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All hail the bike cargo trailer!

Bike cargo trailers are amazing tools for getting more out of a bicycle -- and keeping you a out of your car. In all their variety, bike cargo trailers are the perfect tools for hauling stuff by bike.

We cover touring, commuting, errands, and generally doing more by bike -- so we don't leave out cargo bikes and conversions.

The topics of bike child trailers and trailer-cycles are covered in our Family Cycling section.

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Photos help to spread ideas, and stimulate discussion. It doesn't matter if you bought from one of our shops or not -- Bike Trailer Shop, Bike Bag Shop and Bike Kid Shop. Your photos and the stories behind them want to be seen and heard.

Bicycle Trailer hitches and couplers

Probably the most common question here at the shop begins with, “so, I bought a used trailer on eBay.” Our follow up question is always, “what brand is the trailer?” The answer will invariably come from this list: Kidarooz, Rhode Gear, Bell, Kool-Stop, Winchester Original, JD Razor, Cannondale, Tanjor, Yakima, Norco USA, or Trek, those trailers abandoned, orphaned, and kicked to the side of the bike path in the name of progress. Did they deserve this sort of treatment. Some, yes, but all old trailers have some usefulness. But can they be revived without looking too hillbilly?

To get started, have a look at this video put up by our friends over at BikeHacks.com.

Maybe. A lot of old trailers suffer from clunky, complicated hitch designs. The first step to reviving your trailer is to abandon the notion that you’ll ever find a hitch exactly like the original. For these brands, it’s just not going to happen. You must accept change.

Towbar assembly blowupThe easiest trailers to retrofit with a newer hitch are those with towbars made from either square or round tubing and that allow you to remove every bit of the old coupler, leaving an open tubing end. This obviously excludes single-wheeled trailers, like the Yakima Big Tow, which I’ll mention later.

Burley and Chariot make the two most common trailer couplers that may work with your now bare towbar. They bolt into the empty towbar socket and provide a solid connection to their corresponding hitch. The Burley Flex Connectors come in square and round tongue versions and connect to a variety of Burley hitches, depending on your bike. Their dimensions are as follows:

Round tongue:

Outer diameter – 0.85″

Square tongue:

Outer diameter – 0.92″

The Chariot Lollipop connects to the Chariot hitch (entire assembly here), which can be used with either quick release and nutted axles, and even some Breezer-style dropouts. Its dimensions are:

Lollipop:

Outer diameter – 0.75″

If your towbar’s inner diameter is just a bit larger than one of these, i.e. within about 0.1″, you may be able to resurrect the beast. For all three couplers, there needs to be a bolt hole between 1.5″ and 1.75″ from the end of the towbar in order to connect the two.

Fortunately, the Yakima Big Tow, that I mentioned earlier, is a simpler matter. The fork tabs on the frame are spaced just a smidge wider than the head tube of a BOB fork, but if you have a few washers to take up the space, it’s that easy to put your Big Tow back in service. Have a look at our full post on cross-compatibility between the BOB Trailer and Yakima Big Tow parts.

Warning/Safety Issues:

While the various methods for restoring hitchless trailers, mentioned above can function quite well with well thought out installation, please be aware of the following warranty and safety issues:
1: Hitch designs are not recognized as being cross compatible by the bike trailer manufacturers. Installing the hitch of one brand of trailer onto another brand of bike trailer will likely void the warranty on both the hitch and the bike trailer.
2: Bicycle Trailer hitch design effects the placement of the trailer behind the bicycle. Most bicycle trailers are designed to be centered behind the bicycle. The length of the trailer’s hitch arm is specifically designed to work with the trailer’s specific hitch. If you choose to install another hitch style on your bike, this may have the affect of putting your trailer off center in relation to your bicycle. This can possibly be adjusted for by shortening or lengthening the hitch arm.
3. Modifying and changing a bicycle trailer can have other unintended consequences. Do not attempt to use a self modified bike trailer without a very thorough understanding of the changes and adjustment being made to the bicycle trailer.

Related posts:

  1. $75 Bike Trailer Dreams
  2. Jeff’s Trailer Reviews, Part 1: BOB Trailers
  3. Converting Bike Trailers to Hand Trolleys
  4. Bykaboose Trailer Review
31 Responses to Bicycle Trailer hitches and couplers
  1. steely
    July 20, 2008 | 8:29 pm

    You should add Nashbar to your list. I bought a kid karrier on sale. The darn thing is great and almost indistructable. After the kid grows out of it, all the kid related stuff will strip off leaving a nice cargo platform. The only problem is the hitch is a POS. Thanks for the info on hitches. Maybe I can get one to work.

  2. Ryan
    July 21, 2008 | 4:47 am

    I was frustrated trying to use a trailer arm off a low end kiddie trailer because it was incompatable with disc brakes and it lacked enough heel clearance for my size 12′s. I decided that I needed an new attachment method that would be quicker/easier to hook up and release and would allow heel clearance. I used an idea I found elsewhere on the interwebs and used a ball-bearing swivel castor wheel and an airline quick connect. Sorry the pictures are not great, camera was dieing on me.

    http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h170/HandsomeRyan/IMG_0384.jpg

    http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h170/HandsomeRyan/IMG_0386.jpg

    I have not integrated a fail-safe strap yet but 30 miles of pulling on bumpy poorly paved roads and I not had a problem yet.

    *If you like to build stuff and you don’t own a welder you should buy one! Best. Tool. Ever.

  3. Richard
    July 25, 2008 | 12:20 pm

    I have a custom made cargo trailer and need a hitch for it and was going to get a Burley Flex connector, im concern about getting it because if im pulling heavy weight will the rubber Burley Flex connector handle it and how much can it handle?

  4. Josh
    July 25, 2008 | 9:36 pm

    Most of the Burley Trailers are rated at 100lbs. This is a rating based on a variety of strength and safety precautions. I do not know if the Flex Connector is measured specifically for its durability beyond its use with the 100lb limit of the Burley Trailer. Burley does not make this as a part designed for use with other trailers. That being said, the flex connector is made from a very durable rubber/plastic that can actually stretch up to 6 ft in length. As with all Do-It-Yourself bicycle related projects, you must take the assessment and risk of adapted parts into your own hands.

  5. [...] RSS ← Bicycle Trailer hitches and couplers [...]

  6. [...] you are interested in building one of the trailers you have seen here we have a detailed post about Hitches and Couplers that might be handy to read when deciding how to attach the trailer to your bike. If you [...]

  7. Clint Draney
    December 30, 2008 | 5:19 pm

    Ok. It’s been a few months so I hope someone is still checking this conversation. My heart sank when I got home with my garage sale special Trek single wheel trailer for my little boy (christmas present) and found that it was missing “something” to connect to my bike. We wouldn’t be able to ride together on christmas day. Huge bummer. Since then I’ve spoke with bike shops and they’ve even called Trek who says the collar missing from this bike they don’t have in stock. Any suggestions for finding a collar or something else to replace it?

  8. Josh
    January 14, 2009 | 4:21 pm

    Clint,
    We’ve got quite a few suggestions in this blog post for using the other brands of bike trailer hitches. It seems like this should be an option to consider on your Trek trailer.

    As I’m not sure what you mean by “collar” so I might not be understanding what you are looking for. Let me know if this blog post doesn’t contain a workable solution.

  9. [...] Bike Child Trailer as well as a German crash test of the Burley Cub Bike Child Trailer. Bicycle Trailer hitches and couplers – Jeff’s guide to the bike trailer hitches features the Burley Trailer hitch. Converting Bike [...]

  10. Matt
    July 28, 2009 | 1:05 pm

    I’m in a similar boat after buying a “Safety 1st” double trailer. All of the parts seem to be intact, but I can’t figure out how the thing is supposed to attached. Safety’s First’s website doesn’t even seem to list bike trailers anymore, so I don’t think i could get the manual if i tried. Oh well..

  11. Alan
    February 16, 2010 | 3:05 pm

    I purchased a Schwinn child trailer and the coupler will not mount to my quick release….it is a bit to short. Any suggestions?

  12. Rebecca
    April 16, 2010 | 2:51 pm

    Please help! Bought a Master Cycle Bike Trailer
    off e-bay and does not have connecting coupler does anyone know where I can get one and also a new pole and flag. Thanks

    • Josh
      April 17, 2010 | 1:25 pm

      I’m not sure if this might be what you are looking for http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001B8EWCW/?tag=tbook-20.

