June 27, 2005

Maclaren Volo, The Excellent Second Stroller

maclaren_volo_carbon.jpgWhen we were pondering the Bugaboo, we figured we'd also want a super-lightweight stroller, too, something to just throw on when we headed out the door, or something easy to travel with.

We set our eyes on the lightest Maclaren, the Volo, pretty early, but we never actually felt we needed it. As it turned out, the Frog--or when flying, the Frog base and Maxi-Cosi Cabrio car seat--was all the travel stroller we needed. At least until the kid outgrew her car seat.

So the night before leaving for Sun Valley a couple of weeks ago, my wife picked up a carbon grey Volo on the way home. We love it. It's light, smooth, spare, and well-crafted. And to me, it's the best-looking minimalist umbrella-type stroller around.

It also handles very well. It's a breeze for traveling with a walking kid, one who doesn't have to be in a stroller 100% of the time while you're out. For airports, it turned out to be perfect; our cheapo Graco toddler car seat dropped right into the Volo seat, so with one hand on the gear and another on the kid--who definitely wanted to walk after being cooped up on the plane--moving around was about as easy as I can imagine it.

The downsides are probably predictable for a stripped-down stroller. The Volo doesn't recline like the bigger Macs. The lawnchair-like mesh seat is breezy, but not padded at all. The canopy's flimsy (but so are all Mac canopies). The real shocker for a Bugaboo driver was finding out how poorly the Volo handled any surface but hard, smooth, finished ones. Hardpacked earth was OK, but even grass or a firmly packed gravel walkway turned into a slog.

The other big annoyance: the stride. The unadjustable handles placed the stroller's sharp folding mechanism right in the way of both my and my wife's feet. [Once while hustling across a street, her foot actually got pulled in and stuck between the wheel and the frame. Getting eaten alive by a stroller is not a pleasant way to go, even if it IS in Sun Valley.] To walk with the thing, you have to shorten your gait, lean just enough to be annoying, or kick the stroller every damn step you take. The problem's diminished but not solved on both the Quest and the adjustable height Techno XT. It's really a difference of centimeters on the angle, though, the kind of thing some Mac engineers should fix across the board. [My siblings brought Macs, too, so we did a lot of side-by-side.]

Anyway, at around $100, five+ times the going rate of an typically disposable umbrella stroller and twice the price of a decent Chicco, the Volo is not the value leader in its category at all. But if fifty bucks plus or minus is not a major decision factor for you, the Volo is definitely a good buy.

Buy the 2005 Maclaren Volo at babystyle for $99, or get a 2004 Volo in either pale blue or oyster at babies r us/amazon for only $69. [Hm. Right now, there's even a $10 off promo for strollers over $40. Use code 913551 at checkout. updated hmm: I'm reminded the 2004 doesn't come with a canopy; you'd have to buy an accessory kit for another $39.]
Hello, Target has the Volo in Carbon for only $79 online, with free shipping.

Whoever buys the 2005 Volo in Peony earns only my quiet pity; and I only get $1.50 more, not even enough for the subway. Do us both a favor and steer clear.

37 Comments

We did the same exact thing and had similar results...not perfect but heck, not bad.

The other issue of course is that if you have any bags or weight hanging from the handles the whole thing falls backward as soon as you take the baby out of the seat. We recently found these little soft velcro counter-weights that attach to the front wheels ...they don't really add that much overall weight to the stroller and voila, problem solved.

my $0.02

by the way, great site!

-feltman

So, let me get this straight: the Volo looks good and is handy for transporting the car seat through airports BUT it handles poorly, is not padded or adjustable, its canopy doesn't provide shade, it won't recline & forces you to restrict your gait, and is 5 X the price of other umbrella strollers with comparable features.

Looks are THAT important?

I paid around $200 for the Combi EX. It looks and handles OK, reclines, is padded, has snack cup holders & an adjustable canopy, folds umbrella style and has a carrying strap. Also, I assume it'll accommodate a convertible car seat for those trips through the airport.

