When Britax called a few months back and asked to schedule a time to come to Boston to show me a new stroller, I have to admit I rolled my eyes. Britax, a brand revered for quality and design in car seats, has been trying unsuccessfully to break in to the stroller category for years. I’ve never seen a stroller I really liked from them, and I didn’t have high hopes for their newest entry. So I was really surprised when they wheeled the B-Ready into my office — and I loved it.
By way of some important background information, the in-line double stroller category has exploded over the past three years, starting after Phil&Teds (who first came up with the idea) themselves expanded their product line from one stroller to four (five, now, actually). All five (five!) strollers use the same basic framework – a single, all-terrain stroller with a doubles kit – a second seat that can attach to the front or back of the frame to take a second child. Over the years, Phil&Teds has improved the design (some models’ doubles kit offer a small recline), but you still can’t use a car seat with a doubles kit, and there’s no option for a bassinet. Plus, the all-terrain frame means you can’t reverse either seat to face the parent.
The UPPAbaby Vista is a hybrid stroller, with large rear wheels, small front wheels and a reversible seat. It has a Rumble Seat accessory, but that can only be used facing the parent. It does have a modest sun canopy (which the Phil&Teds seat doesn’t) and it can be used in tandem with an infant car seat. It doesn’t recline at all, so it can only be used with babies over 6 months old and up to 35 pounds.
The Baby Jogger City Select has caught on like wildfire because it is the most versatile in-line double stroller on the market. It starts as a single hybrid stroller, but you can add a full-size second seat. You can also use any combination of bassinets and car seat adapters, and there are multiple configurations for which way the baby can face. The stroller has a lot of strengths, but it’s got a very long wheelbase, and it’s not as easy to push as the other in-line doubles.
None of these strollers can effectively be folded with the second seat in place.
Why am I talking about the competition instead of the product I’m actually supposed to be covering? Because you need to understand what Britax was trying to accomplish with the B Ready. They wanted to produce an in-line double stroller that solved the key problems still plaguing the others.
The B-Ready uses a hybrid stroller frame that is similar, but not identical, to the UPPAbaby Vista. The wheelbase is longer on the B-Ready to make room for the second seat. The extra length does have an impact on the responsiveness of the steering if you compare it side by side with the Vista, but the B-Ready still produces a nice, smooth ride. The main stroller seat offers three recline positions and is reversible. The mechanics for turning the seat work very smoothly. The basket is very nice – large and uninterrupted. The clever designers at Britax put zippered access panels on the front and sides, so parents can access the basket even when the second seat is in place.
The second seat is exceptionally easy to attach, and it offers a four-position recline as well as a reasonably sized sun canopy. I had a little trouble getting the second seat off the frame – the release button mechanism was sticky on one side, but that should loosen up over time. The placement of the release buttons is a little awkward, but since the stroller can fold with the second seat attached, it’s not a big issue. What’s that? The stroller can fold with the second seat attached? Why yes, it can. And it’s easy, too. There’s a sliding release that collapses the second seat flat, and then it folds right down with the rest of the stroller.
Let’s talk about car seat adaptability. The B-Ready comes with an integrated car seat adapter for the Britax Chaperone infant car seat. If you want to use another brand (Graco or Chicco), you can purchase a separate adapter. For the lower seat, you can purchase a Britax Chaperone adapter, but there’s no option currently for other brands. So if you’re using the stroller with an infant and a toddler, you have plenty of options for infant car seats. But if you have twins and you need to use the B Ready with two infant car seats, you’re limited to the Britax Chaperone – which isn’t a bad thing. The Chaperone is a really nice infant car seat, but it’s been severely handicapped by a lack of good stroller options. The B-Ready will help with that.
All in all, there are 14 possible configurations for the B-Ready stroller. See them all.
To recap, here are the key advantages to the B-Ready:
- Smaller, more maneuverable frame than a true tandem or even the City Select
- Very large basket with easy access from all four sides of the stroller
- Second seat that reclines flat and offers sun protection, appropriate for newborn to 35 pounds
- Versatile configurations include two car seats, a car seat and a second seat, a bassinet, and options to face the parent or the world
- Easy to fold and folds with the second seat attached
- Comes with cup holder, rain cover and Chaperone car seat adapter
- Nice suspension system in both the main seat and the second seat
Things to watch out for:
- Some mechanisms need to be broken in before they work smoothly – the buttons to disengage the second seat and the “automatic” chassis lock, which keeps the stroller securely folded, were both a little stiff right out of the box.
- Longer wheelbase creates slightly sluggish handling. If you’re strictly in the market for a single stroller, this will not perform quite as well as the UPPAbaby Vista or a Bugaboo.