04.What to look for
What to look for
Comfortable fit Take your toddler to the shop and put them in the trailers and seats mounted on bikes to be sure they fit safely and comfortably. Check the dimensions and weight rating suit your child now and into the future as your child grows. If you’re choosing a trailer, check your child is fully contained within the frame (roll-cage), even when sitting upright and wearing a helmet.
Loading and unloading It should be easy to load your child into the seat or trailer. Remember you’ll have to stabilise the bike while putting your child into a child seat, and you’ll probably need both hands to manage your child. Trailers are more stable but you need to bend down.
Harness Look for models with a five-point harness. The straps should be adjustable (allowing for growth) and the buckles easy to use for you, but not your child.
Type Rear-mounted seats are still the most common, and can often take a larger, heavier child as they’re mounted on a well-braced rack over the rear wheel. Centre- or front-mounted seats generally don’t take as large a child, but have the advantage of keeping the child in your sight and easier to talk to while riding. Long-legged riders might find a centre-mounted seat gets in the way of their knees, requiring a more splayed pedalling action.
Installation Check the seat fitting suits your bike. Most fittings suit most bikes, and some seats have different fitting options to suit different bikes – depending on whether the bike has disc or caliper brakes, for example. If possible, take your bike to the shop and get them to fit the seat mounting, as we found this task difficult for several of the tested seats due to poor instructions and the need for tools such as Allen keys which were not included.
Connection The seat should connect securely to its fitting and not wobble about, but still be quick and easy to remove and attach.
Mounting and dismounting Check you’re comfortable getting on and off the bike with the seat attached. Rear-mounted seats in particular make it harder to swing your leg over the back wheel. A step-through (“women’s”) bike frame helps eliminate this problem.
Standard certification While the standard AS/NZS 4287:1995 is not as up to date as we’d like, it’s still worth looking for certification. The standard only covers rear-mounted seats.
Installation and connection Trailers generally connect to the bike via a quick-release mechanism that attaches to the bike’s rear wheel hub. It generally won’t matter whether the bike itself has a quick-release or nutted hub. We found these mechanisms easy to fit for the tested models. The trailer arm should have a back-up strap connecting it to the bike in case the main connection fails; all the tested models have one.
One or two seats We tested two-seat models, but you might find a slightly smaller single-seat model better suits your needs. Two-seaters should ideally be easily adjustable to sit a single child in a central position.
Visibility aids Trailers sit low to the ground, so a brightly coloured flag on a mast is a good feature to make the trailer more visible, particularly in traffic. Of the tested models, only the Pacific didn’t have one. All the trailers also have reflectors. However, even with these aids, avoid using the trailer at night or in low-visibility conditions such as rain.
Folding Trailers are fairly bulky, so it’s useful if the frames fold and the wheels are easily removed for easy storage or transporting in the car. All the tested models can be folded and their wheels are removable.
Conversion kits The Chariot and Croozer can be converted to jogger or four-wheel strollers. Hiking and skiing kits are also available for the Chariot. Conversion kits extend the useful life of the trailer. We didn’t test these models in stroller configuration, but may include them in future stroller tests.
Standard certification There’s no Australian standard for bike trailers, but there is an American standard ASTM F1975. The Chariot and Cyclops are certified to this standard. Trailers that convert to strollers should meet the Australian stroller standard AS/NZS 2088:2000 when in stroller configuration.
Which type is for you?
Seats and trailers each have their pros and cons. Here are the key points to consider when deciding which is best for you.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Smaller and easier to store than trailers.
- Your child sits close to you so conversation is easier.
- No need to bend down while loading or unloading the seat, but need to stabilise the bike.
- Can make the bike less balanced as it raises the centre of gravity.
- Child isn’t sheltered from the weather.
- Stable while loading.
- Can carry other cargo such as shopping bags.
- Offer more shelter than seats.
- Can be expensive.
- Heavy and bulky compared with child seats, although they can be folded for storage.
- Your child sits further away from you, making conversation harder.
- Increase the effective length and width of the bike.