My point? I thought we were a bit loopy to pay that much for a stroller that we use 2-3 times a month--and we already have one of those $20 umbrella stollers--but I really wanted all of those features for the baby's comfort. So, really, looks are THAT important?

Well, the handle is a couple inches above the cheapie umbrella strollers, and it steers quite a bit better. Also, it can support considerably more weight, 50 lbs instead of 33 lbs.
But where I live,it is completely overpriced so we bought a much more plush and slightly (ok, a lot) heavier Zooper Rhumba on clearance for $150 CDN instead of shelling out $229 CDN for a Volo.

Wait, enlighten me. You have a car seat that can go in this little stroller as sort of a snap and go situation? We are still mourning the loss of the bucket and doing whatever we can not to travel with the Britax Marathon... advice?

We saw a Volo in red at The Bay for $159 CDN. We have been considering it to replace our monstrously large and old and fugly Graco Travelmate or something or other. Both the hubs and I are too tall for a cheapie, but if we are going to spend the money, I think I may want a bell and a whistle.

I really want something sleeker than an infant buggy, that would accommodate walking and using public transportation and my 2yo's tall self. It seems like you either have to put up with crap or sell your first born, there is no middle ground it seems. And, I've heard the Chicco's, which I'd probably have to make a trip to the states to locate, spontaneously collapse.

Greg, do you have a comprehensive comparison of strollers?

Whitney: No, there aren't any car seat carriers after the infant car seat stage. But, in a pinch, you can transport a convertible car seat in a stroller--just toss it in and let baby stretch his/her legs while you head towards the luggage claim area. It's all about improvising :)

first, Jay, save the drama for Urbanbaby. The Volo handles great and rides great. Much better than the $20 umbrella stroller we ran around with yesterday, in fact.

For the record, the "gets in the way of my feet" thing happens on a bunch of strollers. It happens on a lot of strollers; the Mac just happens to be the one that chewed my wife's foot up.

As for "looks" being "that important," I made very clear that if "money," (i.e., $20-50) is NOT "that important," then the well-designed Volo is worth it.

For a tall someone who uses a stroller every day, looks--or design, or looks+function, whatever--may be important, but not kicking your toes bloody may be more important. For someone who uses a stroller 2-3 times/month, maybe looks--and everything else--aren't worth $80.

Who am I to say? I'm not trying to lay down any law here, just share my experience and provide the impetus for you and others to do the same. Hopefully, we'll all be better able to make our own decisions as a result.

As for the Snap'n'Go, the car seat doesn't actually fasten to the stroller; it just sits in it minus the kid. We'd all be in stroller -car seat Nirvana if there were a LATCH-equipped stroller, but I don't know of one.

DaddyTypes' baby momma here. I just have say... I LOVE the Volo. It weighs as little as the $20 umbrella stroller that we tested yesterday, but it handles (almost) as well as the high-end Maclarens. Greg's just used to the Bugaboo, so he's forgotten that most strollers don't handle grass all that well! The handles are several inches taller than the average umbrella stroller, which makes a big difference if you're more than 5'6". The canopy isn't particularly flimsy. In fact, it's stronger than the Chicco's. It's just that the Maclaren canopies have a tendency to snap in the middle. Yes, I still have the bruise from the foot-in-the-wheel incident, and yes, the inclination angle is too small. But, for $100 it's a fabulous stroller.

Speaking of stride-factor...does anyone happen to know if the Quinny Zapp has any issues with feet hitting the stroller undercarriage?

I love the zapp. It does not have the "stride" issue. I'm 6' and it is perfect. We use it all the time with the Cabrio, haven't used with the seat yet.

I have the Zapp and I've had no "stride" problem even with the Skip-hop fastened under the handles. My husband who is quite a bit taller also comments how he can walk normally when pushing the Zapp. Hope that helps, Tropha.

Thank you to both Jeff and Emily!

I've been salivating over the Orange Zapp for quite a while (with the orange flash maxi cosi cabrio)...now I can't wait!!

we have the inglesina swift which hits most of the sore spots you mentioned, it reclines farther than anything except the maclaren, has a shade, padded seat, long stride, very tall, and it looks pretty nice and minimalist. not volo minimalist, but compared to most, it's still pretty minimalist. anyway, we like it and it costs around the same as the volo.

