21. april 2014

Tips when Buying a Stroller, Part 2: Summer Strollers



One of the first questions asked here in Norway when considering the quality of a stroller’s design is how well it fares in the winter.  Although this is, of course, important, I find it strange that no one ever considers a stroller’s summer performance.  While considering this question, I asked myself which qualities might be used to define a stroller’s summer performance and I settled on maneuverability as the main factor, followed by weight and size (while folded) predominantly because people tend to travel more in the summer.  If you’ve read part one of this series concerning quality and simplicity you’ll recognize that the evaluations in this post are also very much based on mechanical reliability as well. 
There is a common wheel layout that seems specifically made for summer or, at least, for urban conditions consisting of two (usually 12”) back wheels and two smaller swivel front wheels (usually with foam tires).  Popular models include the Bugaboo Cameleon, Brio Go and Stokke Xplory.  When used in warm urban conditions or inside shopping malls and the like, this sort of stroller will truly provide the smoothest, most maneuverable of options.  Many of these strollers are lightweight and fold quite small (excluding the Stokke).  Extra hardware such as winter wheels can extend the use of these strollers to include light off-road or winter use, but they will still underperform other strollers under these conditions.  Still, if you’re willing to have a couple of different strollers for use in different seasons, or if your lifestyle is predominantly urban, than I’d certainly recommend this sort of stroller as there are several high quality models on the market.  Recently, Bugaboo and Emmaljunga, among others, have produced models with this sort of chassis that are a bit sturdier and have larger front wheels making them somewhat more adaptable to varying weather and terrain (though they are heavier for it).
There are a variety of three-wheeled sports oriented strollers that are also quite nice to use in the summer, performing better than the urban type when going off-road.  Of these, there are really two types; those with a fixed front wheel which excel off-road or while jogging, but have limited functionality beyond this, and the more multi-purpose types that have a lockable swivel front wheel.  Popular brands include TFK (Trends for Kids), Easywalker, Mountain Buggy, Babyjogger and Quinny.   I would argue that the reason these stroller are quite popular in Norway is their versatility with regards to terrain and season.  With sturdy chassis’ and large wheels these strollers function well off-road and in the winter, while their relative light weight and swivel front wheel makes them easy to push in the summer time.  The negatives for this sort of stroller are that most models lack a reverse seat position and that storage space under the stroller is limited.  Much fuss has been made on the internet describing three wheeled strollers as being more likely to tip over.  This is a myth in my experience.  Provided one does not overburden the handlebar with shopping and diaper bags, there is no more real likelihood for a three-wheeled stroller to tip over than a four-wheeled stroller.  When looking for a stroller that will perform acceptably well year-round and over varying terrain, one should certainly consider this sort as a possibility.
Discussing summer strollers wouldn’t be complete without taking a brief look at travel strollers.  By travel strollers, I mean smaller, very lightweight strollers that are quite compact when folded.  Of these, the most common type is the umbrella stroller and the most popular brand here in Norway seems to be Maclaren, though there are other quality manufacturers as well such as Silvercross and Cybex.  These strollers are really only for travel and shopping and people looking to buy a stroller for daily use should steer clear of them.  Still, if you’re looking for something to use in the airport on a trip to Gran Canaria or Disney World, then a travel stroller is for you.  Non-umbrella designs include the Bugaboo Bee, Quinny Zapp Xtra and the TFK Buggster.  These are a bit pricier, but also provide more comfort.  They are great when they work but the high price and a combination of lightweight (a.k.a. weaker) materials and highly complex mechanisms makes them a risk.  If you want one, treat it extra carefully.  Several manufacturers have begun producing smaller versions of full size strollers which can function well as travel strollers.  Models include the Mountain Buggy Swift, Babyjogger City Mini, and the Stokke Scoot.  These strollers have always seemed a bit strange to me.  On one hand, they provide more stability and versatility than most other travel strollers (they are  perfect for a holiday at some sandy beach location). On the other hand, buyers often decide to buy this sort of stroller for daily year-round use which seems a mistake in Norway.  A smaller size means this sort of stroller will only be good for younger children and the smaller wheels are a problem off-road as well as in the winter.
            Many people are quite happy with the traditional four wheel design that functions so well in the winter.  Emmaljunga Mondial Duos can be seen year round strutting the streets of Oslo despite their limited maneuverability.  There is nothing wrong with these strollers, their classic design is quite romantic in all seasons. This post has been written however to show you that just because we live in a land of long winters doesn’t mean that comfort in the summer months should be ignored.  I would like to note as well that there are too many good strollers to cover in a post such as this.  The strollers used here are examples and are not necessarily better than those produced by brands that I have failed to mention.

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