This year we took a very important trip to California to visit Elian’s great grandparents. For him it was going to be the first time he had flown on a plane and travelled outside the UK so as you can imagine planning on what we needed to take started very early. This included anything from clothes, toys, changing items and one major thing, a buggy. We have a lovely full size buggy from when he was born and its perfect for our every day when we’ve got plenty of space in the boot of the car, but one thing it isn’t is airline friendly. United Airlines allow us to take one stroller free of charge, and we could even take it right up to the gate before boarding. We could have borrowed one on the american side sure, but transporting a 9 month old while dragging cases around wasn’t going to be easy, so we started looking for one to travel with, which might sound counter productive, but being able to strap him in and carry a backpack, fiddle with passports and get on and off the transfer bus was going to be so much easier.
Kiddies Kingdom were kind enough to help our plea and after a few choices from our side, they sent us the Joie Brisk stroller in black (which Jon was happy about as he’s a boring lover of all things black). We didn’t have any time to even set it up or put it together before going, so we literally pulled it out of the box and put it’s pieces into the car boot while packing, barely even looking at the instructions. We made sure to pack the waterproof cover and the hood in our luggage too so nothing was left behind.
The morning of flying, Jon put the buggy together, which itself was very easy, just click both sets of wheels on and click the hood on, done. When put together the whole thing is super sleek, all black frame and materials, it definitely doesn’t stand out but it has a very premium look about it.
Putting it up couldn’t be a easier, just undo the clip to the right which holds it together, push down on the foot peg at the back while holding the handles up and voila, its ready. My mum has a buggy which folds in the same way and this is quite a bit easier and smoother to do for sure.
We adjusted the shoulder straps to fit Elian’s shoulder height and we were away. When we got to the airport on the transfer bus we decided we would test out United Airlines service and the ruggedness of the stroller by checking it in to oversize baggage just for the journey out, and then we would take it all the way through security and to the gate on the way home. We knew we were going to be sitting down for a good breakfast meal too on the journey out so we wouldn’t be pushing him about too much, so checking it in it was. It was the perfect size, no questions asked and off it went though the big back hole in the wall, hopefully to be seen again and in one piece on the other side.
Sure enough, when it came to collecting our baggage, there it was waiting for us, not a scrape or a scratch. In Elian went, clipped in and ready for our journey on the BART train to meet Jon grandfather, about an hour and a half from San Francisco. Coming off the train, I noticed the buggy wasn’t pushing properly, the back wheels were dragging and it wasn’t running very smooth at all even across polished floor surfaces, but when we check it out, it appeared that Jon in his rushing had infact put the back wheels on the wrong sides, so they were slightly toed in causing frictions. A quick swap around made a huge difference and the whole buggy glided effortlessly across the concrete with just the touch of a finger, it really is that smooth to push even with a backpack loaded on the handles and a few coats stuffed underneath for good measure. The basket isn’t huge but makes the most of all the space under the seat so is a good side and was plenty for storing our shopping and some bits and pieces on our trips out.
A few days in we took Elian for a walk to the park for a proper, non sleep deprived test run to check out the buggy in depth and give it an honest review. The sun was glaring and we stupidly didn’t pack an umbrella for the buggy, but we discovered that the already large hood has a zip and an extending piece which made a huge difference and kept the high sun off his face. Up and down pavements and rough sidewalks was a breeze, the tyres of the buggy are fairly firm but grippy so rolling resistance was minimal making it easy to push along, and the front wheels didn’t chatter at all like a shopping trolley can when being pushed too fast. We chose to leave the wheels free and not lock them into the straight position, and the whole thing turns on the spot to be able to get through tight spaces very easily. The handle height is generous an was more than fine for me, Jon however is 6ft 1 and although it wasn’t uncomfortable, it was slightly too low for him for long periods of pushing but we also have the same thing with our full size pram. This also understandably keeps the size down and in reality isn’t an issue, its his fault for being so tall!.
The materials in general feel very well made, you don’t feel like you need to be too careful pulling at the velcro seams or when cleaning it, it feels like it will hold up to a good scrub and wear over time. Adjusting the seat height is straight forward and pretty standard with a squeeze clip hiding behind the headrest. The seat has 5 positions from upright to an almost flat recline. We found that it sometimes wouldn’t click in evenly but this might just be practice. The shoulder pads were a little flimsy however and a few time we found red marks on Elian’s neck from where he had been leaning on the adjusting plastic piece on the strap. We had to tighten the straps all the way to the top so when he was playing with the shoulder pads and chewing on them, he was catching the plastic piece which although didn’t cause any harm or permanent marks it did make his neck a little red. Maybe the straps are a little too generous and the pads a little too small. We could have done with more room to tighten the shoulder straps to stop him from leaning to one side so much when asleep. The straps didn’t really keep him in one place and felt like they were made to fit older children.
The foot brake is located on the right foot (when you put the wheels on the right way round) and a bicycle style crake cable loops to the other side to engage the wheel lock. This part of the buggy was our main gripe. The right wheel always locked into place, but nearly every time the left wheel lock wouldn’t engage or just wasn’t good enough to stop the buggy from swivelling on the spot because one back wheel could move. When travelling on trains or engaging the brake on a hill, the buggy would move around too much and meant we couldn’t let go of the handles entirely which to be honest I expected to be better. There may be some sort of adjustment to tighten the brake on the left wheel but we’ve not looked yet.
When you’re finished with the buggy and want to pack it away, this is one area where it excels. We knew we would be carrying bags on our trip where we needed it, so folding it up easily and quickly was a priority. Doing this couldn’t be easier and I’m very impressed. There’s a great button and lever on the right handle. Press the button, pull the lever slightly and the whole thing folds over in an instant. Just give it a gentle push to the ground to enable the clip to hold it in place and you’re done, all with one hand and there is a handy carry handle to one side to make it easy to move when folded up. Weighing in at just 8.22kg means its also pretty light. We had huge boot space to play with in the car we were using in the US so getting it about was easy. On returning home, we found that it needed to be stored in the boot at an angle to fit, where our full size pram can fit straight in with he front wheel touching the back of the rear seats. We drive a volvo S60 and S80 so space in the boot isn’t tight, but it’s something to bear in mind if you need it to fit in and leave as much cargo space as possible.
Overall we really like the Joie. Its light, smooth, well build and looks great. We might search for some better shoulder pads until he grows up a bit and try to tighten that brake but overall it’s a pleasure to use and we highly recommend it.
Big thank you to Kiddies Kingdom for sending us this awesome little Joie stroller to test out, it made our holiday so much easier and made our first international trip with the little dude a huge success.