So what's a good stroller for accommodating a long stride?

I think the Combi's OK for stride--not great, but I've learned how to walk with it. I really like our $20 Kolcraft (talk about spare, minimalist), which steers so well one-handed & from-the-side, that I don't ever have to worry about getting caught in wheels.

I understand paying mega bucks for quality stuff. I troll the internet looking for recommendations & reviews and I buy what I consider to be the best-price be damned. I just don't get it when you say you spent $100 on a fine-looking stroller that pretty much sucks at everything it does. I mean, I paid $200 and it's just an "OK" stroller. But it has all the features I identified as vital: those snack cups are worth their weight in gold for a baby who loves chomping on her goldfish.

Boy, People are jazzed about strollers. DT can go weeks w/o a stroller bit--but as soon as you do, the comment section goes nuts and you become "StrollerDude" again. I think you should revisit that "stroller strategery for hire" idea... Or, you can just sell the soon-to-be-trademarked DaddyTypes stroller comparison matrix for $14.99. Or not. Please not.

Mamaroo next time you are at the Bay or Zellers, check out the Cosatto Dixie. Zellers here has it in red, and the Bay in navy. It is a stripped-down Inglesina Swift for the bargain basement price of $59.99. It has 5.5" wheels and weighs 6kg. The basket and recline are pretty useless, though.
DS found it acceptably comfortable and I only kicked the back a little bit. I am almost 5'11"

[wha? I'm cracking up at the thought of a soon-to-be dad trying to decode this comment. It's like Joyce's Ulysses-meets-Consumer Reports. -ed.]

Two thoughts:

How does the Volo compare to the Silver Cross Micro? Two friends have the Silver Crosses and love them. The wheels seem to be bigger and roll more smoothly than the wheels of the Volo. Same price point and weight/feature package. ANy opinions?

The best way to get a Britax through an airport, whether you're checking it or bringing it on the plane, is in the $30 car seat bag with both shoulder straps and wheels. I can't remember the maker of the bag, but I got mine at Buy Buy Baby. (If anyone wants to know the brand, email me and I'll figure it out. There's a picture on the package of a smiling blonde woman wearing a baby in a Bjorn and pulling the car seat behind her.) You can pull the car seat along behind you as you schlep your bags and either push your kid in the stroller or have him or her strapped to you in a sling or wrap. After 20 flights or so my bag looks a little nasty, but the car seat still looks great.

Moxie -- I've been told by several people that the Silver Cross Micro is well worth the extra $10-20 over the Volo; the wheels are bigger and handle terrain better, the seat is more comfortable and the canopy offers a lot more shade. And it is supposedly about the same weight. It seemed true to me from a test drive but I have no real-world experience. Still, when umbrella-stroller time gets here I will probably go for the Micro over the Volo.

Throkky...where did you buy your Maclaren?

I got mine for $150 Canadian, and that included the extras....Padded seat cushion, bag for the back of the stroller, and the Umbrella/canopy.

You got 'ripped' baby.

Our orange Quinny Zapp arrived last week, and we love it! There are no issues with stride (even with a Skip Hop attached) and it handles well on a variety of terrains. Also, it comes with its own carrying case, which is great for air travel. At ~140 Euros plus shipping, it's certainly not cheap, but we'll use it for #2 with the Maxi-Cosi Cabrio, so we'll probably get a good 3 years out of it.

Oh, I didn't buy a Mac. I test drove one, looked at the price tag, then laughed my way out of Crocodile Baby in Vancouver.
It looks from their web site, that the 2005 Macs are $229 because they have the hood. Wheee. When i test-drove they were $179.
It's ok, though. Monster still naps consistently in his stroller, so it turns out we actually did need the recline.

Ahhh lovely Crocodile, where the mark-up is based on the GNP of a small oil-producing country!

