No input on the Bell, but I have a Burley. I did some research on bike trailers before I picked up mine, and the general concensus is that the "good ones" are made by Chariot and Burley (some of the Trek and other bike company trailers are or were manufactured by Chariot also, but I'm not sure which ones).
Earlier this summer there was a pretty good thread on MTBR.com about trailers, with alot of input from owners of various brands. Honestly, I can't figure out what could go wrong with a trailer, as there isn't much to them. Chariot and some of the newer Burley's have some limited suspension, which I immagine would make the ride a bit more comfortable for your passenger, which is something to consider.
Anyway, I really like mine, but I'm not sure at this point that it has anything to offer that you can't find in a less expensive model. I bought it back in April or May and have been using it since the pediatrician gave me the thumbs up after she turned six months. I really wanted a two person trailer, but I found a deal on the Burley Solo (thanks Craigslist), and have no regrets. The thing is probably about the same width as my handle bars, so it makes it a little bit easier to ride on sidewalks, etc where there are pedestrians and generally limited room. I'm not sure navigating would be so easy with a wider unit.
As for safety (which I'm sure is your #1), this thing is pretty sturdy. The frame is built to act as a roll bar of sorts, and there isn't much the baby can come in contact with (other than the sides, and obviously whatever is outside of the canvas) in the event something happens. I have a tendancy to leave the little whip flag off, but a few weeks ago when I was cruising past some suburban traffic down town I realized that the flag is rather important, especially when you are traveling at the same speed or slightly faster than slow moving traffic because drivers can't actually see the trailer behind you.
At this stage, my kid is still pretty young, and she usually falls asleep within the first 10-30 mins of the ride, so for now the rides are pretty short (I don't like to ride too long with her sleeping).
Thanks for the input. the one I am eyeing is a craigslist special too. I don't plan on doing any riding on the road, it will be solely on rail trails. My little guy just turned 6 months. Was yours able to wear a helmet at 6 months? Can you even find a helmet that fits a 6 month old? I was planning on waiting closer to a year.
my little one is about 8.5 months now, and she happened to pull off my left shift key over the weekend, so sorry about the lack of capitalization in this post.
anyway, i use it primarily on local streets and paved paths. you'll get an idea of what they can handle on your first ride. even on pavement, the ride is a little bit bumpy, so they need to have enough muscle development to really be able to support their head. i waited until my pediatrician, who happens to be an avid cyclist, gave me the green light, and i take it easy. i plan on eventually doing rail trails, but i don't think she's ready for any unpaved surfaces just yet.
as for the helmet, i've been pretty torn about it. i realy want to put one on her, but again, i am extraordinarily careful with her, and i am more concerned that a lid might strain her neck too much. i plan on getting one for next season, or possibly later this fall since she's getting pretty stong lately.
I dont think they have helmets that small. I think I bought one for my kid when he was about 8-9 months and it was a little loose even when I pulled the straps all the way. That was when he got his first ride, I also wanted to wait until he was more stable. I didnt use mine much, it was the Wal Mart one (I got it as a gift), pretty good, fits 2 kids I think it was described on another thread around here. It converts to a jogger as well, but we are NO joggers, so we never tried it.
If your child's neck is not strong enough to hold up a helmet, then you SHOULD NOT be putting them in a trailer for a ride. Burley has this to say about it:
"The trailer seat is intended for 1 or 2 children who are old
enough to wear helmets, sit upright and alone, and with
adequate neck strength to hold their heads upright while
trailering. A physician should evaluate anyone who is of
questionable developmental age for trailering"
Chariot puts that age at one year (children under one necessitate the infant sling which is only to be used in stroller mode):
"Only children who are over 1 year old and who can sit up
without support may be carried."
I waited until my son was past 12 months to start riding with him. It was tempting to start sooner, but I didn't want to be selfish and put my need to ride above his need for safety and comfort.
Your choice is your choice, but it's not a risk I'd take with my own child.
ok, it sounds like you guys are verifying my thoughts. He turns one in february, so I will hold off until the warmth of spring (although it was 47 degrees when I woke up this morning!)
By that point he should be about 14/15 months. Right now he cannot sit up yet on his own and I can't imagine a helmet that will fit him. He does love our jogging stroller (Jeep) though, which reclines and really holds him tightly. The trailer I picked up does convert to a jogger, but I would never use it as such since we have a dedicated jogger that is much more robust.
I spoke with my boys doctor about this. The one year thing is a general guideline, but kids develop differently and it is more of a case by case basis. Some kids are able to support their heads well early, others take more time, just like crawling and walking. After one year is usually good for all kids, but some can be earlier. I havent had my boy in a carrier yet, but I plan to get one soon. His 1st birthday is this Saturday, we've been working on getting his party BBQ together. Babies are the best.
To clarify, I take my responsibility as a parent, and my child's health very seriously. I consulted with my child's regular pediatrician AND one of my closest friends who happens to be a pediatrician working on a fellowship in pediatric sports medicine before I even considered putting her in the thing. Both doctors confirmed that she was ready ride. The helmet thing was a personal choice I made independently, as a parent with reasonable judgement. When she is a little bit older, and able to stay awake for longer rides beyond the confines of quiet local streets, then I will certainly strap a helmet on her for EVERY ride. Please do not think I am advocating not using a helmet, in fact, I'm not advocating anything. I simply provided some commentary on my experience.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I respect that. We all need to be reasonable and put our childrens' best interest above all else, and I don't think any of use would disagree on that.