Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Review: Chariot Cabriolet Bike Trailer

"I'm ready guys, let's go!!!"

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.

Gotta love 50 degrees in January!

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.

Time to switch to Daddy's bike!

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.

"This is fun Daddy, let's do it again tomorrow!"

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.

Steve packs up the Chariot while Canaan takes care of the flag...

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!

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17 Responses to “Review: Chariot Cabriolet Bike Trailer”

  1. Joe Lineberry

    Good analysis and fun read. Do you think you guys could give me a ride in it? I could get into singing and talking to all the passers-by too. I might even be a good picture.

    Reply

  2. Linda

    I would pay money to see Papa Joe riding like that!

    I’m not even sure what would be funnier – seeing him in that, or, the reactions of the other people you pass by! What a hoot!

    All the pictures are great, but for some reason, I crack up when I look at the one of Steve packing things up, and Canaan just sitting there staring at the flag. He’s so intent on it!

    Reply

  3. Joyce L

    Looks like fun to me too! Much better than being in the backpac

    Reply

  4. I think we might would run into some issues getting PaPa Joe up some of the hills…perhaps we could enlist the helps of the passers-by? :)

    Reply

  5. Eli R.

    We’ve had our’s for over a year and Lili loves it. Al loves running with it and it’s so easy to convert back to the bike. Enjoy guys..

    Reply

  6. Dan

    Good review, I am thinking about buying this model or the cheaper Burley Bee. Just one thing I thought I would mention from my recent research is this model you are reviewing does NOT support the SKI attachment option. The cougar & XL models do though. I really like the look of the Cougar line up but I just can’t get into that price range for a trailer. I’ve been looking at used Burleys & Chariots but think I will use the next REI 20% member coupon and just buy this model new for $370 after tax & discount. Thanks for the write up! Enjoy

    Reply

    • Thanks for your comment Dan. I wish I lived in an area where the SKI attachment would be necessary! Good idea with the coupon – I had to laugh the other day when I was locking my bike up outside of Fresh Market, and realized that the Chariot was worth twice what my bike cost..:)

  7. Great weekend #nature activity: NR Ambassador Erica talks about how to enjoy biking with your little one! http://bit.ly/i9zlc3

    Reply

  8. I just have to say that the ‘infant sling’ is AWESOME! I’m just now seeing that they don’t recommend it for biking…oops. We used it for biking, skiing and jogging. My kids LOVED that thing. We kept them in that until the were able to sit up unassisted.

    We had a ‘baby supporter’ as well, but it looks like they just came out with a new version, our version came out a few years ago and my kids hated it… Maybe the new design is better?

    Reply

    • C seems fine with the baby supporter…and it actually does allow him to fall asleep even with all the jostling! I’m assuming we have the newer version, so perhaps that explains why he digs it and your kids didn’t? Never used the sling b/c by the time we got the Chariot, C was almost walking, but its good to know that it’s a good product as well! Thanks for the comment Lindsey!

  9. Dan

    I waited for their 30th Sale and they still have all their Chariot brand stuff at 20% off. I went back and forth between Cabriolet & Cougar2. I really didn’t want to spend the extra money on the Cougar2 but now glad I did. I wanted the stroller wheels and bike kits only and with the Cabriolet it does not come with the handlebar so I would have to also buy the jogger kit at $130 plus stroller wheels at $75 to get the stroller function.

    With the additional suspension, Click N store the price difference was now about $100 closer with having to buy another kit just to use it as a stroller so I jumped on the Cougar2 for this reason. After using it a bunch this last week I am glad there is suspension, it really works and I see it working even on regular bumps on paved bike paths.

    Am sure I would have been happy with Cabriolet but having to buy the jogger kit just to have push function made it easier to jump on the overpriced Cougar2. Hopefully this can help those in the hunt for spendy trailers. If you don’t want any function except bike then Cabriolet would be a smart choice if you are ok without adjustable suspension.

    One concern I have with it is the noise. I can hear a little frame or wheel noise. The noise isn’t very loud but not 100% noise free which I was hoping for. Maybe the wheels maybe the flex with the suspension of the unit.

    Reply

  10. jodi

    Just curious, did yours come with a flag?? Ours did not come with a flag and the manual seems to say only the Corsaire does which seems like a ridiculous safety oversite to me. I see pics of them with flags – I don’t know if they used to be included and now aren’t or what.

    How are you liking it?

    Reply

  11. Yes my Chariot Cougar2 did come with a flag. I don’t usually use it though, I bought two 1/2 watt blinking tail lights for it which REALLY gets the attention of motorists. They are installed directly below the pin holes where the handlebar attaches to the main frame. Make sure if you try this option to get rear lights that angle UP as far as possible since the attachment point has downward angle to it and reduces the effectiveness of the blinking lights. I plan on buying a super small handlebar forward facing white LED light for when jogging. But I would assume during the day the flag could really help.

    This is what I bought two of – http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1075344_-1_1588500_20000_400159
    This model did not angle far enough upwards but did have the nice toolless mount that I needed in case I wanted to remove the main cover since these lights would block the installation or removal of the main cover. I fixed the angle issue by simply wedging a bolt under the bracket and the light which pushed it upward. Ideally if I could find a toolless 1/2 watt light that angled up further I would go with that. If considering this option I would HIGHLY recommend the 1/2 – 1 watt rear lights, they cost more but are WAY brighter then regular LED blinkers. GOOD LUCK and enjoy!!!

    Reply

  12. You know, right after I posted my response I realized I could be wrong about the flag, I think it came with the bike attachment kit. So this is what I found on Chariots website

    “CTS Bicycle Trailer Kit: (1 year and up)
    Hit the road with the CTS Bicycle Trailer Kit. The stainless steel hitch cup stays with your bike and the unique ezHitch™ makes attaching and removing the carrier a breeze.

    Includes:
    A lightweight aluminum hitch arm, Axle Mount ezHitch™, an extra tall safety flag and an approved reflector kit. ”

    The Cabriolet & Corsair are dedicated bike trailers where the cougar has 5 different options for it all of which you have to buy if desired. Now 6months later I DO NOT regret the extra expense even though it was really out of my budget by a good $300 or so. I love the suspension, built in attachment for bike swingarm when I arrive , I can just pop in the stroller wheels in 2secs , remove the swingarm and attach directly to chariot and can walk around the beach , go in a store, etc. This feature adds WAY more function but wish it was cheaper. And last with us expecting are 2nd child now in March I am really glad I didn’t buy the Cougar1 to save a little cash.

    Reply

    • Yes, Jodi mine did come with a flag…that somehow managed to detach itself within the first two months of using it (I assume it got snagged on a low lying tree branch). The hubby actually “made” another flag using orange duct tape. Sounds ghetto but it’s endured a lot of abuse and has never been torn. :)

  13. jodi

    Interesting. Maybe I should call Chariot to ask about this. I don’t expect to use it in many cases where it would matter as I don’t plan to ride in trafficy areas, but my understanding is it’s purpose is so cars backing up know there is something behind your bike, they don’t see the bike pass them and then back into your kid. Especially given the Cabriolet is a little guy of a trailer, it seems it should be included – but I am pretty sure my manual says “corsaire only.”

    I covet the Corsaire… LOL

    Reply

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN