Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Test-driving Strollers

Long before we decided to have a baby, I would notice strollers. Being a pedestrian, I knew that if I had a child, a stroller would likely be a must-have piece of equipment to get around town, run errands and just get some passive exercise with baby in tow. But some of them just looked so big and bulky, I didn't know where I could possibly fit a stroller in my minimalist urban condo.

When we started looking at strollers we quickly realized that buying a stroller is a lot like buying a car. They're marketed like cars so we decided to shop for one like a car, and take one for a test drive.

Much like you would shop for a car, even if you think a stroller is a good fit on paper, you really won't know until you take it for a spin. For example, when I was reading product descriptions, I was sold on this cute little british model, but when I tried it out in the store, it was heavier and didn't handle as well as some of the other strollers I test drove.

The first time Alex and I looked at strollers was a bit overwhelming. After a few minutes of hesitation, we dove right in, took them off the shelf and pushed them around the store. Unfortunately we didn't get any help on that visit (maybe I didn't look pregnant enough to warrant service?) but we did pick up a few things. We learned which strollers were lighter, more maneuverable. I learned that I preferred one wheel in front as opposed to two. And I walked away with a preliminary front-runner: the Britax B-Agile.

On my next trip, I was with my best friend, who is already a parent. This was really helpful, since she had experience with her own stroller, what works and what doesn't. I also received really great service at this visit. After explaining my situation (living in an apartment, no car, a LOT of walking, not a lot of space) the woman who helped me pulled out all the models that fit my lifestyle. She also showed me how each model folded up and how they could be used in conjunction with a car seat or bassinet. At the end of the day, I still liked the B-Agile the best.

Now if you've ever been pregnant you know that a big part of awaiting the arrival of your first child is listening to copious amount of unsolicited advice from parents and people in general. My experience with this has been mixed so far. I like learning from others experiences, but I must admit that I am a little hurt when people have criticized certain decisions we have made. Overall, I have found that getting advice from other parents is like second-hand clothes shopping--you have to sift through some garbage, but you can come out with some real gems. And this is actually how we found the right stroller for us.

Shortly after we "came out" as expectant parents, the information started pouring in from other parents.   And although information was coming in from a lot of different sources, they all seemed to be pointing in the same direction: BOB. We hadn't really thought about this stroller much, it seemed like it was more suited to runners or people who pack up their Jeep and explore remote parts of the wilderness. But apparently a lot of urban parents own them. One of Alex's co-workers advised him that everyone in the coveted downtown neighborhood where we hope to one day live has one. I think that sold him. On a more practical note, we learned that rubber tires are a must for navigating through any kind of weather. Given that our city gets hit with more snow than just about everywhere in Canada, this is important. The B-Agile, with its plastic wheels, may have been great in the store, but it might not have been much use "in the field". Since a lot of people with lifestyles similar to ours have the BOB and love it, that seemed like the right choice.

Last weekend we finally got our hands on the BOB stroller and we were sold. It handled well, was easy to fold up and is clearly well built. Throwing a wrench in our gears, we also discovered another model, similar in function, but slightly smaller and with the option of reclining to accommodate a newborn in a sleeping position. We received exceptional service on this day (it was a baby boutique store) and we walked away knowing that either choice would be a good one, it was just a matter of preference.

I think a lot of people would go with the BOB because it accommodates a larger child (75 lbs vs. 45 lbs, I think) but most people aren't as small as I am. I'm barely 5'2 and the BOB just felt like a lot of stroller for me. This newer model is slightly shorter, narrower, more compact when folded and has an adjustable handle. It also has a much more accessible storage area underneath. And I love the ability to use the stroller with a newborn without the necessity of lugging around the car seat.

So in the end, the winner is... the Bumbleride Indie.
Did I mention that it's cute?

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