Extra/archived stroller reviews:
Baby Planet 630-790-3113, Web: Baby-Planet.com. Baby Planet is the brainchild of former Kolcraft stroller designers who are aiming to inject a bit of eco-style into the stroller market. The company was recently sold to Essential Brands, which owns the Timi and Leslie diaper bag company
The models. Baby Planet’s Endangered Species stroller line ($200, 17.2 lbs.) features a swooping frame coated in a special metallic paint. The stroller has an oversized basket, adjustable footrest and compact fold. A double version of this stroller is dubbed the Unity Sport ($270, 27.5 lbs.) and features a cool, foam-padded “Easy-Steer” handle, which is excellent for taller parents.
The Endangered Species line features three stroller patterns (Giant Panda, Monarch Butterfly and Lemur Leaf Frog). As you can guess, the frog stroller is green and so on. The company makes annual donations to several environmental organizations as part of this program.
Our view. Baby Planet has been a mixed bag quality-wise. Readers like the fabric, padding and canopy on the Endangered Species model, which are superior to the similar Maclaren models. Detractors point out the Baby Planet’s stroller is a few pounds heavier than most Mac models . . . and Maclarens’ handle height is better for taller parents. Baby Planet could improve basket access, say most readers. But overall, feedback is quite positive. For most suburban mall crawlers, this one is a winner.
Reader feedback for the Unity Sport is a bit more mixed—again, fans like the padding and overall design, but more than one parent told us the double is hard to fold up. And, again, the basket is hard to access and the handle height is too low for tall parents.
Overall, we will give this brand a B—good, but room to improve. Rating: B
BeBeLove USA Web: BeBeLoveUSA.com. These low-end jogging strollers are sold on discount websites for $110 to $200. We weren’t that impressed with the stroller design or features. Rating: C-
Bertini (web: www.bertinistrollers.com; rating: B) is an Australian-designed, Chinese manufactured pram stroller line with one claim to fame: most of their models have air-filled wheels that turn (most Euro prams have fixed wheels). Their flagship model is the Shuttle M5/TS ($310), a stroller with 12” steerable wheels, boot, two-position full recline seat and height adjustable handle. Yes, it looks very sharp, but parents who’ve used it complain about its weight (27 lbs.) and difficulty in steering. Plus the Bertini doesn’t take an infant car seat.
Add Bebecar to the list of European stroller companies that have failed to crack the U.S market. While their innovative models did have a few fans (the Raider A/T Plus was a good one), the high prices ($400 to $500 for a stroller, anyone?) turned off most parents. Bebecar has tried to stage a comeback in the past year, this time with a new Canadian-based distributor. Sadly, these folks have no clue about marketing. So, good luck if you can even find their offerings in stores or online (two models are the X-Fold, an 18 lb. stroller for $400 and the Tracker City, a 22 lb. model for $379 with reversible seat, big basket and height adjustable handle). All the strollers are made in Portugal; the quality is excellent. FYI: We noticed Bebecar’s American distributor now has a web site at BuyStrollerOnline.com, where you see and purchase the entire Bebecar line.
Dreamer Design (509) 574-8085; web: dreamerdesign.net. Dreamer was started by ex-Baby Jogger employees who sought a new home after Baby Jogger’s bankruptcy earlier in the decade. In 2006, Dreamer was sold to Kuji Sports, a Chinese manufacturer that also makes bicycle helmets and other outdoor gear.Dreamer’s key advantage was their bubble canopy, which provided more coverage than other jogging strollers. In recent years, however, most other companies have copied Dreamer’s canopy . . . and, as a brand, Dreamer seems stuck in neutral. Since its takeover by Kuji, Dreamer hasn’t introduced many new models—instead it has made small variations on the existing line.
The models. Dreamer has two models with turnable front wheels: the Manhattan Merge ($250, 23.5 lbs) and Park Avenue ($300, 24.5 lbs). The big difference between the two: the Manhattan has 16” rear wheels and a 12” front wheel; the Park Avenue has all 12” wheels. The Park Avenue is more plush than the Manhattan and includes a car seat adapter. Oddly, Dreamer deisgned the Park Avenue without its famous bubble canopy and it also lacks a cup holder. The small, cramped seat would be a tight fit for any larger toddler (over two years of age). With an optional bassinet ($150), the Park Avenue is pitched as an alternative to the Bugaboo—but we found this model to be disappointing overall.
