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Burley is an icon in the bike trailer space both for kids and for cargo. The brand rode the American bike boom of the 70s to prominence and for the next forty years they’ve really never fallen out of favour. Their products represent the whole category in a way that even those who aren’t well versed will recognize. Ask people to close their eyes and describe what a bike trailer looks and it’s likely they’ll probably describe a Burley product even if they don’t know it. Although those of us here in the brand’s home state of Oregon might be a bit skewed, they also tend to be the bike trailers you see around town.
When we put together our list of the best bike trailers for kids there was no way we could have left Burley off. Like many parents who are shopping for a bike trailer, we included not one but two Burley options. The Burley Bee is inexpensive and closest to the original bike trailer Burley brought to market all those years ago. On the other hand, the Burley D’Lite X is an upgraded option and that’s the one we had a chance to take a look at most recently. If you are looking for a kids bike trailer, keep reading to see all the details about this top-of-the-line option from an iconic brand and see if it makes sense for you.
Design and aesthetics
Although the iconic Burley colour is yellow, that option is actually reserved for the budget option Burley Bee. Instead, each trailer model that Burley sells carries with it a unique colour and in the case of the Burley D’Lite X that means an aqua blue.
Although some trailers make it easy to remove the cover completely, Burley does it a bit differently and requires a hex wrench to remove the cover. Instead of removing the cover, there are a few different ways to use it while keeping it installed. If the idea was to go for a fully open ride then it’s possible to roll up the front of the cover completely. When you get to the top, there are straps to keep it held in place. The more common use though is sure to be with one of the layers rolled down.
If you decide to keep the front cover down there are a few configurations. If the weather isn’t looking so fantastic, all the layers folded down means the child, or children as it’s available in double or single format, get protection from the elements with a clear plastic front. The plastic attaches to the rest of the cover via a pair of zippers on either side. Those zippers have an elastic pull which doubles as the retainer system when it’s time to roll up the plastic. One thoughtful part of the design for this whole system is that it’s possible to lower the front panel to allow some air flow when you’ve got all the plastic windows closed up.
On nicer days you’ll have the front plastic rolled up. That leaves a mesh front window that’s part of the synthetic canvas structure. Zippers or Velcro is the more typical system you’ll find for securing these covers but Burley instead uses a clip at the bottom of each corner. There is still a bit of Velcro further up but you can mostly ignore it and it will catch, or not. If it’s really sunny then tucked up above, and under, the end of the plastic panel is a sunshade. The sunshade unrolls and hangs against the mesh with easy adjustment for height depending on the angle of the sun.
In the rear of the Burley D’Lite X there’s a system that is very similar to the front. Unlike the Thule Courier, there’s a window here that uses the same waterproof zippers with elastic pulls as the front. Unzip and roll it up and there’s another layer of mesh underneath.
Lift up the rear and you’ll find a pair of cross bars. The lower bar is the upper support for the seat and in the middle is a yellow push button that will move the backrest between the three available positions. Especially with the seat in the most vertical position, there’s a good amount of storage in this space. There aren’t any pockets but jackets, blankets, and containers to cover a day out of the house will find a home here.
For ease of storage the D’lite X folds down. It’s a clamshell system so the rear of the frame folds forward and under the front before collapsing to a height of roughly 38cm. Also in the rear, but outside is a horizontally sliding brake lever and a pair of reflectors as well as a pair of loops with space for clipping lights.
In the front of the D’lite X is the system for connecting accessories and the adult bike. On either side is a quick receiver. When you want to connect it to the adult bike, pull the front wheel down to release it then fold it out of the way. The D’lite X can still balance on the front wheel but the trailer will angle down a bit and it will expose the bottom of the cotter pin safety latch. Pull the pin out and insert the rubber hitch into the steel hitch that stays on the bike. Reinstall the cotter pin and wrap the safety strap around the bike for extra safety.
Part of my verdict is that it’s clear the designers at Burley have kids. I made that statement because the Burley D’Lite X bike trailer is a passenger focused design that also takes into consideration what it’s like to be a parent. For example, one of the things you’ll often find in reviews covering the Burley D’Lite X is a comment about how the front always looks a little dishevelled compared to the competition.
