Our family recieved a Chariot Cabriolet Bike Trailer for Christmas this past year! We’d read good reviews, researched the model that we thought would work best for us, and put it on our Christmas list – and we must have all been really good this year because we got not only the trailer but also a spare hitch attachment so that we can easily switch it back and forth between both of our bikes! The only bad news was that we were itching to try it out, but high’s in the 30′s leave me less than motivated to hop on a bike and feel the wind in my hair… My hard core biking friends might disagree and point me to any number of technical apparel that might make those temperatures tolerable – but we’re a climbing family that bikes on the side, so when it comes to biking weather, we don’t force it.
Anyway, this week we’ve had a freak warm streak in the middle of January in North Carolina that was too tempting to pass up. So on Friday afternoon we loaded everything into the car and hit the greenway for our first test run with the Chariot, and our first bike excursion as a family! The verdict – LOADS of fun! The chariot worked out great for us as well as Canaan!
Here’s the PROS:
- 5 Point Harness System – It’s as easy as buckling a carseat, very adjustable, and padded throughout, so Canaan was comfy and safe for the whole ride, and it wasn’t a big pain getting him in and out.
- Lots of Room – The seat is nice and wide, and there are extra buckles so that Canaan can ride with a friend if he wants. There is plenty of room for toys (although Canaan was too busy taking in the view to play with any!), along with a “trunk” behind the seat which is great for extra layers of clothing, spare tube and other gear, or even a few bags of groceries if you wanted to bike to the store.
- 2-in-1 Weather Cover – There is a breathable, easy to see through bug-proof layer, PLUS a clear vinyl, water-proof flap would protect your little one in the rain. Again, we’re not hardcore bikers so I don’t really see us ever biking on purpose in the rain, but you never know when you’ll get caught. We did however, really like how the water-proof flap did a great job of keeping Canaan from getting wind-burn.
- Breakdown Versatility - The wheels come off and the body collapses down very easily – it fit in the trunk of the Element quite nicely. Also, with the ezHitch spare attachment, it was really easy to switch the Chariot back and forth between my bike and my husband’s bike, which worked out nicely because whoever is pulling the trailer definitely feels the extra weight, so its nice to share the load.
- Stable Hitching Set-Up – The Chariot attaches to the middle of the rear wheel of the bike with a ball and socket type hitch, so that the bike moves independently from the Chariot. In the unfortunate event that Mommy skids around a corner too fast and can’t get out of her toe cages, the Chariot would stay upright.
Of course nothing is perfect, so here are the CONS:
- Non-Reclining Seat – Canaan was way too excited to sleep on our ride, but I’m sure once the newness wears off there will be times that the lulling, rolling movement will cause some eyelid drooping. However, since the seat doesn’t lay back, he’s gonna have to doze completely upright. After doing some more research, we discovered that Chariot also sells a “Baby Supporter” which provides padding and extra support on either side of the head to make naps more feasible and comfortable. We haven’t tried it out yet, but I think it will solve the sleep issue, and we are planning on getting one as soon as we can find the time to hit REI – it just kinda sucks that you have to pay extra for it…
- Use with a Helmet – There’s already a roll-bar on the top of the Chariot, and like I said in the PRO section, the Chariot is designed not to flip, so even though a helmet is recommended, I feel like practically speaking it’s probably not necessary…but we figured we’d go for the helmet to be on the safe side. However, the because of the upright seat, the helmet seemed to put Canaan’s head in a weird position, with his chin up against his chest. It seemed to bother us more than it did him, and I think that the “problem” might alleviate itself once Canaan grows a couple more inches.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I think that the Chariot is a perfect fit for the types of biking our family enjoys. Our main uses will be along mostly smooth terrain – paved greenways, fine-gravelled bridle trails and “rails to trails.” I can see us gearing up for relatively short afternoon rides in the 10-15 miles range, as well as longer multi-day trips along the New River Trail in VA with fly-fishing and camping gear in tow. I don’t think I would feel comfortable riding technical single-track with it – the Chariot is kinda wide for that, not to mention all the head bobbling and jostling that poor Canaan would have to endure! There are also attachments you can buy to convert the Chariot into a jogging stroller, but we already have a BOB for that, so I don’t see us purchasing the conversion kit. I’ve also seen pictures of folks trailing behind them on cross-country skis – how fun would that be! Too bad our average snowfall is usually in the single digits around here…There are lots of really great PROS about the Chariot, and the CONS are nothing more than minor annoyances that are by no means deal breakers.
The best part about the Chariot is that it is allows our family yet another way to get outside and enjoy the Great Outdoors with our son. Canaan had a blast tootling around in it – he was singing and chatting at passers-by almost the entire ride! We are looking forward to using the Chariot with our family for many years to come!