I got mine from Macklems in Toronto. Everything included becuase it was 'last years' model. It was still Carbon coloured, a colour that they still offer.

ps - my kid could sleep hanging upside down, so it didn't much matter about the recline, besides, he isn't in the MacL. for long periods. For point A to B, this stroller just plain kicks. (Not to be mistaken for 'licks' which means quite the opposite, for example, the Quinny that I bought and then gave to my sister 'licked).

eBay People! eBay! I have a Maclaren Quest that I got for about $80. (Great for travel and the mall. LOVE our Quinny 4XL but not for throwing in the back of the car and navigating sale racks.) The Quinny was about $130 -- also eBay.

Greg, Thanks for the referral to Urbanbaby. Seems like the stroller discussions are pretty comprehensive there; little in the way of posturing, etc.

Yeah, my wife and I looked at both the Volo and Quest. The Volo had the stride issue, but the Quest didn't.

We love the Quest, but I second the observation that it doesn't handle too well through the grass. But then, it's probably the little wheels compared to big wheels on other strollers. Still, the size and maneuverability of the Quest makes it an ideal stroller for the occasional use.

Hey Tropha,

My wife and I are expecting our Orange Zapp and the Orange Flash Cabrio in 2 weeks! We've got the same taste! The cabrio will also make a nice combo with our orange/red cameleon. We can't wait!

We are expecting # 2 in a couple of months, anyone have advice for a stroller solution? We have a Maclaren techno (love it), a volo (mainly for travel) and a Bob sus for use on our farm. The Phil and Ted E3 is very popular in our area, but have been concerned about the few negatives I have read on it, they seem to be pretty big pitfalls.

renefjr...

You ROCK, my friend! I am pondering an orange/grey Cameleon (to accompany the orange Zapp/cabrio combo)! It seems to be the perfect collection for all possible stroller needs. You'll have to let me know how everything works out for you!

Jay, I can't believe you just typed the words "Urbanbaby" and "little in the way of posturing" in the same paragraph. Log in some time at around noon when everyone's blood sugar is low and watch the fur fly. Those women are very easily baited, I tell you...

But I agree that the stroller recs there are pretty straightforward. It's everything else that's over the top.

Mamma d'Annabelle,
Do all the peices of the Zapp{sunshade,Cabrio bracket addapters, raincover} fit in the carrying case or only the stoller with fabric!
I ask since shipping for this 6kg stoller seems to be based on 10.5kg in a substntialy bigger box!

They all fit in the carrying case. The sunshade is detachable, but once you have the cabrio on the stroller, the sunshade can not be attatched. This is not a problem because the cabrio comes with its own shade.

The Maclarens are fabulous for subway travel -- they maneuver beautifully in tight spaces. As a daily commuter with kid, I was crazy about my Maclaren.

Quinny Zapp people-
what is the Cabrio (car seat?)
Skip hop? Cameleon? We are due in 4 weeks- just entering the stroller fold...and a bit overhwelmed with the options. People love the bug for handling...but is it true that you need an engineering degree to take it on the subway (or collapse for other reasons?)
Thanks- newbie.

Ariella,
The bugaboo is truely confusing to many but not all and eaven when you think you've got it then a month later you fold it backwards anyway! As far as your other questions your best off looking at these sites & doing some reading then writing back with all your Questions. www.quinny.com www.skiphop.com www.bugaboo.com www.maxicosi.nl These few will getyou started welcome to the fold!

What he said. Except for hefting it up the stairs, we have very little trouble wheeling our Frog around on the subway. The bus is a distant memory, though, because you have to break it down and take the kid out. [Which is impossible, unless you have a nanny and stroller valet with you to carry everything, in which case, just take a cab.]

Anyway, you can also search through the archives on the site for previous posts on all the gear you're angsting about, so rest easy. And post or email away with your questions.

for example: Maxi Cosi Cabrio: the Eurotrash car seat

Which Bay has the Cosatto Dixie? I saw it at Zellers, but I don't like the red.

I was trying to find the Volo 2007 discounted and found it at a site called tinyride. So I got a (modest) discount on my new Maclaren Volo 2007 but they're also shipping me a free maclaren universal organizer. Not a bad deal!

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