How Do Bike Trailers Attach?

Author: Alex Bristol

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Are you a fan of family cycling?

If you’re someone who loves cycling and has kids or pets, then this is for you. Adding on a bike trailer can mean the whole family gets involved in the biking trip, whether that’s kids that are too young for their own bike, pets that can’t keep up, or even just extras such as snacks and a picnic blanket(Why not?)

Taking your child with you doesn’t have to be complicated. Once you invest in a bike trailer, you can make the most of this little addition to your bike rides. How much are bike trailers though? A cycle ride in the outdoors can be marvelous after a stressful day, and for your child too.

If they’re too young for their own little bike, or you want to take long distance rides and get some healthy exercise in, then taking your child with you on your bike is a solid idea. But, for that, you need to know where to buy bike trailers.

That’s where I come in.

I will go through everything you need to know about installing a bike trailer securely. Once you’ve had a look at the Best Bike Trailers and selected your favorite one, then attaching it to your bike is the easy part.

Trust me when I say that a leisurely cycle ride with your child or pet in the trailer at the rear is not just a way of getting outdoors, but can also help when you’re trying to de-stress your child and spend quality time together. Bear in mind that bike trailers are suitable for children over one years old, younger that is worth getting a baby bike seat.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

A bit about bike trailers

Before we get started on how to attach a bike trailer to your bike, there’s a few things you should know about bike trailers in general.

No matter what bike you own, bike trailers are compatible with all kinds of bikes. That includes road bikes, cruiser bikes or hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, even e-bikes and disc brake bikes.

An issue that can come up is people struggling to attach a bike trailer to a disc brake thru-axle bike, as it may require an adapter.

Although bike trailers are fairly universal when it comes to adapting them to each bike, they can be complicated to attach since they have a different type of axle. There are two main types of axles- a quick release and a thru-axle.

Bike trailers work by using a hitch arm as well as a coupler attachment to easily hook onto all kinds of bikes. The best bikes that bike trailers work with are road bikes, as they have better power transfer when pedaling due to the aero riding position.

Attaching your bike trailer

We’ve mentioned that there are two kinds of axles on bikes that are compatible with bike trailers. Let’s take a look at which one you have.

Quick release bikes

Most bike trailers are designed to be used with standard quick-release bikes with a quick release axle, as they are the most common. If you have this kind of bike, then you’re in luck! Quick release skewers are super easy to attach a trailer to your bike.

Although you’re unlikely to have an issue with these, there is one thing you need to look out for.

Does your bike have hooded dropouts? Then you might need to get a spacer attachment to have more clearance to attach the coupler. Just keep that in mind when attaching your bike trailer.

Hooded dropouts are a style of frame that come out over the axle hole. If because of these the bike trailer doesn’t fit, then you can buy spacers that allow enough clearance to attach the coupler. You’ll be able to find different options available depending on the bike trailer.

Thru-axle bikes

You’re most likely to find thru-axles on newer bikes with disc brakes, for instance gravel bikes, mountain bikes or road bikes. The difference between thru-axles and quick axles is that they are thicker in diameter and pass through the hub of the wheel and thread straight into the frame.

If you’ve tried to attach a bike trailer to your bike but it didn’t work, it could be because you have a thru-axle style rear wheel. Thru-axles that are too big for instance 12mm in diameter will not fit through the hole of the coupler hitch attachment on a bike trailer.

How to attach a bike trailer to a thru-axle

Thru-axles are the most confusing when it comes to attaching a bike trailer. If you’ve bought a Schwinn bike trailers or Instep trailer or an instep bike trailer, then it won’t be a problem attaching it to a thru-axle bike.

If you have bought a Thule, Burely, or Hamax trailer, then you may need to buy a thru axle adapter to be able to fit the coupler attachment and attach a bike trailer.

Attaching a trailer to the seat post

If you’re attaching your bike onto a seat post, then follow this step by step, easy guide. It’s usually the most straightforward way of attaching a trailer to your bike.

