The search for a Micralite pushchair

August 17, 2010 · Posted in Children 
Micralite Toro pushchair

Micralite Toro pushchair

I probably won’t write many product reviews here, except in cases where I’ve been particularly impressed (or, conversely, disappointed) with something I’ve bought. A recent example, in the ‘impressed’ category is our Micralite Toro pushchair (or stroller for those across the Atlantic) with the newborn carrycot accessory. I found the whole experience of shopping for a pushchair thoroughly enjoyable; for me definitely one of the best of the many shopping trips an expectant couple have to make. :-)

At first it’s quite a daunting task as the more you look into it, the more features, brands and retailers you find you need to work through. I can quite understand why some may just wander into Mothercare and buy whatever they recommend. To do this though might be to miss out on a good deal or niche product that you would only find elsewhere.

A good place to start is the Which? website. Obviously to get the most out of this, you’ll need to subscribe. To be honest they do so many reviews for baby-related goods that you may well find that now’s a good time to start a subscription. As well as pushchairs, they also do car seats, baby monitors, high chairs, stair gates and lots of other advice so you’ll get pretty good use out of it. In fact this is what led me to the Micralite brand, having never heard of it before (although that doesn’t say much as I’d never had reason to know about pushchairs previously!). The Micralite Fastfold (now superceded by the Fastfold Superlite) is, at the time of this post, their top rated Best Buy pushchair so naturally I had a good look at the features. Those that immediately appealed were: lightweight, easy to fold, highly maneuverable, small footprint for storage; these were pretty much the main areas of interest for us so it ticked all the right boxes. I did a bit more research on the internet and found some really helpful videos that talk through all the features and show how the folding mechanism works.

Having compared the Fastfold to quite a few of the other Best Buys, it still came out top on the primary criteria we had. In the spirit of fairness though, we still went along to a large Mothercare outlet to ask them to talk us through their range. Nothing there really cut the mustard and a further trip to John Lewis didn’t add anything. It was all useful research and certainly helped to confirm that the criteria we thought were important were indeed the primary ones to consider, but we still found ourselves comparing everything to the Micralite. However, although Micralite products are easily available from several online retailers, there are not many physical outlets where you can go and try them out.

Fortunately we had had a tip-off about the excellent Kiddicare warehouse in Peterborough. If you live even vaguely close I can really recommend you go there. At 60,000 square feet on 3 floors, it’s a bit of a monster but it seems like they’ve got just about anything baby-related you could want so it’ll be good for your other shopping too. We got there quite late in the day so only had time for the pushchairs (which fill an entire floor!). There were yet more brands there that I’d never heard of (bear in mind that by this time I’d done quite a lot of research!), but we headed straight for the Micralite stand. We had a good look at the Fastfold, but on seeing it in ‘real life’ we felt the basket-style seat didn’t offer as much padding as we would have liked.

Slightly disheartened, we looked over at the Micralite Toro range and realised that it has all the same mechanism and plus points that that offers, but a more padded seat (albeit that made it slightly heavier). Not wanting to rush our decision, we asked an assistant (who was very helpful) to talk us through it and then asked her to take us to any other pushchairs that fitted our criteria. I think the best alternative we found was one of the Quinny range (I think it was the Buzz 4), but it seemed quite heavy in comparison (14.4kg versus 9.8kg for the Toro – even the Buzz 3 is 12.6kg) and didn’t fold down as neatly (290 litres (244 Buzz 3) versus 149 litres for the Toro) or as quickly as the Micralites.

A really useful facility that Kiddicare provide to help confirm your decision is their pushchair ‘assault course’. This is an area where you can push your chosen contraption over cobbles, astroturf, steps, etc. to see how it shapes up. This helped us to confirm that the Micralite’s big rear wheels are a real boon on uneven surfaces. And so it was that we settled on the Toro with matching carrycot that clips on to the pushchair base using the plastic clips that you can also use to clip on a Maxi-Cosi car seat (see here for my thoughts on the Maxi-Cosi). Although it didn’t get a Best Buy award from Which?, this seemed to be because they felt the storage was too small (it isn’t when compared with, say, a Quinny) which is odd as it’s the same size as the Fastfold which came out top! 😕

Until recently, we’ve just been using the carrycot or car seat (depending on whether we’ve travelled somewhere on foot or by car) and have been really pleased with the whole ‘travel system’ concept. Because the car seat uses the same clips as the carrycot, it’s really quick to change from one to another or unclip the car seat from the Isofix base and straight onto the pushchair base and vice versa.

Recently though, we’ve needed to start using the pushchair seat instead of the carrycot† and have hit upon a slight shortcoming in the design. In order to fit the car seat clips, you need to remove the bumper bar and hood because they use the same sockets. That much is fair enough, I can see that both need to be clipped on at the point where the seat pivots. If it had been really cleverly designed, it would have been possible to fit the car seat clips on top of the bar/hood clips but nevermind, it only takes a moment to detach one to fit the other.

