Making sure that your bike is compatible with a bike trailer is one of the first considerations to make when shopping for a trailer to pull your most precious cargo.
Because there are so many different types of bikes out there, most bike trailer companies do a good job at providing manuals to help parents make the best decision (you’ll find below some helpful links to find manuals).
Fortunately, most bikes are compatible with any bike trailer.
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.
In this article, we’ll cover what you should look out for when considering attaching a bike trailer to your bike.
Bike trailers for kids are compatible with every type of bike, including road bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, hybrid bikes, e-bikes, and even disc brake bikes. However, a common issue that many come across is attaching a bike trailer to a thru-axle disc brake bike, in which case an adapter might be needed for around $60.
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.
Therefore, if your bike trailer does not fit your particular bike (especially if you have disc brakes), then my best recommendation is to call the company to let them know exactly the type and model of bike you have.
They should be able to give you the best recommendation.
What types of bikes can attach to 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.
How do bike trailers attach to a bike?
Bike trailers either attach to the axle of the rear wheel or to your bike’s seat post.
In most cases, you’ll be able to easily attach your new bike trailer right out of the box, with all accessories included. Specifically, if your bike’s rear wheel has a standard quick-release (skewer that goes through the center of the wheel), then most trailers will attach easily to your bike.
Some types of bikes, however, may require a simple adapter in order to attach the trailer. Typically, bikes that have thru-axle wheels may require an adapter.
If you have disc brakes on your bike, be sure to read this article on attaching to disc brakes.
Helpful bike trailer manuals
Bike trailers come with a lot of questions and figuring out—we know!
Below you will find the bike trailer user manuals for some of the most popular bike trailer brands.
What to do if your bike trailer doesn’t fit your disc brakes
If your disc brake bike is not compatible with your trailer, the reason is likely that you have a 12mm thru-axle style rear wheel. Thru-axles that are at least 12mm in diameter will sometimes 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 12mm thru-axle, which unfortunately means additional attachments might be required.
Luckily, bike trailer manufacturers are keeping up with the disc brake trend by providing solutions for disc brake users.
The issue with thru-axle disc brakes is that there are so many different sizes of thru-axles that it is very difficult for bike trailer manufacturers to keep up with it.
So if your bike trailer does not fit your particular bike, then follow the guidelines below.
How to measure your thru-axle
Most of the confusion around thru-axles and bike trailers comes down to the fact that there are so many different sizes of thru-axles.
Here’s how to measurements you will need in order to find the correct thru-axle adapter for your bike:
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.
Where to get the right thru-axle adapter
This is such a common question, that I decided to make a helpful guide on exactly where to find the correct thru-axle adapter for any bike trailer.
Below we outlined the different ways to attach your disc brake bike to your specific brand of bike trailer.
Are your bike trailer and disc brakes 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)|
Burley bike trailer: How to attach a Burley trailer to disc brakes
Burley has created a handy instructional guide and a host of helpful videos (below) to help owners understand what kind of adapters they might need.
In my experience, disc brakes come in too many different sizes to know exactly which adapter you will need. Therefore, my best recommendation is to just get the trailer you want and check to see if it fits your bike before buying any adapters.
If it doesn’t fit, then check out this complete adapter guide on how to find the right adapter for your Burley trailer.
My experience was that I bought $90 worth of attachments and I ended up not even needing them because my Burley Bee works perfectly fine with my bike’s original thru-axle disc brakes.
Overall, I hesitate to even recommend getting a Burley bike trailer if you have disc brakes. But if you do have a Burley trailer, then go ahead and see if it fits. If it doesn’t fit, then check this adapter guide for specific instructions about your disc brakes.
What does Burley say about it?
According to Burley’s website, here’s what you need to know about adapting for disc brakes:
“12mm Thru-Axles will require Burley’s adapted Thru-Axle. This replacement axle has external threading to accommodate the installation of our axle mounted hitches.”
Burley also states, “The Classic Hitch is not compatible with disc brakes or rear suspension.”
The reason the Classic Hitch will not work is either because (1) the skewer of your rear wheel is too thick to pass through the hitch, or (2) the disc of the wheel gets in the way. In this case, the newer Burley Steel Hitch adapter will work on your disc brakes.
Burley’s website goes on to say, “If you are upgrading from a Classic Hitch to a Steel Hitch, you will also need to purchase a Flex Connector: Part # 950038 (square tow bar) or Part # 950037 (round tow bar).”
To read Burley’s full guide on adapters, go here.
If you are still totally confused about Burley hitches and adapters, then check out the helpful videos at the bottom of this post.
Here’s a helpful guide to Burley hitches:
Thule bike trailer: How to attach a Thule trailer to disc brakes
Thule bike trailers generally play nicely with disc brakes. However, if you have a 12mm thru-axle (like I do), then you will most likely need to purchase a thru-axle adapter.
Since there are so many different types of disc brakes, it makes it even more confusing for owners of Thule bike trailers.
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.
Schwinn bike trailer: How to attach a Schwinn trailer to disc brakes
Schwinn bike trailers are a lot simpler to attach to disc brakes! If you have a 12mm thru-axle and an older Schwinn trailer coupler system (pictured 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.
Instep bike trailer: How to attach an Instep trailer to disc brakes
Instep and Schwinn are under the same company, so follow the same instructions in the above section about Schwinn trailers.
Recommended hitch attachments from Amazon
Burley Bike Trailers
- Problem: I have a thru-axle disc brake bike
- If you know the type of thru-axle that you have, then check out Burley’s many thru-axle adapters you can find here.
Thule Bike Trailers
- Problem: I have a thru-axle disc brake bike
- If you know the type of thru-axle that you have, then check out Thule’s many thru-axle adapters you can find here.
Schwinn or Instep Bike Trailers
- Problem: I have a thru-axle disc brake bike
- If you have an older coupler attachment, purchase the newer coupler.
- If you have the newer coupler, you’re good to go.
If you have another bike trailer that is not one of the four major manufacturers mentioned above, please read the adapter guide for details about your bike trailer or read the trailer’s user manual (here’s a list of user manuals).
If your bike’s rear wheel uses a quick-release skewer to remove the wheel, then most bike trailers will work flawlessly on your bike.
If your rear wheel uses a thru-axle, then you will likely need an adapter. Use the links above to check compatibility for each bike trailer.
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.