Bugaboo Donkey – Duo Mode Review
After pushing other people’s pushchairs for almost 20 years, I chose a Bugaboo Cameleon for my first born. It was much loved and only sold because we needed a double pushchair. So the Bugaboo Donkey was a pushchair that I really wanted to know more about. I have to say my first two encounters with the Bugaboo Donkey were not entirely positive, but I love it when a pushchair wins me over, and believe me the Donkey certainly has done that!
At first glance you can not help but notice the style and quality of the Bugaboo Donkey. The Bugaboo Donkey has a simple elegance. It is beautifully finished with some fantastic attention to detail. The fabrics are great quality. The seat units fits beautifully into the frame, with the tailored fabric hoods to add a splash of colour. The wheels are white and black and really make the Donkey stand out from the crowd.
Manoeuverability and Pushability
The Bugaboo Donkey is a breath of fresh air to push. Effortless and easy. It manoeuvres very easily and simply. The combination of the swivel wheels at the front and the four air tyres make pushing easy – even fully loaded with just under 30kgs of child weight plus shopping. In fact it is so light that the Bugaboo Donkey is the first empty pushchair we have needed to put a brake on whilst doing a photoshoot because the wind kept blowing it off our paving slab!! It is a good thing that the Donkey comes with a wrist strap to prevent it running away from you! The Donkey was just so light to push – in fact a lot of the time the Donkey simply pushed itself and we simply kept a hand on it to guide it. Even fully loaded with both children on board the Donkey drove in a straight true line. At no point did we need to bring it back to the centre, even unevenly weighted.
Off road, the wheels lock in either a forwards or backwards position. We tried both options and we found both made the Donkey simple to push across rough terrain. However having the wheels locked facing forwards seemed the best on difficult terrain as it gave extra stability. We often get asked for a double pushchair which can be taken easily onto the beach and the Donkey easily fulfils this brief. The Donkey was so very easy to push over soft sand and over rocks. As the photos show, we have had a considerable amount of snow, and the Donkey has coped brilliantly with this. The Donkey really is great for all terrain.
Both our children have been out and about in the Bugaboo Donkey this week, in both Mono and Duo modes, and both were effortless to push individually and collectively. Our daughter is 3.3 years of age, and 102cms tall, and to be honest I thought she would struggle to fit into the seat. In fact one of the main reasons we have not had a Donkey until now was because I thought she would be too big for the seats. However she looks very comfortable in the seat with just the right amount of support. The seat is clearly deep enough for her. Although the footrest is non-adjustable, the length from her knee to footrest is generous. The footrest is wide enough for even her large shoes and is stiff enough that she can not bend it. She hasn’t tried to dangle her feet (her usual trick) because she has no need to!! Height wise she still has a long way to go to reach the top of the canopy – we have ensured that the hood is fixed high onto the frame – there are a couple of fixing points. The seats taper so that they are widest at the shoulder and narrow slightly by the feet. She loves the bumper bar to hold onto, although it does really need removing each time to get her in and out because she is heavy. I have found the little release buttons fiddly to do and as I released one, the other dropped back in! A swing away bumper would be lovely! She is unable to climb into the seat, but can slide easily out. The seats are nicely padded at the back. All round I am impressed at how comfortable she looks in the seat.
Meanwhile our 18 month old is loving the Bugaboo Donkey. The Donkey seats when upright are very upright – bolt upright. Most of our pushchairs are semi reclined even when upright. At first I thought the upright position was too much for our son, but he protested at being semi reclined by trying to pull himself up on the bumper bar, and he is absolutely loving the upright position and being able to see the world. It has been funny watching him leaning forward and ‘oooohhhhing’ and ‘aaahhhhing’ as the world passes by.
There are three downsides to the seat being so upright. First of all, whenever we put our son in the seat unit, he slides straight forwards and down under the bumper bar. We have learnt that is is easier to recline the seat one notch, secure him in, and then move the seat to the upright position. Secondly, he has refused to sleep in the Donkey for more than a few minutes because he can see everything going on from his prime position and it is obviously all too exciting for sleep! This has left us with a tired little boy. But he had a great time when out and about, seeing the world and interacting with us and his sister and anyone else who talked to him! In an ideal world he really needed a setting between upright an the first recline notch. Finally for the first time ever decided that a bumper bar (thankfully covered by the Buggysnuggle) would be a good thing to suck on! I believe it was because he was so upright. He did spend a lot of time leaning forwards!