The best Dreamer for jogging would probably be the Rebound ($250, 26 lbs.), a fixed front wheel jogger with one-step fold, reclining seat, aluminum frame and height adjustable handle.
Our view. Most Dreamers have aluminum frames and run $200 to $300—that’s about $100 less than competitors. Unfortunately, the quality has been hit or miss in recent years. That probably explains why this brand has slowly disappeared from many stores, both on and off line. As of this writing, we noticed most Dreamer stroller are on clearance—which is not a good sign. It is unclear what Kuji has planned for this brand but its lack of attention and focus have it dropping off the radar for most folks.
That said, if you can find one these strollers for sale at half off during a clearance sale, we’d say go for it. Rating: B
Easy Walker Web: easywalker-usa.com. Here’s the story of two Dutch stroller companies: Easy Walker and Bugaboo. One has sold hundreds of thousands of strollers . . while the other has sold just dozens. Unfortunately, Easy Walker was the latter case. While the company’s Sky model is a hit in the Netherlands, it was a flop here in the U.S. Why? The first version of Sky was an expensive model ($800) bundled with a carry cot—that’s popular in Europe, but here in the U.S. a car seat adapter is more appropriate. And the Sky was hobbled by poor design: it featured a fixed wheel that could be swapped out for swivel wheels—that means you have to carry along those extra wheels if you want to switch modes.
So it was back to the drawing board for Easy Walker and there is good news: the latest version of the Sky fixes the model’s early flaws. No longer bundled with a bassinet, the stroller is now $500 (we’ve seen it discounted online to $400). A car seat adapter (for the Maxi Cosi or Graco Snug Ride) is $40. The Sky’s front wheel can either swivel or lock into place (no need to swap wheels). Also new: a mesh basket, which replaces the inferior metal basket on the old model. There’s also a double version of the Sky for $600 that can hold two infant car seats (Maxi Cosi only, unfortunately).
All in all, the Sky is now much more comparable with the Mountain Buggy Urban, although the Sky has a full recline. Also new: Easy Walker has an accessory fashion pack ($90) that let’s you swap out pads to change the Sky’s look. For 2009, the Sky gets a bigger basket, more padding for the seat and a sunsheild.
The revised Sky is so new, we don’t have much feedback—our initial impression is that the Sky doesn’t push quite as smoothly as the Mountain Buggy. And the $500 retail makes it about 20% more expensive than competitors, without making a compelling case as to why should spend that premium. And, unfortunately, Easy Walker’s few distributors (it is sold in about 30 stores nationwide) will make seeing it in person difficult.
In other news, Easy Walker plans to debut another new model in 2009: the Sky Qtro ($550, 24 lbs), which you might guess from the name has four wheels to the Sky’s three. This more compact model clearly is aimed at the Bugaboo crowd. No reader feedback on this one yet, which was not out as of press time. Rating: B+
GoGo Babyz Web: GoGoBabyZ.com. GoGo Babyz’s Urban Advantage Swivel Wheel Stroller ($170, 27 lbs.) is positioned as an affordable tri-wheel stroller with a swivel front wheel—it is about $50 more expensive than similar low-end offerings from Baby Trend and InStep/Schwinn . . . but it is $100 less than the premium brands. Unique features for this model include a removable front child tray and brake-activated kickstand (to keep it from tipping when a toddler climbs in). The Urban Advantage is designed less for running and more for gravel trails or neighborhood walks. Fans like the smooth ride and huge basket, while detractors say quality woes like cracked canopies, cheap seat fabric, squeaky wheels and the lack of an easy fold make the Urban Advantage a disappointment when compared to other three wheel strollers. Rating: C+
Jane (866) 355-2630. Web: janeusa.com. Spanish baby products maker Jane (pronounced HA-nay) traces its roots back to 1932 in Barcelona and now has decided to give the U.S. market a try.
