Is There Such a Thing as the Perfect Tandem?
Tandem pushchairs are interesting to Best Buggy because finding the perfect tandem pushchair is really hard. It may seem simple to choose when faced with a small toddler and a baby on the way – but a year hence when you are pushing around a 12 month old and a now larger toddler (some 25kg of child) – believe me, not all tandems are the same!
What constitutes a perfect tandem though depends on your criteria…
So, what are my criteria:
First of all my children have to be comfortable. I am really not fussy about if they are parent facing, or outward facing (after all they spend most of their waking hours with me and it is nice for them to have a change of scene), nor whether one is lower or higher, but I do want both children to be able to have some kind of view without them getting a crick in the neck. Ideally it needs a carrycot from birth but I am open to other suggestions as long as they are suitable from birth. I want them to feel snug and warm in winter – more than shaded in summer (its easy enough to add on shade) – so I dont like hoods with huge gaps at the back.
Secondly, the pushchair has to be easy to push. Having pushed many tandems this year, I know not all tandems push the same. The easiest two to push by far with my two bigger children in, have been the Mima Kobi and the iCandy Peach Blossom 2011 with the B-Dual close behind. But last year when I had a newborn and a 21 month old, pushability was not the major issue it is now! Last year most tandems were easy to push!
Thirdly, I HAVE to have room for some shopping or a small changing bag or my hand bag. I don’t mind if some or all hangs from a handlebar as long as the pushchair feels sturdy enough and its not banging annoyingly into the back of a lower seat all the way home. I don’t do huge grocery shops because that’s why online shopping exists, much to my daughter’s glee and cries of “oh thank you Mr Tesco” as all her favourite foods magically appear – so just one average supermarket basket of shopping. But my children also need clothing and toys, and we do go shopping for those. We also like to go to playgroup which requires a changing bag, or even an outing with a picnic, rug, ball etc on board. If I am pushing a pushchair, then I refuse to be carting all these things around my person. I push the pushchair, and the pushchair carries my children, equipment, shopping and everything else! That’s the deal!
Finally, a pushchair needs to fit in my car, and ideally have car seat adaptors to make it easy when I drive from a to b to c to d to e and have to run in and out of each place to drop things off or pick things up with two children in tow!
However trying to find a pushchair which fulfils all these is really really really hard to do!!
I tried to write some lists of my top tandems earlier, but I had to give up. Every pushchair…every single one…has pros and cons – big pros and cons. Side by side double pushchairs are much more straight forward.
So I have decided instead of writing a list, to write a quick summary of the tandems I have tested, in alphabetical order, to sum them up against each other:
Baby Jogger City Select – The nearly perfect tandem. Great seating positions, huge basket, folds down very flat, great carrycots, car seat adaptors, comfy seats, huge hoods – great for twins and siblings. Quite brilliant – apart from the handling. It was fab for the first 9 months of my baby’s life, but after that it became too hard to push up even a slight hill. The City Select veeres to one side as I push, and I struggle to constantly try and maintain a straight line. It is hard to get up kerbs and steps but I got good at spotting the dropped kerbs so it was never an issue. But the pushability means that now, a year on, I can only use the City Select on a very flat easy to push surface eg a shopping centre. It still remains in our house because of its tiny fold size. It is the only tandem that fits under the roof of my convertible car and it leaves plenty of space for picnics, shopping etc. I love the Baby Jogger City Select but am disappointed at the weight distribution.
Britax B-Dual – This is my top tip for a great all round pushchair for twins or siblings. The newborn space at the bottom is brilliant without needing a carrycot, but there are carrycot and car seat options. I love having the baby in the car seat on top because he is so close. I like looking down on the lower child through the mesh in the hoods when its warm. There is masses of space between the two seats and loads of room for a toddler to stretch their legs into the basket. It is easy to fold with both seats in situ, and then to pull along behind you. But the fold is large and bulky, but it does freestand. The B-Dual pushes brilliantly and coped great off road and coped amazingly well on sand. My biggest issue is with the seating. Whatever I try, my daughter does not look comfortable in the seats. She requests the lower seat is reclined, so she can stretch her legs out fully like on a sun lounger, but she kind of ‘hangs’ from the upper seat. She looks better with the footrest raised but I am not convinced. Even with a child’s legs in the basket, there is still plenty of room for shopping if you pack it well. The netting at the front and sides helps keep everything in and the access zips especially at the front are fab! The price is good for what you get and also for the quality.
