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Product Review: Tout Terrain Singletrailer

We initially wrote off the Singletrailer because we didn’t think we would use it enough to justify the expensive price-tag.  The Chariot certainly has served us well over the last 18 months, but we found ourselves limited by where we could ride and how we could ride.  We decided it was worth the investment to see if it would open more opportunities on the bike for us.

***I was not paid or compensated in any way for this review.  Trust me.  I tried to convince Tout Terrain and Thule to provide free product in exchange for an honest review, but no dice.  So here it is: my unsolicited opinion of both products***

Cost

In all honesty, purchasing the Tout Terrain Singletrailer took a lot of thought and consideration.  At about $1,700 (closer to $2,000 after tax, shipping and all the necessary attachments and bags), it was a major investment compared to the Thule Chariot Cougar 1 at a mere $500 (but at about $700-800 with the infant sling, jogging wheel and attachments).

Ease of Purchase & Assembling

We have owned the Thule Chariot Cougar 1 for a little over 18 months now and have put about 3,000 miles on it without any major mechanical issues.  It is a readily available product, making it easy to find and purchase (and would be easy to find used).  It is remarkably durable, especially given the price.  We have used it in jogger mode, stroller mode, ski mode, and bike trailer mode and it is phenomenally versatile for use in these applications.  Thule is to be commended for creating such a wonderful product that really meets such a multitude of recreational needs.

We just purchased the Tout Terrain Singletrailer about 3 weeks ago and have only put about 100 miles on it.  Purchasing directly from the company is complicated due to issues with their online ordering system (and it is not clear what parts are included and which you need to order).  So we purchased from the only distributor here in the US (BikeMania).  Because it is not commonly ordered, the distributor had very little knowledge about the product and the ordering process was a bit confusing.  However, the customer service was excellent and, even though they were not able to answer all our ordering questions, they were very reasonable and accomodating.  It was still unclear what parts were included and we did end up having to place a second order for parts that were not included.

Once the product arrived, the giant box made an amazing playhouse for Adalynn.

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There were a couple of minor issues (one of the metal snaps on the cover had a broken rivet and the pillows are  sold individually rather than as a set).  This was a little disappointing considering the expense, but overall, nothing dramatic.

The Tout Terrain Singletrailer required minimal work to assemble (much like the Chariot).  The Singletrailer does not collapse like the Chariot, making it a little harder to pack into the car for travel (and onto a plane, I would imagine).

Carriage

The Singletrailer is about 45cm wide (narrower than your handlebars) making it possible to actually ride singletrack (which can be very challenging or impossible with the Chariot).

I’m guessing that temperature control is better with the Chariot as there are side vents that can be opened and closed and a cover that can be opened or closed to help control ventilation.  The Singletrailer does not have a vent and I actually noticed slits in the floor of the Singletrailer making me concerned that water or mud could actually leak into the carriage.  The Chariot, even when exposed to rain, mud and snow, has proven to be impressively weather-proof.  We’ll have to see how the Singletrailer stacks up.

Like the Chariot, the Singletrailer has a full cover (with a clear plastic window) and a mesh cover (to be used when ventilation is needed).  The mesh cover of the Singletrailer does not appear to be very insect proof.  The cover of the Chariot secures with a simple hook-type closure  The cover of the Singletrailer closes with snaps and velcro (which seems much more solid).

The Singletrailer is SERIOUSLY light at about 20-25 pounds, whereas the Chariot is about 50 pounds.

Passenger Comfort

The Chariot has a wider seat with more leg-room for the passenger.  There is not much space available overhead or on the sides of the Singletrailer.  The harness systems are both 5-point, however the harness system of the Singletrailer is a bit simpler (uses a system that allows you to attach the right and left sides individually) as magnet help guide the connector piece into the buckle.  The passenger must sit a bit more upright in the Singletrailer, making it easier for the head to bob when they fall asleep.  The Singletrailer has optional pillows to help with this.  The suspension on the Singletrailer makes for a much smoother ride and I feel the passenger is likely to be more comfortable and sleep better in the Singletrailer for this reason (at least, Addy seems to nap better in the Singletrailer).

Passenger Safety

Both trailers provide a very nice roll cage with a decent harness that seems to keep your passenger safe in the event of a rollover.  The Chariot may offer a bit more side-impact protection as the passenger has a larger cage around them.  However the Chariot is also more likely to roll over (we may have rolled ours 3 times…) when one wheel hits something or falls off the side of a bridge.  Addy has managed to wiggle herself out of the shoulder straps in both these trailers.  A chest latch (like every car seat has) would likely fix this.  Thule has an optional harness that would fix this but we have yet to order one (or steal one from someone’s old carseat).

Storage Capacity

Storage capacity is remarkably less with the Singletrailer.  This can be a problem if you plan to use the Singletrailer for bikepacking.  We purchased a 3L storage bag for the Singletrailer and there is a small amount of space available under the child seat.  You are also unable to store anything using a seat bag because the link arm occupies the space under your bike seat.  Storage on the Chariot is ample, and I am able to pack a tent, -40 degree bag, sleeping mats, clothing and ample food and water with ease.  The Singletrailer only offers a 1-seat option, whereas the Chariot offers a 2-seat option (the Cougar 2).  The Singletrailer does not offer much space for carrying groceries and is not as useful as the Chariot for running errands in-town.

