Properly attaching a bike trailer to your bike can be one of the most confusing and overwhelming experiences for bike trailer owners. Trust me, I know!
I have personally used many different bike trailers with my kids over the last 6+ years on a variety of bikes including a road bike, mountain bike, hybrid bike, and even a touring bike.
There is so much confusion about how to attach a bike trailer to different types of bikes that I decided to make this guide with everything you need to know about attaching any bike trailer to your bike.
The reality is that the bike industry is changing so rapidly that bike trailer manufacturers have a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing updates.
Just keep in mind that both Schwinn and Burley have upgraded their entire hitch hitch system in the last few years to make a more “universal” hitch system.
Unfortunately, no one has yet figured out how to make a truly universal attachment system (I want to be the first!).
I have attached all the major bike trailer brands to many different types of bikes including a cruiser bike, a hybrid bike, a mountain bike, a road bike, and a disc brake bike. This guide covers everything I’ve ever learned about fixing bike trailers, and more.
This is an up-to-date guide with everything you need to know about attaching any bike trailer to any type of bike.
Can bike trailers attach to any bike?
bike trailers are compatible with all types of bikes, including road bikes, mountain bikes, touring bikes, hybrid bikes, electric bikes, and even bikes with disc brakes. A common problem many people have is connecting a bike trailer to a disc brake thru-axle bike, in which case you’ll likely need an adapter.
In general, almost all bicycle trailers are compatible with all types of bicycles. however, it gets tricky because every bike has a slightly different type of axle. the two main types of axles are quick release and thru-axle (see below for details).
so if your bike trailer doesn’t fit your particular bike (especially if it has disc brakes), read below how to connect your specific trailer to your bike.
what types of bikes can pull a bike trailer?
Bike trailer manufacturers do a pretty good job at making sure their trailers are compatible with any type of bike that you may have.
bike trailers use a hitch arm and coupling attachment that can be easily attached to any type of bike, including road bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers, hybrid bikes, electric bikes, and even disc brakes. through axle.
If you have a choice of which bike to tow a trailer with, my recommended bike is definitely a road bike. road bikes offer more power which is transferred to the legs through the road bike riding position.
two types of bikes: quick release & thru-axle
Before getting into the different types of bikes that are compatible with bike trailers, it’s important to first identify the type of axle you have.
1. quick release bikes
Bike trailers are designed primarily for standard quick-release bikes. If you have a quick-release, then you should not have any issues attaching almost any bike trailer to your bike.
I’ve never had a problem attaching many different brands of trailers to quick release bikes.
However, one issue that arises for some owners is if they have covered toe caps. hooded dropouts may require a spacer accessory to give more room to attach the coupler, depending on what make of trailer you have. More on hooded toes in the following sections on burley and thule.
again, there are so many types of bikes that it’s impossible for even bike trailer companies to make a blanket statement that all quick release bikes are compatible with all bike trailers.
2. thru-axle bikes
Thru-axles are typically found on newer bikes that have disc brakes, such as on mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and road bikes. Thru-axles are different from quick-release skewers in that they are thicker in diameter, pass through the hub of the wheel, and thread directly into the frame.
If your bike is not compatible with your bike trailer, it probably has a thru-axle rear wheel. thru-axles that are at least 12mm in diameter will generally not go through the hole in the coupler hitch attachment that comes with the bike trailer.
an example of this would be any burley bike trailer. Standard Burley trailers use a unique patented hitch system that allows for better turning, according to Burley. this system was not originally optimized for disc brakes that have a 12mm thru-axle, which unfortunately means additional accessories may be required.
about hooded deserters
Hooded dropouts refer to a style of frame that sticks out a little above the axle hole. If you have covered dropouts and your bike’s trailer coupler doesn’t fit, you’ll need to purchase spacers to leave enough clearance to connect the coupler. Depending on the brand of trailer, there are a few options available for the spacers. See the sections below on burley and thule trailers on hooded dropouts.
how to attach a bike trailer to a thru-axle
Thru axle bikes are notoriously confusing to figure out how to attach to a bike trailer. I even made a full adapter guide on how to solve this, which you can check out here.
for schwinn and instep trailers, you probably won’t have a problem attaching to a bike with a thru-axle.
for thule, burley and hamax trailers you will most likely need to purchase a thru-axle adapter to fit the coupler attachment.
here’s a helpful video explaining all about thru-axle disc brakes:
how to measure your thru-axle
Most of the confusion around thru-axles and bike trailers really comes down to the fact that there are so many different sizes of thru-axles.
here is a brief explanation of thru-axle sizes:
1. shaft diameter
Shaft diameter measures the diameter around the shaft. most thru-axles are 12mm, so it’s probably safe to assume your thru-axle is 12mm.
2. shaft length
Shaft length measures the distance (usually in mm) from the head of the shaft to the end. you will need to know the length of your bike’s axle to purchase the correct thru-axle adapter.
