We're ready to start biking with our just turned 2yo dd and need to get a trailer. Are there any safety differences between the different styles/brands really, or is it just preference? We will probably be biking a few miles a week on residential roads, if it matters. All the ones I've seen have built-in 5pt harnesses, but we do have an extra carseat we could instal in it if there is a trailer that lets you do that. Would that be significantly safer? Also, what helmets do you like for toddlers? All the ones I've seen say 3+, but I tried one on my dd and it seemed like a good fit. Any recommendations?
We have the Chariot bike trailer (made in Canada), but my aunt did all the shopping around for me and picked the trailer up. She liked it because it was very sturdy and had good safety ratings. It has a 5-point harness for the child and can fold down fairly small. We have the double trailer, and my girls (3 and 1) enjoy riding in it (when they aren't elbowing each other).
It comes with a hand-brake if you are using it as a stroller and you can get either stroller wheels or a jogging wheel for it (we liked the multi-purpose use of that). We have the jogging wheel, to make it easier for use on rural roads if we are walking.
It hitches up VERY easily and you can get an extra hitch attachment so that you can put one on both your bike and your husband's to easily take turns pulling the trailer. I don't think you can put a car seat into the trailer - it's too small for that. However, the trailer is very sturdy and the harness holds the child well. I actually managed to wipe out on my bike the first time I was riding with the trailer. I took a corner too fast and I went down, but the trailer stayed on its wheels and the girls were fine. (My 3-year-old now tells me, "Be careful going down the hill, Mommy!" every time we go down a hill.)
Helmets were a bit of an issue. It took us quite a while to find a helmet small enough to fit my 1-year-old daughter. They do exist, so look around for them. We found them at Mountain Equipment Co-op and Walmart. Do look for a helmet that sits very snugly on the child's head. Some helmets have an extra adjustment piece or elastics at the back to hold the helmet in place (it's hard to describe). My 3-year-old's helmet just has the usual two straps that form a triangle from the helmet down under her chin, and it slides around on her head quite a bit. I'm tempted to get rid of it and get another helmet similar to my younger daughter's, that has the extra support at the back of the head so that the helmet stays in place on her head even when it's not buckled up.
The helmets aren't terribly comfortable in the trailer (sitting there kind of pushes it forward on the girl's heads) but they have gotten used to wearing them. It helped that my older daughter wears it to ride her trike or runner bike, so my younger daughter thought it was a cool "hat" and went through a stage of wanting to wear her helmet just for fun. We let her do that, so when she gets to put it on the trailer, it's still "cool."
I found that the bike trailers that attached to the bottom of the seat pole rather than the wheel were the easiest to use because the weight doesn't drag as badly. A sporting goods shop may carry more of a selection than a bike shop as far as helmets go. We got ours at a sports shop and it lasted for years.
We really like the "Little Nutty" line of helmets made by Nutcase. The XS size fits my 2 year old son. And the design is nice because it isn't like one of the fakey speed racing helmets with all the angles and points that seem to be all you can find at the big box retailers (as if a toddler needs an aerodynamic helmet shape to help him go faster? )
The Little Nutty is just a round helmet and fits his head. Plus it comes with extra foam pieces to adjust it and an adjustable dial in back. And Nutcase helmets actually look cool with the neat designs so it helps make him (and us) want to wear it.
We actually all got matching helmets from Nutcase, so it makes us look and feel like a team, lol.
And I just want to applaud your efforts for safe biking with your child! As a child I was seriously injured in a bike accident (no helmet) and I see so many kids out on bikes, trikes and trailers without helmets, makes me so upset.
We too have a Chariot trailer. We love using it, and it's easy to use, attach and ride with. It comes with a 5-pt harness, safety back-up latches, and a full roll cage. DS, 16 months, wears a Little Nutty helmet in XS when riding in it, and he doesn't complain about it being pushed forward a little, though there is a helmet net in the trailer to keep the helmet from getting pushed forward.
We have an inStep. It is a cheaper one but just fine for our purposes although our girls are in there quite tight. I also have a 3 and a 1 year old and they fit right in with a 5pt harness.
I will say that I am fairly fit, a runner, and pulling them in this in no joke. We only go for very short rides on flat ground because it is such a killer to pull my kids and they combined weight is really only 57lbs. I applaud all those who do it regularly!