Maybe you’ve been towing around a bike trailer with your conventional bike for a while and you’re thinking about whether an eBike could pull a trailer? Or maybe you already have an eBike and you want to get some more utility out of it by adding a trailer.
Electric bikes are ideal for towing a trailer and will make it even easier to ride up hills and longer distances while hauling some extra weight. Whatever you plan to tow with your electric bike, with the right size electric motor, an ebike can give you a boost when you need it or just keep the ride easier while towing a trailer from start to finish. With an electric bike you’ll be able to tow more weight, with less effort.
Types of Bike Trailers You can tow
Whatever you want to tow with an ebike, there is a specific trailer for that purpose and if you can tow it with a regular bike (or even if you can’t) an electric bike can likely do the job. Some common bike trailers weigh up to 40 lbs before cargo, kids, or pets are added, but in many cases with an ebike you can comfortably pull any of these loads. Here are some typical types of trailers you could find behind an electric bike while the rider hardly breaks a sweat.
Kid trailers come in one or two-seater varieties, there are lots of options available. These can also include a trailer bike which are like the back half of a bicycle attached to the seat post, allowing kids to pedal along, a couple of examples on Amazon here or REI here.
Cargo trailers come in all shapes and sizes and allow you take bulky or heavy gear longer distances. They come in two-wheel or one-wheel varieties. Two-wheeled cargo trailers will have more stability and are easier to load and unload but will create more drag and take more effort to tow (either by pedal-power or battery power). One wheeled cargo trailers will have less drag and therefore be more efficient, saving a bit of battery. One wheeled trailers will also roll better on a narrow track and be easier to turn, but be harder to load and require a bit more planning in balancing the load.
Pet trailers are similar to cargo trailers above, but with usually have enclosed sides to keep pets in the trailer and a more rigid bottom for a more stable place for paws or claws to rest. Pet trailers can be used as cargo trailers, but not all cargo trailers could easily be used for pets. Some good examples can be found on Amazon here.
Bike Trailer Attachment Systems
Most bike trailers attach to the rear triangle, to the seat post, or through a special quick release skewer on the rear wheel. Make sure that the bike trailer you’re considering is compatible with your electric bike. The main sources for compatibility issues is with disc brakes, the axle or drivetrain.
What types of Ebikes and features are best for pulling a trailer?
There are a few features on an ebike that will provide better results when pulling a trailer.
Higher Powered Electric Motor
Ebikes generally start with a motor with power output of about 250w, which is usually fine for lighter riders with minimal hill climbing without a trailer. As the rider’s weight increases and the number of hills increase, the power rating of the motor needs to become larger to 350-500w or even 750w to provide enough juice to get the rider up hills. Generally, if you plan to tow a trailer, you’ll want to increase the power rating of the motor one step higher from what your weight and terrain would dictate normally without a trailer. One caveat to note however, is check your local laws and regulations for ebikes since many jurisdictions limit ebikes to 500w or 750w to maintain the same rules as a regular bike (and not require a license).
Bigger and/or Extra Battery
With all that additional power and weight of towing a trailer, the battery on your electric bike will be drained more quickly. Having a battery with higher capacity to deal with heavier power draw when pulling a trailer will help increase your range and hopefully keep you from peddling home unassisted with a big anchor in tow. Another strategy is to bring a second battery along with you for increased range – after all, you should have a trailer to put it in.
Mid-Drive Electric Motor
Out of the three main types of motors for electric bikes (front hub, Mid-Drive, and rear hub), the mid-drive motor will generally provide better performance. Mid-drive motors are connected to the crank (pedals) in the bike which can take advantage of the bikes existing gears instead of a hub motor driving the wheel.
Disc brakes will generally provide more consistent braking power with heavier loads and perform better in wetter conditions. If your ebike doesn’t have disc brakes, then upgrading to higher performance brake pads for rim brakes will provide better performance under more varied conditions.
Alternatives to towing a bike trailer with an Ebike
Electric Push Trailers
An alternative to towing a trailer with an ebike is having your trailer help you out by providing its own power. These types of trailers are called Electric Push Trailers and they do just what the name implies and help push you and any cargo along. These can be attached to and ebike or regular bike.
A couple options for electric push trailers:
Ridekick Power Trailer – This little trailer can propel the rider up to 19 mph (30.6km/hr) and depending on the type of battery pack has a range of 8-30 miles (13-48km). The cargo capacity of this trailer is of 42 Litres and has a weight capacity of 75 lbs (34 kg)
DIY push trailer – If you’re more into DIY, then you could take a look at these plans from Atomic Zombie for their CycleBully electric assist bicycle trailer. There are a ton of discussion boards devoted to this topic.
Electric Cargo Bike
Depending on the payload you plan to carry, an electric cargo bike may provide more capacity or range than towing a trailer. Some models come with two front wheels offering stability. Electric cargo bikes are also more integrated, and purpose built for hauling heavier loads, these design elements will often include a more durable frame, better brakes, more powerful motor, and more battery capacity. This disadvantage to all this added performance and weight is that when you just need to ride from A to B with little else by yourself, you’ll be bringing the extra cargo capacity along for the ride.
With any question that involves a lot of variables (intended use, ebike type, weight, trailer type, etc.) the catch-all answer of “it depends” is often used. This article has hopefully given you a good overview of things to consider when towing a trailer with an ebike, and steered you in the right direction. Happy riding with trailer in tow!