Mountain Buggy Duet – Opening the Box
I am sat here tonight feeling disappointed. I have looked forward to receiving the Mountain Buggy Duet for months since first seeing it back in March, and loving its narrow width, generous seats, carrycot and car seat options. Having since been to the Mountain Buggy University and loved the Duo, Urban Jungle, +one, and especially the Swift, I was really looking forward to receiving my Duet.
Opening the box
My first impression was “what a huge box for a narrow pushchair”. But I already knew from experience, and previously having seen the prototype, that the fold wasn’t small even if the width was small. The Mountain Buggy fold is relatively long on all their current pushchairs.
But out of the box did come the narrow Duet. I was a bit worried that the seats were too narrow after all but once the fabric had been pushed back to form the seat shape they looked fine. I accidentally put a wheel on back to front (the pictorial instructions dont help, and I like my wheels to match), and I then struggled to undo the bolts again – I thought the wheels would be easy to remove but they dont appear to be! As I turned one nut the other one simply swivelled round. Note to self: do not remove the front wheels! The back ones were much simpler. The wheels are air tyres, so the pressures did get checked. I am pondering whether to Slime them or not!
I eventually stood the Duet up on four wheels. But the first thing I noticed was pink foam hanging out from underneath a gap below the seat with the wire frame underneath. I tried to poke it back in but it wouldn’t go. It looks like the poppers underneath the seat unit aren’t near enough together. So I have a black pushchair with pink foam and wire visible at the side…hmmm!!
The hoods on the Mountain Buggy Duet are huge. I am very impressed by the size. But even better, underneath the hood is a flick out visor to give even more sun protection for the children. This visor does pop out in a series of odd shapes because of the wire in it, but I much prefer a wired visor to the type that constantly fall down each time the hood gets opened. The Duet hoods also ‘catch’ in the middle ie one pulls the other down but thats a compromise for the width and slim centre bar, and I can accept that. *EDIT 2 weeks on* My daughter is now taking great delight at pushing her hood back now which because of
the ‘catching’ then pushes my son’s hood back which is annoying when its been windy or he’s trying to sleep! (Not to mention she can then reach to poke him or try to grab his hand!)
However there is a large hole in one hood of the Duet – a bit larger than an iPhone. I will talk about this further another day. But the bottom line is that this large hole allows water into the hood, it allows sun through the hood onto a childs head, and allows bitter winter winds through around a child’s head and neck. I have heard people suggest that the eldest child goes into the seat under that hood – but this is the side that you would naturally remove the fabric from first to add on a carrycot or car seat because of the way the seat fabrics overlap. Thus the toddler would naturally have the other seat with the perfect hood leaving baby with the elements on their head, or face if sleeping.
I wish Mountain Buggy had used magnetic catches on the two peekaboo windows of the Duet rather than velcro because velcro is noisy. However I did like the velcro tabs to keep the hood rolled up on top. However the seat fabric can bunch up around the children’s heads (see below) which means that all you can really see through the peekaboo window when the children are sat up is the bunched up fabric! Although of course you can see sufficient of the child on the right via the gap in the Duet hood without needing to use the peekaboo window!
I have used a Mountain Buggy handlebar briefly a few times so knew to expect the ridged rubber rather than a foam handlebar. It’s not the most comfortable thing under your hands and I will be looking for some kind of cover for it. What I don’t like is the way the rubber bunches up around the corners, and how on one side of my Duet the handlebar doesn’t sit flush with the chassis, leaving a gap. I am never convinced by ergonomically designed handlebars but so far it doesn’t feel too bad.
However I do love the bottle holder. This is something that is really useful to me as I always carry a bottle of water with me. So that gets a thumbs up from me. I have noticed there is a screw nut thingy on one side of the handlebar and not the other. Is this for a cup holder to hook onto? Its a shame that Mountain Buggy didn’t put any additional small storage onto the Duet. I did look in the basket for small pockets as are on some other Mountain Buggy products, but there are none. Come on Mountain Buggy, we all have keys, purses, wallets and phones these days. We need somewhere to put these things and pockets on the back of seats are a great start! *EDIT 2 weeks on* There is a cup holder available to buy which fits onto the screw nut.