3. thread pitch
thread pitch measures the distance between each individual thread. You will need to know your bike’s thread pitch to purchase the correct adapter for your bike trailer.
You can find your thru-axle thread pitch by consulting your bike’s owner’s manual or by searching for your bike with this handy online tool from the Robert Axle Project.
Where to get the right thru-axle adapter
Burley thru-axle adapters can be purchased for about $55 on Amazon. You can check out the different sizes available using this link. Be sure to check your bike’s thru-axle size using this link.
thule thru-axle adapters can be purchased for around $60 on amazon. all of their sizing options can be found using this link. Be sure to check your bike’s thru-axle size using this link.
for hamax thru-axle adapters, you can use a thule adapter for about $60 on amazon. Be sure to check your bike’s thru-axle size using this link.
Read the full guide on how to attach a bike trailer to your thru-axle bike.
Are your bike and bike trailer compatible?
This section will explain the main types of trailer and bike combinations to help you identify if your bike trailer is compatible and if you’ll need to purchase an adapter.
here is a helpful table to show you which adapter you might need to attach your bike trailer to your specific bike.
note: these are general guidelines that work for most situations. each bike has a different type of axle size and thread.
how to hook up a burley bike trailer
There are three different types of bikes that require special attention when attaching a Burley bike trailer: quick-release, thru-axle, and hooded dropouts.
burley trailers on quick release bikes
according to burley’s accessory guide, they state that most riders who have a standard quick release bike will not need additional parts.
I’ve found this to be true for almost all quick release bikes, except for bikes with hooded dropouts (see the section on dropouts below).
burley trailers on thru-axle bikes
According to the burley website, if your bike has a 12mm thru-axle, you may need to purchase additional accessories worth up to $90 total to fit a burley bike trailer to your bike.
view burley thru-axle adapters
From my personal experience attaching my burley bee trailer to my bike with disc brakes, it’s not that easy. The reality is that there are so many variations of disc brake thru-axle sizes, thread sizes, and axle lengths.
burley’s website offers instructions that don’t work for all disc brake owners, and in some cases, the accessories they recommend aren’t even necessary.
I have a solution for you: get the bike trailer you want and see if it fits.
The reason I say this is based on my personal experience. I initially bought the three accessories burley recommends for thru-axle disc brakes (about $90 total). after getting the accessories from amazon and using them with my burley trailer, i found that my burley trailer worked fine with my bike’s original thru axle!
so my best advice when it comes to bike trailers and accessories is to just get the bike trailer you want and see if it fits your bike. If it doesn’t fit, check out this adapter guide to find the right adapter for your bike.
Read more about where to get the right thru-axle here.
Burley trailers on hooded dropouts
if you have covered dropouts then burley states you will need an adapter to act as a spacer to fit the coupler attachment.
The caveat, however, is that not all hooded dropouts are the same size, so your bike’s trailer coupler might fit perfectly without the use of the adapter. therefore, I recommend trying it first without the adapter, and if it doesn’t fit, get the adapter.
You can buy the hooded dropout adapter for around $18 on amazon, which you can find here.
here is burley’s official guide on how to hook up your bike trailers.
how to attach a thule bike trailer
Thule bike trailers are rather straightforward to attach to any bike. If you have a quick-release bike, then you should have no issues. But if you have a thru-axle, then you’ll need to purchase an adapter.
thule trailers on quick release bikes
thule bike trailers were designed with quick release bikes in mind first, so most bike trailers will have no problem attaching to your bike.
The great thing about Thule is that their trailers come with a quick release skewer on the box to help hook them up to your bike. It is not necessary to use the supplied quick release for most people, but I would recommend using it only to limit the wear and tear on your bike’s original quick release.
thule bike trailers with thru-axle
if you have a thru-axle then you will need to purchase a thru-axle adapter.
click here to see the different types of thule thru-axle adapters
Unfortunately, there is no way around this because a 12mm thru-axle (which is the standard size) will not fit through the thule “ezhitch” coupler attachment hole.
Since there are so many different sizes of thru-axle threads, it makes it even more confusing.
thule has a helpful guide on which thru-axle adapter you’ll need for your specific thru-axle size, which you can check out here.
but thule has many different types of adapters and you will most likely be overwhelmed figuring out what size thru-axle you have.
Therefore, I have two recommendations:
1. use the adapter guide to find the right adapter
Thule has so many different types of adapters that it’s overwhelming for most people. I recommend using this helpful adapter guide to measure and locate the correct thru-axle adapter for your bike and trailer.
2. use a different bike or don’t buy a thule bike trailer
I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to say this, but I’m hesitant to recommend buying a thule bike trailer in the first place if your bike has a thru-axle. thule is already an expensive bike trailer brand and paying more than $50 for more accessories doesn’t seem reasonable.
I’m surprised thule hasn’t figured out a way to make a more universal coupling system that will fit all types of thru-axles.
another alternative to consider is simply using a different bike to pull your thule.
