November 16, 2010

So Far, I Count Two Phil & Teds Sub4 Joggers


I've given them some grief, but I've also gotta give Phil & Teds credit: they are totally owning a city double stroller market that coulda/shoulda/mighta been Bugaboo's; their campaigns and products are solidly dad-friendly; and even when it doesn't quite work, they're not afraid to experiment with design, products, and materials in a smart, interesting way.

So rather than give P&T grief over the fact that it's been a year since the unveiling of the Sub4, "the world's fastest jogger," let's assume the timeline is part of the plan. The Sub4 isn't necessarily a product, at least not yet. It's a concept stroller, like how automakers debut concept cars to throw a little design halo on the brand, and to gauge public response to radical design shifts.


The Sub4 website and the 2009 discussions of the stroller on other blogs focus a lot on what features the Sub4 "has," and how it performs, even though there appear to be only one, maybe two actual prototypes in existence. The rest is computer rendering and PR.

One thing that has already hit the market is the Sub4's aerocel foam seat. The Phil & Teds Smart has a similar steel-reinforced foam seat. I checked it out in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago. The promotional video says aerocel foam is like Crocs, so I was a bit surprised at how hard it was. [If I can get my pictures off my camera, I'll write about the Smart separately. The short answer is, I'm unconvinced.]


Back to the Sub4. The stroller is obviously very striking-looking. It appears to have some high-performance suspension and other innovative specs. In their solution on the apparently dire state of jogging stroller design, Phil & Teds focuses in on the need for speed. Which makes me wonder about two things:

I'm a swimmer not a runner, so I don't have firsthand experience, but is slowness really the problem with jogging strollers? Are you, jogging parent, really being held back by your stroller? Or is the real stroller pain elsewhere?

Personally, I'd think that the Problem With Jogging Strollers is their bulk and limited maneuverability. And from what I read, the REAL PWJS is that they ruin your gait. They make you lean over, and you can't use your hands, and you kick them with your feet.

And all that leads to the second question: does the Sub4 actually address any of this? Except for one mention of being ergonomically designed so you don't kick it, the P&T crew doesn't seem to acknowledge anything but speed.

So the Sub4 may look sexy, and it may perform as well as any competitor's rig. But it may not be a revolution in anything. In its focus on style and speed, P&T's design process may be running right past a whole bunch of much-needed improvements without even noticing.

Phil & Teds Sub4: The world's fastest jogger [ via dt reader seth]
Phil and Teds Sub4 Jogging Stroller - The Fastest Jogging Stroller - A review [sic] [pishposhbaby]
the Sub4 and the iStroll prototype: separated at birth? [mamanetbebe]


The Dutch have cornered the market:

I love prototype strollers, but I don't think this one will ever make it into production. And those wheels would take up a ton of space even with the thing folded. Wouldn't fit into a car trunk, and isn't that where most jogging strollers end up. How many parents actually use their jogging strollers for jogging? I've never seen a parent in the wild jogging with one. I have seen a million in Starbucks though.

Gotta say that I've seen more bike trailer conversions (Chariot and the like) being used as jogging strollers than actual dedicated jogging strollers.

However, suspension is a very useful thing to have. I've got a Wike and the elastomer suspension does indeed take the edge off bumps, and it seems to be more effective at high speed. It does throw off the gait though, and my arms get tired after a while.

The Chariot has a system designed for winter use with rigid poles between the vehicle and the parent. I wonder what that would be like for running..."look ma, no hands!"

I wouldn't say "slowness" is a problem with jogging strollers (more with joggers themselves), but bulk and weight are. I have a BOB Revolution, which I use exclusively for running. I adore it because it's well-built, insanely maneuverable, well-balanced and smooth-running. It hasn't hurt my gait at all - in fact, it forced me into better form by requiring me to keep my upper body forward. It also works as an effective resistance trainer. A friend of mine who's a professional runner hit personal records in three races in a row after training with her baby in a BOB, and I'm also seeing improvements in my pace. I should disclose that I'm 5'2 and female, so the height isn't an issue for me (if anything, it's too high), nor do I kick the axle. I was surprised to find, when I tried a Roadrunners stroller that a friend had, that they're not all this good. The square shape, higher profile and considerably clunkier adjustments made the RR very difficult to use. I would LOVE to see and try a stroller like the Sub4 but shudder to think what the price tag will read.

well, BOB's been at it longer than almost any co. one of those "for runners by runners" operations.

jogging strollers are great...but once folded it's (was) huge !
did you see the babyzen european product ?
Crazy !
I would love have one...

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