Sunday, April 17, 2005

Selecting Peanut's Ride

Selecting the baby carriage for Peanut turned out to be more of a challenge than we had expected. The choices in Finland are very limited. Here are some of our impressions...

What's available in Finland
At the top of the line we found Emmaljunga. This Swedish brand builds baby carriages like they used to build Volvo's. They are sturdy, big and heavy carriages - specifically suited for the cold Nordic climate with thick insulation. The design is stylish, but not necessarily modern.

Also at the higher end of the market is the German brand Teutonia. These seem to be particularly popular with the well-to-do in the Helsinki area. They look robust, but are quite low. This means that every time you need to interact with the baby, you'll have to bend down quite far. Especially for Peanut's dad, who is rather tall, this is not desirable.

At the lower end of the market you'll find Brio and various Italian and Polish brands. The construction quality looks shotty and especially for the Italian models it looks like the design hasn't changed significantly in the last 50 years or so.

What we want and got:
On a visit to the Netherlands, a new world opened... In the Netherlands they have some of the coolest baby carriages. After we came back, we decided we wanted the following from a baby carriage:
  1. Good build quality - you'll use it for 2-3 years.
  2. Small transport size - so it fits in the back of the car
  3. Light weight - you'll have to lift it frequently
  4. Maneuverable - city shops have narrow aisles
  5. Four big wheels - needed to plow through the snow
  6. Height adjustable - Peanut's dad is much taller than her mom
  7. Nice looking - There are 13 dark blue baby carriages in a dozen
The only store in Helsinki who was able to deliver something close was Bambami. They offer the Bugaboo, a very trendy Dutch brand. We didn't go for the Bugaboo because it seemed a bit small to us and we were afraid it's smaller wheels would not be able to cope with snow.

Finally, we ended up going for a Mutsy Urban Rider. It met almost all of our requirements. Fortunately, Peanut's grandparents live in The Netherlands and they offered to buy one as a present and ship in to Finland. Thanks! If you plan to pick one up - you can get them from Prenatal. I have also left this as a tip at Bambami - so maybe they will start importing them.

Some lessons we learned:

Maneuverability
Especially in cities and shops, you'll want something that is maneuverable. Most models on the market in Finland have four fixed wheels. They wont steer unless you lift two wheels of the ground. Especially with heavier carriages and when the child gets heavier this can become a real back-breaker. We recommend you go for something that has a lockable steering mechanism so you can choose between directional stability and maneuverability based on where you are. That is of course assuming you can get it here.

Choice of wheel configuration
Three-wheeled carriages are trendy, but can suffer some stability problems. They can tip over to front left or front right when hitting an obstacle. There are carriages that have four wheels in the three-wheeler configuration. The two front wheels are positioned close to eachother.

These carriages look really cool, but in a country with snow 6 months a year they make you work hard. When riding through the snow every one of the three or four wheels is forming a path. This is done with the energy you put into pushing the carriage.

So, we believe that four wheels with the distance between the wheels in the front being equal to the distance between the wheels in the back is the best choice for Finland. This allows the rear wheels to ride in the path that the front wheels have already created - saving you energy and back-pain.

Four big wheels will probably cope better with snow and mud as we have here often. For longer distances, bigger wheels create less drag, so take less effort to roll.

Height adjustement
Peanut's dad is much taller than her mom and quite tall by any standard anyway. So we were specifically looking for a baby carriage that has an adjustable handlebar. If the handlebar is too low, a tall person will suffer back pain from having to walk and push while bending down. If the handlebar is too high, a shorter person will not be able to control the carriage well.

Most carriages on the market here solve this problem with a knee-like joint in the handlebar. With this you can adjust the height by swivelling the last part of the handlebar up or down. This is bad design if you are tall. Swivelling up will bring the handlebar up higher, but will also bring it closer to the carriage (circle geometry). You will be kicking the carriage all the time. Better is to have a handlebar that extends with two pipes sliding over / into eachother. In Finland we have only seen this on the Emmaljunga.

Conclusion
We believe we have done a thorough analysis of the situation and that we we made the choice that was best for us. Have a look at what is important for you before you make your choice on looks only. Budget may be a serious constraint though. Expect to pay in the 700 to 900 euro range for the higher end models and 300 to 500 for low-end.

5 comments:

rollercoaster said...

