These wheels weren’t made for rolling: iCandy Cherry travel system

Imagine Tom and I back in summer 2010: I was just into the 2nd trimester of my first pregnancy; we were looking forward to being first-time parents, making sure we were sorting out all the things we were told we needed for a new baby. One of the things on our to-do list was, of course, to research prams/buggies and decide on one to buy. Very generously, Tom’s parents offered to give us the money to buy one once we had decided on the one we wanted.

As we researched, we learned a lot that we didn’t know before, for example what a ‘travel system’ is. After much googling and several trips around John Lewis, Mothercare and Babies R Us, we came to some conclusions: we wanted a travel system that had a carrycot for the newborn (i.e. it would be a pram), a seat unit which could be parent-facing (for the older baby) or outward-facing (for the toddler), and a car seat that would fit on the chassis of the system as well as in the car; we also wanted something as lightweight as possible, because I was imagining myself trying to lift it up into the car or other places, and something as small as possible, so it would fit in our car boot (we have a Corsa, so pretty small).

The product that seemed to fit the bill was the iCandy Cherry. It was lighter than other travel systems, and smaller when folded, plus it had all the options for pram, buggy and car seat that we wanted. It also seemed averagely priced – not the cheapest but not the most expensive on the market. There were a couple of downsides, like it didn’t have an extendable handle for Tom, but we decided that I would push it most, and he said he could cope for the times he would use it. However, overall we knew that we couldn’t ‘have it all’ – if you gain one thing (extendable handle), you lose another (very lightweight), so it was all about compromise.

The Cherry in 'pram-mode'

We did some googling of reviews, and they were very positive. It’s only since we’ve had problems with the Cherry that we’ve learned that you have to dig deeper and trawl through many more websites before you find negative reviews. I think a major factor in this is that people who write reviews on retailer websites like Amazon, Mothercare and Kiddicare are writing before they’ve used the product for any length of time. When we were buying, it didn’t occur to us that we should try and find out what people who’d used the buggy for more than a few weeks thought. All we saw were comments like ‘I bought this buggy a few weeks ago and it’s fantastic’, or even ‘my baby isn’t born yet but it’s great pushing it around my house, it’s a lovely buggy’. In hindsight, I should have seen through these kind of product reviews. But I didn’t, and that’s life.

So, to try and help anyone who’s thinking of buying this buggy, or any buggy, I’d like to write an honest post, which comes from someone who has used the buggy pretty much every day for 18 months.

Things started off well. We used the carrycot and chassis as a pram when Andrew was first born. It was a cold winter (he was born in January) and he always seemed snuggly in there. By the time he went into the parent-facing seat (i.e. buggy design), we started to notice that the back wheels looked odd. If you walked behind the person pushing the buggy, you could see that the wheels were slanting inwards on their axle as they went around, and when we lifted the buggy up at the back (without its passenger) to look at them, they were very wobbly and felt insecure. This got worse and worse, so we took it back in to John Lewis where we bought it from, because we feared that one day they might fall off. This was about 5 months after we started using it, 8 months after we bought it.

John Lewis said that they had seen this problem before on the iCandy Cherry. Ah, alarm bells started ringing! However, as a retailer they were very helpful, sent it back to iCandy, and gave us a courtesy buggy in the meantime – this was one reason why we decided to buy it from them rather than other retailers, and at that point we were very glad that we’d done this. iCandy agreed to fix the problem under warrantee (2 years), and sent us a brand new chassis. We were happy again…..but not for long.

Over time we saw exactly the same problem repeating itself with the back wheels. After about another 10 months, we talked about when we’d have time to take it back to John Lewis (I was then back at work and my time was more limited than when I was on maternity leave). Before we’d got around to it though, Tom had a rather stressful journey back from town one day. When he was about a third of the way home, one of the back wheels spontaneously dropped off as he was pushing Andrew along! Andrew was alright, despite the sudden drop to one side near a main road, and Tom even managed to grab the wheel which had rolled into the road; it was completely sheared off, and wouldn’t clip back on. But Tom did manage to push the buggy most of the way home very slowly and with a lot of patience and effort. He didn’t feel particularly safe, but what else was he supposed to do? Of course it had to be the one day of the year that I was away in London on my own, otherwise he could have rung me to come and pick them up.

