Thule Chariot review

As I’ve stated before, Eric said it best:

A multi-sport kid carrier is the quintessential must-have for active young families…They are expensive with all the add-ons but they become a way of life and open up a multitude of early life adventures that would be difficult otherwise.

We purchased/were gifted (at an industry discount) the two kid Cheetah, which is the unsuspended (lighter) model, with all the attachments (bike, ski, stroller, and single front wheel).  We’ve used them all, though some modes have been handier and are better thought out than others.  Overall it is useful to think of a Chariot system as your new kids very first bike; the cost, as well as the utility of the system, is comparable to a decent teen/adult bike.

Ski mode has been my favorite over the past year, mostly due to circumstance.  Little Bear was 4.5 months when the snow started accumulating, a little too young for the backpack, but just right for the Chariot.  It’s easy to dress infants warm enough for the car ride, then tuck them into the trailer and add blankets around them as needed.  The rigid poles which connect the trailer to the waistbelt work well, I rolled the trailer on to it’s side once while skiing, but that was on a trail which was seriously too skinny.  With burlier nordic boots and skis with a bit of shape (and the skill to drive them) you can absolutely haul on descents with total control.  As seen above the kid harness system is very secure, and the Chariot roll bars protect against the inevitable lack of parental discretion.

The Thule belt is one-size “fits” all, and clearly gauged towards fit, small framed women.  The padding wraps around just enough if I use it as a waist, rather than hip, belt but any smaller and I would have looked at building a replacement.  To my surprise, the water bottle holder centered in the back works well for a bike type bottle.  The pins which hold the pole sections together don’t stay put too well, especially in cold weather.  After one adventure where we made it back to the car with one pole held together with cordage I replaced these with bolts.  The water and air proof plastic flap which seals the compartment cover is held at the bottom end by a 3/4″ strip of velcro, which is not enough in strong winds.  Adding some buckles to the corners is a must-do project, soon, before weather starts up.

I ended this winter in the best shape I’ve had outside full summer, and that was 100% due to hauling 30 pounds of extra weight while nordic skiing 10 hours a week.  The Chariot in ski mode does have limits, mainly on narrower stuff and in deep snow where the skinny skis just bog down, but on fire roads and wider trails the sky is the limit.

Bike mode is probably better engineered than ski mode, and while we use it more I like it less, mainly because the width and not wanting to rattle the snot out of LB restrict it to pavement and mellower dirt, which has never been my thing especially with traffic.  As an around town deal bike mode is awesome, and the two kid trailer creates room for groceries and cargo (though the kid can paw through it all in transit).  Overall bike mode leaves little to be desired, other than the likely impossible rig that would somehow be kid safe and stable on singletrack.

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There are actually two stroller modes for the Chariot; tank mode with the huge front wheel (shown above) and town mode with two smaller, pivoting wheels which snap into each front corner.  I don’t have photos of the former, but its a great way to get two kiddos around, with the Chariot being just big enough to fit through doors and down store hallways.  Once kids get to be 9 months or so they’re elbow to elbow and extended outings in this configuration is basically begging for hair pulling and slap fights.  Tank mode I used to great effect hunting with LB last fall, but not since, as he can now be in the backpack.  Both stroller modes are good options for infants, but probably not super useable for toddlers.

Overall the Chariot is well made, very well thought out, and has been essential for our life with LB.  There are a few things which function in a less than ideal manner, especially in more severe weather, but overall it’s a great investment.  Pretty much everyone will want the bike rig, and probably the stroller wheels for town mode.  Ski mode is great if you have regular access to abundant snow and enjoy nordic skiing or snowbiking.  Just like a nice bike, Chariots have good resale value, so if you see a good used deal, don’t delay.

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2 thoughts on “Thule Chariot review

  1. Tell me more about this “industry discount”. 😉
    I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while and have been encouraged and inspired by the past year’s adventures with LB. We’re having our first at the end of January, so it’s nice to see others already doing what I hope to do with the little tyke.

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