Burley Piccolo Review: From Bike Trailer to Trailercycle.

Perhaps your child enjoys riding… but doesn’t yet have the legs for multi-day adventures on dirt roads and trails? A tagalong – or trailercycle – might be just what you need. Cass and his son Sage take the Burley Piccolo to the red rock, mountain biking mecca of Sedona, Arizona, to try their hand at local singletrack, ATV trails, and a self-propelled overnight family bikepack.

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If you’re a family who enjoys getting out on day rides and bikepacking trips, you’ll probably hit the point where your child has outgrown a two-wheel trailer, got to grips with riding his or her own bike… but can’t quite handle the longer distances required for multi-day outings. Or at least, that’s the place that we’ve reached on our own family bikepacking adventures. At the age of five and with several overseas trips under his belt, Sage has declared himself no longer interested in being cooped up in our well traveled and highly regarded Thule Chariot trailer. He can now ride a good few miles on his 16in wheeled Islabike Cnoc, and loves it. But tackling demanding singletrack and rough dirt roads is definitely still a work in progress…

One way of circumventing his limited range has been to convert my Surly ECR with an Xtracycle Leap kit. Using this setup, we’ve successfully completed several local overnighters, the advantage being I can carry our camping gear, food, water, and his own bike, letting him ride as and when he wants to.

But a ‘longtail’ like an Xtracycle, or a Surly Big Dummy/Big Fat Dummy, isn’t always practical to travel with. It doesn’t fit easily into a family car and can sometimes be a squeeze on a train. Enter the tagalong bike, or trailercycle. Attached to a rear rack or the seat post of your bike, these conveyances introduce your child to longer distances in the saddle, offering (in some cases) a selection of gears to help negotiate steep terrain. They allow families to explore their options, extending the scope of their day rides or, in our case, introducing them to the possibility of overnight adventures in which every family member is pedaling.

Our planned week in Sedona seemed like the perfect testing ground for the Burley Piccolo, given that our trip involved basecamping with the car to ride local singletrack, along with a backcountry overnighter that ran the gamut of Sedonan terrain, including trails, gravel roads, rough ATV tracks and some unexpectedly steep, gas pipeline roads…

Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

Out of the box, the aluminium Piccolo feels solid and well made, though the cranks needed a little tightening and one of the plastic pedals was slow to spin – luckily I had some spares to hand. Elsewhere, parts are on the basic side – the 7-speed cassette is the screw on type and the bottom bracket is open bearings. Lighweight devotees could probably skim a few grams by fitting a better seatpost and handlebars… but hey, let’s not let things get out of hand! The Piccolo feels perfectly suited to the task at hand, with the whole rig weighing in at around 8kg, including the provided steel rack.

Given our mountain biking inclinations, I decided to swap out the skinny, slick 20in tire that comes fitted with a larger volume MTB knobbly (there’s clearances for 2.2s) I’d previously fitted to Thule trailer, allowing us to run a lower psi for off-road riding and with it, a more comfortable ride. At the same time, I also changed out the inner tube specced for a thicker one lined with Slime, given the number of dastardly goatheads that mine the dirt roads in the Desert South West.

  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

Burley Piccolo Trailer Bike Review

The trailer cycle itself is easy to setup and adjust. Two bolts connect its two halves securely together. Its handlebars can be positioned to the height required. And a flag slots in beside the wheel – which we only used on paved roads.

The proprietary Burly Trailercycle Hitch System means the Piccolo attaches very easily too, making it a very speedy process to swap between our two bikes – so easily, in fact, that my son Sage insisted on taking care of this job himself. It’s simply a case of pushing down on an attachment lever and screwing it into a threaded hole within rack. It’s worth underlining how good this system is. From what I’ve researched online and the conversations I’ve had with friends, it stays precise and doesn’t wear out, unlike some cheaper trailercycles that compromise on the hitch. As a reminder, I’d suggest checking the rack bolts regularly.