Ride

The single wheel of the Singletrailer (unlike the double-wheel of the Chariot) means substantially less rolling resistance and a much better turning radius.  For the most part, the Singletrailer follows your rear wheel.  Because the Singletrailer link arm connects to your seat post (instead of connecting to the rear hub of your bike like the Chariot), it will occasionally make contact with your rear wheel on terrain that abruptly transitions from uphill to downhill (as your bike starts going steeply downhill, but the Singletrailer is still going steeply uphill).

Because the Singletrailer is 50% lighter, you can accelerate much faster.  But sprinting out of the saddle becomes a little challenging because maintaining balance is a bit more challenging when the weight is pulling on your seat post rather than your rear hub.

Balance and control can feel a little weird because the Singletrailer attaches to your seat post (rather than the rear hub as the Chariot does).  This may not even be noticeable for a larger rider.  I’m kinda small at 135 pounds, so it may affect me a bit differently than a larger rider.  Additionally, the single wheel of the Singletrailer adds to the weird sensation of being off-balance.  So, even though the Singletrailer makes it possible to ride amazing singletrack that you can’t ride with the Chariot, you won’t exactly be ripping on burmed turns or going over technically advanced terrain.  A novice or intermediate level rider would (likely) lack the skill required to maintain control and balance of the bike while riding most single track.

Suspension

The Singletrailer uses a high quality propriatary shock for it’s suspension (just like you would see on the rear suspension of a mountain bike).  You can adjust the position of the shock for up to 8 inches of travel.  You can also adjust the air pressure to be suited to your child’s weight.  This makes the ride much smoother and comfortable for the passenger, and bumps are almost imperceptible to the rider.

Hitch

The Singletrailer has a hitch arm with a ball bearings.  This fits into a metal cup-like joint which attaches to your seat post (make sure you order the correct size for your seat post).  The ball bearing joint is secured with a cotter pin, quick-release and safety cable.  The Chariot uses a simple rubber ball joint attachment system attached to your non-drive side rear through-axle.  You may have to purchase a special adapter to make this compatible with your through-axle.  The Singletrailer hitch appears to be a much more durable and sophisticated.  However, we have already experienced an issue with one of the screws coming loose in the coupling mechanism of the pivot.  It this screw had actually failed, the back up cable would have prevented the trailer from separating from the bike, however, the impact of the attachment arm with the rear tire could have caused an accident.  Luckily, my husband is a bike mechanic who is working on a repair for this issue (probably locking washers and locktite).

One other consideration with the Singletrailer is that you must align the hitch properly.  Otherwise, the trailer will lean and pull on your seat as though it is trying to turn.  This makes your ride very unstable, especially at higher speeds.

Test Ride

Bike Path

On the Bike Path, the Singletrailer is definitely lighter, smoother and easier to corner and turn.  There is a little bit more work involved when you stop and start.  Getting on and off of your bike also requires a little more attention due to the beam you have to get your leg over.  Because the Singletrailer has only one wheel, you have to use a kickstand-like device when loading and unloading.  Overall, this is easy to figure out.  If you are riding the bike path for recreation, the Singletrailer is definitely more fun and allows the option for riding the fun dirt trails that run alongside the bike path.  If you are riding the bike path to run errands, or will have to put your feet down often the Chariot is the better tool due to its increased storage capacity and slow speed/stopped stability.

Road

On the Road, the Singletrailer is still more fun because it is so light weight, easy to maintain speed with and easier to maneuver.  At high speeds (greater than 20mph), the Singletrailer has the potential to speed-wobble, and if this were to occur I don’t know how you would be able to regain control.  With either trailer, you should not be riding at this speed because it is unsafe (and honestly, feels unsafe when you reach these speeds), but the Chariot would likely have lower risk of speed-wobbling or flipping.  Just take it easy on steep descents.

Trail

We took the Singletrailer on a few different singletrack trails including Lake Pueblo.  This is something that you simply cannot do with the Chariot.  We know because we have tried.  The trail is too narrow to accommodate the width of the 2 wheels of the Chariot.

The Singletrailer sails smoothly over most bumps and rocks.  The single wheels tracks fairly reliably along the same path as your rear tire.  However, you do have to take corners a little wider because the Singletrailer tends to cut the corners a little more narrowly.

Although the Singletrailer is more narrow than your handlebars, the frame at the base of the Singletrailer is definitely wider than your wheels.  This means that there are times when you might have difficulty squeezing between 2 rocks because the frame of the trailer is too wide.  This is not an issue for most flow-type Singletrack that you encounter at Lake Pueblo.  We did struggle getting through some of the slot-canyon trails at Lake Pueblo, as well as some of the tight squeezes along Maxwell.

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Summary

The Tout Terrain Singletrailer is definitely a niche product for those with off-road riding in mind, while the Thule Chariot Cougar 1 is a very practical, general-use and versatile product.  There are a broader variety of things you can do with the Chariot and is much easier to learn to use.  However, if your goal is to be able to do more while mountain biking (explore more adventurous gravel/jeep road or mellow single-track trail) then the Tout Terrain is the tool for the job.  There is simply much more that is possible with the Tout Terrain when it comes to mountain biking.  But, if you plan to stick to paved terrain and/or mellow gravel roads, the Chariot is more than adequate for your needs.

More to come….

I plan to do a few more overnight trips with the Singletrailer, including a trip to White Rim, in the next 2-3 months.  I can provide a bit more detailed review at that time.

In the meantime, check out this review by bicyclenomad, and this Extreme YouTube Video of the Tout Terrain in a terrain park.

Do you have any experiences with the Tout Terrain Singletrailer, the Thule Chariot or any other bike carrier?  Share your experiences with me in the comments below.

 

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