There are plenty of obvious benefits to owning a bike trailer, including health and exercise.
But what are the unseen benefits that only avid bike trailer owners understand?
Riding with a bike trailer can help you lose weight by burning more calories from pulling the extra 40 to 100 lbs of weight from the trailer. In addition, bike trailers can help you save money by replacing driving short distances with bike rides. Finally, riding with a bike trailer allows kids to spend time outdoors and encourages them to live an active lifestyle through observing their parent’s example.
I first started riding everywhere with my kids in a bike trailer primarily to save money and to get some exercise. I soon realized that bike trailers offer so much more than just that. There’s a domino effect that took place in my life that unexpectedly impacted other areas, including how I raise my kids.
The quickest way to understand the clear benefits of using a bike trailer for you is to first identify your reason for using a bike trailer.
I’m here to help you figure out your reasons and we’ll also cover some not-so-obvious benefits of bike trailers.
Get clear on your reason for using a bike trailer
Now, I don’t want to steer you away from using a bike trailer. In fact, I would be happy to see more people out and about.
But it’s important to know your Why before making the purchase. If you have a clear vision for how you will use the trailer and why, you will be much more likely to get the most out of the trailer and make it a priority to replace driving with clean bike riding.
On the other hand, if you lack the motivation to ride with a trailer, then it’s easy to see it as an expense, rather than an investment.
Why I use bike trailers
My personal reason for using bike trailers whenever possible is for my health. It’s healthy for me to burn some extra calories and strengthen my legs by pulling the 100 extra pounds of kiddos behind me. Cycling is extremely good for your heart health, and bike trailers in particular will get your heart pumping quickly and efficiently.
It’s also healthy for my kids to experience the thrills and freshness of the outdoors, as well as see me, their parent, set an example of healthy living.
I also happen to believe that if everyone took their bike out more instead of the car, humanity would be much better off health-wise, environmentally, and financially.
These motivations I have are enough to remind me to take the kids out with the bike trailer at least a few times per week, especially when we’re going any distances within 2 miles.
I heard once that half of all cars on the road in America are traveling to destinations that are under 2 miles away. This fact really shocked me, as I realized that we could solve so much of the traffic and health issues we face just by biking and walking more.
Just keep this mind-blowing statistic in mind, provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov):
“Car trips of under a mile add up to about 10 billion miles per year, according to the 2009 U.S. National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS).2 That’s like the entire population of Chicago driving to Las Vegas and back!
If we all chose to power half of these short trips with our feet instead of petroleum, assuming an average fuel economy of 22 mpg and an average fuel price of $2.50/gallon, we would save about $575 million in fuel costs and about 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. That’s like taking about 400,000 cars off the road each year. The total financial savings are even bigger — almost $900 million dollars — when you include savings on maintenance and tire replacement.”
So if you have similar driving habits as the average American, you could cut your driving time and costs significantly by just biking instead of driving.
Enough about me. What’s your motive?
Are you hoping to start biking more than driving? Are you planning on spending more time outdoors with the kids? Are you looking for a nice recreational activity with the family? Getting groceries? Outings with the dog?
Regardless of the reason, it will help you make a decision about which trailer to get if you can recognize the clear benefits of riding with a bike trailer.
4 benefits of bike trailers
Here are four not-so-obvious benefits of riding with a bike trailer:
1. You will probably save money
Depending on how determined you are to make biking a lifestyle as opposed to driving or taking public transit, you can save a significant amount of cash.
Let’s revisit the survey that the U.S. National Household Transportation Survey did:
Car trips of under a mile add up to about 10 billion miles per year.
If you find yourself frequently driving to destinations that are under 2 or 3 miles, then can save some significant cash just by choosing to take the bike trailer instead of the car.
There are surely some reasons not to bike everywhere, such as safety concerns, fitness level, etc. If you believe you live in a truly un-bikeable area, then read this article on how to make bike trailers work for you.
I would suggest making a list of the most common destinations that you drive to from your house, and then take out Google Maps to see what the safest route would be to get there.
2. You can help save the environment
As mentioned above, 10 billion miles worth of car trips every year are under 1 mile. Just think about the environmental impact it would have if we all decided to start biking all distances under 1 mile.
Not only would it have an impact on the environment, but it would have a significant impact on car safety (fewer cars), as well as our personal wealth (savings) and health (body performance).
Of course, there would be a huge economic shift we would have to deal with! But after that settles, the end result would be a cleaner, healthier, happier, and wealthier world for everyone.
3. It’s good for your kids
This is probably the main reason families get into bike trailers—it’s just all-around fun and healthy for the kids. From the age of 1 year old (or younger) to around 6 or 7, kids can enjoy the great benefits of being outdoors without having to know how to ride a bike themselves.
On top of that, something we don’t often consider is that kids are constantly watching our behavior. If they see that we are choosing to bike instead of taking the car, then they will model that behavior throughout their lives.
Our family’s rule is that if our destination is under 3 miles, then we must bike or walk. Many people write this off as impossible or dangerous because they are accustomed to driving and therefore don’t know that there are perfectly safe and feasible roads/paths all around us.
I was living in New Jersey when we started riding with a bike trailer, which is arguably one of the most bike-unfriendly areas in America.
4. It’s better for your health than you think
What about you? Will you lose weight and have your heart become more efficient at pumping blood as a result of pulling a bike trailer? YOU BET.
With around 40 to 100 lbs of extra weight behind you, you’re going to be putting down more power, burning more calories, and making your heart work harder.
If you just determine to ride with the bike trailer once per week for about 3-5 miles, you will get a killer workout just from that. The longer you go and the more hills you climb, the more efficient your body will become at pulling the extra weight.
So yes, bike trailers are an investment in your health. Not only physical health but mental health too. Driving is stressful. Driving with kids is outright the worst. The simple act of getting in the car with the kids is a huge task.
With bike trailers, on the other hand, every ride is an adventure and a huge stress relief.
Losing weight with bike trailers
The fastest way to lose weight with bike trailers is to integrate bike trailers into your daily life. For example, taking the kids to school, to the park, or grocery shopping are excellent ways to lose weight. You can expect to burn more calories while pulling a bike trailer because of the added weight.
Exactly how much weight can you expect to lose? Here’s an in-depth explanation of how to lose weight with bike trailers.
In the end, the best way to get the most out of your bike trailer is to have a clear reason for using a bike trailer. That motivation and drive will be what gets you excited every time you take out the trailer.
If you live in a truly un-bikeable area, then consider moving to a more bike-friendly neighborhood. I know that sounds like a stretch, but if you are serious about making biking a part of your daily life, then it’s worth considering.
I wrote an entire article on how to use a bike trailer in an un-bikeable area. I biked in heavily-trafficked New Jersey for four years and managed just fine!
Need help finding the right bike trailer?
If you need help finding the right bike trailer for you, my recommended trailer for most people is the Swhinn Joyrider, which is an affordable double-seater that converts beautifully to a stroller. Check out my full review with photos here. It’s heavier than other trailers, but your legs will thank you for it!
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bike Trailer for more help with choosing a trailer. I also have compiled a list of the top bike trailers for every common situation, which you can check out here.