Raising Rippers

Piccolo in action.     Photo: Steve Barrett.

Kid-Tested: Burley Piccolo Trailercycle

Can a new trailer bike help young kids learn the rules of the road? Katie Arnold and her family put it to the test.

It happens to every kid: Sometime after their third birthday, they enter that awkward, in-between phase when they’re too big to be carried, but still too little to go the distance on their own. Kids may love their new freedom, but for parents, it can feel like we’ve lost some of ours: No longer can we sling the infant in the Ergo while we spend the day climbing a peak, or let the toddler snooze in the bike trailer.

Burley is helping cycling families bridge this gap with its first trailer bike, the Piccolo. Designed for riders ages four and up who know how to ride a pedal bike but are too young to know the rules of the road, the tow-along Piccolo attaches via hitch to the back of a parents’ bike, allowing your child to pedal behind you while safely attached. The 20-inch wheel rolls smoothly over dirt and gravel, and the kids get their own seven-speed shifter for when you need a little extra help on the steeps.

We tested the Piccolo with our four-year-old, Pippa, around town and on a camping trip to Chaco Canyon. Setup was fairly straightforward, if a little time-consuming. The Piccolo’s ball-bearing-guided hitch attaches to a Burley-specific rack that you need to install, which meant taking off my rack. It took a few tries to get the rack on right so it wasn’t pressing the fender into the tire; once on, however, the Burley hitch is well, burly. You pull up on a knob to align the hitch, then twist to tighten it down—a double-locking system for peace of mind on the road.

Our first foray into traffic with the Piccolo was a mellow five-mile ride through Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Our route took us along the main park road, a flat, paved, one-way loop past thousand-year-old Native American ruins. We rode in the late afternoon when most of the visitors had gone home, and it was quiet enough I could talk to Pippa about the rules of the road. If it hadn't been getting dark, we would have ridden the whole nine-mile loop, stopping every so often to explore.

This is what the Piccolo does best: enable young kids to go touring with their parents, or join them on longer family road rides for which they might not otherwise have the stamina or street smarts.

Off road, the Piccolo feels a little more precarious. For beginner "mountain-bike" rides on mellow trails, I'd rather Pippa build strength and learn skills by riding her own bike

This is where the Burley Plus comes in: If your child doesn't already have a bicycle, the Burley Plus conversion kit ($160) comes with a frame and steel fork, 20-inch front wheel, and front and rear brakes to turn the Piccolo into a solo ride.

The Piccolo's seat post and handlebars are adjustable, and its built to support up to 85 pounds (four to ten is the recommended age range), but I have a hard time imagining pulling a child that size, even if they are pedaling. The only downside to the Piccolo is that if you want to switch it from one bike to another, you have to move the rack, too. Overall, though, it's a smart choice for introducing young riders to street riding, and giving them the freedom to pedal for longer distances.

Burley Piccolo, $360.

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