Buyer's guide to 3-wheelers/all-terrain pushchairs
What you need to consider when looking at 3-wheelers
Posted: 10 December 2008
Not so long ago it used to the the case that 3-wheeler pushchairs were an all-terrain innovation, parents marvelled at a new-found ability to combine a nice jaunt in the park for baby with a good run for mum and dad, or take baby with them over hill and sand dune. The buggy equivalent of an SUV, they were also darned clunky and completely impractical for any city-dwellers with less than generous boot and storage space. Now however, a new generation of 3-wheelers is to be found in the shops with everything from big-wheeled running buggies and more compact all-terrain versions to 3-wheeled versions of regular about-town pushchairs designed with manoeuvrability in mind. With all this variety on offer it's important that you find a three-wheeler that really fits your needs.|
About town pushchairs
The take-up of the 3-wheel style in regular pushchairs is largely about manoeuvrability and a sporty look. Leading the way are Dutch company Quinny. Their Zapp, for example, is a stroller designed with a full swivel (but lockable) front wheel for on-the-spot turning in crowded areas. The stroller compacts down to just over 2 feet, while weighing just 6 kilos. Despite the suspension and lockable front wheel, the Zapp is most definitely a stroller and not to be confused with more robust all-terrain buggies.
|Quinny's eye-catching Buzz - click pic for more
Heavier-weight pushchairs designed for use about town can also come in three-wheeled versions, so it's best not to assume that 3 wheels means all-terrain. Of course, these chairs will be absolutely fine for a walk in the park but you may struggle over really difficult ground and they're not suitable for going jogging or running with. Quinny's Buzz is a good example, a classy new option is Silvercross's S4 while Maclaren's foray into three wheels, the MX3 is proving popular.
If you're looking for a pushchair that will cope well over rough ground and surfaces such as snow and sand, then it's an all-terrain pushchair that you want and most, though not all, of these are 3-wheelers.
The pros of these pushchairs are obvious: go nearly anywhere you want with it, up hill, down dale, through mud, sand and snow, good manoeuvrability, a comfy ride for baby and, importantly, robustness. The drawbacks are that they are often clunkier and heavier than their about-town cousins, they take up more storage space and walking space (so aren't usually as good for about town in the shops), the air-filled tyres will mean you'll probably want to carry around a puncture repair kit and finally, they're often rather more expensive.
Some all-terrain buggies will be fine for an occasional gentle jog over very even ground, but don't assume that having three chunky wheels on a buggy or ubiquitous 'jogger' label will make it suitable for running, in most cases it won't be. If you want a buggy that you can take your baby running with then read on for what you need.
Jogging and running buggies
If you want a buggy that you can go running or jogging with then you can forget all those three-wheelers with 6-inch front wheels. To soak up the speedier jolts of running you ideally need a buggy with at least 16-inch wheels. For the occasional light jog you may get away with 12-inch chunky wheels, but if you're at all serious about running or jogging then your baby should really have the comfort of the bigger wheels. For most runners 16-inch wheels will do the job well, but if you're a very fast or long-distance runner then 20-inch wheels are recommended.
Until recently running buggies were quite inflexible and very cumbersome to carry and store due to the big wheels, nowadays they're more likely to have smart folding sytems, suspension, adjustable seat positions and even have the ability to take a car seat or carrycot for the early months. Big names in the field include Babyjogger, who now offer everything from a serious runner's buggy to a more recreational running buggy and now even a city stroller (not for running). Their Q series comes in 3 different wheel sizes and with a very nifty one-hand quick-fold. The inclusion of a shopping basket makes the Q series a realisitic option for doubling up about-town but with the usual maneouvrability drawbacks of most proper running buggies, long length, fixed wheels, and of course, wheel size.
What to look for in all styles
Once you've decided whether a 3-wheeler will fit the bill for you, here are some of the features to look out for when buying.
The very first thing to consider when buying a pushchair or buggy is your baby's well being. If you're buying for a newborn you'll need to have a fully reclined option as your newborn needs to lie completely flat. Be sure to check that the fully reclined position is suitable for a newborn, or if you're looking at a travel system, that the chair is compatible with a fully reclined option, like a carry cot.
|Britax's well-priced Trekker - click pic for more
A fully reclined position is also going to be important if you're going to want to leave your baby in the pushchair for long periods of time, as it's much more comfortable for baby to sleep flat.
If a model you are considering has several different positioning options then test them out to see how easy it is to switch between them and whether the mechanism appears robust.
The quality of the seat/padding on the chair is also important, and the longer you plan to be able to have your baby in the pushchair, the more important this will be. Generally all-terrain pushchairs score well on padding as they're designed to soak up the bumps of off-road travel, but do double check that the padding is up to the job.
Wheels & suspension
The quality of the wheels are important for an all-terrain buggies, they'll need to be robust and offer good comfort for your baby. Air-filled tyres generally score highly in this regard but solid tyres with good suspension can also do well. Many urban and all-terrain three-wheelers offer front swivel wheels for manoeuvrability on the flat but a lockable option is useful for rougher terrain.
Bigger wheels generally offer a more comfortable ride but there's an obvious trade off with bulk and, usually, weight, so be realistic about what will really suit your lifestyle best.
Portability & storage
While all-terrain buggies are generally heavier and more clunky than about-town options, you can now find all-terrain buggies that are surprisingly light and reasonably compact - although there's usually a price to pay for the privilege. If you're looking for a chair that's as happy about town as off-road it's not an impossible task, but it may well be more expensive. The Britax Trekker, for example, weighs in at 10.5kg and costs £189. The Bugaboo Gecko and Cameleon are - now more unusual - 4-wheeled all-terrain travel systems that are both reasonably compact and light (the Gecko weighs 8kg with seat unit), but the swish systems will set you back at least £469.
Flexibility & accessories
If you have one specific use in mind for your pushchair then you won't need it to be very flexible. If, however, you want a pushchair that you can take off-road, whip in the boot of the car, leave your baby to sleep in, accommodate a tray load of shopping and use it in all weathers, you'll either have to look to meet your requirements through more than one chair, or find a suitably flexible option.
|Bugaboo's multi-purpose Gecko - click pic for more
Generally speaking, the more complex/ flexible the chair is and the more accessories it offers, the heavier it will be. However, there are a number of chairs that offer numerous seating positions, removable shopping trays, removable parasols and covers, good robustness etc. while still being easily portable and stowable. As with most things, the more convincingly a pushchair ticks more boxes, the more it is likely to cost. Depending on your needs and available space you might find that separate pushchairs for different circumstances are more cost effective.
Build quality, brakes and handles
All-terrain chairs are designed to be robust by their nature, but check that any you're interested for build quality. Check how robust the stroller feels overall, and check the quality of any mechanisms, fixings and the handles. Some all-terrainers offer adjustable handles, which may be important if as a couple you're very different heights.
Brake function and lock are important to check out. Some all-terrain buggies offer a handlebar brake which is nice to have, and it's vital on any running buggy.
Another option to consider if you want your all-terrain chair to be more multipurpose are travel systems, now available with all-terrain frames. The idea with these is that different parts are designed to attach to one frame, changing the pushchair completely. Commonly a seat is replaceable with a car seat, so that you can move your baby undisturbed from car to pushchair, or a carrycot, so you can turn your pushchair into something more like a traditional pram for sleeping. If you're looking at a have-it-all travel system then you need to check that it performs each of its functions well, rather than compromising on performance for flexibility.
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