I spent a few hours today at the Boston Baby Faire, and I finally had a chance to play with the Vibe and formulate a concrete opinion about it. Here are my thoughts.
There is no such thing as a perfect stroller; this is a universal truth. Parents are always making choices and sacrificing certain features in favor of others to try and get as close as possible to meeting their needs. And this is why many families end up with more than one stroller. This is reasonable when you’re talking about single strollers, but once you’re in the realm of double strollers, space quickly becomes an issue, no matter where you live. So when you’re buying a double stroller, it’s important to try to get it as right as possible.
The Phil & Teds Vibe offers some nice features – a sleek aluminum frame that shaves 2 lbs off the weight of the stroller, a more modern silhouette, a comfortable seat pad that is easily removed and machine-washable, a doubles kit that can remain on the stroller when it is folded, a hood that offers a little extra coverage for the rear passenger, a very innovative strap adjustment system, and a handlebar brake system that will take some getting used to.
In exchange for all these, you get a stroller that does not handle as smoothly or steer as responsively as the other Phil & Teds models. It requires more effort to push. And all the design engineering that went into creating a fold that could swallow the doubles kit yielded a fold that requires nine steps and lots of practice. By way of a comparison, on the Sport, to fold your stroller with the doubles kit attached, you go through three motions, both of which require both hands. First, you remove the doubles kit, and then you push the fold buttons near the footrest and pull the stroller towards you to collapse it. You’re left with two pieces, but the whole ordeal is over in 15 seconds or less. On the Vibe, you must first adjust the handlebar to its highest position (if it’s not already there). Then, you undo two clips that hold the doubles kit in place, one on each side of the stroller near the basket. Then, you push up the stroller fabric at the base of the seat and shove the doubles kit seat up to nest inside the space vacated by the seat fabric. Then, you release two safety clips, one on each side of the frame. Then, you release one last safety clasp on the left side, and push up on the basket to collapse the stroller. It’s probably a lot less confusing to see it in person than to hear me describe it.
After watching carefully two or three times, I was able to pull it off reasonably well. The safety clips on the frame can also be used to lock the stroller closed – a nice touch – though it requires immaculate precision with the fold and a considerable amount of strength.
The handlebar brake is already a contested issue, with some parents voicing concern and frustration over how easy it is to accidentally engage the brake while pushing the stroller. I agree that it will probably happen to most people once or twice, but after pushing it for a few minutes, I adjusted my hand position very naturally, and I did find it to be a convenient way to activate the brake. The Regal Lager salespeople claim that you can push the stroller one-handed by positioning a hand off-center, but I’m not sure you could legitimately push this stroller one-handed under any circumstance if it was loaded down with two children.
I also found that with the handlebar in certain positions, I was prone to kicking the doubles kit as I walked – a fairly uncomfortable sensation, since it hits right below the knees. But adjusting the handlebar to a lower position did resolve the problem, even if the handlebar wasn’t as high as I might have liked. I’ll take a slight stoop to bruised shins any day of the week. And really, that encapsulates the whole question of the Vibe. It’s a stroller that is all about compromises. You weigh the good against the bad, and you make a decision knowing full well what you’re giving up and what you’re getting.