Graco Quattro Tour Duo – A sturdy tandem pushchair that takes two car seats and has one lie flat seat. Great value for money with lots of extras. Well thought out with snack tray, cupholders, large & small basket and storage pocket. However the front hood is very shallow as is the front recline. However there is loads of space especially for the rear child, with a good view out of the sides. The biggest downsides are the huge fold (but it does fold very easily and in one piece) and the weight when pushing. It is VERY heavy to push – the heaviest tandem I have tried to date – but yet the manoeuvrability for such a long, heavy tandem is good. It was easy to push around shops. The basket is brilliant, with easy access (it drops down to the floor), however the label says only suitable for 5kgs which isn’t much shopping!
Hauck Duett – This pushchair is very similar in may ways to the Britax B-Dual. However it is cheaper but there is also a fundamental flaw. The Britax B-Dual can take two newborn babies, with the best baby space is underneath. However it is the upper, main seat of the Hauck Duett that cleverly transforms in seconds into a pramette / carrycot. The fabric & mattress are all included to facilitate this which is brilliant value for money. However with the pramette / carrycot on the top, the space for a toddler underneath is badly compromised and means the toddler has to be reclined for the first six months of the life of its new sibling. Even then I am not convinced that the lower seat is supportive enough for a 6 month plus baby although a car seat probably works better. However for two older babies or siblings I think you would have to go a long way to beat the Hauck Duett for value for money, comfortable seats, leg room, space etc. It also has a great basket which is enclosed on either side. The fold is chunky, but once again it does fold with both seats on and freestands. Best of all the Hauck Duett pushes very well with two heavier children aboard and drives nicely in a straight line!
Kolcraft Contours - It is worth saying at the start that this pushchair is a US import, therefore does not have to meet British Safety Standards. Therefore whilst the instructions recommend the seats as being suitable from birth, I personally would not put an under 6 month old in them as they are bucket seats. This poses an issue because there are no carrycot options, but one car seat adaptor is included, so a Maxi Cosi car seat could be used. But if you can get around this, then the Kolcraft Contours is a fantastic pushchair for two children. The seating options, in many ways, are better even than the Baby Jogger City Select. I especially like having the baby reclined parent facing and the eldest facing outwards. On the City Select its impossible to recline the seats in this way. It is much easier to see the front of the Contours than the City Select, so are less likely to bash the front child’s knees or feet. It is easy to push with two larger children in, and is easy to push up kerbs. The handle bar is comfy although fixed – but at a good height. The hoods are large. The shopping basket is absolutely huge. There are grab handles for toddlers to hold when walking, & a parent tray. The downsides are that it is very long – the longest tandem we have tried out, but it is manoeverable and easy to push & steer. The fold is also chunky – the chassis concertinas leaving a fixed handle sticking up which makes for an awkward shape, however the seat units are very flat. If you have room to store and transport the chassis then this is a great value for money tandem which had fab seating options, storage, pushability and more! Definitely worth a look especially for children older than 6 months old.
Mamas and Papas Skate with Junior Seat – Probably the worst tandem I have tried. The main seat is great. The Junior seat has a 3 point harness with no recline. The label of Junior seat indicates to me that it is meant for the toddler. However after we both, and the sales assistant, failed to get the pushchair even a millimetre off the ground we were advised that our six month old baby should go in the Junior seat and his elder sister in the top seat!!!!!! Errrm I think not!! As you tried to push down on the handle to attempt to tip the Skate up a step, the adjustable rotating handle flexes and you literally feel like you would snap it if you pushed any harder. Manoeverability was fab and it was a neat package ie single sized. But with that came huge compromises. The Junior seat is very very close to the main seat – uncomfortably and claustrophobically so. My daughter couldn’t wait to get out – she hated it – and we did too. Great idea, but it totally does not work!
