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Road Test: Three-Wheelers

They look sporty and usually ooze style, but which three-wheel pushchairs are the real off-road/on-pavement deal?

Posted: 17 June 2008
by Debra Stottor

Parenting journalist and mother of two Debra Stottor gets to grip with the three-wheel pushchairs – which will cut the mustard off-road and which are best on the urban cycle?

Phil & Ted’s Sport

Great-looking, reliable and versatile
The ‘parcel shelf’ is a little shallow and not too easy to access when in double mode Features Four-position fabric seat, jogging strap, hood, quick-release wheels, height-adjustable handle, lightweight ally frame.
Features: Suitable from birth to 4 years (25kg in single mode).
Price: RRP £329.95
Weight: 11kg
Dimensions: 76x23x51cm (folded); 106x110x62cm (open)
Accessories included: Rain cover, basket, hood.
Available accessories as extra: Doubles kit (£66), cocoon (£44), double rain cover (£22), UV mesh cover (£30), sleeping bag (£44), pannier bags (£33), hang bag (£20), lazy ted (£25, allows doubles kit to be used as a bouncer chair)
Colours: Black, Red, Charcoal, Navy, Apple, Orange, Sand.
Contact: Phil & Teds website
Phil & Ted’s Sport

Phil & Ted’s three-wheelers are that rare combination of stylish and functional: you can take it off-road without fear and won’t look out of place with it while you’re sipping your skinny latte. The Sport has a jogging strap, but no hand brake, which would be useful for joggers and serious off-roaders. Steering is smooth, even one-handed on even terrain: use the swivel front wheel for extra manoeuvrability here. For more strenuous country walks, fix the front wheel to prevent the buggy going everywhere.

The height-adjustable handle is nicely cushioned so you won’t feel the lumps and bumps from rocky ground – and very useful if your partner is significantly taller (or shorter) than you. The seat is easily adjusted from totally flat for a newborn to upright for a toddler, with two extra positions between. Folding the buggy is simple, and the quick-release wheels mean it’s a doddle to get it completely flat for easy storage (leave the wheels on and it will stand upright when folded). With the optional car seat adaptor kit, you can even use this as a travel system.

What really sets Phil & Ted’s apart from other three-wheelers is the Doubles Kit, which clicks simply underneath the seat to convert your single into a double when your second child comes along. I always think this baby seat looks a little low, but owners have convinced me over the years that their baby is perfectly happy in this ‘hammock’ and have emerged untraumatised from the experience. It’s certainly a less bulky, and cheaper, option than buying a whole new double buggy when the time comes.

The ThinkBaby verdict

A great-looking buggy for the great outdoors, a modern classic
Performance: 5/5
Value: 4/5

Jané Slalom Pro

Extremely lightweight for a three-wheeler, and performs well, too
Not a cheap option, especially as all accessories are paid-for extras
Features: Suitable from birth to about 3 years. Oversized tubular aluminium frame, multi-position fully lie-back seat, height-adjustable handle, jogging brake, Fixed or swivel front wheel, compatible with Jané car seats to form a travel system
Price: RRP £349
Weight: 8kg (chassis and wheels only)
Dimensions: 85x63x50cm (folded, with wheels); 104x63x93cm (open)
Accessories included: Hood, basket, pump.
Available accessories as extra: Footmuff (£59.99), pram bag (£49.99), parasol (£27.99), surfer board (£49.99), raincover (£29.99).
Colours: Cherry, Ebory, Marine, Coal, Orange and Stylon.
Contact: 02890 849 045
Jané Slalom Pro

The only model tested to offer a handbrake, this is a real plus for regular joggers, but the source of much anguish for me. I was dreading putting this together, as an earlier model I tested a few years ago was a real pain when it came to attaching and detaching the front wheel, complete with disc brake. Fortunately, Jané has clearly listened to feedback and improved this feature beyond recognition. All in all, this is much improved, and an eminently usable buggy.

All three wheels go on and come off with ease, and the oversized tubular aluminium frame may look chunky but is very light – and very strong. Parents will be glad of the height-adjustable soft-grip handles, the handbrake to slow you down on hills, two suspension settings on the rear wheels, and the roomy basket underneath.
Your baby, if he could talk, would undoubtedly wax lyrical about how comfortable and safe he feels, with the multi-position seat that offers good lumbar support and plenty of width, along with the adjustable legrest, padded bumper bar and armrests and the capacious hood to protect him from the elements. He would probably also appreciate a raincover given the vagaries of the British weather, but Mum and Dad will have to fork out extra for that, along with any other extras, which given the price does seem a little stingy.

The seat fabrics are removable and washable, but do be careful which you choose as some of the colour combinations are a little loud – the covers are reversible, however, so you can change according to your mood (or if something has been spilt on the other side).
Folding is a simple operation and although this seems big when open, it’s remarkably compact when folded, especially with the wheels off, so fitting it in the boot shouldn’t pose too many problems.

The ThinkBaby verdict

Offers a smooth ride for parent and child, whether on rough terrain or the local high street. A great choice for city dwellers who like the great outdoors
Performance: 5/5
Value: 3/5

Hauck Roadster SL

A three-wheel buggy for less than £100
Not the sturdiest pushchair around
Features: Suitable from birth to 15kg. Pneumatic, easy-fit wheels, large shopping basket, lockable swivel wheel, detachable bumper bar, adjustable handle and footrest
Price: RRP £99.99
Weight: 10.5kg
Dimensions: 92x39x55cm (folded); 108x55x110cm (open)
Accessories included: Hood, basket.
Available accessories as extra: Raincover (£12.99).
Colours: Yellow, blue.
Contact: 01978 664 362
Hauck Roadster SL

Knowing the price of this compared to all the others tested, I was immediately on the lookout for areas where corners might have been cut to keep the price down. There are a few obvious ones, such as the lack of viewing window or pocket in the hood, and the fact that a pump and raincover are not supplied as standard. The fabric also lacks the quality of the others tested (but it is machine washable so you can keep it looking fresh and clean.

That said, there are plenty of useful features on this buggy, from the height-adjustable handle and deep, capacious basket to the detachable bumper with cup holder which proved highly exciting for my friend’s baby Sasha, who pulled herself up and grabbed her milk with glee. Generally, this buggy is easy to put together, and a doddle to fold and open. It doesn’t fold quite as flat as some of the other models, but is at least freestanding when folded and has a catch to lock it shut. Reclining the seat using the strap at the back also worked well and the lie-flat position is ideal for a newborn.

Pushing the buggy around, you can feel the difference; it just doesn’t feel as sturdy. In fixed mode the front wheel moved around a lot and didn’t noticeably improve the steering over bumpy grass in the local park. It also struck me as slightly odd that the front wheel is smaller than the other two – if you really want to go off-road, a bigger, fully fixable wheel is what you need. It’s not a bad-looking buggy if you like the colours available, but it lacks the air of sophistication offered by some of the others.

The ThinkBaby verdict

A bargain buggy, just don’t expect too many frills for the price. You do get what you pay for
Performance: 2/5
Value: 4/5

Air Buggy Mimi

Smart, well padded, lightweight – and comes fully equipped
Front wheel can’t be fixed, reducing its off-road suitability
Features: Suitable from birth to 20kg; you can buy an adapter (£29.99) to fit the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix car seat to create a travel system
Price: RRP £399.99
Weight: 10kg
Dimensions: 78.5x54.5 (width between rear wheels)x32cm (folded); open 101.5x55.5 (width between rear wheels)x107cm (open)
Accessories included: All-weather kit (raincover, sunshade, mosquito net), footmuff, thermal insulated bottle holder, wrist strap, basket, tyre pump, stroller mat.
Available accessories as extra: Car seat adaptor (£29.99) see features above.
Colours: Silver or black aluminium frame plus fabric in black, red, brown, sea blue, rose pink, soft orange, citrus green.
Air Buggy Mimi

New to the UK market (apparently it’s already big in Japan), this isn’t wildly different to many of the other three-wheelers already available, but it does offer some nice touches. As someone who hates shelling out loads of money, then having to shell out even more just to make something usable, I love the fact that this comes with everything you need, right down to the insulated bottle holder that attaches to the side of the buggy. Only if you want to convert this to a travel system do you need to buy a car seat adaptor kit (and the appropriate car seat of course).