So onto folding the Duet. I struggled to release the catch on one side of the Duet. I pulled and tugged and eventually the latch came free and the Duet folded. I discovered that it is not possible to put the handlebar totally tucked in if you wish to put the storage strap on as the handlebar gets stopped by the wheels which means that the two parts of the pushchair are not close enough to clip together. I must remember that as well! The Duet is quite bulky to lift – it is one piece double pushchair after all and as I have said, although it is relatively narrow, the fold is quite long. I wasn’t quite sure where to hold the Duet to lift it though. I dont think the bumper bar will stand up to the weight as it fell off later on. The Duet just…and I mean just…with a wiggle…. fitted into my car. So that was a relief. We can at least take the Duet out and about with us, although it does fill a good chunk of the boot. But a side by side is good to have at times.
However opening the Duet up again was much more tricky. The storage strap was released and the Duet flicked open easily enough but I quickly realised that the side which I had struggled to release the catch on, now wouldn’t lock. When I looked closely, the plastic footrest was obstructing the access to the pin which locks the chassis solid. I tried and tried for quite a while to push it in using my hands and it was not budging past the footrest.
Seats & Harnesses
Whilst I pondered the catch, I had a good look at the Duet seat units. The first obvious thing is the harnesses. I think apart from the width, the harnesses are the next best thing. The Duet harnesses are easy to adjust; simple to slide up to adjust the height; the buckle is fab because not only is there a double locking mechanism to stop little fingers from opening it, but it also makes it really hard for a child to close (if not impossible), and it is a two handed open for the adult. It may not be great when you are trying to hold onto the hand of one disappearing child whilst you try to remove the other one…hmm! *EDIT 2 weeks on* It’s great to have such a child proof buckle, but why oh why is there a clip on the child’s shoulders that is easy to undo??!! Any smart child will simply undo the shoulder buckle and escape!!
I like the fact you have to lock one side and then the other, but I need to practise lining the grooves up correctly as you need to be pretty accurate to fit the parts together. It did feel a little fiddly especially when the baby is wriggling and arching its back!!! But I am very keen on safety and having easy adjust straps means a child is more likely to be strapped in tightly.
One of my biggest issues with the Mountain Buggy Duet is the way the seat fabric sits. When the Duet arrives the fabric is bunched up all in front of the seat unit. I will post photos to illustrate this. When the seat is reclined the fabric gets lowered down. When the seat gets pulled up again (using the simple to use two handed recline toggles), the fabric all bunches up around the back and head of the child. It looks awfully uncomfortable and hot. My son easily overheats so this is a bit of an issue for us. But I took a tip from a guest at the Mountain Buggy University day and pulled the seat forwards and tucked the fabric behind the seat which not only made the seat look neater and more comfortable, but also make the seats more upright, which was great!! However the only way to achieve this was with a lot of tugging and pulling and it is not something that you can really do with the child in situ on the seat. I have to say, it was not easy and for the first time ever I decided not to take photos at this point in time with the children reclined!!! I really did not want the faff of tucking the material back in again. Another way around the uncomfy bunched up fabric would be to put on a seat liner or cosy toes but I haven’t tried this yet. Each time the seat is reclined the hood becomes unpoppered at the back on the outside edge which is a tad annoying to be honest. *EDIT 2 weeks on* The bunching up of the fabric is REALLY annoying! If you tuck the fabric behind the seat to make it look neat and be more comfy, then the seat doesn’t recline easily. You have to pull the seat forwards, pull the fabric out and then recline it. A cosy toes makes things no better. If you hook a cosy toes over the back of the seat then this too needs removing to recline, and then when the child is pulled upright the cosy toes is all around their head. The hood poppers still come off each time – sometimes just one, but sometimes two.