Jane’s PowerTwin is a good example of how European stroller companies just don’t get this market. This innovative tri-wheel stroller (with a turnable front wheel) is impressive: it boasts two seats (the rear fully reclines), quick release wheels, hand break and cushy suspension. Cool, eh? Except the price is $540 and it weighs 41 lbs. And there are no cup holders. Whoops.
And there, in a nutshell, is why so many European stroller companies wash out here in the U.S. The fashion is right, but the price blows the deal. As for quality, readers tell us they have been mostly happy with the PowerTwin, but one parent reported her PowerTwin was defective, pulling to the right. The store replaced the unit, but the replacement had the same tracking problem.
While Jane may some day break through in America, its first effort is a disappointment. Rating: C
Kelty (303) 530-7670, web: kelty.com. Kelty is best known for their backpacks, but they jumped into the jogger market back in 2001. Their re-designed jogger won kudos when it was launched in 2005 but it’s showing its age. Meanwhile, Kelty has missed out on the swivel wheel stroller boom, belatedly debuting a model in this category in 2009
The Speedster is Kelty’s key offering. This fixed-wheel jogger features 16” wheels and is $300. A double version is $350—that’s very affordable.
The Speedster Swivel (22 lbs.) is Kelty’s belated stab at the all-terrain market: this stroller is similar to the Speedster Deluxe, but has polymer wheels. A single version is $375; double is $475.
How’s the quality? Kelty makes an excellent jogging stroller that gets good marks from readers—if you really want to run with a stroller, this is a good choice. The swivel wheel strollers were not out as of press time, so no feedback yet. Rating: B+
Kool Stop (800)586-3332, 714-738-4973; koolstop.com. Kool Stop is a jogging stroller maker that doesn’t have the high profile of other joggers, but makes a decent product. Each Kool Stride has a five-point safety harness, reclining seat, and giant, retractable hood. Another plus: Kool Stop’s rear wheels are angled by five degrees for improved tracking. Quick release wheels and simple fold make the stroller easy to transport. Their flagship model is the “Senior” ($290, 19 lbs.) with an alloy frame, reclining seat and quick release wheels. Yes, Kool Stop may be a bit harder to find, but we think it’s worth the effort. FYI: Kool Stride has a “Kool Fold” feature for their models—basically, this is an easier one-step fold process, which is indeed rather cool. Rating: A
Mia Moda 610-373-6888, Web: MiaModainc.com. Former Graco and Maclaren veterans have joined forces to launch Mia Moda. We’re not sure where Mia Moda came up with the description of their strollers as “Euro-design”—the company is based in Pennsylvania and imports their strollers from China.
Nonetheless, we will give Mia Moda brownie points for creativity. The clever Cielo Evolution ($180, 18.4 lbs.) has the most amazing fold on the market—basically, the Cielo folds down into the size of a briefcase. (You have to see the video demo on their web site to believe it). While this stroller itself is nothing fancy (basic canopy, five-point harness, cup holder, partial seat recline), the ultra compact fold might be just the ticket for air travelers who fear gate-checking a stroller. (FYI: The Cielo is best for babies over six months of age, as the seat does not fully recline. And there are no sides to this stroller, which makes it more appropriate for toddlers).
We wish the rest of the Mia Moda line was that amazing—the company is launching a slew of mostly me-too models that duplicate what’s already on the market. The sleek Energi ($200, 25 lbs.), is a tri-wheel model with full recline, front swivel wheel, child’s tray, and height adjustable handle.
Mia Moda’s basic umbrella stroller, the Facile ($60, 15.8 lbs.) has a four-position seat recline and front wheel suspension—it’s a decent buy for the price.
In the past year Mia Moda debuted a knock off of the Baby Trend Sit N Stand: the Compagno ($200, 34.4 lbs.). An older toddler can sit or stand in the back, while a younger baby sits in front. The Compagno is also car seat compatible.
The Veloce ($110, 16 lbs.) is a full size model with two handles, an extended canopy, and plush padding.
