Well…that was quite a turn up for the books…I didn’t expect to FALL in love on Valentine’s Day!
That was yesterday, and today the romance is still with me. I can still feel the coastal wind blowing on my face and when I close my eyes I still see her powering across the wet sand, defying the elements with every movement as her sleek curves glinted in the sparse sunlight.
She looked so cool in her tight grey fabrics and as she responded to my every touch on that beach I experienced new depths of pleasure that I didn’t think were possible…the kind I had only read about and the kind I didn’t think a boy like me would ever come to know.
Her name was ZEN…and ‘she’ is a pushchair made by Babyzen.
I have been a fan of Babyzen for a number of months now, and our Babyzen YOYO has just been a delight to use when the situation or location has called for something smaller and more portable than our beloved UPPAbaby VISTA. When I was given the opportunity to borrow a ZEN I figured why the heck not…never really tried a true all-terrain pushchair before and with a trip to the seaside inked onto the calendar as a Valentine’s Day treat it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give the ZEN a whirl.
The ZEN is not a small pushchair…but amazingly it folds down so flat that it will actually fit into the boot of pretty much any car and without taking up any real volume or space.
Remarkably, the Carrycot also folds up!! That is a new one on me. Apologies to any pushchair brands that have this feature already (if any do) but that is frickin’ awesome. Between that and the flat fold of the chassis we were left with a ton of boot space. We are used to the boot being full unless the YOYO is being taken to town, so there was plenty of space for wellies, coats, changing bags and all the other paraphenalia needed to go to the beach in the UK in February.
Now, I am a dad. That means I am a bloke. That means I don’t read manuals.
The unfold caused a bit of a delay upon arrival…and I really couldn’t work it out. I thought it would be easy, like the YOYO, but it had me scratching my head, which was getting increasingly cold by not moving around in the windy weather. After being defeated I decided a case of RTFM was needed…but the manual was sat at home, keeping nice and warm on the dining room table.
Thankfully, there was a very cool Babyzen ZEN pushchair video on YouTube that I could refer to. Once I saw how it was done it was actually very easy to unfold. Folding it back up at the end of the trip was a different matter…it’s a little tricker, but to be completely fair once you have done it 2 or 3 times it quickly becomes second nature. Credit to the designers here – the fact that it folds down so flat and still maintains a fold system that is OK to use is impressive. You can’t expect that sort of result and have an easy 1 button 1 hand fold, and the compromise is fair and still very much in the favour of the user.
So, chassis unfolded, carrycot unfolded…next step was to put baby M into it for the very first and see what she made of it now that she is just over 4 months old and starting to get very opinionated (if you ask me).
She loved it…in a way we hadn’t seen before. She smiled as soon as she was fastened in and seemed to love the extra space she had compared to other pushchairs she has experienced. Part of the glee was possibly down to the slight recline we had in the carry cot too. Yes…the carry cot also has an adjustable recline! It also works as a baby bouncer too with its supports, as the following picture also shows (as well as demonstrating the recline).
Fortunately the manual for the carry cot was with us, as again at first blush it is not the easiest thing to work out and use. You have to do the dance of the zips to get the right set-up, which is a little bit bewildering the first few times, even with the manual as the recline level is set by different zips being zipped up or released.
Again, it quickly becomes second nature and we were using this with no demo beforehand and it was for the very first time…so initial frustrations can be avoided by having a demo in a store and then a practice at home, in the dry warmth rather than sussing it out over many minutes in the damp cold.
But back to baby M; we think that the joy came from not having to lie flat in a pram for the first time. She is quickly outgrowing the carrycot we use on our normal pram system and we have only a few weeks of use left in that really. The ZEN carrycot, as mentioned above, afforded her lots of space around her to move her arms as well as the slight recline. M is not ready for a toddler seat or to sit upright yet, but the ZEN carrycot allows that weird phase between lying flat and sitting up to be accommodated. Whilst still effectively lying down she can ever so slightly be elevated…it’s the best of both worlds and she genuinely loved it…before falling asleep after 20 minutes which she normally does when being pushed around!
So, a happy baby, time to get rolling.
The handle is adjustable on the ZEN, but that is not really a key feature any more as it is just one of those standard things you expect from any pram system. The handle could do with being a bit more forgiving for taller people, but nothing to complain about really so move along.
Pushing the ZEN is a dream.
