Bugaboo Donkey – Mono 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 unit fits beautifully into the frame, with the tailored fabric hood to add a splash of colour. The wheels are white and black and really make the Donkey stand out from the crowd. In fact, on our first Mono mode test run, we had more heads turn with the Bugaboo Donkey, than we did when we road tested the striking Mima Kobi.
I think part of the reason people look is because the Donkey appears to be wider than a normal pushchair – and yet in reality it is no wider than the Bugaboo Cameleon – both are 60cms wide. The Mono mode Donkey does feel wide to push, but I know it is just an optical illusion, and I have had no problem fitting the Donkey through gaps in single mode.
However it is the side basket which catches the observers eye and gets commented on. I am the first to admit that when I first saw the Donkey, I found the side basket a little strange. Having used the Donkey now for some time, I can appreciate the usefulness of the side basket. It is very handy for putting bits and pieces in to have ready at hand – muslins, drinks, keys, phone etc.; or for our beach toys; paintings and letters from nursery; stray hats and gloves. It was also useful for my handbag, but I did worry about it being so exposed when in shops, and I will admit to fastening my bag to the chassis and did move it to the underneath basket at times. I will also admit to using the side basket to put my shopping in when going around the supermarket when my wire basket was full.
The basket clearly states that 5kgs is the maximum weight in the side basket. We love the silky strap handles which are held neatly into place using press-studs until they are needed. The 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!
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. 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! We loved weaving around people and spinning the Donkey round on the spot in shops to change direction. The Donkey was just so light to push.
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. The Donkey was so very easy to push over soft sand and over rocks. To prove how easy the Donkey was to push, we let our 3 year old push her brother through the dunes. She loved having the handle at her height, and as the photos taken on the beach show, she pushed the Donkey easily up and over everything in sight! The Donkey really is great for all terrain.
On the way back going up the hill through the dunes, we kicked the Donkey into two wheel mode and the Donkey effortlessly was pulled along behind. Usually this uphill sandy, rocky path is hard work with a pushchair. I will admit to having being a little afraid to try the two wheel mode with my son sat in the seat, but the Donkey moved easily onto two wheels without having to remove him.
We have also had a considerable amount of snow over several days. The Donkey has been the perfect pushchair for continuing to get out and about with on the nursery run and to our activities. Others have struggled with the ice, slush and snow but the Donkey went straight through everything that we asked it to.
Both our children have been out and about in the Bugaboo Donkey this week, and both were effortless to push. Our daughter is 3.3 years of age 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 in the highest position onto the frame. 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! The seats are nicely padded at the back. All round I am impressed at how comfortable she looks in the seat. Although our daughter does not need to be reclined, we tried to recline her. The Donkey probably has the easiest recline of any pushchair to date. Very simple and easy even with a heavy toddler in the seat.
Meanwhile out 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.
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. I also love that the hoods are a snug fit at the rear and are securely held in place by putting the fabric over the seat recline. The hoods on the Bugaboo Donkey can be moved slightly up the chassis to accommodate a taller child.
Seat, recline and harness
The biggest treat for me is to have the child 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.
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. We love the way the seat units simply drop easily onto the chassis with an audible click.
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 (so no lie flat when forward facing). 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.
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. A mattress suitable for overnight sleeping is included. The tailored fabric pack includes the carrycot apron and sun canopy in one of 6 standard colours, but 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.
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. 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. One thing that did not really work for me is the clasp being in the centre of the handle. I push one handed – especially in Mono mode, and I found my hand naturally sat over the clasp and I was fiddling with it as I walked along!!
The brake on the Bugaboo Donkey seems to be located in completely the wrong place for Mono mode! The small white brake pedal is hidden at the left hand side underneath the seat unit when it is parent facing. Given that parent facing is one of the huge attractions of the Donkey, it seems to us that it would have made far more sense to locate the brake pedal on the right hand side underneath the small storage basket, where it could be easily seen in single mode. We have struggled a little to locate the brake pedal hidden underneath the seat, but once found it 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.
Large Storage Basket
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. As mentioned previously there is the side storage basket which can be used in Mono mode, and there is also a 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 held. 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. On closer inspection the basket is a wedge shape – a long slope on the front edge with only a relatively small deeper section at the rear.
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. The Donkey folds in either Mono or Duo mode, with or without the seat units on facing in either direction. Yes, folded it is quite a chunk, but in Mono fold mode, in reality 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 slide their Donkey standing upright 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. Locking the front wheels forwards does help but its an additional 2 things to do each time and I still have worried about the children knocking the 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. 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 with a seat unit on, it is very simple to remove the seat 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.
Mono to Duo Expansion Kit
One of the biggest selling points of the Bugaboo Donkey, especially for siblings, is the Mono to Duo expansion option. Whether the Donkey is bought as a Mono (single), and then the Duo extension kit (second seat unit) is added at a later date when Baby No 2 arrives; or whether it is bought as a Duo mode Donkey to begin with; having the option of a choice of a single or a double pushchair gives longevity and flexibility to a growing family.
To read more about the Donkey in Duo mode, please read our review in the “Double Pushchairs” section on Best Buggy.
The Donkey in Mono mode comes with a frame and a carrycot fabric and the seat fabric as well as the necessary tailored fabrics (apron and hood) for both carrycot and seat unit. The two baskets are included (underseat and side basket), the bumper bar / carrying handle, plus a raincover and an air pump. Therefore everything you require for a newborn through to a toddler is in one price. There are in addition 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, a 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
Maxi-Cosi car seat adaptors are available for one car seat or two. 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.
Whilst the Donkey is only 60cms wide, adding on one car seat will increase the width of the Donkey, we believe by an additional 6 centimetres.
All round the Donkey has been a complete pleasure to review and test drive. 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!!
There is a review of the Donkey in Duo mode under the ‘Twin Pushchairs’ Section
Many Thanks to Bugaboo and to Sam for their help in doing this review.
Other Bugaboo Donkey Reviews: