we tried the Chariot Cheetah, but found it a bit leisure- orientated for our tastes – more jogger than cycle trailer.We’ve revisited the Chariot stable to see what’s changed and stage a rematch with our elderly, but much loved Burley.


chariot-cougar-2By the time a Chariot trailer arrives in your local cycle shop, it has done a fair old mileage.The trailers are manufactured in Canada, then shipped to Germany for distribution by Zwei plus Zwei. In the UK, trailers were formerly sold through Two plus Two, the trailer specialists in Lewes, but new distributor Amba is aiming to take on board a number of regional shops too. By and large, that means the sort of outlets that advertise regularly in A to B.

Back in 1999, Chariot produced only four designs, but by 2003, the Cheetah had been joined by a bewildering range of alternatives.We’ll try to keep things simple: there are three ranges – city, touring and sport. For practical, everyday commuting, the city trailers are the best choice. There’s a basic Comfort model at £360, plus the Captain at £430, with ‘proper’ (as opposed to moulded plastic) spoked wheels and polymer-bungee suspension. These chunky, practical load-carriers include a cavernous boot for serious shopping and a waterproof polyethylene floor-pan that extends right over the wheels to cut spray, a big problem on child trailers.Take our word for it – if you intend to use a trailer on a regular basis, in all weathers, most other designs will stay soggy inside and out for much of the winter.The Comfort and Captain are uniquely sensible and practical in this respect, but they’re a little wide (102cm) and heavy (claimed 13.7kg) for some purposes.These big trailers won’t negotiate most supermarket aisles, and bundling one into a small shed at the end of the day – folded or not – would be a frustrating task.

The touring trailers (base model Cabriolet and deluxe Corsaire – priced as above) are typical bike trailers, more suited to fine-weather commuting and/or weekend leisure use. As with the city trailers, the deluxe job has spoked wheels and suspension. Chariot also produce the Chauffeur at £400, an older design, now made exclusively for Zwei plus Zwei, so one must assume, a big hit on the Continent.

Finally, we have the sports models; the Cheetah at £360 – broadly as tested last time – and its deluxe cousin, the Cougar, at £430, with the now familiar ‘proper’ wheels and an unusual leaf-spring suspension offering longer travel and better response than the bungee type. Both of the sports jobs also come in single-seater versions, priced at £330 and £400 respectively.We chose the Cougar1. It sounds obvious, but if you’re carrying only one child, it’s better to go for a single-seater.They’re lighter, more manoeuvrable – both on the road, in the supermarket, and in the shed – and they can be shoe-horned onto public transport.That’s the practical reason for our choice.The other is that the Cougar1 looks remarkably sexy as trailers go – a mini Formula One car in red, grey and silver livery, with tinted windows and that adjustable suspension.

The Cougar

…lightly loaded child trailers ride best with almost zero tyre pressure…

Where the Winchester and Burley ooze practicality from every pore, the Cougar is about as impractical as cycle accessories get. Despite a wheelbase of 65cm, in true Formula One style, the interior measures just 30cm across, with 60cm headroom, and 50cm legroom.That’s barely large enough for our just-turned-four year old, let alone a modest Thomas-the-tank-engine lunch box, and you can forget shopping on the way home. If luggage won’t fit in the rear bag, slung kangaroo pouch style behind the trailer (with a minuscule weight limit of 1kg), you’ve had it. Chariot also produces a luggage rack or ‘lightweight extra luggage’, which perches ludicrously on the roof, so the lightweight luggage risks blowing away, or being eaten by a motorcycle courier at the traffic lights. It’s all nonsense on a bicycle trailer, of course, but makes more sense when you realise that the Cougar is primarily a ‘stroller’ (for which a handy conversion kit is available).This also explains the effective rear parking brake.

To be fair, this is the single-seat version.The Cougar2 is only 11cm wider, but offers nearly twice as much width inside – 59cm. That’s reasonably generous for two and ample for one, provided you can live with the extra weight and bulk.


The Cheetah suspension has two leaf springs - the clamp can be slid along to adjust the spring rate

OK, we’ve settled that shopping might be a problem, but how does the Cougar perform on the School Run? Image- wise, it’s a striking success. Kids really do appreciate the tinted windows and racy lines, and mums immune to less- flamboyant trailers, squeak with delight.

Alexander particularly admires the ‘s’pension’. One thing we’ve learnt, is that lightly-loaded child carriers ride best with almost zero tyre pressure, or the poor mites will be shaken to bits. Even then, trailers have a tendency to crash into pot-holes – it’s worth remembering that the occupant(s) can’t see what’s coming and brace themselves.

The Cougar gets around the problem with a pair of leaf springs each side, the two leaves being tied together by an adjustable clamp that can be moved to alter the spring rate.That’s a great feature on a machine designed for children from 0 to 5 years old, but we’re not convinced the softest setting would react properly under the weight of a baby – we ignored the weight chart and chose this setting for our 18kg boy.Those Canadian roads must be mighty smooth.

In normal use, the suspension doesn’t react, because the springs are pre-loaded against a polymer stop. But hit a bump and the leaves overcome the pre-load, allowing the wheel/s to rise up over the bump to a maximum of about 35mm. It’s much more effective than the squidgy tyre option, giving greater travel and better control.

Why has suspension taken so long to arrive? Presumably the engineers haven’t been listening to the legitimate complaints of small children. One or two other designs now offer suspension, but generally a less compliant polymer system, as on the Cougar’s larger cousins, the two seater Captain and Corsaire. In our opinion, you’re better off with low tyre pressures than this sort of thing, which is not intended to do more than round the tops off bumps, and (according to Chariot) only work satisfactorily with a load in excess of 25kg anyway.

According to Alexander – who’s well placed to voice an opinion – the Cougar leaf springs, hammock seat and general cosy fit, combine to provide a jolt-free ride, so full marks on that score. Incidentally, although the Cheetah looks low and wide, its wheel track is less than three times its seat height, whereas the much lower Burley Solo and two-seater Winchester are around 4.7.This makes the Cheetah less stable in theory, but we’re not suggesting it’s likely to turn over – child trailers have a massive reserve of safety.



Wheels are secured by clevis axles - push a button and the wheel pops off

The Cougar weather-proofing is about as complex as they get, offering no fewer than four individual layers. Basic protection is provided by a full-length mesh fly-screen, which should stop small stones thrown up by the towing bike.To add a bit of sun screening, a sun-roof with nifty tinted visor can be rolled out under the mesh, and in cold weather, a full-length polyurethane cover provides wind-proofing and protection against flying horse pooh and mud, although Chariot emphasises that this option is not rain proof (and it definitely isn’t). All Chariot trailers can be fitted with full rain covers, but they’re a £20+ option, and you need to remember to buy one and carry it when the weather looks dodgy. All the same – from our experience of leaky roofs and screens (they all leak in monsoon conditions) a well-sealed separate rain cover is probably a good idea.



Not the smallest package, but quite neat - note the tight fit for the wheels

Trailers have come a long way. Our Burley ‘dismantles’ rather than folding, and the wheels are bolted in place, so you need a spanner and can expect to get grubby.The Winchester folds flat in a few seconds, but the wheels are held by locking-pins, which can make removal a fiddly, oily operation.

To fold a Chariot trailer, you simply pull out a pair of safety pins and push two levers forward, allowing the whole trailer to hinge downwards with a scissor action.The tow hitch pops out after releasing a pin, and depressing a lock button.The wheels are even easier, being secured by ‘clevis axles’ featuring a couple of raised ball bearings that engage with a groove in the frame, holding the wheel in place. Press a rubber cap in the centre of the wheel and the assembly pops off.