Mima Kobi - *sighs* The Mima Kobi is simply beautiful. The Kobi is an experience…it is a pushchair like no other. It is really impossible to compare it to any other tandem because you buy a Mima Kobi for the experience, for the pleasure, for the aesthetics, shapes and uniqueness. The Kobi is also infinitely practical with beautifully thick seat and harness pads, comfortable seating with clear views from the sides and a beautiful changing box (although sadly it won’t fit in the basket with two seat units on). Whilst the Kobi may be seen as maybe a bit gimmicky, Mima have managed somehow to produce the best handling tandem I have pushed to date. The handling with two heavy seat units, plus two children on board is absolutely superb. The chassis is gorgeous and the fold is fantastic. My dream would be to have the Kobi chassis with two slim seat units on top and a bigger basket and my dreams of the perfect tandem would become true! But then you wouldn’t have a Mima….because the Mima Kobi is defined by the two stunning egg shell like seats with their armadillo hoods. The downsides of the Kobi are that it is bulky to store; the seat units are relatively heavy (but may contain a carrycot inside them), and to stack them eg in the car, requires removing one bumper bar and the hood each time; the basket is a little too shallow for our liking – we did find things fell off if they weren’t wedged in; and the rear seat only reclines. Neither of my children were bothered by the reclining rear seat, I think because the view off the seat sides is so good. But the Mima Kobi is a pushchair that you do buy for the experience, the luxury, the one off-ness!
Mountain Buggy +one - I am the first one to say I haven’t yet tried two children into the Mountain Buggy +one, but I have over 20 years of pushchair experience, I have seen and examined the prototype pushchair carefully on two occasions, and have studied the instructional video, and given it is so near to the release date I would like to include it here. Why? Because for me, I think the Mountain Buggy +one will be my perfect pushchair of the future. It is due in the UK in September and my baby will then be approx 14 months old and just about the right age to go in one of the two seat units with a head hugger for support. The Mountain Buggy +one is a pushchair that starts out life as a single, but transforms into a double without being obviously a double pushchair, which is a bonus when you have an older toddler who wants to walk sometimes, or scoot or ride on her Freerider scooter board fixed to the rear of the pushchair but yet is still prone to the occasional melt down or tired legs on a long outing. I love the fact there is a good sized shopping basket underneath and a large hood. I don’t like the fact there is no more than a minimal few degrees of recline for a baby in just the front seat, but I think there are ways around that with a head hugger and other ideas I have ready to try! My biggest worry though is the length – I think it is too long to fit in the boot of my car but I won’t know until the +one arrives in the UK and I get to try it! But for two older children, I guess ideally 18 months plus, the Mountain Buggy +one is certainly a pushchair with longevity for the future and should easily carry two good sized children as the Mountain Buggy promotional photos show.
Mutsy Urban Rider with Duo Seat – The Mutsy Urban Rider with Duo Seat is probably the most fun tandem I have tried to date. At first the Mutsy feels most odd because it is rear wheel drive. However the rear wheels can be locked and there is still enough give in the chassis to allow basic movements to the left and the right – not enough for sharp cornering though – but it is simple enough to flick the wheels back to rear wheel drive again. I loved the bouncy chassis, a semi decent basket, the large air tyres and just general drive, all in a nice neat package. The downsides were really the level of comfort for the children. The seats are hard like boards with no padding. The baby had to go in the rear seat because of the recline, but my daughter was very close to the floor at the front. The seats felt like they could break off the chassis, to the point where I wouldn’t let my daughter climb in the front without me present. The front hood is minimal but the rear one is good. The harnesses were huge – too big and it was impossible to make them small enough for me to feel happy with them. The harnesses, and bendy seat / chassis (probably perceptional rather than real) worried me. The rear seat is supposedly suitable from birth using the insert, but to be honest I wouldn’t want to put a young baby in the back seat. But all round this pushchair was a lot of fun and I suspect it is great off road or on the beach.