New for 2010, Mia Moda plans two new models. The Dolce ($130) will be a two-handle model with umbrella fold (and car seat compatible). The Novella ($190) features a full recline and adjustable leg rest and will sell as a single stroller or travel system ($280).
So, how’s the quality? Feedback on Mia Moda is sparse, as the brand is sold in few stores and just a handful of online sites. What little reader feedback we’ve heard is mixed—the lower price models (Facile) seem to do best; while the three-wheel Energi gets less than glowing marks from readers who say the quality just isn’t there for a $200 stroller. Rating: B-
Motobecane Web: motobecane.com. Motobecane is better known for their bicycles, but they also make a jogger (the Tot to Trot) for $350 and a double for $600. We occasionally see them pop up at a discount on eBay and other sites, but distribution is sparse. Feedback on Motobecane has been mixed—one parent complimented the Tot to Trot’s quick fold and light weight, while another complained of poor quality (her stroller collapsed during use; fortunately her baby was not hurt). As a result, we don’t recommend this brand. Rating: D
Simo is a European brand on the wane. Simo’s U.S. distributor (800-SIMO4ME or 203-348-SIMO; web: www.simostrollers.com, rating: B+) is de-emphasizing the Simo brand and instead concentrating on another import, Bertini (see below). Based in Norway, Simo came to the U.S. in the late 1990’s but had little success selling their expensive prams to a North American market more obsessed with lightweight models. A sample was the Nordic Cruiser ($400). This 35 lb. steel frame model converts from a pram to a stroller and features a fully reclining seat and full boot (an optional bassinet is $150 more). Simo’s distributor says they will still sell offer customer service/parts to Simo buyers, but the brand is pretty much kaput here.Easy Walker Web: easywalker-usa.com. Here’s the story of two Dutch stroller companies: Easy Walker and Bugaboo. One has sold hundreds of thousands of strollers . . while the other has sold just dozens. Unfortunately, Easy Walker was the latter case. While the company’s Sky model is a hit in the Netherlands, it was a flop here in the U.S. Why? The first version of Sky was an expensive model ($800) bundled with a carry cot-that’s popular in Europe, but here in the U.S. a car seat adapter is more appropriate. And the Sky was hobbled by poor design: it featured a fixed wheel that could be swapped out for swivel wheels-that means you have to carry along those extra wheels if you want to switch modes.
Tike Tech Web: xtechoutdoors.com. Tike Tech’s claim to fame is their Double T jogger—at $300, it is among the cheapest double joggers on the market. Of course, they do singles too: the ATX All Terrain with 16” wheels ($200) has a height-adjustable handle and removable safety bar for kids (which is unique). New in the past year is the Tike Tech Trax360 ($270 single, $400 double), which features a front swivel wheel, deep recline seat and bright orange fabric.
All in all, these are mid-price joggers made of aluminum, sold online at BabiesRUs.com as well as other web sites. Parent feedback on this brand is mixed: some complain about quality glitches and most are unimpressed with the canopy, which doesn’t offer as much coverage as the competition. Tike Tech strollers can be prone to tipping because the weight of the child is so far back in the stroller. Fans of Tike Tech like the mountain bike-like tires and overall value—these strollers fill a niche between the ultra-cheap joggers you see in chain stores and pricey $300+ models. We’re impressed with new features Tike Tech has rolled out in the past year, including a removable sun visor and a fully reclining seat. Rating: B
Zooper (503) 248-9469; Web: zooper.com. Zooper is one of the brands that flies under the radar—you won’t see it in chain stores (except perhaps their online outposts). The company sells a mix of mall strollers and all-terrain, tri-wheel models.
The models. The Boogie (26 lbs., $450) is Zooper’s flagship tri-wheel stroller. No, it isn’t cheap, but check the specs: it has a four-position full reclining plush seat that reverses so you can see baby when pushing it, full canopy, boot, rain cover, decent size basket and (drum roll) it holds an infant car seat. Note: all those features are usually pricey extras with other brands—that is Zooper’s secret sauce. Best of all, the Boogie has a swivel front wheel that can be locked plus better access to its basket. FYI: We’ve seen the Boogie discounted to $360 online.