The dishevelled front panel is a valid complaint but the reason that the front looks like that is a great metaphor for the whole trailer. Instead of a zipper that can break, or a fussy bunch of velcro, the front panel of the Burley cover clips into place at the bottom corners. In the same way that my pre-parent self had a spotless car interior, my pre-parent self appreciates a front panel that’s pulled tight. Post child though I’d much rather just grab the corner, pull it down, clip it in and be on my way.
Continuing the same metaphor, there’s also consideration of messy kids on the inside that car designers lack. Covering the area under your child’s feet, and extending well back behind the edge of the seat, is a rubberized floor mat. When the inevitable collection of dropped food and dirt from shoes becomes too much to stand, you can pull it out. The tall sides in the front will keep anything from falling out as you lift the whole thing out and there’s no rear sides to catch on the seat during the process. It’s the perfect compliment for the pair of mesh pockets that will almost always have snacks and sit just above the mat.
The details that make parents’ lives a bit easier don’t mean Burley has forgotten the bigger picture items that keep kids comfortable either. I talked a bit about the ability to recline the seat but if you’ve got the dual child version that’s even adjustable separately. One kid or two, the bowed-out sides covered by large tinted windows will mean a little more elbow room and plenty of things to look at. Of course, just like an adult bike, the biggest comfort upgrade will come from the 20×2.125″ tyres and adjustable suspension on the D’lite X.
If you decide to take a child somewhere by bike, Burley makes it easy to lock your bike and switch to stroller mode. This is something I discussed a lot in the Thule Courier review and here there are both similarities and some improvements. The first is a caveat that I always like to cover which is that bike trailers will never be particularly good everyday strollers. Both the Burley and the Thule fold easily enough, though the Burley has an advantage, but they don’t fold down all that small. They also don’t get lighter and although the 12.5kg weight of the single Burley trailer is an advantage compared to the Thule, it doesn’t compare to a high-quality everyday stroller.
There is a fundamental difference between the Thule and the Burley though. The strength of the Thule is how it transitions between modes but the Burley is a bike trailer first and foremost and it shows when it’s time to convert to a stroller. Instead of needing to remove the tow bar, it stays right where it is. The single wheel folds down and you are ready to go. It’s a longer complete unit, and lacks the stability of four wheels, but it’s also nice to not need to stash the tow bar. Ultimately it means its a little harder to use if stroller mode is where it spends more time but it’s better for short transitional use. I do also prefer having a window at the back as well. I used to talk to my boy while jogging or walking with him in a Burley bike trailer and there is a better connection with the window.
When I spent time researching the best bike trailers for kids that were available on the market I knew from the very beginning that the Burley Bee would be on that list. It’s an iconic product and it was a big part of my boy’s life when he was growing up. What I didn’t expect is that the more expensive, and feature rich, Burley D’Lite X bike trailer would also end up being on the list. The reality is that Burley is a company built by cyclists and parents for other cyclists and parents and it shows.
If you are looking for a trailer that does a bit of everything there are better choices but if you want a trailer that works best as a bike trailer and also does a bit more than the Burley D’Lite X bike trailer is my favourite option. It’s lightweight, it’s got suspension and quality wheels, and it’s got features to make kids comfortable inside as well as features that make it easier to live with as a parent. It also has a tall flag for a little bit of additional safety, which is always welcome.
Tech Specs: Burley D’Lite X bike trailer
- Price: $899.95
- Max child carrier weight capacity: 45kg / 100 lb (double) / 34kg / 75 lb (single)
- Folded dimensions: 94 x 79.4 x 36.2 cm / 37 x 31.3 x 14.3 in (double) / 91.4 x 69.9 x 38.1 cm / 36 x 27.5 x 15 in (single)
- Weight: 13.8kg / 30.4 lb (double) / 12.5kg / 27.6 lb (single)
- Sitting height: 60.9cm / 24 (double and single)