This system does, however, mean you’re locked into using Burley’s rack rather than anything you already own – and you’ll need to repair it, should it get damaged on a long tour. Still, given that it’s made from chromoly steel, the rack itself is reassuringly sturdy and mid-fat riders can rejoice: there’s clearances for 29+ tires (too bad that’s not the case on the trailercycle too!). The adjustable stays are long enough to fit on smaller bikes and can be cut down as necessary for larger frames. If you plan to swap the Piccolo between parents, it’s worth investing in a second Mooserack ($65). We ran ours on a Surly ECR (Small) and a Tumbleweed Prospector (Large) without any issues. Of course, this does mean that the Piccolo isn’t compatible with full suspension rigs and fat bikes. For that, you’ll need a trailercycle that mounts directly to the seat post, like a Trail-a-Bike (a good roundup of different trailer cycles and hitching systems can be found here).

In use, we found the Picollo simply awesome to ride with. It tracks really well and there’s very little torsional twisting. In fact, we quickly felt so comfortable pulling it that we hopped onto Sedona’s surprisingly challenging ‘intermediate’ singletrack trails (walking the more rocky, exposed sections!), after an initial stint on dirt roads and more easy going singletrack. Best of all, Sage really enjoyed the sense of achievement of riding ‘grown-up’ trails, thrilled at each technical segment we were able to clean, feeling very much a part of the team. This is not to say you won’t notice the trailercycle behind you… There’s definitely an impact to how you ride, especially out of the saddle. But I quickly got used to the feeling and just made sure I warned Sage to hold on tight if any rough terrain was coming up, so he knew to concentrate and stay engaged.

  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

Burley considers the trailer suited to ages between 4 and 10 years old, with an 85 lb/38.5 kg weight limit, assuming a 2-1 adult weight-to-child weight ratio. At the age of 5, with the saddle low, I’d note that the q-factor of the cranks is relatively wide for Sage’s proportions, spreading out his feet in relation to his hips. And I’d comment that over rough terrain, his feet had a tendency to jump off the pedals. We considered toe clips or straps, but for now at least, the answer is probably to slow down a little until he has a little more weight to his name. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest in the considerably more costly Tout Terrain Streamliner, which comes complete with an air shock and a hitch that mounts directly to the seat post (making it suited to full suspension rigs), a combo that would no doubt outperform the cheaper Piccolo over more challenging terrain. But given its princely sum of $1550 in the US, the Streamliner is probably out of all but the most ambitious and dedicated mountain biking family price range.

Keeping things in perspective, the Piccolo certainly does a perfectly capable job at tackling the vast majority of singletrack we aspire to tackle as a family. And there are no doubts about its capabilities on bike paths and gravel roads too, all of which increased our general bikepacking range and terrain possibilities immeasurably. Sage really enjoys riding it (chatting away happily with his mama during the day). And it’s meant we can now ride the kind of backcountry, low traffic terrain we’d never have considered on his solo bike at this point in his riding career.

  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

Having seven gears on tap also proved useful, making a noticeable difference to how hard he could pedal (and help!) up steeper grades, while also offering him an introduction to gear selection and use. Perhaps because of his age, Sage didn’t find the basic rapid fire system especially light under his fingers – in fact, it required him to press his palm to click through the gears. Hopefully, this will become easier as his hands grow stronger.

At $359, the Piccolo is one of the more expensive trailercycles on the market. If you want to save some cash, the singlespeed version, the Kazoo, is priced a slightly more economically at $299. But even so, I consider it money well spent, given I’d feel confident taking the Piccolo on challenging trails, without fear that it might rattle apart or jettison Sage off the back…

Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

Piccolo v Weehoo

If you’re considering the Piccolo, chances are you’ve also nerded out over the competition… including the recumbent-style Weehoo iGo Turbo ($399). The Weehoo’s main advantage is that its recumbent-style design means its suited to children as young as two, as it offers more body support, a reclined comfort that’s great on well surface bike paths, with the added bonus that your child can even nap too. The Piccolo, on the other hand, requires balance and strength for your child to support themselves, which comes at a later age.

But once your child is ready, the Picollo is considerably better suited to trails, as your child can support their body weight to help smooth out rough terrain, rather than just bouncing around at the back. Being more upright, it places your child in a position that’s less prone to breathing in/being splattered by dirt and dust kicked up by your tire, unless you run full fenders on your bike, or fabricate an extended mudguard for the Weehoo. And at 8kg, the Picollo is considerably lighter – the Weehoo weighs in at a substantial 12kg.

