(The Gear Loop) - Believe it or not, taking a baby hiking is simple. You just chuck them in your favourite carrier and away you go. Heck, we were crazy enough to lug a baby coast-to-coast, remember. But, taking a toddler into the wild? Well, that’s a whole other ball game…
They want to walk when you want to cover some serious mileage. They want to be carried when you just want a break. To put it politely, they can be tricky tots on an outdoor adventure.
Of course, there are myriad buggy options available but, many of these three and four-wheeled beasts aren’t actually the easiest things to manoeuvre when the going gets rough. Nor are they the lightest bits of kit in a parent’s arsenal. This is where the new Mountain Buggy Unirider comes in.
We’ve been spending some time with this innovative toddler transporter to see if the reality is as rad as it’s looks. The cool kids still say, "Rad", don't they?
Although it might not be the perfect partner for long-distance hiking journeys, we’ve found ourselves using the Mountain Buggy Unirider in all sorts of different environments.
From a fun way of travelling to the local park, to helping cover the miles on an adventurous day hike (via going for a run along the beachfront), the Unirider’s impressive handling, ease of use and simple design help it to keep on rolling through the rough and the smooth.
While it’s possibly more of a toy than a tool for you and your little one, its provided our test toddler with plenty of enjoyment (and kept numerous tantrums from boiling over). With its relatively low price, it’s definitely worth experiencing for yourselves.
Hopefully, the uptake for this innovative design is big enough to encourage Mountain Buggy to develop an improved version in the future as, while it may not replace your favourite structured carrier, the Unirider is a genuinely entertaining addition to your outdoor arsenal.
Mountain Buggy Unirider
- Simple to assemble
- Unbeatable off-road
- Brilliant value for money
- Not ideal for thru-hiking
- Firm grips aren't comfy
- Doesn't fold up
Design, build and ergonomics
Out the box, the Mountain Buggy Unirider genuinely takes minutes to assemble. The two-part push-shaft slots and bolts together, with the whole thing then slotted into the ready-made plastic seat-and-wheel unit with a couple of bolts. The arched handlebar for your little one simply clicks into place after that and you’re ready to go.
Although it’s hardly portly at around 3kg, a bit of a diet would make it even more suitable to thru-hiking adventures. With no ability to fold it up either, it’s both a bit too heavy and bulky to clip to the outside of a backpack when your toddler is, erm, toddling.
While the steel main shaft helps to provide the Unirider with some impressive strength, it would be cool to see an aluminium-tubed version to help reduce the rider’s overall weight, perhaps with a telescopic shaft to help reduce the footprint when not in use.
We hoped that the Mountain Buggy Unirider would be the perfect companion on multi-day hiking adventures with our tiny tot, allowing us to cover some serious mileage when she didn’t want to walk or be carried.
However, with our crash test dummy (ahem, we mean professional child tester) only hitching a lift around 20 per cent of the time, we often found ourselves pushing an empty Unirider and wishing we either hadn’t brought it with us or had the ability to carabiner it to the outside of our packs.
Pushing a riderless Unrider might have been less of an issue if the hard plastic grips weren’t so uncomfortable. They might help keep the price down but, even for the mile or two that our test toddler rode on each walk, our hands would begin to hurt. On our longer walks, even unloaded, the grips were making our hands calloused. A quick mod might be to fit some seriously squishy mountain bike grips.
The plastic wingnuts used to secure the three socket cap bolts can also work themselves loose in service. The one in the middle of the push shaft has a particular penchant for slackening off - leaving us scrabbling around in the back of the car once, searching for the missing bolt and tapered collars.
Our final gripe was that, while providing reasonable ride comfort, excellent manoeuvrability and low rolling resistance, adjusting the pressure on the pneumatic tyre was pretty tricky with our bike pump.
There’s not much clearance between the yellow body and the Schraeder valve thanks to the tiny wheel size, so we could properly get our pump head on the valve.
Thankfully, we found that the tyre performed best at lower pressures (around 15-20psi), so there isn’t much pumping required out the box.
Built for Budding Thrillseekers
In reality, a lot of these issues could be resolved with some small tweaks and redesigns and, that said, even in beta form, the Mountain Buggy Unirider is impressively versatile.
While it might not replace your chosen carrier or buggy on a trip to the shops (it can be difficult to operate solo, especially if your child can’t mount and dismount independently), as an entertaining means of transporting your toddler, it’s hard to beat.
While Mountain Buggy claim an age range of between two and five years, we loaded our tot on at just 12 months old and she coped instantly. It’s been a fantastic means of developing her balance, core strength and general enthusiasm for rolling with us.
The number of whoops, hollers and smiles per mile is right up there, making the Unirider the perfect partner for any adrenaline junkies in training. It’s an ideal mid-step before getting your kid onto a proper balance bike too.
When it comes to heading off the beaten path, the Mountain Buggy Unirider is genuinely superb. No matter how rocky, rooty or run-down the terrain is, its single-wheel design rarely stalls. Although it lacks the versatility of a proper buggy around town, its minimalist looks garner plenty of attention, and at this price point, it won't break the bank. It’s far from perfect though, and we’d love to see Mountain Buggy develop a 'Mk2' version, or even a slightly more premium upgrade that address some of our gripes with the design.