One of the main fears of being a new parent if you ride bikes (excluding the general terror of everything that’s about happen to you for the next 18 years minimum) is that you will never get to ride your bike again. Well you can try and cram in short rides here and there, but essentially if you really want to ride AND keep the family happy, some way of bringing the kids with you has to be the answer. The Thule Chariot Cougar One is nice way of doing that – It’s a bike trailer for your kids, that in transformer fashion turns into a whole load of other useful child moving devices.
Firstly an overall of the design. The Cougar is made of a box section aluminium main frame where the material body of the trailer sits. Within the main part of the trailer a floating harness sits that can be adjusted to fit a wide range of children.
With wheels attached and the all of the various parts of the frame locked together it’s a big beast but once folded down it’s surprisingly small – you could even jam it under your stairwell. All of the wheels are removable, as are the bars that attach the trailer to the bike. It’s light as well at 10kg complete – it got the similar “wow” response when we handed it over to people to have a try as you get when you let someone pick up a really light bike. Its robust construction makes you assume that it’s going to be weighty, but it is not. It has also got a type of leaf spring with adjustable tension that protects your child from trail shocks and general vibrations.
While the Cougar is tested here as a trailer, most people are probably going to buy it as part of a modular system. It’s not overly bulky when packed down, but if you still have a separate buggy it’s not really making the best use of this beautifully designed system. We were fortunate enough to be given a jogging wheel attachment (It’s ok no cyclists were seen trying to run during this test) that meant that we could ride to our destination and then have a very nice buggy to drag our son about in. On each side of the buggy there’s Thule’s own VersaWing™ which means the trailer can be attached to either side of the jogger, or can be used for a range of modular attachments.
The trailer or buggy can be configured as bike trailer, jogger, or use two small modular wheels and used as a more compact regular buggy. You can also add skis or sled tracks to the bottom and attach a harness on the front and go ski touring (weather permitting of course). There are clip-on water bottle or coffee cup holders. It is designed so that you have no excuse not to go outside and do stuff. It also makes a fine dog trailer and supermarket food run device as well.
When the trailer is attached there is an additional safety cord; if the hitch should break for any reason the trailer will stay attached. If you want to attach it to a mountain bike with a through axle, a range of aftermarket axles are available.
I was initially quite worried about taking our son out in the trailer on the road. My initial bravado regarding the road and the trailer kind of fell out of me once I’d strapped a tiny child into it and ridden off into traffic. After five minutes though I’d settled down to it, the bike behaved just like a bike. I did seem be given more room by motorists. It did take more effort to get it going and more to make it stop and you do need a bit more room to get through gaps, but essentially you’re on your bike with your kid! (On personal note going downhill seemed to get the best response from the passenger in the form of whooping from the back). One thing I would say if you live somewhere hilly (like we do) you will either get really strong, give up, get the widest ranged cassette you can get or buy a cheap triple chainset!
Roads are fine, but the most enjoyable routes are canal paths, Sustrans routes, and very quite lanes. I’m sure that there are people who have toured with them, but for lots of people it’s about being able to keep on riding and enjoying being outside with your kid(s).
It’s a beautifully made trailer, that you feel safe having your child in. It’s not the cheapest on the market but if you decide from the start that it’s going to be your modular adventure vehicle for kids and you’re not going to have any other buggies etc, it makes a lot more sense. The only problem we have with it is that we now need a double one!