1.Install the receiver onto the seat post

The receiver will always stay on your bike post, so that it is ready to be hooked onto the bike trailer whenever you need it. Many times, the metal reliever will be too large for the seat post.

You will find that all seat post trailers come with small circular plastic pieces, a bit like small lengths of plastic pipe to use between the seat post and receiver. If you don’t have them, a piece of cardboard will be fine.

2.Replace Bike Seat

Once you have attached the receiver tightly to the seat post, you can now re-attach the bike post to the bike and tighten the seat at the right height for you.

3.Attach the trailer hitch to the receiver

To attach the hitch to the trailer arm, make sure that the piece on the end connects onto the receiver of the seat post. When you fit the trailer hitch onto the receiver, you’ll see holes on the sides of the trailer hitch and receiver. Once the hitch is connected with the receiver, then the holes should all line up and have a clear line of sight through both of them.

This is for the quick release pin that allows the trailer to be hooked on or off easily. Put the quick release pin through the top until you can see it on the bottom. The end of the quick release pin will have a hole running perpendicular to the pin. That’s for you to put the clip in so that the pin doesn’t move around when on bumpy terrain. Don’t worry if you don’t have a hole for a safety clip, you might need a washer and nut to hold the pin in place instead.

4.Attach the safety strap

Some bike trailers come with a safety strap to attach onto the arm of the trailer, and wraps around the seat post, and clips onto the arm as a safety precaution. This is so that if the hitch detaches, the safety strap will prevent the trailer from disconnecting from the bike.

If your bike trailer doesn’t come with a safety strap, then you can use a chain or a piece of rope attached to the arm of the trailer and wrapped around the seat post.

Don’t forget a test drive to make sure it works smoothly. Before going on a long ride or taking your kids or pet with you, just cycle around the block to get used to the feel of having a trailer with you and so ensure it works well.

Attaching a bike trailer to a rear axle

If you need to conduct rear axle attachment, then the first thing you need to do is remove the rear axle. After that you can attach the receiver to the axle. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and attach the trailer hitch to the receiver, then don’t forget to finish off attaching the safety strap. Let me run through it with you step by step.

1.Take off rear axle

If you have an older bike model, then you need to use a wrench to loosen up the rear tire from the frame. You don’t need to remove the tire completely, since you will have to tighten it back on later. Remove the axle from the rear wheel.

To do this, loosen the nut completely until it comes off the axle, When the nut is off, you can pull the axle out of the tire. Then you will need to get the washer and the receiver and slide the axle through both of them. When you’ve done that, put the axle back onto the wheel and tighten the wheel onto the frame.

2.Attach the trailer

Now that you’ve done the most difficult part, you will need to put the trailer into position and place the trailer hitch into the receiver.

Sometimes the bike trailer will have a curved arm to correct the angle, others have a trailer hitch on a strong spring to provide some stability. The hitch should fit tightly into the receiver and may need some force to get it in properley.

You’ll find two holes on both sides of the receiver and trailer hitch. These should line up so you can insert a pin to lock the hitch and receiver together.

3.Attach the safety strap

The safety strap is on the arm of the trailer, and will be wrapped around the frame of the bike, and clipped back to the arm. In the event that the trailer comes loose, the safety strap will keep it connected to the bike and prevent it from going into the road or in danger.

Don’t forget to finish with a test drive to make sure you’ve done everything properly and it works well.

Final Thoughts

Attaching bike trailers to your bike can be a real upgrade if you have pets or kids that want to come along. It’s also a fun project to do for all cyclists, whether beginner or experienced. Whether you have a thru axle or a quick release bike, the trailer attaches onto it one way or another.

Things to consider include the bike frame, and axle length as well as it is a thru axle or a quick release bike. If you have a thru axle, then you’ll need a thru axle adapter to attach your dog trailer.

If you attach a bike trailer, you won’t regret it. Most trailers are easy to use and if you follow this step-by-step guide, they will easily attach to the bike. Of course, you may need to buy extra parts or fiddle around with the wheels and tires to screw and tow a stroller onto your bike, but trust me, it’s worth it in the end.

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