Read more about where to get the right thru-axle here.
thule trailers with covered dropouts
if you have covered dropouts, thule sells an adapter to add clearance between the axle and the coupler. however, I don’t recommend getting the adapter until you’ve tried to see if the trailer will fit without it. there are too many sizes of bike dropouts to know for sure that the adapter will fit your bike.
you can check out the thule adapter on amazon here.
how to attach a schwinn or instep bike trailer
Schwinn and Instep bike trailers are under the same company, so they use the exact same coupler attachment system.
schwinn and instep trailers are the most compatible and easiest to attach to any type of bike. I have attached my schwinn trailers to a cruiser, a mountain bike, a road bike and a hybrid bike with no problem.
however, they are not quite “universal” as their product descriptions claim.
Unfortunately, no one has figured out how to make a truly universal coupler connection system, but schwinn is getting pretty close! they have made some significant improvements to their coupling system in the last few years that even works with thru-axle bikes.
Here’s how to attach a schwinn or instep bike trailer to the two main types of bikes: quick release and thru-axle.
schwinn/instep trailers on quick release bikes
if you have a quick release bike then you should have no problem fitting a schwinn/instep trailer to your bike.
schwinn/instep trailers on thru-axle bikes
schwinn and instep bike trailers are much easier to attach to thru-axle bikes!
my go-to combination for most rides with my kids is a schwinn bike trailer on a thru-axle disc brake bike. and I haven’t needed to buy adapters, attachments or accessories.
I have a bike with a 12mm thru-axle disc brake and haven’t needed to buy any adapters to attach the trailer. a miracle!
The only caveat is that if you have a pre-2016 schwinn/instep coupler system (see photo below), you will need to purchase a newer coupler that will fit the thru-axle. the thru-axle will not go through this old coupler.
If you have a newer Schwinn coupler (pictured below), then your thru-axle bike will attach fine to a Schwinn bike trailer.
If your bike trailer still won’t fit the newer coupler, then you can purchase an adapter using the adapter guide.
How to attach a Hamax bike trailer
Hamax bike trailers are pretty easy to attach to any bike. if you have a quick release bike then you shouldn’t have a problem. but if you have a thru-axle, you’ll need to buy an adapter.
hamax trailers on quick release bikes
if you have a quick release bike then you should have no problem attaching a hamax bike trailer. if it does, try calling or emailing hamax to let them know of your problem.
hamax trailers on thru-axle bikes
if you have a thru-axle bike, you may need an adapter to attach a hamax bike trailer. Hamax sells its own thru-axle adapter, but it’s not convenient or easy to find the right adapter for your bike.
I recommend using a thru-axle adapter from burley, thule or robert axis project. read more about where to get the right thru-axle here.
download the user manual for your bike trailer
After searching the internet, I compiled this up-to-date list of instruction manuals for the most popular bike trailers.
Schwinn and instep user manuals are notoriously difficult to find online.
If the owner’s manual for your bike trailer is not listed here, please call or email the company to obtain it.
schwinn instruction manuals
customer service: 1 (800) 626-2811email: contact form
joyrider | download manual
pioneer | download manual
caribou | download manual
spirit | download manual
mark ii | download manual
scoundrel (dog trailer) | download manual
instep instruction manuals
customer service: 1-800-242-6110email: contact form
two seat trailer (for most trailers) | download manual
quick n ez | download manual
ready | download manual
rocket | download manual
walk and step | download manual
burley instructions manuals
customer service: 1 (800) 311-5294email: contact form
trailers for children
bee | download manual
honey bee | download manual
d’lite x | download manual
repeat x | download manual
cub x | download manual
travoy | download manual
flat surface | download manual
nomad | download manual
cohoxt | download manual
trailers for dogs
caboose | download manual
thule instruction manuals
customer service: 1 (800) 238-2388email: contact form
cadence | download manual
carriage cross | download manual
light car | download manual
coaster xt | download manual
hamax instructions manuals
customer service: 877-252-4560 email: contact form
inside | download manual
avenue | download manual
traveler | download manual
It is perfectly possible to attach a bicycle trailer to any bicycle. for the vast majority of people with a quick release bike, any trailer will fit just fine.
But with thru-axles and disc brakes becoming more popular these days, it’s unfortunate that trailer owners have to pay around $50 or more just to get the right thru-axle adapter, especially for trailers. burley and thule trailers
Don’t let the details of the attachment process put you off! If you simply figure out what needs to be done to make your trailer and bike combination work, then you’ll be out and about in no time enjoying the many benefits of bike trailers!
Need help finding the right bike trailer?
If you need help finding the right bike trailer for you, my most recommended trailer for most people is the swhinn joyrider, which is an affordable two-seater that converts beautifully into a stroller. check out my full review with photos here.
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bike Trailer for more help with choosing a trailer. I’ve also compiled a list of the best bike trailers for every common situation, which you can check out here.