Parent-facing seat

Again, we took the buggy back to John Lewis. Again, they were very helpful, and sent it back to iCandy. This time we were far less impressed with iCandy’s response. They tried to claim that the wheels only have a 6-month warrantee, so if we wanted them fixed, we’d have to pay some ridiculous fee for new wheels. Not in our paperwork! The only periods of time it mentions are: ’24 months for the chassis’, and ‘6 months for the carrycot and rain covers’. If they’re not specifying wheels separately, then they must come under the general chassis – after all, they had given us a brand new chassis 8 months after we bought it (though only 5 months after we started using it), why had there been no mention of a 6-month warrantee then? It seemed like their rules were changing, and their approach to customer service was not impressing us. John Lewis replied to iCandy after we showed them our paperwork, and (we presume) argued our case.

I then found iCandy on twitter and tried to raise awareness of our case by tweeting to all my followers about their awful customer service and not at all durable product. I don’t know if that helped directly, but eventually iCandy gave in and gave us a new axle and wheels unit free of charge. That was at the end of June this year. We were hoping to get another 6-9 months out of that new set of wheels, thinking that the next time we had the inevitable issue, our 2-year warrantee period from when we bought it would probably be over (in November 2012). But oh no, there was another surprise in store!

Less than 2 months after our new wheels were fitted, I noticed one morning that one of the back wheels was so wobbly that it was making the whole buggy wobble when I pushed it. So I stopped using it (by this point we’d acquired a second-hand stroller which I used instead) and, you guessed it, took it back to (poor) John Lewis, who now know us. I think the girl’s heart must have sunk when she saw us walking in again. When we spoke to her, it sounded like she was fed up in general with having to deal with complaints from iCandy customers, and constantly be the piggy in the middle between the customers and iCandy. She said that she would ring iCandy, explain the problem, and see what their response was to this, our third issue, before sending it back this time. We were prepared to fight our case, whatever iCandy’s response, as this was clearly poor design – there was no reason why the wheel should suddenly do this, we’d had no accident and hadn’t been off-roading or anything like that.

Again, I got on to twitter, and raised our case amongst my followers, tagging iCandy in my tweets. I also found another blog which had posted about problems with another iCandy model, and with the post were a massive list of commenters who have had problems with various iCandy models, including persistent wheel problems with the Cherry. If you’re interested, you can read it here. iCandy tried to defend their case in my tweet which linked this blog, by saying that it was an ‘old’ post and that the Cherry wheel design has changed since then. It was written about 19 months ago, but the comments have continued right up to last month, so the issues are obviously not resolved. iCandy also tried to claim the 6-month wheel warrantee thing again, but as we pointed out to John Lewis, who were negotiating on our behalf, even if our paperwork did say this (which it doesn’t), these wheels were less than 2 months old! And anyway, even if it was a 6-month warrantee (which it isn’t), 6 months is a ludicrously short warrantee period on buggy wheels!!

Again, I don’t know if the tweeting helped, but iCandy eventually agreed to send out a replacement wheel for free. Of course it couldn’t be that straightforward though, and after a week without hearing anything, Tom called into John Lewis, who then chased iCandy, and it turned out that mysteriously our order paperwork for a new wheel was nowhere to be found at their office! So they re-did the order, and told us it would take up to about 6 weeks from then because the wheels were now out of stock.

