Putting our two children in the bike trailer and going for a ride, a walk, or a run is one of our favorite ways to stay active and explore the outdoors together. Although my husband and I thought the Thule Coaster XT would be the perfect vehicle to bring our kids along for family adventures, we realized after a few months that it had some serious limitations. Read on for our bike trailer experience, and why we ended up deciding to sell our Thule Coaster XT and purchase the Thule Chariot Sport.
Our Experience with the Thule Coaster XT and the Thule Chariot Sport
When we were expecting the arrival of our first child, we researched several trailers to find a way to bring him along for bike rides. We settled on the bright blue Thule Coaster XT, which includes all the components needed to walk or bike with two little passengers. Although it was still a serious purchase, its $450 price tag was easier to digest than competing bike trailers, including the $1,450 Thule Chariot Sport.
The Coaster was great for walking and for biking, but as time passed, we realized there were some major drawbacks that limited our use of it.
Why we decided to upgrade from the Coaster to the Sport
First, the Coaster’s seats do not recline. Every time we put our son in the Coaster for a bike ride, he would fall asleep. The upright seats and the weight of his helmet meant that his head would always bend forward, putting his neck in an uncomfortable position.
Second, we had no way to jog with the Coaster. When we had just one child, I loved running with him in our Thule Urban Glide 2. When we welcomed our daughter to the family, I wanted a way to jog with both children. We knew that upgrading our bike trailer to a multisport option would give us that capability.
After doing some more research, we settled on the black Thule Chariot Sport. In addition to the ability to attach a jogging kit, we loved its independently reclining seats, extra seat padding, superior suspension, and hand-operated disc brake. Purchasing the Thule Chariot Sport was an excellent decision for our family, and I use it most days of the week to jog with our kids. To soften the blow of the Sport’s high price tag, we decided to sell our Coaster XT on Facebook Marketplace.
The pros and cons of each bike trailer
After months of experience using each of these trailers to transport our two children, here are the major advantages and drawbacks we’ve found:
Advantages of the Coaster XT over the Chariot Sport
- Cost! The Coaster is less than a third of the price of the Sport. To use the four-sport functionality of the Chariot Sport, parents need to buy additional (costly) accessories.
- The Coaster is more than eight pounds lighter than the Sport.
Advantages of the Chariot Sport over the Coaster XT
- Four-sport capability allows parents to jog or cross-country ski (with the purchase of accessories), in addition to walking and cycling.
- The Sport seats recline independently; the Coaster seats do not recline.
- Removable windows on the Sport allow for unmatched ventilation in warm weather.
- The Sport has a hand-operated disc brake to keep the trailer in control on hills.
- Extra padding and robust support on the Sport’s seats keep children more comfortable, especially on off-road paths or bumpy sidewalks.
- The Sport’s sunshade is larger and more adjustable.
- Compared to an inconvenient lever system on the Coaster, the Sport’s easily accessed parking brake is hands-free.
- The Sport’s four-point wheel system keeps the trailer more compact in strolling mode.
- Compared to the Coaster’s lack of suspension, the Sport’s adjustable rear-wheel suspension allows it to tackle varied terrain with ease.
- The Sport is easier to fold.
- Although both trailers have a height-adjustable push bar, the Sport’s handlebar is easier to adjust and accommodates many different heights.
- The Sport has more storage pockets for small items, and a slightly larger cargo basket behind the seats.
Areas where both trailers shine
- The trailers come equipped for strolling and biking.
- Setup is easy and quick, allowing parents to switch between biking and strolling mode in minutes.
- Front wheels stay attached and rotate upward when in biking mode. This keeps them out of the way and ensures that we won’t forget to bring them with us if we bike to a new destination.
- Thule tests all its bike trailers for safety with various forces of impact, incorporates wraparound reflectors for visibility in low light, and uses a secure, five-point safety harness on each seat.
- Both trailers fold down flat to store in the garage or load into the trunk of the car.
- The Coaster and the Sport hold two children up to 49 pounds each, in addition to significant cargo in their roomy storage baskets.