Additionally you need to unzip the back of the seat because, although the car seat very nearly fits into the ‘bucket’ of the pushchair seat, the clips are not quite long enough to make this possible. This seems to be such a simple thing to fix, I’m surprised Micralite have not changed the clip design. I phoned them to ask if others had reported this, but they said no-one had. I just like the idea that when your baby is asleep in the car seat, you can easily lift it out and clip it straight onto the pushchair without waking them. It’s still possible, but just more fiddly than it should be.

As I mentioned, the Toro and Fastfold have a very small footprint area (around 40cm X 40cm) when stored vertically, mainly because they are among the very few pushchairs I’ve seen that stand on their wheels, even when folded. This is particularly handy if you plan to store the pushchair in your hall which, by now, is probably crammed full of other baby stuff too! My only worry about doing this is that when small people grow up a bit, they seem to enjoy pulling anything that is within reach. The pushchair is pretty light, but would be heavy/hard enough to hurt if it fell on someone. To avoid this, I bought two carbine hooks from Wickes and a eye and plug set for the wall and tied some thin rope between the two hooks. I now clip the larger carbine hook to the bar at the top of the pushchair and the smaller one to the wall. This has the extra benefit that, if you go walking somewhere that has steep hills, you can hook the clip to your belt to prevent the pushchair racing off downhill in case you somehow let go of the handlebars!

Talking of which, Micralite also sell a very useful handlebar extension kit. It fits onto the ends of the existing handles and means that, using the quick release fixings, you can easily extend the handles for anyone with a longer stride. It also allows you to rotate the handles to various settings between horizontal and vertical. I find it much more comfortable to turn the handles in slightly rather than directly vertical.

I also recently bought the All-Terrain Kit (shown in this brochure) which is basically two more wheels, the same size as the rear ones, to fit on instead of the front wheels. Also included is a metal bar to strengthen the front and act as an axle between the new front wheels and a bag to carry it all in. It seems to be pretty effective, although you wouldn’t want to use it on tarmac because the front wheels don’t steer. You really need rough, uneven ground so that you can lean to steer (or just lift the front wheels while you turn). It has the added bonus of providing two spare tyres for the rears in case you even get a puncture. :-) You’ll need to be quick to get this kit though; Micralite have stopped manufacturing it and I was only able to find it from an eBay retailer who was selling remaining stock.

Overall then, I’ve found this to be a really good product. There are a few design issues still to iron out††, but having looked at a fair few other pushchairs in action now, I haven’t found any that don’t have any similar issues too and also do what we need any better. If you decide to go for this, look around at websites doing good combination offers perhaps with the car seat included too. Also, don’t be afraid to phone them and ask for a deal, after all this is a fairly major expense. That said, try to go with a company you know to be reliable – we’ve found that there are some retailers in the baby market that are running their operations from home and are not really big enough to provide the customer service you’d hope for if things go wrong.


Carrycot hood 1

Carrycot hood 1

† We also had a small problem with the carrycot hood in that the poppers that fix it to the base began to detach from the material they were sewn into. We called Micralite and, having sent photos and proof of purchase, Jane sorted us out with a new one. That’s good customer service in my book!

Carrycot hood 2

Carrycot hood 2

†† A good example would be the bar across the front of the pushchair. It’s quite sturdy and works well with the foot cover fitted over the top of it. However, it doesn’t lock in the ‘down’ position and also doesn’t easily unclip, as some other pushchairs do, to make it easier to get your child in and out. This is only really a problem in the colder weather when you need the foot cover, otherwise you could simply remove the bumper altogether.

Comments

One Response to “The search for a Micralite pushchair”

  1. spinage on May 9th, 2015 23:03

    After owning this pushchair for more than 5 years and using it for two children, I thought I’d comment here by way of an update.
    1) First thing to add is that if you have a second child, who is old enough to stand steadily and hold on, then Micralite do a custom-made rider board which is really useful and folds away when not in use.
    2) Although it has been really hard-wearing, recently (about 5 years in) the recline release plungers have developed a fault where they won’t click into position. We’ve developed a work-around using bit of coat-hanger (not ideal), mainly because Micralite seem to have a supply problem on spare at the moment – hope to get that sorted soon.
    3) I’m not sure I’d stand by my “shortcoming in the design” issue with fitting the car seat clips when in pushchair mode. It’s really a pretty short period (few weeks) of time when this might be useful. In an ideal world it might be nice, but no great problem – we never even thought about it second time around.
    4) The handlebar extension kit is brilliant for anyone with long legs who will be pushing. Also it’s a requirement if you’ll be using the rider board mentioned above (point 1).
    5) Wouldn’t bother with the All-Terrain kit, we haven’t used it much. Spare tyres are handy, but also it’s not that hard to repair the inner tubes after a puncture in the same way you would for a bike tyre.
    6) We didn’t have the problem with the carrycot hood second time around, so looks like that design defect is sorted now.

    I’d still say this is the best pushchair I’ve ever used (and we’ve borrowed a few a different times when away from home) or seen close/regularly enough to evaluate (lots of friends with children now!).

    Most people seem to end up getting two pushchairs – either early on as they’re not happy with the first choice, or later on when they want something smaller to fold up for occasional use. We haven’t had that extra expense as this pushchair has seen us all the way from birth to the time when they finally outgrow pushchairs altogether.