I also want to comment here on how basic the fabric of the Mountain Buggy Duet is. It is polyester and it feels cheap to be honest. I have seen a good handful of side by side pushchairs and the Mountain Buggy Duet is the only one which has no obvious padding in the seats. I know there is some padding because of the pink foam exposed at the sides, but compared to other pushchairs in a similar price range (the Duet is £580) like the Baby Jogger Elite (£599.99) or the TFK Twinner Twist Duo (£599) or the Easywalker Duo (£649) which all have visibly padded seats, the Mountain Buggy feels to be lacking. There is stitching on the sides of the pushchair where the various tabs are sewn in, but the raw edges and poor sewing make it look like there is a fault with the fabric.
All round the quality which I expected from Mountain Buggy isn’t there whether its the ill fitting lock, or the foam on show, or the hole in the hood, or the way the handlebar is bunched up around the corners, or the gaps either side of the hood, or the rough edges on the rivets. When you look at any of the other pushchairs listed above, you can see clearly the attention to detail: for example the way the fabric folds neatly onto velcro tabs behind a child’s head when sat up from a recline, the quality of the footrests, the storage pouches and pockets which make such a difference to parents with keys, purses, phones etc., the stitching, hoods etc. My problems with the Duet do not appear to be isolated. Amongst the other Duet owners I know there are rattling brakes, tears in the handlebar and fabric, and more pink foam on show. *EDIT 2 weeks on* I now have an annoying creaking noise at times. I didn’t talk about the brake originally, but apparently if you touch the top of the red part of the brake, then it should engage. My Duet brake involves some hopping on one foot to hook my toes around the back of the brake – but its too close to the chassis to be easy! You need winklepickers or pointed stilletos on to get around the back! I usually end up tugging the brake on with my hand.
Children on board
I really wanted to try out the Mountain Buggy Duet seats, so even though the chassis was not locked properly, I gingerly put my eldest in the seat, and then the baby. I strapped them both in and I stood behind. I pushed on the handle and commented that the chassis was moving and didn’t feel secure but suddenly there was a jolt and when I looked the weight of the children and the pushing on the handle had been enough to push the locking mechanism back past the plastic footrest and to lock securely. Phew for now…but I need to get the locking mechanism looked at as its not very safe. (*EDIT* the locking mechanism, is working better now – its not perfect, and is still hard to unlock, but we will see how it goes). *EDIT 2 weeks on* The locking mechanism still doesn’t lock when the pushchair is set upright without the children’s weight in and a big push down.
The children seemed pretty comfortable in their Duet seats. However I was shocked to find that my 13 month old already needed the straps on the highest setting as the middle one was below his shoulder height!! To date, my almost 3 year old has never had any pushchair straps on the highest setting, but she too needs them on the highest setting on the Duet. I do often say to people who say pushchair seats are small for their 9, 10 or whatever month old, that children’s legs grow more in the coming years than their body trunk and no more is that evident with my two children. My eldest is much much taller than the baby but yet they look a similar height in the Duet seats. My daughter, as often happens, preferred to dangle her outside leg over the side, but the height of the Duet was such that this was not an issue which is good. Both children had plenty of room under the canopies. However my daughter has already scratched the footplate with her shoes which is a real shame
I fitted the bumper bar onto the pushchair. It seems to come quite high up on the children, but it is fabric covered which is a thumbs up from me! However there isn’t much padding on it and you can clearly feel the metal bar in the centre of the bumper bar, to the point where I bet it could cause a fair bruise if bumped into! The bumper bar will swing away but then falls off! But the bumper bar is included in the price (but the raincover isn’t). Just a note, I have seen a Duo recently with a hole where someone had fitted the bumper bar over the fabric. But it is easy to slide the bumper bar underneath the fabric which would save wear and tear. *EDIT 2 weeks on* I have put the bumper bar away after it fell off too many times. It was too high for my eldest to be useful anyway.
The shopping basket looks a very good size. However there are two straps hanging down from the seat unit which fasten at the bottom of the basket. These looked fairly innocuous until you try to push anything into the basket. The basket is quite far forwards under the seats so you think you have just pushed far enough under when the straps get in the way. Trying to bend down to unclip TWO clips to put the shopping into the basket, and then doing them back up is a bit of a pain to be honest. Access to the basket is restricted with the seats reclined, but there is still access at each side. *EDIT 2 weeks on* I have found it easy enough to put shopping in through the sides of the pushchair, although I can’t get a whole carrier bag in and end up tipping half of it out into the basket before stuffing the rest in!
