Last Thursday afternoon the kids and I headed over to the baby store to try out some double strollers. We had four major contenders: Britax B-ready, Bugaboo Donkey, Baby Jogger City Select, and Uppababy Vista.
I won’t keep you in suspense. The winner, hands down, was the Britax B-ready. The other hands-down winner was the store itself – Moms to Be… and More on Bayview. They’re just that good, and no, they’re not paying me to say so (although I did tell them that if they ever want a stroller review feature on their website, I’d be happy to be a tester/reviewer). Their customer service is fabulous, they actually know their products extremely well, and they allow you to take the strollers out of the store to test them on the streets or to try fitting them into your car.
My method for testing the strollers was simple: strap both kids (K is 3.5 years old, 33 pounds, and of average height for her age although I don’t know right this second how high that is; N is 13 months, 20 pounds and change, and almost 31 inches high) into a stroller and push it outside on the sidewalk, taking care to go over lots of potholes and uneven ground, down and up curbs without curb-cuts. If there was a front seat and a back seat, I made sure to switch the kids halfway to see how the stroller pushed with the heavier child in front vs. in back. We then took the stroller over to our car, folded it, and stowed it in the trunk of our ’07 Yaris hatchback.
So… here are my observations:
Baby Jogger City Select
I wanted to love this stroller. Everyone I know who has one absolutely loves it… but I just couldn’t. No matter which child sat in front, the stroller was heavy to push and heavy to turn. I tried getting up a curb, but the stroller was just too heavy for me to pop a wheelie in. While it’s true that there are numerous configurations for the seats, very few of them allow both children to recline and even fewer allow one child to recline while the other sits upright. Seat-wise, K was pretty much too tall for it. We raised the canopy (you can do that on both seats) and that helped, but her head was seriously an inch away from the top of the canopy. Oh, the canopy. It’s just huge. You get fabulous sun coverage.
The handlebar adjusts nicely and does go low enough for me to push comfortably (I’m short and I like to have my wrists in a neutral position – not angled upward – when I push). The fold is incredibly easy and incredibly small, which is one of the reasons I wanted to love the stroller. The storage basket seems pretty huge, and is accessible from front and back with zippers. The brake is hand-operated and seems very solid.
The City Select has some neat features, but it fell short of the mark for me because of how difficult it was for me to turn.
This was my conditional winner from last time, so I was eager to see how it fared with actual kids in it. First things first – K only wanted to sit in the rumble seat. You know, the seat that adults look at and say, “but do the kids actually like sitting so low down?” Yes, they do. When asked about it later, K informed us that the bottom seat was “more fun”. Nevertheless, I put her in the main seat as well for the sake of my review. No matter who was in which seat, the stroller pushed easily and turned on a dime – even one-handed. I was also able to pop a wheelie to get up on the curb, which bodes well for taking this thing on city buses. I liked how the handle adjusts – with an articulated joint as opposed to telescoping – and it got low enough for me to have my hands almost at hip level with my wrists nice and straight. It also goes low enough for K to push.
The main seat has a nice, big sunshade, and the rumble seat’s sunshade is big enough to touch the back of the main seat when they both face forward, so it’s fair to say that both kids get decent sun coverage. Both seats also have a mesh peek-a-boo window that closes with a magnet, and when open allows a nice breeze through. In terms of size, K sat comfortably in both seats although she’s pretty close to the rumble seat’s 35 pound limit. While the kid in the rumble seat does end up resting his or her feet in the basket it hardly matters since the basket is so huge. It’s accessible from the front and sides through zippered openings, so there’s no need to disturb the rear passenger.
Seat configurations are theoretically fewer than on the City Select, but the ones that are available actually work in practice. One or both children can recline in all the configurations without intruding too much on each other’s space. One potential issue for us – while there is a car seat adaptor available, it doesn’t list our Graco snugride (the old kind with a 22-lb limit) as compatible. I need to find out whether there’s a suitable hack for that.
The wheels on the Britax aren’t air tires, or even foam-filled. They’re just… plastic? rubber? I don’t know… but it didn’t seem to detract from the smoothness of the ride, and we’re not particularly looking for off-road capabilities. Better tires would be a nice touch, but c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas? The rear wheels are also quite far apart, making this stroller wider than it initially looks. Again, it’s something that I’d like to see change, but it is what it is. The brake is fabulous – push once to engage, push again to disengage – and doesn’t punish those of us who wear flip-flops and sandals in the summer.
Finally, the fold. The Britax folds with both seats on, although it’s too bulky to fit in our Yaris that way. I tried it with just the rear seat attached (detaching the main seat is a breeze) and was just able to close the hatch. Without either seat the frame folds up extremely flat and both seats can be stored alongside it in our trunk. Win!
I loaded both kids into the Uppa, with K claiming the rumble seat immediately. Incidentally, the rumble seat doesn’t recline at all. Anyhow, I immediately noticed that this stroller was harder to turn than the Britax and seemed much heavier to push – probably because the second child is out over the front axle instead of in the rear. Naturally, with all that weight right over the front axle it’s impossible to pop a wheelie to get up over a curb or onto a bus. The handlebar telescopes, but even at the lowest setting it was too high for my comfort. Clearly, UppaBaby is a stroller for taller parents, of which I’ll never be one. It was so uncomfortable for me to push – the handle height as well as the difficult maneuvering – that I decided to give up just moments after getting it outside. The Uppababy Vista may be a wonderful stroller (and many reviews say that it is), but it’s not for me.
The staff at the store assured me that they had fixed the sticky telescoping handlebar problem we encountered last time, so I decided we should take the Donkey for a test run. I put the kids into their seats and got ready to leave the store. Not one minute later, both kids started to squirm, whine, and scream, all the while attempting to escape. I don’t know what the real problem was, but if the kids won’t even sit in the stroller then there’s no way I can buy it. For those tempted to blame the kids’ behaviour on exhaustion, know that K was perfectly happy and eager to climb back into the other strollers we’d tried. I’m still disappointed that I didn’t get to try the Donkey out under actual road conditions, but apparently my kids have decided that it’s a really lame-ass stroller (pun intended).
So… that’s it. We still have to work out the carseat issue with the Britax, but otherwise our decision is made.. Kudos to Britax on this one! And sorry, Bugaboo, you lose.