As well as being well kitted out, this is a good-looking buggy. We tested the red, a deep, almost burgundy colour, but if that’s not your thing there are plenty of others to choose from. You can choose from either a silver or a black aluminium frame, which is light and strong and nicely streamlined.
The seat is well padded and the fabric seems durable. Reclining is done via a series of zips in the side, which means there are only three possible positions, the most upright of which is still quite reclined, but it does lie flat enough for a newborn. The legrest isn’t adjustable, and may prove awkward for a taller toddler.
The hood offers viewing windows in the top and the side and mesh for increased ventilation. The buckles take a bit of getting used to but are actually quite clever when you know how! It’s easy to fold and the wheels are easy to remove to make it even more compact, and it’s quite light and portable – a Velcro strap keeps it together when folded.

So far, so good. However, this has two major drawbacks: the handle is not height adjustable, the only one we tested that isn’t, surprisingly, and the front wheel cannot be locked, which makes it unsuitable for serious off-road use (not to mention rendering the supplied jogging strap redundant). We took it to the local park and found the steering OK, but would hesitate to take it anywhere too rough. On the pavement, the steering is great, so this is very much an urban three-wheeler and a pretty good one at that.

The ThinkBaby verdict

Big on style, less so on substance, but a good three-wheeler for townies nonetheless
Performance: 4/5
Value: 3/5

Mountain Buggy Urban

A high-performance buggy that looks the business
The rear wheels are widely spaced, making this one of the biggest tested
Features: Suitable from birth to 35kg (about 4 years); swivel or fixed wheel, adjustable handlebar, large storage basket, quick-release wheels.
Price: RRP £439
Weight: 11kg
Dimensions: 103.5x68.5cm (folded); 81-106x100-116x68.5cm (open, handlebar height depends on position, length of buggy when open depends on whether front wheel is on lock or swivel
Accessories included: Stormcover, pump.
Available accessories as extra: Carrycot (£146), UV cover (£29.99), bumper bar (£19.99), car seat clip (£40), travel bag (£75), sleeping bag (£55).
Colours: Red dot, black dot, navy dot, soft blue dot, moss green dot, pumpkin dot, chocolate dot, plum dot.
Mountain Buggy Urban

The Urban has been designed for townies who like to go off-road, rather than for serious all-terrain use (if that’s what you want, Mountain Buggy’s Terrain may be a better choice). From the moment you take this out of the box you just know it’s going to do what you want: the wheels are simple to fix on, and off you go. With the front wheel swivelling, it can be steered one-handed on smooth terrain, so despite its size, it’s easily manoeuvrable. With the front wheel fixed, it can handle the park, the woods, a bumpy footpath, though you’d probably balk at the idea of a proper mountain. There’s a jogging strap (not very long) on the handlebar, so you could take baby for a run if you had the energy. The handle itself is nicely padded and easily adjusted for optimum comfort.

The seats on these used to lack padding, but this has now been much improved, so your baby can lie back in comfort – you’ll be able to see whether she’s asleep through the viewing window at the top. The hood gives good protection, but doesn’t lock open (a pain when attaching the raincover) and there’s no pocket in the back.
But what the hood lacks in pockets, the shopping basket more than makes up for – the main basket is big and deep, with two elasticated mesh pockets inside, another one outside and a zip-up section to boot. The pump stows safely in the basket.
The raincover is one of the cleverest I’ve seen, with zips at the front to give easy access to your baby (if she’s demanding food, for example!) or roll up the front section if the rain eases off for bit.

Recline the seat by pulling the straps on either side at the back, and your newborn can lie nice and flat or when old enough sit up and enjoy the view. At the end of your trip out, the Urban folds down simply – and is very flat with the wheels removed – and has a strap to keep it together. A car seat adaptor will transform this into a travel system, and if you want a little extra luxury for your newborn, a carrycot is available.