Pros

  • Relatively light compared other options on the market.
  • Sturdy: The Piccolo, whilst basic, feels tough enough to handle relatively challenging trails and rough dirt roads.
  • Excellent hitch system that plays a big part into the way the Piccolo handles.
  • Rack is useful for multi-day trips.
  • Lots of fun; this trailercycle really extends options and range on family day rides and bikepacks, working singletrack into the mix too.

Cons

  • Rack-specific design means you can only run it on a hardtail with 3in tires or less. And the hitch system is particualar to this rack.
  • At $359 it’s certainly pricier than many other trailer cycles on the market… but if you’re headed into the backcountry, it’s money well spent.
  • ModelBurley Picollo
  • Weight 8kg
  • Place of Manufacture China
  • Price $359
  • Manufacturer’s Details Burley

Buy at your LBS, or REI

Wrap Up

The Picollo is a fantastic way to facilitate fun, involving bikepacking trips with your child, especially during that in-between age where he or she can ride their own bike, but struggles to cover longer distances. The main caveat for mountain bikers is that the hitch system, whilst easy to use, requires a hardtail mountain bike, ideally with mounts for a rear rack. The rack does, however, allow you to run two panniers – which is especially useful given that you can’t run a seatpack – and we’re glad to report there’s enough clearance for 3in tires.

Though not especially high end, in comparison to child-specific bike brands like Islabikes, Cleary, Voom, and Early Rider, the Piccolo’s build quality is perfectly reasonable and longlasting. Younger kids may find the gears a little hard to change but still, it’s good to have them, as they make a noticeable difference on steep and technical climbs. With Sage responding to my battle cry ‘Pedal Pedal Pedal!!’ we were surprised by how much rocky, steppy terrain we were able to clean.

Until Sage is more confident rider off road and has enough endurance to tide him through longer bike tours, I can see the Piccolo opening up a wealth of potential for our family adventures, on both day rides and during multi-day bikepacking trips. It’s already allowed us to put together a challenging week in Sedona that we’d never have been able to enjoy otherwise… and we look forward to taking it further afield again.

Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike

  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Burley Piccolo Review, Trailer Bike
  • Evan

    What bag is pictured on the front fork?

  • mikeetheviking

    Nice to see this product reviewed here.

    My daughter now rides her own Specialized Riprock but started off tagging along behind on a Trail-A-Bike made out of chromoly steel.

    The Trail-A-Bike is a great option if you need a seat post mount option.

    Side note: Make sure the child is mentally engaged with the dangers associated in hanging on back there. My daughter somehow slipped off once and nearly severely hurt herself. She only suffered a minor burn from the tire rubbing her leg for a brief moment.

    It’s the same principal that mountain bikers and motorcyclists have when their first accident happens a week into the new activity. You start to get confident and maybe a little lazy/off guard and that’s where the real danger it is.

    But I agree this is an excellent tool for bringing kids along, and a great trust building experience!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Mikee. Yes, I often reminded Sage to ‘concentrate’ when we hit bumpy sections of trail, for fear that he’d rattle off the back!

  • john metcalfe

    Good advice Mike.
    I had a Trail A Bike with my son when he was smaller. One day I felt him jiggling about behind and when I looked back he’d completely turned round so he could fire “spiderman webs” at cars. He was a Spidy nut for a few years and lived in his costume. It could have been dangerous though.
    We had great fun although he was pretty lazy (or smart) cos he didn’t seem to pedal much.
    They are a fantastic way to get kids used to the bike though. My granddaughter loves watching the cows, sheep and any type of wildlife on our rides.

  • Evan

    I checked their website and it looks like the Jumbo Jammer is the one on the front of the handlebars. I’m interested in the green one with the orange strap, on one of the fork arms. Is that the Buoy Bag, or something else?

  • Ah, ok, that’s the ATM Many Things sack: http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/many-things-sack-review/

  • Aulis Veikko

    My son did the same thing! Couldn’t get him to pedal for anything, but he had a great time. Now, he’s one of my best riding partners. Trail-A-Bike’s also come in under $200. Much less on Craigslist.

  • Lewy

    Great review. I might look at getting one of these to fit my ECR instead of getting an Xtracycle leap. I currently have my son in a Weehoo Igo that I picked up for $130 secondhand. I even managed to fit a 20×2.8 to the back and tow it on the beach behind my Fatbike. I did have to make a custom mudguard though to stop him being coverd in sand.

