Riding a bicycle provides fun, exercise, and a green transportation option. Attaching a wagon to your bike allows you to bring cargo, pets, or even small children along for the ride. With the right equipment and proper setup, towing a wagon behind your bike is safe, stable, and expands your hauling possibilities.
This comprehensive guide covers how to choose, equip, securely attach, and safely use a bike wagon. Follow these detailed steps to enjoy hassle-free biking with a wagon in tow.
Choosing the Best Wagon for Bike Towing
The first step is selecting a wagon designed for towing behind a bicycle. Consumer wagons made for yard work or beach use often don’t have suitable hitches or attachment points.
Look for These Important Features in a Bike Wagon:
- Integrated hitch or mounting bracket: A hitch, coupler, or hardware fittings that allow installing a towing coupler on the wagon tongue is essential. This provides a standardized way to connect to the bike.
- Lightweight frame: Aluminum or steel frames specially made for biking are much lighter than standard wagon frames. Less weight makes towing easier.
- Low profile: A wide, low center of gravity wagon is more stable than taller styles that can tip.
- Tough all-terrain tires: Durable tires with a steady, smooth ride handle bumps better than thin plastic wheels.
- Fabric bucket: Nylon cloth buckets fold down for storage. Some have handy features like storage pockets.
- Safety features: Padded walls, seat belts, reflectors, and flags improve safety.
- Comfort options: Suspension, cushioned seats, and a rain cover provide a smoother, more pleasant ride.
- Parking brake: Helpful for loading, unloading, and holding wagon in place.
Consider how much weight you need to haul when selecting a wagon size. Measure your bike to ensure enough room to maneuver.
Wagon Types and Styles
Two-wheeled trailers: These lightweight pull-behind wagons with two wheels and a front axle provide stability for heavier loads. The best bike trailers have an integrated hitch or bracket, hand brake, and cradles for hauling children.
One-wheeled cargo trailers: Single-wheel bike cargo trailers attach closely to the bike. They carry heavier loads but require caution in handling. Best for bulky, heavier cargo vs. live loads.
Two-wheeled utility wagons: Classic kid and cargo wagons shaped like standard utility wagons. The two wheels and front axle provide stability. Limited capacity compared to trailers.
One-wheeled utility wagons: Unique center-mounted wheel allows tight turns. Harder to balance than two-wheeled models. Best for lighter cargo.
Jogger kits: Convert a standard two-wheeled child stroller into a pull-behind bike trailer. Must have specific hitching attachment points. For pulling older toddlers and kids.
Key Considerations When Buying:
- Weight rating: Check manufacturer’s load rating against your cargo needs. Standard wagons carry 75-100 lbs. Heavy duty models haul over 200 lbs.
- Dimensions: Measure bike’s wheelbase. Wagon should be at least 18 inches shorter to allow maneuvering.
- Age range: For child passengers, ensure appropriate safety restraints for age and weight. Follow guidelines.
- Passengers vs. cargo: If hauling kids, prioritize safety features. For heavy cargo, pick a robust frame with solid wheels.
Buy quality from a reputable brand to get a durable, well-designed wagon that will provide years of service.
Equipping Your Bike and Wagon for Towing
To securely hitch a wagon to your bike, you’ll need:
Bike with Rack or Trailer Mounting Points
The wagon must be able to connect to stable mounting points on your bike frame, rear rack, or special trailer hitch fittings.
If your bike lacks pre-installed rack eyelets:
- Installing rack eyelets requires expert welding.
- Instead, use frame clamps or a seat post rack adapter to attach a rack.
- Ensure solid, tight mounting that can handle the wagon’s added weight.
Wagon Coupler Hitch
The wagon needs a standardized hitching point to link to the bike:
- Trailers usually have a built-in ball or pin hitch.
- Add a trailer coupler hitch bracket to a utility wagon.
- Follow directions to correctly install the hitch on your wagon model.
The coupler joins the bike rack and wagon securely:
- Clamp-on or U-bolt coupler: Attaches to bike frame or rack tubing. Simple installation.
- Ball coupler: Connects to a ball mount on bike and locks over ball hitch on wagon.
- Pin coupler: Inserts through holes on bike rack and wagon hitch. Most secure option.
Ensure coupler is rated for sufficient weight capacity.
A nylon strap with hooks on both ends connects the bike and wagon as a backup to the main coupler. Prevents detachment if main coupler fails.
- Cargo net/straps: Secure loose items in wagon bucket.
- Foam tubing: Protects bike frame from rubbing.
- Safety flag: Increases visibility.
- Lights: Improves visibility at night. Easy to install LED bike/trailer lights are inexpensive.
Attaching a Wagon to Your Bike Step-by-Step
Follow these key steps to safely and securely attach a wagon to your bike:
1. Install Wagon Hitch or Bracket
The wagon needs a standard hitch or mounting bracket installed to provide a coupler attachment point. Carefully follow the directions from the manufacturer.
- Use proper tools to avoid stripping bolts.
- Mount the hitch on the wagon tongue at the recommended height.
- Don’t overtighten hardware. Check torque specs.
- Use thread locker on bolts to prevent loosening.
2. Add Rear Rack to Bike
If your bike lacks built-in rack eyelets, use a sturdy freestanding rear rack attached securely with frame clamps or seat post adapters.
Rack mounting tips:
- Position rack allowing room for heels, panniers, etc.
- Use wide, shaped washers to prevent frame clamp slipping.