The ThinkBaby verdict

A great-looking high-performance buggy. It’s not cheap, but in this case you get what you pay for
Performance: 4/5
Value: 4/5

Mamas & Papas 03 Sport

Roomy, well-padded seat and one of the best baskets around
Feels heavy and the raincover is really bulky
Features: Suitable from birth to 15kg; adjustable leg rest, travel system compatible, height adjustable handles, all-terrain pneumatic tyres, removable wheels, individual wheel suspension, lockable front swivel wheel.
Price: RRP £180
Weight: 13kg
Dimensions: 114x59x42cm (folded); 106x59x112cm (open)
Available accessories as extra: Water resistant footmuff with detachable liner and drawstring hood (£50), matching changing bag (£50).
Colours: Ebony, Tundra.
Contact: 01978 664 362
Mamas & Papas Sport 03

Generally speaking, I like Mamas & Papas buggies but think they’re quite expensive. The 03 Sport, however, is cheap for a three-wheeler but not up to the company’s usual standards. I’m not entirely sure how one of the baby magazines voted it Best Pushchair of the Year 2006/07, as there are many better on the market. That said, it’s a long, long way from being the worst and if you want a three-wheeler but don’t want to bust the bank, this could be right for you.
It offers all the features you’d expect, such as chunky pneumatic tyres (and the pump’s included), quick-release wheels, suspension, adjustable handle, etc. It’s also a good-looking buggy, nicely padded to keep your baby comfortable, and pretty straightforward to use.

Putting it together wasn’t the easiest of tasks – once you’ve got the front forks the right way round, the front wheel goes on easily, but it’s not that easy to tell. The hood was also tricky to fit to the chassis and didn’t click into position properly – my other criticism of the hood is that it’s a basic M&P hood, and an off-roader needs something different, that will fold back flat.
On the plus side, it gives good coverage, and has a viewing window and a big zip-up pocket. The raincover is a bit of a nuisance, as it has reinforced struts to help it keep its shape when in use – these, however, mean you can’t fold the cover and leave it in the basket; if you want the cover, just in case, you need to leave it attached to the buggy, which spoils the overall look and makes it bulkier when folded.

Day to day this is a user-friendly buggy: it’s easy to open and close and goes very flat with the wheels off – leave the wheels on and adjust the handle and it’s freestanding when folded. The seat recline mechanism is easy to use, just pull a strap at the back for infinite variety from flat enough for a newborn to upright enough to see what’s going on around you. And the seat itself is quite high, so the view’s good.
The handle is nicely padded, but being oval could be a bit uncomfortable after a while. Saving the best till last, the basket is a good size, nice and deep, and has a zip-on ‘lid’ so your possessions won’t go flying if you’re going over bumpy ground. Other manufacturers, take note!

The ThinkBaby verdict

Not bad, but not brilliant, but well-spec’d for the price. Just wish it was a couple of kilos lighter.
Performance: 3/5
Value: 4/5

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Discuss this story

hi not Sue but Mr Sue here

i have read your report on the  three wheel push chairs and it was very interesting. but thought some ideas from a male point of view might help with making a decision when buying one of these buggies.

1st are you buying it for use on mountains, moors, nature trails, parks or as a fashion accessory.

the phil and teds looks great till you use it in ful laydown mode with the cocoon or with the doubles kit fitted.

as a i am 6 foot 4 after 10 minutes of kicking my baby whilst trying it out because the back of the seats both sit directly under the push handle. i decided that baby was safer in something bigger and more practicle. Also botom baby gets very wet when of road in rough rainy weather

The other thing you have to think about is how much space you have in your house to store it and how much space it is going to take up in your car, as much as they are great out and about.  but they can be far from easy to be transported from A to B in the car when you have all your other kit to carry.

By the way we bought the mountain buggy terrain as we spend so much time on dartmoor

ta for listening


Posted: 17/06/2008 at 21:16

the father of my babies wont let me buy a three wheeler he doesnt think they are safe lol and we are havin twins xxx

Posted: 17/06/2008 at 21:18

Get a 360 Nipper for twins.  They are Brill.

Posted: 17/06/2008 at 23:26

are they nice looking n where did u get it xx

Posted: 18/06/2008 at 09:18

i,m getting the jane slalom pro... not with the matrix cup tho(its too heavy) we getting the carrycot and the new strata car seat!

the pram itself is so light and so easy to manouvre! but expensive and the 3 wheels can be impractical in city living if you dont use it correctly but if you get the hang of it i'e you have to go off the curb using back need to tip pram slightly to do maintain stability.... but this is becuse 3 wheeelers are designed for the great outdoors so to speak but can be used equally well in city living due to how light and ease of use... you can easily turn it one handed!

so only worth getting if you are going to be doing alot of off road.. we are so we think its an excellent buy!

oh for those having twins... they do a twin version and is upposed to be eqally as good

lis x

Posted: 18/06/2008 at 10:23

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