In 2009 I asked my parents to buy me a bicycle trailer as a birthday present. It was a Croozer Cargo, original 2003-2013 model (no longer manufactured, but you can find the manual for it as a PDF here), and cost £160 back then (about €200). Looking back little could I have known at the time what a transformative purchase it was. And back then such trailers were rare – today they are far more common.
So if you’ve seen people with cargo trailers and have been wondering about buying one, this blog post is for you. I’ve had the trailer with me while living in London, Brussels, Copenhagen and Berlin, and the polyester panels on it were getting worn due to heavy use, so I have just repaired it:
Here are some pictures of what it’s been used for over the years…
Barbecue at Tempelhofer Feld (bungee cords are handy too!)
Shopping in the snow
Shopping for neighbours during COVID lockdown (shop4me project) – the Croozer Cargo has a handle you can lift to make it into a kind of hand trolley
Waste wood from a garden to waste tip
An iMac and Dell Monitor:
A clothes rack
Pampas grasses to a friend’s garden
Transporting two hifi speakers
Buying a water butt at a DIY store
Oversize package collected from a shop when GLS couldn’t find my flat
And some furniture
240 litres of compost and wood from the Baumarkt
An IKEA Malm bed frame, and a vacuum cleaner
OK, the last two are rather extreme. I don’t suggest those.
But more generally you get the idea. With the bike trailer I can do the sorts of things… you would only normally be able to do with a car. Over the past year during COVID lockdown I have been using it at least once a week, while before that I imagine it was more like every other week. For intermittent use like that I think it makes more sense than a cargo bicycle (and definitely cheaper).
The important point however is that as I do own the trailer, I think of all sorts of things I could then use it for. Without it the whole shop4me project would not have worked for example. Or now living a fair distance from the nearest supermarket in my new flat in Berlin is no problem – I can shop more, but less often, because of the bike trailer.
So that’s the case for a bike trailer. But what trailer should you buy?
The first choice is how to connect your trailer – most higher end trailers (inc. Croozer) have an asymmetrical connection, with an arm to one side connecting to the back axel bolt of your bike. This has two advantages – it means you can still use the luggage rack on the back of your bike, and any rear mounted bike light is not obscured by the the trailer. The alternative is central mountings – either on the luggage rack or the seat post – that are generally favoured by cheaper models, although this makes it easier for the handle to be doubled as a hand trolley handle.
Trailers with just 1 wheel are also available – those are preferred for bike tours but are harder to mount and unmount than 2 wheel trailers, so are not considered here.
The second consideration is whether to buy a trailer that is a flat panel only, or one with sides. Here my Croozer model scores well – the flexibility to have the sides fully up (for shopping), ends removed (for longer loads) or all flattened (as with the clothes rail) has been a real advantage. Alternatives are trailers with a kind of fixed plastic box (study, but not so flexible) or a flat panel onto which things can be attached with cords or ties.
So what is there on the market? I have not tried any of these, but examining the market at the moment this is my view…
The Croozer Cargo I own is no longer manufactured, but Croozer still makes cargo trailers, priced at €370 to €520. The deluxe model even has air suspension, and an additional arm is available to turn these models into hand trolleys. The design looks excellent, but these trailers are on the pricey side! Croozer is a small firm based in Hürth, Germany.
Burley, based in Eugene, Oregon, USA makes a really interesting range of different trailers – its Flatbed looks to be a really solid option (€249 in Europe), although it does not have a hand trolley function.
There are two cheaper models from Klarfit – a flat panel trailer with a wooden carry area for £160, and one with a small cover but differently constructed area for the cargo for £130. I have never seen anyone using one of these, but the design looks interesting, and the prices reasonable.
XLC has a trailer called “Carry Van” that in its original version was identical to the Croozer Cargo I own, except in blue. However since 2018 they have been selling a newer version that seems to have a similar design, although slightly more sleek – but without the hand trolley function. It costs €250.
There are a whole range of cheaper options – from Uniprodo (€105), Homcom (€99 for the sleeker version, €95 for the larger version), an unbranded one that can take 65kg load (€88) and Qeedo (€189).
Any questions? Do comment below!
I have been asked about extra wear to my bike of using the bike trailer. The main one is that the chain stretches more quickly (the Raleigh Nightflight that’s my main bike has a Shimano Nexus 8 speed hub, no derailleur), so I replace the chain every 12 to 18 months. Brake pad wear is a bit higher too, and then over time rim wear too. But neither of these are marked for me.
I have the Burley flatbed trailer you link, and can recommend it. Similar to you, I’ve used it for all kinds of random transports, like picking up used furniture, buying a printer, moving, taking away bulk trash, or just taking food bowls to a picnic. For stuff which is around 2 meters or longer, I mostly just push my bike for safety reasons. Most of the time the trailer is just collecting dust, but it provides a lot of the freedom commonly ascribed to cars.
One tradeoff which matters in addition to the ones you mentioned: How easy it is to load items longer than the trailer vs. how convenient it is to keep small items from falling out. The Burley trailer is very much on the “long items” end of the spectrum. I don’t think suspension is that great of a feature for a cargo trailer – just put less air in the tires instead.
The original Burley bike hitches are quite expensive, but you can get them on AliExpress for cheap – so now everyone in my household (+some friends) have one of those hitches attached to their bikes an can conveniently borrow the trailer.
Thanks for the comment! Handy to know! I think the material sides on the Croozer I have are a pretty good compromise in that regard.
As for the hitch – Croozer hitches are not too costly, but mounting the older square ones on a bike with hub gears isn’t so simple, as you cannot get the adapter to fit flush. But Burley’s Hitch Alternative Adapter is the solution, even for Croozer hitches!
good for you for publicising them – they are superb for small children and heavy (cos they have to be four-stroke now) outboard motors too!
I want to send you a picture! I’ve a very unusual cargo bike solution for my job.
I used a BOB Yak for a number of years for bike travel and shopping. Then life happened and I had to sell my trusty companion but I always thought I’d buy a new one when things turn around again. I read your excellent article and though to myself, “hmm… lemme check out what BOB is doing these days”. It turns out a basic BOB Yak costs €700 today. I might look for other alternatives when the time comes.
In Berlin (+ presumably elsewhere?) there are also various schemes which let you borrow a cargo bike for a short period. I’d recommend that if you aren’t ready to buy a trailer yourself.
Great article! We’ve traded in our service fleet of window cleaning trucks for bikes and trailers and cargo bikes back in 2016 and never looked back! Thanks so much for the article!
Excellent! In what city may I ask?
Does towing a trailer add any stability to a bike, or is it the opposite? I am getting a covered trailer to transport my dog, as she dislikes the car. She’s is tiny, only 7 kg.
With the one I have: makes no difference either way!
I’ve had the Burley Flatbed for a couple of months on hire as a “try before you buy”. Generally, I’ve found it pretty good but there are two flaws that mean I’m probably not going to purchase it for keeps:
– The inability to rotate the hitch bar round into a pulling bar. This would make it much easier to take the trailer into shops with you. At the moment I leave it locked up outside (with the wheels off) which is not idea in central London and makes loading and unloading a bit of a faff. I’m interested in the Klarfit companion for this reason.
– The canvas on the Burley hasn’t been super hard-wearing (for me!). The first pick-up I did included a desktop which I strapped to the top of the trailer like your bottom picture. There must have been a bit of movement because the canvas bed got some small rubs on it where it wore through to the threads. Same thing happened on another short journey where a bungee slipped and has rubbed through.
Trailer is getting picked up in a couple of days and I’m interested to see whether I get charged by the hire company for the damage. If I do, we might just buy it since it’s not bad. You can loop a string through the hitch bar to create your own ‘off bike’ towing mechanism and I can avoid more nylon rubbing by just being much more careful with bungee placements. However, I was surprised how easily the fabric was damaged compared to e.g. my Ortlieb panniers.