This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 18.
When we moved back to Cambridge, we decided that we preferred a child trailer to a child seat. A short search of magazines showed that D.Tek in Little Thetford (run by Kevin Dunseath) claimed to have the best range of child trailers in the UK, so we decided to visit them. We spent a happy four hours being shown what sorts of trailers were available, and talking about the pros and cons of the various models. We decided in the end on the Burley D’Lite, mainly led by our need to be able to fold it for storage (no longer so necessary in our new house with a garage).
On the whole, the trailer has been a Good Thing. Michael appears to quite like it, and happily points to Daddy’s Bike and Michael’s Trailer. Some of the children at the nursery are clearly fascinated by it, and I quite often hear pedestrians say things like ‘Hey, there’s a kid in there.’
The main snag is that the trailer is too wide to fit through many of the obstacles that the council places at strategic points along cycle-paths. In particular, most posts with ‘ears’ are too narrow (for example, the only useful access to Midsummer Common is the cattle grids).
The bike’s handling isn’t affected as much as I might have expected. Michael’s weight is noticeable when he’s in it, and the trailer does act as a drag when cycling into the wind. On the other hand, it’s a surprise how skittish the bike seems when it isn’t attached!
Other road users (cars in particular) do seem to give us quite a wide berth. Interestingly, when I’m cycling without the trailer, I’ve become more assertive about taking the road space I need.
About the trailer
- It is brightly coloured and easily visible, with front and rear reflectors. I also added two LED rear lights.
- Folding it works very well – it quickly reduces to something that fits into a car boot.
- It fastens to the triangle at the bike’s rear wheel. This gives better ‘follow’ than a seat-tube attachment. The Burley hitch is rather more complex-looking than most others, but easy to use once the knack is acquired, and seems very secure.
- When the bike falls over, the trailer does not. This is important!
- It has a roll bar. We would not buy a trailer without one.
- The rain cover (a transparent cover for the mesh screen) is an optional extra, but essential, given our climate.
- When the trailer is parked (empty, I hasten to add!), it can be blown over by strong gusts of wind. This isn’t a problem with a child in it.
- The Burley has bars around the outside of the wheel – I like these because they protect the wheels when I misjudge the width of a gap. They make the trailer slightly wider, but not as much as one might expect.
Trailers versus child seats
- Stable: it doesn’t fall over even if the bike does, and centre of gravity isn’t raised
- Mounting and dismounting bike not affected
- Other road users notice you
- Carries luggage as well as two children
- Shelters child from weather
- Can be removed from bike
Against trailers (for child seats)
- Size may limit possible routes
- Child lower in traffic, possibly exposed to more fumes
- Conversation not possible
- Needs storage space
Buying or renting a trailer
Our main piece of advice on buying a trailer is to make sure that you (and your child) try it out first. It’s also a good idea to try out at least two different trailers.
Most of the main Cambridge bike dealers sell a child trailer of some sort – I know Ben Hayward’s sell Trek (and can talk sensibly about them), Howes have some sort of trailer up by the ceiling, and Mike’s Bikes have a Burley D’Lite in their rental shop, as well as a Burley and something else in their main showroom. However, we definitely recommend going to a specialist dealer in the first instance.
Locally we recommend D.Tek. They normally have 14 to 20 different models of child trailer in stock, with costs from £170 (second hand) to £600 (rather expensive!). They also rent, and when selling a trailer you can treat the first month as rental. Do note that Kevin does not necessarily keep normal shop hours, so phone first. The shop is obvious once you’ve seen it (across from the church).
Tibs and Michael