What are the different types of pushchair wheels?
What are swivel wheels? Do you need wheel suspension? We break down the technical terms to help you find the best pushchair tyres for you
When choosing which pushchair is right for you, an important factor to take into account are the wheels it comes with. Depending on where you live and on what sort of ground you’ll be regularly using your pushchair on, it can be the difference between a comfortable or bumpy ride for you and your baby.
We've taken a look at the different types of wheels available, as well as speaking to Head of Product Development at Joie, Damon Marriot, to break down the technical terms so you can figure out what best suits you and your baby's needs.
What size wheel should I go for?
As a rule of thumb "the larger the wheel diameter, the better it will handle those uneven surfaces", says Damon. So a pushchair with larger wheels is more likely to be able to support you on slopes and bumpy terrain.
You may find that some pushchairs come with larger back wheels designed to take you over uneven ground, whereas lightweight city strollers often come with smaller wheels better suited to smooth pavements.
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However it’s worth keeping in mind that the larger wheels tend to make pushchairs heavier and bulkier, which is why lightweight city strollers are usually designed with smaller wheels.
Take for example example the Bugaboo Fox, which weighs nearly 10kg with its rear wheels measuring 30cm in diameter, compared to the the lightweight city stroller, the Babyzen YOYO+, which weighs 6.6kg with its wheels measuring less than half the size at 13.3 cm.
Do I need fixed or swivel wheels?
Depending on the type of terrain you'll be taking your pushchair on, it's also worth looking at how the wheels move.
Most pushchairs come with swivel wheels at the front, which makes them more manoeuvrable when changing direction and turning corners. Whereas some, particularly those designed for running like the Thule Urban Glide, come with fixed front wheels which it makes it easier and more stable to push at speed in one direction.
However swivel wheels don't usually perform well on rough terrain, so you'll find that some pushchairs come with the option to lock the swivel wheels like the Bugaboo Bee5. When our MFM reviewer put the Bee5 to the test she said, "I found the lock on the wheels useful when I wanted to use it on rougher ground, as it means that you don’t get the wheels turning when you hit a stone, and it helps to go through gravel and across grass."
Locking the front wheel can make a buggy a little harder to steer – you have to push down on the pushbar to lift the front wheel slightly as you turn – but it means a stray tree root or unexpected bump won't knock you off course.
Do I need a 3 wheel or 4 wheel pushchair?
You'll find that most standard pushchairs have 4 wheels but there is also the option to buy a 3-wheeler. The benefit of having 3 wheels is that it tends to make the pushchair more streamlined and easier to steer when you lift the front wheel, so you'll often find them on all-terrain and running buggies like the Out 'n' About Nipper Sport V4.
However 4-wheelers tend to provide more stability and can be more compact when folded, which is important to consider if you're short on space or have a small car boot. They also tend to come with more storage room in the shopping basket, as they don't become more narrow at the front like 3-wheelers.
Do I need wheel suspension?
Pushchairs with suspension are designed to smooth out bumps through design features, like springs, which act as shock absorbers. This means they'll perform well over bumpy ground so you'll commonly find better suspension features on all-terrain pushchairs or pushchairs with larger wheels like the Venicci Carbo Lux.
Our MFM reviewer praised the Carbo Lux's "superb" suspension saying, "The buggy can take on kerbs, rocks, grass and uneven ground with very little effort on the part of the adult pushing it".
Strong suspension is likely something you'll need to take into account if you live in a rural area where you'll be taking your pushchair on different types of terrain. However if you live in an urban area with smooth pavements, suspension may not be your top priority over finding something more lightweight.
What are the different types of pushchair tyres?
Some pushchairs include a combination of different tyre types and some even combine different materials, so it's worth looking at the technical specification before you make your purchase.
We've outlined the 3 main types you commonly find - air-filled, foam-filled and EVA - to consider their pros, cons and what kind of lifestyle they're best suited for.
1) Air-filled Tyres
Best for a smooth ride on uneven ground
These are just like the tyres that come on a bicycle, designed to give your baby a smooth a ride over uneven and bumpy surfaces, making them ideal if you’re regularly taking your pushchair jogging or through the countryside.
For this reason you’ll tend to find them on all-terrain pushchairs, like the Phil & Ted’s Sport which comes with 3 air-filled tires. When our MFM reviewer put the Sport to the test she found the air filled tires made from a smooth and comfortable ride. She says, “It can take a lot of bumps and jolts without your little one feeling too much disruption.
“We trundled across the long, boggy uncut grass in the park, and while it obviously wasn’t as smooth as a pavement, the Sport handled the rougher ground very well.”
However keep in mind that because the tyres are air filled they’re more prone to punctures and you’ll need to top up the air in them every so often. So it’s definitely worth buying a repair kit, spare inner tube and a pump alongside your buggy.
Pros: Smooth and comfortable ride
Cons: High maintenance, prone to punctures
Pushchairs with air-filled tyres include:
- Phil and Teds Sport - £399 on Natural Baby Shower
- Micralite Smartfold - £495 on Amazon
- Stokke Trailz - £864 on Lesters Nurseryworld
2) Foam-filled tyres
A low maintenance all-terrain ride
Foam-filled tyres perform in a similar way to air-filled tyres in that they provide a good grip and comfy ride over uneven surfaces. However they are a better low maintenance alternative as they are filled with dense foam instead of air which Damon describes, "(They) simulate air filled but remove the risk of a puncture during use, with great longevity and only a slight increase in weight."
One MFM reviewer put them to the test with the Joie Versatrax and found the pushchair handled well on bumpy ground. She says, "I used this buggy on uneven pavements and it still manoeuvred very well without being too bumpy for my baby, and it felt pretty sturdy when going up and down kerbs."
You may however find that air-filled or EVA tyres tend to be lighter, as the dense foam filling adds to the weight.
Pros: Low maintenance, handles uneven terrain well
Pushchairs with foam-filled tyres include:
- Joie Versatrax - £390 from Halfords
- Bugaboo Bee5 - £549 from Amazon
- Babystyle Egg Quail - £299.99 from Kiddies Kingdom
3) EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) Tyres
Perfect for city living
EVA tyres are made from plastic, making them ideal for even pavements and smooth terrain. This also makes them a more lightweight option, unlike foam-filled tyres which can significantly add to the weight of a pushchair.
As you'll tend to find them on lightweight city strollers, it's worth keeping in mind that they may not perform as well over bumpy terrain – as our MFM reviewer found when testing out the Allis Plume. She commented how it was "nice and light, and easy to push and navigate" but that it was "a little bumpy on uneven surfaces."
As they're made from plastic, they're also a puncture free option so you won't have to buy a spare inner tube or pump to maintain them. However when using the stroller on sandy areas, like the beach, Damon says, "The axle and brake systems will require regular lubrication to prevent premature wear. Good maintenance is especially essential as without cleaning and lubricating after, this will lead to problems in a short space of time."
Pros: Puncture free, lightweight
Cons: Won't perform well over rough terrain
Pushchairs with EVA tyres include:
- Allis Plume - £119.99 from Amazon
- Phil & Teds Go - £149 from Samuel Johnston
- Joolz Geo2 - £829 from Natural Baby Shower
Sabrina is an award-winning journalist, including receiving the prestigious PPA 30 under 30 accolade in 2020, who works on our product and reviews content
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