May 18, 2007

Bugaboo Bee-utiful: The Daddy Types Sneak Preview

So I was having breakfast the other morning with DT reader Max, who was in town for work.

And as we're eating bagels in the sligthly humid hotel lobby that smells a bit like a swimming pool--because there turns out to be a swimming pool in the lobby--he points to this wheelie suitcase over against the wall and says, do you want to see what we've been working on? And I'm all, sure, what?

And his friend goes over to get it, and it turns out it's some stroller, all folded up, and then she pushes some lever with her toe, and--POP!--it's the Bugaboo Bee.

Max is, of course, Max Barenbrug, the designer and co-founder of Bugaboo. He was in town for a day with his marketing team to do some media previews of the company's first entirely new stroller design since the original Frog.

Now, since I had a bagel in my hand instead of a tape recorder, I can't do justice to Max's discussion of the Bee's genesis and the innovations the Bugaboo folks are very enthusiastic about. And I think I'll wait to give a fuller review when I can spend some time actually testing the thing on my own. But on first glance, I have to say, the Bee feels like a pretty sweet rig.

If there's one thing that comes across from talking with Max, it's a sense of ambitiousness, not just for the Bee, but as a fundamental driving force. Bugaboo's been slow to introduce new products--I can't tell you how many "Where's a Bugaboo double stroller?" emails I've gotten--but if the company's intensity about the Bee is any indication, the slowness is caused by Max's desire to change the world, not just fill out a product line. The Frog and its descendants are still buying the company enough time to do that. But Max was definitely focused on the Bee blow away other strollers, not just solve the Frog/Cameleon/Gecko's "two pieces? I need three hands!" drawback.

The ambition hit me right out of the gate, when Max talked about how the limitations of other strollers derived from the "form follows function" design process. [Nothing gets a fella's attention quite like an early morning challenge to the founding tenet of Modernism.] The Bee, even more than the Frog before it, Max said, was a product of "form integrated with function."

dt_max_bugaboo_bee.jpg

Some examples he touched on:

  • The Bee has an ergonomic, molded, structural seat designed around a kid.
  • It also has an umbrella-like fold, though, which encloses around the seat instead of folding it up.
  • The seat has a perforated back that looks like an exoskeleton [with the pads removed, it reminded me of a piece of sports equipment--football shoulder pads or a knee brace], but it was quickly apparent that the perforations must not be stylistic, and so they became the shoulder strap adjustment system.
  • The composite rubber wheels--Max could probably go an hour on the wheels alone--have a raised ridge down the center, which reduces road noise while providing additional cushioning. [Having only seen the stroller on a hotel carpet, not a sidewalk, I didn't test that out.]
  • The Bee's suspension has all the functionality of the Cameleon/Frog, but on the inside. [It makes the Cameleon's wheels in particular look kind of cluttered by comparison.]

    And on and on. All design inside baseball, really, but it's also indicative of the emphasis Bugaboo places on design and even the design process as integral to their brand identity.

    How does it roll? Great. How does it look, good from a fair number of angles, very techy from others. The canopy definitely has a family resemblance, though it's also got an organic curve that follows the silhouette of the seat it folds up against. How does it fold? Well, it's a lot easier to learn than the Frog, that's for sure. It still takes some getting used to. It feels kind of like an Aprica, in that it collapses in a swoop when you get the motion just right. Opening it is a one hand/one foot affair, and then it springs open like a pop-up book. It's pretty sweet.

    The seat switch is less elegant than the Frog's, but then, you don't do it that often. It stands up well and carries well; though it's really wider than what you'd call an umbrella fold, it's light enough to carry like a Maclaren. I didn't get a look at storage; Max did express classic euro-bafflement at the Great American Cupholder Mystery, but I bet there'll be a Bee adapter ready out of the gate. All the expected car seats will ride on top, travel system-style. Parked next to the other strollers in the store, it's really going to stand out.

    bugaboo_bee_vidcap.jpg

    Just as the Bugaboogers were packing up to go, one of the marketing folks realized I hadn't seen The Movie yet. So I watched it on her laptop, perched on the hotel banquette. It's freakin' crazy, and I told them it must be released on YouTube that instant. I'd do it myself, if need be, it was a crime to keep such wackiness from the world.

    Which I mention to help pinpoint the exact moment when they decided not to give me a copy of the Bee DVD. I'm working on it, though, so stay tuned. [makes international mime hands typing gesture and mouths, "M-A-X, E-M-A-I-L M-E."]

    update: the dancing stroller video was, as noted below, on YouTube for a few hours, but it was taken down. There's a 12-second clip up, though, of someone folding and opening the stroller.

    Which contrasts rather amusingly with the 5:26 video of a guy struggling to set up his Frog. The stare-at-manual vs. try-to-do-something ratio is pretty steep. Good times.

  • 22 Comments

    .....and then you grabbed it and ran out the door. Right?

    [and if they don't buy a bunch of ads, I'm going to auction it on eBay. -ed.]

    Uh, if they want a mommy in mid-America to test drive the thing, they can call me...

    Assuming this was in NYC, not DC, I'm going to hone in on what is truly important:

    What hotel was this? There are so few with pools in New York...

    [QT, Andre Balasz' Times Square dump -ed.]

    The video of the dancers is already on youtube. It is nuts... I wish it was a little bit less 'style' and a lot more 'this is what the Bee can do.'

    Please, please, tell me: How is the recline. Do you still need both hands to do it? Having a child who likes to fall asleep in my arms or in a carrier, I have done all kinds of acrobatics trying to get the seat in the sleep position before putting her in it.

    [actually, the video was up, then it got pulled, some snafu with the agency, they said, but only like 75 views, most of them from Bugaboo people looking to see why it was up. The recline: didn't see it, but I'd bet it's a two hand/two side deal. The fold has two release buttons like on the Frog; the seat switch takes two hands; so I'm guessing. -ed.]

    Quick question...what age can the Bee be used up to (if you know)? I am so in love with it, but I do not want to have another kid just to justify its purchase. =)

    [it's 0-4, but I'm already finding during the last few months, the kid resists riding in a stroller at all sometimes. We may not make it to 4. -ed]

    Um, sorry to rain on y'alls parade, but this Bee is nas-tee. As in ug-lee. I can't see the attraction for a mid-size stroller that costs upwards of $500 and doesn't really do anything special. So it has good suspension and a reversible seat, big freakin' whoop. If it were a couple hundred dollars less, yes, I'd find it much more interesting, but, alas, no less of an eyesore.

    I just wanna know how much it costs.. can u tell me?

    [didn't Time mag say it was $529? -ed.]

    I fancy trying a Bee, looks a bit odd but then I thought that of the frog to begin with. My problem will be my daughter is 3 in october and eve though she's small I think we're going to struggle fitting her in the Bee...that seat looks fairly small?

    the bugaboo bee video is a waste of space unless your the arty farty type pitty really cos the product looks good well I think it could be

    Can you tell me when the Graco car seat adapter will be available in the US?

    I saw and played with the Bee in a store today; it was the first time I had seen it after hearing about it last week. Interestingly enough, the assembly seemed a bit ... how do i describe it... off. The seat assembly on both demo's were lopsided, one angled to the left, the other to the right. The construction is less solid than the Frog, as one might expect from a collapsible stroller, but sturdy enough compared to other units.

    While the folding action requires two hands, unfolding is, as the DT blog noted, a one-hand, one-foot affair. Seat recline is also done with one hand. Reversing the seats, however, looked pretty challenging -- partly because the salespeople are dealing with a new product, but also likely because the new mechanisms need to be broken in some.

    At >$500, I'm currently undecided whether we will switch from our original Frog to the Bee. The Frog is a much sturdier stroller, but the Bee is more compact.