Car Seat Adaptor
The car seat adaptor is a fair chunk of metal. It requires adaptors screwing onto the frame which means you need to decide which side the car seat fits. The instructions say to put the car seat on the side with the hole in the hood. But having put the adaptor on, I think the car seat looks daft up so high, and I think I will swap mine and put it down low on the other side. This will have the advantage that my baby will not be on the side of the pushchair with the hole in the hood. However fitting the car seat adaptor is not as simple as say the Baby Jogger City Select or iCandy Peach Blossom ie it doesnt just clunk into place. Mountain Buggy’s instructions show that all the seat fabric should be removed. However I wrote this as a con on my Best Buggy stats page and got a phone call from Mountain Buggy complaining because the car seat adaptor will apparently go on without removing the seat fabric. Well yes, it will technically fit on, but you need to first remove the hood, then undo a zip down the centre of the seat, then undo two poppers, then release a strap fixing before you can move the fabric out of the way enough to fit the adaptor on. However to put the fabric back on again involves doing everything back up and trying to thread the strap back through the buckle and pulling it tight, and fixing the hood back in place. It doesn’t take long, but its a bit faffy if like me you have a 6 month plus baby who is still in a car seat, but who has outgrown the carrycot and need to interchange between the two modes. I have to say a) its too time consuming for me compared to the clunking in and out of other pushchair adaptors and b) I question whether the poppers could stand up to being constantly poppered in and out on a day to day basis. After seeing a post earlier on Mountain Buggy’s Facebook where someone says their poppers have broken on a different model, I have to say I would worry. However the car seat adaptors can stay in situ when the Duet is folded.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the car seat(s) adds to the width of the Duet. We tried our best to work out by how much, and we estimate its about a 9cm overhang per Maxi Cosi Cabriofix car seat. This should be no problem for one car seat as the Duet should still fit through a standard 76.2cm door, but with two car seats on the width will increase to approx 81cms which is wider than even the most up to date building regulations for door widths. If you have twins, this could be an issue.
It is also important to note that the car seat adaptors have a maximum load of 9kg / 20lbs!!! Be aware of this! *EDIT 2 weeks on* We are trying 2 weeks to get confirmation re whether the maximum load includes the weight of the car seat or not (as the Pebble and Cabriofix are different weights).
All round, I have to say I am no longer excited by this pushchair. The quality and finish are not as good as I would expect from either Mountain Buggy as a brand, but also for the cost of this pushchair. For the money there are much better side by side pushchairs currently on the market offering greater comfort and features for both children and adults.
BUT – the reason the Duet did excite me is the narrow width – and for many people the narrow width of the Mountain Buggy Duet will make a huge difference to their lives – simply to be able to walk out of the door with the children or into a local shop without help. For these people the Duet will be a godsend….and the price of freedom is worth any compromises.*EDIT 2 weeks on* The width is great – I have loved trying to get the Duet through tiny gaps. However just be aware the widest point of the pushchair is half way up. With a wide single or even double pushchair, it is usually the wheels which get stuck or else fit underneath a shopping display or shelf. But with the middle being the widest point I am finding I sometimes knock things off shelves or displays, and also I have to check the children have their arms and legs safely inside before going through a gap or doorframe.
However the width of a pushchair is not an issue when carrying your children, then I strongly recommend you look at another brand to get better quality, features and value for money in a side by side pushchair. The TFK Twinner Twist Duo, Baby Jogger Elite, Easywalker Duo, Nipper 360 for example, I feel all have a lot more to offer for similar money or less. *EDIT 2 weeks on* One thing I didn’t expect from such a small pushchair, was for it to be heavy to push on the straight. I know I have two older toddlers, but side by sides are generally fairly easy to push. The Duet is aggravating a back problem that I have because it is so heavy. Also the Duet veers to the side that my eldest is seated which makes it a two handed push. The manoeuvrability ie on the spot or round a corner is brilliant.
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