Umm. These things are pretty expensive. Some questions about the one you choose: 1) Is there any space for putting shopping/bags/stuff in the pram under the baby? If so, how much 2) When mounting the curb or a single step of +15cm, how does the pram perform? I got the impression that the front set of wheels are linked to the mobile back set of wheels (not connected to anything else e.g. frame), therefore I thought that mounting the curb or a step could be either unstable or put unwanted presure on the linking structure between front and back set of wheels. Any wisdom?? Cheers

rollercoaster said...

Umm. These things are pretty expensive. Some questions about the one you choose: 1) Is there any space for putting shopping/bags/stuff in the pram under the baby? If so, how much 2) When mounting the curb or a single step of +15cm, how does the pram perform? I got the impression that the front set of wheels are linked to the mobile back set of wheels (not connected to anything else e.g. frame), therefore I thought that mounting the curb or a step could be either unstable or put unwanted presure on the linking structure between front and back set of wheels. Any wisdom?? Cheers

Peanut's Mom said...

I've now been using our pram for three months and for the most part, I love it. Yes, it wasn't cheap, but its practically in daily use and one of the main modes of transport for our Peanut.

There is space underneath for shopping bags, etc. With the carry cot in place there is more space than with the stroller. I've stuffed 2+ bags of groceries along with misc other shopping in there easily. The only thing is that the sides are not very high so you have to pack carefully.

Curbs are fine - I usually lock the turning mechanism when going up or down curbs to make it easier. Then, like with any other prams, I have to use my foot to lever it up/down. I can also get it on/off buses very easily.

The structure is quite well put together. The back wheels are on a triangle with the wheels on bottom two points and the point of rotation is the top point. Halfway in the triangle there is additional support. does that describe it well enough?

My pet peeves have been with the overall massive size of the system and stuffing it all into a car! We have a station wagon and it easily fills the trunk. But, then again, so do all of the other options that combine carry cot/stroller and wheels for plowing through snow.

paa said...

Hi Peanut's mom or daddy,

thanks for this website, very helpful. I am also looking for stroller now and from your comments I believe musty urban ride is good for me too, what do you think of the maneuverability after experience, I don't have strong stength to hold it, I have tried my goddaughter's stroller and it is too heavy for me, takes too much energy to keep it in line, it always goes to upright direction. also I thought to order it from http://www.pingpong-online.com/ internet, because I don't get service from local retail shops, I need to know the life time of the parts, are they durable? Also up to what month of the baby will the carrycot still be useful. how old will the baby be when I have to change it to seat unit and do you find the standard seat unit better or the fun seat better? did you buy car seat from musty too? sorry for so many question, first child, have no idea :-)

Peanut's Mom said...

Hi paa,

don't worry, we were totally clueless when we started, too! I had a hard time imaging i'd be pushing a stroller around, into stores, onto trains, etc... The Mutsy was a great choice for us! I was often stopped by moms on the street wondering what was this amazing stroller that navigates :-)

Peanut was in the carry cot until about 4 - 5 mos because at that point she wanted to see more, was able to somewhat sit supported and it was getting hot in the cot. I think she would have fit for another month or two. We had the regular stroller seat which I still use here in Dallas when we go for a walk on the jogging paths. The only draw back of the seat is that it leaves very little space in the basket underneath. On the other hand, the stroller seat can face forward or backward - nifty for protecting from the elements and for baby to look at you or where you are going. You do have to lift and turn around manually.

Once I switched over to the stroller, I realized that she could have used it even earlier since it reclines almost fully. We bought the zipper up warmer bag for the stroller so that would have helped keep her in place and protected from the elements.

We also bought generic rain covers for the carry cot and stroller - both were of clear plastic and I used them frequently. The mosquito net i only used a few times,but peanut did not sleep in her stroller during summer - it was too hot on our patio.

One piece of equipment I found difficult to use and thus didn't was the umbrella. it was quickier and more effective to use clothes pins to hold a diaper cloth (the white ones you get in the KELA packet) in place to block the sun.

We bought the Maxi Cosi Cabrio car seat + Mutsy clip ons to make it fit the system. We used this system freqently for short runs into the shop and I used it when I travelled by train and would be met by someone in a car. That way I didn't have to take a stroller AND a car seat. Its been a great car seat (even if it is technically illegal in the US since it hasn't been approved by local regulators!)

I think we got the car seat from BamBami in Kämp Galleria in Helsinki. They carry several Dutch brands including the trendy Bugaboo strollers. You could try asking if they would get a Mutsy for you. We also mentioned it to them so perhaps they could even become an importer for Finland?

Let us know if there's anything else can tell you about it and how you're able to get one. You could always consider a weekend trip to the Netherlands and go to Prenatal to buy one.......

Best,
Peanut's Mom