    Last note: the Bee does not appear to be comparable to umbrella strollers -- our Silver Stream umbrella is about 11 lbs (if memory serves; and i'm too lazy to look it up), while the Bee is about 17 lbs. It seems that the Bee was created to serve constituents who had complained about the hassles of 2-piece stroller deconstruction (ie, those who take public transit) and with limited transportation storage space.

    Hope this helps!

    Stroller is great bought it this week...very disappointed that the car seat adaptor will not be available until Spring 2008...my baby is 3 weeks, I need the adaptor NOW

    I bought the bee in Blue- love it but now I can't use the car seat without the adaptor.. I have contacted bugaboo intl and they no one really knows when it will be available , someone there told me graco 2008, another rep told me that it will be compatible with the maxi cosi mico but when I contacted Maxi cosi no one knew anything regarding the adaptor .. no one knows ...what a shame I will have to return the Bee!!

    [the car seat mfrs are totally out of the picture on this; it's really Bugaboo's responsibility to get the adapters for their products. It's like how the Orbit launched with only the infant seat, the Bee seems to be launching without any of the newborn stuff. -ed.]

    This is taken from my previous post in a different thread:

    And for those looking to connect their infant seat to the Bee... word on the street is that they will not be out until Spring 2008. I have Maxi Cosi Mico on pre-order as well and was concerned about not having that capability of attaching it to the Bee. Bugaboo responed to my inquiry regarding this and their response was:

    "We are manufacturing and selling the Bugaboo Bee car seat adaptors, but as the Maxi Cosi wasn’t approved for sale until mid-summer, we are waiting on the approval of our car seat adaptors in the US market... The adaptors will be launching with the Bee in October in Europe. North America is the first part of the world to get the Bee. Hopefully the adaptors will be approved in the US before then."

    So I guess you'd have to order the adapters in Europe if you want them earlier.

    I got the Bee and anxiously awaits the car adapter; whichever one comes first (graco, maxi-cosi or peg perego), I will replace my current car seat.

    If anyone see these adapters online everywhere in the world, please let me know!

    thanks!

    I too am in search of adapters for my new bee - I have found this site: http://www.designpublic.com/shop/bugaboo/7729 but am not sure if I trust that they are actually going to ship mid September. I have been searching European websites from the bugaboo website - and still have not found one site online that sells adapters for the bee.

    The reatailers let me know also spring 2008 in Canada for the adpaters :(

    Lisa, that site you mentioned states the delivery will take place Spring 2008.

    Notes: PLEASE NOTE: This is a brand new product from Bugaboo and we are currently taking pre-orders for it. All orders will be shipped in Spring 2008.

    I emailed the company to verify and now the site has changed. (from Design Public: We are expecting to ship the Bugaboo Carseat Adapter by Spring 2008 as well, more specifically near April 2008. We apologize for any confusion. Please let me know if you have any other questions! Thank you.)

    I tried out my carseat in the Bee with both the seat of the bee and the car seat facing the handle and although not the sturdiest it fits and won't fall out. I am due Oct 12th so waiting until Spring isn't an option for me.

    Lookie here:

    http://store.pacifieronline.com/bugbmico.html

    I emailed them and they said that's the date they got from Bugaboo.

    Lisa, what exactly are you using? The Mico? What kind of adapters are working for you? I'm due Oct. 2 and got a Bee. Not sure what to do in terms of car seats.

    I tried the same thing Lisa did which is place the Mico rear facing on the laid back Bee seat and it seems to fit pretty snug. To be extra secure I snapped the restraints through the bars under the car seat. Baby is coming any day now and thats my only option if I don't want to disturb a sleeping baby for a quick trip to the store.

    I am not using any adapters. I just place the carseat in the bee while in the facing me position.

    Just a word of greatness on the bee, my baby came Sept. 11th - a preemie she weighed 5 pounds at birth and is still less than 6 pounds and she fits more secure in the stoller than she does in the carseat!

    I just love taking her out and about in my bee!

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