Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buyers Guide: What to consider when buying a stylish pushchair

Natalie writes…Buying a pushchair can be an agonising decision, especially when you’re trying to balance your style sensibilities with function, so here is my guide to helping you make that decision.
Aside from the style aesthetics, you need to consider suitability from birth (padding and lie flat options), travel system capability, handle style and height, manoeuvrability, suspension, folding, accessories, weight and overall size, and how quickly you’re having the next child!
Other things you’re likely to consider are design and innovation, desirability (yes some people do follow what celebs push), opportunities to customise, and you may even consider if there are ‘too many’ of a certain type.

So here goes:

Padding and Lie Flat Options – If, like the majority of pushchair buyers you’re planning to use it from birth, you need to ensure that there is plenty of padding for support, snugness and sheltering from the elements, but also that if it’s not a travel system (see below) that it is capable of lying flat. Do your research because different manufacturers have different ideas of what ‘lie flat’ actually means and ideally if they mention ‘true lie flat’ all the better. It will become confusing at times because for example, Quinny say their Buzz pushchair is suitable from birth but by John Lewis’s own standards, they suggest that the pushchair seat is suitable from 6 months.

Do you need a travel system? – Having a pushchair that’s a ‘travel system’ basically means it’s compatible usually with a carrycot and a rear facing infant car seat. You may see it referred to as a 3 in 1 travel system or if it only does two things, a 2 in 1. This option is increasingly popular but of course, it’s more costly and what you need to evaluate is whether you’ll actually use the carrycot.
If you’re buying the Maxi Cosi Cabrio fix infant car seat already (won a host of awards and considered the best on the market), it’s well worth considering one of the number of cool pushchairs that it’s compatible with including all Bugaboo’s, Quinny’s, Micralite’s, and their own Mura pushchairs to name but a few.
I frequently used the car seat for quick trips and for meeting up with people where there was a possibility I’d have to get into their car at some point with her.

Handle style and height – It’s difficult to know until you have used a pushchair, but whether your pushchair has a handlebar (left) or a typical ‘old style’ handle on each side is actually a key factor.
The super comfortable handlebar on my Quinny Buzz, like on the Bugaboo, is a godsend and allows you to spread the breadth of your hands and arms comfortably. You notice the difference when you push a pushchair with the other handles because you may end up with repetitive strain injury like one of my close friends. You can’t push these types of pushchair one handed and trust me, sometimes you need to. Padding and looped handles also help. Get a feel for it as much as possible before you buy.
Handle height also means that other people can push it, namely taller people, like for instance your partner. Nobody needs a backache!

There are a number of factors that can impact on this but the overall point is can you move around in tricky spaces? Can you turn corners relatively easy? Can you come off or onto curbs without hobbling yourself? Can you get on the bus with it? Does it feel like you have to put a lot of effort into pushing it or manoeuvring it because trust me, if it does, this will get old very, very quickly! If you live on a hill like I do, you don’t need something that literally becomes an uphill struggle. Can it cope on rough terrain? If the front wheels don’t have the option to swivel or be fixed, I would steer clear of the pushchair. Large back wheels also help. The Stokke Xplory on the left can go into two wheel mode for pulling up stairs and up hills.

Quite a few pushchairs, especially travel systems make noise about their suspension. Don’t ignore this though because if you’re going to be using the pushchair a lot, especially for extended walks or mixed terrain, you’ll want something that gives your baby a smooth ride and minimises vibrations from making contact with exterior forces.

This is a biggie because trust me, when you have a squawking baby and need to fold it with them in your arms and the shopping spilling out all over the gaff, you’ll thank me for reminding you of this!
We spent a lot of time visiting John Lewis and our local baby gear store trying out pushchairs and trust me, most of them are fiddly in some way and do require practice because if it was that easy to fold down, you’d be concerned about safety… Just as important as folding down though is opening it. Quinny Buzz’s are a doddle to open because they’re automatic when you release the clip. The Quinny Zapp (right) is the world’s smallest pushchair when folded.

The fact that you can rack up a lorra lorra cash buying accessories for your pushchair is one of my pet peeves because to be fair, a number of accessories are necessities. If you’re on a strict budget, you need to factor accessories into the equation. Do however look out for deals online, plus in store, these can potentially be your bargaining tool. Be careful of going too crazy. You need a footmuff but if it’s January, you can probably hold off on buying a parasol till you need it. A number of lightweight pushchairs will expect you to buy the all weather kit as extra, for example the Mamas and Papas Nipi. Stokke Xplory and the various Bugaboo accessories are exceptional quality and lookout for customised options from the likes of Small Paul by Paul Frank and also Stokke’s new accessory kits.

