Properly attaching a bike trailer to your bike can be one of the most confusing and overwhelming experiences for bike trailer owners. Trust me, I know!
There’s so much confusion around how to attach a bike trailer to different types of bikes that I decided to just make this guide on everything you need to know on how to attach any bike trailer to your bike.
The reality is that the bike industry is changing so rapidly that the bike trailer manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing updates.
Just take into consideration that both Schwinn and Burley have upgraded their entire hitch attachment system in recent years to make a more “universal” attachment system.
Unfortunately, no one has yet figured out how to make a truly universal attachment system (I want to be the first!).
I have attached every major bike trailer brand to many different types of bikes, including a cruiser, hybrid bike, mountain bike, road bike, and disc brake bike. This guide covers everything I’ve learned about attaching bike trailers, plus more.
This is an up-to-date guide with everything you need to know about how to attach any bike trailer to any type of bike.
Can bike trailers attach to any bike?
Bike trailers are compatible with all types of bikes, including road bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, hybrid bikes, e-bikes, and even disc brake bikes. A common issue that many people have is attaching a bike trailer to a disc brake thru-axle bike, in which case you will likely need to get an adapter.
In general, almost all bike trailers are compatible with every type of bike. However, it becomes complicated because every bike has a slightly different type of axle. The two main types of axles are a quick-release and a thru-axle (see below for details).
Therefore, if your bike trailer does not fit your particular bike (especially if you have disc brakes), then just read below on how to attach your specific trailer to your bike.
What types of bikes can pull a bike trailer?
Bike trailer manufacturers do a pretty good job at making sure their trailers are compatible with any type of bike that you may have.
If you have an option to choose which bike to pull a trailer with, my recommended bike of choice is definitely a road bike. Road bikes offer more power that is transferred to your legs through the road bike’s riding position.
Two types of bikes: quick-release & thru-axle
Before we get into the different types of bikes that are compatible with bike trailers, it’s important to first identify the type of axle you have.
1. Quick-release bikes
Bike trailers are designed primarily for standard quick-release bikes. If you have a quick-release, then you should not have any issues attaching almost any bike trailer to your bike.
I have never had an issue with attaching many different brands of trailers to quick-release bikes.
However, one issue that comes up for some owners is if you have hooded dropouts. Hooded dropouts might require a spacer attachment to give more clearance to attach the coupler, depending on the brand of trailer you have. More on hooded dropouts in the sections below on Burley and Thule.
Again, there are so many types of bikes out there that it’s impossible for even bike trailer companies to make a general statement that all quick-release bikes are compatible with all bike trailers.
2. Thru-axle bikes
Thru-axles are typically found on newer bikes that have disc brakes, such as on mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and road bikes. Thru-axles are different from quick-release skewers in that they are thicker in diameter, pass through the hub of the wheel, and thread directly into the frame.
If your bike is not compatible with your bike trailer, the reason is likely that you have a thru-axle style rear wheel. Thru-axles that are at least 12mm in diameter will usually not fit through the hole of the coupler hitch attachment that comes with the bike trailer.
An example of this would be any Burley bike trailer. Standard Burley trailers use a unique patented hitching system that allows for better pivoting, according to Burley. This system was not originally optimized for disc brakes that have a 12mm thru-axle, which unfortunately means additional attachments might be required.
About hooded dropouts
Hooded dropouts refer to a style of frame that comes out a bit over the axle hole. If you have hooded dropouts and your bike trailer coupler does not fit, then you will need to purchase spacers to allow enough clearance to attach the coupler. Depending on the trailer brand, there are a few options available for spacers. See the sections below about Burley and Thule trailers on hooded dropouts.
How to attach a bike trailer to a thru-axle
For Schwinn and Instep trailers, you will likely not have an issue attaching to a thru-axle bike.
For Thule, Burley, and Hamax trailers, you will most likely need to purchase a thru-axle adapter in order to fit the coupler attachment.
Here’s a helpful video that explains everything on thru-axle disc brakes:
How to measure your thru-axle
Most of the confusion around thru-axles and bike trailers really comes down to the fact that there are so many different sizes of thru-axles.
Here’s a brief explanation of thru-axle sizes:
1. Axle diameter
The axle diameter measures the diameter around the axle. Most thru-axles are 12mm, so it’s probably safe to assume your thru-axle is 12mm.
2. Axle length
The axle length measures the distance (usually in mm) from the head of the axle to the end. You will need to know your bike’s axle length in order to purchase the correct thru-axle adapter.
3. Thread pitch
The thread pitch measures the distance between each individual thread. You will need to know your bike’s thread pitch in order to purchase the correct adapter for your bike trailer.
You can find the thread pitch of your thru-axle by checking the bike’s user manual or looking up your bike with this handy online tool by Robert Axle Project.
