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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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…
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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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