Two safety points to note – our boy kept putting his hand between the seat units. This was fine when out and about but we had to be very careful when putting on the second seat and rotating either seat to ensure it did not get trapped or hurt. He also liked to hold onto the side of the seat unit, or else even hang his hands outside the seat or wave his feet around. This was fine when walking, but we did find we had to check where his hands and feet were before going through every door frame which became tiresome because as fast as we moved his hands / feet to get through the door frame, he would move them back! With other side by side double pushchairs eg the Easywalker Duo and Baby Jogger City Mini and Elite, the seats are set further back and so little hands and feet are not usually an issue when going through a door frame.
The suspension is fantastic. On one outingwe drove across some concrete grids on the path. These usually cause a pushchair to turn into a bone shaker, but the Donkey drove so smoothly across these that I felt compelled to take a photo to share! The Bugaboo Donkey really is an amazing ride and push.It was no problem at all to push across the rocks and stones at the beach
The hoods on the Bugaboo Donkey comes down a long way at the front and I was concerned that our son wouldn’t be able to see out, but the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahhs’ confirm to me that he can! I like having the hoods half folded because it gives good protection from the elements, but yet I can see my children. We liked that the hoods fold around the children’s heads because in the Cameleon our daughter’s head always rested on the hood and I was never sure if she was comfortable. There is no peekaboo window on the hood, so it does mean stopping the pushchair to see if a child has fallen asleep.
Seat, recline and harness
The biggest treat for me is to have both children parent facing. I love that the children (or the parent) have the choice which direction they face in the Donkey. For my two children, parent facing is rare, so my eldest loves being able to see me. But equally both children can face forwards or they can even face in opposite directions which means that they are then facing each other. This was a huge hit with the children and I loved watching them interact but yet being far enough apart so as to not kick each other or annoy.
We love the way the seat units simply drop easily onto the chassis with an audible click.
The one handed seat removal is very clever. Simply press one white button in and it stays held in whilst you press the other button and then simply pull the seat off the chassis. There was a down side to this. Our daughter pressed one of the seat removal buttons in and we were unable to work out how to make it lock again. We had to remove the whole seat in order to get the buttons to both lock in again.
The Bugaboo Donkey seats recline in 3 positions when parent facing – upright, semi reclined and a flat recline; and in 2 positions forward facing – upright and semi recline. My only warning is that it is very easy to miss the most upright position when parent facing, and for the seat to fall a notch forwards of the vertical which is used when folding the Donkey. Thankfully my son was well strapped in when it happened to us.
If a child is likely to nap, then I would suggest that they are semi reclined when forward facing, to stop a little head from lolling in the upright position. The one handed seat tilt adjuster is perfectly placed at the top of the seat to facilitate this. In fact the seat tilt adjuster is one of the easiest I have ever used, although it does get a little lost under the envelope top of a footmuff.
One of the brilliant pieces of design on the Donkey is the harness. The height adjusters are genius! They simply slide straight up or down the top of the harness to the correct height without you haven’t to do more than a small push up or down!! There are still waist, crotch and shoulder length adjusters but having the sliding adjusters means that it is simple to swap the children around and ensure that each is well strapped into their harness. We love the silky feel of the harness and there are two good shoulder pads. I am finding undoing the buckle harder than I would like in a hurry. It is quite hard plastic. I like the way each side of the buckle is fitted independently of the other. It makes life easier with a wriggly toddler to be able to get one side in and then readjust the child before doing the other side of the buckle up.
Mono to Duo Expansion Kit
One of the biggest selling points of the Bugaboo Donkey, is that it can be ordered as one of three options – a Mono i.e. single; A Duo i.e. two seats plus one carrycot for a newborn baby and their older sibling; and a Twin i.e. two seats and two carrycots. If the Donkey is bought as a Mono (single), then the Duo extension kit (second seat unit) can be added at a later date in future when the next baby arrives. Having the option of a choice of a single or a double pushchair gives longevity and flexibility to a growing family. It means there is only one pushchair chassis in the house to do both the job of a single or a double with two neatly stackable seat units.