  • Evan

    Thanks!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I haven’t had a chance to try a Trail-a-bike but know they’re popular. Although they’re cheaper (MSRP $225), I’d note that they don’t include a rear rack (handy for bikepacking), the position of the handlebars is non adjustable, and they’re 2.5kg heavier. In my mind, the main advantage seems to be that they can mount to the seat post, if fitting a rear rack is an issue.

    From my experience and that of others, the Piccolo is definitely trail worthy (within reason!). I’m curious if the Trail A Bike would be up for it too?

    Here’s a good roundup with weights/prices/hitching systems etc…
    http://www.twowheelingtots.com/trailer-cycles-buying-guide/

  • Cass Gilbert

    Sounds awesome! I saw a little video on Insta the other day, I think (-:

    The Xtracycle Leap is a great option too… different tools for different jobs. I like that I can attach the front wheel of Sage’s bike onto it, and tow it behind for when he wants to ride. And there’s a tonne of capacity for all our family camping gear. We use ours a lot, and it’s holding up very well. Once you’re used to a cargo bike, it’s hard to live without one…

    But if mountain biking day rides are part of the plan, I’d say that we definitely tackled much more challenging singletrack with the Piccolo. It opened up riding we’d never have done at this point in Sage’s cycling career! And of course, it’s super easy to transport and is a lot cheaper than a Leap, especially when you factor in all the accessories.

  • Aulis Veikko

    I wouldn’t say that the Trail-A-Bike is in any way a preferable choice, but probably more available. I don’t think of the seatpost mount as an advantage, because it makes for a very odd pivot point that can make handling problematic.
    That said, ours worked pretty well for singletrack, but it was quite heavy and lacked gears. I think we paid $75 for a used model on Craigslist and passed it on again, when we outgrew it.

  • Lewy

    Ahh yes that would have been me :-) We did about 24kms with a stop at playground at the half way mark. I am lucky that I have a trayback ute to transport it on when we venture out for beach rides. Normally I leave from home and strap his balance bike to the back and he rides when we get off the roads away from traffic.

    I like how this one mounts too a rack and not the seat post as it gives me options to use small rear panniers and get out for some overnighters with him.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for those thoughts.

    The Piccolo seems to be a regular on CL too, but tends to keep a higher value.

  • Jon Dicus

    In 2012 we toured for two months in northern Patagonia with two Piccolos and our 8 and 10 year old children. At that time Burley had briefly switched to aluminum Moose racks, which were inferior to the previous steel racks, and which they wisely are using again. Our Piccolos were fitted with rear racks and lightly weighted panniers. I also added Schwalbe Marathon tires. The 2-month tour was 80% on Patagonian “ripio” gravel and the Piccolos did fine (my aluminum Moose rack cracked twice, but I think the steel racks would be fine). My Troll with Surly Open Bars was far more manageable than my wife’s drop bar Long Haul Trucker. The leverage offered by wide, flat bar was really needed. The Piccolos were an excellent option for our tour and they allowed us to bike to remote areas with kids. We could have traveled with less gear, but regardless, kids, clothing for variable temps and weather, and multiple days between resupply can really eat up bag space. Glad to see this review and I hope that riders will consider touring with a Piccolo. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f9d1bd36c19d8ec547edbd8595198d3bac26ee042bb38349634cf04ab2794366.jpg http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/55d2e5bc1ea244838a2c817c778f5d403a0680f3956741b65a6edc3c05894522.jpg

  • Cass Gilbert

    Wow, that’s awesome to see. Thanks for posting those pics, great looking rigs! I’m curious as to whether you considered setting up your kids with solo bikes, and if so, why you ruled that option out? Having ridden out there myself, I expect range and road conditions were major factors, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, how far did you guys tend to ride per day, or at least, how many hours?

    The steel Moose rack is super stout. I can’t see an issue with an aluminium frame, given how simple the design is, so it seems like Burley have struck a good balance.

  • Jon Dicus

    My two girls were small for their age, so we were still within that window where the Piccolos were a good option. The girls had ridden their own bikes on overnights, but I didn’t think they would be up for a two-month gravel tour on their own bikes. My ideal would have been two Co-Motion Periscope tandems, but that was not in the budget. So, we just took advantage of the age/size window and concocted touring rigs with Piccolos. The ripio was intense at times. With large-sized gravel, road grade, and wind, riding speeds could be as slow as 4-6 mph, and believe it or not, our average speeds were only 7-9 mph. The rigs were heavy, and on climbs the kids were able to help out thanks to the gears on the Piccolos. Our longest day was only 30 miles and some days were far shorter. We rode 4-6 hours a day, camped, and we were not early morning starters. Packing up is a lot of work, so we appreciated sometimes having 2+ nights at one camp site. The trip included numerous planned and unplanned stops for such things as WWOOF’ing, hiking, sea kayaking, staying with families, etc. We carried zippered canvas bags, which doubled as ground clothes for camping, that we could pack the bikes in for bus travel (the Piccolos fit in one bag). We used bus travel on two occasions to skip over areas of undesirable terrain. Hope that helps.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks!

    I can imagine how challenging that ride must have been in places, and how satisfying it must be to look back on. I’m with you on devoting as much, or more, time kicking back as actually riding.

  • Jon Dicus

    Thanks, Cass. Yes, we all have fond memories of the trip. Your posts and trip reports have been an inspiration for me over the years. Keep it up.

  • Ruben

    Hi, those are some realy good looking front bags… What brand are they. Were can I find them?

    Grtz

    R

  • Cass Gilbert

    They are Junior Ranger Panniers, made by Swift Industries.

    http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/swift-hinterland-jr-ranger-panniers/

  • Paul Benton

    Thrilled to see more family bikepacking content on the website. We recently bought a Piccolo for my four year old and he loves it for many of the same reasons as the author’s son.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Ruben

    Are the small green bags on te front (fork) also made by swift industries?
    Thanks for the reply

  • Cass Gilbert
  • Ruben

    Thanks a lot!!

  • Aaron Daly

    My son Brandon (7) and I bikepacking overnight in County Wicklow, Ireland last summer. His first biking and camping trip. The pizza we cooked before we left was still hot en route, straight out of tin foil, a highlight for both of us! So much more planned for this year.

    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d7d368c0bb54a4961f35d57d9650d67a20acc94d4610f56b2f0c7ffae65e1dd.jpg

  • Marie Walsh

    Nice review!!! My daughter is only 18 months, but I like to know whats out there as we adventure into the next phase!!!

  • Cass Gilbert

    For when the time comes… it’s a great trailer bike!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Awesome, thanks for sharing!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Good to know your son is enjoying it too. It’s really opened up a lot of options for us, and increased our touring range.

  • Lindsay Bliek

    Amazing! I do wish it were easier to fly with Xtracycles because longtails and family trips are made for eachother.

    We are looking to add a Piccolo to our setup this year, but are also considering a Followme Tandem. Have you tried one yet? I know they don’t have great clearance, but I’m thinking they’d work fine for most of the gravel roading we do.

    It sure would be fun to have a Piccolo to be able to rip on some single track with my eldest though… hmm.

  • Kristin Karner

    Very cool! We just got our 4-year-old daughter started with a Burly Kazoo and are loving it. One question for anyone who’s using this type of tag along bike – are you able to mount it on your car rack? We’re still trying to figure out a good way to do this or if there’s an ideal car rack for unusual frames like this.

  • Relaxe

    Hello,

    This is a fantastic article.

    I am commuting daily a 17 km urban ride with my 4 year-old son towed in a Chariot trailer.

    Somehow, I got an old CCM Bike Buddy trailer bike for free, and we used it a couple of times. Little guy absolutely loved it. However, I was not so comfortable. At speeds around 20km/h, the bike started oscillating right and left, going increasingly out of control. I HAD to check the speed constantly to stay below that barrier.

    I even tried to modify the attach, and got mixed results.

    I was aware that Burley trailer bikes were superior products, but your review convinced me to dig into my pockets and buy one. Mostly for the video of both of you going down trail. My Bike Buddy would never be able to do that with any confidence!
    I got the Piccolo on a sale, going for the same price as the Kazoo.

    And now, I’m ABSOLUTELY pleased with it.
    So much, that instead of going “trailer biking” on special occasion, it’s now everyday-trailer-bike-day.

    I have tested speed in excess of 35km/h with only “normal” wobbles, and I still feel confortable and stay in total control.
    My son suddenly feels very engaged with the bike, as he tries to control the gearing and get the feeling of it.

    Thanks!

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