Weight and Overall Size
There are times when size matters and when it comes to pushchairs, this is one of them. The likelihood is that unless you are loaded and never have to use public transport and have a load of flunkies to attend to your every need, the weight and overall size of the pushchair are important to you!
The key thing to look for when researching the weight is that it must be the weight with the seat on – not just the chassis. You will find a lot of sites will confuse you by making a pushchair sound lighter than it is.

Travel system wise, the lightest one on the market is the Micralite Fastfold (above), although the Mamas and Papas Pliko (left) claim the same feat. The former has repeatedly won Which?’s best buy and is 6.8kg whilst the latter has also won lots of awards but is around 9kg. The likelihood if you’re buying a travel system is that it will be 6.8 kg to 11kg, but there are heavier. If you’re buying a lightweight pushchair, under 7kg is a must. The Mamas and Papas Nipi which is also a Which? Best Buy is 6.4kg and of course, Maclaren are the leaders in lightweight pushchairs with their Quest’s coming in at 6.2 kg.

The Next Child
If you know you’re going to be working on the next baby fairly soon, I would certainly give some serious thought to buying a pushchair that has the option of converting into a double because otherwise, the likelihood is that you’ll have to sell the one you have and fork out for a new one depending on their age. Twin pushchairs where there is the option for one to lie flat and the other to be upright are quite popular – see Maclaren’s Twin Techno which has been used by Angelina Jolie and there is of course the very popular inline pushchair, Phil and Ted’s Sport. If you’re a style fiend, you will compromise a bit when it comes to twin pushchairs although the Phil and Ted’s Vibe (right) is certainly a sexier offering.

And the other stuff:

Design and innovation wise, Stokke Xplory, the Concord Neo Carbon, anything by Bugaboo, Silver Cross (their Dazzles in particular), the Mamas and Papas Skate, and Quinny, pretty much lead the pack and all for different reasons and naturally, they are the pricier options on the market, although they are all travel systems. If you like your products well designed with innovative features and looking great, these will undoubtedly be first on your list.
Style is in the eye of the beholder though and there are quite a few cheaper options that also deliver great bang for your style buck, such as Micralite Fastfold’s, Maclaren, particularly their Objects of Design range (the Butchers Stripe is pictured left), the Nipabout 3 in 1, and the Air Buggy to name but a few.

Desirability plays a large part in how popular pushchairs become. Sometimes it’s because they’re unusual (at least when they first come out) as seen with Stokke Xplory’s, Bugaboo’s and Quinny’s and challenge perception, often it’s because they’re expensive, and yes, often it’s because the more celebrities that push them, the more they slip into consciousness.
But…the thing about something gaining mass popularity is the ‘mass’ part. I’ve heard stories of people mixing up their Bugaboo Chameleon’s and there are a lot of these and Quinny Buzz’s on the streets these days. That’s why you should snap up limited edition colours or customise with accessories to make them a bit more individual.

What else can I recommend?

If you can, wait till after your baby is born and you have a real idea of how you’ll be using the pushchair.

If you buy before they arrive, spend time researching and testing out. John Lewis is brilliant (I can’t recommend them enough) but we also used the Baby Nest in Purley Way who are also excellent and a hit with many of my mama friends from all over Surrey. Local baby gear stores tend to have great selections and less craziness. They may also compete on price with online stores and be willing to bargain.

Set a budget but set it after you’ve researched prices and come up with your wish list, and then done a spot of compromising. It’s very difficult to budget if you don’t know what something costs! You could literally end up spending £60 – £1700 (that’s what a Concord Neo Carbon Costs).

If you’re on a tight budget, check out second hand or consider a robust lightweight option like a Silver Cross Dazzle or a Maclaren. There are a lot of second hand bargains to be had so shop around!

If you can, try out a friends one with their baby in it.

Remember that people buy pushchairs for different reasons and so learn how to filter opinion but do listen to nuggets of information on how they use it.
If the grandparents are going to be using it a lot, you may want to factor that in when choosing something with bells and whistles. Or buy a lightweight pushchair to keep at theirs…
Happy shopping!

Submitted by Natalie by BAMBINO GOODIES

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