The Bugaboo Donkey’s expandable chassis takes it from Mono to Duo mode supposedly in three clicks – but in reality it really takes a little more than that! There are 3 white clasps to undo – one in the centre of the handlebar, one at the front of the chassis and one at the rear of the chassis. But then a button needs pressing in between the side basket and the seat unit whilst pulling the chassis apart! Then yes, it does take 3 clicks to push the 3 clasps back into place again! The clasp and button part are easy, but pulling the chassis apart has been not the easiest move. The chassis has to be absolutely at its maximum for the clasps to shut tight. We did find it frustrating to pull the chassis apart only to find the clips wouldn’t drop into place.
Putting the Donkey back into Mono mode takes the same moves but the chassis needs pushing in rather than pulling. We found that approx 90% of the time it was easy to convert the Donkey from Mono to Duo mode, but especially when cold, it was difficult to convert the Donkey and indeed at one point, two of us were tugging the Donkey at full stretch to get the clips to drop in. I have to say, having used the Donkey a fair bit, we would be happy to do the conversion a few times a week but converting the Donkey say twice a day for a school run would be too much for us. In an ideal world the Donkey needs leaving up / folding in Duo mode if you are going to use it a lot. If like us, you only use a Duo mode several times a week then being able to store the Donkey in Mono is great. To have the option to use the Donkey in single or double mode for any given outing, is really where the Donkey shines. It means that there is only the need for one pushchair, not two.
I discovered one issue with the expansion during my test runs. I put the Donkey into Duo mode (or so I thought) put both seat units on, strapped both children into their respective seats, rearranged their cosy toes etc. (no mean feat!) and then realised I had left the lower rear clip undone. I thought it would be a simple closing of the clip that was needed, but the clip would not close. So I jiggled the chassis a little bit thinking that it was not fully open and would drop into place. But it refused to close. So that meant removing both children, removing both seats, pulling the chassis, clipping the clip shut and then putting the children back into the seats. I have to say at the time I was not impressed, but it was probably an important lesson in ensuring all the clips are closed before putting the seat units in position. I know I will always double check those clips now!!!
The dream really for me with siblings is should I ever be in a situation where I was unable to get through a door, or where space was at a premium e.g. a restaurant, that I could simply remove a seat unit and slide the Donkey into Mono mode. However I think I need a lot more practice before attempting this in public. Also, I would need to first of all ensure the safety of my toddler whilst I ran around undoing and doing up the clasps and have somewhere to put the seat unit afterwards. However, I have been told that the seat unit does fit nicely into the basket though!
One final point is that it does take a lot of bending down and pulling to convert the Donkey into Mono or Duo modes. I have back issues and bending down to do the lower two clips, plus pressing the centre button and pulling so low down, was aggravating my back. This is something to bear in mind if you have back issues, or even if a C-Section is an option.
For a newborn baby, the Bugaboo Donkey carrycot comes in the box as a piece of fabric with velcro tabs. The carrycot is attached using the tabs to the Donkey frame. The tailored fabric pack includes the carrycot apron and sun canopy in one of 6 standard colours, but also from time to time there are special edition colours too. The sun canopy is put onto the canopy wires and with the addition of the carrying handle, you are ready to go. When the baby reaches 6 months the carrycot frame then converts into the seat unit. The carrycot fabric is removed from the frame and the seat fabric is attached. The hood and carrying handle are then moved across. The carrying handle becomes the bumper bar for the child to hold onto, or for toys to be attached, or even a Bugaboo organiser. The mattress is suitable for overnight sleeping and the base of the mattress is ventilated.
Both the carrycot and pushchair seat can be removed and used independently from the chassis. The carrycot is easy to lift off with a baby inside and carried. The pushchair seat can stand up on its attachment legs and is useful as an impromptu highchair on a picnic for a small child.