At this point I’d just had enough, I’d completely lost the will to live with this rubbish buggy and poor excuse for a buggy manufacturer. Another tweet with words to that effect was tweeted, and, unsurprisingly, no response was received from iCandy who were tagged in it. In the end the wheel turned up sooner than 6 weeks, which was a nice surprise, and that very day we started preparing to sell the travel system that wasn’t made to travel far.

Outward-facing seat

We’ve come to the conclusion that the iCandy Cherry wheels are just not designed to be used as much as we believe a buggy should be designed to be used. We do use it a lot – we live in Cambridge and walk everywhere, so it can be used for as much as 2 hours of walking every day. But in our opinion, buggies should be made for walking with, and unless the company are going to state a ‘mileage’ limit for the product, then it should live up to being used constantly. What is the point of a buggy whose wheels weren’t made for rolling? That’s the question I keep coming back to with the Cherry.

Would I recommend this buggy? Well, if you only need to use it occasionally or for very short distances, especially if you want a travel system that’s relatively compact and lightweight, then maybe this is for you. But I would be put off just by the lack of decent customer service from the manufacturer – whatever happened to the customer is always right?! Also, trying to argue your way out of poor design by changing the rules as it suits you is incredibly annoying from the customer’s point of view.

So where do we stand now? We’ve decided to cut our losses and sell the Cherry. In some ways I feel like throwing it away, but it did cost our family money, and we’d like to have something to put towards the new buggy that we’ve bought. (Incidentally we went for a Bugaboo Cameleon, which was our second choice when we bought the Cherry, but it was much more expensive – I can see why though, because our new (to us) Bugaboo is the same age as our iCandy and in perfect working order still.) I do think that the Cherry might suit some families – basically if they don’t walk very far with it, but would like the flexibility of a travel system rather than a simple stroller.

I hope this post has been useful and provides constructive feedback and an honest opinion on a popular baby product currently available on the market. I’m sure iCandy are not the only manufacturers who have designs and service that customers feel could do with improvement. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had similar experience, with iCandy or any buggies, or anyone who’s found this post particularly helpful when deciding on which buggy/pram/travel system that they’d like to buy. Please leave me a comment below 🙂

iCandy had no involvement in this post.

On 8th October 2012, I wrote to iCandy using the email address on the contact page of their website (there is no postal address, otherwise I would have sent a letter as well). I recounted our experience of the Cherry, and asked them to respond to this feedback. At the very least I said that we would like an acknowledgement that they had read it and taken it on board; even better would be some sort of refund, even if not the whole amount that we paid, to make up for the inconvenience of what we’ve been through and the fact that the Cherry did not last as long as we expected so we have had to buy another buggy. I also said that we hoped our frustration and dissatisfaction at their product and customer service would be taken seriously, and that they would consider an appropriate compensation.

I wrote this post a while ago, but I’m publishing it on 24th October 2012. I still have heard nothing from iCandy (over 2 weeks after writing to them).

Jubilee butterfly cakes (complete with cherry on top!)

When I saw some Union Jack cupcake cases in Asda a few weeks ago, I thought I just had to buy them, even though baking was not one of my favourite activities back then. It’s still not as enjoyable as it was, but if I do it first thing in the morning, it seems the nausea is not so bad that I can’t face it. The thought of not baking something red, white and blue for the Jubilee made me feel even more sad than feeling sick, so I decided to go for it and bake something classic with a bit of a twist.

Wheat-full version

One of my favourite quick and easy recipes to whip up when we’ve got no treats in is the good old butterfly or fairy cake (whichever term you prefer – I generally use butterfly cake, but I’ve seen more fairy cakes recently). A simple vanilla sponge, hollowed out and filled with buttercream icing, and the hollowed-out sponge used to create the signature ‘wings’ that make it the butterfly cake. For the Jubilee I decided to add some colour by making blue buttercream icing, and, for the cherry on top of the cake, put a cherry on top of the cakes! This adds a deep red and I guess looks a bit like the butterfly actually has a body not just wings.

Wheat-free version (less risen but still pretty!)

