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Babystyle Oyster Max – Opening the Box Review

We rarely write an “Opening the box” review – but the Oyster Max is impressing us so much that we want to try and capture some of our first impressions. I must stress here at the start that these are only first impressions. We do not profess to fully understand the Oyster Max but hopefully you will learn with us. We have been using the Oyster Max in both single and in tandem mode.

So far WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE the Babystyle Oyster Max!!!

If you read no further, we love the lightweight chassis; good sized seats; hoods which slide up the frame; the easy fold; the great styling; the good seating positions for the children; but BEST of all the Babystyle Oyster Max pushes SOOOOOOO easily with our heavy children on board. I think it takes our gold star for the lightest tandem to push and manoeuvre! We have been whizzing around in the Oyster Max and can turn it around on the spot one handed, and can squeeze through even small gaps.

Please bear in mind that our Oyster Max is still a prototype and therefore the design may yet be tweaked before launch in Spring 2013.

Anyone who has the Babystyle Oyster ‘Colour Pack’ pushchair, or even the Mutsy Evo will feel instantly at home with the Oyster Max. The fold is almost the same as the ‘Colour Pack’ Oyster but the pushchair all round has a more luxury feel with the chrome chassis and leatherette handlebar and bumper bar. The bigger wheels, finish, seating position and distance from the child in single mode are all very similar to the Mutsy Evo.

My absolute first impression of the three boxes sat in our hallway, was that the chassis and seat unit boxes were small! We were equally surprised how light the boxes were. A tandem pushchair chassis is usually fairly heavy.

Bearing in mind we have reviewed the Colour Pack Oyster relatively recently, I was surprised at the small seat units that came out of the main and second seat box. To be absolutely honest, at this point I had a wibble. Our eldest is 4 in a matter of days. She’s tall – 105cms now – BUT she does still ride in a pushchair – mainly when shopping or when we are by the main road – but when I looked at the seat unit, I wrote off any chance of her fitting into the small seat unit and was wondering which friends’ small child I could accost to help demo the Max in tandem mode!!
But I was so VERY VERY VERY VERY wrong!!!

Our eldest fits BRILLIANTLY!!

The seats on the Oyster Max both have hoods which slide up the seat frame giving loads of headroom for even our tall almost 4 year old. There is an in built footrest on the chassis which gives good support for an older child’s feet (plus there is always the dangling leg option as our eldest is prone to opt for.) We were utterly gobsmacked she fitted to be honest, and I do keep looking at the photos we took with amazement that such a tall child can fit into the Oyster Max seat with bags of room to spare. To be honest, given she fits in the main seat unit, any child of pushchair age should easily fit.

One of our issues with the Colour Pack Oyster was that the children just didn’t look 100% comfortable in the seat unit. But the Oyster Max has addressed this with the addition of two features – first of all there is a 4th position on the recline which gives a very upright seating position, and secondly there are two crotch strap settings which really helps give a slump free seating position. I have to apologise because I only realised that there was this second crotch strap setting days after taking the formal set of photos with the children in. Our “Out and About” set of photos have the crotch strap altered and hopefully the difference can be seen. The seating position of the children in the Oyster Max would sell this pushchair to me to be honest. They look comfortable. The Oyster Max also has very thick harness pads – they are gorgeous! I love the chunky harness buckle – it gives a quality feel to the harness. The harness is easy to do up and to undo. It is easy to alter – we have been constantly switching the children between the seats with no problem. It has been easy even to alter the crotch and height settings by simply pushing the retainer through a hole in the seat.

My only critcism of the upper seat is that when a child is sleeping – the leg support is relatively short. Our 26 month old could only just nicely keep his legs on it and his feet were hanging over. It would have been useful to have a built in footrest ‘shelf’ within the frame of the seat, like say on the Musty Evo or the Baby Jogger Versa, for a younger child to be able rest their feet when the footrest is down.

The lower seat meanwhile also benefits from the sliding up hood and very upright seating position, but it only has one further recline setting. I will be honest and say that in an ideal world I would have preferred a deeper recline for my youngest to nap with. His head was laid further to one side than I would have liked when napping. I am not entirely sure how well supported a napping 6 month old baby would be, and I think I will be adding a head hugger. But hopefully we will discover more as we test the Oyster Max with younger babies. The footrest in the lower seat is adjustable which is handy to have for different ages, and for napping, but also lifting the footrest gives a small amount of storage space. However this space is really inaccessible unless the lower seat is removed. We have found it very tricky to press in both buttons on the lower footrest with a child in the seat as you struggle to put both arms through the chassis. It is best to set the footrest position up before putting the seat in situ. It can be tricky to lower the footrest (2 hands) whilst balancing the seat on your knee before putting the seat into the lower position. It is also necessary to open up the seat from its stored “clam shell” position before placing it onto the adaptors. A minor point but it is an extra step.

The upper seat has a gate opening bumper bar which is brilliant. It has meant our eldest could easily climb into the upper seat on her own using the footrest as a step. The bumper bar folds down and can be left in situ when folding, however the fold seems to be easier if the bumper bar is removed. When we have been carrying the upper Oyster Max seat eg to the car, we have found that the upper seat easily opens up and becomes ‘flappy’ – the lower seat seems to stay closed. It has become a little tiresome having to balance the seat on one arm, whilst using the recline lever to make it close up again. At this stage, I would appreciate some kind of seat storage strap to keep the upper seat together. However it may be that leaving the bumper bar on to store is stopping the seat from fully closing, and this is something we need to explore further. Its a minor point though.

The Oyster Max chassis is small and compact with the wheels off, but with the wheels on, its fairly bulky. However there are natural carrying points on the chassis which makes it no problem to carry. Mr BB says that he would love a carrying strap, because the chassis is light that it could be slung over a shoulder, thus freeing up both hands to carry the seats and saving two trips to and from the car!

The seats close like clam shells but have hard plastic curved outers. This means that they dont easily nest or sit together when folded. We tried standing the seats on their ends, stacking etc until we worked out that the best way to store two seats is to open the main seat up and then put the second seat folded on top. But today I had one of those light bulb moments – you know the ones where you can’t believe you have been so silly!? – where I realised that the Oyster Max is best stored in the car with the main seat folded on the chassis, and then the lower seat just slots in at the side (the Max wont fold with both seats on). I think I am just so used to removing seats to fold pushchairs that I simply didn’t think! But the fold with the seat on is then quite bulky, and we are struggling to get the handlebar past the seat hood which means adjusting it as we fold.
However to put these criticisms into persepective – the Oyster Max is one of the smallest tandem pushchairs folded that we have seen. It is not as big or heavy in the way that most tandem pushchairs are. I would rather have the Oyster Max to lift in and out of the car, than many other tandems.

The Oyster Max chassis freestands when folded. However the handlebar has to be in the correct position to do so, or else it will not freestand – we are currently finding it a little tricky to find the balance point but we have been told it gets easier :) We tried to store the Max chassis laid on its side, but the wheel hubs are rounded and it doesn’t balance as easily as we would like. One further issue we have had from folding, is that our handlebar has been punctured on either side. We are not entirely sure how this has happened at present – because it happened in the first 24 hours and the puncture marks are equidistant ie not randomly places. This is something that we will feed back to Babystyle because I admit that we were very disappointed to have a damaged handlebar within hours of opening the box :(

The BEST BEST BEST BEST part of the Oyster Max is that the push in tandem mode (and in single mode) is absolutely superb!! The Oyster Max even fully loaded with a 2 and almost 4 year old plus shopping was EASY PEASY!! I pushed the Oyster Max up the big hill from the shops one handed with ease! Its handled our test routes where other pushchairs have failed, with ease!! I do not think I can think of another tandem pushchair that pushes so easily or feels so light with my two heavy children on board. It is lighter to push than the Peach Blossom 2, and that is saying something!! We have taken the Oyster Max across cobbled surfaces with ease, up small steps into shops with ease. There is no “dragging” when you want to move the Oyster Max backwards – it just moves smoothly. We have taken it through narrow corridors where there were trollies parked and the Oyster Max fitted through no problem. We even took the Oyster Max into a small cubicle at the Opticians, where the tester was trying to move everything out of our way so that we could exit. However I simply spun the Oyster Max on the spot in the smallest space possible and out we headed! The Oyster Max has AMAZING manoeuverability especially with the weight we have on board. The one compromise to this handling is that with bigger kerbs and steps we have had to reverse the Oyster Max off them – we can drive head first off smaller kerbs though. However remember we do have a lot of weight in our Oyster Max, so we may well find that there is no need to reverse with smaller children on board!