Detailed Comparison: Features and Specifications
Let’s see how the Sport and the Coaster match up when compared head to head in the categories parents care about:
There’s really no comparison between the cost of the Coaster and of the Sport. The Sport’s $1,450 price tag is more than three times greater than the price of the Coaster, which costs about $450.
What makes the Chariot Sport even more expensive is that jogging and skiing kits are not included, so extra purchases are required for families who want to take advantage of its four-sport capabilities. The vast difference in price is what led us to initially purchase the Coaster, before realizing it would be worth it for us to invest in the Sport.
Maneuverability and suspension
Both trailers have large, 20-inch diameter rear tires to help absorb bumps on the road. The trailers have similar widths, the Sport measuring 31.5” wide and the Coaster measuring 30.7” wide. While they’re impractical for maneuvering through shops or crowded indoor spaces, they fit comfortably on sidewalks and through larger doorways.
One of the reasons that the aerodynamic Chariot Sport is so high-quality is its unmatched suspension. Parents can adjust the suspension on the rear wheels depending on the terrain. Even when we’re rolling on the street or sidewalk, I can visibly see the suspension working to absorb uneven surfaces and keep our children comfortable.
The Coaster has no built-in suspension. While it functions well on sidewalks, streets, and very smooth paths, it’s not appropriate for varied terrain.
The Sport and the Coaster both have height-adjustable push bars. The Coaster’s handlebar slides out from the frame and flips up or down to accommodate two height settings. The Sport’s handlebar has a more user-friendly rotating mechanism that adapts to a variety of heights.
Both trailers somewhat limit cycling maneuverability by weighing down the bike and limiting its turning radius.
Size and weight range
Each trailer can hold two children up to 49 pounds each. Thule indicates that they’re appropriate for kids from age six months to four years in strolling mode. To walk with a younger baby, parents can purchase an infant sling for either trailer.
Youngsters should be at least twelve months old or receive clearance from the pediatrician to ride while it’s in biking mode. They need to be able to sit completely unattended and keep a helmet on for the ride.
While the Coaster’s maximum sitting height is 23.6 inches, the Sport offers a bit more room for kids to grow, with a maximum sitting height of 27 inches. Our tall three-year-old definitely seems more comfortable in the roomy seats of the Sport.
We’ve learned from experience that putting a little one in the bike trailer is an instant recipe for a nap. Our son used to fall asleep every time we’d go in the Coaster, and because the seats don’t recline, his head would end up bent forward with his chin on his chest. Not only did he look uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem entirely safe for his neck.
The Sport’s seats recline independently via a simple lever behind each seat. It’s easy for me to adjust the recline angle while out on a run, and it keeps our children much more comfortable when awake and asleep.
The seats of the Thule Chariot sport are more structured and supportive than the seats in the Thule Coaster XT. The Sport also has more padding on the seats than any of Thule’s other trailers. The bench in the Coaster seems comfortable enough for shorter walks, but it sags a bit in the middle when both our kids are sitting in it.
The Coaster and the Sport come with a bright safety flag and exterior reflective elements to maintain visibility in variable lighting. As an added bonus, a removable, battery-operated safety light is included with purchase of the Chariot Sport.
Thule incorporates a five-point harness into the seats of both trailers, and the brand recommends that children always wear helmets when either trailer is hooked up to a bike.
One category where the Sport really shines is the braking system. Both trailers have a parking brake, but the Coaster’s requires us to bend down to reach and rotate a large lever. The Sport has a faster and easier foot-operated parking brake to the side of the right rear wheel.
The Sport also has a hand-operated disc brake, which is not present on the Coaster, or on any of Thule’s other bike trailers. This is a must for me when running with a stroller. A hand brake keeps the speed in check when going downhill, and when the stroller is extra heavy with our two kids inside, it keeps me in control on any terrain.
Both trailers use Thule’s ezHitch system to attach to the 5 mm quick-release skewer present on most bicycles. Bikes with other unique geometry around the rear axle, including a 9 mm skewer or internal gear hubs, require additional adapters or skewers. Thule has detailed bike-fitting instructions to help parents set up their trailers in cycling mode.
The front wheel of the Coaster — and the two front wheels of the Sport — flip upward and out of the way while still remaining attached when in biking mode. This is also true for the Sport when in jogging mode. Although we haven’t used the Sport with its cross-country skiing kit, we’ve found it to be quick and simple to switch between walking and jogging.
The Coaster and the Sport have roomy cargo baskets behind the seat backs, but the Sport’s basket seems more spacious. They can each accommodate a total load of 100 pounds, including the weight of gear and children combined. We’re able to stuff a travel potty, drinks and snacks, jackets for the family, and our baby carrier in the basket of either trailer.
Both trailers have small mesh pockets on the inside of the seating area, but while the Sport has two, the Coaster strangely only has one. This means the child sitting on the left side can’t reach the right-sided pocket to grab their snack or drink. The Sport also has large elastic mesh pockets behind the seat backs to store parent essentials, like a phone, water bottle, keys, sunglasses, and an extra layer.
Protection from the elements
Each trailer has an attached mesh shield to keep bugs and debris away from little passengers. While the Coaster’s mesh panel secures with Velcro tabs, the Sport’s bug shield attaches with zippers on both sides. The trailers also include a thick, clear plastic rain shield that we often use to keep the wind out for colder runs and bike rides.
To reduce glare from the sun, parents can lift a flap behind the Coaster’s seat backs and lay it overtop the trailer to act as a small sun shield. The Sport has a larger, more adjustable sun shield that can be secured at any height over the trailer depending on the time of day.
Another factor that sets the Chariot Sport apart from Thule’s other trailers is its ventilation in warmer weather. When it’s hot, we can fully remove the side windows of the Sport to improve airflow in the trailer and prevent our kids from overheating. The Coaster, in comparison, has a removable panel behind our children’s heads to allow air to flow from front to back while on the move.
Several accessories are available for all of Thule’s trailers. These include a storage cover to keep the trailer clean when not in use, an infant sling to hold babies from 1 to 10 months old, and a baby supporter to provide extra cushion to babies from 6 to 18 months old.
The Thule Chariot Sport has optional accessories for a variety of sports, which sets it apart in functionality from the Coaster XT. Although components are included with both trailers for strolling and biking, parents can purchase (expensive!) add-ons to run or cross-country ski with the Chariot Sport.
The Sport’s skiing kit costs about $350, while the jogging kit costs roughly $150. We have not purchased the skiing kit, but when the weather is nice, I use the jogging kit to take our kids out for a run on most days. It’s one of my favorite ways to exercise, and it’s a great way to get across town to the outdoor pool or the market.
Folding mechanism and portability
To fold the Sport flat for storage, we press on two knobs at the back of the trailer to collapse it, remove the rear wheels, and set them inside the body of the trailer. The Coaster has a similar folding mechanism, but we need to pull on the knobs instead of push them to collapse the frame, which makes it a bit tricker. While the Coaster folds down to 37.8 inches by 30.7 inches by 11.8 inches, the Sport is slightly more compact when folded, measuring 34.2 inches by 31.5 inches by 14.7 inches.
Any bike trailer is large and bulky to transport, but the 35-pound Sport is much heavier than the 27-pound Coaster, making it difficult to carry up the stairs or load it into the trunk of the car.
The Final Verdict: Thule Coaster XT vs. Thule Chariot Sport
There’s no denying that the Thule Chariot Sport is superior in quality, versatility, and comfort. The major trade-off between these two bike trailers is the cost, with the Sport setting families back more than three times as much as the Coaster.
We decided the Sport was a smart investment for us because of important features like reclining seats, jogging capability, a hand-operated disc brake, significant seat padding, and superior suspension. We also knew we would use it most days of the week, making the cost worth it for our family.
For additional information on these two bike trailers, read our individual reviews of the Chariot Sport and the Coaster XT. Whichever trailer you choose, enjoy going on those family adventures and exploring the world with your littles!