The handlebar is probably the most adjustable I have seen on any pushchair. It slides from very low down – low enough to be perfect for my 3 year old to push or for my tall husband! We estimated the top of the handle goes from 87cms to 105cms tall. I like a high handle but on the Donkey somewhere near the middle is just perfect for me! Two side clasps need to be opened to adjust the handle and then it is a case of pulling or pushing to the desired height before closing the side clasps. In an ideal world, the Donkey handle should be placed in the lower position to fold. Certainly the handlebar needs to be in the lowest position to freestand.
I will admit to falling out with the Donkey soon after it arrived! I tried to adjust the handlebars and as I tried to to close the side clasps and one of them caught my finger! Ouch! But I learnt my lesson and realised that the handlebars adjust on a series of notches – eleven in total! It can be hard to gauge whether the handles are at the same height on each side, but holding the handlebar usually tells you whether they are level or not. But before closing the side clasps, I have found I need to jiggle the handlebar a little bit to make sure they drop into the notches properly before closing the clasp.
One advantage of the easy to adjust and low handlebar is when space is at a premium. For example when we arrive home, if we drop the handlebar to the lowest setting then we have more room to manoeuvre around the pushchair, or lowering the handle whilst waiting to pick up from nursery means that we do not take up more than the footprint of the pushchair in a tiny waiting room.
As mentioned the handlebar on the Donkey seems quite vulnerable when folding / standing up. But we do like the foam handlebar and it is a lovely thickness in your hand. In Duo mode the Donkey is so light that it is not a two handed push. But this leaves me personally with an issue. I prefer to push one handed when I can, using my right hand in the centre of the handlebar. But with the Donkey in Duo mode, this meant that my hand ended up not on the foam handlebar, but on the cold metal extension piece in between the two handlebar pieces. Believe me it was cold and uncomfortable to hold, and in an ideal world I would like to see a velcro on cover for this section of the handlebar. Also there is not as good leverage when holding the metal part, to when you hold the foam part, for going round corners. When pushing two handed though the handlebar was great to hold. But I am sure I am not the only person who prefers to push one handed!
The small white brake foot pedal on the Bugaboo Donkey is not easy to locate underneath the seat unit when the child on the left is parent facing. I have ended up having to bend down to locate the pedal before standing up again to apply it. Once found the brake is easy enough to flick on or off. The brake can be released in two ways – either by flicking it up from underneath or by pressing on the back of the pedal from on top, which would save your feet if wearing summer shoes or sandals. But it would have been useful if the Donkey had had a handbrake like on the Cameleon – especially for in Duo mode.
For me one of the selling points of any pushchair for me is the realisation by the manufacturer that first of all children (especially babies and potty training toddlers) need lots of stuff with them! Secondly, real life mums do shop (yes even in this age of online shopping), and when they do shop, they need somewhere to put the shopping without removing a child from a seat! So the flexible luggage options of the Donkey really appealed.
The Bugaboo Donkey comes with two baskets. First of all there is the large underseat storage basket. This has a large open basket area with two side mesh pockets and then one long pocket with a flap along the front edge. We loved the storage pockets for our bits and pieces, but in some ways I was a little disappointed by the amount the underneath storage basket. The basket is wedge shaped – a bit like a swimming pool – a long gentle slope along one side and then a small deep section at the bottom. On my solo shopping trip, I managed to get four medium bags of shopping into the storage basket. I was concerned that the bags at the front could slide out, so I tucked the edges of the bags underneath the elasticated edge of the long pocket to secure them. If it hadn’t been for this elasticated edge we would have only managed to get two bags of shopping in the basket, which would have been insufficient for us as a family. For a double pushchair basket, and one that is promoted as being able to carry lots of goods, I have to be honest and say I would have liked to have more room for shopping.
The second basket is the small side basket. In Duo mode you are unable to use the small side basket with two children on board unless you carry it over your shoulder using the silky strap handles, which are held neatly into place using press-studs until they are required. However the side basket is very easy to pop on and off and can also be used when the Donkey is stretched into Duo mode – useful if like me you do a big weekly shop but only have one child on board, but need the additional Duo width basket space underneath! The side storage basket clearly states that 5kgs is the maximum weight. It held my large handbag and a couple of smaller bags easily. I have to say, now that the Donkey has gone, I am missing having the side basket even though I am still unsure as to how it looks in single mode.
