I am a man of many esoteric passions. (Which is fortunate, as such is a requisite characteristic for all GeekDads.) Yet even taking into account my penchants for nerdcore hip-hop, turn-based strategy and television theme songs, I have, of late, developed an even more unlikely interest; I am all about stroller tech.
I’ve recently cultivated this new obsession with the help of the 2009 Bumbleride Indie, a super stylish and almost preternaturally functional stroller. With the aid of my one-year-old daughter, I have put this sassy number through its paces for nearly two months. During this time I have found much to love about this adaptable ride, and a whole lot to talk about.
While often classified as a jogging stroller, no doubt because of its three-wheel design, the Indie is in actuality an all-terrain stroller in the purest sense of the term. Its heavy-treaded, air-inflated tires measure in at a sizable 12 inches, and offer a smooth ride across concrete, blacktop, grass and sand. In fact, I found it to perform ably everywhere from the slick pathways of the mall to the hilly glades of our local park. Its front wheel is freely mounted, so as to allow a full 360 degree swivel for quick cornering, though it also boasts an inline locked position for straight-ahead runs. Coupled with a hearty rear suspension, this stroller managed to shrug off any terrain I could think to throw at it.
Its rear wheel-base is a little wide (just a tad shy of 25 inches), which can lead to the occasional display stand scrape whilst cruising through your local Gymboree. Thankfully, the Indie’s anodized aluminum frame proves nigh impervious to day-to-day damage. This same feature also affords the stroller one of its most impressive features: its light weight. Coming in at mere 20 lbs, the Bumbleride is unbelievably easy to control, even one-handed, and light enough for even the most diminutive of GeekParents to remove from a trunk or way-back. Storage, too, is expertly executed, as the Indie’s fold-in construction reduces its impressive 3 feet of height and length to a meager 15 and 25 inches respectively, and I was particularly pleased to discover that this made it small enough to fit in my xB‘s sorry excuse for a rear storage area. Though I’ve read other reviewers complain about the cumbersome position of the release levers for fold-up, which are cleverly concealed an arm’s length down the stroller’s frame, I’d characterize the learning curve as moderate at worst. It’s a simple fold and lock process that just takes a couple of times to get the hang of. After some practice, it’s really only a Transformers sound effect away from being wholly effortless.
Equally effortless is the all-important task of locking the back wheels. The Indie employs a quick-locking brake bar that runs parallel to the rear axle. A simple push with the toes renders both wheels immobile, even on steeper inclines. And, rather than waste valuable nanoseconds toeing the locking mechanism back up in a similar fashion, I found that the included jogging strap easily loops around the bar for a quick-release solution. (Oh, that wonderful intersection of ingenuity and sloth!)
Despite the Indie’s light weight, the stroller itself boasts a 45 lb. carry capacity, a claim that I tested on several occasions with my four-year-old son. Much to my surprise, not only did the Indie support his weight, he actually fit in the seat with none of that awkward knees-up-to-the-chin action that often comes with placing an older child in ride made for younger kids. And while I certainly don’t want to be the dad tooling around the zoo with an able-bodied pre-schooler wedged into a stroller, it’s nice to have the option in the event of injury and/or late-day exhaustion.
Of course, a stroller is only as practical as it is comfortable, and, just as I found the Bumbleride Indie a breeze to push around, my daughter also seemed perfectly at ease riding within. The backrest is fully adjustable and, coupled with a similarly adjustable footrest, manages to achieve a flat position that is easily conducive to on-the-go napping. Its zip-off canopy also offers a myriad of positions for proper sun coverage, and even features a roll-up peek-a-boo window to keep an eye on drowsy little ones.
Safety-minded parents – which, I’ll wager, represent the bulk of our readership – will surely be pleased with this stroller’s single-release five-point harness. Unfortunately, this same harness system, as easy to use and secure as it is, also leads me to my first gripe about the product; the supplementary padding. While the fabric covering the Indie is as sturdy, vibrant and stylish as one would surely expect from a high-end stroller, its headrest pad, shoulder pads and harness cover are simply insubstantial. They are, in fact, little more than swatches of colorful yet flimsy nylon blend. Thankfully, this doesn’t impede the stroller’s function to any measurable degree.
My only other major complaint concerns the Indie’s bottom-mounted cargo basket. Even when using the smallest of my daughter’s diaper bags it was a snug fit. After adding to that the wife’s purse and the odd shopping bag, what outwardly looked like an ample storage space proved to be quite restrictive.
Other than these caveats, my time with the Bumbleride Indie has been a joy. It works well and looks great. A similarly pleasing handheld gaming system or iPhone case – the more blatantly techy items we GeekDads tend to review – would easily be characterized sexy, but as that doesn’t translate well into the realm of baby tech I’ll simply settle for calling it elegantly modern. The Indie is, for lack of a better parallel, the Vespa GS 150 of strollers: an amazing combination of form and function that looks as good as it rides.
The Bumbleride Indie is available in five different colors and comes bundled with ample standard accessories (air pump, cup holder, rain cover, infant seat adapter and the aforementioned jogging strap.) It’s available from numerous brick and mortar retailers, as well as online from Bumbleride’s own site. It retails for $459.99, which certainly isn’t chump change, but the stroller’s unique blend of stylish charm and rough-and-tumble functionality make it hard to resist.
It represents exactly the kind of purchase that is difficult to defend until it’s been properly experienced. The Bumbleride Indie is the rare product that is actually worth the price. It’s an eye-catching marvel of practical engineering that should appeal to parents of all stripes.
WIRED: Sturdy construction, unparalleled control, beautiful design, full five-point harness, packed in accessories, tiny footprint for easy transport and storage
TIRED: flimsy padding, small cargo basket