This is a short update to the review I wrote last spring on the Joytrax SE2 Child Carrier my family has been using to pull around our little girl. If you haven’t yet read it you can visit that post here.
Our baby girl was our first child, and the Joytrax SE2 was our first child bike trailer. We have been using the trailer now for 12 months and I just thought it could be helpful to share with the readers a little info about how the Joytrax has stood up to long term use.
I have to admit that this item has been indispensable to us. Living in the small town we do, we almost never start the car choosing instead to walk or bike our way around. We began using the trailer when our daughter was five months old and have continued using it every single day! She is now one and a half and becoming quite the little monster. I can see that this thing is about to be seeing some real abuse soon! Which, unfortunately, has me wondering if we will need to upgrade child carriers.
My initial review of this product last spring was genuinely positive. I loved the trailer, and had nothing at all negative to say about it. I still love it, to be honest, but there are a few weaknesses that have come to light over a year of use that I feel people who are actually interested in this product would appreciate knowing about.
For the sake of people reading this review that haven’t yet read the first one, one thing you should know is that Joytrax, a Canadian start-up, ran into some financial difficulties and its assets were acquired by BX International LTD which branded the product as BX Trailers and moved production to Europe. The negatives I am going to speak about here pertain only to the Joytrax trailer we bought. I don’t mean to discourage readers from looking at a BX branded product as I don’t know the extent of any improvements they may have made to the design, which I’ll get into at the end of this post.
With that out of the way, lets begin a review of the problems that have been encountered during a year of what I would call “moderately-heavy” use.
First off, I’m pretty disappointed by the quality and design of the cover. I hope I’m not being to harsh when I state this, but it barely does any of the things I would expect it to do. It does block any tire spray from hitting my child’s face, but that is about all that it accomplishes. The list of issues includes:
After a little while, the cover no longer fit snugly around the frame of the carrier. There is a sizeable gap between the top of the cover and the top bar of the canopy, as well as pretty big gaps on either side of the front of the trailer, and the clear plastic weatherproof flap in the front of the trailer doesn’t fit it properly. All of this leaves a ton of space for wind and water to get into your child’s seat and can result in rain dripping down directly onto their heads. There is a plastic rain cover available for the Joytrax at an extra cost. I ordered one just last week, but probably should have done so sooner.
- Unless it is midday and the sun is directly overhead, the sun visor doesn’t go low enough to offer the little one any shade, so she typically needs to have a brimmed hat on at all times in there. When dealing with toddlers, that is easier said than done. We’ve also taken to covering the trailer with a blanket using a couple of clothes pins when we need even more shading.
- On top of it all, some seams are already coming apart at high stress areas such as the pull tabs that hold the cover down when shut, and the velcro that holds the cover to the side of the frame is tearing out as well.
In the effort to make the lightest trailer of its kind, they seem to have skimped on the fabric. Though the Joytrax was priced a tiny bit lower than some of the offerings from Chariot or Burly, it was still expensive enough that one should be able to expect a lot more care and attention into something as important as the cover.
Another gripe concerns the optional jogging kit we purchased which converts the Joytrax into a sturdy and stable stroller that does a pretty good job of going over all sorts of nasty terrain. The problem however is that the thing could never track a straight line! The wheel, which sits out in front seems to have the means of adjusting the angle of the wheel, but it simply didn’t have enough range to get the wheel anywhere near lined up enough so that it wouldn’t pull hard to the right. Perhaps a part of the problem was that the little plastic dropouts were so far from square that you couldn’t get them to sit flush against the outside of the hub’s lock nuts. Tightening the quick release just sort of twisted them a little bit, and it was enough to keep the wheel on. At least until one really cold morning this fall when, while trying to install the wheel, the dropouts simply shattered from the stress! This was the end of the jogging kit for this past winter, and it was something that would have come in really handy during these past few snowy months. Especially because the stroller wheel that comes with the Joytrax is really, really small and gets stopped by the tiniest bit of soft ground.
As far as the jogging kit is concerned, I was planning to see if I could get some more of the plastic dropout inserts from the former distributor, but while looking through their list of clearance items I saw that they still had about 60 complete stroller kits on sale for $35. That includes the wheel, and both the bars that attach the wheel to the bike, and since I don’t know whether the alignment problems originated in the dropouts or the attachment bars themselves, I figured it might just be better to get a whole new kit at that price. As of the time of writing we haven’t received the jogging kit, so I can’t tell you if it is better than the last one we had or not. I will update this part of the post once I’ve had a chance to try the new one. Fingers crossed that the first jogging kit was just a dud!
I’m almost done here but there are a few more things I’d like to point out.
The front stroller wheel (more like a furniture castor) can get really sticky sometimes and requires periodic greasing to keep it rotating freely. Failure to keep it greased results in a stroller that randomly looks up and cuts hard to the left or right. Sketchy!
- The suspension has gotten sticky a few times where it wouldn’t rebound after being compressed. This causes the carrier to pull to one side sometimes when one wheel is stuck compressed and the other is down. It’s only a problem when being used as a stroller, I don’t notice any weirdness when pulling it with the bike. Grease doesn’t seem to be helping this stickiness either, perhaps some disassembly is required to get some of the sticky parts moving. Haven’t had the ambition to get into that yet though.
The brakes are a pain in the ass, especially when its cold out. Extra care needs to be taken to ensure that they are engaged all the way in and the stopper pin is properly inserted into the little catches in the wheel. Again, periodic greasing helps keep it working decently.
I think that’s all I can come up with for now, but I would say that’s too many problems to heartily recommend a Joytrax trailer to anybody. It may be adequate for some people – and there are certainly much worse ones out there – but given the chance, I think it would be better to own a Chariot or Burly based on the ones I have seen and compared this trailer to.
What about BX Trailers?
Well, if they have in fact improved as much upon the original design as I think they might, I would still be willing to stand behind it. After all the Joytrax does have a lot going for it. It’s light, it has an awesome mounting bracket for the bike, and it boasts a lot of interior space, (which is all to easy to fill up, even with only one child!)
If you take BX Trailer’s own words as an indicator, there is reason for hope:
BX Trailers have substantial improvements over Joytrax trailers, these includes:
1) Improved look.
2) Stronger and more water proof fabric.
3) Completely redesigned Cover.
4) Aluminum tube inserted in the sides to eliminate wrinkling and create more interior space.
5) Intermediate steel plate in the Axle receiver.
6) Hitch Arm backup strap.
7) Improved QA/QC program.
Better fabric, a redesigned cover, and improved quality control program? Sounds like they might have solved my biggest peeves right there! If that’s the case, then I still consider the BX Trailer to be one worth getting. I imagine they will be getting their product back to us in North America shortly, if they haven’t already.
So there you have it. My conscience is now clear. I have been watching for months as this initial review has been read more and more on a daily basis. But since my feelings about the Joytrax have changed over this time, I feel I need to make those feelings known to future readers. In the meantime, I sincerely hope I haven’t led anyone on to a disappointing purchase.