MyChild Sienta Duo – One of the reasons I haven’t really road tested umbrella fold tandems is because they are way too long folded to fit in the boot of my car! I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the Sienta Duo. I thought it would be heavy to push and it wasn’t. However the handlebars did have some sideways flex in them as I pushed. But it was as easy to push, if not easier with my children in, than many of the more expensive tandems on the market. The main issues are similar to the Graco ie that the recline is on the rear seat, therefore my baby needed to sit in the rear seat. The front seat barely reclines, but yet my toddler could happily paddle the pushchair along with her feet because she was too tall. Thus she needed to sit in the back with the baby in the front. That was fine until the baby needed to sleep and then we were stuck! I suspect – but don’t know – and will stand corrected – that this is a similar issue with most umbrella fold pushchairs. At time of purchase when expecting baby No 2 and having a small 18 month old, we would never have considered what would happen a year hence…but we are now a year hence and we would have outgrown this pushchair, and similar umbrella fold ones. But it may be better for a smaller age gap, or to transport young toddler twins. But great quality and value for money, and surprisingly easy to push!
Phil&Teds Dash – I didn’t use the Phil&Teds Dash for long because it was very obvious to me that it wouldn’t suit me because as I walked along my shins knocked on the lower seat unit. I thought it was maybe just me, but we tested it with other people, and several others had the same issue. The biggest grumbles with the Dash seem to be storage, head height, and the doubles kit. The Dash certainly has storage issues – unless you pimp it up with panniers and more. The head height of the doubles kit on top of the main seat is poor and the raincover comes very close to the face of the child on top. The Dash brake involves lowering the handle which restricts access to the newborn space. As with all Phil&Teds it is probable that a newborn would not stay either in the cocoon or the newborn space until 6 months old, but there is the Dash does have a reclining rear seat, but this can only be used whilst the child’s head fits under the top bar of the doubles kit. The Dash is supposed to be good off road, but kerbs are problematic. As I talk to people I find that they either love their Phil&Teds or have hated them. It is a marmite effect and I guess it depends what and when you use a pushchair for!
Phil&Teds Verve – I fell in love with the Verve – with its great looks, incredibly neat fold with both seats on and the fact that both seats take up to a 20kg weight limit. However although the lower seat has a 20kg limit, my eldest looked cramped at 2.5 years old in the lower seat. Lack of storage is an issue (I tried a base bag which did give me the small compartment for my keys, purse etc; and a shop & drop which didn’t work, and a hang bag / other consoles). The doubles kit drops off the pin holes if you sit it too far upright. The fold is relatively easy and neat, but the side ‘wings’ on the Verve are impossibly hard to do and my hands simply aren’t strong enough to do them up. Whilst the Verve amazingly folds with both seats attached into a relatively neat package, it is heavy to lift into a car boot. It will pull along the ground though. The fixed bumper bar hinders my eldest being able to clamber into the seat without me removing it each time, but yet you need the bumper bar in situ to carry the folded Verve.. Its not the easiest pushchair to push – it still feels relatively heavy. It handled off road well, but the front wheels couldn’t cope with sand. When one child gets out, the front nose of the pushchair feels very light ie like it could tip at any time. Even now I love the way the Verve looks – it is stunning – but there were loads more niggly things about the Verve and all round it was a huge disappointment
iCandy Peach Blossom / Twin - iCandy listened to customer feedback and as a result they have produced what is probably the best all round tandem of all the tandems I have tested to date. The new extended Pip convertor and two equal sized seats has transformed the Peach Blossom from a pushchair with a very short life span, into a pushchair that has one of the longest life spans of all the pushchairs and is comfortably coping with my two heavier children. The pushability, handling & manoeverability is fantastic. The two seat units are plenty big enough for my 2.9 year old and are comfy with the soft seat liners and lovely hoods. Each seat reclines and the main seat has an adjustable foot rest. There is plenty of space for the lower child to put their feet into the basket or on the basket rim, but yet also for a quantity of shopping to go in the basket as well. The chassis folds small and the seats nest well inside each other. There is a choice of car seats and carrycots for a baby or newborn twins. The only niggles really are that there are lots of bits ie adaptors to fit – but the iCandy Pear and Baby Jogger City Select are similar. I find recline buttons a bit fiddly to get my arms around the seat to do. The only parent facing options are when the upper carrycot faces you, and the car seats parent face. But it is easy to look down on the child in the lower seat, and the front child never feels that far away from you. But all round the new iCandy Peach Blossom is truly a pushchair that will take your children from newborn to three. Plus you also end up with one of the best single pushchairs on the market too. Highly recommended!
