http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=206040triathlon-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B003647GEA&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrA review of the Chariot Cross-Country Hiking attachment…..and the Chariot in general.

Last Saturday I went for a rather long (2.5 hours) cross country ski pulling my Chariot with not one but TWO thirty-pound kids in it. I had a wonderful day. Sure, the weather was good and hearing the kids yell “Wheee, this is fun…faster!” will certainly make for a great day. I’ve since realized that a lot of the “great day attitude” came from having a piece of gear that works really well and better than expected.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking at buying the Chariot and/or the XC Ski kit for it, get it if you think you’ll use it. It’s worth the money and will perform beyond expectations while cross-country skiing. It’s not made for downhill turns, so don’t expect to be doing that.

Pros: Works even on “single-track” XC trails. As long as there is a track to follow, you’ll be able to pull it. You’ll think the skinny skis won’t provide enough float, but they do. Also, it’s incredibly easy to put together….. I have prep time down to ten minutes on a slow day.

Cons: Feels a bit jerky to me, but the kids still sleep really well in it so it much not be a big problem. Gets hard to pull when there is no established track.

Back just before Thanksgiving, I finally bought the Chariot XC Ski attachment. $250! Wow, that was expensive. Of course, I wondered if I would get my money’s worth and if it would even be something that worked well enough to use regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Chariot Cougar 2 that we have: it is incredibly smooth and straight when running, and I don’t even know it’s there behind my bike, and it holds A LOT of gear if you want it to!

Cruising on a single track XC ski trail with the Chariot. 

I’ve taken it out a couple of times this year with two year old, thirty-pounder Paul in it. Prior to Saturday, I stuck to a basic snow-bound road with packed snow on the surface kind of close to the car so in case there is a problem or Paul has a meltdown, it’s no big deal. And we always had fun. He sleeps the first hour of going up hill and then enjoys cruising back downhill to the car. Ninety minutes in the “cruiser” (as I call it) works well for him, it gets me outside to ski, and it gives his Mom some peace and quite at home….win, win, win!

This past weekend, I took a leap of faith and got out of that comfort zone. The plan was to follow a snow-bound road for an hour or so and then turn around. We were cruising along nicely on the road in snow-machine tracks, and then decided to follow a “through-the-trees-single-track” trail to get back to the car. I was skeptical about how the chariot would handle. It was AWESOME! It really felt the same as it did on the road, even though the ski track was a foot deep or more in places. The chariot chassis just rode up higher on the snow, and the skis provided sufficient float for the 60 pounds of kids, 10 pounds of gear (baby bags are heavy!), and 25 pound chassis. The suspension system is really the key to this success. Only on a very steep spot did I have to get some help from the guy behind me; had I been able to open up my stance for a good herringbone, I wouldn’t have needed that help (but the track was deep at that point).

The cross country ski kit comes with a waist belt attachment. I had heard from friends who have made their own conversion kit by putting skis on bike trailers, and they all said that they found a chest harness or backpack attachment to be the most comfortable. So, I was wondering how this waist belt attachment was going to work out. It don’t mind it at all. It is not uncomfortable for me, and it doesn’t cause any back pain. The only problem I have with it, and this is minor, is that the waist belt tends to work its way down from my waist to around my hips to the point where I lose some efficiency. If that happens, I just put it back up high on my waist and crank it down tighter…not a big problem at all.  I wish there was a way to get the hiking harness with the skis without purchasing both the hiking and skiing setups...I think that would make alot of people really happy, certainly lest skeptical when thinking about purchasing. Let’s face it, the waist belt looks wimpy (and it sort of is, really….but it works). At the same time, the hiking harness will probably prevent you from wearing a backpack with water or other gear you want in easy reach.  How about this? Make something that can be flexible, or at least just provide the option. I just put all my stuff in the chariot storage bin and don’t wear a backpack when pulling it, anyway, so I would much rather have the hiking harness with the skis.

Long story short…… the 60 minutes through the trees on a single-track trail (packed ski tracks in an ungroomed area) proved that the Chariot XC ski attachment is a great piece of gear. It works better than you think it would. Seriously, if you plan to use this thing once you purchase it, you’ll get your money’s worth. I have probably two more seasons with it because we have another boy due in March. If you buy it and then it sits in your garage, then that is your fault because it will perform if you give it a chance.

Here’s the map of last week’s route…….click on it to open it up and then make it a topo for details.

<p>&amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/27330850″&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;XC Ski 22 Jan 2011&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br/&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/?location=Arbon, ID”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;Find more Runs in Arbon, ID&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;</p>

Conversion kits (http://www.chariotcarriers.com/english/html/conversion_kits.php)
On another note, the Chariot Cougar is great for running and biking, also. I ran a 10k course three times a week for three months with it when Paul was 6-9 months old. It runs very smooth and straight with the big jogging wheel. I can’t talk to the stroller wheels other than to say “if you have the jogging wheel, why would you need the stroller wheels?”

The Chariot is great when attached to the bike, too. I don’t use it for bike training because I can’t rationalize how it could possibly be safe enough, especially if I’m concentrating on going fast rather than what Paul is doing. For family outings attached to a mountain bike or city cruiser, it can’t be beat. Again, it rides really smooth, and you might forget it’s there! You can pack a lot of picnic gear in it, too.

Accessories http://www.chariotcarriers.com/english/html/accessories.php
There are several available accessories, many of them fairly expensive (that’s a common trait with Chariots, but they are worthy of the price). The baby sling, bivy, and head support work well (I’m told) and are probably worth a purchase. The bunting bag looks like it would work for camping anyway, so I’m thinking of getting it. The XC cargo rack and handlebar console seem to be a bit much, considering the already quite-roomy cargo areas. The ezHitch will make life easy if you want to attach it to two different bikes, although only you can decide if it’s worth nearly $30(!). The jogging brakes would be nice on hilly terrain. I also recommend you buy a a spare tube, tire pump, and lock/cable to put in the storage area

Other uses to justify a purchase
So, all this is adding up to over $1,000. How do you justify that? Well, getting your kid(s) outside is important, especially if that means you get to get in your runs and/or cross training in the snow. Think about this: when the kids get a bit older, you can use the XC ski kit as a sled for your gear when you go out snow camping. Or, you can pull it behind your bike to go to the grocery store when gas is $10 per gallon. Or you can haul a small deer out of the woods if you are so inclined and a good shot.

This weekend, I’m planning a longer trip in that same area, mostly on the road. The weather is supposed to be nice, and today we’re getting six inches of fluff in the valleys, so there will be more than that up in the mountains where we’re heading. My goal is to get some other dads together, head out into the hills, and then have a picnic and some sledding fun at the halfway point on what is forecasted to be a sunny and warm day………..all of it made possible by a great piece of gear, the Chariot and its XC Ski attachment!
Look for pics of that trip next week!

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