I think my main grumble with the Babystyle Oyster Max is the lack of storage for any shopping, changing bag – or even for the raincovers. I went to shopping and knew that there was no room really on board the Oyster Max for groceries. So I pimped the Oyster Max up with a strange combination of a Bagabottle bag (for my purse, camera etc), a Hamster Bag – but I realised that it was obstructing the view for my youngest child. So I added a J.L. Childress mesh bag to the other side so that my son had some view through the mesh. But none of it was ideal. At the till I realised the milk and bread wouldn’t fit into either bag. I managed to drop the milk into the basket, and then after a lot of huffing and puffing I got my arms in and around the chassis enough to lift the footrest up (two buttons one on either side) so that my son wouldn’t stand on the milk – or worse – throw it out on the way home. But when I got home, I couldn’t extract the milk without removing the lower seat. A zip access would have allowed this tiny amount of basket space to be useful – even just for heavy shopping or raincovers – there is little point in putting the raincovers underneath if the lower seat needs removing if a rainshower breaks.
I have noticed that, like the Colour Pack Oyster, Babystyle have thoughtfully built an insect net into the upper seat, however the lower seat does not have one – nor is a separate one included for the lower seat. I LONG for a company as forward thinking as Babystyle to find a way to store a raincover under or behind the seat ready for use. Today for example, it has been showery all day, and I had to warn the children that I didn’t have room to take the raincovers and if a shower hit, then we would all get wet – not ideal at all – but with shopping to carry, raincovers were a luxury item.
Even today when we didn’t need much stuff with us, we were still left carrying bags which would usually be in a pushchair basket. My handbag did however sit fairly nicely underneath the lower seat with the strap fully extended. But none of this is ideal. Being utterly honest, I am not sure we would have coped with the lack of storage when the children were much younger – both in nappies, or later when potty training. It is only now the children are older that we have the luxury of minimalist travel.

We have used the upper raincover and it fitted well and was logical and easy to put on – just 4 velcro tabs. It did steam up quite fast but raincovers do! It folds down into a nice small square for storage. Both raincovers would store easily into say a Bagabottle bag.

We love the easy locking of the front wheels – simply press the circular part above the wheels and a click tells you that the wheels have locked or unlocked. It is so simple! It is also simple to remove the large wheels for storage – there is a button to press and off they pop! We have found that similar to the iCandy Peach Blossom, the front wheels of the Oyster Max do not like coming down off a kerb head first!! We have got stuck twice and have had to reverse off, so now we automatically turn the Max around to push it off anything which is easy enough to do to be honest, especially given the Oyster Max turns on the spot. BUT we have got a lot of weight on our Oyster Max – more than the average parent would have with a young baby and toddler.

The brake for the Oyster Max is sensibly placed at the rear on the right hand side. It is clearly visible but the pedal is tiny!! However the brake is really not decisive enough for us. We are never quite sure of is whether the brake is on or off. We would love either an audiable click or a click that you can really positively feel with your foot when applying or removing, or some kind of visible colour indicator that the brake is on or off.

Another niggle is that the basket keeps catching on one of the lower seat adaptors when unfolding. I am sure that the basket will end up getting torn eventually :(

Although I have listed a fair number of issues, its worth keeping these in perspective.
First of all Babystyle may well address any or some of these issues before the Oyster Max goes on sale to the public – hence they let people like us try the Oyster Max out first.
Secondly, having had a large number of tandem (and twin) pushchairs through my hands, I am aware that ideally a tandem has two key ingredients that are important: it has to work with any combination of two children whether twins or two siblings who both nap; or two older children who need tall seats, longer leg space and the pushchair needs to handle their heavy weight.
We consider that these two ingredients are key to the Oyster Max. Almost all other niggles can be overcome or tolerated.

Other Babystyle Oyster Max 1 & 2 Reviews:

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