      The problem with off-brand trailers like Master Cycles is they offer very poor support with replacement parts and warranties.

      Burley, Chariot and Croozer offer great support in all of these regards. Take a look at http://BikeKidShop.com for a great selection of these trailers.

  13. [...] Bykaboose attaches to a bike’s rear quick release with a stainless steel hitch mount. The bike trailer hitch is a flex coupler type utilizing a stout piece of rubber that flexes as the trailer turns. Though [...]

  14. Eric
    May 25, 2010 | 7:37 am

    I purchased a Schwinn child trailer and the coupler will not mount to my bike. I have a GT Aerostream cruiser and do not want to use a dremel on the chainstay to make room for the coupler. Any suggestions?

  15. [...] bike trailer looked like it was utilitizing a regular style bike trailer hitch. I noted on the bike trailer several interesting examples of DIY bike trailer ingenuity. The [...]

  16. Jason simpson
    June 6, 2010 | 7:38 pm

    I have a trek transit (2001 model) which converts into a jogger. I lost the square towbar that connects it to the bike. Where can I buy the towbar? Any suggestions?

    • Josh
      June 11, 2010 | 11:30 am

      The place to start is with Trek. It is possible that Trek put their name on another brand of trailer. If you can figure that out, than you may be able to track down parts for that trailer.

      Unfortunately, quite a few companies like Trek, Cannondale and other have introduced bike child trailers as a flash in the pan. They don’t stick around and support the product for the long haul unlike, Burley, Chariot and Croozer.

      http://www.bikekidshop.com/bike-child-trailers-e-153.html

  17. Jen
    July 26, 2010 | 6:01 pm

    Hi,
    Same problem with my double BELL bike trailer: it keeps falling off. I can’t tighten it enough to my bike. I can’t find a website with any BELL parts. Any ideas? Chariot arm doesn’t work.

    • Jeff
      August 2, 2011 | 9:53 pm

      Hey Jen, I know you posted over a year ago, but I also have a bell bike carrier with issues. I was just wondering if you were ever able to locate parts. Any help would be great!
      Thanks, J. Miller
      jsmill11@yahoo.com

      • sean
        March 20, 2013 | 1:39 pm

        Hey Jeff…
        I know its been a long time since you posted, but I have the same issue with a bell trailer. Did you ever find a resolution to your problem?

  18. Christopher
    October 14, 2010 | 1:42 pm

    I have a Rand International Kid Kaboose that has a broken tip and it has a round extension and I do not have the piece that goes on my bike.
    Does anyone know where I can buy the pieces I need?

  19. Melissa
    April 19, 2011 | 6:01 pm

    I just got the Columbia Bike Buggy (they don’t make it anymore) and it has the connector but not a hitch to go it. I got the Burley hitch, but the connector is too large in diameter to fit in. The trailer, without the connector, has an open end of 1 inch diameter and bolt hole that’s 2 inches in. Just out of the dimensions you mention so I don’t think the Burley flex connector would solve my problems…is there ANY hitch that would work? or hitch/connector combo?? Any advice please! :)

    • Nicole
      May 9, 2013 | 10:38 pm

      Hi Melissa,
      I know it’s been 2 years since you posted this but I was wondering if you ever found a solution. I am having the exact same problem with the Columbia Bike Buggy that I just purchased from a garage sale :( Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank :)

      • Mike
        February 19, 2014 | 12:10 pm

        Did you ever solve this?

  20. Cody
    June 9, 2011 | 8:58 pm

    Anyone know where I can get a replacement 20 wheel for a Winchester Original trailer?

    Thanks!

  21. Jerrick Graham
    November 4, 2013 | 1:04 pm

    OK so i have a pedal cab not the trike but a cab the you attach to the bike i need a special kind of hitch for it. I have to be able to hook it up to the seat post. I need to know approximately how much it is going to cost me to either get one made or bought but i have no clue where to go to get one….. Any suggestions????

    • Jerrick Graham
      November 4, 2013 | 1:05 pm

      OH and it uses a 3/4″ Heim Joint in the neck of the cab/trailer….

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