At first glance, you might think the Zooper Waltz (16 lbs., $290) was really a Peg Aria. But this stroller offers a napper bar, ergonomic handle and is compatible with most infant car seats—the Aria only works with its own infant seat. And Zooper again throws in all the extras (full boot, rain cover, basket) that make it a much better deal. The Zooper Waltz has a four position, full seat recline. For 2008, the Waltz adds a small snack tray.
While the Boogie and Waltz are Zooper’s best sellers, the company offers a plethora of different models in three categories: Elite, Everyday and Escape.
The Boogie is in the Everyday category, along with the Waltz and three other models: the Twist, Hula, and Tango. The Twist ($160, 13.4 lbs.) is a bit like the Peg Perego Pliko, with two handles and a compact fold. The Hula (16 lbs., $270) is a plush version of the Twist, adding height adjustable handles, one-hand recline and an extra sunshade. Need a double? The Zooper Tango is a side-by-side stroller (26 lbs., $400) with a 30” width and newborn-friendly reclining seats.
Zooper’s most expensive strollers are the “Elite” models: the Bolero and Zydeco. The Bolero ($300, 20 lbs.) is a new model featuring a fully reclining seat, adjustable leg-rest and one-hand fold.
The top of the line Zooper is the Zydeco ($520, 29 lbs.). This funky three-wheel stroller looks like one of those concept cars you see at auto shows. It has a “magnesium encased multi-direction suspension system,” a height adjustable handle and is infant car seat compatible. The Zydeco has a reversible seat, large basket and full recline. You also get a rain cover and (new this year) a “sleeping bag” (basically a souped-up boot).
If that weren’t enough, Zooper also makes three bare bones models: the Salsa ($129), Stomp ($99) and Ska ($190). The Salsa is a super-lightweight mesh model that weighs nine lbs. It includes a canopy, basket and rain cover for $120. The Zooper Salsa is much like the Mac Volo (but Maclaren charges $40 extra for a rain cover in an accessory pack that also includes a seat liner). The Stomp is a scaled down Salsa; the Ska is an upgraded version with fancy padding and a napper bar.
Zooper told us they are discontinuing the Salsa, Stomp and Ska in 2008, so you might be able to pick up one at a discounted price online.
New this year, Zooper is debuting the Mambo (240, 17 lbs.), which features a telescoping handle and embossed fabric. Also new: the Bolero will have a $110 bassinet accessory and will add a one-hand fold. Zooper is also adding extended canopies to many of its strollers such as the Tango and Waltz.
Whew! Confusing, no? Good news: Zooper’s web site has detailed descriptions of all models in case you need more info.
Our view. While we have always liked Zooper, the brand had a rough past year. The company fired all its sales reps and dropped out of an annual trade show. While the company insists it will continue on and release a 2009 line, we have nagging doubts about the future of Zooper. So, our review of Zooper is tempered with the reality that the economy is obviously impacting this company.
Judging from reader reviews posted to our web site, the Zooper Waltz is the company’s most popular model. Folks love the Waltz’s smooth ride, big canopy and overall ease of use. Detractors point out the Waltz lacks a cup holder and the fold requires two-hands. Otherwise, this is an excellent choice.
The Zydeco is probably #2 in popularity, with kudos for its all-terrain handling, plush seat, great canopy and nice storage. But . . . it is very heavy, so forget about any serious exercise with this model. The Boogie is a more affordable alternative to the Zydeco, although readers tell us the fold is a bit cumbersome. The weight on the Boogie (26 lbs.) is also a few pounds more than competitors like Mountain Buggy.
In the past year, Zooper seems to be going for the bling, fashion-wise. We liked the embossed, embroidered accents on the new models. But we were puzzled to see several white fabric strollers in the line-up—those won’t look that pretty in the real world after a few moments with baby.
Zooper has been drifting design-wise in the last few years; the company also only tweaked existing models instead of innovating, which is a bit troublesome. That said, we still think Zooper has good value: all the included extras (rain cover, boot, etc) make these strollers standout when compared with competitors. Rating: A-