- Ensure solid, tight fit able to handle added weight.
- Check rack bolts are tight before each ride.
3. Attach Coupler to Bike and Wagon
Join the wagon hitch and bike rack using the coupler. For example, a ball coupler slides over a ball mount on the bike and locks into place over the ball hitch on the wagon.
Coupler attachment tips:
- Follow manufacturer directions for proper installation.
- Use the bolt size specified.
- Tighten coupler to a snug, secure fit without over tightening.
- Lock any locking devices like pins, straps, or clips.
- Check for tightness by rocking bike from side-to-side.
- Remove any play before riding.
4. Connect Safety Strap as Backup
Loop the safety strap through a fixed point on the bike’s rear rack or frame. Attach the other end to a fixed point on the wagon hitch or tongue. This backup strap will catch the trailer if the main coupler fails.
Safety strap tips:
- Adjust strap snug but not overly tight. Should have a small amount of play.
- Choose sturdy nylon straps rated to tow weight.
- Inspect straps for wear and damage. Replace worn straps.
- Wrap strap hooks in foam or cloth to prevent scratching bike.
5. Load Wagon Properly
- Distribute weight evenly from side-to-side and front-to-back.
- Do not exceed maximum load rating.
- Center heavier items over the wheels to lower center of gravity.
- Use cargo net/straps to secure loose items.
- Children must be strapped into restraints and wear helmets.
- Avoid large, unwieldy items that could shift or fall out.
- Do not dangle items off the sides or overburden the wagon.
- Re-check cargo stability and trailer attachment before riding.
6. Test Stability Before Riding
Before your first ride, test the attachment system by gently rocking the bike from side to side. Also test turning left and right. The wagon should track behind the bike smoothly, with no lag, swaying, rubbing, or instability.
If you feel any play, delay the ride and readjust the coupler and safety straps to stabilize the trailer. Re-test until the connection is tight with no play.
Riding Safely With a Bike Trailer or Wagon
Tow a wagon or trailer safely by following these important guidelines:
Allow Longer Braking Distance
Wagons add weight and length, increasing stopping distance. Allow added room for braking.
Take Turns Slowly and Wide
Make wide, gradual turns to keep the wagon tracking behind you. Sharp turns risk jackknifing the wagon.
Watch for Hazards
Scan ahead for potential road hazards, debris, curbs, and obstacles the wagon could strike. Avoid them or steer around widely.
Follow Traffic Laws
Obey all bike traffic laws. Use arm turn signals so cars can anticipate your moves.
Use Caution in Wet Weather
Wet conditions increase braking distance, reduce traction, and make hazards harder to spot. Slow down and allow extra margin for braking when roads are wet.
Ride on Proper Surfaces
Avoid piloting a bike wagon on steep hills, bumpy terrain, gravel, sand, or other hazardous surfaces. Stick to smooth paved trails and roads.
Use Lights and Reflectors
Ensure the wagon and bike are equipped with reflectors. Install LED lights for riding at night or in low visibility conditions.
Watch Speed and Avoid Abrupt Moves
Maintain safe speeds and avoid quick acceleration, braking, or sharp turns. Drive smoothly without sudden moves.
Secure Children Properly
Only carry children old enough to sit upright unassisted. Always use seat belts and safety harnesses. Never leave kids unattended in a trailer.
Focus On Control
Towing a trailer requires your full attention. Avoid distracted riding and be extra vigilant.
Follow all regular bicycle safety rules and take extra care when hauling cargo or passengers in a wagon.
Common Questions About Bike Wagons
How much weight can a bike pull in a wagon or trailer?
- Standard child/cargo bike trailers: 75-100 lbs max
- Heavy duty cargo trailers: 200+ lbs
- Consider your cycling fitness and bike type when determining capacity.
What’s the best age for a child to ride in a bike wagon?
- Most manufacturers recommend only carrying children 12+ months who can sit upright unassisted.
- Always use safety restraints. Follow guidelines for age and weight restrictions.
- Wear helmets. Monitor comfort and don’t ride on bumpy roads.
Is it safe to pull a wagon with my electric bike?
Yes, but use common sense. An e-bike’s extra power can tow more weight at faster speeds. But this capability must be balanced with safe handling. Only use bicycle-rated wagons/trailers designed for human-powered bikes. Limit loads to protect stability and braking capacity.
How can I secure my bike and trailer together when parked?
Use a heavy chain or U-lock to lock the bike frame and rear wheel to a bike rack. Also run a cable through the wagon frame or hitch and lock it to the bike. This prevents trailer theft.
Is it legal to tow children in a bike wagon?
State laws vary. Most allow it with child safety restraints and if the wagon is designed for passengers. Check local regulations. Use common sense and follow safety guidelines. Ensure kids are properly restrained and protected.
Should I grease the coupler hitch?
Applying a light grease can help the coupler pivot smoothly and prevent noise like squeaking or grinding. Avoid over-greasing, which attracts dirt. Follow any lubrication instructions from the coupler manufacturer.
With the right gear, proper setup, and safe handling practices, towing a wagon or trailer by bicycle provides expanded carrying capacity with a fun family-friendly option. Take time to find a well-designed wagon that meets your needs and equip it with quality hitches and couplers that create a stable attachment.
Load cargo and passengers carefully, test stability, and build towing skill safely before venturing out. With common sense, you’ll enjoy the convenience and versatility of having a wagon tagged along for bike adventures.