Monday, August 8, 2016

inStep Bicycle Trailer Review: Double the awesomeness or quadruple the pain?

Since fixing my bicycle with some gorgeous spray paint, (see how to upcycle a bicycle for only $7 HERE) I decided to sell a few items and buy a bicycle trailer so I could tow my little one on my 2 wheeled adventures. After much research to find the perfect size, the safest model, and the most versatile (and easy to transform), I finally chose on the inStep Sierra Two Seat Bicycle Trailer. 

I purchased mine from Amazon for only $98.35 - $108 with tax - but unfortunately this price is exclusively for Amazon Prime members (see HERE to check out the trailer on Amazon). If you wish to get this price, you can either use another Prime members account OR you can use the "trail run" like I did. (PS, it's extremely easy to cancel the free Prime Membership trial if you don't want to keep it past the 30 days.) If you don't want to spring for the free trial - or you've already used yours - and you'd rather just dish out a little more, you're looking at about $135 with free shipping. Question is, is it worth it?

The reason I chose this particular model is because I wanted to make sure my son had plenty of room - hence the two seater, something that I could use in replacement of a stroller - attachment included - and something that I could safely tow with my beach cruiser. Check, check, checkedy-check. 

The shipping was a little frustrating - I opted for the free two-day shipping - and even though Amazon let me know that it was going to be arriving the following day, UPS decided not deliver it until the full two days were up. Granted it's what I chose, but the false hope was agitating nonetheless. 

Once the package arrived however, I was BEYOND excited! It was a bit heavy - roughly 25/30 lbs - but I didn't care. I tore that box APART! 

Inside was directions for assembly, 2 tires (they did need to be inflated but this took no time at all, since there is a gas station close by with an air station), a swiveling front wheel (for stroller mode), a handlebar (again, stroller mode), a parking brake, a bug and weather shield, a flag (so people can see you're little addition behind your bike), and the entire frame itself. 

The assembly took me around 45 minutes, because the directions were a little difficult when it came to the brakes (it didn't even tell me how to install them, but I finally figured out that you have to click them using the "first" hole and then screw the entire brake in), but other than that it was self explanatory. I played with the entire trailer a little while trying to get the feel of how to switch it from bike trailer mode to stroller mode. Now that I'm comfortable with it, it takes me about 5 minutes to set up either mode, if not less. It's incredibly easy and that in itself was awesome. Also, everything folds down for easy storage, which perfectly fits in a regular sedan sized trunk. SCORE!

Let's check out some key features so you can get an idea on what it's like:

It comes with a mesh screen for the front so you can keep any bugs on your journey, away from your precious cargo. It also has a weather shield, therefore rain won't be an issue either. I  haven't necessarily tested the weather shield against rain, but it's there. I do however, think the clear plastic weather shield will be beneficial for those extremely windy days! Both are secured using snaps and the weather shield simply stays put OVER the mesh screen with velcro. There is also a little mesh window in the rear, to allow for some added fresh air. To be honest, I'm not so sure how the weather shield will do "stuffiness" wise, but once we've tested it this fall/winter, I'll revise this review. The side "windows" are plastic, so nothing will be getting in that way either. 

The trailer does come with two sets of straps -  so you can seat two little kiddos safely with a 5 point harness each - but there is also an option to simply strap in one kiddo in the middle using the same 5 point harness. I chose this one purpose so my son could bring along his toys and relax with enough space. The straps are very easy to adjust - you only see one set because I pushed the outer sides back through the holes - and are very comfortable. The bottom is almost like a hammock style, but with reinforcement. My son can easily get in and out of the trailer, without any issues. Warning: If you are having them climb in or out while it's attached to the bike - attach it BEFORE they're in - HOLD ONTO THE BIKE. Otherwise you run the risk of the bike toppling over. No worries though, the trailer will NOT tip over with it. The connection is on a swivel mechanism, making the trailer sturdy regardless if the bike falls over or not. The parking brake in the back is great to use regardless if you're using as a bike trailer or stroller, because it can be an "extra brake" for your bike when parked. ESPECIALLY when you're on a slanted street/rode/sidewalk. The handlebar can easily be readjusted - and can be used while in trailer mode for easy conversion to stroller mode - with a tightening clamp that you can easily turn. The front wheel is a swivel wheel that attaches using a metal pin - the same kind of pin that attaches to the trailer to the bike - and can be thrown in the small storage compartment that is behind the seat in the trailer. The trailer attaches to the bike with a pin and a strap. I know it sounds "weak" but it's not. 

When you are first setting everything up, you will bolt an attachment piece onto your bike using the rear wheel bolt as a fastener. MAKE SURE IT'S WELL FITTED AND TIGHT. This holds the trailer on! Once bolted on, you simply use a metal pin that is provided, slip it through the hole while you having the end of the trailer in the attachment on the bike, and put the "clip" over the pin. (The directions will show you and it's much easier to understand). The trailer also includes a very sturdy strap for "just in case". You simply wrap it around the bike frame and click it onto the trailers clip. This is in case some freak accident happens and the pin comes loose (with the clip over it, it won't) or you've used it for century and after 1000's of rides, it's broken. 

With a few clicks, pins, and folds, it all comes down with ease for storing. 

After inspecting all of the mechanics and seeing how sturdy and strong everything really is, I am gratefully pleased with this purchase! I've taken it out a few times now and while it DOES add weight - you're pulling a human, so of course - it's awesome. It gives me a little bit of a workout when going up slight hills - I may be a little out of shape - but it's an amazing experience for my son and I. We pack a little picnic, toss it in the storage area, grab Berta my unicorn backpack - cellphone, keys, etc. - and head for the park. 

My son LOOOVVVEEESSS the trailer. He gets a huge thrill when he's inside and I love the bonding moments. 

A few safety reminders though:

Be cautious of your surroundings! You have a tiny human behind you in a trailer that is wider than your bicycle. So watch out for curbs, cars, and anything obstructions. 

Don't go in heavily populated areas! Obviously this is all on you, but for me personally I don't feel comfortable towing my little padawan around in areas where cars are constantly turning corners and driving by. Everyone has different limits, but I tend to stick to residential areas and park routes. This is me, you're not me, but remember you are towing your offspring.

Brake sooner! With the added weight, your bike will need more time to brake. Take this into consideration when stopping, going down hills, and using roads. 

Use a helmet! Depending on the laws in your state - I'll be basing this statement off of California law - your kiddo(s) need a helmet when riding in the trailer while biking. Obviously when used as a stroller, you won't need the added protection, but on the road you very well may. 

Otherwise have fun and enjoy! Seriously this is one of the best strollers I've ever used with my jedi in training. He has more room - he can't necessarily lay back though, but you have to choose your battles - it's extremely smooth when using, and it folds down flat. There are many more additional benefits, but I've practically told you all of them, so I think I'll stop blabbering and let you guys decide for yourselves! 

To me, this is a HUGE win! Not only am I happy, but so is the crazy child I call my son. Mission accomplished. 

Side note: No I'm not sponsored, no I don't get money if you buy this trailer. I literally purchased this trailer with my own money, on my own free will, and this was my 100% honest review.

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