With practice, the process takes about 20 seconds, leaving a package weighing 10.8kg (Chariot claim 9.7kg).Two provisos: On the single seater the wheels won’t quite fit inside unless the tyres are partially deflated, which would add all sorts of annoyance at journey’s end.And we’d be slightly nervous about the security of the clevis axles after years of abuse.That aside, it’s probably the quickest and easiest folding system around.

For the Cougar1, the result of all this activity is a folded package of 105cm long x 59cm wide x 27cm tall.Volume is 167 litres or 6 cubic feet – slightly smaller than the Cheetah we tested in 1999, mainly because the wheels can now be stowed inside (although we might have missed this last time). Back then, we thought the trailer was unsuitable for carriage by train. Thanks to the reduced folding time and smaller package, we’d say it’s much better today, although the same cannot be said for the two-seater models.

Hitches & Accessories


The axle tow bracket mounted to a hub-gear bicycle. Note the over-size allen-key nut - part of our Burley hitch!

Chariot produces three hitches, which are all interchangeable on any of their trailers. Cheapest is the universal tow arm – a ball-joint and fairly sophisticated frame-tube clamp at £30. The disadvantage, of course, is that the clamp must be positioned and tensioned every time the trailer is used. OK for leisure rides, but not feasible on a daily basis, or secure enough when it’s wet or icy.


Chariot’s baby seat can be fitted to any trailer in the range

The standard hitch is the ‘axle tow arm’ – a simple alloy bracket secured to the rear axle of the bike with the standard quick- release or hub nut.The tow bar ends in a plastic ball once again, which slides backwards into the bracket, and is secured by a pin.This design doesn’t quite allow for full rotation (the ball could be strained if the bike falls over, for example), but it’s quick and easy to use on a daily basis. Both the above include safety straps looped around the bicycle frame – the straps, incidentally, being a little shorter than we would like.


The stroller kit - neater and lighter than most. Chariot also produce a buggy kit and that all-important ski kit

Top of the range is the German- made Weber hitch, costing £50.The bicycle end if this complex device incorporates a basic stand, a clever universal joint and the trailer socket, the assembly being permanently fixed to the bicycle frame. At the trailer end, the tow bar terminates in a locking device that engages the bicycle with a satisfying click and can even be locked on or off with a key to prevent theft.The makers (and presumably the stringent German safety authorities) are so confident in the system that there is no safety strap. Once it’s all fitted and working, hitching up and unhitching is quick, easy and secure.

The list of options includes stroller, hiker and buggy kits, plus – most spectacularly – a £150 ski kit for the Cougar or Cheetah. If you’re just starting out with trailers (and children), you might find the baby seat (up to 10 months) or baby support (10 – 20 months) more useful. For cold weather, there are two foot-warmer options, plus a wind-proof and/or chill-proof Polartech sleeping bag sort of thing. Serious stuff, and all beautifully made.


At £330 to £430, Chariot trailers look expensive against supermarket jobs and pile-’em-high Chinese horrors selling for £100 or less. But the quality of the range speaks for itself, and most people who know something about trailers agree they’re superb machines.

Better than the Burley? Tricky one that. Alexander prefers the Burley, which is more practical, but less exciting; lighter, but slower to fold; and about the same price. In the end, you’ll probably want to look at both ranges before making up your mind.


Chariot Cougar1 CTS (c/w axle tow arm) £400
Weight 10.8kg (23.8lb)
Tyres Cheng Shin 47-406mm
Folded Dimensions L105cm W59cm H27cm
Folded Volume 167 litres (6 cu ft)
Accessories Buggy kit £55 Stroller kit £60 . Hiking kit £60 . Skiing kit £150 . Rain Cover £20 Baby seat £35 . Weber hitch £50 . Universal hitch £30
German Distributor Zwei plus zwei tel +49 (0)221 9514700 mail web
UK Distributor AMBA Marketing (UK) tel 01392 840030 mail