Where to get the right thru-axle adapter
Are your bike trailer and bike compatible?
This section will explain the major types of trailer and bike combinations to help you identify if your bike trailer is compatible and if you will need to purchase an adapter.
Here’s a helpful table to show you which adapter you might need to attach your bike trailer to your specific bike.
Note: These are general guidelines that work for most situations. Every bike has a different type of axle size and thread.
|TRAILER BRAND||TYPE OF BIKE||ADAPTER NEEDED|
|Burley||Thru-axle||Thru-axle adapter (find your adapter)|
|Burley||Hooded dropouts||Spacer (view on Amazon)|
|Thule||Thru-axle||Thru-axle adapter (find your adapter)|
|Thule||Hooded dropouts||Spacer (view on Amazon)|
|Hamax||Thru-axle||Thru-axle adapter (find your adapter)|
How to attach a Burley bike trailer
There are three different types of bikes that require special attention when attaching a Burley bike trailer: quick-release, thru-axle, and hooded dropouts.
Burley trailers on quick-release bikes
According to Burley’s attachment guide, they state that most riders who have a standard quick-release bike will not require any extra parts.
I have found this to be true for almost all quick-release bikes, except for bikes with hooded dropouts (see section below on dropouts).
Burley trailers on thru-axle bikes
According to Burley’s website, if your bike has a 12mm thru-axle, then you may need to purchase extra attachments up to $90 in total to adapt a Burley bike trailer to your bike.
From my personal experience of attaching my Burley Bee trailer to my disc brake bike, it is not so straightforward. The reality is that there are so many variations of disc brakes thru-axle sizes, thread sizes, and axle lengths.
The Burley website gives instructions that don’t work for every disc brake owner, and in some cases, the attachments they recommend are not even needed.
I have a solution for you: just get the bike trailer you want and see if it fits.
The reason I say this is based on personal experience. I initially bought all three of the attachments that Burley recommends for thru-axle disc brakes (about $90 in total). After I got the attachments from Amazon and used them with my Burley trailer, I noticed that my Burley trailer worked just fine with my bike’s original thru-axle!
So my best advice when it comes to attachments and bike trailers is to just get the bike trailer you want and see if it attaches to your bike. If it doesn’t fit, then check out this adapter guide to find the right adapter for your bike.
Read more about where to get the right thru-axle here.
Burley trailers on hooded dropouts
If you have hooded dropouts, then Burley states that you will need to get an adapter to act as a spacer in order to fit the coupler attachment.
However, the caveat is that not all hooded dropouts are the same size, so your bike trailer coupler might fit perfectly fine without the use of the adapter. Therefore, I recommend just trying it without the adapter first and if it doesn’t fit, then get the adapter.
You can purchase the adapter for hooded dropouts for about $18 on Amazon, which you can find here.
How to attach a Thule bike trailer
Thule bike trailers are rather straightforward to attach to any bike. If you have a quick-release bike, then you should have no issues. But if you have a thru-axle, then you’ll need to purchase an adapter.
Thule trailers on quick-release bikes
Thule bike trailers were designed first with quick-release bikes in mind, so most bike trailers will have no issues attaching to your bike.
The cool thing about Thule is that their trailers actually come with a quick-release skewer in the box to help attach to your bike. It’s not necessary to use the provided quick-release for most people, but I would recommend using it just to limit the wear and tear of your bike’s original skewer.
Thule trailers on thru-axle bikes
If you have a thru-axle, then you will need to purchase a thru-axle adapter.
Unfortunately, there’s no way around this because a 12mm thru-axle (which is the standard size) will not fit through the hole of Thule’s “EzHitch” coupler attachment.
Since there are so many different sizes of thru-axle threads, it makes it even more confusing.
Thule has a helpful guide on which thru-axle adapter you will need for your specific thru-axle size, which you can check out here.
But Thule has so many different types of adapters and there’s a good chance you’ll get overwhelmed figuring out what size thru-axle you have.
Therefore, I have two recommendations:
1. Use the adapter guide to find the correct adapter
Thule has so many different types of adapters that it’s overwhelming for most people. I recommend using this helpful adapter guide to measure and locate the correct thru-axle adapter for your bike and bike trailer.
2. Use a different bike or don’t get a Thule bike trailer
I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to say this, but I hesitate to even recommend getting a Thule bike trailer in the first place if your bike has a thru-axle. Thule is already an expensive bike trailer brand and paying over $50 for more attachments doesn’t seem reasonable.
I’m surprised that Thule hasn’t figured out a way to make a more universal coupler system that fits all types of thru-axles.
Another alternative to consider is to just use a different bike to pull your Thule.
Read more about where to get the right thru-axle here.
Thule trailers on hooded dropouts
If you have hooded dropouts, Thule sells an adaptor to add space between the axle and the coupler. However, I don’t recommend getting the adapter until you’ve tried to see if the trailer fits without it. There are just too many sizes of bike dropouts to know for sure that the adapter will fit your bike.