The further twist in this royal culinary adventure is that I decided to make one batch of wheat-free sponge, and one batch of wheat-full sponge. My mum-in-law is wheat intolerant, and being as my parents-in-law are with us this weekend, I didn’t want her to miss out on the festive treats. I know wheat free flour is not perfect for making this kind of cake, even the self-raising stuff you can buy – it tends to come out quite stodgy and nowhere near as light as the wheaty stuff that makes such lovely light sponge. But I thought I’d give it a try, and use some Dove’s Organic wheat-free self-raising flour. Handily there was a recipe for fairy cakes on the back of the bag, and it was more or less the same as my usual quick sponge recipe with wheat flour, except it said to add some milk which I don’t usually include. Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

  • 100g margarine
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g self-raising flour (wheat-free or wheat-full)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • few drops vanilla essence
  • (for wheat-free only: 3 tbsp milk)

To decorate:

  • 120g margarine
  • 180g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • some fresh cherries, half and stoned

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (fan) and place cupcake cases into some muffin tins.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl until nice and fluffy. (Tip: if you’re making one batch of wheat-free and one batch of wheat-full, do the wheat-free first in the clean bowl and then you can use the same bowl without washing for the wheat-full. The other way round wouldn’t work 😉 )
  3. Beat in the egg thoroughly, and add the vanilla essence. (Add the milk at this point for the wheat-free option.)
  4. Add the flour and baking powder, and mix until well combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases, and fill to about two thirds full. The first difference between the wheat-free and wheat-full batches that I noticed was how runny the wheat-free mixture was when I put it into the cases. This is interesting because the only difference was a few tablespoons of milk, so I don’t know whether it’s just down to this, or whether the flour mixes in differently in some way.
    Wheat-free batter - much runnier than the wheaty mixture

    Wheat-full mixture - less runny and 'batter' like than the wheat-free stuff
  6. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cakes are slightly golden on top. Test they are cooked through by spearing the centre with a skewer – if it comes out clean they are done.
    Wheat-full - more risen than the wheat-free

    Wheat-free - less well risen than the wheat-full
  7. Leave to cool.
  8. Meanwhile, make the icing. Cream the margarine and icing sugar together in a bowl until smooth. Add food colouring and mix until it looks blue enough all through.
  9. Transfer to a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle.
  10. Using a small sharp knife, cut a circle out of the top of each cake, going about half-way down into the cake. Remove this circle and cut it in half.
  11. Pipe a generous amount of icing into the well of each cake, filling the well and spreading out on to the top of the cake.
  12. Place the two halves of the removed circle at an angle onto the icing to look like two wings.
  13. Finally, the cherry on the top of the cake is….. a (half) cherry on the top of each cake! (placed in between the two half circles)

    Cherry in the middle of two wings
  14. Store in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge if it’s warm (probably not a problem this bank holiday weekend!)

Overall I’m very pleased with how they turned out, especially the wheat-free sponge. It is of course stodgier than and tastes a bit different from the wheaty sponge, but still perfectly edible and not bad for a cake that is classically so light. The worst part is actually the icing, because it was very runny, I suspect because I had to add lots of food colouring for it to really look blue! (Ah this didn’t happen back in the day when colourings were all E-numbers, not like the natural stuff that’s the only thing available these days 😉 ) So when I piped it ended up spreading out further than I intended. The first batch I iced were the wheat-free ones, and between doing these and the wheaty ones, I put the icing in the freezer for half an hour to try and thicken it up. This worked pretty well, so at least half of the wheaty ones turned out better, though the more I held the piping bag, the more the icing got runny again, so the later ones weren’t as good again. Anyway, this is probably me being a perfectionist. The main thing is they taste good! Have you baked or cooked anything special for the Jubilee? Has anyone else used these Union Jack cupcakes? Have a great long weekend!

Runny icing on a wheat-free cake, but still looks yummy!