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."
Some examples he touched on:
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.
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.