It has a really smoothe ride and this is something that Babyzen seems to do really well as we are always impressed with how easy and comfortable the YOYO is to push. Very lovely on the pavements and we tested the brake on the steep concrete slope down to the beach and it’s excellent, lots of confidence with how that works.
Once we got down to the beach it fell foul of the deep drier sand…but in my experience there is NO pushchair that can be pushed forwards on deep dry sand. Please let me know if you have found one that can handle this as I’d love to try it. The ZEN had to be pulled backwards through the deep stuff but once we got onto the firmer sand it was brilliant and ate it up like it was a pavement again.
It’s very easy to turn and easy to push one-handed once you get moving. Later on as we explored Sandsend away from the beach we tested it on some stoney paths and some ‘off-road’ terrain and again it didn’t miss a beat and performed perfectly. The smoothness of the ride was lost on the bumpier and stonier paths but this was to be expected and at no point did M wake up because of the ride and when she was awake she didn’t get miffed at any of the bumpier bits as the suspension is sound.
That photo prompts me to introduce one of the quirky features of the ZEN which screams its appeal to a geeky dad such as myself…that little white disc above the font wheel is actually an LED light unit that is controlled by buttons on the handlebars and flashes when pressed. Now, that’s not much use in daylight, but as dusk sets in or during a stroll at night it is a very useful safety feature.
I am still waiting for someone to develop a proper headlight accessory for a pushchair, but this is the next best thing and adds an element of peace of mind if you were crossing roads in the dark. Here’s a little demo…
Every time we stopped and stepped back from the ZEN we kept on commenting on how damn cool it looks. It is a really fetching design – I was initially convinced that it was a system that ‘dad’ would like more than ‘mum’ but it is actually universal in its appeal and sexiness, and I am keen to see what you all think so please leave a comment below.
My only real grumble is the size of the basket. We have been spoilt with the shopping basket on the UPPAbaby VISTA as that is ginormous and fits just about everything you need in it for a day out. The ZEN basket forces you to economise a little as it is more of a shallow lobster pot. Still room enough for the essentials but you will have to carry your changing bag with the ZEN as it just won’t fit in there.
But that is it…that is the ONLY fault I can find with this system and it took some hammer for a few hours yesterday around Sandsend and then afterwards in Whitby.
We will borrow it again in the near future and I will update this post if my view changes in any way, but for now the ZEN is my dream all-terrain pushchair and I genuinely did fall in love with it. M loved being in it, we both had great fun using it, it was great to push and handled any surface we tried, it folds down flat and small enough to get the rest of your life in the boot and looks divine.
We had one couple ask what it was when we stopped in Tides cafe on the seafront in Sandsend, and a few more later on when we were in Whitby so it certainly turns a few heads.
Tides cafe, by the way, is a great place to take a break in. The staff are lovely and they make a pretty decent flat white to boot.
Sandsend itself is a less well known part of the Yorkshire coast-line and being so close to Whitby it gets overlooked for that better known neighbour. It has one of the best beaches in the area though and is well worth a visit. The beach is big enough for you always to have plenty of space around you even on a hot summer weekend and the town (perhaps village) is small enough to keep a character that is a true slice of old England. No arcades or trails of pubs, just a few cafes, guesthouses and a really nice art gallery shop.
You can surf at Sandsend too. There were a few people doing this yesterday and one guy did make me chuckle. We watched him run down the beach in his wetsuit carrying his board, get into the sea, fall off straight away and then get out again. He took a selfie and ran back up the beach to his car and drove off. The whole experience must have lasted about 5 minutes…but you just know that that selfie went onto Facebook with a post about how he nailed some rad waves surfing all afternoon!!
Anyhoo, each to their own…so, to summarise – the ZEN is mint, Sandsend is beautiful. Buy one and go there and have a truly fab day. Doing one or the other will certainly enhance your 2016.
To better summarise the ZEN, how about this:
- Looks the bomb
- Easy to use, great smoothe ride
- Handles difficult terrain extremely well
- Folds down flat and takes up very little room
- Carrycot reclines and folds up!
- Lots of space & comfort inside for baby
- The basket is on the small side
- Handlebar may be awkward for very tall people
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment below if the urge takes you 🙂
Find out more about the Babyzen ZEN pushchair on the Babyzen UK website.
The ZEN is available to order online from Whitestep and from a selection of UK independent retailers.