You can check out Thule’s adapter on Amazon here.
How to attach a Schwinn or Instep bike trailer
Schwinn and Instep bike trailers are under the same company, so they use the exact same coupler attachment system.
Schwinn and Instep trailers are the most compatible and hassle-free when it comes to attaching to any type of bike. I have attached my Schwinn trailers to a cruiser, a mountain bike, a road bike, and a hybrid bike without any issues.
However, they are not entirely “universal” as their product descriptions claim to be.
Unfortunately, no one has figured out how to make a truly universal coupler attachment system, but Schwinn is getting pretty close! They have made some significant upgrades to their coupler system in recent years that even works with thru-axle bikes.
Here’s how to attach a Schwinn or Instep bike trailer to the two main types of bikes: quick-release and thru-axle.
Schwinn/Instep trailers on quick-release bikes
If you have a quick-release bike, then you should not have any issues attaching a Schwinn/Instep trailer to your bike.
Schwinn/Instep trailers on thru-axle bikes
Schwinn and Instep bike trailers are a lot simpler to attach to thru-axle bikes!
My combination of choice for most of the rides with my kids is a Schwinn bike trailer on a thru-axle disc brake bike. And I have not needed to purchase any adapters, attachments, or accessories.
I have a 12mm thru-axle disc brake bike, and I have not needed to purchase any adapters to attach the trailer. A miracle!
The only caveat is if you have an older Schwinn/Instep coupler system from before 2016 (see photo below), then you will need to purchase a newer coupler that will fit the thru-axle. The thru-axle will not fit through this older coupler.
If you have a newer Schwinn coupler (pictured below), then your thru-axle bike will attach fine to a Schwinn bike trailer.
If your bike trailer still does not fit with the newer coupler, then you can purchase an adapter using the adapter guide.
How to attach a Hamax bike trailer
Hamax bike trailers are rather straightforward to attach to any bike. If you have a quick-release bike, then you should have no issues. But if you have a thru-axle, then you’ll need to purchase an adapter.
Hamax trailers on quick-release bikes
If you have a quick-release bike, then you should have no issues attaching a Hamax bike trailer. If you do, then try calling or emailing Hamax to let them know your issue.
Hamax trailers on thru-axle bikes
If you have a thru-axle bike, then you will likely need an adapter to attach a Hamax bike trailer. Hamax does sell their own thru-axle adapter, but it is not convenient or straightforward to the right adapter for your bike.
I recommend using a thru-axle adapter by Burley, Thule, or Robert Axle Project. Read more about where to get the right thru-axle here.
Download your bike trailer’s user manual
After scouring the Internet, I’ve compiled this updated list of instruction manuals for the most popular bike trailers.
Schwinn and Instep user manuals are notably difficult to find online.
If your bike trailer user manual is not listed here, then please call or email the company to get it from them.
Schwinn Instruction Manuals
Customer Service: 1 (800) 626-2811
Email: contact form
Joyrider | Download Manual
Trailblazer | Download Manual
Caribou | Download Manual
Spirit | Download Manual
Mark II | Download Manual
Rascal (dog trailer) | Download Manual
Instep Instruction Manuals
Customer Service: 1-800-242-6110
Email: contact form
Two Seat Trailer (for most trailers) | Download Manual
Quick N EZ | Download Manual
Presto | Download Manual
Rocket | Download Manual
Ride N Stride | Download Manual
Burley Instruction Manuals
Customer Service: 1 (800) 311-5294
Email: contact form
Bee | Download Manual
Honey Bee | Download Manual
D’Lite X | Download Manual
Encore X | Download Manual
Cub X | Download Manual
Travoy | Download Manual
Flatbed | Download Manual
Nomad | Download Manual
Coho XT | Download Manual
Tail Wagon | Download Manual
Thule Instruction Manuals
Customer Service: 1 (800) 238-2388
Email: contact form
Cadence | Download Manual
Chariot Cross | Download Manual
Chariot Lite | Download Manual
Coaster XT | Download Manual
Hamax Instruction Manuals
Customer Service: 877-252-4560
Email: contact form
Outback | Download Manual
Avenida | Download Manual
Traveller | Download Manual
Attaching a bike trailer to any bike is entirely possible. For the vast majority of people with a quick-release bike, any trailer will attach just fine.
But with thru-axles and disc brakes becoming more and more popular these days, it’s unfortunate that trailer owners have to pay around $50 or more just to get the right thru-axle adapter, especially for Burley and Thule trailers.
Don’t let the details of the attachment process discourage you! If you just figure out what needs to be done to make your trailer and bike combination work, then you will be out and about in no time enjoying the many benefits of bike trailers!
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.
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.