iCandy Pear - I was pleasantly susprised by the iCandy Pear. Compared to the Peach it feels very tank like to push without children in. But with children in, the Pear transforms and I found it great to push around our local streets. I have heard stories of the seat units being small. To be honest the seat units are some of the widest I have seen, but the height of the lower seat was too low for my 2.9 year old to have her head comfortably on the back of the seat, and the only option would have been to remove the hoods. The hoods are shallow and I kept pulling them off the back of the seat in an attempt to tug them forward far enough. I hear parents choose the Pear for the parent facing option but the reality is you are unable to see the lower child when parent facing unless you keep running around. With a toddler and baby, the ’yellow’ smaller seat unit is the one which ends up at the bottom, thus if this seat is designated as the seat for the baby, then as a parent, you really will not get to see the baby, whether in the carrycot or seat unit. The Pear has lots of other niggly issues too. Both my children got their feet trapped at some stage during our test period. My son got his feet caught through the sides of the pip convertor, and my daughter got her feet trapped under the upper seat when I reclined her. I was totally unable to get the seat to rotate back to upright and it was difficult to release her. Once again there are lots of adaptors to fit correctly which can be faffy. The Pear fold however is large and bulky, plus the seat units are large. But my biggest problem was with the wheels. Whilst the Pear handles brilliantly on the straight, if you stop eg in in a shop and the wheels aren’t facing forwards then they stick badly when you try to move again. At first I thought it was a one off, but this happened repeatedly, time and time again and having spoken to some other Pear owners, they too report the same issue. I had no choice but to lock the wheels but then that affected the handling.
Joovy Ergo Caboose – One word – awful! Great looking but heavy to push and impossible to get around corners easily. Why Joovy put such tiny wheels on such a long Caboose, I will never know?! The front seat should have seat pads included as standard. The mesh seat is rough, hard and uncomfortable. The recline, considering there is a huge amount of space between the two children, is really not that great. The Superlite reclines much further. I love the huge basket and flip up bench seat at the back. I love the huge hood and the options to open or close sections for the rear child although in winter there wouldn’t be much protection for either child against bitter winter winds without using the raincover. The Ergo is very long open and is also long when folded. However the Ergo Caboose is easy to fold, and has neat chassis protectors to prevent damage. The Joovy Ergo Caboose was a real disappointment as the concept is a good one and the styling is fabulous. I really hope Joovy work on the handling for the future.
Joovy Ultralite Caboose – The Joovy Ultralite Caboose unlike its newest sibling, is not bad to push. It isn’t the easiest tandem I have pushed, and does feel fairly heavy, but it is a lot of fun and makes you smile! My baby looked very comfy on the seat cushions at the front, whilst my daughter loved the novelty of facing me and being able to chat. She was not bothered at this stage about standing up, but was happy on her bench seat. My only gripe was really my fault – I lifted the front of the Ultralite to go up a step and my daughter promptly fell forwards towards me. Thankfully she was wearing her harness or she may well have toppled out. We managed to get a decent amount of shopping in the basket. I had to ask my daughter to climb off the seat whilst I packed it all away which was a bit of an issue as supermarket check out is the perfect time for a toddler to try and make an escape. There is a lovely deep recline on the Ultralite but to use this compromises the toddler severely and they really need to stand up. But it does give a comfy sleeping option for a baby. The hood is a great size, but like the Ergo does not offer much protection in winter for both children. They could really do with individual hoods. The fold is easy but very long for its size. It is just a shame that the Ultralight has the square frame because it makes it look slightly dated and old fashioned, but all round we liked the Ultralite and my daughter now keeps demanding to go in the ‘green pushchair’!
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