On the two previous occasions that I had seen and tried out the Bugaboo Donkey, I had loved the style, fabrics, look etc. However each time I saw the Donkey folded I was really not sure how practical a Donkey would be in real life to have in the house and the car. However I need not have worried. First of all during demos I had only seen the Donkey folded with two seats or two carrycots on which to be honest does look large – but it does freestand and everything is attached in one package. However if like us, you have a lack of storage space, or a smaller car, then it is very simple to remove one seat / carrycot, or both seats / carrycots, then reduce the chassis to Mono mode and then fold. This means that your double pushchair only takes up the footprint of a single chassis. Folded in Mono mode, the folded Donkey takes up no more floor space than my Mountain Buggy +One does stood on its end. Someone I know makes use of the 2 wheel mode and prefers to store their Donkey stood upright, long and thin, in a gap. So there is a choice of how the Donkey could be stored.
We managed to easily put the Bugaboo Donkey into freestanding storage mode. However we found two issues. First of all the handle got slightly dirty even on the very first occasion that we tried this, and we would worry about how well the handlebar would stand up to long term use. Secondly there is no autolock, so as we tried to stand the pushchair upright, the wheels were sliding apart again. Having the front wheels locked does help but its an additional 2 things to do each time and even with them locked I have worried about the children knocking the folded Donkey over. We have found the lack of some form of lock frustrating when trying to lift the folded Donkey into our car. We have to put the Donkey in with the handlebar at the rear and this involves rotating the Donkey round from where you end up after folding. At this point the wheels start to flap a bit and need holding in which gets awkward. Some kind of lock would make this easier.
Although the Bugaboo Donkey does surprisingly fit into our car in Duo mode with the seat units or carrycots on it is very simple to remove the seat or carrycot using the one handed seat removal buttons and it does then make for a neater fold leaving space for groceries etc.
It is simple to remove the wheels on the Donkey should you wish. However removing the wheels, unlike many pushchairs, does not really impact at all on the folded size.
What you get
The Donkey in Duo mode comes with two frames, two seat fabrics and one carrycot fabric as well as the necessary tailored fabrics (apron and hood) for both carrycot and seat units. In twin mode you get an additional carrycot fabric. The two baskets are included (underseat and side basket), the bumper bar / carrying handles, plus raincovers and an air pump. Therefore everything you require is in one box. In addition, there are numerous options, as with all Bugaboo’s, to accessorise! There are additional tailored fabric packs and sun canopies available. There are also footmuffs, a cup holder, snack tray, a parasol, Breezy sun canopies, seat liners, the Bugaboo organiser and bags. There is also the option to add on a wheeled board for an older toddler. This fits in both Mono and Duo modes. Maxi-Cosi car seat adaptors are available for one car seat or two.
Travel System Option
Whilst the Donkey is a small 74cms wide, which means that it easily fits through a standard 76.3cms doorway, with the seat units or carrycots on. However when a Maxi-Cosi car seat is added, this does increase the width by 6 centimetres per car seat, so in Duo mode this would make the Donkey a large 86cms wide. This is quite important to note as we used our pushchairs a lot when our baby was little, to park up and nip into a shop or doctors without having to remove him from the car seat. It would be fine for a shopping centre or a hospital visit, but it could be problematic elsewhere.
In Duo mode, it is hard to find a photo of the car seat next a single seat unit on the Bugaboo website. But rest assured that this can be done!
The car seat adaptor is either a twin one, or a single one. This means that should you have twins and later a sibling, or vice versa, that you would need to buy a new adaptor rather than simply adding or removing a single adaptor.
The Bugaboo Donkey also takes a Bugaboo wheeled board so that you can push three children. The wheeled board does however make the Donkey feel noticeably heavier.
All round the Donkey has been a complete pleasure to review and test drive. I have to say that we did turn a few heads, so be warned!! Yes we had a few minor incidents, but we have learnt from those, and hopefully would have no problems in future. We have loved having the Donkey here and I think Mr BB needs to get his credit card out as Mrs BB and the BB children would very much like one to keep!!
We think the Donkey is excellent!!
Many Thanks to Bugaboo and to Sam for their help in doing this review.
Other Bugaboo Donkey Reviews: